Getting a good nights sleep on the road can be hard. Especially so if your sleeping plans involve a tent, a car, or the cold, cold ground. Trust that if you plan on sleeping in locations that don’t involve a real mattress, investing in a sleeping pad is essential.
To help you begin the process of choosing your new backpacking sleeping pad, here are a few things to consider:
There are two reasons people invest in sleeping pads:
1. Cushion – What most think of a sleeping pad’s primary use to be, cushioning provides support and comfort while you sleep.
2. Insulation – Most sleeping pads come with an “R Value” that measures the pad’s ability to resist heat flow. The higher the R value, the more the pad will keep you warm. Be sure to take into consideration the climate in which you will be sleeping. Will you be backpacking in the Canadian winter or the middle of July? Once you figure out time of year, purchase a pad with a relative R value.
There are three different kinds of sleeping pads
1. Air – These are manually inflating and use air as cushioning. Pro’s of air pads are that they are the lightest option on the market, are extremely compact when deflated, and they can be very comfortable. Con’s are that due to their nature are prone to punctures.
2. Self-Inflating – These pads use a combination of air and foam to provide cushioning. To inflate, all you have to is open the valve and the air will fill the pad. Pro’s of self-inflating pads are that they are very comfortable and offer great insulation. Con’s are that they are the most expensive option on the market and they are not very compact.
3. Foam – These backpacking sleeping pads are made of closed-cell dense foam with tiny closed air pockets. Pro’s are that they are lightweight, inexpensive, and you don’t have to worry about punctures. Con’s are that they are stiff, and therefore tend to be the least comfortable option.
Decide what features are important to you:
1. Size – At the very least, the sleeping pad should support your shoulders and hips. However, if you plan on backpacking during the cold months, your legs and feet will thank you for some extra inches of insulation. Long-sized sleeping pads usually run at around 78 inches, regular ones 72 inches, and short ones 48 inches. Keep in mind that the longer sleeping pads usually have a wider width as well.
2. Weight – Consider how much extra weight you are willing to carry on your trip. Generally, the ultralight pads are great for backpacking trips but are more expensive.
3. Packed Size – Consider how much room in your pack you are willing to give to your sleeping pad. Overall, warmer pads tend to take up the most space, however there are exceptions.
1. Hand pumps – Consider that if you get an air pad, you will have to blow the thing up every night. In this case, a hand pump can save a lot of time, effort, and light-headedness.
2. Patch kits – If you choose either of the air pad options, make sure that you bring along a patch kit. Accidents involving punctures do happen, and a patch kit could save you a headache and many sleepless nights.
3. Sleeping bag systems – Some sleeping bags will come with a sleeve to hold your pad in place. Before you make your purchase, make sure that your bag and pad are compatible sizes.
4. Location – Before you purchase, consider whether you will be sleeping in a tent or a car. Depending on how much room you have, you’ll want to size your sleeping pad accordingly.
5. Test – Go to your local travel shop and try out a few different pads. Everyone is built differently, so what may be a comfortable sleep for someone else may not work for you.