December 09, 2021 2 min read

When it comes to sleeping on the ground or in the back of a truck bed, the comfort levels can fluctuate with your sleeping pad or camping mattress you choose. As well as the portability and weight, the R-value of your sleeping pad should be as equally important in your trip planning.

What is R-value? R-value can easily inform you how well insulated your sleeping pad is and how warm you will sleep. The complex definition of R-value is; the temperature difference per unit of heat flux needed to sustain one unit of heat flux between the warmer surface and colder surface of a barrier under steady-state conditions.  

To bring this definition into simpler terms, R-value is a measurement that tells you how well a type of insulation can keep heat from leaving or entering a material. This is a common measurement to understand the quality and functionality in insulation used in an assortment of products including building materials, apparel, sleeping pads and camping mattresses. In our world of camping, R-value is very important because depending on the climate you plan to sleep in would determine what type of sleeping pad you should bring.


The HEST Sleep Systemwas recently featured in Popular Mechanics “The Best Self-Inflating Mattresses for Camping” and was highlighted for the high R-value at 11.8. With 7 inches of thickness, the Sleep System offers the ultimate insulation from the ground. At 11.8, this is one of the highest R-value portable camping mattresses on the market. The higher the R-value of a sleeping pad, the greater it will resist heat transfer. R-values for sleeping pads usually range from around 1 to 7, while thicker memory foam mattresses can creep into the double digits. When purchasing a new sleeping pad or camping mattress you have a wide R-value range of options between air inflated, closed cell foam or self inflated.  

Air inflated sleeping pads - These sleeping pads are fully inflatable pads. You either blow it up with a pump or mouth. They are the lowest R-value pads on the market. Perfect for backpacking because of their portability but coldest due to the low R-value. 

Closed-cell foam sleeping pads - Foam pads that are lightweight and typically have a higher R-value (since there’s no air in the pad). Great for those that like to sleep on harder surfaces and don’t mind feeling a little bit of the ground beneath them. 

Self Inflated foam sleeping pad - These sleeping pads integrate foam and air to create a very comfortable sleep. These are the highest r-value and warmest sleeping pads. Typically due the transferable size of these pads they are primarily used for car camping or glamping.

At the end of the day, R-value only comes into the equation when you finalize the climate you plan to camp in. If you are headed to the desert, R-value shouldn’t be a priority over sleep comfort and portability. But for those that plan to sleep in colder temperatures, R-value can make or break how well you sleep.