Sleeping pads are upgraded sleeping bags in many ways. The biggest downside of sleeping bags is their lack of insulation. When you sleep in a sleeping bag on a winter night, you may feel cold because you’re the coldness of the ground will seep through to your sleeping bag.
If you are using a sleeping pad with proper insulation, your body heat will remain inside your sleeping bag and accumulate. The ability to retain heat is indicated by the R-value of sleeping pads. In essence, it is a measure of thermal resistance. Read on to learn about R-value and other important sleeping pad features.
More About R-Value
R-value is not exclusive to sleeping pads. Many other products have R-values, which can be measured at a lab. Some sleeping pad manufacturers test it while others only estimate it, which is why there can be discrepancies.
In simple terms, the higher the R-value of a sleeping pad, the less energy is required to maintain warmth. This means your body will be preserving energy and calories while staying warm inside the sleeping bad.
This is very important to feeling well-rested when you wake up. That is why you need to pick a sleeping pad with the correct amount of insulation, i.e. R-value.
The R-value range is presented on a scale of 0 to 6. Sleeping bags and pads of high R-values have very good insulation, which means they are warmer to sleep on. Different manufacturers may not use the same approach when coming up with R-value ratings, and some brands may not even show it.
Instead, they show the recommended outside temperatures where you can be comfortable sleeping on a particular sleeping pad. As you might imagine, R1 sleeping pads are best for the summer, R2 for the spring and fall, R3 and R4 for the winter, and R5 for extreme cold weather.
Here are the averages for R-values with respect to suitable temperatures in degrees Fahrenheit (Celsius):
- 5 R-Value: 60° Fahrenheit (16 degrees Celsius)
- 1 R-Value: 50° (8°)
- 5 R-Value: 40° (4°)
- 2 R-Value: 30° (-1°)
- 5 R-Value: 20° (-7°)
- 0 R-Value: 10° (-12°)
- 5 R-Value: 0° (-18°)
- 0 R-Value: -10° (-23°)
- 5 R-Value: -20° (-29°)
- 0 R-Value: -30° (-34.5°)
- 5 R-Value: -40° degrees Fahrenheit or Celsius
Sleeping Pad Types
There are many types of sleeping pads. They are as follows:
Self-inflating sleeping pads
Self-inflating sleeping pads come with an open-cell foam layer that can trap air. They are ready to inflate right away. You can inflate one by opening its valve and the foam will expand and fill up with air. This is great because you don’t have to do anything on your own, nor do you have to carry a pump with you.
This type is a little heavier and harder to pack than a manual inflating sleeping pad.
Manual inflating sleeping pads
You guessed it – you need to inflate these sleeping pads on your own. You can blow into the valve, but it is easier to do so with a pump, which can be hand- or battery-operated. These pads are very light and comfortable due to the open-core design.
Besides their light weight, these pads also have good cushioning and are easy to carry around and pack. The main downside of both self-inflating and manual inflating sleeping pads is their susceptibility to puncture.
They are reinforced but they are no match for a sharp rock.
Foam sleeping pads
Closed-cell foam sleeping pads are the most common type of sleeping pads. They are built from hard foam not unlike those found in foam mattresses, only not as thick. These pads are light, secure, and affordable. An additional advantage of these pads is a metallic layer on the side, which reflects heat and adds warmth.
Unlike inflatable sleeping pads, these pads are much more durable, in that they don’t pop that easily. However, the foam isn’t that thick or they’d be too bulky, and it is why this type is best for back sleepers.
You can’t deflate these pads. You can only roll them up and attach them to the outside of your backpack.
Sleeping Pad Shape and Size
Sleeping pads come in all shapes and sizes. Always select a sleeping pad that’s slightly longer than your height or risk exposing your feet to the cold. The standard single sleeping pad is 20-inch wide.
You may want to go with a wider one for additional comfort, but only if you can handle the larger size. Both mummy-shaped and rectangular sleeping pads are available, just like sleeping bags.
R and R
People need a good seven to eight hours of sleep. This is even more important when you are sleeping outside on an overnight hiking or camping trip. A good sleeping pad is a worthy investment for staying warm in your sleep.