Yoga mats are a great buffer between you and the ground when you’re using them for their intended purpose. This may make them seem like they’d be useful as a sleeping pad while camping.
Also, lots of people have yoga mats at home, so it seems like a free/cheap, and convenient alternative to a sleeping pad.
Unfortunately, it’s not recommended that you use a yoga mat as a sleeping pad. Yoga mats are not thick enough to cushion you throughout the night, and they lack insulation. It’s only wise to use a yoga mat as a sleeping pad when it is a thick mat in a warm climate.
Reasons You Shouldn’t Use a Yoga Mat as a Sleeping Pad
Yoga mats are impractical compared to sleeping pads, even if they don’t sound too bad. The comparisons below should tell you more about why using a yoga mat isn’t a great idea.
#1. It’s Uncomfortable
Yoga mats are hard, shock-absorbing foam pads designed to be used for an hour or so at a time. Sleeping pads are much softer and suitable for use for longer periods. Their thickness is one reason that they work well for sleeping on.
Average sleeping pads are around 2.5 inches thick, although some then get up to 3 inches and beyond.
The thinnest sleeping pads you’ll find are an inch thick—but these aren’t comfortable, they’re not recommended for long-term use, and they’re really only a budget option.
In comparison, the standard thickness for a basic yoga mat is one-eighth of an inch. The thickest yoga mats are around a quarter of an inch thick.
If an inch-thick sleeping pad is uncomfortable, then a quarter-inch yoga mat will definitely hurt.
#2. It’s Not Insulated Enough
Yoga mats aren’t insulated. This means they’re only suitable for summer camping.
The ground gets cold once the sun goes down, and your body cools naturally when you’re sleeping, too. The ground also absorbs most of your body’s heat, lowering your temperature further.
Good sleeping pads are designed to trap heat. They hold it close to your body and stop it from disbursing through the floor of the tent and into the ground below.
#3. They’re Not Compact
Some of the best sleeping pads are inflatable, so they’re easy to keep small and folded up when you’re traveling.
In comparison, yoga mats are huge. Most of them roll up into thick, long, tubes. Their subpar performance paired with their bulk make them more trouble than they’re worth.
Closed-cell foam sleeping pads and self-inflating sleeping pads are also bulky, but at least they’re supportive and insulated. If you’re going to buy something bulky, then buy something bulky and comfortable.
#4. They Can Be Heavy
Most sleeping pads weigh under a pound, or at least under two. Some premium, pricey pads can weigh up to 6 pounds, but their performance usually makes them worth their weight.
Thick yoga mats can weigh up to 7 pounds, and unfortunately, their performance doesn’t make them worth it.
The lightest yoga mats weigh around two pounds, and they are usually yoga mats designed for traveling. They’re ultra-thin and offer no support or insulation for sleeping.
Can You Use Yoga Mat as Sleeping Pads? Camper’s Opinions
Anyone who’s used a yoga mat as a sleeping pad will tell you that bad idea. Even people who haven’t tried it recommend that you never try it, either–just look at this Reddit thread, and you’ll see what I mean.
That said, yoga mats are usable. They offer a small buffer between you and the ground, and they’ll absorb shock if you move a lot while sleeping.
It’s better to buy a sleeping pad if you have the choice, but if you already own a particularly thick yoga mat, then you could try sleeping on it for a night to see if you’re comfortable.
However, make sure you only try sleeping on a yoga mat in warm temperatures. Even if it’s thick, it’s unlikely to be insulated well enough to help you retain your body heat while sleeping.
This video should help you if you choose to sleep on your yoga mat, though.
What Type of Sleeping Pad Should You Use?
You definitely need a sleeping pad when you go camping—but you’re not stuck with just one option. There are a few types that you might like to consider.
#1. Closed Cell Foam Pads
Closed-cell foam pads are the cheapest of the bunch and cost between $30 and $40—a little more than a thick yoga mat does.
They fold into a tube shape like yoga mats, but they’re lighter and tighter-rolled, so they feel less bulky, and they weigh less than a pound.
