Patched, Repaired, and Prepared: Sleeping Pad Care

tourist inflatable mat with pump,texture of the material

Key Points

  • Patch and repair your sleeping pad with the right tools and knowledge.

  • Know the common issues with sleeping pads and how to address them.

  • Fixing pesky holes, broken valves, and seam damage is easy!

  • Get yourself a patch kit, Seam Grip, or Tenacious Tape to get the job done.

  • Follow six easy steps to patch and repair your sleeping pad.

You are the most incredible machine in the universe. A plethora of processes keep you alive and functioning, but you still need maintenance to prevent long-term problems. The same goes for the objects you use.

If you camp with your family, you might opt for an air mattress. If not, though, sleeping pads provide much-needed comfort and insulation while you camp. Minor holes and leaky valves are part of owning a sleeping pad, just like a few bumps are inevitable in life. Instead of raging against the dying light, prepare for such challenges by taking the time to patch and repair your sleeping pad.

In six easy steps, learn how to patch and repair your sleeping pad to ensure great sleep under the stars.

Common Issues With Sleeping Pads

Several issues may strike your sleeping pad. Some pop up before you even purchase the pad. Others strike in the middle of your camping trip. Understand what these common sleep pad problems are and how to prepare for them.


A mattress perfectly suited to your sleeping style might feel like a bed of nails to someone else. Everyone requires a mattress adapted to their needs — and the same goes for sleeping pads.

In the purchasing phase, look into different sleeping pads. They come in various materials and thickness levels. A leaky valve isn't your biggest problem if you aren't comfortable on the sleeping pad, even when it's in good condition.


R-value measures the insulation value of a sleeping pad. Less R-value means less insulation and a lighter sleeping pad.

If you're camping in the cold, get a sleeping pad with a high R-value. If you're camping in warmer weather, get a sleeping pad with a low R-value

A sleeping bag with an R-value ill-suited to your environment is an issue that requires preventative action. Purchase one appropriate for your camping needs.

Man blows up sleeping pad


Don't get a sleeping pad that's too big or small. Find one suited to your height and weight. If the sleeping pad is too narrow, short, wide, or long, then you're in for a restless night.


Get a sleeping pad made to withstand the abuse nature throws at it. For example, if you're mountain camping, get a sleeping pad hardy enough for higher elevation terrains.


Look for a durable sleeping pad, something built to last. Of course, how you treat the pad matters, but so does the material used to make it. High-quality materials are sure to withstand the wear and tear of several camping excursions. 


You need a Ph.D. in Economics to understand fiscal deflation. To grasp sleeping pad deflation, a smattering of common sense is sufficient.

Sleeping pads deflate for various reasons. You might be too heavy for it, store it improperly, or expose it to extreme weather.

The fix might be something you can handle, or you may need to purchase a new sleeping pad. One fixable problem within your skill level is patching a leak.

Your Sleeping Position

Do you sleep on your side? In that case, get a pad with thicker cushioning. Perhaps you sleep on your back. In that case, you don't need as much cushioning, as your weight is more spread out.

Your preferred sleeping position matters when determining what kind of pad to get. Some sleeping pads are better for certain positions than others. 

You Can and Should Patch a Sleeping Pad

A homemade patch job extends the lifespan of your sleeping pad, saves you money, and provides you with that wow-look-at-me-doing-things-for-myself feeling. It's a common repair requiring nothing but a patch kit and some knowledge.

Patch and repair a sleeping pad in these six easy steps.

1. Get Your Patch Kit

Patch kits include all the essentials: patches, adhesive, an abrasive pad, a brush, and instructions.

Carry one with you when camping to avoid sleeping on the ground and the resulting back pain.

There are alternatives and temporary fixes if you don't have a patch kit — more on that later — but you need to get one eventually.

2. Locate the Hole

Put on your deerstalker and channel your inner Sherlock Holmes. It's time to investigate the source of the problem.

Locate the hole where the leak is. Sometimes it's big enough to see. The real headache is when it's so tiny you can’t find it. If this happens, move your hand over the pad and feel for where the air leaks out.

If you're at home, fill up a tub with soapy water. Inflate the sleeping pad and place it in the water. Apply the water all over the sleeping pad and watch for bubbles.

A man camps in the winter time on a sleeping bag and pad

3. Prep the Pad

Clean the area around the hole. Get rid of any dirt, dust, or other unwanted foreign operatives. Use rubbing alcohol to clean it if you have some on hand.

4. Rough Up the Surface

Use the abrasive material to rough up the surface around the tear or hole. Go easy, though. You're not trying to take the sleeping pad's lunch money. Roughing up in this context just means gently scraping it.

Roughing up the surface creates a stronger bond between the patch and the pad.

5. Apply the Patch

Cut out a patch big enough to cover the hole. Put the adhesive on the spot. Don't add too much. A little goes a long way. Put the patch over the hole and wipe away any glue that oozes out of the edges. Apply pressure to the patch to ensure it's firmly attached.

6. Give It Time To Dry

At home, fully inflate the pad and leave it overnight. Check the next day to ensure the patch stays on. Test out your work by lying on it. If the pad holds, then pat yourself on the back.

