A good camping trip can be made remarkable by quality sleep. Getting plenty of fresh air, exercise and yummy food cooked over an open flame set the stage for a great night of rest.

Before you choose your sleeping pad, you will need to consider all the factors for your trip.

Temperature

If you are planning a backpacking trip up into the snow, you need a sleeping bag and a pad with a high R-value. To get enough insulation under you that you don't spend the night warming up the ground or melting the snow under you, you will probably want a pad that offers both foam cushion and a bit of air.

Finding a cushion that inflates automatically will not be a challenge. You will need to find one that also is long and wide enough for you to relax on. If you can, find a sample, air it up and give it a few crunchy squeezes. Lying on something that crinkles all night is not going to help you sleep.

Ground Conditions

If you are camping in the summer and know that you can pitch your tent on turf, your cushion needs maybe a bit less. For those camping in high summer, it can still be a good idea to invest in a cushion that holds extra air to avoid being over-insulated on your summer camping trip.

Be aware that a lot of the pads that hold more air also take up more square inches in your tent. If you have read the dimensions and think this pad will just fit inside your tent, consider getting a smaller one or be prepared to deal with cramped conditions.

Weight

Everything that goes into your hiking backpack has to justify its own weight. You will need sun protection, safe hydration gear, and shelter. A heavier sleeping pad may be worth the weight depending on the expected temperatures and your personal cushion requirements.

Getting an inflatable pad is certainly a matter of choice. However, if you are headed out into the heat, you may find that the extra air padding allows you to stretch out on a slightly cooler pad before you try to sleep, allowing your core temp to drop and getting into a deeper sleep more quickly. If you choose to deflate the mattress later, you will still have some cushion if things cool off.

Size

Your personal size may help you narrow down your camping pad choices. No matter the pad you choose, you will need one that is wide enough for your shoulders and long enough to support you from head to heels.

For very tall campers, it may be necessary to get a camping pad for two people and sleep diagonally. These pads can be a bit heavier than solo camping pads, but many of them can be used as a single and opened up before inflating for two should you find your shelter just will not allow you to open things up.

It can be tempting to put together a hodgepodge of padding and hope for the best or to use something else under your head or your feet. However, finding out that your camping pad really is waterproof because you wake up with wet feet after a hard rain is not a good way to start the next day of your adventure. Get a pad big enough to keep you comfy and dry from top to bottom.

Your Cushion Preference

There are a lot of folks who have avoided camping because they don't think they can tolerate sleeping on the ground. Of course, backpackers know that with the right gear, your camping sleep spot can actually be quite comfortable. If you need more cushion than a standard camping pad, you still have options.

For those with serious health issues or chronic pain challenges, backpacking to your camping site may not be an option. However, with a car camping setup, you can still have a terrific adventure. For best sleep, you might consider stacking a foam and air mattress. Other helpful tools can include

  • extra pillows for more cushion
  • a cot to reduce the need to get all the way to the ground
  • an extra sleeping bag to avoid getting too cold

While you are planning and packing your sleeping gear, make sure you pack a hoodie to keep your neck warm while you sleep. Fingerless gloves to keep your wrists warm and moving can also be a great choice.

Camping has grown in popularity during the pandemic and that is terrific news! Whether you choose to hike into a rough campsite with just a backpack or use your car as a giant rucksack, your camping adventure can easily lead to many wonderful holidays in the great outdoors.