What is a Sleeping Pad?

Whenever there is a leave of absence from your regular job, you might think of going on a specific trip, journey, or camping. These are all outdoor activities involving overnight stays away from home. So what is that thing you would need during the night for your relaxation?

What is a Sleeping Pad?

A sleeping pad is a lightweight pad commonly used by hikers and travelers. Its purpose is to prevent loss of body heat while sleeping on the ground. Sleeping pads come in foam and (self) inflatable types. The foam-like material is about a half-centimeter thick. The (self) inflatable sleeping pad is filled with air pockets slowing down heat conduction, as air is one of the best and cheapest insulators. Sleeping pads come in different types, colors, weights, and sizes.

Sleeping pads are suitable in case you need to sleep on the ground. It keeps you warm and maintains your body temperature. It gives you a solid night’s sleep in the great outdoors (cushioning and insulation). There is a lot more to know about sleeping pads, so read on to learn all about the sleeping pad.

Do I Need a Sleeping Pad for Backpacking?

A sleeping pad is highly recommended for backpacking or camping due to the reason that it keeps you comfortable and warm. A sleeping pad keeps you comfortable and insulated during the night, especially when you’re camping or hiking in colder weather.

Not using a sleeping pad can make you feel cold and uncomfortable, even when you’re sleeping in a tent. During the warmer months, a sleeping pad is optional, but I’d prefer to sleep on a pad in summer instead of sleeping on the hard ground.

All sleeping pads have R-value, which describes their ability to insulate and hold out against cold. The greater the R-value, the warmer the pad will be. Here an approximate R-value to temperature chart:

Air/Ground Temperature R-value for standard
Male female
5 °C (40 °F) 5 6
−7 °C (20 °F) 7 8
−18 °C (0 °F) 9 10
−30 °C (−20 °F) 11 13

A sleeping pad or mat and a sleeping bag are used together and should provide the same insulation value for a person. But the cost, size, weight, etc. can lead to a reduced R-value. Since the sleeping pad and sleeping bag work together, a warmer sleeping bag can compensate for a thinner pad and a thick sleeping pad for a colder sleeping bag.

Bringing a sleeping pad with you will keep you off the cold, hard floor, will keep you warm, and give you a good, comfortable night’s sleep when camping in the great outdoors.

Do You Need a Sleeping Pad for Camping?

If you’d like a comfortable night’s sleep during your camping or hiking trip, a sleeping pad is recommended.

More benefits of a good quality sleeping pad:

  • Light-weight
  • Durable
  • Super comfy
  • Compact
  • Quick inflation
  • Could be used in any season
  • Small enough to fit inside your bag

Mountaineering and winter camping will require some severe insulation from the cold ground. For this, you need a pad with a high R-value. Sleeping styles and positions may vary from person to person. Most people end up rolling onto their side during the night, while some sleep on their back or stomach. If you are a side-sleeper, the sleeping pad should be at least 3 inches thick.

Can a Yoga Mat Work as a Sleeping Pad?

You might wonder, “can I take my yoga mat with me when camping”? That’s not recommended, though. A yoga mat provides little cushioning and won’t provide insulation from the cold ground. They are heavier and bulkier than sleeping pads. A yoga mat also won’t give you as much comfort as a sleeping pad when you’re sleeping on the floor, so using a yoga mat to sleep on while camping or backpacking isn’t a good idea.

How Do You Use a Sleeping Pad?

There are three different types of sleeping pads; Foam, Inflatable, and Self-inflatable sleeping pads. If you have a foam pad, take it out of your bag and roll your pad out on the ground.

If you have a Self-inflatable pad, take it out of your bag, roll your pad out and then, turn the valve on your mat counterclockwise to open it. Your pad will begin to self inflate. Blow in the additional air to increase the pad as per your desire. When done, turn your valve clockwise to shut it to keep the air inside your mat.

Suppose you have an attached pillow with your sleeping pad, open the cap on your pillow side and pinch it to blow in the air. Inflate the pillow as per your desire, close the valve, and shut its lid.

If you have an inflatable sleeping pad, roll it out on the ground, open the cap/valve, blow air into it yourself, or use a pump.

If you want to deflate your pad, you need to put your mat on a smooth surface free of stones or other hard, sharp material. Open the valve of your pad, turning it counterclockwise. As you start rolling the pad, you will hear it losing air. Once the air is out of your mat, you should close the valve. And now you can put it back in your carrying bag.

In case your pad gets punctured, you can repair it with the repairing kit, which comes with it when you buy a pad. Clean that punctured area and dry it off completely. Place the glue over the extra pad material on the punctured patch. Press it for a minute and leave it for half an hour. Then use it when required. You can also wash your pad with a wet paper towel and with mild detergent.

Does a Sleeping Pad Go Inside a Sleeping Bag? 

