If you are reading this post, it means, you already have a sleeping pad that you have purchased for summer but you have decided to use the same summer-specific pad for winter or cold nights camping.
Now can you increase the r-value or in other words insulation of the sleeping pad? Yes, you can increase it and that’s what we are going to discuss here.
Ways to increase the R-value of sleeping pad?
If you’re planning to buy a sleeping pad then you can follow the advice discussed above or you can read our blog on the best sleeping pad for side sleepers, and a post on the most comfortable sleeping pads.
But, if you already have a sleeping pad and want some tips on increasing r-value or insulation then here are some tips for that:
- First note down the r-value you want (e.g. 8) and the r-value you currently have (e.g. 3). Just buy another sleeping pad of r-value 5 add pair it with the r-value 3. When you pair the sleeping pads their r-value is combined and acts as one with more insulation power.
- If you don’t wanna go for the first one, you should go for this! In this method, you’ll need a mylar blanket that will come around $5 to $20 and an athletic tape. Inside a tent or wherever you’re going to use a sleeping pad, put the mylar blanket on it starting from the bottom. With the athletic tape stick the blanket to the pad. What mylar blanket will do? It will reflect the heat back coming from your body back to you. Mylar blankets are one of my best ways to stay warm inside the tent without electricity.
- Instead of a mylar blanket, you can use Bivy 2.0 (amazon link). Here’s the process of using Bivy 2.0:
- First, put your sleeping pad on top of the flat bivy and outline your sleeping pad on that bivy
- Using a knife, cut the bivy by following the outline
- Now put the Bivy 2.0 on top of the sleeping pad and tape it using athletic tape. You can create a dot on your Bivy 2.0 if you want to avoid your sleeping bag sliding from the sleeping pad.
What is the r-value of sleeping pads?
The R-value (R means resistance) is several metrics that tell the user about the insulation power of any particular sleeping pad. Whether your sleeping pad is good at protecting you from cold grounds or not is nowadays determined by this r-value. The r-value of sleeping pads generally falls between the 1 to 7 range.
If the number goes high the more insulation it has to the ground and resist heat transfer and insulate you with more power. If you go for high R-values of sleeping pads, you should be well aware that the sleeping pad is going to be thicker than that of low r-value pads.
In the past year 2020, all major sleeping pad companies stand in support of the test procedure for r-value called ASTM F3340-18. What is this standard used for? ASTM stands for American Society for Testing Materials and in this F3340-18 is used to test the insulative property of sleeping pads.
This standard came into play so that a norm can be created where every sleeping pad provider needs to go under this test to build consumer transparency.
But still, not all manufacturers use this standard of testing. Some are testing with their own methods and some are just making talks about their pad’s r-value without even proving it. This really creates a difficulty for us to say that they can ever insulate us from the ground or not, and we do not know these manufactures will ever start to follow the ASTM F3340-18 r-value standard.
What R-value do I need?
Now as we know what is the r-value of a sleeping pad? and how it comes into existence? It is time to become aware of what r-value do we really need in our sleeping pads.
Long story short, r-value is not the only factor deciding your sleep as it depends on several other things like the comfort level of the pad, your sleeping bag, your body heat – are you a person who runs hot or cold? the sleep position, etc. Now regarding the saying, you should choose the r-value a little more or a little less according to your body. If it usually drops the temperature at night you should go for a little high R-value sleeping pad and vise versa.
Here I have given a general idea about the R-values you can go for according to the season you are in.
- Summer: 1 – 3
- 3 Seasons: 3-5
- Winter/n 4 Season: 5+
Do you really need a sleeping pad?
Sleeping pads are not made to provide only cushioned surfaces to sleep rather they insulate you from the cold ground. If you can manage to have a cushioned and insulated surface without a sleeping pad then you’ll not need it. But unless you find the way, when the winter comes, or on cold nights, you should have a good sleeping bag with you
How to Insulate your sleeping area without sleeping pad?
At a point, some people claims me that you can not insulate sleeping surface without using sleeping pad. But, sorry to say, they were wrong. There’s a way to insulate your sleeping surface without sleeping pad. How? Look, what you need is a hot surface to sleep, hmm? So what if we do something to create a warm ground where you would like to sleep happily without carrying some extra pounds.
Here I am going to share a natural way and a sleeping bag alternative. If you want to find out more ways to stay warm inside the tent, you can read it here.
Natural way: Have some medium size trash bags (you can also go for long ones) and fill them with the leaves (try finding some dry leaves, which you can easily if you’re camping in the wilderness).
Now flatten the filled trash bag a little bit by applying pressure through your hands and feet (3-4 jumps are enough depending on how much leaves you filled inside the trash bag). Now pair these trash bags under your sleeping bag as you do with your sleeping pad. Enjoy a cozy warm insulated sleep at the cheapest price 🙂
Man-made way: This can be a little headache, but if you can manage to do this, for sure you’ll get a good surface to sleep on. In this method, you need to do what school-time scouts do. Get some cardboard with you (That’s why it is a headache for a backpacker or hiker but pretty doable for a car camper).
Pair them by putting one above the other to get a nice thick surface that can insulate far better than a single slim carboard. However, this way is not what I recommend as it is not that practical for campers. But, you can cut and attach the carboards using door hinges so that they can become a foldable cardboard pad that a car camper can carry.