Why is a Sleeping Pad Essential Gear?

Why is a sleeping pad essential gear? – While it is not an absolute “must-have” to have a sleeping pad when camping but due to the carry-weight addition and other concerns, a sleeping pad is one of the small things that make camping nights stand out and even extending the effect on the day after.

Why you need a sleeping mat for outdoor camping?

If, during the whole camping period, one is expecting to sleep on the ground, having a sleeping mattress or a sleeping mat can make a notably huge difference. While there are situations where one might do without, the two key reasons as to why you need a sleeping pad are for

  1. Your comfort in cases of uneven and rocky ground: Unless you are looking to spoil your camping experience by sleeping on hard ground, make sure that you bring a sleeping mat with you. If you are still convinced that you do not need one, try using one in your backyard.
  2. Heat conservation by minimizing heat loss: all camping nights are often very cold, including summer nights. Sleeping on the ground increases heat loss from the body through conduction. Having a sleeping pad will ensure that you are insulated from the ground are much warmer.

Types of sleeping pads

Manually inflated 

This type of sleeping mat shares similar properties to those of the air mattress. Manually inflated sleeping pad requires the use of external pressure such as blowing into it or using a pump. These sleeping pads are often light, reliable, and simple. If you are looking for a lightweight pad with a decent cushion amount, this is the way to go.

Manually inflated sleeping pads are made up of individual baffles makes them very cushioned (2.5 to 3 inches), highly packable and lightweight. Some manufacturers even go to the extent of including an insulation layer for heat loss minimization.

One key disadvantage of this sleeping pad is having it punctured. Even with their strength and elastic ability, the air mattress can crumble in the face of a sharp object, doing some great damage. Here, a basic repair kit will be required to patch up the sleeping pad.

Self-inflating sleeping pads

Self-inflating sleeping pads hold great similarity to air-inflated pads, but instead of the baffled construction, these tend to have an open-cell form layer, which gives the pad its self-inflation capability.

After opening the pads’ valve, the open-cell foam will expand, pulling air into the sleeping pad for inflation. Having a self-inflating sleeping pad significantly reduces the time and effort required to prepare a bed or a place to sleep while camping.

Achieving the required firmness will, however, require manual input. These sleeping pads can also be subjected to punctures, therefore a need for a repair kit for quick fixes.

How self-inflating sleeping pads work?

Self-inflating pads have a special foam in the inside, which has open cells. When rolling the mat, the foam is subjected to extreme compression. When unrolling, open the valve to let air inside and leave the mat to inflate itself based on the created vacuum achieved by compressing it. After the pad is completely inflated, you can close the valve to prevent the displacement of air when sleeping.

Closed-cell form sleeping pads

This is the most basic of the three types of sleeping mattresses and pads. The Closed-cell form sleeping pads comprise of a dense foam, which has small enclosed air holes. This type of sleeping pad will often come with a heat reflective layer to prevent heat loss, providing extra warmth. Since no inflation is required, closed-cell form sleeping pads remain the best for quick short breaks.

Packing and attaching the sleeping bag to a backpack

One of the key challenges facing campers involves the issue of how to best store or bring the sleeping pad with them. While sleeping pads will not add a significant amount of weight to your total load, they tend to be bulky. You can compress inflatable sleeping bags into small rolls, but this can expose them to puncture and tear, thereby a need for additional safety throughout the camping period. Foam and self-inflating sleeping bags tend to be more tough and bulky, meaning that they are poised to take up more storage space, making it hard to store them.

If you are using a large backpack, you can put the sleeping bag inside. Sleeping bags should be packed on the side and vertically, together with items that have the same weight and size for a balanced language. Heavy items can be stored in the middle, while light items such as the sleeping pad can be stored off the sides.

Apart from packing a sleeping bag inside your backpack, you can attach it as the gear on the outside. This is made possible with the variety of choices available that can be used in the external attachment of gear to the backpack. These include the use of bottom straps, back straps, and side straps.

It is important to note that the safest spot to transport the sleeping pad externally is by packing it lying vertically and at the outside center of your backpack. This ensures that your sleeping pad is shielded from such materials as briars and branches. Additionally, adopting this packaging spine leaves heavy stuff closer to your spine, thereby keeping you in balance.

