For campers and backpackers alike, a functional and comfortable sleeping pad is crucial. Weight, durability and size are all important factors, but convenience is an added benefit. Self-inflating sleeping pads offer a unique alternative to other sleeping pads and air beds. This option can provide a comfortable sleeping solution with a minimum amount of effort. A good knowledge of this type of sleeping pad, as well as of some of the alternatives will help you choose the best sleeping pad to meet your needs.
Before selecting a self-inflating sleeping pad, you should understand the basic concept of how it works. In the simplest terms, a self-inflating sleeping pad is a piece of open-cell foam sealed in plastic. When the inflating valve is opened, the foam naturally draws air into the pad, causing it to expand. Open-cell foam is spongelike and can provide a comfortable cushion. However, it is important to understand that these self-inflating sleeping pads are not air beds.
If you prefer open-cell foam sleeping pads, a self-inflating sleeping pad may be an excellent choice for you. This type of sleeping pad provides the same cushioning without the added hassle of worrying about keeping it dry. With care, the plastic covering should keep the foam pad dry at all times. When they're compressed, these pads are also smaller and easier to carry than a plain open-cell pad. Another benefit of these sleeping pads is the time saved in inflating them. Though you may need to add a puff or two of air, this gives the camper a choice as to how soft or firm they want their pad to be.
Self-inflating sleeping pads can occasionally come with a few handy extras that may just tip the scale in favour of one pad over another. Any good sleeping pad will have durable straps on the bottom to help roll it up. Some will also come with a storage bag to carry the pad in. This bag may have straps of its own, making it even easier to carry. If you need extra support for your head, or just prefer to leave the pillow at home, you can find many sleeping pads with an included pillow rest. Some pads are even designed specifically for women, with extra padding in various areas. Another feature to look for is a repair kit or patches included with the pad.
Though the open-cell foam will expand a good amount when the valve is opened, it may not expand fully, or to the extent that you find comfortable. In this case, you might want to pump it up a little. When doing so, use an air pump if at all possible. Blowing into the mattress will dampen the inside. Sealed within plastic, it may be difficult for the pad to dry out. This moisture can result in mould and other bacterial growth in the sleeping pad.
Though there are a wide variety of self-inflating sleeping pads available, there are only a few variables. One of the most notable is the thickness. This is usually around one and a half to two inches. Most have a polyester covering, but some offer thicker, more durable material on the bottom. If self inflating sleeping pads aren't your style, other options include a regular open-cell foam pad, a closed-cell foam pad, or an air bed. You should consider the weight, size and comfort of various sleeping pads to select one that best meets your needs.
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