The Best Camping Sleeping Pad
With the weather warming up you may be preparing for the first camping trip of the year. Don’t forget that sleep is essential to the success and safety of your camping trip. A poor night of sleep increases the risk of poor decision making, daytime grogginess, and overall irritability. Factor in children and fellow campers, poor sleeping conditions can result in a weekend of unnecessary stress and frustration. Wilderness sleeping is already a challenge, even if you are planning on sleeping in a tent with a sleeping bag. The ground is naturally cool at night time drawing heat away from your body. The ground can be lumpy or uneven, consist of sand or small pointy grasses and sticks; evening ground surfaces using just a tent or sleeping bag is ineffective. Adding a sleeping pad for camping between your sleeping bag and the ground or between your sleeping bag and the tent floor is an excellent solution. The best sleeping pad maintains your body temperature throughout the night while providing additional comfort and cushion from environmental debris. Finding the best sleeping pad to provide this cushion and insulation should be viewed as necessary for a successful camping trip. Yes, even more so than the morning cup of joe.
There are many different types of sleeping pads, self-inflating, closed cell, manual pump, light compressing sleeping pads and heavy larger sleeping pads; all come in a wide price range usually reflecting that pads quality, versatility, and R-value (not always). It might seem like a good idea to purchase the first sleeping pad you find, a sleeping pad is a sleeping pad, right? Purchasing a camping sleeping pad isn’t like purchasing a mat for kindergarten nap time. The one size fits all approach won’t do. With a little research and evaluation of your camping style, typical terrain, and available sleep space, you are more likely to be satisfied matching your sleeping pad to specific needs.
A sleeping pad’s R-Value (resistance Value) is a numeric value illustrating heat flow resistance and overall ability to insulate the camper from cold ground temperatures. Most manufacturers disclose the R-value of sleeping pads. For those manufacturers that do not have an R-value listed, expect thick heavy sleeping pads to hold more warmth. If you are considering purchasing a sleeping pad that does not have an R-value check for temperature/performance information. It is important to also check out the product reviews of any sleeping pad (regardless of R-value or not) to see how other consumers perceived performance. The R-value is tested in a 70-degree room with little air flow, nearly the opposite of what a camper can expect, product reviews from other reviewers may give you the best idea of how you can expect your sleeping pad to perform while sleeping outdoors.
As a rule, it is recommended that consumers purchase a sleeping mat with at least an R-value of three to provide adequate insulation from the ground, even during the summer the ground remains cool enough at night to leach warmth from a sleeping individual. A typical camper can expect to remain comfortable with a sleeping Pad that has an R-value of 3 Often women sleep “cold” and require a sleeping pad of at least 4 for comfort regardless of the season. There are some sleeping pads designed specifically for women that focuses insulation on the core and feet of the sleeping pad, reducing heat loss. Also, keep in mind that raising the R-value of your sleeping pad will not cause you to become too hot while you sleep. The R-value measures the products ability to provide insulation, so if you are concerned that you or a fellow camper may sleep “cold” err on the side of caution and purchase the pad with the higher R-value
Cost, Customer Reviews, and Other Considerations
The R-value is not necessarily the most important thing to consider when purchasing a sleeping pad. We mentioned before that the R-value of any sleeping pad is obtained during testing in a 70-degree room with limited airflow thus the accuracy of this number is in some instances debatable. For many campers (specifically side sleepers) the R-Value is inaccurate as their entire body isn’t contacting the camping mat and some pads require full surface contact to maintain warmth.
There are other factors that determine customer satisfaction. Weight, compact-ability, and portability is extremely important. If you can’t carry your sleeping pad comfortably and predominantly back-pack, you won’t be satisfied with the sleeping pad that you purchased. For you, a specialty ultralight sleeping pad will be needed.
