The Guide To Sleeping Pad R Values

The Guide To Sleeping Pad R Values

Camping is all about getting out into nature and experiencing the great outdoors, but it doesn’t mean we have to be uncomfortable while we do it. In addition to the other essentials you need, most people like to pack a sleeping pad in their gear to keep them comfortable and warm through the night.

Shopping for a sleeping pad can be challenging, especially when it comes to determining the sleeping pad R value that you need. This categorization says a lot about the sleeping pad you’re choosing and so we’re going to explain what is R value and how it can impact your final decision.

R value sleeping pads are common categorizations regardless of the brand or style that you choose. With just this one rating you can find out so much about a pad that you’re going to buy and it will play a huge role in your sleeping and tent set up, so give it the attention it deserves.

What Does A Sleeping Pad Do?

Different Sleeping Pads On Ground

There was a time when all people took with them on a camping trip was a sleeping bag, but it was soon discovered that this just wouldn’t cut it. Enter the sleeping pad, now a staple in most camper’s gear bags and something that serves more than just one purpose.

The two benefits that a sleeping pad offers are insulation and comfort. They’re added underneath your regular sleeping bag to keep it warm from the cold ground, stop the cool air coming in, and also add another layer of padding to make you comfortable.

Sleeping while camping is never something to look forward to and many people have connotations about hard and uncomfortable sleeping setups. However, the simple addition of a sleeping pad can change all of that, provided you shop for the right one.

What Is R Value?

If you’ve started your search for a new sleeping pad you’ve probably already noticed that they’re categorized by their ‘R value’. Though there are many specifications and features found in sleeping pads, the R value is going to determine its resistance and ultimately the insulation.

The resistance is important in a sleeping bag as it means how well it resists against the ground. As you lose your body heat to the ground, you’ll need more resistance to colder conditions and less resistance for warmer ones.

The R values simply state how well a sleeping pad resists this heat flow. This amount ranges from between 1.0 which is minimal insulation for warmer weather up to 11.0 or even higher for those conditions that are freezing cold.

In the absence of an R rating on your sleeping pad, you can usually find a general recommendation about the temperature it’s suitable for. Otherwise, you’ll want to shop for a thicker sleeping pad if you’re camping in cold weather and a lighter one that’s better suited to hotter weather.

Which R Value Sleeping Pad Do You Need?

Sleeping Pad R Value Chart

Shopping for a sleeping pad can take a bit of effort as you’ll need to determine a few things about your camping style first. Some serious campers might like to invest in more than one so that they’re always prepared for the weather and conditions for any type of trip. Here are some things to consider when choosing the right R value sleeping pad:

Intended Use

Sleeping pads come in different styles to suit their use. Some popular uses for sleeping pads include hiking, camping, winter camping, car camping, and backpacking, all with their own unique needs and features.


Knowing what temperature and weather conditions to expect on a camping trip will lead you towards the correct R value. For colder climates, it’s better to go with a higher R value and warmer weather will require minimal insulation and so lower R value is ideal. Keep in mind, unlike a sleeping bag, having a sleeping pad with extra insulation will not cause you to overheat.


There are plenty of additional features one might look for in a sleeping pad that can add value, warmth or comfort to them. Depending on what you find most important, you might choose one that offers a lightweight feel, extra insulation, or larger size to suit.


There are three main types of sleeping pads which will not only determine their R value but how easy they are to use and carry. Air sleeping pads, self-inflating sleeping pads, and closed cell foam sleeping pads are the most common variety. Self-inflating sleeping pads are generally recommended for their lightweight feel and portability.

A quality sleeping pad can add so much value to your camping experience and give you a rest that’s just as good as your bed at home. Take some time to figure out your personal camping style so you can choose just one sleeping pad that will last you for years to come.

A Must Have Piece Of Camping Gear

Man Laying On Sleeping Pad

A successful camping trip is all about having the right gear to travel with and knowing how to pack for your surroundings. No matter what you get up to when camping, knowing that you’ll have a comfortable and warm sleep each night means you’ll be prepared for whatever the next day has to offer.

Sleeping pads a worthwhile addition to your camping gear and just as important as the sleeping bag itself. However, just like shopping for your sleeping bag you need to put in a lot of thought and consideration to find the right R value as well as other features that will make your rest more comfortable.

Insulation and comfort are important for rest, especially when you’re in the great outdoors with minimal shelter. Spend some time finding the best sleeping pad to suit your needs and you’ll never regret the purchase once you see how much good it can do.