If you’re having a hard time sleeping at night because of excess heat and sweat, you might wonder if your sleeping pad is part of the problem.
An effective sleeping pad can make you feel too hot if you have excessive bedding. A sleeping pad is meant to insulate you from the ground, and if it’s working properly, your body heat gets trapped in combination with warm bedding. To adjust the temperature, you can remove bedding.
There’s a lot more to understand when it comes to the role your sleeping pad plays in how warm you get at night. Continue on and you’ll learn all about what that role is and how you can sleep cooler.
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Why Your Sleeping Pad Isn’t Keeping You Too Warm
If you find yourself feeling hot and sweaty at night, it might be easy to blame your sleeping pad. This is especially true if your sleeping pad is one that promises a higher R-value. However, more often than not, the sleeping pad itself isn’t really the cause of the problem.
Essentially, sleeping pads with a higher R-value are made to ensure that the coldness from the ground doesn’t cause you to freeze at night. It does this by creating an insulated barrier between you and the ground. Often air pockets are used to do this since still air isn’t very good at conducting heat. So while the sleeping pad itself doesn’t create heat, it does help you to retain your own body heat.
When paired with a solid sleeping bag, you’re likely to stay nice and cozy thanks to less heat being released into the air around you. However, this can become an issue if you’re getting too hot. Especially because the lack of airflow can leave you feeling super uncomfortable from your own sweat.
In this situation, it’s better to take a look at the airflow your sleeping situation offers rather than seeking out a new sleeping pad. While there are sleeping pad options you can try out that offer a lower R-value, you’re likely to get easier relief by changing up your sleeping bag, opening up tent windows, or finding other ways to get the air flowing around you.
How Your Sleeping Pad Can Make You Feel Too Warm
It definitely is easy to blame the sleeping pad for being too hot, especially if you just bought it and you use it with your existing sleeping bag setup. If you feel too hot all of the sudden–it must be the sleeping pad!
There is one true point though about this: What if you are sleeping directly on your sleeping pad? It’s possible that the material of the sleeping pad is not breathable.
This is often the case–many sleeping pads are plastic, which isn’t a breathable substance. A non-breathable surface combined with sweat means you’re going to feel that sweat a lot more.
A simple solution is to put a sheet or some other layer on your sleeping pad (this is often what people do with an air mattress) to help spread out that sweat so you don’t feel like you’re taking a bath in your own sweat.
Ways To Cool Down Your Sleeping Pad
Let’s find some solutions for keeping yourself and your sleeping pad cool in the warmer months.
Just make use of the following tips and you’ll be sleeping soundly and comfortably on your sleeping pad every night.
Consider Your Bedding
Typically, added heat in the night is more likely to be due to your bedding than the sleeping pad. A sleeping bag or the use of too many blankets in combination with your sleeping pad can keep heat trapped. As a result, you end up uncomfortably warm.
Instead, switch up your bedding when the warmer months roll around. Get a sleeping bag made for warmer temperatures, or opt for some light blankets that can easily be shed throughout the night. Not only will this keep less heat trapped, but it will also help to allow for more sweat evaporation. Overall, you’ll be much more comfortable.
You can also unzip your sleeping bag and sleep on top of it or under it (depending on the heat). This will allow you to uncover a foot or an arm to help cool your body down.
Think About The R-Value
The R-value on your sleeping pad can make a huge difference in whether it’s hot, cold, or just right when you’re trying to sleep at night. In short, this measurement determines how effective the sleeping pad is at neutralizing the temperature it receives from the ground.
Basically, a higher R-value means that the pad will conduct less heat. As a result, you can stay warmer on the cold ground. At the other end of the spectrum, a lower R-value can help you to stay cool by allowing the ground to conduct heat to you. If you’d like to learn more about this measurement and how it’s created, this video from Therm-a-Rest offers a great explanation.
So, if you’re sleeping in really hot weather, you may actually want to cool off from the ground…
The thing about R values on a sleeping pad–the higher the sleeping pad, the higher the cost.
Again, the sleeping pad doesn’t add heat, it just prevents you from losing heat–so you can use an insulated pad in the summer if you adjust your bedding.
Use A Fan
Whether you’re using a sleeping pad or not, getting the air around you moving makes an incredibly huge difference . The moving air encourages evaporative cooling (your sweat will actually do something), just as long as you aren’t wrapped up tightly in a sleeping bag.
