Sleeping outdoors is one of the best things you can do to relieve stress, enhance your mood, and experience a boost of serotonin (the feel-good hormone). That is if you have the right sleeping mat!
The right sleeping pad helps you sleep comfortably without tossing and turning. But how to choose the perfect one? The R-value is one of the first things to consider when deciding on a sleeping mat. If you don't know what the R-value is and its importance, keep reading as we explain it all below.
What is the R-value?
The R-value measures thermal resistance, which is the ability to resist heat loss to the ground. Sleeping pads with high R-values resist heat transfer and keep you insulated from the ground. They help you stay warm and comfortable at night.
R-values usually range between 1 and 7. Some thicker mattresses have R-values in the double digits, but since they are quite thick, they are not very appealing to backpackers (difficult to carry).
How is the R-value measured?
We calculate the R-value of a sleeping mat in a cold chamber. We place the hiking mat between two metal plates and heat the bottom one using an electrical current. One important thing to know is that the plate has a sensor that keeps it at a steady temperature.
We want to measure the ability of the sleeping mat to prevent heat loss from the bottom plate. It will take little electrical current to keep the plate's temperature stable if it is resistant to heat loss. On the other hand, if the hiking mat does not prevent heat loss, it will take a lot of electrical current to maintain the plate at a stable temperature.
Using an equation, the R-value is calculated based on the energy required to maintain the bottom plate's temperature stable. The more current it takes, the lower the R-value and vice versa.
How to pick the best R-value for you
You can select the R-value of your hiking pad depending on the season you wish to use it. Mats with an R-value of 1-2 are usually most comfortable during the summer. They do not retain a lot of heat, which prevents you from overheating in the summer.
R-values of 3-5 work best for 3-season. Purchasing a sleeping mat with those R-values can help you make the most of it because it is comfortable for a wide range of temperatures. Finally, R-values over 5 are best for cold weather.
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Our NeoAir XLite is the gold standard of mattress. It is lightweight but comfortable and offers one of the best warmth-to-weight ratios of any air sleeping pad. With an R-value of 4.2, it works great in a wide range of temperatures, from warm to cool.
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