You need quality sleep to make the most of a camping or backpacking trip. Having the best sleeping pads for camping can make all the difference between a good night’s sleep and a sleepless night of shivering, tossing, and turning. A pad adds a cushioning and insulating layer between you and the cold bumpy ground, ensuring you’re warm and comfortable enough to sleep well in the great outdoors.
The best backpacking sleeping pad has to strike a fine balance between being thick enough to offer comfort at night yet compact and lightweight, so it won’t weigh you down on the trails. We have evaluated the top-rated backpacking sleeping pads to come up with the top ten best options. In the sleeping pads for camping reviews below, we feature the very best sleeping pads on the market right now.
Much like choosing a camping pillow, finding the ideal sleeping pad for your camping exploits can take some trial and error. There are so many combinations of length, width, thickness, warmth, material, orientation of chambers etc that there is very rarely a “perfect” solution and often you will have to compromise in some way, or have more than one sleeping pad for different situations.
If you’re looking for a sleeping pad for cold-weather camping then what you’re looking for is a high R-value. An R-value of 5 or above will insulate you fairly effectively from a cold surface but R-values can be found as high as nearly 8. Don’t dismiss these figures as “marketing”, a pad with a good R-value really feels wonderful to sleep on in a cold environment.
In basic terms; if you’re a side-sleeper or move around a lot in your sleep then a thicker pad will be more comfortable for you. If you sleep on your back and remain fairly still then you could get away with a thinner inflatable pad or even a closed cell type model.
R-values are accumulative: If you put an R-3 pad on top of another R-3 pad then you have an R-6 pad. This can make life cheaper if you want to use your R-3 summer pad in the winter - just buy a rolling-style closed cell foam pad with an R-value around 2-3 and place your summer pad on top of it!
How To Choose A Sleeping Pad For Camping – Buying Guide
Length and Width
Size is the number one consideration when choosing camping pads for sleeping. To make sure the pad you get is going to fit in your tent, sleeping bag, hammock, or camping cot, be sure to select a pad with the appropriate length and width. In addition to standard length sleep pads, there are short backpacking pads for fastpacking and ultralight backpacking.
There are also extra-long options designed to provide superior comfort. As for the width, the pad should be wide enough to accommodate your shoulders and hips without being so wide that it becomes awkward to pack and carry. If you’re an active sleeper, an extra-wide pad is ideal.
Weight and Packed Size
Before you buy a pad for camping, find out whether it will be easy to carry on the trails. For base camping and car camping trips, weight and packed size aren’t major issues. You can choose a large pad that will provide luxurious sleeping comfort in the outdoors.
Hiking and backpacking trips require the lightest sleeping pads that roll down to a small form you can stow inside your pack or attach to the outside. Such a pad won’t weigh you down on the trails. In our sleeping pads for camping reviews above, we feature both ultralight and compact backpacking and hiking sleeping pads as well as larger and heavier pads for car camping.
Types of Sleeping Pads (Air vs Foam)
One of the most important decisions to make when buying a camping sleeping pad is whether to get an air pad or a foam mat. Air pads and self-inflating pads fill up with air to provide superior comfort for a good night’s sleep. When deflated, they fold up to a very small size. Their disadvantage is that you’ve to inflate them and some pads are prone to deflating and puncturing.
Foam sleeping mats, on the other hand, are cheaper and offer a hassle-free camping experience. You don’t have to worry about pumping them up or puncturing them. The downside is that they are bulkier and more difficult to carry when backpacking or hiking.
Related Review: Backpacking Sleeping Pad
Valve and Ease of inflation
If you decide to go with inflatable air pads or self-inflating pads, be sure to find out how easy it inflates and deflates. After a day’s hike or trek, the last thing you want is an inflatable pad that requires a lot of energy to set up while leaving you short of breath. The pad should deflate easily as well so you can pack up quickly. The kind of valve air pads are equipped with will tell you how easy they are to inflate.
Self-inflating pads are the easiest to blow up. All you have to do is unscrew the valve and the pad will gradually fill up with air. You will only have to blow a couple of breaths to get it to the desired firmness. Air pads with regular valves require a bit more effort but the best air pads can be fully inflated in under 25 breaths.
Thickness and Comfort
A good camping sleep pad should provide the comfort and warmth you need to enjoy a good night’s sleep. First of all, the sleep pads for camping should be large and wide enough to cover your entire body. Thickness is also a big indicator of how comfortable a pad is. The thicker a camp sleep pad, the higher the comfort it’ll provide.
The best sleeping pads for camping should support you the way you like to sleep, whether it’s on your side, back, stomach, or curled up. If you’re a side sleeper, you want a thick pad that distributes your weight evenly, so the pad doesn’t bottom out leaving your hips and shoulders against the hard ground.
The structure of the pad is also an important consideration here. The foam cells or air pockets should be designed in such a way as to ensure your weight is evenly distributed. The most comfortable camping sleeping pads are also designed to conform to your body and move with you as you sleep.
