Family backpacking sleeping pads will serve you well in making your nights more comfortable when backpacking. Not only is it added cushion to the sometimes hard and rocky tent floor, it also insulates your body from the cold ground when temperatures dip. As with all backpacking gear, you have many brands of pads to choose from and the same compromises must be made between weight, comfort and cost that apply to most gear. The two most common types of sleeping pads are the self inflated air pad and the foam pad. REI has a great article that helps explain the differences between different sleeping pad models to help you decide.
Family Backpacking Sleeping Pads:
The most common type of family backpacking sleeping pads I’ve seen on trails is a self inflated pad like the Therm-a-Rest ProLite Sleeping Pad. At about one pound for the regular size pad, these are somewhat heavier than foam pads, but provide more cushion while still providing good insulation. While these certainly are comfortable, their expensive price tag (they start at about $100) made them less enticing for us. With 6 people in my family, outfitting all of us with high quality air mattresses would likely cost $1000, a price I am unwilling to pay. These are also easily damaged so extra care must be given to them. This is something to consider when hiking with small children who may not be as careful as necessary to prevent punctures. That being said, if money was no object and my kids were just a bit more careful, this is the type of family backpacking sleeping pad I would choose.
The other common type of family backpacking sleeping pads are made of foam. This is the type of pad we use as they are lightweight, inexpensive and virtually indestructible while at the same time providing adequate insulation and some comfort from the hard ground. Each of us have a Wenzel Camp Pad and I can’t complain about them one bit. Not only is the price right (about $20), they only weigh 13 ounces and still work as well as the day we bought them. If on a tight budget like we are, this is the way to go. If you want to spend a little bit more (about $40) to gain comfort and insulation, you may want to consider the Thermarest Z-Lite SOL Sleeping Pad which Dave bought me as a gift a couple of years ago. Still lightweight (only 14 ounces), this pad is extra comfortable and worth the extra money if you have some to spare.
No matter which sleeping pad you choose, you will be thankful for the extra comfort after a long day of hiking as a good night’s sleep does wonders for sore, trail-weary legs.