If you are a little newer to regular camping then you probably have a lot of questions. One of them could be how to properly use a sleeping pad. It is important to note the difference between a sleeping pad and an air mattress. Air mattresses are big, bulky, and can be quite comfortable. Sleeping pads are thinner, provide more warmth, and are more lightweight and versatile. In this post, I will be referring to the smaller sleeping pad and how to use them. So let’s get to it, “Does the sleeping pad go inside the sleeping bag?”
So, does the sleeping pad go inside the sleeping bag? The sleeping pad is best used on the outside of your sleeping bag laying directly on the floor. There is some debate on if it provides more warmth being inside of the sleeping bag.
Generally, you keep the sleeping pad outside of your sleeping bag, but there are some arguments for why you would want to put it inside of your bag instead. The most important part is knowing which one is going to keep you warmer and more comfortable.
By the way, If you are in the market for a new sleeping pad, then you should click here to see the one I recommend on Amazon.
What Are The Different Types Of Sleeping Pads?
There are three primary types of sleeping pads. They are air pads, self-inflating pads, and closed-cell foam pads. Each type of pad has its strengths and weaknesses. What pad is right for you is dependent upon the type of camping you will be using them for. If you already have your sleeping pad, get to know what its strength and weakness are.
It is also important to note that you can combine two pads to get the best of both worlds kind of deal. The most common combination would be a closed-cell foam pad and an air pad combo. I have provided my ratings of 1-3 with the different types of pads below with 1 being the most desirable and 3 being the least desirable. Each number can only be used once for each category. For example; Comfort will have one rating of 1, one rating of 2, and one rating of 3.
Air pads are like miniature air mattresses. They need to be blown up using your breath or a pump. Luckily, they fill up very fast because of their small size. You can customize the firmness of air pads by putting more or less air into the pad as desired. They are very comfortable and lightweight. They are best suited for warm weather because the air inside of them gets as cold as the ambient temperature. They are usually the most compact of the three choices.
- Comfort (1)
- Lightweight (1)
- Compact (1)
- Cost (3)
- Cold Weather (3)
- Durability (3)
Closed Cell Foam Pads
Closed-cell foam pads are made of very dense foam and are filled with tiny closed air cells. They offer less compactness because they aren’t inflatable or deflatable. They still aren’t very heavy and are priced very well. They generally provide the most insulation of the three but also are the least comfortable. You don’t have to worry about leaks or punctures with these types of sleeping pads.
- Comfort (3)
- Lightweight (3)
- Compact (3)
- Cost (1)
- Cold Weather (1)
- Durability (1)
Self-inflating pads are like the middle man of the other two types of pads. They are a combination of air and foam. This can give you the best of both worlds, but it can also give you the worse of both worlds. They too are very comfortable, and pretty compact, and can be adjusted to fit your desired firmness. They are stronger than regular air pads, but can still be punctured and torn. They offer more insulation than air only pads.
- Comfort (2)
- Lightweight (2)
- Compact (2)
- Cost (2)
- Cold Weather (2)
- Durability (2)
What Pad I Would Choose
If you are a middle of the road kind of person that likes the most flexibility then I would go with a self-inflating pad. However, if you want to kick it up a notch, I would get one closed-cell foam pad and one air pad. Use the foam pad on the floor and place the air pad on top of the foam pad. That way you will get the best of both worlds. Be careful however not to fall off because the pads can be slippery if you tend to move around a lot when you sleep!
What Purpose Do Sleeping Pads Provide?
You generally want to have a sleeping pad for a variety of reasons. If you are reading this then you are probably interested in some kind of car camping. For car camping, the thing we are looking for most is comfort and warmth. Something comfy and warm to sleep on is essential for a good car camping trip.
Comfort Is #1
The biggest benefit of sleeping pads is the comfort they provide. They make a world of a difference compared to sleeping on the ground. You aren’t just limited to sleeping pads either, if you are car camping in good weather conditions, you could opt for a nice full-size air mattress for the ultimate camping comfort.
