Sleeping Pad vs. Air Mattress- The Key Differences

Camping is an amazing recreational activity and is not a one-size-fits-all situation. Remember that an air mattress might be great for your backyard camp, but as bad as you backpack into the jungle. 

There is a major difference between a Sleeping Pad vs. Air Mattress. This post will explore the pros and cons of these two and determine which one is ideal for you and your trip. 

What’s an Air Mattress?

An air mattress is a bed that should be inflated. They’re made from polyvinyl chloride and have a distinct interior design that makes many air pockets. Thus, the air will be evenly distributed, even as somebody lies down on the mattress. 

Such mattresses come with an air pump, either a built-in or separate pump. The mattress pumps can also be electric or manual, like a foot pump.

Air mattresses come in different sizes, like king, queen, or full, and are famous camping gear accessories for tent camping journeys. They can also be used for general household use to accommodate overnight visitors. 

What Are Sleeping Pads?

Sleeping Pads

There are different types of sleeping pads accessible on the market available in the following categories:

  • Self-inflating sleep pads – These are a mix of foam pads and air pads, as they have a foam layer but can be inflated as well.
  • Closed-cell foam sleeping pads – These sleeping pads are made of a foam sheet that could be rolled up. 
  • Air sleep pads – There are like an air mattress for camping but have a compact size and are slimmer in design. 

What Is the Difference Between a Sleeping Pad vs. Air Mattress?

Both air mattresses and sleeping pads are mainly utilized as temporary bedding solutions, and they’re lighter and much more portable than your typical mattress. Each of such bed types has a few benefits and drawbacks that you must consider before purchasing.

Here’s a comparison of the two mattress types that might help you find the ideal one for your sleeping needs and body type. 

1. Weight

When we compare a sleeping pad and an air mattress, weight is one of the major aspects to keep in mind.

Air mattresses are a lot heavier than sleeping pads. Normally, an air mattress’s weight differs between 5 and 20 pounds. Meanwhile, the weight of a sleeping pad differs between 1 pound and 5 pounds. 

Are you considering a backpacking trip? Then you must go with a sleeping pad. But for your car camping trip, the weight is not your priority 

You should consider features like warmth, comfort, and more. 

Related: How Much Weight Can an Air Mattress Hold?

2. Comfort

Air mattresses are more comfortable than sleeping pads, as they are thicker. A person sleeping on an air mattress is off the ground while sleeping on a sleeping pad could feel the ground. 

Unlike sleeping pads, air mattresses are good for the back. However, if you’re planning on a business trip and suffering from a bad back, some sleeping pads are good for a bad back, too. 

3. Stuffed Size

Sleeping pads are smaller than air mattresses when packed. Even though it depends on the type and the brand, solo sleeping pads could be compressed down to Ø 5″ x 8″ while an air mattress is twice or thrice bigger when compressed.

Are you planning a backpacking trip? Then you must consider buying a sleeping pad. If not, stuffed size does not need to be your priority. 

4. Size

Air mattresses and sleeping pads can be seen in every size, but sleeping pads are more likely to be smaller than air mattresses.

Are you planning a trip with your spouse? You should know that most sleeping pads are designed for solo sleeping. But that’s not the case with an air mattresses, as many of them are queen-sized. 

5. Warmth 

The warmth of the mattress differs in its construction. For instance, cheaper air mattresses or inflatable sleeping pads aren’t insulated and will not provide much warmth. However, insulated ones can offer you enough comfort, even in cold weather.

Also, the insulation properties of such beds are indicated by R-value. That stands for thermal resistance. Such values range from zero to seven, with the higher number telling higher thermal benefits. 

Levels up to 3 are ideal for 3-season use but not winter camping. In that scenario, you may like to consider something with an R-value higher than 5. 

6. Price

Sleeping pads are often more reasonable than bigger air mattresses. Winter models can be quite expensive but will also provide more protection from the cold, unlike an air mattress that is not sufficiently insulated.

However, most people prefer to invest in an air mattress that costs a bit more, as they provide more functionality and comfort. 

If you are a keen wild camper, it will help if you choose something reasonable with a low R-value. However, it’s better to get a quality air mattress, especially if your portable bed will act as bedding to accommodate overnight visitors.

7. Versatility

Air mattresses could be more versatile as they enable you to comfortably sleep in the wild and act as bedding at home. 

Nonetheless, sleeping pads are preferable as they are more portable and ideal for winter expeditions. Overall, the versatility may depend on your sleeping needs. 

8. Durable

You risk puncturing the mattress with inflatable beds like air sleep pads or air mattresses. Those holes can be patched up, but patches could hold up for too long.

If you’re getting anxious about durability, it will help if you stick with a foam sleep pad for camping. Those cannot be punctured, and the foam materials could last for many years. 

Final Thoughts

You must go with sleeping pads, especially if you’re planning a trip where bulkiness and weight are crucial concerns. 

Sleeping pads are much more feasible since they can be used on car camping trips and backpacking. But if you’re a person who does not compromise on comfort and go for a car camping trip, you must consider buying an air mattress. Consider checking out our best air mattress for camping if you’re planning on buying one.

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