A good sleeping pad is one of the most important pieces of gear you can buy. It helps you stay warm, comfortable, and happy while you’re sleeping outdoors. But how do you choose the right one?

In this guide, we’ll show you everything from how to figure out which type of pad is best for your needs (and budget), to things to look for when shopping around for a mattress that fits your lifestyle and budget perfectly.

Types of Sleeping Pads

When choosing a sleeping pad, there are four main types to consider:

Air pads: Air pads are the most common type of sleeping pad. They’re also the most popular, and for good reason. They’re lightweight, durable, and comfortable. Air pads are usually made of foam that is covered in nylon or other synthetic fabrics. The foam is designed to compress down into a small size when not in use, but then spring back up when you lay on it.

There are two main types of air pads: closed cell and open cell. Closed-cell pads are more durable than open-cell models—they’re less likely to leak or lose their shape over time—but they’re also heavier because they use thicker foam. Open-cell pads tend to be more comfortable and lightweight because they’re made with thinner material that’s easier to compress down into a small size.

Self-Inflating Pads: The self-inflating pad is the most common type of sleeping pad, and it’s also the most versatile. These pads are made of a foam core that has been coated with a layer of air-tight material. When you open the valve, air from your lungs will inflate the pad.

The foam they use to make these pads is different than the kind used in other types of sleeping pads. It’s not just foam, but rather a special type of foam that’s especially resistant to wear and tear. This means that it’ll last longer than other types of sleeping pads made with only foam.

Self-inflating pads are easy to inflate and deflate, which makes them great for camping trips where you might have to set up camp quickly and leave just as quickly. They’re also very lightweight and compact—they take up less space in your pack than other types of sleeping pads do!

However, some people feel that they offer less comfort than an air mattress or an inflatable pillow would provide. This may be because self-inflating pads tend to be thinner than other types of sleeping pads—they don’t have any sort of cushioning on top like some other types.

While each type has its own pros and cons depending on personal preference some people will find one type more comfortable than another depending on how long they intend on spending outside overnight without access inside somewhere warm like home.

Choosing the Best Sleeping Pad for You

Choosing the best sleeping pad for you is similar to choosing the best backpack or shelter. You’re going to need one that is right for your type of hiking and camping. Here are some things to consider:

Car camping: In this case, you can choose any kind of pad you want as long as it has enough room for two people to sleep on it comfortably (or just enough room for one person if they don’t mind being cozy).

Backpacking: When backpacking with a full-length sleeping bag, you have more flexibility in terms of what kind of pad you use because there isn’t much worry about space or weight capacity as there would be with just a regular backpacker. However, if you don’t plan on carrying everything yourself then one person may need something smaller than another person depending on their size and preferences! If possible try before buying so everyone feels comfortable inside their tent at night time when everyone else is asleep 😉

Minimalist backpacking: If someone wants something lightweight but also comfy then look into air pads that pack up small without losing quality materials like foam insulation material underneath them (this means better insulation against cold surfaces below). You might also consider inflatable models because they weigh less than closed cell foam ones but keep them inflated throughout trips so there’s no pump needed!

Thru-hiking: You want something that will keep you warm without being too bulky or heavy to carry. Second, you want something that will give you comfort at night so that you aren’t tossing and turning all night long. Third, you want something that won’t break after just a couple of uses!

Winter camping: If you’re camping in extreme temperatures, then you’ll want to look for a thicker sleeping pad that will keep you warm at night. Sleeping pads come in different thicknesses and insulation levels so choose one based on where you plan on camping and how much insulation protection you need. If your body heat isn’t enough to keep you warm at night then consider getting a thicker sleeping pad with better insulation properties.

If your body doesn’t handle cold temperatures very well then consider choosing a synthetic material like synthetic fibers from recycled materials for better insulation properties than natural fibers like cotton or woolen materials. These synthetic fibers trap more air so they retain more heat than natural fibers do which makes them perfect for winter camping conditions because they’ll help keep your body warmer longer during those chilly nights outdoors.

