The Best Way to Store & Care for a Sleeping Pad

Key Points

  • There are several steps to properly care for and store your sleeping pad.

  • Properly packing a sleeping pad is an art; do it the right way to have the best camping experience.

  • Many companies sell sleeping pads; follow the guidelines to find the right one for you.

  • Taking care of a sleeping bag requires similar but slightly different steps.

You need to sleep — especially when you are neck-deep in the great outdoors. In the wilderness, days are long and arduous, and nights are short and unrestful, so you need to catch as many Zs as possible. What’s the best way to do that? Well, if you're camping with your family, consider an air mattress. If not, get yourself a sleeping pad and sleeping bag. Like any outdoor equipment, these items need a little tender loving care.

When packing for camping, be as efficient as possible. Just stuffing your sleeping bag and pad into your bag almost guarantees little space for anything else — and there's a lot more to bring! Fortunately, there is a proper way to store these items. Once your camping adventure comes to an end, it's essential to clean all your camping gear. Chances are you did not shower when camping, a totally normal part of the experience, so your equipment likely racked up some severe stank — especially the gear you use to sleep. This means you have to wash your sleeping pad and bag. Stay tuned for more info on how to store and care for a sleeping pad.

The Must-Dos When Taking Care of Your Sleeping Pad

It's not fun buying new equipment every year. Spending time outside amongst the wind and the willows never disappoints, but it strikes a serious blow to your finances if you're not careful. The best way to avoid that? Take care of your equipment!

Lots of gear is easy to manage. A multi-tool might require a quick spit shine in the field or a fine brush to get the dirt out of the cracks and crevices. Other gear, such as a sleeping pad, requires more attention. 

Treat your sleeping pad like a precious child to ensure it lasts for the many camping trips to come. 

Protect It From Punctures

Mother Nature is filled with things that poke. Rocks, sticks, and even your own camping gear frequently tear holes in your sleeping pad. Then you're stuck sleeping on the ground. Your back won't be happy about that. 

When not using it, keep it in a storage case. Many sleeping pads come with a special bag of some kind to store them. If yours doesn't, a simple bag works fine. When using the pad, camp in a relatively flat, smooth area. No, there isn't linoleum flooring when camping, but some places are better to pick than others. A grassy meadow beats a jagged mountainside any day. Put a ground cloth or blanket underneath your pad to add more protection.

Check for Damage Daily When Camping

Regularly check for leaks by inflating your sleeping pad and checking for any noticeable air loss. If you find a leak, patch it up as soon as possible. Look in the morning, when you first wake up. Finding a leak after a long day hiking, right before you hit the hay for the night, is the worst time to find a puncture. You're tired, possibly grumpy, and probably aren't in the right headspace to fix any damage. 

Do yourself a favor: Always check in the morning.

Make Necessary Repairs

Sometimes, the universe conspires against you. Despite your best efforts, something punctures your sleeping pad. There are some damages beyond repair. Say a branch catches your pad and rips a hole from end to end. That pad is gonzo. Most often, the damage is small leaks, punctures, rips, or tears — problems that are quick fixes.

To fix these issues, you need rubbing alcohol, a patch such as tenacious tape or sleeping patches, adhesive, and scissors. Making the repairs is straightforward, and it's essential to know how to do so before going camping:

  1. Identify the damage. Inspect your sleeping pad for any holes, tears, or punctures. Mark the location of the damage with a pen or marker.

  2. Clean the area. Clean the area around the damage with mild soap and warm water. Allow the area to dry completely before proceeding with the repair.

  3. Use a patch kit and the recommended adhesive. Most sleeping pads come with a patch kit or have a recommended adhesive to repair the damage. Follow the instructions on the patch kit or glue to repair the hole.

  4. Give the adhesive time to dry. Allow the adhesive to dry completely before using the pad again — this takes several hours or overnight, depending on the adhesive used.

  5. Test the repair to see if it lasts. After the adhesive has dried, inflate the pad and check it. If the repair is successful, your pad is ready for your next camping trip.

  6. Know when to throw in the towel. Some damage is beyond fixing. If that's the case with your sleeping pad, get a new one. 

