Camping can be uncomfortable if you are not properly prepared. Being comfortable is necessary so you can get a good night’s sleep and be ready for the day ahead. Having all of the right equipment is important, even when car camping. Sleeping pads are always a good idea for a little extra cushion and for insulation, but where to put the darn thing?
One of the most annoying parts about a sleeping pad is that when you are in your mummy sleeping bag, somehow, even though you don’t have a ton of room to move around (usually) in your tent, the pad magically migrates out from under you.
Do I put a sleeping pad inside a sleeping bag? Sleeping pads are made to lay underneath a sleeping bag or body. However, a sleeping pad can be placed inside a sleeping bag to keep the sleeping pad underneath your body. But the sleeping bag must be large enough to accommodate it, and you also lose some of the insulation properties of the sleeping pad.
That being said, what is the right thing to do? That’s where I come in, to help you decide. Knowing why you should or shouldn’t consider placing a sleeping pad inside your sleeping bag will save you time, hassle and possible sleep discomfort.
Most users will claim inflatable sleeping pads are way more comfortable than foam pads and we will discuss this idea in more detail. We will also go over the reasons why you should (or shouldn’t) use a sleeping pad inside a sleeping bag.
Reasons for Putting Your Sleeping Pad inside your Sleeping Bag
- Because sleeping pads tend to migrate while you sleep on them, you can put the sleeping pad inside your sleeping bag to keep the sleeping pad from moving around.
- Sleeping pads, especially foam pads, tend to scrunch up at the ends, and you’ll find yourself with only the tent floor between you and the ground. (#cold) If you put the pad inside the sleeping bag, the pad will move right along with your bag and you won’t have any more cold spots. (#warmAndCozy)
- Sleeping pads can be especially difficult to work with while hammocking. Putting your sleeping pad in your sleeping bag while in a hammock makes it much simpler to stay on top of your pad.
Reasons for Not Putting You’re Sleeping Pad inside Your Sleeping Bag
- Many popular sleeping pads made by manufacturers such as Exped and Big Agnes (Exped Megamat on Amazon is one example) are made to be extremely comfortable, and thus are very wide. Because of this, there’s a good chance your sleeping pad won’t fit inside your sleeping bag.
- One of the primary purposes of a sleeping pad is to insulate you from the ground. Sleeping bags are not super good at insulating you from the ground, and the bottom of the bag will compress. Putting your sleeping pad inside your sleeping bag means that the sleeping pad is no longer insulating the bottom of your sleeping bag, which could mean your bag will not stay as warm.
From quickly experimenting, my sleeping pad did not fit well inside the sleeping bag. But, it was actually promising. The sleeping pad was too long, and so had to be rolled up at the head, which could actually work very well as neck support or as a pillow if you do it right.
Since the mummy bag is tapered, the sleeping pad didn’t get down to the toes, which isn’t a huge deal since it’s really your trunk that needs most of the insulation. If you wanted to get serious about it, you could cut a sleeping pad to fit your sleeping bag so it could fit perfectly.
What Type of Sleeping Pad Works Best For Putting In Your Sleeping Bag?
With all of the above information, let’s now look at which sleeping pad works best for putting inside your sleeping bag.
As mentioned previously, you probably don’t want a pad that gets rigid after inflating. Some models do this but luckily the manufacturing of sleeping pads is improving year after year, to help provide campers of all types with the best pad for comfort.
Make sure the pad contours on the top and bottom to the shape of your sleeping bag as much as possible. Having a rounded or tapered pad will help it fit much easier than if the ends are squared.
In fact, after doing some research, I found a sleeping pad that will work amazingly both inside or outside your sleeping bag:
OutdoorsmanLab Sleeping Pad
The Outdoorsman Sleeping Pad (check it out on Amazon) is designed with multiple connected air chambers, which is a HUGE advantage.
With this design, the Outdoorsman sleeping pad is quick to blow up–you don’t have to spend 10 minutes blowing the pad up, but in fact, you can inflate it in less than a minute.
This gives the pad some additional flexibility, such as if you are trying to place the sleeping pad inside your sleeping bag, and you have to curve the edges to get the pad to fit.
Additionally, the sleeping pad has rounded edges, making it easier to fit into your sleeping bag if you want to try that out.
Some other advantages of this pad is that it actually has some insulation which will help keep you warm as well.
TL;DR If you’re looking for an affordable sleeping pad that will be flexible enough to use outside or inside a sleeping bag that will be comfortable, check out the OutdoorsmanLab sleeping pad.
Does It Make a Difference Whether I’m in a Hammock or in a Tent?
Lastly, if you feel you want to set up a tent or hammock while camping, what are the differences when using a sleeping pad?
Sleeping Pads In a Tent
When you’re in a tent, whatever is in contact with the ground will be your insulator between you and the cold. Sleeping bags make poor insulation because when compressed, it loses most of its insulation value.
Many sleeping pads are designed to be compressed and still provide insulation, that’s why a sleeping pad can make a tremendous difference in keeping you warm. Cheaper sleeping pads (like the blue foam ones) do offer some cushion for comfort, but their most valuable purpose is to be an insulating layer.
Air is a poor heat insulator, which is why many camping sleeping pads (such as the OutdoorsmanLab sleeping pad I talk about above) are filled with air so that the heat from your body doesn’t get sucked into the ground.
If you put your sleeping pad in your sleeping bag when you’re in a tent, then the sleeping bag is being compressed and losing its insulation, so the cold is going to come into your sleeping bag. The pad is still going to offer insulation though, and will keep you warm.
Sleeping Pads On a Hammock
Sleeping pads, or another form of insulation (like underquilts–see my post for more information about underquilts), are crucial for sleeping in a hammock and staying warm. Under 65 degrees Fahrenheit, you definitely want to think about some sort of insulation system if you are planning to sleep in a hammock, because a gust of wind can scoop up under your hammock and steal all your body heat. (rude! right?)
From personal experience, putting a sleeping pad inside a hammock is a bit of an ordeal. You have to carefully place it so it is not rolled or scrunched, and get into the hammock without disturbing the positioning of the hammock. If your pad fits, you can definitely try putting your sleeping pad in your hammock to make this process easier!
How to Increase Sleeping Bag Warmth
I thought I should quickly touch on other ways besides using a sleeping pad to increase warmth in your sleeping bag when camping just in case that is why you are considering putting a sleeping pad in your bag.
- Use a sleeping bag thermal liner. They are a great way to increase the warmth in the bag as well as keep the bag cleaner and make it last longer.
- Try wearing thermal underwear. Instead of adding other pieces of equipment to the mix, why not just wear your warmest undies!
- Heating packs for hands or feet are a great way to add warmth. Place one at your feet for hours of warmth. Depending on the brand, you might have to wrap it with a light cloth if you choose not to wear socks, so you don’t feel like you’re burning your feet!
I am sure there are other ways, but these three are a good start. Hopefully, you will find these suggestions helpful.
Whether you use a sleeping pad inside your sleeping bag or not, I have provided you with important information to consider, which will hopefully help with your decision making.
Regardless of which way you go, you cannot argue that owning a sleeping pad is a good idea, whether it is a foam or inflatable pad. There are so many options these days, I am sure you will easily find one to best suit your individual needs.