Sleeping Pad Warmth

For your sleeping pad to be effective, you need to choose one that has a high R-value. An R-value of 10 is considered fairly warm; this means it can keep you warm when temperatures drop down to around 30 degrees Fahrenheit (which is roughly -1 degree Celsius). If you’re camping during the summer months, an R-value of 5 should suffice—but if you want to make sure you’re comfortable throughout the night and into the morning, aim for something closer to 10.

The second thing you want to consider is how hot it gets on top of your sleeping pad while lying down on top of it. If there were no heat loss through convection (air flowing over and around objects), then there wouldn’t be any difference between laying on top or underneath a sleeping pad; however, since there is some heat loss through convection when using a traditional air mattress (and even more so with foam pads).

Choosing one with low convective conductance can help minimize this effect by reducing airflow around both sides of your body as well as under it. This will allow for greater insulation from cold ground temperatures and keep cool winds from chilling out those feet!

Your Sleep System

When choosing a sleeping pad, consider the following:

Your sleep system: If you’re going to be sleeping outdoors in a tent, bivy sack or tarp shelter, the type of sleeping pad will be dictated by these factors. Sleeping pads designed for use with an external shelter generally offer more comfort and insulating properties than those designed for insulation alone.

Your budget and personal preference: You can buy an ultralight foam pad for $20 or an inflatable air mattress priced at $200. Whatever your budget, there are options that can provide some cushioning between your body and the ground while still being light enough to handle on foot into remote areas where weight restrictions might apply (for example: thru-hikers on the Appalachian Trail).

Sleep Systems: What Sleeping Pad and Sleeping Bag Rating Should I Get?






Expected Nighttime Low





Pad: R-Value Range

Under 2

2 – 3.9

4 – 5.4


Bag: Temperature Rating

30°F or lower

20°F or lower

15°F or lower

0°F or lower

Sleeping Pad Features

There are a few key features to look for when choosing a sleeping pad.

Weight: How heavy is the pad? Is it light enough to be comfortable while you’re carrying it, and will it add too much weight if you plan on backpacking or hiking with your equipment?

Length: The length of your sleeping bag can make a difference in how comfortable you are on the ground. Look for pads that accommodate both shorter and taller sleepers by comparing measurements across brands.

Width: This measurement is especially important if your feet hang over the edge of the pad at night—it’ll help keep them warm! Be sure to take into account whether or not there are any other factors involved (such as having friends who require separate pads) when considering width measurements.

Inflation: Does this product come equipped with an air pump? If not, does one need to stop at their campsite before setting up camp in order to inflate their new sleeping pad? Remember that inflating pads takes time so it’s best not forgetting any necessary accessories when packing up after dark!

Sleeping Pad Surfaces: If you’ve ever slept on the ground, you know that it’s not exactly a soft surface. If you’re going to be camping out in the wilderness, you’re going to want a sleeping pad that can provide some cushioning and comfort. You’re also going to want a sleeping pad that keeps you warm, especially if you plan on camping in colder climates.

Additional Sleeping Pad Considerations

Pad sleeves: If you’re sleeping in a tent, it can be difficult to find the right balance between comfort and warmth. That’s where sleeping pad sleeves come in! These are designed to slip over your sleeping bag and keep it insulated by preventing heat from escaping through the sides of the bag. You can also use them to keep your bag clean if you want to carry it with you while hiking, or if you want to keep an extra layer of protection around your body when sleeping on hard surfaces.

Hand pumps: Hand pumps are an essential piece of equipment if you prefer inflatable mattresses over self-inflating models, as they allow you to fill up your mattress quickly and easily without having to wait for it to self-inflate (or worse, try and blow into!). They’re small enough that they won’t take up much space in your pack either—so why not give one a try?

Patch kits: Unfortunately, things don’t always go according to plan when camping out in nature—especially when dealing with inflatable items like sleeping mats or pillows! That’s why we recommend having a patch kit. If something happens to happen and your pad gets punctured or torn before it even gets used (and we all know how unpredictable nature can be), then having a patch kit handy is always helpful!


We hope we’ve helped you make the right decision when choosing a sleeping pad. If this hasn’t been an easy task for you, don’t worry! We all make mistakes and are learning as we go. The best thing you can do is to try out multiple options before settling on one that fits your needs perfectly. It will take time, but it will be worth it when you find that perfect pair of shoes or dress!