HOW TO CHOOSE A SLEEPING PAD?

Your sleeping pad or mattress plays a very important role when it comes to getting a good night’s sleep. Not only does it provide cushioning and comfort, but also provides insulation to keep you warm.

A sleeping pad complements your sleeping bag when it comes to keeping you warm in a tent.

To find out which sleeping pad is right for you, think about the following:

1. Type
2. Warmth and R-rating
3. Comfort
4. Noise
5. Weight

 

1. Type of sleeping pad

Firstly, let’s take a look at the different types of sleeping pads out there. There are 3 main types of sleeping pads, all providing a different level of comfort:

1. Air pad
Air pads are very compact and lightweight. They offer comfort and warmth and usually have an R-value of 3 or more. The only tricky part with air pads is punctures. 

It is possible that you get a puncture in the middle of the night or before you go to sleep. You can combat that by bringing enough repair material with you on your hike and obviously also know how to use it.

2. Self-inflating pad
The name speaks for itself. Self-inflating sleeping pads are sleeping mattresses that inflate automatically. They are easy to setup and usually provide more comfort. But because of the self-inflation feature, it usually doesn’t pack up as small as a normal air pad. 

3. Closed-cell foam pad
Closed-cell foam sleeping pads have the advantage that they will never deflate, because they never need to be inflated. 

The trade-off is however, that closed-cell foam pads are not as compact and usually are not the most comfortable to sleep on. 

You will still feel rocks and roots, which you most likely won’t when you go for an airpad.

4. Women-specific sleeping pad
Lastly, some sleeping pads also offer a women-specific version. The main difference is that they are usually a little shorter and offer more insulation. So, if you are a cold sleeper, this will offer you another solution.
A good example is the 
Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Xlite. While the unisex version has an R-value of 4.2, the women’s version has a 5.4 R-value.

 

2. Warmth

The warmth of a sleeping pad is measured with an R-value. The higher the number, the more insulation the sleeping pad offers from the ground. 

We mentioned it before, your sleeping pad and sleeping bag are one system that works together. A warm sleeping bag can still make you feel cold if you have  a low R-value sleeping pad and vice versa. 

What you can do is get a sleeping pad for the conditions of your hike, offering an appropriate level of insulation from the ground. Most hikers opt for a 3-season sleeping pad that will protect them from most conditions, but not winter.

Recommended R-value:
♦ Summer only : 1-3
♦ 3-season : 3 -5
♦ Winter : >5

 

3. Comfort

Depending on whether you are a cold or warm sleeper. Or if you are a side sleeper or sleep on your back. There is a sleeping pad for each and every one of you. Some sleeping pads provide more comfort for side sleepers and active sleepers.

The next question to ask as well is how thick do you want the mattress to be. Usually self-inflatable sleeping pads will offer more cushioning and comfort than other types of sleeping pads because of the materials used.

4. noise

If you are a light sleeper, you might want to consider getting a sleeping pad that is not so noisy. 

A lot of air pads can be pretty noisy when it comes to moving around on them. Self-inflating mattresses are the most quiet, and so are closed-cell foam pads. The last one is obviously less comfortable.

5. weight

This one speaks for itself.
Air pads usually offer the lightest options. The lighter the sleeping pad, usually the more expensive it will be. 

You can get a good lightweight sleeping pad for under 500g. Depending on the R-value, a higher R-value will be a little heavier because it provides more insulation. The only exception is the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Xtherm which is 425g with an R-value of 6.9! Definitely worth having a look at that one.

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