How To Choose The Right Sleeping Pad

Sleeping Pad

Choosing the right camping sleeping pad can be a huge task for many people.  But once you decide on the qualities that you want, you will be sure to discover one that will fit your needs.  A few of the alternatives for something to sleep on are: foam pads, thin pads utilized mainly for backpacking, and air mattresses.  With the improvements in technology over the past few years, sleeping pads offer an excellent option for a good night’s rest.  This post will explore the various elements that you should consider while selecting a sleeping pad that is right for you.

Just like everything else in your pack, selecting a sleeping pad that’s right for you depends on a couple of things like:

  • What time of year are you going camping?
  • Are you a side-sleeper, or do you sleep on your back?
  • Is your pack weight a concern? How about space?

Types of Sleeping Pads

Air Pads

Air pads have actually gotten lighter than ever before and are the perfect solution for backpacking.  The majority of air pads now consist of insulation or reflective materials to enhance warmth.  You’ll need to inflate them, with your breath but most could be inflated with a pump in under 3 minutes or less.  However, some designs feature a built in hand pump as well as some brand names offer a light-weight bag-style external hand pump that is usually sold separately.

Closed Cell Foam

These are the most basic pads made. They are a bit more than a piece of foam between you and the cold ground. The majority of cell foam pads are less than a half inch thick and aren’t typically comfortable. They rely on tiny air pockets within the foam to shield you from the ground’s heat-zapping convective.

Self-Inflating Sleeping Pads

Self-inflating sleeping pads resemble manually inflated pads, but rather than
utilizing an open core, construction, they have an open-cell foam layer that enables the pad to inflate instantly. When you open the pad’s valve, the open-cell foam expands and fills up with air, which lessens the amount of effort and time involved with preparing your pad for the evening.
Some extra manual inflation is needed to achieve your preferred firmness, but typically just a couple of breaths. Like a manually inflated air pad, you run the risk of puncturing a self-inflating pad, so repair kits are also included or available separately.
Self-inflating pads and manually inflating pads are extremely similar and have the same usage, but for convenience of use in a somewhat heavier, bulkier bundle go with a self-inflating pad.

types of sleeping pads

Shapes & Sizing

Sleeping pads can be found in a variety of sizes to suit the different needs. They’re sized in inches and/or centimeters, so it’s very easy to determine just what size pad you need based on your height.

You need to choose a sleeping pad that’s a couple of inches longer than your height, so your feet will not hang off of the end. It’s no joke just how much body heat can be lost from having contact with the ground. People doing long, ultralight trips, or thru-hikers that are willing to compromise a little but of comfort and convenience in order to maximize weight and packability will certainly choose to go with a smaller sized pad. They will use that added space for clothing or for a pack under their legs.

In addition to, the size and shape of your sleeping pad, it’s important to consider the width as well. A lot of the regular-sized sleeping pads are 20 inched with a mummy shape, that will serve the average-sized camper well in terms of balancing comfort, weight and packability. If you are a broader person. or feel like you need even more space to mover around during the night, a wider size of sleeping pad of 25 inches or rectangular-shaped sleeping pad may be a better option for you.


In addition to warmth, comfort is the most significant reason to acquire a sleeping pad. If you camp solely in warm climates, comfort is the only reason to purchase one. We assume that pads with smooth surfaces are much more comfortable than those with deep baffles. Pads that are 2 inches thick are truly great because they make sleeping on uneven ground much less problematic. Deep in the backcountry, it’s actually nice to have a pad that could transform a heap of pine cones or grass clumps into a cloud-like mattress. From our experience we’ve discovered that self-inflating pads normally felt much more stable and secure than air construction pads but they usually didn’t offer as much padding. In general, we believe that air construction pads are the more comfortable of the two until you begin to compare them the most effective car camping mattress.


One feature of a sleeping pad that’s simple to forget is insulation. The air in an inflatable pad or the dense foam in a closed-cell sleeping pad warms with your body heat and insulates you from the cold ground. Some sleeping pads also include a heat-reflective material in their construction, which guides body heat back towards you rather than moving it toward the ground. Temperature ratings on sleeping bags are made with the presumption you are using a sleeping pad, which emphasizes their significance.

Why Sleeping Pads are So Important

The purpose of a pad is to give you a comfortable surface to sleep on and insulate your warmth from the cold ground. We are all different, but let us presume that when you lay on your back in your sleeping pad that 40% of you in in contact with the ground. Nothing to worry about right? On the contrary, the air above you has an average thermal conductivity value of .024 while the ground could range anywhere from .05 to 3.98. This would suggest that the ground could conduct heat away from you anywhere from 2 to 165 times as quick as air.


A sleeping pad’s ability to insulate is usually determined by utilizing an R-value. This is the measurement of a materials thermal resistance. The greater the R-value, the warmer it will be.

sleeping pad

Additional Sleeping Pad Considerations

Sleep systems: Some sleeping bags have an integrated sleeve to hold a pad. This keeps your sleeping bag from moving around in the evening. Examine the sleeve size prior to purchasing a pad.

Hand pumps: If you do not like using up your breath after a long day out trekking, try to find a pad with an integrated hand pump or buy a bag-style pump that rolls up small and weighs a couple of ounces.

Patch kits are a smart idea for backpacking. Figure out whether they come with the pad or are sold separately. Make certain you know how to patch a puncture prior to leaving your home, in case you have to repair on at night.

Camping is a great activity for those who enjoy the outdoors. With all the recent improvements in technology you no longer have to worry about having to sleep on the ground or worse yet, not getting a good night’s rest. What did you think of this post? Let us know in the comments section below.