A sleeping pad is an important part of a backpacker’s overall sleep system. It can not only pad the user from hard surfaces, but it also is important for providing insulation from the cold ground.

What is a Backpacking Sleeping Pad?

Basically, a sleeping pad is something that a backpacker or camper can sleep on at night to be more comfortable. These pads are lightweight, and are designed to be carried on either weekend backpacking trips or longer expeditions. Thus, they differ from pads that are used for car camping, which are much heavier, or require an air pump to inflate.

Uses of a Backpacking Sleeping Pad

Sleeping pads have several primary uses. The first is to provide some comfort for backpackers, so that they do not have to sleep on the bare ground. The second is that sleeping pads can insulate the body from the bare ground, which can sap heat away from the body, even in warm summer months. Therefore a sleeping pad is not just for comfort, but is also important for maintaining body temperature, both when it is warm out and when camping in bitter cold temperatures.

What is a Closed-Cell Foam Pad?

There are two basic kinds of backpacking sleeping pads. The first kind are made from closed-cell foam. These pads are lightweight, inexpensive, and can be cut to fit the length of the user. The disadvantage of closed-cell foam is that when carried on the outside of a pack pieces can break off when scraping against branches or thorny plants. Carrying the pad inside the pack or strapped to the outside inside a stuff sack will help to prevent pieces from breaking off.

What is an Inflatable Sleeping Pad?

Inflatable sleeping pads, such as the ones made by Therm-a-Rest, are designed to fill with air to provide cushioning for the user, while still being lightweight to be carried on backpacking trips. All that is needed is for the user to blow into the mattress to inflate it. To deflate the pad, the air valve can be twisted open, and the pad rolled up, forcing the air out.

The disadvantage of inflatable pads is that they could develop puncture holes from sharp rocks or sticks. Backpackers should carry a repair kit to fix any leaks. They can also lay down a ground sheet before spreading out the pad to protect it from sharp objects. Carrying it inside the pack or in a stuff sack will also protect the pad from getting puncture holes. This is something to consider when deciding to buy a backpack, as to whether it has enough space on the inside for a pad, or whether it can be strapped to the outside.

Although there are different kinds of sleeping pads, all are designed to provide comfort and help insulate as well.