Guide to Picking the Best Mattress & Sleeping Pad for Survival

This is a guest article by Will Bermudez 

“Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst!” This already famous truism is the perfect advice for all humanity: the smartest thing to do to ensure our survival is to have a strategy for the times when such planning will be required. One may hope those times will never come, but being ready for any circumstances is a moral duty. One essential detail you need to think about when developing a survival strategy – whether if it is for living in the wild or for surviving a natural disaster – is sleeping arrangements. Depending on your needs, you’ll be inclined to choose between a mattress and a sleeping pad. I tried both options, and I can’t decisively swing over one or another. They both have numerous pros. But in the end, the choice is based on individual preferences. That’s why I put together a short guide to help you consider vital factors when making your purchase of either a mattress or a pad – or both.

Think comfort

Whether you want a thin sleeping pad or a thick air mattress, seek the most comfortable option according to your needs. If you have health issues, allergies or back pains or you just have to sleep in a specific position, choose the product that addresses your problem. Read the descriptions of the products carefully; ask the retailer for more details and, most importantly, read the buyers’ reviews. Test the pad or the mattress, if you have the possibility, for at least 15 minutes, in your favorite sleeping position.

Think storage and transportation

sleeping padModern pads and mattresses are designed to pack small, especially the outdoors models. Some pads pack to the size of a soda can. Deflated mattresses take little space in backpacks as well. But remember that you should focus on quality: the ultra-light ones may not offer the same sleep experience as the full body length ones. Sometimes too thin can mean a hard bed; too large, and the pad or mattress is difficult to carry. Considering you’ll probably sleep on the ground or the floor of a shelter, you should go for a thicker product, but still easy to transport.

Think materials and durability

The sleeping pad & mattress industry has evolved a lot over the past decades in all aspects – materials, weight, versatility, features. Pads are usually made of dense foam filled with tiny closed air cells. Most airbeds are made of PVC and other leading-edge materials meant to increase their durability. A thicker PVC layer (0.6 mm, for instance) offers better insulation, but can also bring extra weight. Good news is that lately, manufacturers went for fumes-free materials for airbeds, which reduces the safety concerns regarding the chemicals in these products.

Think power source

Consider the fact that you may not have an electric power source or that the one you have might get cut off. Thus, if you want to choose an air mattress, look for a self-sufficient product that can be inflated manually, or that can work on batteries as well.

Think quality and price

Try to find the best brands on the market, the ones that have been around for a long while and have developed a wide range of models, making them better and more affordable. Research thoroughly what others have to say about a particular product or brand; TryMattress recommends checking the website of the manufacturer and even the social media accounts since many people choose to give reviews on these networks. Last but not least, consider the fact that a good and reliable product will not be cheap, but it will be a long-term investment in your safety and comfort.

mattress

Publisher’s note: Amazon carries a good selection of sleeping pads and air mattresses.

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Ground Insulation When Sleeping Outdoors

Therma rest z lite_I recently did an article on selecting sleeping systems for SHTF. Having a quality sleeping bag is a necessity in most climates, but it is only part of the story. Insulating yourself from frozen ground, ground moisture and wind are also critically important.

Without trying to get into the science of thermodynamics, suffice to say that if you lay your warm body on the cold ground, the ground will win the contest. It is a mass that you will never reach equilibrium with, so it will pull heat energy from your body until you are the same temperature as it is. So you need insulation between you and the ground. Since the insulation in your sleeping bag will be compressed underneath you reducing it’s effectiveness, the sleeping pad is an essential piece of gear in your sleep system.

The R Value

Insulation is measured according to its capacity to resist heat flow. That is called an R value. The R-values are provided by the manufacturers and range from 1.0 (minimally insulated) to 9.5 (well insulated). Thicker pads generally offer higher R-values but are heavier.

Types of Sleeping Pads

Inflatable Air Mattress: Although they provide a lot of comfort compared to sleepingair mattress_ on the hard ground, I feel they have some drawbacks for SHTF survival. For one thing, with hard usage they will leak. I don’t care how well made they are. I used them in the Army (fondly refered to as the Rubber Lady), and without air, they are useless for insulation. If you are bugging out by vehicle, they may have some merit as you can easily inflate them from your vehicle accessory plug using an electric pump. But you really need to have a pad that you can carry with your sleeping bag in your bug out bag for bugging out on foot.

Therma rest z lite_Closed Foam: These are basic pads and are usually lightweight with good insulating qualities. Therma Rest is a company that make an excellent line of sleeping pads. The Therm-a-Rest Z Lite Mattress is a good example. The foam construction is soft on top and dense on bottom. It has an R value of 2.2, weighs 10oz.

Self Inflating: These are foam mattressestrail pro_ that will self inflate to some degree. They offer a combination of additional comfort as well as good insulation: The Therm-a-Rest Trail Pro Mattress is an example. It has an R value of 4.0. It weighs in at 2.7 pounds.

These are just a few examples of the types of sleeping pads you should consider for your survival sleeping system. The idea is to get insulation between you and the ground to retain body warmth in a package that you can travel with.

As always, decide what you need, do your research, and buy the best quality you can afford.