A foam sleeping pad is certainly a viable option, but an inflatable sleeping pad is, to most people, a better choice. One of the many advantages of an inflatable sleeping pad is that it tends to take up a lot less room than a foam sleeping pad. Foam sleeping pads can be strapped on to the outside of a backpack, but an inflatable sleeping pad packs up very small and fits in a backpack easily. Most people tend to find inflatable sleeping pads quite a bit more comfortable, as well.
Inflatable Sleeping PadWhat to look for when shopping for an inflatable sleeping pad.
- Shape – Inflatable sleeping pads come in all different shapes and sizes, from a uniform rectangular shape to the mummy shaped sleeping pads, where corners are cut, literally, to make the sleeping pad in to a more tapered shape that eliminates as much excess material as possible, to help save on weight.
- R-Value – Another important feature to consider when shopping for inflatable sleeping pads is the R-value of the sleeping pad, which determines how much of your body heat will be reflected. A sleeping pad with a high R-value will reflect a lot of body heat, making it an ideal choice for winter camping or backpacking.
Best Inflatable Sleeping PadSome of the very best inflatable sleeping pads.
- Therm-A-Rest NeoAir - The NeoAir is probably the most popular sleeping pad on the market, and with very good reason. First, it won the 2009 Backpacker Magazine Editor's Choice award, which always helps with popularity. But it's also a rectangular sleeping pad that weighs just 14 ounces, or 400 kilograms, which is surprisingly lightweight for a rectangular pad. It's also 2.5 inches thick, which is plenty of comfort, and has an R-value of 2.5 which makes it ideal for three season camping. So a solid, lightweight inflatable sleeping pad.
- Exped DownMat 9 - The DownMat is built with one thing in mind, and that's warmth. Unlike most other four season sleeping pads the DownMat uses down to insulate, rather than foam. The top is stuffed with 700+ fill goose down, which gives the DownMat an R-value of 8, which is warm enough to take you down to -36 or so. And because it uses down it manages to weigh 34.6 ounces, or 980 grams, which is very impressive relative to other sleeping pads with similar R-values. It's also rectangular, and comes in a larger, deluxe size.
- Big Agnes Clearview - The Clearview is a sleeping pad built for value, though it's also a rather good sleeping pad. With an R-value of just 1 it's certainly not going to do much to add to your warmth at night, but it also weighs just 14 ounces, or 400 grams for the mummy version, and comes in a rectangular version as well. It also costs substantially less than either of the other two pads above.