Like many campers and hikers, are you facing the dilemma of whether or not to buy a sleeping pad? To get the answer, you need to find out what will be the conditions during night time at the place where you will be camping or sleeping.
A sleeping pad is necessary to have the right amount of comfort and insulation that you need during your rest time. In this article, we will discuss some of the benefits that these sleeping pads have to offer. And how they can add to your overall comfort and rest during your trips in the outdoors.
So sit back and relax, because we have got a whole lot of info for you to sift through!
Sleeping pad benefits
Sleep in cold conditions
Are you going to sleep out in the open, and what is it going to be below 80F? In such a case, you will need a sleeping pad, and if you value a good night’s sleep, then a sleeping pad is again a must. So basically, you need a sleeping pad in all scenarios.
Cushioned surface for Comfort
These sleeping pads provide you with the much needed cushioned surface for comfort. Plus, they are equally suitable for that all-important insulation that your body needs in cold temperatures. The cushioning will keep your body in a relaxed position even if you are sleeping on the ground.
Protects from hypothermia
At night, temperatures are bound to get low no matter how warm and humid the conditions were in the day time. Additionally, your body temperature also drops when you are in sleep.
Therefore, you need a decent amount of insulation to keep yourself warm at night and avoid hypothermia.
Right amount of Support
It will provide you with support and comfort, and you won’t have to deal with any soreness when you get up in the morning.
You will be as fresh as ever and ready to take on the new day ahead of you. It is essential because your body and muscles need the right amount of rest at night as you will be exploring new frontiers come the next day.
Best cases to use a sleeping pad?
There are different types of sleeping pads that you can use for various purposes on your camping or hiking trips.
Closed-cell foam sleeping pads
This sleeping pad is a conventional backpacking roll that you will find regularly tied to those backpacks of campers from the old days.
You might have seen your day with this one as well in a picture from the good early ’70s. The technology involved in these pads hasn’t altered much since those times.
Inflatable sleeping pads
Inflatable sleeping pads are easily packable and light in weight. These are best suited for thru-hiking and light backpacking.
Some of them might take a lot of effort when it comes to inflation, but cutting down on the weight of your backpacks is pretty crucial if you are planning to go long distances.
Self-inflating sleeping pads
These pads have foam (open-cell), and it expands when you open the valve. Just a couple of puffs that you need to top it off!
These pads are very comfortable and insulating and are way better than air pads because of their compactness. These sleeping pads are great for backpacking as well as car camping.
These mattresses are large-sized inflatables, but they are different as well. You can find a good variety in terms of size and thickness. Hence, these are great for glamping, RVing, festivals, and car camping.
What Kind of Sleeping Pad Should I Get?
Here is a quick comparison chart that we have developed for your convenience. You won’t have to go through much when choosing which one is the best type of sleeping pad to serve your purpose.
|Activity||Sleeping Pad Type||Advantages/Disadvantages|
|Car Camping||Thick or self-inflating sleeping pad||Plenty of cushioning but is heavy and bulky|
|Canoe/kayak touring, bike-packing and backpacking||Lightweight self-inflating sleeping pad or air pad||Lightweight, comfortable and packs very small|
|Light or minimal backpacking||Ultralight air sleeping pad||Packs very small and is light in weight|
|Thru-hiking||Foam (closed-cell) sleeping pad||Not very comfortable but very durable|
|Winter camping||Self-inflating sleeping pad or well-insulated air sleeping pad||Excellent R-value due to down insulation or synthetic fiber|
How to set up a sleeping pad for tent camping?
Setting up your sleeping camp is not that big of trouble. You just need to detach your pad from your backpack and unroll it on the ground. Make sure that you have set it on the ground inside your tent (no sides outside).
Make sure that you have all the edges of the pad inside the tent and can comfortably close your tent when you go to sleep because you don’t want any part exposed.
Now, with the help of an air pump or using your lungs, you can fill some air in your air pad. If it is foam, then you might not need much blowing.
For proper insulation and comfort, the best practice is to place your sleeping pad inside your sleeping bag if you are using one.
Sleeping Pad Alternatives:
There are various alternatives that you can go for if you don’t want to choose a sleeping pad from your next camping trip. We have listed them down as follows, and we will discuss how each of them differs from a sleeping pad.
Air mattresses are great when it comes to comfort and insulation. Still, they also add a lot of weight to your backpack, and they won’t be a great choice for thru-hiking or ultralight backpacking.
