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Camper’s Guide to Sleeping Pads: How to Choose the Best Self-inflating Sleeping Pad for Camping | Backpacking

Best Self inflating Sleeping Pad-gigacamping

Sleeping pads are critical gears for camping and hiking activities for two main reasons. It provides a comfortable cushion for the camper to sleep at night while also protecting the user from the low temperatures of the ground. The first step in choosing a sleeping pad is to determine the type of pad that will suit you best.

Consider top 6 the Best Lightweight Sleeping pads

1.         Lightspeed Outdoors XL Super Plush Self-Inflating Sleep and Camp Pad  

 Lightspeed Outdoors XL Super Plush FlexForm Self-Inflating Sleep and Camp Pad

Open size: 77" x 30" x 3"                   

Rolled size: 30" x 7.75

R-value: 9.66                                     

Weight: 6.0 lbs

Shell Fabric:   Polyester with TPU lamination

Additional Accessories: Pillow, compression straps, and a carry bag.

Lightspeed Outdoors Self Inflating Sleep Pad

Open size: 74.5 x 25 x 3/3.5 inches;           

Rolled size: 26.5 x 7 inches;

Weight: 5.5 lbs

R-Value: 8.7                                                   

Shell Fabric:   polyester

Additional Accessories: two compression straps, carry bag

KingCamp DELUXE DOUBLE Self-Inflating Camping Pad, 3 inches Thick

Open size:      77.95 × 51.18 × 2.95             

Rolled Size: 77.95 × 51.18 × 2.95

R-Value: not specified                                

Weight: 11.5 Ibs

Shell Fabric:   150 D Oxford polyester

Additional Accessories: Compression straps, carrying bag, and repair kit

4.         Therm-a-Rest Basecamp Self-Inflating Foam Camping Pad

Therm-a-Rest BaseCamp Self-Inflating Foam Camping Pad

Open size:      20"x72"x2" (regular)  

Rolled Size: 5"x21" (regular)

R-Value: 5.0                                      

Weight: 1.54 lbs

Shell Fabric:   75 D polyester

Additional Accessories

Freeland Camping Sleeping Pad Self Inflating with Attached Pillow, Compact, Lightweight

Open size: 76 x 24.8 x 1.5 inches               

Rolled Size: 15 x 6.7 x 6.7 inches

R-Value: not specified        

Weight: 3.3 lbs

Shell Fabric:   190T polyester pongee fabric

Additional Accessories: Carrying Bag, and Repair kit                        

TETON Sports ComfortLite Regular Self-Inflating Camp Pad; Lightweight Foam Sleeping Pad for Camping

Open size: 75" x 24" x 2"                  

Rolled Size:  25" x 5.5" x 5.5"

R-Value: not specified                    

Weight: 2.2 lbs

Shell Fabric: 70D Stuff Sack

Foam Pad or Air Pad

Once a camper or hiker goes in search of a sleeping pad, one of the first question she has to consider is this; “do I need a foam pad or an air-inflated pad?” Each type of pad has its own advantages and disadvantages and a choice depends on the preference of the user.

The foam Pad is a thin sleeping pad is a thin sleeping pad made with dense foam material. It is often referred to as closed-cell foam pad because it contains tiny closed air spaces locked within it which makes it light and help improve the soft cushion it gives the user.

The major characteristic of the foam pad is that it does not need to be inflated with air. This is also the basis of its advantages too.

On the advantages of foam pad over air inflated pads, there are three notable ones. First is flexibility. The foam pad can be used for multiple purposes—as a sitting pad, a make-shift tent floor, even as support to place other camping gear in the tent.

Secondly, there is no threat of leakage with the foam pad because it is not inflated. It can be used I rough terrains without the fear of it being punctured. Thirdly, the foam pad has a fairly good capacity to keep the user warm during cold conditions.

Although it is thin, its dense foam material effectively insulates the user from cold coming from the ground and thereby keeps him warm. Foam pads are quite cheaper and are known to have high R-values (which measures the ability to keep a user warm).

Foam pads, however, have their downsides. Because they are stiff and firm, they do not provide as the much soft cushion and comfort their air-inflated alternatives can afford. Also, over time these foam pads begin to depress and will have to be replaced when they are no longer comfortable for use.

Air-inflated sleeping pads are very good when it comes to comfort. They are the closest a camper can get to a regular mattress during outdoor camping activities. The air locked within a softshell gives the user great soft cushion and maybe an ultra-comfortable sleep.

If you are considering an air-inflated, there are three main types you can choose from; the air mattress, the air pad, and the self-inflating pads.

