6 Reasons Not To Use A Yoga Mat As A Sleeping Pad For Camping

Last Updated on 09/10/2022

Can I Use A Yoga Mat As A Sleeping Pad For Camping

In this article we explain how using a yoga mat as a sleeping pad can work but why it isn’t recommended. There is one thing you need to check to make sure a yoga mat will be ok for camping. We share this in our guide further down along with some other ideas we had about using a yoga mat as a sleeping mat.

If you aren’t much of a camper and are trying to scrounge together something to sleep on for an impromptu camping trip then you may be looking at your yoga mat as a potential sleeping pad. It is the same size and shape, but is it made of the same stuff, and will it work for camping?

Can You Use a Yoga Mat as a Sleeping Pad?

You can use a thick yoga mat as a sleeping pad when camping but most yoga mats are thinner than a sleeping pad and provide much less thermal value. The thinner the mat, the more you can feel every lump and bump in the ground you are sleeping on. So not only will a yoga mat not provide much insulation from the ground but it also isn’t very comfortable to sleep on.

That being said, a yoga mat is better than nothing.

If you have a yoga mat that is extra dense and over 20 mm deep then you should be fine camping for a few nights. Some people don’t even use a sleeping pad and just sleep on the ground. This isn’t recommended. Not only is it uncomfortable, but the loss of body heat through the ground can be a real risk to your health.

Are Sleeping Pads and Yoga Mats the Same?

Sleeping pads are similar but not the same as yoga mats. They have different purposes and priorities which don’t lend from yoga to camping. Yoga mats are built for grip, stability, softness on the skin, and enough cushion for an hour or two of exercise on a flat surface. Comparable foam sleeping pads are designed to provide a barrier between you and the ground to insulate and cushion you for 7-8 hours.

There are lots of different sleeping pads out there which we explain further down, but in this article, we are specifically talking about compatible closed-cell foam sleeping pads and not any kind of inflatable camping mattresses.

Differences Between Yoga Mats and Sleeping Pads

Differences Between Yoga Mats and Sleeping Pads

To really understand why yoga mats are related but not the same as sleeping pads, it is important to realize why insulation is so important and that unless you are sleeping on a golf course, no ground is ever completely flat.

1. Insulation

Insulation is just as important as comfort when considering different camping mats. You lose a lot of heat through the ground if the temperature drops below 20°C (68°F) which results in very little sleep and a potentially dangerous situation. A yoga mat provides some insulation but not even half as much as a sleeping pad.

Sleeping pads are often tested for something called R-value, just like most houses, which is a measurement of heat resistance. The higher the R-value, the better it can resist losing heat. Yoga mats are not tested in the same way and thermal resistance is not even a consideration.

2. Thickness

Sleeping pads are almost always thicker than yoga mats. They have a tougher job to do and so the extra thickness provides more protection and comfort on rocky ground. The average foam sleeping pad is around 20 mm thick compared to yoga mats which are between 2 – 10 mm. If you have a thick yoga mat to sleep on then you will be ok for a night or two if you can find some flat ground to camp on.

3. Density

The density of the closed-cell foam mats plays a big part in how much support and protection they provide from the ground. The denser the foam, the less cushion it will have but the better it will be at covering any lumps on the ground. If you feel a yoga mat compared to a sleeping pad you will be able to feel the difference instantly.

4. Durability

A direct impact of having a thicker mat with higher density closed cell foam is that a sleeping mat is much more durable. If you take a yoga mat camping to sleep on even a small twig could put a hole right through it. One thing a yoga mat is good for is providing additional durability to a lightweight air bed that is susceptible to punctures.

I have been extremely rough with my foam camping mats over the years, using them to protect furniture on the back of a pick-up truck and for sledding in winter. The only thing that has done any real damage was my parent’s puppy that tore a few chunks out for the fun of it.

5. Weight

Weight is a key factor for hikers, backpackers, and anyone hauling their camping gear on their back. Yoga mats don’t feel heavy but compared to a sleeping pad they are considering they are less than half as thick. Again, weight isn’t a priority for people who practice yoga as they don’t also have a 20 lb backpack on. Camping mats win again.

6. Comfort

Yoga mats are much softer to the touch than foam sleeping pads as they are designed for next-to-skin comfort whereas camping mats have more of an emphasis on durability. However, when it comes to the type of mat you want to sleep on, camping pads are much more comfier as they provide more support, warmth, and protection.