Portable mattresses can work way better than an air mattress in terms of weight and size. But they are still better suited for car camping. They can also work well for backpacking if you want. But sleeping pads are much lighter.
Cots are great when it comes to durability, but they don’t offer much in terms of portability. They also add a lot of weight to your backpack because of the metal frames that they have.
Hammocks will serve you pretty well when we talk about packing lightweight for camping. But of course, you need some trees around you, and of course, they are not that comfortable if you compare them with sleeping on a surface.
Gym pads can work as your sleeping surface on a camping trip, but if sleeping comfort is right at the top of your priority list, then a sleeping pad is a better choice. However, gym pads are pretty lightweight, and they don’t take much space either.
Thick sleeping bags/blankets
These blankets or sleeping bags are a good choice for you if you are not planning your trip in any colder climates. These blankets don’t offer much insulation, and hence they are suitable for warmer climates where temperatures at night won’t drop down much.
Thick yoga mat
Thick mats designed for yoga are better for resting for a few hours or so, but they don’t provide you with much comfort for a good night’s sleep. Therefore, for overnight rests, these mats are not a great option.
A thick pile of leaves
Sleeping on a thick pile of leaves can be somewhat dangerous because there are chances of those critters lurking around at night. Leaves also tend to get wet pretty fast, and you won’t find any support sleeping on such a surface.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do you need a pad with a sleeping bag?
Yes, there shouldn’t be any doubt in your mind about this point. Without a sleeping pad, there won’t be enough comfort and insulation in your sleeping bag as it cannot deliver on these two aspects on its own.
Your sleeping bag can provide you with some level of insulation and comfort if you compress it, but that is not much to provide you with a peaceful night’s sleep.
Do you need a sleeping pad for backpacking?
Sleeping pad for backpacking is a wise choice because it will provide you with much-needed comfort and support for a restful night. It will provide your body with insulation and support as well that only a sleeping bag won’t offer alone.
Apart from that, these sleeping pads are very light in weight, and they don’t take much space in your backpack as well, making them ideal for backpacking as well as thru-hiking.
Do you need a sleeping pad for hammock camping?
Just like you need it in any other way of camping, a sleeping pad will be a better choice for you in hammock camping as well. There will be no surface contact when you are hammock camping; the need for insulation becomes even more important.
You just need to place the sleeping pad inside your hammock, and that’s it. However, you must keep in mind that this pad will tend to shift around its place in your hammock. It is especially the case if you move around a lot while asleep.
Do you need a special sleeping pad for a hammock?
An under quilt can be a good choice to use in a hammock, but if budget is your concern, then you can always count on sleeping pads. You need to go for a pad that can hold its ground even if you move around a lot while asleep. Some sleeping pads feature special kinds of rubber or plastic lining to keep them in place inside a hammock.
However, if you don’t move a lot in your sleep, then a hammock is pretty comfortable on its own. Nevertheless, you will still need a sleeping pad for insulation if temperatures get below 80F at night in your area of camping.
Do you need a sleeping pad with an air mattress or a cot?
You might not need a sleeping pad with an air mattress or a cot as a necessity. But for additional support and comfort, a sleeping pad is always a good choice.
Placing a sleeping pad on a cot or an air mattress will ensure that you stay warm at night, and you don’t have to compromise on comfort as well.
Do you need a pump to inflate a sleeping pad for backpacking?
If you have a self-inflating sleeping pad, then you won’t need an air pump to inflate it. Some air pads require you to pump some air using your lungs with a few blows.
A proper air pad will require an air pump, and in such a case, you will need to have one in your backpack.
Do you need a sleeping pad for a bivy?
Yes, for added comfort, support, and insulation, you will need a sleeping pad with your bivy sacks. Just layout your bivy sack and slip your pad inside and then stuff the sleeping bag right on top of your pad.
As these bivy sacks are resistant to water, you don’t need a groundsheet to place your bivy as well. It will keep you nice, warm, and dry while you are asleep.
A sleeping pad is a must-have piece of equipment that you will need on your camping trip. No matter what type of camping you’re doing, your sleeping pad will provide you with much-needed comfort, support, and warmth. It will provide you with a restful night to rejuvenate and get going the next day.
You can use your sleeping pad with almost any sleeping surface, whether it is a bivy sack or an air mattress.
As there are different types of sleeping pads available, you need to make sure that you pick the right one. Some sleeping pads are light in weight, and they are suitable for thru-hiking while others require an air pump and are large in size, thus suitable for car camping.