If you're in the field, let the pad dry for as long as possible before sleeping on it.

Self-inflating mattresses demand the same process, though complications might arise. The internal material within the pad is more complex, and no amount of D.I.Y. on your end fixes it. In these cases, your best bet is to take it to a professional.

Alternatives to Standard Patch Kits

Expand your patching horizons by diving into the world of patch kit alternatives. Two of these substitutions are temporary fixes. The other two are long-lasting solutions.

Quick Fixes

Duct Tape

If you're in a pickle with nothing but duct tape, use it. It's a temporary but effective fix.

Cut out a piece of duct tape and apply it to the affected area. Apply more as it falls off or until you come to your senses and buy a patch kit.

Fabric and Glue

Cut out a piece of thick fabric and apply it with super glue. Use an old rag, a worn-out pair of jeans, or pieces of a washcloth.

Just like duct tape, this is a temporary fix.

Fixes That Last

Seam Grip

Seam Grip is flexible, waterproof, and adhesive. It repairs and patches seams, holes, or tears in sleeping pads and other gear like tents or backpacks.

Nylon and polyester work best with Seam Grip. It creates a durable bond poised to withstand the harshest environmental conditions. Even with its durability, it's still flexible and doesn't crack or peel.

Apply it with a brush or straight from the tube on the damaged area and watch the sticky magic happen.

Tenacious Tape

Tenacious Tape is another heavy hitter. Unlike Seam Grip, which is liquid, Tenacious Tape is, well, tape. It boasts the same properties as Seam Grip while providing adhesion that doesn't stick to your fingers.

Tenacious Tape works on nylon, vinyl, and polyester.

Apply it over the leak and peel off the top part. It's easy to apply no matter where you are, giving you the ability to improve your gear's performance, which improves your performance.

Basic sleeping pad overview

Best Sleeping Pad Patch Kits

Sticking with a standard sleeping pad patch kit is a good choice. These bundles provide everything you need to do the job quickly and cheaply.

Many brands offer patch kits, but few deserve the mantle of "Best Patch Kit." Here are those few.

Therm-a-Rest's Instant Field Repair Kit

Therm-a-Rest wants you to use their Instant Field Repair Kit on their sleeping pads, but this kit works on different brands too.

It comes with adhesive dots, patches, alcohol wipes, and instructions. The dots are clear, giving them a chameleon-like quality that makes them unnoticeable once applied.

It's a cheap and effective tool to bring on your next camping adventure.

Klymit's Sleeping Pad Patch Kit

Klymit's Sleeping Pad Patch Kit contains two patches. Whip out some scissors and cut out a chunk that fits the damaged area.

Using this kit is difficult if you don't have scissors. A knife works too, but using one makes cutting out the right size harder.

The glue bottle is small, making it easy to carry — and easy to lose. Ensure you keep it tucked away where it's easy to find.

For the price, Klymit's kit gets the job done.

Gear Aid's Seam Grip W.P. Field Repair Kit

Gear Aid's Seam Grip W.P. Field Repair Kit offers a practical and inexpensive means to repair your outdoor gear.

It has waterproof sealant and two peel-and-stick patches perfect for any size tear or hole. The sealant is strong, able to withstand anything you throw at it, and it bonds with most materials in sleeping pads, tents, and canvases.

This kit is versatile, cheap, and durable. It's a quality product for any camper on the go.

Fixing a Leaky Sleeping Pad Valve

Sometimes, the culprit is not the pad but the valve used to fill it with air. This requires a different solution than slapping on a patch.

Remove the Broken Valve

To remove the broken valve, you need some pliers. Open the broken valve all the way. Take the pliers and grab the base of the valve cap. Hold the sleeping pad and start finessing the valve out of its hole. Be gentle. You don't want to inflict more damage.

Get Your New Valve

Most retailers selling sleeping pads also have valve repair kits. Purchase one from your retailer of choice. Clean the area around the hole before inserting the new valve.

Woman wakes up on mountain side in sleeping bag and on pad

Insert the New Valve

Apply a layer of adhesive around the hole. Twist and push the new valve into place. Don't push it too far past the base. Ensure you put the right side into the pad. Pushing in and gluing the end you need to blow air into is a major facepalm and guarantees you'll be shopping for a new valve repair kit. Wipe away extra adhesive.

Let It Dry

Don't hop right into bed after fixing a leaky valve. Let the adhesive dry for at least three hours. Follow up by inflating it and leaving it for 8 to 12 hours to see if the glue holds.

Fixing Damage to Sleeping Bag Seams

Sleeping pad seams experience the same damage as any other part of the pad. If the seams start coming apart, or if there's a small tear or hole along the seam, jump into action and take care of it before it gets worse.

Identify where the seam damage is. Once located, clean around the damaged area with soap and water. Get rid of any dirt or debris that might interfere. Let the area dry before proceeding.

Apply seam sealer. The aforementioned Seam Grip works wonders. Apply a thin, even amount over the damage and let it dry.

If the damage extends beyond something minor, bust out the patch kit. Follow the exact patching instructions as with other parts of the sleeping pad.

