Can You Put a Sleeping Pad Inside Your Sleeping Bag?

Last Updated on 10/02/2022

sleeping pad inside your sleeping bag

Sleeping Pad Inside Sleeping Bag: Is it Possible?

In this article, we explain how to put a sleeping pad inside a sleeping bag and the reasons why you should or shouldn’t do this. We explore the struggles you will encounter and the possible benefits of putting your sleeping pad inside your sleeping bag.

There is nothing quite like waking up in a tent after a good night’s sleep feeling fully refreshed. For us at least, sleeping all the way through the night when camping doesn’t happen all that often but when it does, wow!

Waking up every couple of hours can be caused by noises outside your tent, feeling too cold/hot, or just not being able to get comfortable.

This is made especially difficult for those of us that move around a lot in our sleep because our sleeping pads never quite stay where we want them. Constantly sliding off your sleeping pad could make for a frustrating night or a sore body the next day.

Resourceful campers have always adapted their gear to suit their needs but does anyone actually put their sleeping pad inside their bag? Find out further down the page.

Which Type of Sleeping Pad Will Fit Inside a Sleeping Bag?

This depends greatly on the type of sleeping bag one uses because various types of sleeping pads are more compatible with specific sleeping bags than others for several reasons.

If you’re a camper who prefers the warmth and pack size of a winter mummy-shaped sleeping bag, then you will certainly be limited in terms of what you can comfortably fit in your bag along with your body.  While foam pads are typically a little too wide to fit snuggly inside of a mummy bag, these can be cut down to size to match the profile of your sleeping bag and your body comfortably.

Should you put an inflatable sleeping pad inside or outside your sleeping bag? Neither sleeping bags nor sleeping pads are designed to be used this way and so you might want to look at other options.

Most inflatable sleeping pads would make for a tight squeeze inside of your summer sleeping bag, but there are some inflatable designs with rounded edges that taper at the bottom which might fit the shape of your mummy bag. To get a better fit, it might make more sense to inflate your pad inside of your sleeping bag and don’t inflate it to maximum capacity to create a little more space for you in the bag.

For a more traditional, rectangular sleeping bag, your options for doubling up inside of your bag with most pad types are pretty broad. Because most pads align with the generally rectangular shape of most traditional sleeping bags, inserting and inflating sleeping pads inside of them is much easier.

sleeping pad inside or outside sleeping bag

Benefits of Having the Sleeping Pad Inside Sleeping Bag

Although it may seem like an odd way of doing so, adding another cushion layer underneath you inside of your sleeping bag can potentially provide you with some pretty surprising benefits.

The most obvious benefit is exactly that: more cushion.  Having a pad tightly secured beneath your body can prevent you from rolling off of it, keeping it under you for the entire night, and creating space between your body and the ground. Additionally, if you have the extra room in your vehicle or your hiking pack, you can bring another pad to place under your sleeping bag to add even more insulation to ensure that you sleep comfortably through the night.

Another benefit that might not be so obvious is insulation, although the degree of insulation you can expect varies with different types of pads.  An important indicator for how well of an insulator your pad will be once you get it to fit snugly inside of your sleeping bag is its “R-value”.

The R-value is a measure of how well your sleeping pad insulates you from the ground beneath you represented by a numeral between 0 and 6.  An R-value of 0 indicates a sleeping pad that is a very poor insulator and an R-value of 6 indicates a very good insulator.

If you do choose to use multiple pads, the R-values are said to stack, meaning that using two pads allows for more insulation and a cumulative R-value overall.  Using two pads, one inside of your sleeping bag and one underneath, not only adds to your level of comfort but adds to the level of insulation potentially keeping you comfortable and warm.

Why it Doesn’t Make Sense to Use a Camping Mat Inside a Sleeping Bag

When considering whether to place your sleeping pad inside or outside a sleeping bag, space is something you should definitely consider and probably test out ahead of time. For most folks, once you inflate a sleeping pad inside of your sleeping bag, even if it’s a traditional rectangular sleeping bag, there isn’t a lot of room for your body to fit.