Warmth is #2
Keeping warm is another reason why you need a sleeping pad. Sleeping pads provide insulation to protect you against the cold ground. Even on warmer summer nights, you can still lose a lot of body heat if you are against the ground. The sleeping pad offers itself as a barrier to minimize that heat loss. Your sleeping pad comes with something called an “R-Value” and this is simply the sleeping pad’s capacity to resist heat flow (the “R” is for resist). Air mattresses act as a barrier as well, but they provide poor insulation compared to most sleeping pads. You can improve your regular air mattresses insulation by putting a high-density foam layer on top of it.
Why Would You Put A Sleeping Pad Inside Of Your Sleeping Bag?
Finally, this brings us to the original question of “does the sleeping pad go inside of the sleeping bag?” Generally, it does not go inside the sleeping bag and isn’t designed to do so. However, why would you want to put a sleeping pad inside of your sleeping bag in the first place? There is some debate on this that has gone on for a long time. Some people swear by it over the conventional way. Here are some arguments that are made in favor of putting the sleeping pad inside of your sleeping bag:
“It Prevents You From Rolling Off The Pad”
Some people tend to toss and turn a lot when they sleep at night. Doing so could cause you to roll off of your sleeping pad and end up touching the cold ground all night. Doing so would really defeat the intended purpose of the sleeping pad in the first place. If your sleeping pad is inside of your sleeping bag with you then you cannot roll off of it at night.
“It Keeps You Warmer Than Having Them Separate”
The idea here is that the sleeping pad is inside of the bag with you and so the air inside of the pad (if it is an inflatable one) will stay warm throughout the night and so you will stay warmer throughout the night. Additionally, it is thought to fill up empty space inside of your sleeping bag and so more heat is trapped inside of it, which would be good for you.
“Big Agnes Makes A Sleeping Bag That Has A Pad Sleeve”
Big Agnes is an outdoor enthusiast company that makes high-quality camping gear, and one of their features is that their sleeping bags provide a built-in sleeve to put a sleeping pad in. It is designed to keep you from rolling off and supposed to keep you warmer. The argument here is that you create your own sleeve by putting a pad inside of whatever sleeping bag you have to mimic the high-quality construction of Big Agnes sleeping bags.
Whether any of those arguments for putting the sleeping pad inside of the sleeping bag are sound is still up to debate and may very well continue to be up to debate well into the future. The most important thing for you is having the answer to which option is warmer and more comfortable. To answer that I think it is best to stick to tried and true traditional setups.
Which Option Keeps You Warmer And More Comfortable?
I think it is best to stick with keeping the sleeping pad on the outside of your sleeping bag. For warmth, the pad will be able to do its job by creating that solid barrier between you and the ground. The insulation features available with sleeping pads today are advanced enough to keep you warm this way.
For comfort, you have a lot more room in your already small sleeping bag without a sleeping pad being inside of it. Having the sleeping pad underneath instead of inside the sleeping bag will help prevent you from being wrapped up tight like a burrito. If you have problems with rolling or sliding off your sleeping pad, first double-check to see that you properly set up your camp on a level surface. A slight incline could be causing you to slip off of the pad. Also, another option could be to find something to put on top of the pad that has more grip than the surface of the pad itself.
Sleeping pads should not go inside of the sleeping bag and should instead be placed under your sleeping bag. I see no strong evidence that placing the sleeping pad inside of your sleeping bag would lead to any more comfort or warmth than having it outside of the bag. If you have a sleeping pad or pads that are appropriate for the weather and type of camping you are doing then you will be just fine.
My Favorite Camping Gear
- Air Mattress: click here to check out my favorite on Amazon.
- Tent: click here to see my favorite tent available on Amazon.
- Sleeping Pad: click here to check out the one I love on Amazon.
- Sleeping Bag: click here to see the one I recommend on Amazon.
- Camping Stove: click here to see the best camping stove on Amazon.