When choosing their loadout, most hikers and campers opt for the lightest possible gear to save weight in their packs. Many even choose to not take any bedding with them and rough it on the ground instead. Although possible to do in certain conditions, sleeping on the ground can lead to a few problems during your sleep.
The ground does not insulate heat and will transfer all the cold into your sleeping bag. You will likely wake up sore all-over due to the hard surface and lack of cushioning – all the while becoming an easy target for creepy-crawlies looking to get warm inside your sleeping bag. Is the few hundred grams weight saving worth it? Probably not.
If you, like most other campers and hikers, prefer to sleep in peace and comfort, bring a lightweight camping sleeping mat with you on your next overnight outdoor excursion.
Camping sleeping mats come in a wide range of sizes, widths, colours, weights and materials. To find which one is right for you, take a look at our quick guide below.
Foam sleeping mats, also known as closed-cell foam pads, are typically the lightest sleeping pads on the market. Although often confused with a yoga mat, foam camping mats use dense foam filled with closed air cells to insulate the camper while still remaining fairly comfortable. They come in a variety of thicknesses and are inexpensive compared to other types of sleeping mats. However, they are very bulky and usually need to be carried on the outside of your pack
Air pads are used by hikers and campers with minimal space to spare. They offer a good compromise between weight and size, as they deflate down into a highly compact package. More luxurious models feature additional internal insulation to keep you warm all night long. To inflate, you will have to manually pump it, using either an external pump or your own breathing. If you need a lightweight, compact hiking mattress, an air pad is for you.
Self-inflating sleeping mats are a combination of a foam mat and air pad. They are unique in that to inflate, you simply need to open the valve and let the open-cell foam absorb the air, rather than manually inflate it like an air mat. They offer great insulation and are usually slightly larger than the other types of sleeping mats. However, they are slightly bulky (not as much as a foam mat) but can still be carried inside a hiking pack.
Although it may seem logical that the thicker the mat the more insulation it provides, a camping sleeping mat’s R-value is what determines how much heat resistance and insulation it has inside it.
R-values range between one and ten, with the higher the R-value, the more insulation the sleeping pad has. If you plan on sleeping in cold conditions like in the snow, you will need a sleeping mat with a minimum R-value of 6 or 7. Unlike a sleeping bag, you won’t overheat if you use a well-insulated mat in hot conditions.