There are lots of choices on the market where sleeping pads are concerned. Here are a few things to think about when choosing one.
How heavy?: If you’re hiking or there’s a lot of other kit you need to carry choosing a smaller, thinner and lighter pad might be a good idea. If you are traveling by car however, you have the luxury of weight not being an issue so you could take the opportunity to select a more comfortable pad with more insulation.
How big?: Pads are available in a number of sizes and which you choose depends on how you are carrying it. A shorter pad that gives you less sleeping space or provides less cushioning and insulation might not be as comfortable but will help to reduce the total weight of your kit and will certainly give you more space.
How insulated: Different types of pad have varying levels of insulation and how much you need depends on what type of surface you’ll be sleeping on. Solid rock and soil are often colder than grass and snow is colder than pretty much everything. The season has an impact too as warmer weather means you’ll need less insulation. Finally, the insulating properties of your sleeping bag and your clothing will determine how much additional insulation you’ll need.
How comfy?: Comfort is not the primary design element of every type of mat. Thicker mats are typically more comfortable but are likely to be heavier and take up more space. Equally, you might prefer sleeping on a layer of air than on foam.
How strong?: A large variety of materials are used in the manufacture of sleeping pads. Some provide insulation, some provide waterproofing, some are designed to be breathable and to prevent damage. How you’ll be using and carrying the pad might affect which one you choose. Consider how easily it could rip, puncture or break in another way.
Easy to repair: However and wherever you your pad there is always a risk of it being torn, punctured or damaged. How easy it is to repair punctures and how useful it will be if it is damaged is an essential consideration when choosing which type of pad to buy.
Where will it be used?: Finally, the environment you’ll be sleeping in is probably the most important consideration when choosing a pad. For example, if you are sleeping on snow it might be wise to have both a foam and air pad, to provide extra insulation but also to ensure you have at least some padding should the air pad puncture.