What should you do if you’re planning to go camping in warmer weather, you’re on a tight budget and/or you only want to carry one piece of gear, but you still value comfort? The answer is simple: Bring a sleeping pad. A closed-cell foam pad may not be as comfortable as an inflatable model or provide the same level of insulation when it’s cold out, but for ultralight backpacking or a car camping trip where weight isn’t your priority and comfort is, it’ll do just fine.
Bring a foam pad.
Foam pads are great for colder weather and not hot. They’re lightweight, compact, and can be used for camping in all kinds of places. But they won’t keep you cool on a hot summer day. In fact, they might make you feel like your sleeping bag is too hot!
You might think foam pads are only good for backpacking or car camping because they weigh less than air mattresses with an R-value over 5—but that’s not true at all! Foam pads are also great for camping with kids because they’re soft to the touch so no one gets hurt.
Get a Therm-a-Rest.
Therm-a-Rest is the best name in sleeping pads, and the most popular brand to use. They’re also the most comfortable, most durable, and come with a guaranteed lifetime warranty. If you want to know how big of a difference it makes to get a Therm-a-Rest, just think about how much more comfortable your bed at home is compared to sleeping on the floor or on an air mattress. The same goes for when you’re camping! Although these mats are heavier than other options, they can hold up over time as long as they’re cared for properly (i.e., cleaned after each use).
On top of being great all around products that last forever while still being lightweight enough for backpacking trips (or even just car camping), Therm-a-Rests have some great features:
How to choose the right one.
There are a few things to consider before you make your purchase. First, what kind of pad are you looking for? Foam pads come in several different shapes, including rectangular and mummy-style bags. You should also think about how much space you need on the pad and whether it’s going to fit in your tent if it’s a mummy style (the rectangular ones will be more roomy).
Second, what temperature rating do you need? Most foam sleeping pads have an R-value rating of between 1 and 4 (5 is the highest), which measures its ability to insulate heat from outside temperatures within the tent or shelter where they’re being used; this means that those with higher R values will keep you warmer than those with lower ones (and vice versa). Finally, there’s weight: how heavy do these things need to be? For backpacking trips through wilderness areas with limited access points, lightweight products are preferable; however, when choosing a product for car camping purposes or long road trips where weight isn’t as much of an issue due to having plenty available space in your vehicle/truck/SUV/etc., then there’s no harm done by opting out towards something heavier yet still travel-friendly enough for such occasions!
Thirdly – price point! This one shouldn’t be overlooked because we all know how expensive gear can add up over time so finding something affordable is essential especially when considering other important aspects like quality materials used during production processes etcetera.’
Lightest Foam Pads.
If you’re looking to go ultralight, we recommend the Therm-a-Rest RidgeRest Classic. This pad weighs just 9 ounces and compresses down to a tiny 7 x 3 inches when rolled up. The rectangular shape makes it perfect for placing under your hips or shoulders. This material has been used by backpackers for years, so you can trust its durability.
It’s not the most comfortable option on this list, but it’s definitely one of the lightest! If you want something more cushy and durable, check out some of these other options below:
- Therm-a-Rest ProLite Plus – $34 (14 oz)
- Therm-a-Rest Z Lite Sol – $49 (15 oz)
- Therm-a-Rest Z Lite – $39 (9 oz) * RIDGERESt™ Classic Pad 9″x20″ – $30 (9oz)
Lightest Non-Foam pad: The ProLite Plus.
If you’re looking for a foam pad that isn’t a foam pad, the ProLite Plus is your friend. I mean this in the best possible way: it’s not going to be as comfortable as an air mattress or even our top pick from Exped, but it’s also lighter than both of them and costs less. It weighs just under a pound (13 oz.), which makes it one of the lightest self-inflating pads we tested. Despite its light weight, though, I found it to be plenty comfortable for all kinds of trips—backpacking, car camping and base camping—and I could see using it on longer trails like PCT route planning trips where weight savings were critical but comfort wasn’t quite so much of an issue (or if you’re just more into getting outside than being comfy).
A Final Word on Sleeping Pads.
If you’re looking for a camping pad that will be easy on your back and easy on your wallet, foam is the way to go. Foam pads are lightweight, packable, and easy to use with no extra effort on your part. They’re also fairly durable and can stand up well to mild wear and tear—which is great if you’re not exactly roughing it in the wilderness.
While inflatable sleeping pads offer more comfort than typical foam mats (and come in a wider variety of shapes), they do cost more than their non-inflatable counterparts. If weight isn’t an issue and having plenty of space while sleeping is important to you, then by all means consider an air mattress instead!
I love the Therm-a-Rest RidgeRest Classic sleeping pad!
I love the Therm-a-Rest RidgeRest Classic sleeping pad! It is lightweight, durable, and comfortable. It comes in different sizes for different people. It is easy to use. It is very affordable. It is a great value.
So there you have it, my review of foam sleeping pads. I’ve listed the pros and cons of each one and explained why I think Therm-a-Rest is king. Now get out there and go buy a sleeping pad that’s right for you!