Sleeping pad manufacturers have been quoting R-values for their pads lately.  This is a major step up from quoting nothing for a warmth spec.  However, until there is a similar system for rating sleeping bags, and then a system for comparing sleep systems, there will still be a lot of trial and error in choosing your gear.

For sleeping pads, what I wanted to do was compare how warm (the R-value) with the weight of the sleeping pad.  This way, the most efficient pad could be chosen.

However, one thing I quickly realized was that dimensions were different for the sleeping pads.  There are short pads, long pads, wide pads, and mummy tapered pads.  This means an objective comparison of weight is useless without considering how the pad measures.

For this reason, I chose to exclude any mummy tapered pads, as I did not want to calculate their area without physically possessing them to perform measurements.  I focused on “regular” sized pads to get them as similar as possible, and then calculated the surface area.  This was necessary even with the regular sized pads, as the Exped mats were 2” shorter than the other mats, potentially giving them an unfair weight advantage.

Simple division gives us a measurement of how much each square inch of surface area weighs.  Another round of division gives us a measure of the warmth of each surface area per weight unit.

I then sorted on the weight/area/R measure to put the most efficient pad at the top of the chart.  This is the most objective way to evaluate sleeping pads.  Subjective measures like comfort, or additional desired features are up to you, the reader, to determine for yourself.

If you want to see the full version of the spreadsheet, click here for it in PDF format.

Sleeping Pad

Weight/Area/R

Cost

Exped Downmat 9

0.00323

$160.00

Thermarest Ridgerest Regular

0.00374

$24.95

Exped Downmat 7

0.00386

$150.00

Thermarest NeoAir Regular

0.00389

$149.95

Big Agnes Insulated Air Core

0.00407

$79.95

Thermarest Prolite Plus Regular

0.00439

$99.95

Thermarest Z-lite Regular

0.00442

$39.95

Big Agnes Two Track 2”

0.00449

$82.95

Exped Synmat 7

0.00458

$100.00

Thermarest Prolite Regular

0.00505

$99.95

Big Agnes Dual Core

0.00528

$99.95

Exped ComfortFoam 7

0.00685

$85.00

Big Agnes Sleeping Giant

0.00853

$64.95

Big Agnes Clearview Air Pad

0.01042

$49.95

Big Agnes Air Core

0.01528

$49.95

One of the surprises was just how efficiently warm the Ridgerest pad turned out.  It is second only to the Downmat 9 and it is more efficient than the Downmat 7!  That is truly impressive.  I know I’ll be keeping a Ridgerest around for any times I need to go really light but don’t need the absolute warmth of my Downmat 9.

Full disclosure: all measurements are from manufacturers web sites, and costs were either MSRP as per the manufacturer, or the price listed at the REI website. if an MSRP was not listed on the manufacturer web site.

I have an Exped Downmat 9 and reviewed it here.

I hope this little chart helps you make decisions regarding sleeping pads.  I’d appreciate any thoughts, questions, or feedback in the comments section.

You can find an updated chart I made with more sleeping pads and information here.

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4 Responses to “Sleeping pads – warmth vs weight”

  1. Chris says:

    Steve,

    It is hard to pin down a reason why that system isn’t working for you. It seems that it should, however, physiological differences between people play a big factor, as does acclimation.

    For example, I often feel pretty cold my first night out. By week 2, I am not as affected by the cold temperatures. If you are doing weekend trips, perhaps you just aren’t able to get accustomed to the cold in such a short time.

  2. Steve Lindley says:

    Chris,
    Excellent site. Excellent information. I have a few questions and would appreciate any input you can give me. I recently purchased a Marmot Never Summer Membrain 0 degree bag and am using a Big Agnes Insulated Air Core pad inside a Maarmot EOS1 tent. I sleep in a fleece skull hat, long johns, Pategonia Nano Puff pullover and Smartwool socks. I am unable to keep warm in 32 degree temps here in central Pennsylvania with this system. I know I am a cold sleeper but shouldn’t this system keeep me warm at that temp AND BELOW? Marmot has agreed to EN test the bag for me. Big Agnes says I should be using an additional close cell foam pad. I am pretty well up on the current thinking on hydration, caloric intake before going to bed and urinating when neccessary to enable comfortable sleep at cold temps. Any thoughts, suggestions?

  3. Chris says:

    Glad you liked the chart. Now that the weather is turning colder, I can start testing my Exped mat in the weather it was meant for. Watch for an update this winter.

  4. Hendrik M says:

    Chris, an interesting chart. I’m thinking to get an Exped 9 for the Winter, its super heavy but it should keep me nice warm. Now off to read your initial review of it!

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