What is R-Value?
Understanding Your Sleeping Pad’s Warmth Rating
If you’re in the market for a new (or gently used) sleeping pad, you should probably take a few minutes to learn about R-Value.
R-Value is a measure of how well a material can resist heat flow. The higher the R-Value, the more effective a material is at insulating (i.e. keeping you warm by maintaining heat).
When it comes to sleeping pads, a higher R-Value will provide more insulation and help keep you warmer while you sleep.
If you’re planning to do any cool or cold-weather camping, you should pay special attention to your pad’s R-Value to ensure you stay comfy while you sleep!
How is R-Value measured?
In 2020, a coalition of major brands in the outdoor industry agreed to a new method for testing the R-Value of sleeping pads. This method (known as ASTM FF3340) helped bring much needed standards to the industry.
It is now simple and easy for consumers to accurately compare the insulating properties of various brands of sleeping pads!
What R-Value Do I Need?
It depends on what temperature weather you’ll be camping in.
Sleeping pad R-Values typically range between 1 (minimal insulation) and 7 (very high insulation).
In general, you can use the following guide:
Warm Weather Camping (Nightly low temp of 40° to 50°+): R-Value of 1 - 2
Cool Weather Camping (Nightly low temp of 32° to 40°): R-Value of 2 - 4
Cold Weather Camping (Nightly low temp of 20° to 32°): R-Value of 4 - 5.5
Extreme Weather Camping (Nightly low temp below 0°): R-Value of 5.5+
Remember to plan for the lowest temperature you'll experience each night! Of course, you’ll also want to be sure to have a sleeping bag with an appropriate warmth rating.
Keep in mind that some folks sleep warmer than others so you may need to do some experimenting to find your own perfect level of comfort!
What Sleeping Pad Should I Buy?
While R-Value is an important consideration (especially for cool & cold weather camping), it isn’t the only factor to keep in mind when choosing a sleeping pad.
Second Gear lists the R-Value and other important information for all new sleeping pads we carry on our website product pages!
Before purchasing a sleeping pad, you'll also want to think about:
- Weight (are you backpacking or car camping?)
- Size (taller folks may need a larger pad)
- Material (this is often personal preference)
- Design (designed for stomach, back or side sleepers?)