Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Sleeping Pad R Values

Measuring Insulation

If you’re a home owner, you are probably familiar with the concept of an R-Value. If not, it’s a measure used in the building and construction industry to rate the thermal resistance of building insulation under specific test conditions. The higher the R value, the more effective it is.
R value performance testing is done in a 70 F environment with no air movement. As such, it doesn’t reflect many real world conditions where you’d use a sleeping pad, so I highly recommend that you augment any gear selection that you make based on it with field testing.
If you are interested in sleeping pads for early spring, late autumn or winter conditions, R-Value is additive. When it gets cold, I like to use two pads, a closed cell foam pad and an insulated inflatable one with a combined R-Value of at least 5.
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, including the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir product line, Exped’s DownMats and Big Agnes’ Insulated Pads.

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 still remain the same if you select a longer, shorter, or wider variation of the pad. If a sleeping pad has a R-Value of “Not Available”, it’s because the manufacturer has not supplied one or R-value testing has not been performed. sectionhiker

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