If you are camping somewhere you have access to electricity, you may want to invest in an extension cord to get your fan where you need it. Otherwise, a battery-powered fan will have to do the trick. Either way, more airflow is sure to help you to get a good night’s rest.
I can’t tell you how much of a difference this makes. In my opinion, if you are sleeping anywhere the temperature is around 76 degrees (your tent will be 5 to 10 degrees warmer), you are going to want a fan. We have camped in the Texas summer heat several times and we would have melted without one.
If you’d like to see some other tips for camping with a fan as well as some good fan options, check out our post here.
Ventilate, Ventilate, Ventilate
Getting caught up in sweaty bedding is a quick way to become very uncomfortable, and between a non-breathing sleeping pad and a heavy sleeping bag, it’s definitely possible. These things make evaporation harder, meaning you end up covered in your own sweat.
Making sure that you have plenty of ventilation will aid in the evaporation efforts. To begin with, open your tent windows enough to allow air to flow through. You might also find that you need to open up your sleeping bag here and there to allow for more evaporation. It’s an imperfect solution, but you can pair it up with some other tips on this list to keep yourself cool and comfortable.
Because tents can have a tendency to absorb heat, making sure you have enough airflow is even more essential. To learn more about the heat difference inside a tent versus outside, take a look at our article on the subject here.
Wear Moisture-Wicking Clothing
While you might feel like you’re having a problem with heat, often the problem is just that sweat from your body just isn’t able to evaporate while you’re all bundled up. As a result, you feel hot, damp, and uncomfortable.
On top of creating more opportunities for evaporation, wearing clothing that is designed to wick up sweat can be a huge help. Most clothing will soak up sweat to some degree, but clothing that is specifically designed to wick up sweat can do so for a longer period of time before becoming damp and/or smelly.
If you sleep naked, if your bedding isn’t breathable you are going to feel more sweaty–otherwise, it’s not a bad way to cool down.
Camp Near Water
If you’re going to be camping during the warmer months, finding a place near water is useful in a number of ways. The most obvious reason is that you will always have the option to go for a dip if you need to cool off.
In addition, a nice breeze coming in from across the water can also feel a bit cooler than areas away from water. Pair this up with a bed placed on a cool section of ground and under some shade, and you shouldn’t have too many issues with getting too hot at night.
Try Adding A Cot
Sleeping pads are often designed to keep the coldness of the ground from creeping up and causing you to shiver all night. Because of this, they don’t tend to breathe very well. This can add to the feeling that the sleeping pad is what’s making you too hot.
As I’ve mentioned with the use of ventilation and creating airflow, adding some space between you and the ground can also help if you’re feeling too hot. Some may choose to do this by adding a cot into the mix. You can use a sleeping pad in combination with a cot to try and get the perfect temperature.
If you’ve never shopped for a cot before, you may not know which ones are the best. In our article on the best lightweight and compact cots, you’ll be able to find some really great options. Check it out here.
This is a step you may not need to take if you know you’re going somewhere with plenty of trees to keep you cool. However, bringing your own shade can still be useful for protecting you from falling debris or rain in those situations.
When it comes to heat, bringing a tarp, Pop-Up or another form of manmade shade can do wonders for keeping you cool. When shade isn’t available already, the ground may be warmer when you put your sleeping pad on it. As a result, you might end up too hot while you’re trying to sleep. On the other hand, creating a shaded area will allow the ground to cool off and give you a more comfortable sleep.
To see more information about putting a tarp above your tent, check out our article here.
Get Something To Cool Your Body Down
If getting the air moving around you isn’t quite enough to keep you cool, you may need to take more serious measures. The good news is, you still have plenty of options! Even something as simple as a cold, damp towel or bandana can help to ease your suffering.
In fact, we used this during one hot camping excursion–we used these cooling towels (Amazon). They definitely make a difference. You just need to get them wet and let evaporative cooling do its magic.
Neck and shoulder ice packs like the Arctic Flex (Amazon) can also be incredibly useful when you need to cool down quickly to get to sleep. Additionally, items like this one can help with either heating up or cooling down, depending on what you need. To cool yourself down, just leave it in the freezer (or ice chest) for a while and it’ll be good to go.