Winter camping comes with its own set of challenges when you consider that you’ll probably be spending nights out in the cold snow. Where you are sleeping needs to be snug enough to keep you warm and safe from fast traveling winds outside your tent.
The type of winter camping sleeping pad that you choose will depend on your camping requirements. If you are a hiker then you need to factor in the weight. If on the other hand, you plan to carry a bit more gear with your car then weight may not be such a huge factor.
Different types of sleeping pads for winter
There are 3 main types of sleeping pads.
Closed-cell foam pads are not only lightweight but some of them have a reflective surface that reflects heat to your body. They are also quite affordable and easy to roll up and carry. However, closed-cell foam pads could tear if dragged on the ground where there are twigs and branches.
Inflatable insulated sleeping pads are the most comfortable type of winter camping sleeping pad. Even while consuming more space than the closed-cell foam pads, once deflated, they can be compressed, packed and are not too difficult to carry. The downside with inflatable insulated sleeping pads is that they take a couple of minutes to inflate and the fact that they use up space when inflated.
The third type of winter camping sleeping pad is the self-inflating insulated sleeping pads. These have the advantage of not requiring the camper to do anything apart from laying it on the ground. The special cells in the pads absorb air causing the sleeping pad to expand. The downside is that they are bulky and can be a bit heavy for the minimalist camper.
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One of the most important features to consider is the R-Value. It tells you the amount of insulation you are going to get in your cold-weather sleeping pad. The higher the value, the greater the insulation.
For winter campers who prefer to keep things lightweight, there is a closed-cell foam pad. It has an R-Value of 2, give or take. If you doubt whether this is enough to keep you warm while lying on the snow, then you should know that as long as you have a thick, extra warm sleeping bag, then the closed-cell foam pad is sufficient.
The inflatable insulated sleeping pad is one for folk who do not mind carrying a bit more weight. They come with a higher R-value of 4 or more. While they will weigh more than the closed-cell foam pad and consume more space, the fact that they are inflatable means they provide a much more comfortable sleeping experience when camping in the snow.
Temperature is a major determinant of your winter camping sleeping pad. Most experts advise that if you are going to set up a tent in temperatures of -150C, then the sleeping pad should have an R-Value of 3.5 and over.
When the temperatures can get as low as -300C degrees, you need a pad with an R-value of 4 and above. As a rule of thumb the further away you are from the cold snowy ground, the better.
How to use the closed-cell foam pad with the inflatable insulated sleeping pad
The generally accepted method of using the closed-cell foam pad with the inflatable sleeping pad is that the cell foam pad should be put on top of the snow and the insulated sleeping pad on top of the foam pad and lastly the sleeping bag on top.
The reasoning behind this is that the closed-cell foam pad which is solid material will block you from the cold. However, this fails to take into account the low temperatures which will freeze the air in the inflatable insulated sleeping pad. This cold air will be closer to your body and will not help you maintain warm body temperature.
However, if the inflated insulated sleeping pad is on the snow and the closed-cell foam is placed on top of it, you can remain warm and comfortable in your sleeping bag knowing that you are completely insulated from the snow.
Choosing the right size
Sleeping pads come in different sizes with some being 48 inches long while others up to 78 inches in length. The shorter pads may be ideal if you are not concerned about sleeping on snow. However, to keep your entire body insulated during the cold winter nights, you need the longer variety that caters to the legs and feet.
As for the width of the sleeping pad, it should cover your shoulders as well as your hips. While long sleeping pads will often feature a larger width, it’s important to ensure that it is the right size for you. This is especially true for larger individuals.
Also, consider the way you sleep. If you sleep on the side more than you do on your back then you may not require a larger width.
For people who toss and turn a lot in their sleep, a winter camping sleeping pad with a textured surface will provide a good grip to your sleeping bag.
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More care needs to be taken when choosing a cold-weather sleeping pad for winter camping. It should provide you with sufficient insulation to keep you warm while also being comfortable enough for a good night’s sleep.
As you choose your sleeping pad, make sure you consider the size of the tent as well. You don’t want to end up with a sleeping pad that is bigger than your tent.
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