Does your wanderlust guide you to the unique and even dangerous spots in the world? If outdoor adventures define your existence, you must learn to shop for travel gear. You will spend days or even weeks outside and to get the most out of your journey, you must rest well. For that to happen, you should have a comfortable ‘sleep’ system. One of the major parts of which is your sleeping mat!
Whether you are going to a sleepover at a friend’s house or overnight camping, a nice and comfortable ground mat will have your back. It is not about just comfort or portability anymore. A camping mat will also keep you warm and protect you from the harsh environment that you could face outdoors.
Gone are the days when one kind of sleeping pad was available out there. The industry for travel gear has expanded and now you have a variety of camping ground pads to choose from. With more options, comes the difficulty of choosing the right product. Therefore, this guide will help you with making the right choice.
All you need to know about Camping Pad Construction
Before you make a final choice, you need to learn about the different sleeping mats. Here is a brief breakdown for you:
- Closed Cell Foam
This is the simplest type of sleeping mats, which are nothing more than a slice of foam, barely protecting you from the ground underneath. They are inexpensive, durable, and lightweight. However, they are also uncomfortable. Moreover, brushing off dirt and snow is challenging.
This is a self-inflating bag with one open-celled foam between two fabric pieces. The foam swells when you open the valve which inflates the sleeping mat. This foam is also responsible for trapping air and thus retains heat.
While it is easy to inflate, comfortable, supportive, and less bulky than your average foam, it can still be fairly bulky and much less durable than an ordinary foam.
- Air Construction
These mats have a construction similar to that of inflatable pool tubes but are comparatively lighter, warmer, and durable. However, the disadvantage is they are harder to inflate than a self-inflating one.
After inflation, they provide a space of 2 to 3.5 inches between the ground and the user. Such pads offer sufficient insulation from the environment. Also, they are not durable and you need a kit to fix it.
Which one to choose?
Below we have highlighted some qualities offered by a sleeping mat. This will help you choose the best option according to your needs.
Weight is an important feature to consider when buying a camping mat, especially if you prefer hiking. Lightweight pads are easier to carry and will tire you much less than a bulky one. After all, you will carry it along with you. That said, it is not the most important factor for everyone. If you are a casual traveler, then other factors such as comfort and cost might be more important to you. At the end of the day, it all depends on your requirements.
- Pack Size
The more packable your camping mat is, the easier it is to carry it around. Therefore, you will naturally prefer a small packed size pad, which will allow for more portability. However, this might come at the cost of losing comfort and warmth. Again you will have to consider your needs.
A Closed cell foam, for example, is bulky but comfortable and durable. Carrying it in your backpack will be next to impossible but you can hurl it along. Its durability will let you save space. However, this may not be a suitable option when traveling through dense vegetation or scratchy paths.
Comfort is of the essence. It is perhaps the most important reason you buy a camping pad. Always choose camping mats with a smooth surface. Make sure they are at least 2 inches thick if comfort is your primary motive behind the purchase. Air construction pads are said to be the most comfortable option. This is because they offer more cushion.
If you want to travel to a colder region, then warmth is the most crucial feature you should look for. Most people resort to blaming their sleeping bags when faced with uncomfortable sleep due to cold. In reality, their sleeping pads are more at fault. It is easier to lose heat to the floor beneath you than the surrounding air.
Other factors to consider include the surfaces you will sleep on, the temperatures you will experience, the area of contact (of the pad) and its inflation. For colder environments, a mat with high R-value should be preferred. A foam with low R-value is likely to become frigid.
What is an R-value?
Manufacturers label their pads with an R-value which determines the capacity of the pad to resist the heat flow. A pad with a high R-value will be warmer than a pad with a lower R-value. The math here is simple. While this factor is taken into consideration by most people, you should not rely on it completely. This is because there is no set industrial method of governing the R-value.
In conclusion, you should buy a camping mat that best suits your need. While mats with air construction are the latest and the best option nowadays, you must think of your particular requirements. Just make sure the product you choose gives you the perfect combination of warmth, comfort, R-value, weight, durability, and portability.