Be sure to give it time before testing out your seam repair success.

Professional Sleeping Pad Patching and Repairing Services

Many outdoor retailers offer services for your sleeping pad. They patch holes, replace valves, and restore inflation. Some retailers even give your sleeping bag a good washing. It's like a spa day for your sleeping pad.

R.E.I. offers a solid array of sleeping pad services. Some locations don't, so check in advance. Call ahead to your local R.E.I. and describe your issues. They're glad to help. If you're on the shy side, no worries. Their website has the information you need.

Inflatable sleeping pad and integrated pillow

Sleeping Pad Protection Tips

The best offense is a good defense. Ensuring your sleeping pad never gets damaged is much easier than replacing valves, applying patches, and fixing seams.

Here are some tips to protect your sleeping pad.

Protect It From Punctures

Mother Nature contains all sorts of pokey objects. That's just the nature of Nature. Rocks, sticks, and even your camping gear might rip a hole in your sleeping pad. You're stuck sleeping on the cold, hard ground in such tragedies. Your back won't be happy about that. 

When not using your sleeping pad, keep it in a storage case. Many sleeping pads come with a special bag to store them. If yours doesn't, any durable bag works fine.

When using the pad, camp in a relatively flat, smooth area. No, there isn't soft carpet when camping, but some places are better than others. A grassy meadow beats a jagged mountainside any day. Put a ground cloth or blanket underneath your pad to add more protection.

Don't Overinflate It

Follow the manufacturer's instructions for the proper inflation level. Adding too much air into the pad causes it to burst. Not putting in enough air is a recipe for an uncomfortable, sleepless night. Channel your inner Goldilocks and inflate your sleeping bag until it's just right.

Clean It After Each Trip

After each camping trip, give your pad a good scrub down. Use mild soap and warm water. Wash off the dirt and other debris, and scrub every part from top to bottom on both sides. Not washing your sleeping pad leads to bacteria buildup, putting you at risk for illness. 

Air it out every morning when camping. Set your sleeping bag and pad somewhere in the sun while you sip some coffee and soak in the morning rays.

Sleeping pad in a tent under a sleeping bag

Store It in a Sack

Once rolled up, store your sleeping pad in a sack. Usually, the manufacturer provides one when you purchase the sleeping pad. Manufacturers design these sacks to make the pad even more compact. Put the rolled-up pad into the pack, and compress the bag so there's no extra air. It's like vacuum sealing clothes to make more room in your suitcase. 

Check for Damage Daily When Camping

Check your sleeping pad every day when camping. Inflate it and look for signs of air loss. If there is damage, patch it up right away.

Do this every morning. Mornings are typically when most people are bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, so you're able to spot and handle more problems. After a long day camping, the last thing you want is to lay down on a deflated, damaged air mattress.

Pack It Last

Only a rookie grocery-getter puts eggs on the bottom of the bag. Same with a sleeping pad. 

The most fragile items go last. When packing a backpack for camping, always put the durable things at the bottom: stoves, cooking gear, and other tough essentials. Placing the sleeping pad on top ensures it doesn't get crushed or damaged.

Strap It Outside the Backpack

Your backpack might be brimming with gear, thus making it impossible to stuff a pad in there too. Rest assured: There's still space for it. 

Many packs have straps specifically made to secure sleeping pads outside the pack. If yours does, do so to save space inside your backpack. If yours doesn't, it might fit in a water bottle holder on the side of your back or tie it to the straps that keep your backpack closed. If nothing else works, put your sleeping pad into a waterproof bag and connect it to the outside of your pack.

With a complete understanding of maintenance, cleaning, and packing, it's time to take a look at the best sleeping pads on the market.

Read Reviews

Look to people who have used the products. Read five-star, one-star, and three-star reviews to get a well-rounded idea of the pros and cons of the product you're looking to buy. Reading reviews is an essential step in buying a sleeping pad. Doing so helps you better understand the product's performance and determine whether it fits your needs. 

Reviews highlight potential issues or defects that may not be obvious from product descriptions or images. For example, reviewers indicate if a pad leaks air or if the valve is prone to breaking. By taking the time to read reviews, you avoid purchasing a pad with defects or issues that negatively impact your camping experience. Companies don't want to highlight their product flaws, so go to trusted third-party sources for a fair review.

Every good sleeping pad needs a sleeping bag; they go together like yin and yang. As with a sleeping bag, there's a tried-and-true method of cleaning, storing, and packing your sleeping pad.

Sleeping Better Under the Stars

The Camping Logbook contains the official rules: "Stare at the fire. Listen to the birds. Jump in the lake. Read. Take a nap. Relax. Watch the sunset. Cook over the fire. Breathe the fresh air. Life is an adventure, write it down and treasure the memory forever!"

Good luck doing any of these things if your gear doesn't work. Another rule to add to the list, perhaps the most important, is to take care of your stuff. Proper maintenance ensures your gear serves its purpose instead of hindering you. Pair your sleeping pad with a camping pillow to take your rest to the next level.

Like anything, take care of your sleeping pad. If it's patched and repaired, you're prepared to have a fantastic camping trip.

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