Important Features: Sleeping Pads
Expert reviews say to look for the following in a sleeping pad:
campground use, get the biggest, thickest sleeping pad you can afford. If
you're car camping, weight doesn't matter, and even wide, comfortable,
3-inch-thick self-inflating sleeping pads deflate and roll up to
a compact size for travel. You might as well be really comfortable
so you enjoy the trip.
backpacking, consider weight vs. comfort. This is a matter of personal
preference that varies a lot from one person to another. You can
always start with the minimum, like a closed-cell sleeping pad, then add
another layer or get a thicker sleeping pad if you wake up sore. (Extra
closed-cell sleeping pads can be cut up to use for seating, too.)
sleeping comfort in different situations, consider layering
pads. You don't have to have just one sleeping pad. A short backpacking pad can
be layered on top of a full-length pad for extra cushioning in winter,
and a closed-cell sleeping pad can add valuable insulation to another pad.
You can layer two full-length backpacking pads together for extra padding
when car camping, as well.
sleeping pads do double duty as frames for ultralight backpacks
or for campsite chairs. Many backpackers
say the chair frames are worth carrying, for end-of-day comfort
after a long day's hike. And when the sleeping pad serves as support and
padding for an ultralight backpack, you can save quite a bit of weight.
sleeping pads add extra padding and insulation at feet
and hips. Some women's pads add more padding in the entire core-body area too. Most
women sleep colder than men, so the combination of a women's sleeping pad
plus a women's sleeping bag can make for much more restful nights.
sure the length fits you, your tent and your sleeping
may seem obvious, but it's easy to get carried away and forget about measurements.
sleeping pads are only for three-season use. In relatively warm
weather, you can pad your feet with your backpack or use an even shorter
sleeping pad that relies on stuffing a sack with clothing to pad your head.
Camping in cold weather requires a full-length sleeping pad, though, for
insulation from the ground.
don't recommend plain air mattresses without any
foam inside. As
the air gets colder during the night, these mattresses often deflate until
they're not providing enough padding. They also don't offer enough insulation
to protect you from the cold ground.
- Look for non-slip pads. The fabric covers
on most sleeping pads now have non-slip qualities built-in or sprayed-on.
Others use patterned embossing or ridges and valleys to help you keep
from sliding off. (If the sleeping pad you want lacks this feature, you
can use a piece of non-slip shelf-covering mesh to accomplish the same
you opt for a sleeping bag with air tubes, make sure
it comes with a repair kit. If not, reviews recommend buying such a kit and making sure
to carry it with you.