How to Make Sleeping Pads

How to Make Sleeping PadSleeping pads provide a camper with insulation and padding and are imperative for cold weather camping. A homemade sleeping pad should be made of closed foam so that it does not absorb moisture and so that it resists compression; and it should be made of flexible, resilient, and durable material. If you are not interested in purchasing one of the well-made products offered at your local outdoor store, here are a few suggestions for making one.


Difficulty: Moderately Easy

Things You’ll Need:
  • ¼-inch, 1/2-inch or 1-inch thick PVC-NBR closed cell foam such as Ensolite or Gymnastic Rubber Sharp scissors (or razor) Measuring tape White chalk Strap
  • ¼-inch, 1/2-inch or 1-inch thick PVC-NBR closed cell foam such as Ensolite or Gymnastic Rubber
  • Sharp scissors (or razor)
  • Measuring tape
  • White chalk
  • Strap
Step 1
Purchase PVC-NBR closed cell foam. You may be able to find it in a local hardware store, but you'll likely have better luck if you order from an online source (see Resources below).
Step 2
Determine what you are going to be using your pad for, to determine pad thickness. Hardcore backpackers need the smallest, lightest pad possible--a ¼- to ½-inch thick PVC-NBR material, three-quarter length pad. Three-quarter length pads are nearly as comfortable as full-length, but they won't keep your feet as warm. However, backpackers can use their packs or other items to pad their feet. A car camper will likely prefer a thicker, full-length pad designed not only to keep her warm, but also for maximum comfort. One-inch thickness will be sufficiently comfy and warm. People sensitive to hard surfaces may want to go with a 2-inch pad. The thicker the pad, the warmer it will be; if you are going to be winter camping and backpacking, consider a slightly thicker (1- to 2-inch), full-length pad.
Step 3
Measure your piece of closed cell foam. Use white chalk and a measuring tape to draw lines on the foam, and then check out the fit by lying on the foam. If you are cutting a full-length pad, measure the foam such that when you lie flat on your back with your arms directly at your sides, both arms are on the pad and there is an inch or two of extra pad on either side; also, the length should be determined by where your head and feet lie---both should fit on the pad without hanging off. To save weight, taper the pad in the leg area so that it is narrower at the feet than it is at the shoulders. Three-quarter length pads should be around 4 to 5 feet long, depending on how tall you are; cut the pad off around the knee area.
Step 4
Cut along the white chalk lines using the scissors or a sharp razor. To make the pad accordion like for better packing, divide your pad into narrow sections. Join the sections with duct tape. Hinge them by taping one side while the pieces are flat and next to each other, and then do the other side while the pieces are folded.
Step 5
Roll or fold up your new foam pad and cinch it with a strap.

Tips & Warnings

You can buy various lengths of the material, and it is fairly inexpensive. However, potentially when all is said and done, it may cost less to just buy a foam camping pad at your local outdoor store.

Article Written By Lizzy Scully

Lizzy Scully is a senior contributing editor for Mountain Flyer magazine and the executive director of the nonprofit Girls Education International. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from University of Utah and Master of Science in journalism from Utah State University.

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