Are Camping Pads Even Worth it?

A backpack with a mat and a hat near to a tent on a grass in a camping on a background of forest.

It seems like camping always requires not only a lot of time and a lot of gear as well. Backpackers and casual campers alike may be looking to ditch their pads or other gear that may seem “unnecessary”. But what gear is worth taking or leaving behind?

Camping pads are worth the cost. Apart from providing comfort, a good camping pad provides users with insulation from the ground to keep campers from getting too cold at night. They are not necessarily essential but do contribute to a much better night’s sleep in the outdoors.

It is in your best interest to take a camping pad with you. Going forward, we’ll continue to discuss why you need a sleeping pad, how you can choose the right camping pad, and get a better night’s sleep outside.

Benefits of Camping Pads

Camping pads are a camping staple that most outdoorsmen swear by. Camping pads provide cushioning and protection against the hard ground. Sleeping outside is already a tad uncomfortable, but without a sleeping pad, it is almost impossible. If you ever go camping without a sleeping pad, be prepared for a night full of constant tossing and turning, rocks poking into your back, and being unbelievably sore in the morning.

Apart from making camping more comfortable, sleeping pads are good insulators. When you sleep with just your sleeping bag and tent floor in between you and the ground, cold seeps through quickly. This might not be a huge problem during the summer, but in winter it can be a detrimental mistake. Without a camping pad, you won’t just be uncomfortable but freezing all night.

Camping pads in different environments

Close up shot of travel equipment, backpack, map, compass, knife, sleeping pad on the ground in mountain. Set of Traveling Tourists.

It may seem unnecessary to bring a camping pad if you are planning on sleeping on softer terrain like sand or moss, but they will contribute to a better night’s sleep in any environment. For example, in beach camping, you can make a comfortable spot conformed to your body, but if you move at all, you will have to carve out a new spot. Sand is also a good conductor and will steal your heat, leaving you in for a cold, uncomfortable night.

Camping pads are even more essential in cold weather environments. In a situation where three friends went camping in winter, two of them having sleeping pads, one friend said, “the pad-less individual had melted the snow down to grass, the others, barely a dent. Heat loss is huge without a pad.” (Source)

Finding the Right Camping Pad

There are quite a few aspects to consider when you’re looking into finding the right camping pad. The weight, size, and R-value of the pad are some of the biggest factors of a good sleeping pad. Pads come in all shapes and sizes, so it is easy to find one that fits. Pads are generally rectangle or sleeping bag shaped, being tapered at the feet. If you like to spread out or move around more while you sleep then a rectangle pad would be the better choice, but if that’s not important you can go for a lighter pad in a sleeping bag shape.

Are you planning on going backpacking? Then you will want to find an ultralight or packable sleeping pad so you can get the comfort and support you need but won’t be weighed down. These pads are usually more expensive so the casual camper would be able to go for a more cost-effective and bulkier pad. Inflatable pads are the popular choice as they can be packed down and are more supportive than their cheap foam counterparts.

The R-value of your pad will also affect how well you sleep on it. For those unfamiliar with the R-value, it basically tells you how effective the insulation in the pad is. R-value has a rating from 1.5-7, so pads with a lower rating are better for summer camping with those at a higher R-value are best used in winter.

Getting a Wood Night’s Sleep While Camping

A man gets his tent and sleeping bag ready at a campground by inflating and setting up his blue blow-up mattress pad to put for under his sleeping bag

It can be difficult to sleep well outside. It’s too cold or too hot, you smell bad, there are mosquitos everywhere, your partner snores, and there are weird or maybe unfamiliar animals making noises. When asking for advice on how to have a better experience sleeping at a campsite, one outdoor employee summed it up quite well when he said the following.

“The most important thing to help you get a better night’s sleep camping is doing your research on the environment ahead of time”

– Outdoor rental store employee

He talked about how if you know enough about where you’re going, the weather, terrain, and wildlife, you can make it the best experience possible. Camping will never be as comfortable as sleeping in your bed at home, but it can be enjoyable with the right preparation. A good tent, sleeping pad, and sleeping bag are must-haves. If you’re going to be camping somewhere colder, he recommends bringing a light fleece liner to slip in your sleeping bag.

Earplugs can be of great help if you are the first one to bed, or if your camping partner has a snoring problem. I had a friend from the city who slept with earplugs so she wouldn’t be scared of natural wildlife sounds she was unfamiliar with.

Camping Responsibly

Deciding to use a sleeping pad is one way you make camping a more enjoyable experience for yourself, but how do you make camping better for others? You can leave your campsite better than you found it. The best way to improve camping for others is ensuring that the beauty you enjoyed on your trip is still there for them by practicing proper fire safety and the seven Leave No Trace principles which include,

  1. Plan Ahead and Prepare
  2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
  3. Dispose of Waste Properly
  4. Leave What You Find
  5. Minimize Campfire Impacts
  6. Respect Wildlife
  7. Be Considerate of Others

Leave No Trace teaches us to respect not only the environment but others as well by allowing them to have the same or even better experiences than we have had in the great outdoors. Following these essential principles ensures that not only you but others will be enjoying a peaceful night’s sleep outdoors for years to come.

Overall, if you want to sleep comfortably while camping, camping pads are worth the $10-$50 that you will spend, especially if you go camping often.

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