Warmth and R-Value
When you’re out there sleeping on the ground, your only source of warmth in your body. The sleeping pad you have should preserve the heat your body generates by providing insulation from the cold ground. Some extra-warm camp sleeping pads even have heat-reflective surfaces that reflect heat to your body.
The R-Value rating tells you the pad’s ability to insulate. The higher the rating, the higher the insulation provided, and the warmer the sleeping pad. A pad with an R-Value of 2.0 is ideal for sleeping outside in the spring, summer, and fall. When camping in colder climates and especially on the snowy ground, you will need an insulated sleeping pad with a 5.5+ R-Value.
Material and Durability
As with any camping gear, camping sleeping pads should be rugged enough to stand up to rough camping terrain and harsh outdoor elements. They have to withstand rocks and other debris when placed on the ground. Getting a durable pad that will serve you for many years to come and won’t fail you when you need it the most is vital. Ensure the pad is made of the highest quality materials.
The outer shell fabric should be ripstop nylon, polyester, or canvas so it can resist puncturing, tearing, and abrasion by thorns and rocks. It should also be treated with a waterproof coating to resist moisture. The inflation and deflation valve should also be long-lasting. Last but not least, look at the kind of warranty the manufacturer offers. Sleeping pads covered by a lifetime warranty offer superior durability.
Shape: A mummy-shaped camping pad is ideal for back sleepers, fitting in a mummy sleeping bag, and for backpacking and hiking as the tapered shapes save on inches and ounces. If you move around in your sleep or sleep on your side, a rectangular shape will give you the greatest level of support and comfort.
Noise: Some air pads are prone to making squeaking noises which can make it harder to sleep, especially if you’re a light sleeper. If you’re looking for air pads, reading sleeping pads for camping reviews will enable you to choose a quiet option. Open-cell and closed-cell foam pads guarantee a quiet sleep experience.
Repair Kit: When opting for inflatable air pads, it’s a good idea to opt for one that comes with a repair patch, so you don’t have to purchase it separately. This equips you to fix any puncture that might happen when in the great outdoors. A patch kit isn’t a requirement if you’re getting closed-cell foam pads, as foam pads aren’t prone to puncturing.
Q: Do you Need a Sleeping Pad?
If you will be sleeping on the hard cold ground or camping in cold conditions, a sleeping pad is crucial to having a good night’s sleep in the great outdoors. A sleeping bag alone isn’t enough. Your body will compress the sleeping bag’s insulation and you will end up sleeping directly on the cold hard ground.
A sleeping pad ensures a good night’s sleep by providing critical insulation, support, and cushioning. If you’re sleeping in a hammock and camping in warm weather conditions, you can forgo a sleeping pad.
Related Review: Sleeping Pad For Hammock
Q: What Length Sleeping Pad Should I buy?
The standard length for sleeping pads is 72 inches or 6 feet. There are also extra-long pads extending 78 inches. If you’re looking for an ultralight sleeping pad for thru-hiking and backpacking trips, you can buy a short or ¾ length sleeping pad that will cushion your head and upper body without weighing you down on the trails. What length to go for will depend on how tall you are, how big your tent or hammock is, and how you will be transporting the pad to the campsite.
Q: Does the Sleeping Pad go Inside the Sleeping Bag?
Yes, a sleeping pad can go inside the sleeping bag. While a sleeping pad is meant to go underneath a sleeping bag, it can also fit inside a sleeping bag, camping cot, or be laid in a hammock. If you intend to insert the sleeping pad inside your sleeping bag, make sure the sleeping bag pad you get will fit inside your bag.
Q: How do you Insulate a Sleeping Pad?
You can increase the insulation and warmth your sleeping pad offers by laying it over a closed-cell foam pad. To provide insulation, a sleeping pad is made of foam cells or air cells. The foam cells or air-filled cells act as insulation against the cold ground. Adding a closed-cell foam pad underneath your pad will insulate it from the cold ground and increase its R-Value.
Q: What is the R-Value for Sleeping Pads?
The R-Value of a sleeping pad tells you how well it can resist heat loss to the ground and what kinds of camping conditions and temperatures it’s suitable for. A summer camping pad will have an R-value of 1 while a 4-season camp pad suitable for snow and winter camping will have an R-Value of 5.5+. For 3-season trips, you need a pad with an R-Value of at least 2.
Related Post: Winter Camping Sleeping Pad
Globo Surf Overview
Restorative rest is essential for an enjoyable camping experience. A good sleeping camping pad can make all the difference between a good night’s sleep and a sleepless night. The best sleeping pad for camping won’t weigh you down on the trails during the day. At night, it will provide cushioning comfort and insulation, enabling you to enjoy great sleep throughout the night whether you’re sleeping on the ground or in a hammock.
Whether you want an ultralight hiking pad, a foam sleeping mat, or the best sleeping pad for car camping trips, we hope our reviews of the best sleeping pads for camping will enable you to make the right choice so you can set out on your camping trip and have the best night’s sleep you’ve ever had in the great outdoors.