couple sleeping in tent


Sleeping pads are the next best thing to an inflatable mattress for camping, especially when you need something extremely portable, for example, when you are hiking. If you’ve made the mistake of sleeping in a sleeping bag on the hard ground, you will completely agree with me. Getting away from it all is about relaxing and recuperating. That won’t happen if you are sleeping on the ground no matter how good your sleeping bag is.

Sleeping pads offer more than cushioning. They also offer insulation from the ground. Even in summer, the ground can be very cold at night. Without a sleeping mat or pad, you are not only uncomfortable because you are sleeping on what feels like lumpy concrete, you are cold too.

This is a look at the general types of sleeping mats commonly found on the market but new products are coming out all the time. It’s worth taking a look at the basic features of the types of sleeping mats so you know more about them when you are looking to buy.


There are a few basic types of sleeping pads including air pads, self-inflating and closed-cell foam sleeping pads.


An inflatable air pad is basically a sized-down inflatable mattress. They are very lightweight and can be inflated in a few minutes by mouth. Some models come with an inbuilt air pump. They are relatively low cost but prices increase as they become lighter with more bells and whistles. Some are made with reflective materials to help provide more insulation. The trick to using them is to inflate them as close to sleeping time as possible because they do change pressure depending on atmospheric conditions.


Self-inflating pads are a combination of the foam and the inflatable air pad using open-cell foam. The interior of the air pad expands when you open the valve causing air to rush into the pad. To get the air out, you release the valve and roll the pad up. The advantage of this type over the inflatable air pad is that they don’t have that squishy feeling that makes them feel under-inflated overnight. The internal filling of the pad also aids with insulation and so they are normally slightly heavier that inflatable mattress.


Closed-cell foam sleeping pads offer more comfort than your simple yoga mat or sleeping mat because the sleeping pad is made of a dense foam filled with very small closed air cells. They are usually very affordable, lightweight and very durable while offering great insulation but are normally not as comfortable as other types of sleeping pads that use air.

Is there anything you can add to this article? Share your thoughts through the comments section below.

Jake Taylor

Jake is a global traveller who has recently called Australia his home again. If he's not travelling, he is writing about it and his experience.