Sleeping pad plays two very important roles in getting a stable sleep in outdoor activities: cushioning and insulation. Although a comfortable sleeping surface is the most useful function of a sleeping pad, its ability to stay warm throughout the night is usually more important. So what is the best sleeping pad for camping?
First, let me introduce three types of sleeping pads, including:air sleeping pad, self inflatable sleeping pad and foam sleeping pad.
Air sleeping pad
Air sleeping pad is lighter than ever and is very suitable for backpack travel. Most air sleeping pads now uses insulation or reflective materials to increase warmth. You need to inflate them, usually with your breath (most of which can be inflated in three minutes or less). However, some models are equipped with built-in manual pumps, and some brands offer portable bag-type external manual pumps (usually sold separately).
Advantages: Air sleeping pad is very comfortable, light weight, and the most compact sleeping pad when packaging. Most are designed for backpacks or camping in warm conditions (about 3R), while others are designed for additional insulation for seasonal use. As you lie in pad, you can customize the strength of the pad by releasing some air from the valve.
Disadvantage: Air sleeping pad tend to be lighter and more compact. They can be punctured or torn (which is most common when sharing tents with dogs), but on-site repair is not difficult. If the external temperature fluctuates, the air cushions will feel as if they are losing air, so blow them up as much as possible before going to bed. Although rare, moisture in the breath may be trapped inside, leading to freezing problems in winter or mildew problems in summer. (Manual pumps help prevent water accumulation.)
Self inflatable sleeping pad
Self inflatable sleeping pad provides a combination of open foam insulation and air. When the pad valve is opened, the air fills the chamber automatically. Some are specially designed for backpacks, which can be folded lengthwise and rolled up and put in the backpack. Other designs are used for car camping and can be rolled up without folding. This category can choose the warmest, the widest and the least expensive pad (except the closed cell foam pad).
Advantages: They are comfortable, compact and have excellent thermal insulation. You can adjust their firmness by adding or releasing air. They are made of fabric that is stronger than many air sleeping pads so that it is the ideal choice for children. They don't think the pad lost air at night.
Disadvantages: They are heavier and more expensive than simple foam sleeping pads, not as tight as air sleeping pads. Although on-site maintenance is not difficult, they may be punctured or torn.
Foam sleeping pad
Foam sleeping pad is made of dense foam and filled with tiny closed bubbles. They are usually rolled up or folded into a Z-shaped shape.
Advantages: They are light in weight, low in price, durable and have good insulation. You don't have to worry about piercing or leaking. These are the only sleeping pads that can be placed outside the package without fear of damage. They can also double the sleeping pads in the camp.
Disadvantage: You don't feel comfortable lying on it. They are relatively rigid and strong, so they tend to be bulky.
Now I'll give some suggestions on choosing sleeping pads for different camping activities.
Self driving camping: When you are not limited by size and weight, you can choose a thicker and larger mattress to ensure sleep comfort. These are usually cheaper than lightweight ones. Self-inflatable pads are usually a good choice for self-driving camping. If you want to use ordinary sheets and blankets instead of sleeping bags, then large inflatable pads are a good idea. However, this kind of sleeping pad is very heavy, very large, and has weak warmth retention ability. It is only suitable for warm and comfortable climate and needs an inflatable pump.
Winter Camping: Winter camping needs more warmth. We recommend that you use two sleeping pads: a high R value warm air sleeping pad or self inflatable sleeping pad, and foam sleeping pad underneath. The foam sleeping pad enhances the warmth retention and provides emergency warmth support when the self inflatable sleeping pad is worn.
Backpack hiking:The donkey friends who like to fall asleep can choose self-inflatable sleeping pads or inflatable sleeping pads for backpack hiking, long-distance riding and long-distance kayak activities. These sleeping pads are of various kinds, with various thickness, durability, warmth retention and weight.
Crossing Donkey Friends:In this case, light weight is very important, but durability is also very important! Closed cell foam sleeping pad is the best choice. Many travelers choose short or 3/4 length sleeping pads to save weight (you can keep your backpack or other clothes under your feet to keep warm).