Other factors to consider are how the sleeping pad is filled and used. Some sleeping pads autofill or require no filling, some sleeping pads require that you also purchase or use an included air pump to inflate your sleeping pad. There are sleeping pads that cost nearly 300$ that provide warmth, comfort, and durability as well as sleeping pads that cost 50$ or less while only modestly sacrifices to warmth and durability. The best way to determine whether a sleeping pad will fit your needs is to compare specifications while reading customer reviews of products that are within your price range. To help you we’ve compiled a list of the best sleeping pads available on the market.
The Top 5 Sleeping Pads For Camping
The top 5 sleeping pads have been selected because of their overall customer review rating, R-value, and cost. Each sleeping pad in this list has an R-value of at least 3 (the recommended minimum R-value for all seasons) acquired a customer review rating of at least 4 stars and costs under 200$. If you add a sleeping pad to your must-have camping gear, you are guaranteed an excellent night’s sleep when you select from the following:
Alps Mountaineering Lightweight Pad Short MC
Affordable, Lightweight, 4.5-star customer review rating, R-value 4, $
This self-inflating pad is lightweight, rolls up very compact and is rated as extremely comfortable by its users. Nearly all customer reviews of the Alps Mountaineering Lightweight Pad are positive with a few users stating that the pad is thick, but for very rugged terrain not thick enough. Perhaps the best feature of this product is the price, you can find this on Amazon for under 50$
Therma Rests Trail Pro
4.5-star customer review rating, R-value of 4.0, $$
This self-inflating sleeping pad offers incredible comfort and ease-of-use. Having an R-value of 4 the Therma Rests Trail Pro will keep even “cold” sleepers comfortable. According to the manufacturer, “a semi-rectangular shape increases Sleep surface area and offers better gap-free mating of mattresses” allowing co-sleepers to arrange mats more comfortably. You can find the Therma Rests Trail Pro at many retailers as well as Amazon for $100 or less.
Nemo Tensor Insulated
(no R-value, estimated to stay warm at 15-20-degrees), 4.5 customer review rating, $$
The NEMO Tensor Insulated sleeping pad offers incredible insulation and warmth while remaining compact and lightweight. Weighing less than 1 lb. this sleeping pad claims it remains warm even at temperatures around 15-20 degrees F, perfect for winter backpacking and camping in the cold. While the Nemo Tensor Insulated sleeping pad is a little more expensive (between 120-180$), avid all weather back-packers will find this an excellent addition to their camping gear.
Co-op Flash Insulated
4-star customer review rating, R-value, 5.2, $$
The Co-op Flash Insulated sleeping pad is extremely affordable and just over 1 lb. in weight. Comprised of Laminated 30-denier ripstop polyester with weld-through construction the sleeping pad is both comfortable and durable. There is even a Mylar Reflective layer between dual fiber insulation that helps maintain the user’s warmth while sleeping. You can find this highly rated sleeping pad for under 120$ on Amazon.
Air Rail 1.5
4-star customer rating, R-value of 4.2, $$
The design of the Air Rail 1.5 is made for women, utilizing increased insulation around the torso (to minimize heat loss) while offering extra padding in the hip area for comfort. For added comfort, the insulated foam center panel has large air tubes around the outer edge to help keep the user on the pad. With an R-value, about 4 and a price below 120$ this sleeping pad is highly rated for good reasons!
Other Sleeping Pads Worth Mentioning
The next list of sleeping pads did not make the top 5 list because they fell short in one of the key areas; R-value, customer reviews or cost. Having an R-value under 3 should not necessarily be a disqualifier and an expensive sleeping pad may be appropriate for a camper who faces more extreme sleeping conditions. If you aren’t successful finding a sleeping pad from our top 5 list, head to Amazon and check out the following sleeping pads.
- NeoAir XLite
- NeoAir Xtherm
- NeoAir All Season SV
- NeoAir Trekker SV
- NeoAir Trekker
- Comfort Light Insulated
- Comfort Plus
- Big Agnes Q core SLX insulated
- Downmat 9
- Downmat HL Winter
- Exped Synmat HL
- Klymit Static V
Make Your Camping Trip Great
This list of camping pad options will help you get some solid rest. To ensure you don’t forget any other essential gear, you can use our ultimate camping checklist.