Is There a Difference Between a Sleeping Pad and a Camping Mattress?

Your buddy tells you that you need to bring a sleeping pad for your upcoming backpacking trip. You notice that a car camping packlist mentions a camping mattress as a must-have item. Is there a difference between a sleeping pad and a camping mattress? It can be a bit confusing at times, but here’s some information that can help you understand what’s what.

Sleeping pad vs. camping mattress

People often use the terms “sleeping pad” and “camping mattress” interchangeably, but this isn’t always the case.

A sleeping pad is typically a thin, lightweight, and portable mat that slides inside or underneath a sleeping bag to provide extra comfort, cushion, and insulation from the ground.

Most sleeping pads are made out of foam, inflatable air chambers, or a combination of the two. Sleeping pads that must be inflated can be pumped up easily with your breath and do not require an air pump.

In most situations, people who use the term “camping mattress” are referring to a sleeping pad. Therm-a-Rest, probably the most recognized name in sleeping pads – refers to their pads as camp mattresses.

The two terms aren’t always synonymous, however.

Recognizing the distinction

A sleeping pad will almost always refer to the lightweight, packable, and compact sleeping mats that you can strap to your backpack and hit the trail with.

Camping mattresses, however, don’t always to refer to sleeping pads. People sometimes mean a large inflatable air mattress when they talk about a camping mattress. It really depends on how familiar the person is with camping and outdoor gear.

If you tell your friend who has never been backpacking to bring a camping mattress on your backpacking trip, don’t be surprised when he shows up with an inflatable air mattress and an air pump.

In other words, sleeping pad is more specific and less ambiguous. Nobody is going to mistake an air mattress for a sleeping pad. Camping mattress, on the other hand, could refer to a pad or a big, heavy air mattress that’s only suitable for car camping.

Looking for sleeping pads in Northwest Arkansas? Stop by Uncle Sam’s Safari Outfitters for all of your hiking, camping, and backpacking needs!

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