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.

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 and sickness. 

Store It Properly

Before putting it away, the pad must be completely dry. Mold thrives on moisture. Even with the smallest amount of water, your sleeping pad quickly develops a mold colony. 

Proper cleaning and storage are vital for the health and maintenance of your sleeping pad. It's of such great importance that even more details are in order to ensure you’re doing it correctly.

The Proper Way to Wash, Dry, and Store Your Sleeping Pad

When washing a sleeping pad, check the manufacturer's instructions, as different sleeping pads may require different cleaning methods. Most sleeping pads need nothing more than mild soap and warm water. Just be sure to avoid using harsh chemicals or bleach. Once you've given it a good scrub down, rinse it well and let it air dry completely before storing it. Lay it in the sun and let that great fiery orb in the sky do all the work. Cleaning a sleeping pad may not be the most exciting task, but it's worth the effort to ensure a comfortable and hygienic night's sleep on your next camping trip.

If you're in a hurry, use a towel to pat it down and absorb any excess moisture. 

Once it's clean and dry, store your sleeping pad in a cool, dry place. Avoid storing it in direct sunlight or damp, humid areas, as this ruins the material.

Maintenance and cleanup are not the part you look forward to when camping. Nobody does. It's a strange individual who hosts a dinner party and is excited to do the dishes. Yet it's necessary. With that necessity out of the way, now comes the fun part: Packing your sleeping pad for your next outdoor adventure.

Tips to Properly Pack a Sleeping Pad

It comes down to two things: the size of your backpack and the type of sleeping pad you have. These two factors determine the best way to pack your sleeping pad. There are some general guidelines, though. Follow them, and your sleeping pad won't be a hassle when you're out in the woods.

Roll It Up

If you have an inflatable pad, open the valve so the air releases. Rolling the pad does two things. One, it pushes out any stubborn air within. Two, it makes the pad much easier to lug around.


Store It in a Sack

Once rolled up, stuff it into 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. 

Consider the Size and Weight

If you're going on a quick weekend in the woods and staying in one campsite, then go ahead and bring a bulky and comfortable sleeping pad. It's well worth it. If you're doing a multi-day trek where you're always on the move, consider something lighter. With the piles of gear such a venture requires, you probably want a sleeping pad that is light and compact. Remember: Anything you pack in, you need to pack out. Do yourself a favor and air on the side of caution by choosing a lightweight pad.

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 items at the bottom: stoves, cooking gear, etc. 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: You will still be able to bring 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 the maintenance and cleaning process and how to pack them, it's time to take a look at the best sleeping pads on the market.

Sleeping Pad Brands

Always consider your needs and budget when buying a sleeping pad. A whole legion of brands makes sleeping pads for outdoor use; no doubt one of them is perfect for you. 


A popular brand known for its lightweight and compact design, Thermarest makes their sleeping pads with a unique Triangular Core Matrix technology that provides a comfortable and stable sleeping surface while keeping the pad light. 


Exped is another reputable brand known for durability and comfort. Their products contain high-density foam that provides excellent insulation and support. It also features a non-slip surface that keeps the pad in place during the night and a built-in pump for easy inflation. 

Sea to Summit

The Sea to Summit sleeping pad is a lightweight and compact option. They use durable, multi-layer, die-cut foam and an Air Sprung Cell design that provides excellent comfort and support while keeping the pad lightweight. Their website features a quiz to help you determine what kind of sleeping pad you need.


This company uses a unique, integrated, and intuitive pump system that allows for easy inflation and deflation. It also features a vertical baffle design that provides excellent comfort and support. They make their products suitable for camping all year except in the depths of winter. 

Before choosing a brand, consider a few factors that ensure you sleep like a baby, even when camping.

How to Choose the Perfect Sleeping Bag

Sleeping is an activity that varies from person to person. Think about the following when deciding the best sleeping pad for your needs:

Your Sleeping Position

You might 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. 

