What is a Good R-Value for a Sleeping Pad

woman lying on sleeping pad
Spread the love

Nothing beats a good night’s rest. However, just because you are not spending the night in your bed doesn’t mean you need to give up any of the comforts. These days sleeping pads offer superb comfort to help you wake up feeling refreshed and rested when morning comes. Getting the right R-Value can be critical for your sweet dreams.

How Do You Choose a Good Sleeping Pad?

There are so many sleeping pads on the market today, most offering the proper shuteye. It can be overwhelming to choose a sleeping pad with so many options filling our favorite outdoor stores. So how do you decide which sleeping pad to buy? A great place to start is examining the R-values of sleeping pads because it indicates the sleeping pad’s insulation ability.

What is R-Value?

Most of us have experienced an uncomfortable night while camping. You end up tossing and turning the entire night because your sleeping pad just doesn’t do enough to stop the ground’s cold and discomfort from reaching you, and your sleeping bag can’t do all the work.

A sleeping pad acts as a layer of insulation between the ground and your body. Therefore the level of the pad’s insulation is essential. The level of insulation in a sleeping pad is the R-value of the sleeping pad.

The R-value of a sleeping pad measures just how much heat the sleeping pad can resist. Therefore, the higher the R-value of your sleeping pad is, the better it will be at keeping you warm.

Most sleeping pads will have R-values between 1 and 7. However, thick mattresses will have R-values of at least double that. The downside to a thicker mattress is that it isn’t as portable as a sleeping pad.

How Do I Know the Right R-Value for Me?

Contrary to what a lot of people believe, R-values aren’t related to temperature. R-values can be confusing, but a good rule is that if you don’t have an issue with the price tag, the space it’ll take up, or the weight of your sleeping pad, then choose a sleeping pad with a higher R-value.

However, if you prefer not to go for the highest R-value sleeping pad you can find, you can keep the seasons in mind. Here are suggestions for R-value sleeping pads based on the seasons:

  • In summer, you can get away with a sleeping pad that has an R-value of 1 – 3.
  • Sleeping pads that have R-values of 3 – 5 will be sufficient to keep you comfortable in spring and fall.
  • In winter, it is best to use a sleeping pad that has an R-value of higher than 5.
  • Therefore, if we look at the information here, an excellent year-round sleeping pad’s R-value should be higher than 5, or you won’t have comfortable expeditions in the winter.

What About Snow?

People who like to go on adventures that require sleeping in the snow often worry that they need a warmer pad than they can find. However, this isn’t really the case. Snow doesn’t act as a good conductor, so sleeping on snow can actually be warmer than sleeping on dirt.

However, avid snow explorers advise beginners to use a foam mattress along with their sleeping pad. This is a good idea in case you encounter a leak while in a snow-filled place. You’ll get increased heat when you use this method because R-values do add up.

woman relaxing in sleeping pad enjoying landscape

Is There a Standard for R-Values?

Until recently, there wasn’t any standard for R-value measurement. Many of the giant sleeping pad brands had their own facilities for testing their sleeping pads, while other big names preferred to have third-party researchers run tests for them.

Other big brands just did an estimation of their R-values. Some big brands chose to leave their R-values entirely and offered temperature ratings instead. This led to an R-value system that wasn’t at all accurate. Fortunately, all of the uncertainty surrounding R-values changed in 2020.

Sleeping pads now have standardized R-values. These standardized R-values were set up by ASTM International, with their goal being that consumers are offered a way to compare all sleeping pads. Moreover, REI and MEC set conditions that all the sleeping pads they carry will have an ASTM R-value as of the year 2020. This results in R-value ratings that are not only accessible but also accurate and more dependable.

How Do They Test a Sleeping Pad’s R-Value?

All sleeping pads that we find on the shelf are put through the same testing process because of the ASTM standard. Sleeping pads are put between two plates, one mimicking the body and the other simulating the ground. The plate that represents our bodies is heated at a temperature of 35 degrees Celsius (95 degrees Fahrenheit).

In comparison, the plate that represents the ground is cold at a temperature of 5 degrees Celsius (41 degrees Fahrenheit). The sleeping pad will stay sandwiched between the plates for more than 4 hours, during which time testers will conduct measurements. These measurements will show how much energy it takes for the sleeping pad to keep the hot plate at 35 degrees Celsius. A sleeping pad with a high R-value uses less energy to keep the plate hot.

Does a Sleeping Pad With a Higher R-Value Cost More?

It is better to have a sleeping pad with a higher R-Value, but it means you’ll be carrying more weight and you’ll need to spend more. Therefore, if you are planning on doing a lot of hiking while carrying your sleeping pad on your back, you’ll need to consider the weight factor. The conclusion is that, yes, sleeping pads with higher R-value are more expensive, but they are usually worth the extra cost.


When you are going on an expedition, the sleeping pad you pack can make all the difference between a sound sleep or not getting a wink of sleep. After you have examined your budget, the weight you’d like to carry, and the space you have, choose the sleeping pad with the highest R-value to fit all your needs. Then, you’ll rest assured knowing that you’ve made the right choice.