A Sleeping Pad Should be Considered an Essential. Even When You Have a Sleeping Bag
Roughing it in nature never works out quite like you hope it will, if you don't have a few basic amenities to smooth the experience with. To anyone who lives in the city and has grown used to a few creature comforts, the kind of hardships that a camping trip can present should never be underestimated. For instance, to anyone who is used to a regular bed at home, it can be extremely difficult to adjust to having to sleep on hard ground. If you're going camping and you don't have rollout camping bedding to turn to, a sleeping pad should be considered the least that you will accept.
Sleeping pads give you two essential benefits they give you cushioning when you sleep on hard ground, and they give you insulation protection from the cold that tries to seep up from the ground beneath you. Most people tend to dismiss the sleeping pad as just something that spoils you with unnecessary cushioning. They don't really realize how important the insulating properties of a sleeping pad are though. In fact, you could say that to insulate yourself is the primary function that you are supposed to buy a sleeping pad for.
Now you might wonder about why you need a sleeping pad to insulate you from the cold of the ground below, when you have your sleeping bag. Isn't it stuffed full of fibrous padding that can insulate just as well? That's actually a very good question.
The answer to that is, that since sleeping bags are made of soft stuffing, they just don't stand up. When you lie in one, the weight of your body can compress the bottom of the bag down to practically nothing. Insulating stuffing is only able to retain warmth when it's fluffed and able to trap air within the spaces it contains. When it's compressed, fibrous stuffing just loses its insulating properties more or less. Basically, you need a tougher material that doesn't compress down to nothing.
Seen this way, an insulating sleeping pad should be considered one of the best and most effective kinds to use. Not only are these strongly lightweight and easy to carry
once you take the air out, they are like an air mattress to sleep on as well. They can be very good at keeping the coldness in a sleeping surface out. If an air mattress doesn't really seem right because it can easily rip, you could just go with foam. You have to put up with a little extra weight and bulk, but it's a durable material.
Basically, the kind of choices that you make, will come down to what you plan to use your sleeping pad for. If you're a backpacker or a long distance hiker, you really need something that's as small and as light as possible an inflatable sleeping pad would be best. If you have a family camper or something to take everything on, then, a foam product could be better.