Consider How Much Insulation You Need

R-value is a system used to rate the insulation properties of your sleeping pad. The lower the R-value, the less insulation your pad has. If you want to spike out in the summer, a lower R-value is best, say 1 to 3. If you're going to Alaska in January, best get a sleeping pad with an R-value of 5 or more — maybe even in the double digits if the weather report shows some frigid weather where you're going. 

Type of Camping You Are Doing 

People car camping may want to maximize comfort. An easy-to-pack pad is of little concern to them. In their case, they want a thicker, heavier pad since they won't be moving it around much. On the other hand, people living out of their backpacks for a week probably want something light and easy to carry.


Ask Yourself What Kind of Pad You Want

Several types of sleeping pads are available, including self-inflating and closed-cell foam. Each has its advantages and disadvantages.

Self-inflating pads are easy to use and provide good insulation, but they are heavy and bulky. Air pads are lightweight and compact but require manual inflation and may not provide as much insulation. Foam pads are lightweight and inexpensive but offer little insulation. Closed-cell foam pads are affordable, durable, and provide sound insulation, but they may be less comfortable. Inflatable pads with an integrated pump are convenient but heavy, bulky, and more expensive than other types.

Buy Something That Lasts

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. 

Read Reviews

Look to people who have used these 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 the process of buying a sleeping pad. Doing so helps you better understand the product's performance and determine whether it fits your needs. 

For example, reviews provide information on the pad's thickness and firmness, affecting how comfortable it is to sleep on. They also provide insight into how well the pad insulates, which is important for staying warm in colder temperatures. Reviews also provide information on how easy the pad is to inflate, deflate, and pack up, affecting its overall convenience and portability.

Additionally, reviews highlight any 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 that may have defects or issues that negatively impacts your camping experience. Companies obviously don't want to highlight the defects of their products, so go to trusted third-party sources to get a fair review.

Every good sleeping pad needs a sleeping bag; they go together like yin and yang. As with a sleeping pad, there's a tried and true method to clean, store, and pack your sleeping bag.

Cleaning, Storing, and Packing a Sleeping Bag

Cleaning a sleeping bag is critical in maintaining its warmth and longevity. Before cleaning, check the care label on your sleeping bag to ensure it's safe to wash. Some sleeping bags have to be spot cleaned or professionally cleaned. If it's okay to wash it, use a mild detergent specifically designed for cleaning technical outdoor gear and avoid using bleach or fabric softeners. Wash the sleeping bag on a gentle cycle using warm water. 

Tumble dry the sleeping bag on a low heat setting, and fluff it frequently to redistribute the down or synthetic insulation. Adding a few clean tennis balls to the dryer is also recommended to help fluff the insulation. 

Once the sleeping bag is clean and dry, store it in a cool, dry place. Avoid storing it in direct sunlight or damp, humid areas. Put it in a suitably sized container to protect it from dust, dirt, and other debris. Never compress your sleeping bag, as it damages the insulation and affects its performance.

To pack your sleeping bag, roll it tightly, starting from the bottom and working your way up — this removes any excess air and prevents the bag from becoming misshapen. A compression sack, if available, compresses the sleeping bag even more, saving space in your backpack. Pack the sleeping bag in a waterproof or water-resistant bag to ensure it stays dry in case of rain or condensation. Place the sleeping bag last when packing your backpack, so it's on top of all your other gear and easy to access.

Restful Nights Equal Wonderful Camping Trips

A properly cared-for sleeping pad and sleeping bag build the foundation for a comfortable and enjoyable camping trip. Cleaning, storing, and packing them correctly significantly extend the lifespan of your gear and ensure top performance on every journey.

Follow the manufacturer's instructions and take the necessary steps to clean your gear, keep it clean and dry, store it in a cool and dry place, and pack it tightly to save space and protect it. When you treat your equipment right, many more positive camping memories lie in store. A good night's sleep is essential for a great camping trip. Without it, you might miss the beauty of nature and all the adventure therein. 

You don't want a moldy sleeping pad or a stinky sleeping bag. What's more likely is your desire to have high-quality camping gear that lasts for years. Following these steps is a surefire way towards a wonderful camping experience — one where you're enjoying the beauty of nature during the day and peacefully counting sheep at night.

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