Whether you’re backpacking, hiking, or camping, a night of comfortable sleep is the most sought-after luxury after an eventful day. A well-rested sleeping position helps rejuvenate your energies and provides a stress-free lay.
Travelers and trekkers know the tiring challenges they face in the form of back aches and muscular strain resulting from their various, vigorous walks and hikes. In this situation, direct pressure on the thoracic (upper) or lumbar (lower) region of your spine by laying straight on the back may cause severe damage. For this reason, you should lay in a side-sleeping posture that gives necessary relief to your posterior column.
Ideally, your backpacking accessories must contain an ideal ground mat that could serve as the best sleeping pad for side sleepers. Relief comes when you adopt a sleeping style that supports your back and a sleeping mat that provides comfortable padding.
Why do you need a Sleeping Pad?
The most important thing to remember is the purpose of using a sleeping pad in outdoor settings. When you are away from the comforts of your bedroom without a proper, warm bed to lay down on, you must take extra care of your body.
Consuming your energy by movement and activity makes your body lose the necessary nutrients and fluids in the form of excessive perspiration. This is when you are required to keep your body more hydrated, warm, and relaxed.
Cold or harsh weather may also cause you to lose essential body heat. Also, if you lie down on the bare ground, you may cause more damage to your exhausted, aching body than you think. Interestingly, providing a soft padded surface to sleep is not the only aim behind a sleeping pad. Instead, one of the primary purposes of the sleeping pad is to preserve your body heat and provide thermal insulation effect as well.
Therefore, an inflated, padded layer of material ideally separating your body from the hard, cold ground surface is perhaps the most essential item while camping.
Types of Sleeping Pads:
Side sleepers are always keen on getting a pad that facilitates an easy transition from side to side during sleep. Therefore, an ideal pad would provide a stable surface for sleeping that is spacious enough to lay down comfortably and light enough to carry around easily.
As sleeping pads come in a variety of forms and construction styles, and with different materials used to ensure sufficient cushioning and back support, we have listed some of them below:
Closed-cell foam: A closed-cell foam pad is an ideal ultra-light sleeping mattress that prevents water absorption in case of accidental spillage. Working in tandem with your light packing, these pads are airy and comfortable to carry around.
Due to their compartmentalized, separate air pockets, the closed-cell foam pad is generally denser yet water-proof and puncture-proof. Most of the CCF these days use Polyethylene material that is insulating, light-weight, and flexible.
Open-cell Foam: These pads have interconnected pockets resulting in a spongier, less-dense effect. However, the open-cell foam pads are not water-proof and can be easily subjected to wear-and-tear. These mattresses can be soft and comfortable to sit on but may not be a durable choice for traveling outdoors on long trips. Open-cell foam material is often used in regular bedrooms as an indoor padding option.
Inflatable/Deflatable: An inflatable pad can be of two types, self-inflatable or manually inflatable. The self-inflation can be done by filling the cavities of the mattress with open-cell foam material which is airy and light-weight.
Manual inflation is normally required to be done by an outside source providing inflation pressure such as a blow pump. Most of these pads have cavities where air is trapped by different materials such as down feathers or synthetic paddings.
R-Value thermally insulated: Thermal resistance material being used in a sleeping pad is an ideal practice for outdoor resting requirements. In these sleeping pads, an insulating material layer is used in between the outer layers ensuring the preservation of body heat. Providing a two-way thermal effect, they also prevent coolness of the ground to seep through the mattress and harm the body.
R-value (1) is the heat coefficient that helps measure the quality and standard of the warmth insinuated by the thermally insulated pads and similar heat reflective materials. The better the performance is required, the higher the R-value should be.
Thermal pads are often used in cold wilderness areas and low-temperature mountainous camping sites where maintaining the body temperature is an absolute necessity for survival.
Characteristics of the best sleeping pad for side sleepers
There are several good options available in the market, but some features must be kept in mind while choosing the sleeping pad that would suit you the best. Some people use these pads in conjunction with a sleeping bag along with other complementary accessories such as air pillows, night wraps, wilderness repair kit, backpacking gear, and sleeping sheets, etc.
Make sure that the sleeping pad you choose should have the following characteristics:
Lightweight: Travelling light is a priority for most backpackers. Having to carry around a heavy backlog of a sleeping mattress while hiking up a mountain doesn’t conjure an ideal picture for aspirants. Side sleepers especially should you pay extra attention to relieve your back of unwanted burden. Therefore, the best sleeping pad for side sleepers should be lightweight and with a sufficient frame to keep your hands and legs off the ground.
Comfortable thickness: A sleeping pad with sufficient padding prevents unnecessary stress on your back. You can avoid the hard feel of the ground and can rest in a comfortable side sleeping position.
Weather-resistant: Excessive UV rays exposure in outdoor settings can cause quite a damage to your sleeping pad. As such, your travel pad must be weather-friendly to endure variations in summer, winter, and rainy weather conditions.
Just as a thermal reflective surface pad is important to protect the body in cold climatic conditions, similarly, a breathable, airy summer material is a go-to choice for hot weather. The not-so-slippery material of a sleeping pad with water-proof facility can help in rainy conditions, while an extra layer of inner insulation and partitioning of internal air pockets helps avoid heat convection.
Durable material: Most of the older sleeping pads were made of low-quality PVC material that was non-resistant to wear and tear. Durability of the constructive material of a sleeping pad ensures long-term usability along with trouble-free care and management.
Portability: For outdoor needs, your sleeping pad should be travel-friendly and easy to carry around. Most highly dense pads are difficult to be folded, rolled, or strapped. This kills the purpose of outdoor-friendliness while travelling. Easily manageable pads help ensure relaxed, stress-free outdoor activity.
When you sleep on your side, you must avoid crouching and remaining stuck to a single side for too long. Rolling around carefully from side-to-side helps disperse the pressure from one side to another in a conscious way without staining your back muscles.
Your legs must be in a comfortable posture too, and your hands and neck region must also be properly placed on the pad to prevent spasms and cramps. That said, experts recommend extra-care to be paid while choosing the best sleeping pad for side sleepers. To fulfill your resting requirements better, check your sleeping habits, style, and posture.