10 Things you need to Know about Sleeping Pads

These are the 10 things you need to know about Sleeping Pads.

1) …The purpose of a sleeping pad is to insulate your body from the ground under you and to provide you with a comfortable night’s sleep. No excuses … no compromises.

A good night’s sleep cannot be overly emphasized, whether you are involved in extreme physical activities or not.

No study has ever shown the value of a poor night’s sleep. As a matter of fact, everyone who wakes up tired and in a bad mood has always had a bad sleep.

Expressions such as … ” waking up on the wrong side of the bed “ are common in all cultures and age groups.

2) …What is the R-value of this sleeping system? This is an insulating term. The R-value of an insulating material is a measure of its thermal resistance. 

Thermal Resistance indicates how quickly a specific material will lose heat. The higher the R-value, the better its thermal qualities.

Higher R-values produce greater heat retention, slower heat loss, and the result is better thermal performance.

3) … What are the dimensions of your sleeping pad?

Your height and body shape must be considered. Here we are looking at the length and the width of this sleeping pad. The pad thickness is more closely associated with R-value.

Is it large enough to cover your body or do you keep feeling the edges?

Is the larger size and extra weight worth the few extra ounces or grams?

4) …Weight is next on your list. If you are going to use your mattress for backpacking, bicycle touring, kayaking, or canoeing the weight and compactness are extremely important. How much does it weigh?

If you will be using your mattress for car camping or canoeing, weight is not so critical. Hunting and Fishing camps, cabins, trailers, and vans are other uses where size and weight are not as important a factor.

5) …What materials are used to make your mattress?

These materials are always model-specific and can be viewed in the product description.

Some models have a polyester face fabric and many also have non-slip undersides to prevent them from sliding around in your tent.

6) …Is your mattress self-inflating? Oversized valves make inflating and deflating your mattress much easier.

Is it open-celled or closed-cell?

7) …How small does it pack? When you roll up or fold your sleeping pad, what are the final dimensions? Depending on whether you carry it inside or outside your backpack this has to be considered.

8) …Does it have any special features that make it more attractive and functional?

Some sleeping pads have attachments for joining two or more pads together.

The better models come with repair kits and stuff sacks.

9) …The pros and cons of your specific model.

In every model of any piece of outdoor equipment, there is always a  lighter, thinner, less heavy counterpart. Usually, but not always, lighter versions are more expensive and more compact.

10) …What are the reviews saying about your product?

Reviews are written by people who use and abuse these products. We take them on real test runs and let Mother Nature have a good go at them.

As you gain more and more experience in the outdoors, and you begin to add on the miles or kilometers, weight, durability, and usefulness become critical.

Nothing gets brought back on future excursions if it is too heavy and serves no real purpose.

In Conclusion

At the end of the day, even hardcore minimalists have a list of things that they call – “don’t leave home without it”. 

A Sleep Pad/Mattress should always be on your list!

On many occasions, in 3-season use, I personally don’t always carry a sleeping bag. This, I do not recommend to anyone, unless you are addicted to hardcore “ultra-light” adventures where mileage and speed of travel are your prime consideration.

This is part of the … “travel light – freeze at night” philosophy and not recommended unless you are young and bullet-proof.

A sleeping pad or mattress … Don’t leave home without it!

If you have any comments, any questions, or any suggestions about this blog, please do not hesitate to include them in the box below.

I will do my best to reply to all of these in a timely manner.

2 thoughts on “10 Things you need to Know about Sleeping Pads”

  1. Paul,
    As a leader for a group of Boy Scouts, I find this information very helpful. For summer camp I always take my blow up sleeping pad. I have an inverter for my truck, inflate it and carry it to my tent for the week. It makes sleeping out just like sleeping at home. We do some backpacking and canoe camping where it is not possible to take this along, do you recommend any pads that are more portable, but still are comfortable for the night.

    • Hi John, and thanks for your interest in my blog.

      To respond to your question, I do have 2 types of sleeping pads that can serve you well while backpacking and canoeing.

      The first version is the old-fashioned, closed cell, olive colored, “army surplus style” sleeping pad. This one is always available at Army Surplus stores. It is very rugged, good enough for modern day armies and quite inexpensive.

      The second version is an open-celled, self-inflating sleeping pad. This the Thermarest style sleeping mattresses that are a better, newer version. These self-inflating mattresses have higher R-values. They are more comfortable and self-inflate.

      You only need to “top up” the air volume yourself with a few quick breaths. These sleeping pads are more comfortable, but they are also more expensive. As always, you get what you pay for.

      I hope this provides you with the information you were looking for and if you need more details please drop by again.

      BTW, good on you, for all the work you do with the Boy Scouts!


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