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A sleeping pad can be a simple or complexly designed pad typically used by people who are sleeping on the floor or ground in a sleeping bag. The pad can serve several purposes. It can slightly cushion a hard sleeping surface, which may make sleeping on the ground more comfortable. The sleeping pad may also provide some insulation from the cold, which may be useful in cooler weather, especially if you’re camping or sleeping outdoors.
The simplest type of sleeping pad is made out lightweight foam. These are inexpensive, and provide slight cushioning and a little insulation. They may be particularly useful for kid’s slumber parties or if you have more guests than beds. Some people find them perfectly comfortable for casual camping trips, and other people need more cushioning.
Some people resort to air mattresses when they camp, which is a fine solution if you’ve got a large tent and plenty of storage space. When people backpack or take longer camping trips, they may want to invest in a sleeping pad that is a easier to pack, lighter to carry, and built for more rugged camping experiences. Several types of these pads exist, and they’re often air inflatable, but much lower in height than the typical air mattress. They usually come in two shapes, rectangular and mummy shape.
Some of these sleeping pads also allow you to add foam pads inside them for extra insulation and comfort, and prices are very different than inexpensive inflatable mattresses or cheap foam pads. You can expect to pay up to or over $100 US Dollars (USD) for the most advanced designs of this type of sleeping pad, though you can also find some good ones for about $40-50 USD.
Though air inflatable pads are usually lighter to carry, they do run the risk of being punctured. This can be a real disadvantage if you can’t repair one and you’re in the middle of a long camping or backpacking trip. For this reason, some people prefer to carry foam pads instead, since durable ones would hold up for the length of a long trip. It really depends on the level of comfort you need when sleeping and the amount of weight you’re already carrying with you.
Not all people are fans of the sleeping pad. Some people are perfectly comfortable sleeping on floors or the ground, and think pads are an unnecessary expense. Others need them so that they can get to sleep at night without discomfort.
@irontoenail - I don't use sleeping pads for camping either, but I do find them really helpful for visiting people.
Quite a few of my friends live in interesting places but are still students or in their first job so they don't have a spare bed for me to use if I visit.
I have these really good futon mattresses though, which are kind of like sleeping pads, although maybe a little bit thicker.
They are really comfortable and have really good insulation as well. Plus they fold up to be surprisingly small.
I think it's definitely worth getting a folding sleeping pad like this for your car, so that if you have to spend the night somewhere you aren't going to be uncomfortable.
@indigomoth - Well, you do get what you pay for and there are some airbeds out there which are better than others.
It might also pay to check out what weight they are meant to carry. Some of them don't work well if you are heavier than what they were made for.
But, personally I prefer a combination of foam pads and air pads. I find the air is less likely to go out and even if it does there's still the foam there for comfort.
And a foam sleeping pad with air pockets is more easily packed and lighter to carry. Not that I'd bother with a sleeping pad at all on a long trip. You quickly get used to the ground if you have to carry your bedding on your back every day.
Honestly, I would never depend on an air mattress under any circumstances, let alone on a camping trip.
They always seem like a good idea, especially the first couple of nights, as when they are working well they are quite comfortable and have relatively good insulation.
But, in my experience they almost always develop a slow leak after only a few days of use. And after that, they are just annoying. Any kind of weight, such as what you'd normally be putting on them each night, will result in them slowly deflating, until you are shivering on the cold, hard ground.
I hate waking up to that and then having to get up to pump up the bed every few hours.
I'd rather just sleep on the ground with a good blanket under me. Or better yet, use a foam pad instead.
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