2020 has arrived and the new ASTM FF3340 Sleeping Pad R-Value Standard is being rolled out in fits and starts by manufacturers and retailers. This new standard will make it possible for you to compare sleeping pads across models and manufacturers because it defines a common methodology for measuring the R-value of a sleeping pad.
What are Sleeping Pad R-values?
R-Value measures a sleeping pad’s ability to prevent heat loss (to the ground) when you lie on it at night. Pads with higher R-values do this more effectively than pads with lower R-values. R-value isn’t a measure of warmth per se, but of a pad’s ability to prevent the loss of the warmth that your body generates.
In the past, companies had different ways of measuring the R-values of their sleeping pads or they “estimated” the R-value and didn’t actually measure it. Companies like Big Agnes and NEMO didn’t use R-values at all. Adopting an industry-standard is important so consumers can compare products using the same insulation criteria. The adoption of the sleeping bag temperature rating standard had a similar effect and spurred competition and innovation.
How can you tell the difference between product listings with Old R-values and New R-Values?
- The pads with older R-values are almost always on sale.
- You can use the table below to determine whether you’re looking at a product listing with an old R-value or one with a new R-value.
Here’s how to use this table:
- If you’re looking at the online product listing for the Sea-to-Summit Comfort Light Insulated Sleep Pad at REI which has an R-value of 4.2 listed, you know it’s an old product listing since the current value listed above is 3.7.
- If you’re looking at an Exped MegaMat 10 listing at EnWild which has an R-value of 9.5 listed, then you also know it’s an older model, since the Exped MegaMat 10 has an R-value of 8.1 when measured against the new R-value Standard
- You may also find pads listed at retailers that are not on the list above. These may be pads that are no longer produced by the manufacturer but listed by the retailer in order to dump old inventory, again with an antiquated R-value, if any.
Sources: Therm-a-Rest and Exped provided me with updated R-value lists that showed the correspondence between their pads’ old R-values and their new R-values under the new standard. Big Agnes also provided me with the new R-values of their new pads. A big vote of thanks to those companies! I pulled the R-values of NEMO’s new pads from their website and a subset of Sea-to-Summits from the REI website where they are available (the Sea-to-Summit website has not been updated completely yet.)
What about the Sleeping Pad Manufacturer’s Websites?
Therm-a-Rest, NEMO Equipment, and REI are the only companies that have updated their company websites and online stores with the new standardized Sleeping Pad R-values. Exped, Big Agnes, Klymit, and Sea-to-Summit have not fully updated their websites with the new R-values.
All of Therm-a-Rest older pads have been renamed such-and-such “Classic”, in part to indicate that they have the old stick valve and not the new WingLock version. That naming scheme hasn’t been adopted by other retailers yet, so if you desire clarity and a discount on the old classic pads, shop at the Therm-a-Rest website. The only difference between the Classic pads and new pads is the valve and the way that the R-value was measured, not the amount of insulation in the pad. I know that’s confusing. The measurement methodology is all that’s changed, not the pads themselves (with the exception of the valves). I don’t know if that’s true of other brands though.
Why is the New R-Value Standard Rollout such a Cluster…?
The new rollout is messy and confusing because retailers are trying to sell off their old-pre-standardized sleeping pad inventory alongside the new standardized models without changing the product names or differentiating between pre-standardized R-values and ones that conform to the new standard. Is it really too much to ask retailers to fix this? I wouldn’t hold your breath waiting. Although, it seems that it would be in the manufacturers’ best interests to help retailers list the right information.
Make this one simple change to sleeping pad product listings.
Here is the ONE simple change that retailers and manufacturers could implement on their websites tomorrow if they wanted to provide you with up to date R-values using the new ASTM FF33400-18 R-value Standard:
- Add a new attribute to every sleeping pad listing called: “ASTM R-Value” and include the new R-value for pre-existing or new pads if one exists. If not, fill the field with “Not available.” You don’t even have to get rid of the old R-value if one is present.
Why Not Slap a Sticker on Old Products?
Why didn’t manufacturers or retailers just slap a sticker on existing inventory boxes to indicate an R-value change if the underlying product didn’t change? Your guess is as good as mine. Discounting existing products just because you need to change the R-value on the packaging (or the online product listing) is stupid.
Do you think that consumers deserve accurate online retail product listings?
I do. This is crazy.Editor's note: Help support this site by making your next gear purchase through one of the affiliate 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 and independent gear reviews, beginner FAQs, and free hiking guides.
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