Sleeping Pad Insulation
A sleeping pad’s R-Value measures its ability to insulate you from cold ground and keep you warm. The higher the R value, the more effective it is.
- For winter backpacking and camping, an R-value of 5, or higher, is recommended.
- For three-season backpacking and camping, an R-value of 2, or higher, is recommended.
- R-values are additive, so you can combine two pads to increase your warmth level.
- Women need higher R-values pads because they have lower body mass than men. An additional R value of 1 is usually a good hedge for women and other cold sleepers
For purposes of backpacking, you also need to factor in weight, comfort, compressibility, and rigidity when you make a sleeping pad selection. In addition, side sleepers may not receive the full R-value of benefit of an inflatable insulated pad because their bodies are not in full contact with the surface of the pad. This is particularly true for insulated sleeping pads that depend on your body heat to warm them up.
Sleeping Pad R-Value Comparison
The following table provides a side by side comparison of the major sleeping pads available in the US market. The pad weights listed are sized for 72″ long x 20″ wide pads, though there are a few exceptions below. The R-Value of a pad should remain the same if you select a longer, shorter, or wider variation of the pad. If a sleeping pad has a R-Value of “NA”, it’s because the manufacturer has not supplied one or R-value testing has not been performed.
Sleeping Pad Temperature Ratings
Some manufacturers do not provide R-values for their sleeping pads, most notably Big Agnes and NEMO, but instead provide minimum recommended temperatures or ranges. The problem with using temperature rating is there are no standard testing procedures to determine them. Some brands, like Big Agnes, also have a poor consumer track record when it comes to temperature range accuracy. So buyer beware.
Beginning in 2020, new sleeping pad R-value testing standards are expected to come into effect that all sleeping pad manufacturers will have to use. Until then, you’re pretty much on your own when it comes to manufacturers that use temperature ratings to label their pads.
|Make / Model||Temperature Rating||Weight||Thickness||Type|
|Big Agnes AXL Air||Above Freezing||9.6||3.75||Self-Inflating|
|Big Agnes Insulated AXL Air||32F / 0C||11.9||3.75||Inflatable|
|Big Agnes Air Core Ultra||Above Freezing||21||3.5||Inflatable|
|Big Agnes Insulated Air Core Ultra||32F / 0C||23||3.5||Inflatable|
|Big Agnes Two Track||Below Freezing||24||2||Self-Inflating|
|Big Agnes Hinman||Below Freezing||34||1.5||Self-Inflating|
|Big Agnes Q-Core SLX||32F / 0C||16||4.25||Inflatable|
|Big Agnes Q-Core Deluxe||32F / 0C||23||4.25||Inflatable|
|Big Agnes Air Core Ultra||Above Freezing||22||3.5||Inflatable|
|Big Agnes Third Degree Foam Pad||32F / 0C||12||0.5||Foam|
|NEMO Astro||35F / 2C||19||3.5||Inflatable|
|NEMO Astro Lite||35F / 2C||14||3.5||Inflatable|
|NEMO Astro Insulated||15F / -9C||27||3.5||Inflatable|
|NEMO Astro Insulated Lite||15F / -9C||19||3.5||Inflatable|
|NEMO Cosmo||35F / 2C||24||3.5||Inflatable|
|NEMO Cosmo Insulated||15F / -9C||29||3.5||Inflatable|
|NEMO Nomad||40F / 4C||48||6||Inflatable|
|NEMO Nomad Insulated||25F / -4C||60||6||Inflatable|
|NEMO Vector||30F / -1C||17||3||Inflatable|
|NEMO Vector Insulated||15F / -9C||19||3||Inflatable|
|NEMO Tensor||30F / -1C||18||3||Inflatable|
|NEMO Tensor Mummy 20S||30F / -1C||8||3||Inflatable|
|NEMO Tensor Insulated||15F / -9C||21||3||Inflatable|
|NEMO Tensor Field Insulated||15F / -9C||17||3||Inflatable|
Updated 2018.Editor's note: Help support this site by making your next gear purchase through one of the links above. Click a link, buy what you need, and the seller will contribute a portion of the purchase price to support SectionHiker's unsponsored gear reviews, articles, and hiking guides.
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