Sleeping on your back might make things a little less snug, but sleeping on your side will make for a very compressed fit. Furthermore, the space around your body allows for cooler air to enter your bag potentially diminishing the insulation benefit of the pad.

Ultimately, neither your sleeping pad nor sleeping bag is designed to be used this way, so the saga of sleeping pad vs sleeping bag continues. A backpacking pillow is designed to go inside your sleeping bag if it has a hood to hold it in place.

Should You Put Your Camping Pad Inside Your Sleeping Bag when Hammock Camping?

Putting a pad inside your sleeping bag whilst inside a hammock might be tricky, but identifying a means of insulation when hammock camping, especially in the cold, will be crucial to how enjoyable your experience is. Putting a sleeping pad in a hammock is an easy way to block the wind from underneath and keep you warm but keeping it in position is a constant battle. But should you put the mat inside your sleeping bag? Not really, and here’s why.

Getting the sleeping pad inside your sleeping bag isn’t the hard part. Getting into your sleeping bag which has a sleeping pad inside whilst in a hammock is the hard part. If you struggle to use a camping mat then you may be better off lining your hammock with a thick wool blanket instead.

Alternatives to Putting Your Sleeping Pad Inside Sleeping Bag

You’ve pondered the question: Sleeping pad inside or outside sleeping bag? And you’ve determined the latter to be the most realistic choice for your pad and bag sizes, but you hate waking up cold at night to find out you’ve slipped off of your pad again.

The most pragmatic alternative is investing in a sleeping pad cover. This is usually just a simple sheet-like cotton wrap that prevents you from sliding around so much on your pad.

You can get the job done with something you likely have laying around for other purposes: silicone sealant. By placing small dots of silicone sealant a little less than 12 inches apart and spreading them into one-inch circles before drying will allow you to create a high friction surface to keep your bag on your pad.

Another easy and affordable option is to purchase a sleeping bag strap, which is simply a strap that secures your bag to the base of your sleeping pad. If you are on the taller side this may not be the best option because of the space needed at the bottom of the bag to make this a practical option.

If you’re open to acquiring some new gear that will provide a long-term solution to moving around a lot in your tent, a great choice is to purchase a quilt with compatible straps. A quilt is a lot like a sleeping bag, except instead of it wrapping around you on top of your sleeping pad it comes with built-in eyelets for straps that secure the quilt directly on the pad.

sleeping pad inside sleeping bag

How to Make Your Sleeping Bag Warmer

If you’re worried about losing heat in your sleeping bag by opting for one of the alternative methods for using your sleeping pad outside of your sleeping bag, then there are some handy tricks you can use to keep things toasty.

Sleeping bag liners are great for containing your precious body heat on those cold nights. They wrap tightly around the sleeping bag to add an extra layer of insulation, are very lightweight, and take up very little space in your pack.

Changing into a dry thermal layer before crawling into your sleeping bag at night can make all of the difference. This layer must be dry though or the moisture trapped in your clothing will be working against your body heat and could make for a very chilly night.

If you have a means of boiling water and you’re sitting out by the campfire, boiling some water to fill some canteens or other heat-tolerant bottles might be a good option as well.  When strategically placed, this can make for a nice and warm sleeping environment as you dose off in your tent or hammock.

How to Make Your Sleeping Pad More Comfortable

For foam and self-inflating pads, you are at the mercy of the design of the pad, but doubling up might add some extra comfort in a pinch.  Remember, the R-value is extremely important when identifying the right pad to keep you warm and comfortable through the night.

For inflatable pads, you have a little more control over the firmness of the pad. Start by filling the pad up until you can no longer fill it with any more air and sequentially let a small amount of air out, testing it each time until you achieve the most appropriate level of comfort.


Stuffing your sleeping pad directly into your sleeping bag might not be the most pragmatic way to keep from slipping around in the night. But,  if you have a large enough sleeping bag, a small enough pad, or a modifiable foam pad it might be viable for you on your next trip.

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This article has been written and/or edited by Andrew N. 20+ years of hiking, mountaineering, and camping experience, with access to all the latest outdoor gear.

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