There are many people that think the primary purpose of a sleeping pad is to provide cushioning from the hard ground. While this is true, it is actually not the primary purpose of a sleeping pad. A sleeping pad has a much more important job to do while you’re out camping in the wilderness. Continue reading to find out the primary purpose of the sleeping pad along with the differences of each type of sleeping pad.
The primary purpose of a sleeping pad is to insulate you from the ground. Without a sleeping pad your body would lose heat to the cold ground under you. Even if you are in your sleeping bag, you are actually not being kept warm under you because you are laying on the insulation in the sleeping bag. When you crush the insulation under you the sleeping bag cannot insulate you in that area because it does not have the warm air. While you may be able to get away with not having a sleeping pad in warm weather, you must have it in colder weather.
As many people already know, sleeping pads also provide cushioning from the hard ground. This helps to make your night more comfortable so that you can sleep better. While you may think it is, this is actually not a necessity. You can use grass, leaves, or pine needles to do this. In high traffic areas this may be more difficult and you may want to choose a sleeping pad with more cushioning.
Closed Cell Foam Pads
Closed cell foam pads can be used as a standalone structure. This is because they will not let air or water pass through. These types of sleeping pads are less expensive and warmer for the weight. They are also more reliable than other sleeping pads because they are not susceptible to leaking or punctures. You can also modify them easily or in other words cut them to fit. While all of this sounds good, closed cell foam pads can go flat after laying on it long enough. Since they are fairly stiff they are also not as comfortable as other pads and you cannot compact them down very well.
A self inflating sleeping pad is an open cell foam covered with sealed fabric such as polyester or nylon. They will have a valve that when opened will let air flow in. This is because the open cell foam expands causing a vacuum. One problem with this is the pads do not fully inflate by themselves and you must manually put air in them to finish them off. They can also go flat if punctured.
Air chamber sleeping pads are much more plush and comfortable. These pads can be accurately described as small air mattresses. Since these pads are not filled with open cell foam they must be able to limit air circulation with small air chambers to insulate better. If they are filled with goose down or synthetic down, then they will not have to have the small air chambers.
Air chamber sleeping pads must be filled with a pump or air from your lungs. The problem with this is if it is down filled then you must fill them with a pump because the moisture in your breath will cause the down to lose insulation power. Also, when you fill them with warm air from your lungs, you will have to fill them again later because of the warm air contracting.
Expert Tip: You can pack sleeping pads against your back in frameless backpacks to create a makeshift frame.
Now that you know the main purpose of a sleeping pad, along with the differences of each type of sleeping pad, you are much closer to choosing the right sleeping pad for your trip. If you found this article helpful please share this with a friend so that they can find the help they need. Also, if you have any questions or comments to the free to contact me via my contact page or by leaving a comment below.