Camping is meant to be fun, but if you can’t get any sleep, it won’t have nearly as much fun as you could. The ground is naturally cold, hard and uncomfortable.
A high-quality sleeping pad can make all of the difference. The only problem is that most people don’t know what features to look for. Once you have the best sleeping pad for camping, it won’t matter where you decide to plop down for the night.
After a full day of hiking, you’d think it would be easy to get some sleep on just about any surface, but without the right gear, you’ll be lucky if you even get a few minutes of sleep.
What to Look For In a Sleeping Pad
If you’re looking for the best sleeping pad for campers, you need to make sure that you know what to look for. One of the top considerations to make is cost.
It’s possible to find high-quality sleeping pads at a variety of prices, and you should never assume that a pad is great because it’s expensive. On the flipside, there are many inexpensive pads that can deliver a better overall experience than what you’d get from an expensive product.
However, as a general rule of thumb, most expensive pads have a better experience to offer than cheaper products.
Foam or Air
There are two main types of sleeping pads available. The first type is made out of foam, and the second type will support your body using air. With modern materials, both types of pads can be quite comfortable and lightweight. Most of the foam pads tend to be easier to set up and affordable.
They’re also better for situations that involve unknown terrain, which means you don’t know what type of terrain you’ll be sleeping on. A foam pad can provide some extra support for your frameless backpack, or it can be used as a versatile seat around the campfire.
When compared with air pads, the biggest downside of foam pads is bulkiness. It can be difficult to pack the foam because it’s bulky, and over time, the foam wears down and requires replacement.
Although they have several advantages to offer, air pads can be quite expensive, so you’ll need to decide if the camping trip is worth the extra cost. After trying both types of products, most campers agree that air pads are much more comfortable than foam.
However, one of the major downsides of air pads is that they’re extremely vulnerable to punctures, and there is nothing worse than getting no sleep because the only bed that you had got punctured by a lone branch. If you decide to get an air pad, it’s worth the extra money to purchase some repair patches because you never know when you’ll need them.
A sleeping pad for camping is also very likely to be used for hiking, so it’s a good idea to consider the weight. As mentioned earlier, foam tends to be significantly heavier than air.
Since it will need to be large enough to support your entire body, there is a good chance that your sleeping pad will be one of the heaviest objects in your camping pack.
If you’re only staying for the night and plan to sleep in a common campground, don’t be afraid to purchase something heavy. For longer trips deep into the wilderness, you’ll want to go with something much lighter.
A lot of people have trouble understanding R-values and how they affect your camping experience. Fortunately, they’re not too difficult to understand. Most sleeping pads have an R-value, and it’s created to tell you how warm the sleeping pad will keep you.
After all, the purpose of the pad is to keep you warm and comfortable while you sleep at night. The R-value is designed to tell you how effective a particular sleeping pad is at keeping your body insulated from the cold ground beneath you. A higher R-value offers greater protection than a lower value.
If you frequently enjoy warmer camping trips, then consider getting a product with an R-value between zero and one. For most other camping conditions, you can get something with an R-value ranging from one to three.
If you’re really pushing the limits and plan to sleep in freezing temperatures, you should get a sleeping pad that has an R-value ranging from three to five. For winter backpacking and sleeping on snow, an R-value of five or higher is recommended.
However, since everyone is different, these values must be adjusted for your own personal preferences. If you tend to prefer a warmer sleeping environment than most of your friends, you might want to add an additional point to the R-value system.
One of the biggest mistakes that people make is choosing the wrong length. When you’re trying to sleep, your major pressure points are the shoulders and hips, so you’ll want to consider getting a sleeping pad that delivers optimal padding for these areas.
If you view yourself as an ultralight backpacker, your best bet would be a torso-length pad, which allows your legs to hang off of the pad and saves weight. For the average camper, the best pad should offer plenty of padding for your entire body.
In most cases, a thicker pad will deliver more overall comfort. However, this isn’t always the case. One of the benefits of choosing a thicker pad is that it offers greater flexibility to find the ideal firmness for your unique body.
It’s important to find a thickness that doesn’t leave your body bottoming out and uncomfortable. You should also make sure that the pad has plenty of structure.
You don’t want to be camping and feel like you’re sleeping on bubble wrap. In other words, the pad should be extremely comfortable while staying strong enough to hold its shape.
The total packed size of your sleeping pad is important. You want to be able to pack it up and deploy it quickly. If you choose a smaller pad, you’ll have no trouble packing it into a small, lightweight backpack, which is great for long hiking trips. If you go with a bulkier pad, you’ll probably need to strap it to the outside of your backpack while hiking.
To make your life easier, we’ve compiled a list of the best sleeping pads for campers. Although these are some of the best products on the market, you’ll still need to use your judgement and select the best pad for your personal needs.
Therm-a-Rest Z Lite Sol Mattress
If you’re looking for the best pad on a budget, this is a great product to consider. It’s a closed cell foam pad and delivers great durability.
When compared with most other pads, the price is very affordable. This particular pad offers the perfect combination of size and durability. The Therm-a-Rest Z Lite Sol Mattress is an excellent choice for campers and works just as well for hardcore backpackers.
It’s a logical choice for mountaineers, alpine climbers, thru-hikers and campers. Although it’s not nearly as durable as some other products, its compact size provides a distinct advantage.
Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Venture WV Mattress
If you’re looking to get the most for your money, the NeoAir Venture WV sleeping pad should be considered. It delivers an excellent combination of durability, comfort and value.
It’s significantly more comfortable than some of the other sleeping pads on the market, and it’s an especially logical choice for campers. It features a rectangular shape and heavy fabric. When you need the highest level of comfort for camping and don’t care about weight, this is an ideal pad.
It’s made from heavy, durable fabrics, so you don’t have to worry about it wearing out too quickly. It’s great for camping and backpacking. You should have no problem using it to get a restful night of sleep. You can even use this pad for car camping.
Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Xtherm
For the best overall sleeping pad, you’ll want to go with the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Xtherm mattress. It’s one of the best overall pads on the entire market.
It offers the perfect thickness and has been designed to be ultralight. With an unmatched warmth-to-weight ratio, this sleeping pad will keep you warm in almost any environment.
To reduce weight without compromising warmth, the bag features a tapered design. When fully packed, this pad is no bigger than a one-liter water bottle, so you’ll have no trouble fitting it into the smallest backpack. It has a baffled internal structure, which provides optimal support and stability.
With a Triangular Core Matrix Construction, the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Xtherm minimizes convective heat loss while keeping the overall size of the bag to a minimum. Overall, it’s the best sleeping pad for campers on the market.