Air Mattress

These are probably the simplest form of air-inflated sleeping pads but also one of the most comfortable; they have an outer shell made of soft fabric which can be inflated with air either manually or by using a portable pump.

A regular air mattress has a thickness from around 3 inches to 6 inches which provides one of the best cushioning for a camper. They are also fairly light to pack—once deflated, the pad can be folded to fit easily into the camper’s pack.

One downside is that the air mattress does not have any special insulation material to help keep the user warm at night. During cold conditions, the air inside air mattresses can get very cold and since there are no special insulation materials to warm it, it will make the pad cold and uncomfortable for the user.

Because of this, this type of sleeping pad is best suited to the summer season and during warm weather conditions when there is no special need to keep the user warm.

Inflatable Air Pads

Air pads are another type of inflatable sleeping pads which are meant to provide warmth as well as a soft cushion for the camper. It includes special insulation made from synthetic fiber or down insulation which warms the air inside the sleeping pad and in turn warms the user during cold conditions.

This is basically the principle of thermal insulation, whereby the insulation materials insulate the user from the cold coming from the ground and the environment.

Self-Inflating Sleeping Pad

Self-inflating pads are air-inflating pads that do not need to be inflated manually or using an air pump. Also known as the self-inflating mat, the self-inflating sleeping pad is a combination of open-cell foam insulation and air to provide comfort and warmth for the user without the need of pumping in the air manually.

This is how it works. The foam within the sleeping pad is sandwiched between packets of air spaces and an airtight shell which is fitted with a valve that opens to take in the air and closes to lock the air inside the pad.

When it is time to sleep on the pad, the valve is opened and the foam expands to draw air into the mat. When the pad is fully expanded, the valve is closed to lock in air. When packing the mat, the valve is opened to squeeze out the air and it stays closed when the mat is rolled up.

Advantages of Self-Inflating pads

The first advantage of the self-inflating pads is the relative ease-of-use because they don’t need to be inflated. In addition, the technology applied in the manufacture of these sleeping pads make them more durable and leak resistant compared to the air sleeping pads.

What to Know Before a Self-Inflating Sleeping Pad

1. The foam in the self-inflating sleeping pad makes it a bit heavier than the air mattresses and air pads; it also takes up more space in the campers pack. This can be seen as a downside of the self-inflating sleeping pad.

2. There are two variations of self-inflating sleeping pads; those that have the foam combined with the shell and the others which have their foam detached from the shell. The former, though more expensive is preferred because it is more comfortable and reliable.

When the foam is detached from the shell, the foam may side to one side when the user sleeps on the pad making it less comfortable and the warmth uneven. 

What to consider when choosing a self-inflating sleeping pad

R-value: The R-value of a sleeping pad is used to measure its ability to keep the user warm. It is basically the pads resistance to heat transfer; that is its ability to insulate the user from low temperatures of cold ground and environment.

R-values can range from 1.0 to as high as 11.0. For campers during the warm summer nights, an R-value of 1 -2 is sufficient whereas those in 3-season conditions can make do with values 2-4.

For freezing conditions of winter, one would need to choose a sleeping pad of R-value greater than 5. Self-inflating pads are known to have high R-values.

Pad Thickness: To some extent, the thickness of a pad determines the cushion and invariably the comfort a user gets from a pad. Self-inflating pads can range anywhere from 2 to 4 inches.

Pad Shape and Size: Sleeping pads come in rectangular shapes and tapered (or mummy style). Also, sleeping pads can come in full length size or torso-length size which accommodates the shoulder and hips but not the feet. Users can choose between different sizes; a length of 20 inches for average or more for bulkier persons.

Pad Weight: Pad weight is also an important consideration, particularly for packing purposes as you don’t want more weight than you can manage for your trips.

Some ultra-light sleeping pads weigh less than 1 lb but it’s normal to get self-inflating sleeping pads of 3.3 lbs up to 6 lbs.

Shell Fabric: The material used in the manufacture of sleeping pad shell determines to some extent its durability and the comfort it provides. Denier (D) is the measure of the thickness of the shell fabric and the higher the denier, the tougher the shell material and hence the durability.

In Conclusion

After choosing your preferred sleeping pad, we provide a few tips on maintaining and storing your sleeping pad

  • Pack your air sleeping pads inside your pad to prevent puncture.
  • Clean off chemicals like insect repellents and tree sap as soon as possible
  • Dry the pad and store in a dry place
  • Wash your pad at least one a per season
  • Protect it from direct sunlight and other UV rays
  • Leave self-inflating pads semi-inflated with the valves open to allow air circulation.

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