Sleeping Pad R-Values Explained

Choosing a sleeping pad that perfectly suits your needs can be a real challenge. Sleeping pads are not universal and can come in a wide range of quality and purposes.

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One of the most common uses of a sleeping pad (besides the enhanced comfort) is to stay insulated during a night's sleep. Insulation is very important for any camper planning to spend the night outside due to the cold ground’s tendency to leech body heat without the proper gear. Sleeping pads can do a great job at keeping you warm, but knowing how to identify what level of insulation can be confusing. That's where the R-value comes in.

The R-value Scale

R-values are a measure of thermal resistance, or more specifically, the ability to resist heat flow through itself, which protects you from heat loss. Recently, there have been efforts to create a uniform test that producers can use to ensure that consumers are able to trust the ratings. Here at Pelican Outdoor, we tested our Self-inflating Sleeping Pad using the ASTM F3340-18 test (which is explained over on the ASTM website).

Most sleeping pads will have an R-value within the range of 1.0 - 5.5, with higher numbers equating to a greater insulation rating. While the scale appears rather small, the level of insulation scales quickly. For example, an R-value of 3 is twice as temperature protective as an R-value of 2.

R-value Temperature Size Chart

We at Pelican Outdoor have found that the chart above provides a good reference for how the R-value scale translates into real world applications, but is by no means the strict rule. Those of us who are naturally cold sleepers might want to get a more insulated sleeping pad to pair with a nice thick blanket, such as our Woobie Blanket, to ensure that they are more comfortable during the night. 

Keep in mind that you can also use a sleeping pad with an R-value of 4.5 in moderate climates. You will not risk overheating with a well insulated sleeping pad and you will always have the option to camp in colder climates.

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Our sleeping pad has an R-value of 5.2, meaning that our product is able to withstand freezing temperatures while providing other features such as a comforting headrest, side pillows, and a memory foam mattress. We have designed our sleeping pad with comfort and insulation as priorities, while also making it portable and easy to carry with the help of its carry pouch and shoulder strap.

When it comes to choosing the right sleeping pad for you, take your time and consider the options. The R-value system needs to be top of mind to make sure that you are prioritizing your safety and comfort during all of your endeavors. Your adventure awaits!

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