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Knowing what to look for in a sleeping pad can be hard the first time you go and buy one. One thing is what you know, but what things do you consider when you buy one is a whole other ballgame. Sleeping pad are so important to a good night sleep! The ground is very cold, even on a hot summers day. While we have great sleeping pads at the moment, things change in how we camp and I am currently dreaming of a sleeping pad like this one.

If you have been here before, you might have heard me say that a sleeping bag is key to a good night sleep. While that is true, you can have the best sleeping bag in the world but without a good sleeping mat, you will be cold! You need something to insulate you from the ground, otherwise all of your body heat will be gone.

Any insulation towards the ground will do, but while we are at it we might as well look at some of the more comfortable options as well.

a picture of people with a rolled up sleeping pad and a campsite, and the caption "what to look for in a sleeping pad"

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What to look for in a sleeping pad

While there are many things that make a good sleeping pad, you need to know your hill to die on. But for you to make a choise here are some of the factors that we consider when we need to buy a new sleeping pad for anyone in the family.

  • Think about who is sleeping on the sleeping pad. And what will be comfortable for that person. There can be health issues to be considered. Someone might need a mat that gets taller, or someone might need a build in pillow. You will also need to consider the thickness and then weight it takes to carry it around.
  • The size is really a matter of taste. The minimum size of a sleeping pad should be the size of your torso. This will keep you warm, and the most vital parts of your body of the ground. I know of people that do this because they can then keep the weight down, and still be comfortable. Personally I prefer a full size mat that will support me through the night. That is up to you to know how you are more comfortable.
  • You need to think about the insulation properties of the mat. A good sleeping pad needs to protect you from the cold of the ground. For this you can look for the “R” rating on any pad. This will range from 1-10 and the higher the number the better the pad. Remember that this is also different to regions/time of year you expect to use your pad. Here we bring extra insulation for winter trips.
  • What are you willing to spend on a sleeping mat. This is a factor as you dont have to dream about the best of the best if you dont want to spend alot of money, or if you expect that you will be done using it after one or two camping trips.
  • With the point made about price, you also have to think about quality. How long do you need for it to last you? Like I mentioned before we once used a blow up sleeping pad for 6 months, every day, and it was perfect – but we payed more for that solution.
  • You also have to think about how much you want your pad to weigh. If you are walking you might want to limit how much you need to carry. If you are going on a cartrip you might be okay with heavy equipment.
  • Are you looking for a pad that is extremely comfortable or do you sleep like a rock anywhere, and are happy to just be on your back? Think about how soft a matress you need when you are away.
  • Noice – think about noice. While I love our little blow up materesses – BUT they make alot of noice. I did not know what to look for with that, and next time I go searching for a good sleeping pad I will look for some that makes less noise.

While all of the above things are important, one thing that we often overlook, but we have really tried to up the anti on, is the environmently friendlyness of the gear we use. This means that we look for the cradle to cradle certification in products we search for.

Foam sleeping pads

Foam sleeping pads will protect you from the cold of the ground. When its comes to actually sleeping on them thought, that is about all the good that can be said about them.

They are not very comfortable to sleep on, and I should know – I have spend quite a few nights on these things. When you are hiking for long distances, OR it is what your budget will allow you to spend, they are great at doing their job of keeping the cold from the ground away from you.

These sleeping pads are perfect to bring for sitting around the campfire though, and we often bring a few for this purpose alone.

They are great because they are easy to dry, and they are light. Even if the kids get excited and walk on them with muddy boots its very easy to clean. A simple foam sleeping pad is also great as extra insulation around a toddler that is sleeping on a mat and that might tumble over in the night. That way, even if the kid moves, they will not be to cold.

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Foam sleeping pads you might like:

Inflatable sleeping pads

If you want to up your comfort without having to think about weight, you want to think about getting an inflatable sleeping mattresse. Inflatable sleeping mattresses are fantastic for the sleeping experience, but can be bulky and they are really easily damaged.

When we lived in New Zealand and traveled around the country we opted to buy a colemans airmatress – this is not the cheapest option, by any means, but MAN oh MAN was it worth it in the sleeping experience.

We spent 6 months traveling and lived out of a van in a tent. Having a fully inflatable matress that was high and easy to sit on, was really the only way that we could get through that.

There are a few modern inflatable matresses are lightweight and really comfortable, but they are more expensive as well. This is still my favorite sleeping pad (no jokes about me getting old, thanks!) and a great investment when you want to wake up well rested with no back problems. We have ones with a small hand pump that doesnt take up to much space in our equipment.

Inflatable sleeping pads you might like:

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Self-inflating sleeping pads

The self-inflating sleeping mats are a combination between air and insulation, don’t ask me how they work, but they are great. They take little to no effort to get ready and they are quite comfortable.

Self-inflating sleeping pads you might like:

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Questions we often get asked about sleeping pads:

Did you know that we love your questions? Ask us, on any platform and we will do our very best to answer! Here we have gathered the questions we get most about sleeping pads.

How to choose sleeping pad?

Quick qustions to ask yourself is – what am I willing to spend, how much will I use it, what level of comfort do I need? From there you can find a pricerange that fits you and also a quality that is for you.

What are the best sleeping pads for kids?

While some of the questions you would ask yourself when looking for a sleeping pad for adults still apply there are a few extra things to consider for kids, such as how much do they move, and how much space to you have for them. If you have a toddler you might consider looking at our post explicitly about Finding a toddler camping bed.

What are the best sleeping pads for family camping?

Honestly we have different sleeping pads for each person in the family. Because we each have individual needs. The kids have smaller sleeping pads and the adults have more matress style sleeping pads.

Can you get a hand pumped sleeping pad?

Yes you can. These are especially smart if you are away on a trip where you are unable to find a proper place to recharge your pump. Hand pumps can be really effective and light weight.

Can you go camping without a sleeping pad?

You can. Yes. But I would 10/10 NOT reccomend it. Its rough to sleep with no insulation, and your trip would suffer for it.

Is there anything else you need help with, just let me know in the comments.

Until next time


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