Cleaning your Sleeping Pad/Mat

It is imperative that you clean your mat clean always. The end of one trip signals the beginning of another and, therefore, the need for early preparation for the next detour by cleaning your sleeping mat. Use the following steps to clean your sleeping mat:

  1. Use a soft brush, sponge, or a cloth with warm water when cleaning stains and spots on the sleeping pad. Keep in mind that the sponge needs to have a smooth surface, and the brush used should have all its bristles functioning to prevent any damage to the mat’s external material. Mild washing liquid and detergent can be used in cleaning stains that are more stubborn.
  2. Rinse the sleeping mat thoroughly and avoid using any aggressive agents such as chlorinated and vinegar cleaners. They smell very bad and end up damaging the mat’s outer material and the foam.
  3. Dry the mat on either a shade or at room temperature. Speeding up this process using a clothes dryer, hairdryer, or direct sunlight can damage the mat. While the mat might dry and be ready for use in a few hours, one should allow it more time to dry if he or she is not planning on using the mat anytime soon.

Please note: for self-inflating pads, you should ensure the valves are closed and that the pad’s fabric does not have any holes that can allow the penetration of water to the interior.

Can you use a washing machine for your Sleeping Pad/Mat?

With the sleeping pad having foam of a delicate structure, you cannot wash it in a washing machine. Cleaning in such a scenario will require another approach as the centrifugal force used in the washing machine ends up damaging the foam structure, which can start tearing apart when soaked. You can use such equipment as a vacuum cleaner to remove any dust and micro-organisms that form on the surface of the mattress. A water-based vacuum cleaner can be used, but there is a need to ensure the topper is dry before it can be used to clean the mattress.

Repairing a sleeping Pad or Mat

The standard foam sleeping pads have insulating properties that remain intact even after incidences of minor damages to it. The same, however, cannot be said for self-inflating sleeping pads. A tiny hole at the pad’s surface can allow the escape of the insulating air out of the mat. In the cases that the hole remains unseen to the naked high, there is a need for you to engage in some sleuthing.

The easiest way to find a hole in your self-inflating sleeping pad is the use of a leak detector. This comes as a small container with foam pellets, which are key in leak detection. Alternatively, you can rely on soapy water in the absence of a leak detector.

Here, you will be required to rub the soapy water on the pad’s surface. If there is a hole, the soapy water will show bubbles over the affected areas. In cases that you lack access to soapy water, get your hand wet and move it over the pad until you find the source of the leak.

After finding the hole, it is now time to start with the repair. There are a number of repair kits in the market that you can buy for sleeping pads. Such kits make the fixing process easier as one has to wait for the mat to dry and patch it according to the instructions given. After patching up the hole, ensure there are no more leaks by inflating the mat. In the case of a damaged valve, it is wise to contact the manufacturer of the sleeping pad in the case of a broken or malfunctioning valve.

Storing an inflatable sleeping pad

Where you store, your sleeping pad is very important. A typical storage area should be dry and have at least room temperature. Therefore, this outlaws any possibility of storing them in a dark cellar. Always ensure the mat is fully dry before putting it away for storage. Storing your mat with all the accumulated moisture will lead to a very stinky and moldy situation.

After identifying the perfect storage location, roll the mat, and store it. However, you cannot roll a self-inflating pad as doing so damages the foam over time, preventing it from returning to its original state. Therefore, it is imperative you open up the valve when rolling it to ensure that all air is out before folding it. There are plenty of places to store your sleeping pad, be it your wardrobe or behind a door, and you can store it either in upright orientation or lying flat. It is important to note that blowing into the sleeping pad is unacceptable since it can direct microorganisms and moisture into the mat. Leading to further destruction.

  • For a self-inflating sleeping pad, it is crucial that you sore it with the valve open while semi-inflated. This helps with increased air circulation and long term resiliency.
  • For an air pad, you can hang it in a closet. However, avoid refolding along the crease lines every time during storage.

Do I need A pump for a sleeping mattress?

While air-sleeping pads will either come with or without a pump, proper sleeping pad inflation will require one. Using a pump prevents the build-up of the moisture trapped in your breath into the sleeping pad. For cases where a pump is not included, you can get one in major retail stores for a fair price. Most campers will often for hand pumps that are small in size and are very light.

Choosing an air mattress pump

For air mattresses that do not include an inbuilt-pump, one will be forced to acquire one and should consider the following:

  • There are some air mattresses that have specific pumps due to the varied types of air valves between them and other inflatable products.
  • Most air pumps in production will posses a universal nozzle or come with an adapter for ensuring compatibility.
  • Categorization for selecting an air pump includes noise level, Valve fittings, inflation and deflation option, cord length, brands, source of power, and manner of operation (operated by foot or hand).

Using a pump to inflate an air mattress

The following steps are required when inflating an air mattress with a pump

  • The first step to pumping an air mattress is to open the valve cover and insert the pump. Most air mattresses will be characterized by one air valve or a hole on the mattress’ side. Remove the protective cap and fit the pump’s nozzle on the valve.
  • After ensuring the connection between the valve and the nozzle is tight as required, turn on the pump (for electric) or start pumping (for manual pumps).
  • After filling the mattress, detach the pump and screw the valve cap back on.