If you want a comfortable night when camping and sleeping on the ground, nothing beats a good sleeping pad. A sleeping pad of any type provides a barrier between you and the ground. Not only does this provide physical comfort, but it also protects you from the cold that can affect your body through the ground. It can protect you from any unforeseen ground moisture in your tent as well. The proper sleeping pad can make sleeping away from your own bed a pleasant experience.
Air mattresses: If space or weight is not an issue, you can definitely consider an air mattress for your sleeping pad. These are the “Cadillacs” of sleeping pads. They are quite large, provide a huge cushion between your body and the ground, and if well chosen, are extremely comfortable. Air mattresses come in single, full, or queen sizes. It’s imperative to make sure there is room for the air mattress in your tent. Air mattresses are much bigger and bulkier than regular sleeping pads. You’ll want an air compressor to blow it up with, one that can run on your car’s battery. Some air mattresses do have the reputation of springing leaks easily, and can also be punctured if subjected to extreme wear and tear. Still, they provide a luxurious option for a sleeping pad.
Foam and self-inflating pads: If you’d prefer to save space and have something more compact and lightweight, there is a great selection of foam and self-inflating pads on the market. The technology in these has improved greatly in the past decade, the options are limitless, and they provide an exceptional sleep experience.
R-value: This type of sleeping pad is rated with an “R-value.” The R-value measures the material’s resistance to heat loss. The higher the number, the more warmth the sleeping pad will provide. It will keep the heat in longer. The numbers generally range from 2.0-8.0. Regardless of the R-value, all sleeping pads provide additional warmth from the bare ground.
Closed cell foam pads: Foam sleeping pads do not inflate. They are composed of closed cell foam, and require no air to provide insulation between you and the ground. These types of pads are extremely durable and can last for many years. They are light and can roll up small. Since they are not inflated, they can’t be punctured and shouldn’t need to be repaired like an inflatable mattress would. Foam sleeping pads are generally cheaper and have a lower R-value, but there are some higher end foam sleeping pads available.
Self-inflating pads: Self-inflating foam sleeping pads are made of open cell foam, and provide superior insulation when inflated. These will usually inflate themselves if left unrolled for a few minutes, and only require a few puffs of air to finish filling them up. They come in a variety of thicknesses, usually measured in inches. You can buy a self-inflating pad that is less than an inch thick, or one that is 4, or more, inches thick. Try a variety of them out to be able to feel the difference.
Size and weight: Sleeping pads also come in different lengths and widths. Check the dimensions and be sure to get one to match your body type. If you ever plan to take your sleeping pad backpacking, you will want to consider the weight of your sleeping pad, as well as how small it can compact to. Backpackers tend to have much smaller, lighter sleeping pads than car campers.
If you consider these factors before purchasing your sleeping pad, you will have one more important camping gear addition to add to your equipment supply.