Have you ever woke up from a not so restful night under the stars and walked out of your tent with the realization that you are unable to stand straight. What about those wonderful rocks, pine cones, roots, etc... that always seem to find themselves under you. If you are "tired" (no pun intended) of sleeping on the hard, cold ground, this article is for you. I will explain some of the different camping pads out there and how they differ.
Camping pads have many advantages. Most importantly, a camp pad will save your back from the cold hard ground. No more waking up feeling like a pretzel. Camp pads are usually thin and lightweight. Great for backpackers or someone looking for a little cushion underneath them.
Another important point to remember is that most sleeping bag companies assume you will be sleeping on some sort of pad. Keep this in mind when buying a sleeping bag - the temperature rating of the bag assumes a pad will be used. Camp pads will also protect your sleeping bag from dirt and moisture from the ground.
You might be saying, "I want some cushion so I will just go out and buy myself a nice camp pad." That is fine until you start looking around and realize there are many types from which to choose. Here is a list of camping pads and what they are used for:
Standard Camp Pads - When I think of this type of pads, I think of an exercise mat. These pads are a great alternative if you are not looking for anything special out of your mat. It will give you some padding from the ground.
Foam Pads - These pads are great if space or insulation is not an issue. Because of the design of the pad, you will not be able to get all the air out of it. What this means is a bulkier pad when rolled or folded.
These pads do not provide very much insulation. With the weight of your body on it, the pad compresses too much. This does not leave much between you and the ground.
I do not recommend this type for backpackers or hikers. They are inexpensive and therefore make a great camp pad if you are not concerned with weight, space, or insulation.
Self-Inflating Camping Pads - This is the best of both worlds. A compact and lightweight pad that feels like an air mattress. How these pads work depends on the brand but most of them have a valve that opens and the pad inflates. No need to have extra equipment for inflating.
Self-inflating pads are not only comfortable but they are great insulators. Many brands use a reflective coating that provides thermal insulation and even reflects the heat back into your body. No need to say it but I will anyways. More insulation means more warmth.
They are a great choice for backpackers, hikers, and cold weather campers. You will be spending more money on this type of camp pad but it will be money well spent. I have seen people use these pads for 15 or more years.
There you have it in a nutshell. So if you are like me and have had it with the hard ground, I hope this helps you in your great adventure into the camp pad world.