Today we’re going to talk about what are the best sleeping pads for camping?
There’s all different types of camping. So therefore, there has to be all different types of sleep and pads.
The different types of camping are car camping, winter camping, thru-hiking, backpacking, and of course the weekend warrior.
Now, depending on the type of camping you’re going to do, it’s going to actually make you choose a certain type of sleeping pad because every single type of camping has its pros and cons for different sleeping pads.
I’ve used many different types of sleeping pads over the years. So I’m going to go through each of the types that I’ve used and try and explain the pros and cons to each.
Okay, so before we get into actually saying which sleeping pads are good for which type of camping, we actually need to understand what R-value is.
WHAT IS R-VALUE?
If you were to lie on the ground with your sleeping bag, you’d get pretty cold.
This happens because your body and your sleeping bag are not really effective barriers to the ground and the cold that comes up through it. This is because of the fact that you’re actually lying on your sleeping bag and compressing the synthetic or down insulation.
So, this is where the sleeping pad comes in.
It actually inserts a layer in between your sleeping bag and the ground. So depending on the actual thickness of the pad, the insulation and so on and so forth, it will determine what the actual sleeping pad you need and it also determines the R-Value.
So technically speaking, R-value measures how well an object resists, hence the R in R-Value, heat.
Keep in mind this measurement isn’t used just in sleeping pads. It’s also used in windows and housing insulation, much, much, much more.
So, the higher the R-value of your sleeping pad, the more it will resist the heat transfer of your body to the ground.
Now, mattresses and stuff like that have like double digits when it comes to R-Value, but sleeping pads generally range from one to seven.
Since it doesn’t actually correspond to temperature, it’s very, very difficult to say which one is going to be right for you because a lot of conditions such as your metabolism, how cold it is outside, your sleeping bag, where you are, what time of year it is, many, many different factors come into play.
So because of this fact, the actual ratings of the sleeping pads are broken down into three actual categories.
Summer – one to three,
Three Season – three to five
Winter – five plus.
Now, you should always err on the side of caution because you can never be too warm, but you can definitely be too cold.
The other thing you need to consider is that the higher the R-Value of the sleeping pad, the pricier it’s probably going to get and it’s also probably going to weigh a little bit more.
DIFFERENT TYPES OF CAMPING
Okay, so now that we’ve gone through all that and we’ve got a fairly good understanding of what R-value really is, let’s talk about the different types of camping.
This one you can be pretty liberal on the type of sleeping pad that you have because if you do get cold, you can just jump into your vehicle.
Now, with this one you’re always going to want a sleeping pad that has a R-Value of five plus. And you need to understand that you need that because otherwise you’re going to get very cold. And the other side is, because it’s a five plus, you’re going to pay more and it’s going to weigh more.
In this case, you’re probably going to have several different types of sleeping pads, depending upon the season that you’re in. Myself, I usually take either a three season, or a summer sleeping pad with me, unless of course it’s winter.
Now, the reason I take those with me is because as a general rule, I can make them fairly light and I can pack them up very, very well.
In this case, you want to keep everything as light as possible. So, you’re probably going to go out there with a summer sleeping pad, it’s as simple as that.
The Weekend Warrior
This type of camper you will see bringing everything under the sun. From blow up mattresses, to blankets, to sleeping pads, to nothing. It’s amazing what they bring, but then again, each of them have their own merit.
WHAT DO I USE?
All right, now that we’ve gone through all of that, let’s talk about the types of sleeping pads that I actually use and own.
I’m going to do a full review on each of these later on, but for right now, let’s just go through a quick summary of each.
Let’s start with my favorite.
Nemo Astro Lite
I’ve used this for backpacking, through hiking, kayaking, and just basic day camping. The thing is very comfortable and very durable. The one thing about it is that it’s not great for winter and probably late fall, early spring.
Therm-a-Rest ProLite Large Edition
This one is great. I’ve used it for hiking and thru-hiking, backpacking. I wouldn’t recommend it for kayaking because it’s actually quite large when it packs away and it’s most definitely not good for winter hiking.
Woods Double Base-Rest
it’s great for car camping and weekend warriors, but it’s not really good for much else because it’s so big.
Blow Up Mattress
This is one of the favorites for car campers and weekend warriors. It’s definitely comfortable and you’ll see them all over the place, and yes, I’ve used them, but they’re no good for anything other than that.
NeoAir Xtherm by Therm-a-Rest
This is my winter hiking pad. It is awesome.
As you can see, the type of sleeping pad that you’re gonna choose, or what’s the best sleeping pad really depends on what you’re going to be doing and in what season you’re going to be doing it in.
All sleeping pads have their pros and cons.
And finally, who you are will actually factor in a lot as to the type of sleeping pad that you should choose. Are you a creature of comfort? Are you prone to the cold? Your height, your weight. Do you move around a lot at night? I know I move around a lot at night, so I bought a fairly wide sleeping pad.
As you can see, there’s a lot of different things to think about when you’re trying to decide what’s the best sleeping pad for camping.
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