A backpacking or camping sleeping pad’s R-value measures its resistance to heat loss to the ground when you lie on it at night. Pads with higher R-values do this more effectively than pads with lower R-values. R-value isn’t a measure of warmth per se, but of a pad’s ability to prevent the loss of the warmth that your body generates. It’s just like the R-value used to rate home insulation.

Sleeping Pad R-Values and Air Temperature in Degrees

What’s the correlation between air temperature and sleeping pad R-values? When do you need a pad with a higher R-value? This table is based on Exped’s recommendations in Fahrenheit and Celsius degrees.

Air Temperature (F): 50 43 36 29 22 15 8 0 -7 -14 -21 -30
Minimum R-Value 1 1.5 2 2.5 3 3.5 4 4.5 5 5.5 6 6.5
Air Temperature (C): 10 6 2 -2 -6 -9 -13 -18 -22 -26 -30 -34
Minimum R-Value 1 1.5 2 2.5 3 3.5 4 4.5 5 5.5 6 6.5

In addition:

  • R-values are additive, so you can combine two pads to increase your warmth level.
  • Women need higher R-values pads because they have lower body mass than men. An additional R-value of 1 is usually a good hedge for women and other cold sleepers

Sleeping Pad R-Value Comparison

The following table provides a side-by-side comparison of the  ASTM F3340-18 rated 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 remains the same if you select a longer, shorter, or wider variation of the pad.

Key: Air – Air Mattress, SI – Self Inflating, Foam – Closed Cell Foam

Sleeping Pad R-Value Standard

In 2020, the outdoor industry rolled out an international and industry-standard R-value test procedure called ASTM F3340-18. This means you can compare the R-values of different sleeping pads made by different manufacturers and know that they’re all using the same test procedure to measure the R-values of their pads. That’s a huge benefit for consumers and will eventually have the same impact that the adoption of standardized sleeping pad temperature ratings had for comparing sleeping bags from different companies.

The companies that have adopted the new R-value sleeping pad standard (ASTM F3340-18) and retested all of their current sleeping pads include:

  • Therm-a-Rest
  • NEMO
  • REI
  • Exped
  • Sea-to-Summit
  • Big Agnes
  • Klymit

What’s New in Sleeping Pads in 2022?

  • Klymit finally got around to testing most of their sleeping pads using the new ASTM 3340-18 sleeping pad R-value standard. Their pads’ new R-values are generally much lower than the previous rating they had published before the standard was adopted.
  • Exped got rid of a lot of their older sleeping pads. They still have a huge product line, but it’s a little more focused.
  • Sea-to-Summit also added a few new pads and increased the number of sizes they offer. They still offer the thickest 4″ air pads suitable for lightweight backpacking.

Status of Industry Adoption

The adoption of the new R-Value standard was driven by REI, which requires that the sleeping pads listed for sale on its main website have an ASTM F3340-18 R-Value rating.

Many sleeping pad companies have still not adopted the new ASTM F3340-18 sleeping pad R-Value standard and it’s not clear that they ever will. In fact, many manufacturers don’t test their pads at all, but “estimate” the R-values of their sleeping mats and pads. In the absence of a standard definition and test procedure,  it’s hard to tell if their estimates are accurate or whether they’re comparable to those produced by the standard ASTM F3340-18 R-value testing protocol.

See also:

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