Sleeping pads are made so that they can be easily placed under the sleeping bag or our body. This means if required, then you can move the sleeping pad inside the sleeping bag. It depends on if your sleeping bag is large enough to accommodate the sleeping pad inside it. Sleeping with your pad inside your sleeping bag won’t give you much room to move, which could be uncomfortable.

However, sleeping with a sleeping pad inside your sleeping bag can increase your body’s temperature, so on freezing nights, it can be worth a try.

Can a Sleeping Pad be too Warm?

Sleeping pads can be warm and comfy using it when sleeping outside in cold weather, and in my opinion, a sleeping pad can never be too warm when sleeping in a tent on the ground, even in summer. In some areas, summer nights can be cold as well. However, if you’re camping in hot, humid weather, and if you’re sweating, then a plastic pad can feel too warm and sticky. For hot, humid nights, sleeping in a hammock might be a better idea.

See the below chart for more details on temperature and R-value rates:

Conditions Warm Cold
Expected nighttime low 50°F




Pad: R-value range Under 2 4-5.4
Bag: Temperature rating 30°F or lower 15°F or lower

The higher the R-value, the warmer the sleeping pad.

How Do I Choose a Sleeping Pad?

Choosing a good quality sleeping pad that suits your specific needs is very important. A sleeping pad can make or break a good, comfortable night’s sleep in the outdoors, so it should give you two critical things:

  • Comfort and cushioning
  • Insulation

Things to keep in mind when choosing a good quality sleeping pad:

  • Type of Sleeping Pad: There are three types of sleeping pads: Inflatable, closed-cell foam, and self-inflating.
  • Reason for using: Besides the types, there are many different kinds of pads you can choose from for other circumstances. Are you going camping in summer, in cold weather, hiking in the mountains, going on a road trip, sleep on comfortable campsites, etc.? There’s a sleeping pad for each situation.
  • R-Value: Keep in mind that the higher the R-value, the warmer the sleeping pad will be, so camping in cold weather requires a pad with a high R-value.
  • Sleeping System: For a comfortable sleep, make sure you match your sleeping pad and sleeping bag. That’s the so-called “Sleeping System.” Camping in cold weather requires a high rated R-value pad and a warm sleeping bag. When going camping in summer, you can match a lower R-value pad with a lighter or less filled sleeping bag instead of a bag. You can use a quilt or blanket in the summertime.
  • Features: Sleeping pads come with different features like color, size, weight, material, etc.

What is the Most Comfortable Sleeping Pad for Camping?

The most comfortable sleeping pads for camping are the ones which have:

  • Lightweight
  • A greater thickness of the cushion
  • Softer and quieter pads
  • Made of polyester
  • Oversized pillow
  • High R-value

Depending on if you are camping, backpacking, or traveling by car, there are many different kinds of sleeping pads available on the market. Here are the top 5 of different types of sleeping pads with the highest rates on Amazon:

  1. Best sleeping pad for ultralight backpacking: Therm-a-Rest Prolight Plus Ultralight Selfinflating Backpacking Pad
  2. Most comfortable lightweight sleeping pad: Wellax Ultrathick Selfinflating FlexFoam  3 Inch Sleeping Pad for Camping, Traveling, Backpacking, Hiking
  3. Best Budget Sleeping Pad: Sleepingo Camping Sleeping Pad Inflatable, Lightweight & Compact  
  4. Best Double 2-person Sleeping Pad: Lightspeed Outdoors 2 Person PVC-Free Air Bed Mattress for Camping and Travel
  5. Best Sleeping Pad with High R-Value: Lightspeed Outdoors XL Super Plush Flex Form Premium Self-Inflating Sleeping Pad Max. R-Value 9.66

What Length Sleeping Pad Should I Buy?

Typically, 72 inches and 78 inches long pads are used, covering and insulating your legs and feet. A short or 3/4-length pad (usually 47 or 48 inches) weighs less and packs smaller (you can put folded clothing or your backpack under your legs and feet for some insulation).

However, different sleeping pads are available for men and women. But it is not necessary to use a specific gender sleeping pad. You can use the one which makes you feel most comfortable.

What is the Best Sleeping Pad?

The best sleeping pad is the one who has the following qualities:

  • Comfortable
  • Higher R-value
  • Lighter in weight
  • Greater thickness

The Therm-a-Rest Sleeping Pads are considered one of the best and top-selling sleeping pads on Amazon (Click here to check out the different types and latest prices on Amazon).

What is a Sleeping Pad? Now You Know

Sleeping pads are handy and highly recommended for camping. They are very comfy and soft and keeps you warm during cold nights. A sleeping pad works as an insulator between you and the ground so you can have a good, well deserved rest at night. Sleeping pads are available in different colors, weights, materials, types, and sizes. Choose the one which is most comfortable and suitable for you and the circumstances you’re camping in. So we suggest to always take a sleeping pad with you when going on an outdoor sleeping adventure.