Best Sleeping Pad: Camp Comfortably With the Right Cushioning
How to choose a sleeping pad that will make sleeping in the backcountry a five-star experience.
Sleeping pads are typically made to fit one person. The traditional style of a sleeping pad is a foam pad that you can roll up and strap to your backpack. These are lightweight and functional, but they lack comfort and are bulky compared to many options on the market. Many manufacturers today create sleeping pads that harness air in order to provide increased support and comfort to backcountry travelers. When you’re on the market for a new sleeping pad, you need to consider not just comfort and durability, but insulation too. A sleeping pad plays an important role in keeping you warm at night, second only to your sleeping bag. Here are the best options available.
Air sleeping pads are a popular option for good reason. They pack down to a compact size when not inflated. You typically will need to use your lungs to inflate them, but once filled, air sleeping pads are quite comfortable. Air sleeping pads can be punctured by sharp rocks, so make sure you clear the ground you’re going to sleep on. Always carry a patch kit or risk sleeping directly on the ground.
Self-inflating sleeping pads are a wonderful option for many backcountry campers. They feature the insulating power and easy setup of foam sleeping pads, as well as the comfort and portability of air pads. They’re durable, though not puncture-proof. They aren’t quite as compact as air pads, or as affordable as foam pads. But they do the hard work of inflating for you, which is priceless for many tired travelers.
Why opt for a traditional foam sleeping pad? They’re lightweight—many weigh less than a pound—durable, and cheap. These sleeping pads are also called closed-cell foam pads because they’re made out of dense foam filled with small, closed air cells. They’re bulkier and less comfortable than other styles of sleeping pads. But if you’re a no-frills kind of camper, they’re a can’t-beat option.