Foam or Air Sleeping Pad: Which One Should You Pick?

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Sleeping comfortably is the most important thing to consider when camping or when you’re on a trip. You need a sleeping pad that can fit in the tent and accommodate your sleeping needs. Note that sleeping pads differ in the type of design and build quality. The most common ones include foam and air sleeping pads.

Why Get a Sleeping Pad?

Sleeping pads laid on the ground

source: www.outdoorgearlab.com

Sleeping pads can help you sleep soundly when you’re outdoors. They provide insulation and cushioning that one needs to sleep comfortably. They can also keep you warm throughout the night. You can use them for winter camping, car camping, and backpacking.

Learn about the basic types of sleeping pads and how they perform before getting one. The three basic types of pads include foam, self-inflating, and air. You should also decide which features are important depending on the activity you need the pad for.

Foam Vs Air Sleeping Pads

Air Sleeping Pads

Air sleeping pads boast of lightweight designs, which make them ideal for backpacking. Most of them come with reflective materials and insulation to keep you warm. You can buy a hand pump separately and use it to inflate the pad. You can even change the firmness of the pad by opening the valve to release some air.

Air sleeping pads come with an inflation valve for letting air in and out of them. They can also come with separate inflation layers or chambers to give you more cushioning. The standard width of air pads is 20 inches though you can find custom ones measuring 25 to 30 inches in width. Regular ones measure 72 inches in length while long ones measure 78 inches.

Pros

  • Lightweight design
  • Warmer and more comfortable
  • Portable
  • Ideal for camping and backpacking in warm areas

Cons

    • Expensive to purchase
    • The pad makes squeaky noises when moving from side to side
    • Not suitable for use near sharp objects

Foam Sleeping Pads

Foam sleeping pads comfortable outdoor sleeping pads made of dense foam. The pads have tiny closed air cells inside to accommodate your weight and body temperature. You won’t have to worry about leaks or punctures when using them in a camp or a recreational vehicle.

Just like air sleeping pads, those made of dense foam come in standard sizes. They have a standard width of 20 inches and a regular length of 72 inches. You can also find others with widths measuring 25 to 30 inches and lengths of up to 78 inches. A short or 3/4-length foam pad can measure 47 to 48 inches in length.

Pros

  • Can double as sit pads in a camp or a recreational vehicle
  • They offer good insulation
  • They’re resistant to leaks and punctures
  • They’re durable, inexpensive and lightweight
  • Easy to set up and pack

Cons

  • They’re relatively firm and stiff
  • Can be bulky for use in camping or a recreational vehicle
  • They’re less comfortable when compared to air pads

Choosing the Best Sleeping Pad for You

Foam and air sleeping pads work well in different camping or outdoor activities. You’ll need a sleeping pad that provides more insulation when camping on snow. You should carry an air pad to the winter camping destination for warmth. You’ll also need a foam pad for insurance and insulation in case the air pad starts leaking or gets a puncture.

A foam sleeping pad is ideal for thru-hiking since it is more durable than the inflatable one. The pad can also withstand the long haul and give you the freedom to rest on any terrain. Consider picking a “3/4 length” or “short” foam sleeping pad to save weight when heading out for thru-hiking adventure. The pad can also come handy when you’re camping on a recreation vehicle since it’s larger and thicker for sleeping comfort.

An inflatable air pad can offer you more comfort when kayaking, canoeing or touring by bike. The sleeping pad is lightweight to carry and offers more insulation value. You can easily fit the hand pump in your bag when backpacking.

Consider looking for a pad with a brushed or textured-fabric surface if you’re a restless sleeper. The brushed-fabric surface will prevent you from sliding off the pad when sleeping. It’s also quieter, warmer and more comfortable. You’ll need a patch kit for repairs if you’re using an air sleeping pad in a recreational vehicle or tent.

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