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Self-inflatable for added convenience. Large surface with padded headrest. Made from high-quality materials designed to equalize pressure and provide extra support while insulating heat. Comfortable non-slip covering. 2 valves for speedy inflating/deflating.
A bit too heavy for backpacking. On the higher end of the price spectrum.
Self inflates for hassle-free setup. Ultra durable polyester outer shell. Integrated foam layer provides extra padding. Lightweight and compact without sacrificing comfort. Rolls up small enough for hiking. Low price point.
Somewhat narrow. "Self-inflatable", yet still requires a couple of puffs of air.
Self inflates for quick and effortless setup. Durable and weather resistant. Integrated pillow and tufted design for comfort. Easy to use and roll up. Compact and highly portable when deflated.
Pillow needs to be manually inflated. Securing straps could be more durable.
Durable and comfortable micro brushed polyester top shell. Large double size comfortably accommodates two. Pillows included. 2 valves for faster inflating/deflating. Comes with carry bag for fuss-free portability.
Folding can be difficult due to added size. Probably not the best choice for backpacking.
Air cell design offers added support and comfort. Highly durable, weather resistant, and waterproof. Easy to setup and take down. Ultra lightweight and super compact when rolled. Perfect for backpacking and hiking.
Requires manual inflation. Materials can be a bit noisy when shifting positions.
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For those who love communing with nature, there’s nothing better than camping. But a solid night’s sleep is hard to come by on the dirt, or on the floor of your tent. Enter the inflatable camping pad. All you need to do is blow it up, and voilà: a suitable sleeping surface.
Before you rush off to buy yours, here are some factors to consider: are you looking for a manual or self-inflating pad? You’ll also want to consider the pad size, how durable the material is, and whether or not it includes a pillow. Weight is important, especially if you’ll be backpacking with your inflatable camping pad.
If you’re ready to take your camping up a notch, take a peek at our shopping guide.
The average size of an inflatable camping pad is 72” x 30”, slightly smaller than the dimensions of a twin size bed. Most inflatable camping pads expand to at least two inches thick. This is great for minimalist backpackers who want to keep things as light as possible. If you’re taller than average, you can find extra-long inflatable pads that are 80 inches long. Shorter-than-average inflatable camping pads are also available, which can save shorter folks space and weight in their packs.
Inflatable camping pads typically range from 1.5 to 6 inches thick. A 1.5-inch camping pad is best for petite people. If you’re a side sleeper, your hips may dig into the ground. If you’re a plus-size person, you’re essentially sleeping on the floor. A 2.5-inch pad is suitable for the average person. It’s still portable for backpacking while being thick enough to keep your body off the ground. A 4-inch-plus camping pad is ideal for car camping, where size and weight are less critical. Self-inflating pads are on the thicker end of the spectrum.
Manual inflatable camping pads, also known as air pads, are inflated with your own breath. Simply blow into a tiny plastic air valve. You can usually blow up an air pad within a few minutes. Fancier models can include a mini pump that is either external or built-in. Air pumps are also useful for avoiding mold issues, which can happen when breath moisture gets trapped inside. You can also find air beds light enough to backpack with. The lighter the camping pad, however, the pricier it will be.
Self-inflating camping pads are made with open-cell foam, which is enclosed in plastic with an air valve inside. You just need to open an air valve, and the pad will fill automatically. You can also blow air into the valve for a little extra inflation. These are ideal for camping in cold climates because they’re well insulated. Unlike air pads, self-inflating pads are less likely to deflate overnight. They’re also made of stronger fabrics and are therefore less likely to rip. Self-inflating pads are heavier and less compact than manual ones, which makes them more suitable for car camping than backpacking.
R-value denotes a camping pad’s ability to keep you warm from the cold ground. The higher the R-value, the warmer the camping pad will be. We recommend an inflatable camping pad with an R-value of 5 or higher for cold climates. Values of 1 to 4 should be fine for milder climates. Women campers note: Since women’s bodies tend to have a lower average body mass than men and therefore retain less heat, women should add one to the standard R-value to choose a suitable camping pad.
You can find inflatable camping pads in practically any color. Shades like black, army green, and gray are pretty common. If you want some pizazz, colors such as baby blue, orange, and red aren’t hard to find.
Pillow: Some inflatable camping pads include pillows. However, for those that don’t, you could always buy a separate inflatable pillow. When deflated, inflatable pillows take up very little room.
Air pump: Save time (and your breath) after a long day of hiking with a battery-powered air pump.
Repair kit: In the unfortunate event that your inflatable camping pad becomes punctured, you can patch it with a repair kit. These kits include patches and adhesive.
Inflatable camping pads range from $20 to $100 in price. As with many products, you get what you pay for in inflatable camping pads.
Inexpensive: The $20 to $35 price range will get you a manual inflating pad (also known as an air pad). These pads are on the thinner side and may not exceed 1.5 inches in thickness. The good news is that they’re lightweight and very portable. But if you’re not petite, you’ll probably want to spend a bit more to camp comfortably.
Mid-Range: The $35 to $65 price range offers a larger selection of thicker camping pads and some self-inflating models. Most pads will still have the standard twin bed dimensions, and some will come with inflatable pillows.
Expensive: Anyone who needs an inflatable camping pad for two, or anyone who is unusually tall, or anyone who needs a larger-than-average durable camping pad, should be prepared to shell out $65 to $100. This price range is also where you’ll find extra-plush camping pads, which are usually self-inflating.
Remember to store your pad in a sealed bag to protect it from rips and other damage. If you’re backpacking, keep your pad towards the top of your backpack rather than the bottom.
After your trip, wipe down your inflatable pad — especially if it has been exposed to insect repellent, which can break down synthetic fabrics over time.
To avoid mold, once you get home, try inflating and deflating your camping pad several times. Use something other than your breath to inflate the pad, such as a hair dryer, battery-powered pump, or hand pump.
Q. Are inflatable camping pads bad for my back?
A. If you’re a back sleeper with lower back problems, you’ll probably want to pay extra attention to the kind of pad you purchase. A self-inflating pad tends to be more firm, so opt for one of those.
Q. How do I clean an inflatable camping pad?
A. To clean the outside surface, rub it down with warm, soapy water. Be sure the pad is dry and fully deflated when stored. Leave the valve open during storage.
Q. How do I deflate a self-inflating camping pad?
A. Simply open the pad’s valve — you’ll know it’s open if you can hear air escaping. Then, fold your sleeping pad vertically, and roll it toward the valve to push out excess air.
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