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Ultimate Buying Guide For Sleeping Pads

January 02, 2020

Ultimate Buying Guide For Sleeping Pads

Sleeping pads offer two major benefits: comfort and insulation. Sleeping pads not only provide a comfortable sleeping surface but also keep your body from losing heat to the cold ground. By bringing a sleeping pad on your hike or a camping trip, you’ll be able to get the comfort and warmth needed for a good night’s rest. That’s why a good quality sleeping pad is a must-have item for a long, cold night in the wilderness.

Nowadays you can find various kinds of sleeping pads that are made for different conditions and climates. This means you need to factor in a lot of things before buying one. Luckily, there are several steps you can take to choose the right sleeping pad. And you can narrow down your choices with these few simple tips.

Here’s what you should look for when buying a sleeping pad.

1)      Types of sleeping pads

You’ll find three main categories of sleeping pads on the market today: air pads, self-inflating pads, and closed cell foam pads.

– Air Pads:

Air pads are perfect for those who want a sleeping pad that is light and ultra-comfortable. They are simple in design but offer great comfort. Air pads are also adjustable and pack down incredibly small. But unlike self-inflating sleeping pads, air pads take longer time to inflate and may require a custom air pump. They are also vulnerable to getting punctured so you need to keep these pads away from sharp objects while outdoors. Make sure to carry a repair kit with you just in case it gets punctured.

– Self-inflating Pads

Self-inflating pads are the most popular sleeping pads amongst overnight hikers and backpackers. This type of sleeping pad is made up of open-cell foam which is extremely compressed during the manufacturing process. When you open the pad’s valve, air is automatically sucked into the pad. This means you don’t have to spend too much time blowing air in. Depending on your desired firmness, you can either add or push more air out of the pad. Before use, don’t’ forget to inspect the ground thoroughly for sharp objects. In terms of comfort and insulation, self-inflatable sleeping pads are superior to both air pads and closed-cell foam pads. But they can be a little expensive.

– Closed-cell Foam Sleeping Pads

Closed-cell foam sleeping pads are the lightest sleeping pads out there. They are made up of dense foam with heat reflective surfaces. These pads may look simple but are durable enough to last for years. For those on a budget, nothing beats buying a closed-cell foam pad. They usually weigh less than a pound. The simple best thing about these pads is that you don’t need to inflate or deflate them. You can place them anywhere you like and start using them right away. But unlike the air pads and self-inflating pads, they are bulky and not as comfortable. They are also prone to bending and curling. Anyone who prioritizes durability over comfort should consider buying this pad.

2)      Insulating factor (the “R-value”)

One of the key things to consider when choosing a sleeping pad is its ‘R-value’. The R-value is a measurement used to determine the pad’s ability to keep your body insulated throughout the night. Proper insulation plays a critical role in having a good night’s sleep outdoors. To determine how well-insulated a sleeping pad is, you need to check its R-value. R-values range from 1.0 up to 11.0 or more. Higher the R-value, the warmer the sleeping pad will be. Meaning pads with lower R-values aren’t ideal for winter usage but are perfectly fine for summer adventures. If you plan to go camping in the winter then its better to choose a pad with an R-value of 6.0 or higher. Whereas for a summer hike, you should go with a pad having an R-value of 2.5 or lower. Also, keep in mind that R-values can vary depending upon the thickness of the pads.

3)      Weight

Weight is an important factor for those who enjoy going on a multi-day hike. It’s always a plus to bring only the lightest gears and equipment, especially on a long hike. If you prefer ultra-light backpacking then look for a sleeping pad under 16 ounces. And you can take heavier sleeping pads if your trip outdoors is going to be very short. Just so you know, closed-cell foam pads are the lightest of the bunch.

4)      Pad’s Thickness

Thickness plays a huge role in determining which sleeping pad is the right one for your outdoor adventure. The thicker the pad, the more comfortable and insulated it will be. But not all sleeping pads have the same level of thickness. Closed-cell foam pads are the thinnest ones. Meaning you’re better off buying self-inflatable pads or air pads if you’re looking for thicker ones. Unlike closed-cell foam pads, self-inflatable and air pads offer a lot more variations in terms of thickness. That extra thickness makes the pads feel luxuriously comfy. Also, thicker pads are ideal for side sleepers. We highly recommend buying pads with a thickness of 2.5 inches or more. But remember that packing up thicker pads means more weight and a bulkier pack.

5)      Length and Width

Another major factor to take into account is the length and width of sleeping pads. The ideal sleeping pad should not be too big or too small. There are several length and width choices that you can opt for. The industry standard size for most outdoor sleeping pads is 183 cm in length and 51 cm in width. But you can always choose a custom size that matches your body length and width. Just make sure that the pad you buy does not let your feet hang off of the end.


All in all, these are the most important factors to keep in mind whenever you are buying a sleeping pad. If you’ve got any extra tips for choosing a sleeping pad then do let us know in the comments down below.

Want some help finding the right camping chair for you? Then read our blog post about “What to look for in a camping chair?”.

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