Sleeping pads are the perfect solution for campers, hikers and even basement sleepovers. They come in a range of styles and thicknesses to suit a variety of needs. Also called roll mats, sleeping pads usually roll or fold up for easy storage and transport, and take up as little space as possible when not being used.
The best sleeping pad for your needs will depend on the activities you are planning as well as the temperature range and other considerations. Some sleeping pads are designed to prioritize ease of transportation, such as those made for hikers. They are lightweight, roll up sleeping mats which can be carried easily on one’s back, and they provide insulation and comfort when lying on the ground. Other sleeping mats are made for plush comfort, such as those made as mattress pads or blow-up (inflating) pads used for camping.
Sleeping pads are often made of foam; some with internal pockets that inflate with air, either manually or with a small pump, and some are flat foam; some have special construction such as closed foam cells or an egg crate design to provide comfort in place of inflatable air pockets.
You will need to know what temperatures you will be using your sleeping pad in, so that you can choose the best sleeping pad accordingly. For very cold outdoor activities such as winter camping, choose a sleeping pad meant that will not crack or become brittle even in cold temperatures preferably combined with a quality sleeping bag meant for colder temperatures.
Some Sleeping Pad Basics
Sleeping pads for camping are often inflatable, either manually or with a pump. A manually inflated sleeping pad, also known as an air mattress although they are different, contains cells or pockets inside which fill with air when pumped up, meaning you blow into it or use a small air pump (which often comes included with the sleeping pad as an accessory). Because the air circulates inside while you sleep, it cools down and offers less insulation from the cold than you might like. Sleeping pad and mat manufacturers have worked around this by creating smaller pockets, lining them with insulation, etc., however this makes blowing them up a little more arduous. Some sleeping pads contain materials such as special foam that traps air and keeps it warmer, and these are known as self-inflating sleeping pads, as the air naturally fills the foam pockets when you unfurl the pad and lay it out, and open the air valve. The foam is very light and these pads are very popular with hikers and campers, as they require no extra work and trap warm air fairly well.
A solid foam sleeping pad does not require inflation, and simply rolls up for transport. They are lightweight and durable, although perhaps not as cushy as air-filled sleeping pads. Because they are made of a solid material, they have some advantages and disadvantages as compared to inflatable sleeping pads; for instance they cannot usually be folded into a small square and must be rolled up (somewhat like a yoga mat), and because they do not deflate they take up more space, although this depends on the pad style and material/s used. They may even be completely stiff and not foldable or rollable at all, as in egg-carton or ridged type designs and thick foam. These are great for storing in garages or basements and using for guests or for sleepovers. Memory foam sleeping pads are another example of a bulky material but they offer excellent comfort in return.
When looking at sleeping pads, some criteria you’ll find include thickness, materials, temperatures meant for usage, and weight. Of course you can also buy accessories on their own, such as pumps, extra foam padding, and covers and specially made fitted sheets, etc.
Camping Sleeping Pads
If you love camping and you sleep either in a tent or under the stars (or even on a hard bed at camp or in a cabin), you already know that although the outdoors is wonderful. Roughing it can be an enjoyable and life-affirming challenge; yet sleeping on the ground or in a tent is not nearly as comfortable as your bed at home.
Enter the various sleeping pads for camping, which you lie on and which offer padding from rocks and sticks, uneven ground and other uncomfortable terrain issues, as well as insulation in many cases. These camping beds make everything more enjoyable; the better your sleep the more you’ll feel refreshed in the morning and ready to take on the day. Time camping or otherwise spent in the great outdoors is precious to most of us; with a good night’s sleep we can take best advantage of it.
Finding the ‘best sleeping pads for camping’ depends on a number of things, ranging from your budget to the camping specifics, such as temperature, terrain, whether you are driving or hiking to the campsite (the latter of which would make the weight and folded dimensions of the sleeping pad much more important, as well as whether you needed to carry an air pump), and age and physical condition of the camper. For instance, a good quality camping bed with a thick, insulated inflatable sleeping pad and perhaps memory foam sleeping pad cover would be the ultimate in luxury. On the opposite end, for rugged individuals a thin, roll-up sleeping pad may make the most sense if they need it to fit on their backs and not take time to pack up.
Camping sleep pads come in different sizes, both in thickness and width and length. Your own measurements and preferences will make a difference as to which sleeping pad you choose, from a small roll up sleep mat to a full-sized or extra-long and plush inflated pad. Inflatable sleeping pads for camping vary in their ability to withstand cooler temperatures, and run the gamut from basic plastic or foam to soft coating and insulation and inner pocket technology which keeps heat in and provides more comfort than your average sleeping pad.
Tip: Read consumer reviews and/or ask your local outdoor gear expert for sleeping pad recommendations to suit your particular needs and enjoy your camping!
Check out the 9 Best Sleeping Pads on the market right now:
1. Therm-a-Rest Neo-Air Xtherm Sleeping Pad
2. Exped SynMat Basic 7.5 Sleeping Pad
3. Therm-a-Rest NeoAir All Season Mattress
4. Big Agnes Air Core Pad
5. Lightspeed Outdoors XL Super Plush FlexForm Self-Inflating Sleep and Camp Pad
6. Klymit Static V Lightweight Sleeping Pad
7. Fox Outfitters Ultralight Series Self Inflating Camp Pad
8. ALPS Mountaineering Lightweight Series Self-Inflating Air Pad