7. Grip

The grip is an aspect where yoga mats are better than sleeping pads but it is also not very important for camping unless you are pitched on a steep slope, in which case the grip will stop you from sliding down your tent. Camping mats are not particularly slippery its just that yoga mats tend to be a bit more rubberized which both grips to the floor of your tent and also your sleeping bag.

Best backpacking sleeping pad with pillow

Types of Sleeping Pads

As we mentioned further up, when we are comparing sleeping pads to yoga mats we are talking specifically about closed cell foam sleeping pads. There are four different types of sleeping pads which are all significantly superior to yoga mats and here are the reasons why each mat is better:

Closed Cell Foam Pads

Therm-a-Rest Z Lite Sol Ultralight Foam Backpacking Mattress, Limon/Silver, Regular - 20 x 72 Inches

Closed cell foam pads are the most similar and comparable in terms of size, shape, and materials. They are cheap and reliable but not the comfiest option. They provide good warmth, excellent durability, don’t absorb water, and are useful as a sitting mat.

 

You can get all types of different patterns that can improve airflow, comfort, and heat retention but they are all very similar. One thing that does make a big difference is the new fold-away foam sleeping pads (above) which are more packable and compact than a roll-up yoga mat.

Air Mattress

SoundAsleep Dream Series Air Mattress with ComfortCoil Technology & Internal High Capacity Pump - Queen Size

Air mattresses are deeper and arguably more comfortable than yoga mats and foam sleeping pads but are less durable. Compared with a yoga mat, air mattresses are a big step up and will almost guarantee a better night’s sleep. They require inflation and an air-tight seal which has the risk of being compromised if you unintentionally camp on something sharp.

Inflatable Camping Pads

Sleeping Pad - WANNTS Ultralight Inflatable Sleeping Pad for Camping, 75''X25'', Built-in Pump, Ultimate for Camping, Hiking - Airpad, Carry Bag, Repair Kit - Compact & Lightweight Air Mattress(Green)

Inflatable camping pads are like air mattresses but much thinner, narrower, and more lightweight. Air mattresses are for home use and campsites, whereas inflatable camping pads are designed for backpackers and hikers. Inflatable camping pads are also more durable than air mattresses which is better suited to wild camping.

Self Inflating Pads

Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Xlite Camping and Backpacking Sleeping Pad, Lemon Curry, Regular - 20 x 72 Inches, WingLock Valve

Self-inflating sleeping pads are the premium camping mat above all the other types. They combine insulation with inflation to get the most comfort and the best warmth. There is no comparison to yoga mats here, self-inflating sleeping mats are at least twenty times better.

Don’t let the name fool you, self-inflating sleeping pads don’t blow themselves up. They still require some inflation, just not half as much as an inflatable sleeping pad. This also means they are at risk of being punctured but the fact that they have a filling provides some security even if there was an overnight puncture.

Sleeping Pad Alternatives

If you don’t have a sleeping pad and are trying to decide if you can use a yoga mat instead then you probably won’t have an air mattress, camping cot, hammock, or bedroll. So we won’t bother listing these as alternatives below. Instead, here are some other things you could use instead of a yoga mat or in combination with to improve your comfort, warmth, and ultimately how well you sleep:

  • Wool Blankets – Fold them over a couple of times and this will be better than a yoga mat. Synthetic blankets will work too but wool is better.
  • Clothing – Large parka jackets or down jackets can be a good thing to put under your sleeping mat if the ground is rocky or cold.
  • Bubble Wrap – Bubble wrap works if doubled up but be warned, you will wake up to the sound of popping whenever you roll about.
  • Cardboard – Cardboard is comfortable and provides good insulation but if it gets wet then it turns to mush and is of no use.
  • Rug or Carpet – A sheepskin rug is an excellent primitive sleeping mat and I still take one to music festivals.
  • Bench Cushion – A bench cushion, indoor or outdoor, is long and thin enough to use for sleeping on and provides excellent comfort and warmth.

 

We hope you will now be able to answer the question, can you use a yoga mat as a sleeping pad? if somebody asks you in the future.

Gear Assistant
Gear Assistant

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.

  1. […] Yoga mats and exercise mats are an excellent alternative to camping pads and are very similar to foam camping pads. They are not normally as thick and comfortable to sleep on and are often a little heavier but they will provide protection and insulation from the ground. We went into much more detail about using yoga mats for camping here. […]

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