There are three types of sleeping pads. They are; Air sleeping pads, Open-Cell (Self Inflating) Sleeping pads and Closed Cell sleeping pads.
After explaining the main sleeping pad types we will also cover what to look for when purchasing a sleeping pad.
Types of Sleeping Pads
|Features||Air Sleeping Pads||Open Cell (Self Inflating) Sleeping Pads||Closed Cell Sleeping Pads|
|Weight||0.5 to 2 lbs||2 to 8 lbs||0.5 to 1 lb|
|Warmth||Depending on the R-value of the model, they can be used 4 seasons||Depending on the R-value of the model, they can be used 4 seasons||Not Suitable For Cold Weathers|
|Pack Size||Highly Compressible (around Ø 4″ x 8″)||Not as Compressible as Air Sleeping Pads||Most of Them can be Folded around 20" x 5 " x 5.5"|
|Durability||Not as Durable as Other Types of Sleeping Pads||Durable||Durable|
|Best For||Backpacking||Car Camping||Summer Thru Hiking|
Air Sleeping Pads
For air sleeping pads your cushion is the air, they can be inflated by breath or a small pump sack. Since they don’t use foam for cushioning, they are ultralight, and highly small when packed, therefore, they are the best option for backpacking.
Although it depends on the brand and model, an air sleeping pad weighs less than 1 pound and can pack down to Ø 4″ x 8″. In general, they are not as warm as self-inflating sleeping pads, but there are some models that can keep you warm down to -35 F.
Air pads are not as durable as other types of sleeping pads. Even though most of them come with a repair kit they are useless when they’re damaged badly. Therefore, you need to be careful with them.
They are also much cheaper than self-inflating sleeping pads, their prices vary between 30 to 150 dollars.
In conclusion, If you are looking for a sleeping pad for backpacking or if you are low on the budget, air sleeping pads are ideal for you.
Open Cell (Self-Inflating) Foam Sleeping Pads
Open Cell Foam sleeping pads are also known as Self-Inflating sleeping pads. Their cushion is the combination of foam and air.
When you roll them down they release the air inside to pack down smaller. When they are unrolled they suck the air back and inflate themselves (in most cases you still have to blow the valve a little bit to get the pad a bit thicker).
They are much warmer compared to other types of sleeping pads. Some of them can keep you warm down to – 55 F. They are also the best type of sleeping pad for comfort.
Self Inflating pads have a few downsides as well. They are heavier, bulkier and more expensive than other types of sleeping pads. But If you are doing car camping, weight and pack size shouldn’t be your first priority. Therefore, they are the best option for car camping trips.
If you have enough budget, don’t hesitate to spend on the sleeping pad. If you have a quality sleeping pad you can use it for at least 10 years.
Closed Cell Foam Sleeping Pads
Closed Cell Foam Sleeping Pads generally weigh around 15 oz, which makes them the lightest type of sleeping pad. They are very easy to set up; just throw them on the ground and they are done.
They are also the cheapest type of sleeping pad, they cost between 20 to 50 dollars. But they have lots of downsides.
In general, Closed-Cell sleeping pads are 1″ thick which is very thin, especially for side sleepers. If you are a side sleeper definitely go for a sleeping pad at least 3″ of thick. Since they can’t be compressed they are bulky, their folded dimensions are generally around 20″ x 5″ x 5.5″. Their last downside is they are not suitable for cold-weather camping.
In conclusion, If you are doing a thru-hike in summer, Closed Cell Foam can be your best option, but in every other case, we recommend air pads or self-inflating pads.
What to Look For When Buying a Sleeping Pad
There are several things to be taken into consideration when buying a sleeping pad. They are:
- Insulation (R-Value)
The R-Value is a measure to understand the warmth of a sleeping pad. The higher the R-Value, the higher the insulation. If you are planning a cold-weather camping trip, high R-Value should be your first priority.
If you are a side sleeper, you should be extra careful before choosing a sleeping pad. Since the pressure increases when you lay on your side you start to feel the ground and get uncomfortable. If you are a side sleeper choose a sleeping pad at least 3 inches thick.
If you have a bad back take a look at our article about Best Sleeping Pads for Bad Backs.
There are two types of sleeping bags when it comes to shape; Rectangular and Mummy Sleeping Pads. Unlike rectangular sleeping pads, mummy sleeping pads have a tapered form (wider on shoulder, more narrow on the feet area) to save from weight and pack size.
Even though Mummy sleeping pads are better for backpacking, if you tend to move during sleeping you might be more comfortable on a rectangular sleeping pad.