Sleeping pads are an essential part of every backpacking kit. They not only provide cushioning from the hard and often uneven ground on which your tent is pitched, but also provide insulation from the cold ground throughout the night. With a good sleeping pad underneath you, you can count on getting a night of high-quality sleep to refresh and recharge you for the next day’s hike.
Types of Sleeping Pads
Air mattresses are the lightest and most compact type of sleeping pad, which is why they’ve become a staple amongst backpackers. These pads use a layer of synthetic or down insulation or a series of baffles to provide insulation, but most of the air mattress is essentially comprised of air. Plan on spending a couple of minutes blowing into the valve to fully inflate.
Thermo Air Mattresses
Thermo air mattresses use a layer of open-cell foam within an inflatable casing to provide insulation and cushioning. These mattresses, often called self-inflating mattresses, will slowly fill with air after you open the valve. However, they’ll still need a few breaths to fully inflate them. The advantage to thermo air mattresses is that they can be quite insulating if you’re camping early in the spring or late in the fall when the ground is cold. However, they are bulkier and heavier than air pads.
Foam mattresses are cheap and simple – essentially, they’re just a foldable cutout of closed-cell foam that uses small indentations to provide insulation. Foam pads have largely fallen out of favour because they are bulky and don’t provide the cushioning or warmth of air or thermo air mattresses.
Choosing a Sleeping Pad
How comfortable a sleeping pad is comes down to personal preference. But in general, a thicker pad with more cushioning will be more comfortable to sleep on. For many backpackers, that pushes them towards air mattresses because they are relatively thick when fully inflated. However, keep in mind that the surface texture can also impact comfort. Thermo air mattresses often have a smooth sleeping surface, whereas many air mattresses have you sleeping on top of large baffles.
If you’re backpacking in colder weather, warmth should take priority over comfort. Thermo air mattresses are almost always more insulating than air sleeping pads, although thermo air mattresses also vary quite a bit. Insulation is measured by the R-value of different sleeping pads, where a higher R-value indicates more warmth. However, R-values can be highly subjective as there is no unified measurement test for sleeping pad insulation.
Shape and Length
The shape and length of a sleeping pad is a trade-off against weight and size. Large rectangular sleeping pads will necessarily be heavier and bulkier than the same pad cut to the shape of your body. Many manufacturers try to balance comfort and weight by tapering the shape of their sleeping pads towards the feet. In addition, you’ll find shorter pads that can be used for women or three-quarter length sleeping pads.
Sleeping Pads at addnature.co.uk
The best way to find a sleeping pad for your next backpacking trip is to shop our wide selection at addnature.co.uk. We carry air, thermo air and foam sleeping pads to meet the needs of every adventurer. Plus, all our sleeping pads are available with convenient, fast shipping and a 100-day return policy.