Because they’re so light, these are great for backpacking and hiking. You can attach them to the top or bottom of your backpack and get going. They also work well for first-time campers who don’t want to invest in a better sleeping pad just yet.
This Redcamp sleeping pad is a good example of your average closed-cell foam pad.
#2. Air Pads
Air pads take things up a notch. They’re more comfortable and compact, so they’re a little pricier.
A basic air pad may only cost between $30 and $40, but a higher-quality, thicker one can cost $80 or more.
This Powerlix sleeping pad is a good starter pad. It’s 3 inches thick and a great example of what you can expect from an air pad.
Air pads are great for all types of camping, and they work especially well for ultralight backpacking given that they’re so light and compact. They can weigh up to a pound, and sometimes a little over—the Powerlix is 1.32 pounds.
Rolled up, the Powerlix is around 11 inches long and 4 inches in diameter, about the size of a water bottle.
#3. Self-Inflating Pads
With self-inflating pads, we’re really getting into luxurious gear. These pads work best for car camping and regular camping trips, as they can get a little heavy. The one we’ll be talking about today weighs 6 pounds, but it’s still lighter than the thickest yoga mats available.
Because of their convenience and comfort, these pads can get pricey. They can start off basic at around $40, but the better ones can reach almost $100!
The only downside is that these pads are large. They’re often 25 inches long while folded up, so they’re not great if you dislike yoga mats for their bulk. However, if you were to choose between a 25-inch yoga mat and a self-inflating sleeping pad, I’d recommend the pad for sure.
The Invoker is one of the more luxurious self-inflating sleeping pads available. It’s only three inches thick, but it’s plush, insulated with a foam covering, and has a built-in pillow. It offers the most comfort that you’ll find with a sleeping pad.
Alternatives to Sleeping Pads
There are many ways to sleep comfortably in a tent. This article will give you an in-depth comparison of your best options, but for now, let’s briefly go over some of the alternatives to sleeping pads.
#1. A Large Quilt or Comforter
This alternative is only for people who a) have no other option and b) don’t mind transporting something huge.
I once used a kingsize comforter folded down to the size of a twin bed. It was thick, decently padded, and got the job done for the night.
This works well in an emergency, but if you want to transport it efficiently, you’ll need to vacuum pack it. That adds even more hassle.
#2. Sleeping Cot
A sleeping cot is perfect for someone who wants to be off the ground.
These little beds fold up and are lightweight. But they’re long, so they don’t work well for backpacking. They’re not particularly padded, but they’re supportive and they keep you away from the hard, cold ground.
#3. Thick Sleeping Bag
A thick sleeping bag works well if you want something that’s highly insulated. They’re not hugely cushioned, but they’re soft, and they’re better than sleeping on a hard surface without a buffer.
Sleeping bags are excellent for staying nice and cozy, and they’re particularly good if you use them combined with a sleeping pad.
If you’d like to sleep outdoors in summer, then consider a hammock. Hang it low so that you’re just above the ground, and you’ll feel like you’re weightless while sleeping.
You can assemble a tarp over the hammock to protect yourself from the elements and wildlife, but the tarp won’t keep you safe from heavy rain. If you want to sleep in a hammock with a tarp, make sure it’s during a dry, warm period.
Pair your hammock with a mummy-style sleeping bag if you wish to sleep without a tarp or if you want to sleep outdoors in colder weather.
#5 Air Mattress
Many tents give you specifications on how many queen-size air mattresses fit inside them at once. If you want something as close to a real mattress as possible, then an air mattress may be your best choice.
But nothing is perfect. For most air mattresses, you will need to bring a separate pump, which is another item that adds to your already-long checklist.
Also, air mattresses are a lot more prone to accidents, punctures that is, than the other alternatives listed.
Yoga mats aren’t good for sleeping on, but you’ll never be out of options for sleeping pads and their alternatives. If you own a quilt, then you always have something to sleep on—as long as you’re okay with bulk, that is.
So I’m sure you’ll find something that works for you. Just make sure you’re sleeping on something comfortable, insulated, and easy enough to transport for you.