by Staff Writer
If you dislike sleeping on the cold, hard ground, a sleeping pad underneath your sleeping bag can really save you a night of discomfort. A sleeping pad is also essential for keeping your sleeping bag protected when you're roughing it. When you're packing up your sleeping bag, tent and other camping gear, don't forget a sleeping pad to keep you comfortable in the great outdoors. There are three basic types of sleeping pads available for use with sleeping bags: air mattresses,, foam pads and self-inflating pads. The type of pad you'll need depends on what kind of camping you'll be doing and how much padding you prefer.
Air mattresses: Air mattresses need to be inflated, either with a hand or foot pump, automatic pump or your mouth. Pumping up an air mattress can take a long time, and an inflated mattress is fairly large. They are also rather vulnerable to punctures. Inflatable mattresses are the most comfortable and insulating sleeping pad for underneath your sleeping bag, however. Air mattresses are the best sleeping pads for camping in your car, in a tent in a campsite or your back yard, where weight and size don't matter.
Foam pads: Foam pads are less comfortable than air mattresses, but they are lighter and do not need to be inflated. Foam sleeping pads are ideal for backpacking because they are lightweight and easy to pack up. Foam pads are also the most durable type of pad, making the perfect for the backcountry. They don't puncture easily, and they are still functional even if they do. Foam pads come in different thicknesses and weights. Pick a lightweight sleeping pad for serious backpacking and a thicker pad for more recreational camping.
Self-inflating pads: These sleeping pads are a combination of an air mattress and a foam pad. They have the advantages of both; they have an open cell foam pad covered with an airproof covering with an air valve. Self-inflating sleeping pads begin to inflate as soon as you open the valve. They are easy to repair when punctured, and even if you do not repair them right away, you can still use them. They can be heavier than a foam pad, but self-inflating pads are still a viable choice for backcountry camping and hiking.