Sleeping pads play two very important roles for getting a solid night's sleep in the great outdoors: cushioning and insulation. While it might seem like having a comfortable surface to sleep on is a pad's most useful function, its ability to keep you warm throughout the night is often more important.
Here’s how to choose a sleeping pad for camping or backpacking:
- Types of sleeping pads: Learn about the three basic types of pads and how they perform: air, self-inflating and closed-cell foam.
- Intended use: Decide which activity your pad is for: backpacking, car camping, winter camping, etc.
- Warmth (R-value): A pad’s ability to resist heat loss to the ground is measured as R-value—higher R-values are warmer.
- Sleep system: Being comfortable at a particular temperature depends on many other variables, including the temperature rating of your sleeping bag. Correctly pairing your pad and bag in your sleep system is key to staying warm.
- Features: Decide which other features are most important to you: weight, cushioning, size, inflation ease and more.