Sleeping Pad vs Yoga Mat – Can A Yoga Mat Work As A Sleeping Pad?

by Derrick | Last Updated: July 17, 2021

Sleeping pads and yoga mats are different. Sleeping pads are made for sleeping, whereas yoga mats are for doing yoga. You can use a yoga mat for camping, but yoga mats are generally not as comfortable as a properly spec-ed-out sleeping pad.

What are the differences in weight?

Sleeping Pads

Sleeping pads for camping are much lighter than yoga mats. Specifically, foam pads are made of a dense foam that has tiny air cells, which help with padding and thermal or r-value. This material is inherently much lighter than yoga mats. The foam pads are often lighter than yoga mats; this is beneficial for long-distance hikers where every gram matters. The weight of sleeping pads made for camping or hiking will vary depending on the material you choose, but it is uncommon to see a sleeping pad that is over 2 – 2.5 lbs in total weight.

Yoga Mat

Yoga mats come in a variety of different materials but are primarily made out of a dense rubber. This rubber material is not as lightweight as foam sleeping pads. In fact, they usually weigh around 4 times more than the average sleeping pad. This puts the average yoga mat at least 4lbs or 5lbs in total weight or about 3 lbs over that of the average sleeping pad. Some of them are made even thicker, which means even more weight. They do make lightweight travel mats weighing closer to 3 lbs, but that is still fairly heavy.

Differences In Insulation

Sleeping pads have what is called an r -value. R-values are the measure of a material’s ability to insulate; the lower the number, the lesser the insulation value. Foam sleeping pads have an r-value of about 1.5 or 2, depending on the material and thickness of the pad. Insulated hiking sleeping pads have a higher r-value, around 3 or 4. 

Yoga mats are not meant to be insulated; they are made to feel comfortable on your hands and feet. It is estimated a yoga mat has an r-value of .2 or .3. Although, as far as I am aware, most yoga mats haven’t been tested with the same techniques as sleeping pads have.

What Are Yoga Mats Used For?

Yoga mats are used for practicing yoga. They protect the individual who is practicing yoga from slipping or sliding on the floor. They are also used to cushion the person while doing yoga, so they do not injure themselves while practicing different yoga poses.

What Are Sleeping Pads Used For?

Sleeping pads are useful for sleeping outside when camping or hiking, whether in a sleeping bag or on the ground. They help insulate you from the cold hard surface beneath you and prevent heat loss through convection. They also provide a level of cushioning from sleeping directly on the ground.

Is A Yoga Mat A Good Substitution For A Sleeping Pad?

No, a yoga mat is not a good substitution for a sleeping pad because sleeping pads are much lighter, more durable, and better at insulating from the cold, hard ground. Yoga mats are heavy and so dense that it wouldn’t be that comfortable sleeping on one.

The only time I would use a yoga mat for a sleeping pad is if I already had a yoga mat and couldn’t afford to purchase a sleeping pad.

Otherwise, I would purchase a sleeping pad at the store because sleeping pads are specifically made to be comfortable for sleeping.

Who Would Sleep On A Yoga Mat?

There are a few examples of people who might choose to sleep on a yoga mat instead of sleeping with a sleeping pad.

Looking across the internet, you see some individuals who practice minimalism, do away with beds and switch to sleeping pads.

Jack The Dreamer is known to have slept on a yoga mat in his house for some time. You can read more at his site, but let’s discuss some of the benefits he has noted.

The first benefit is sleeping on a yoga mat is cheaper. Jack uses his yoga mat nightly as his main place to sleep. He argues it is cheaper than a mattress or box spring.

If we compare the cost of a yoga mat to the cost of a traditional bed, frame, and box spring, the yoga mat surely is more cost-effective.

However, looking at this from a hygienic standpoint, I would say the yoga mat is more of an economic compromise than a benefit. I personally value my sleep hygiene too much to ever consider sleeping on a yoga mat as being beneficial.

The second benefit is the space-saving characteristics such as a single yoga mat being able to replace not only a bed but also a mattress. This certainly is a benefit for people who have limited space in their apartment or dorm room.

In an overcrowded city or small living situation, this could be helpful.

Personally, if I lived in a small apartment, I would get a high-quality sleeping pad. It would provide the space-saving benefits as well as provide insulation and cushioning.

The only other time I can see a yoga mat being used as a substitute for a sleeping pad is if they already have a yoga mat lying around and you didn’t want to purchase an actual sleeping pad

My Recommendation

Personally, I recommend a sleeping pad over a yoga mat for sleeping outside when camping or hiking. They are lighter, more durable, provide better insulation, and can be used in almost any environment.

It really holds true to the saying, “use the right tool for the job.” I would never substitute a tool that wasn’t explicitly designed to sleep on with one that was.

What Type Of Sleeping Pad Should You Use?

There are many different types of sleeping pads that can be used. Some are better for different purposes than others.

For example, some sleeping pads are better for outdoor camping and hiking, whereas others are more suitable for backpacking or casual sleep in the house. 

The type of sleeping pad you use depends on your personal preferences as well as the environment you will be using it in.

Some people prefer a slightly more bouncy and soft feel to their sleeping pad, while others prefer a more firm and bumpy sleeping pad.

There are also many different brands of sleeping pads that may come with a higher price tag or a lower price tag, depending on what you want.

When Might One Want To Use A Yoga Mat As A Sleeping Pad?

As we mentioned earlier, in most cases, a proper sleeping pad is better to sleep on than a yoga mat, but one may decide to use a yoga mat if that is what you have access to and you don’t want to spend money on a sleeping pad. You could always enhance the yoga mat’s insulative properties with blankets, which will also add some additional padding for comfort.

Sleeping Pad Frequently Asked Questions

– What is the best sleeping pad for camping?

I would say the best sleeping pad for camping is one that has a high r-value and can be used in extreme weather conditions. Durability is also crucial if you will be on a multiple-day trip sleeping on a variety of terrain.

If budget isn’t of concern, I would recommend a Neo-air by Therma-rest. 

I personally have used this pad, and it is extremely warm, durable, and comfortable. I would recommend it to anybody.

If you have a smaller budget, then opt for a Thermarest Z-lite sleeping pad; it is much cheaper and well respected for a value-type pick.

– Should you get a self-inflating or foam sleeping pad?

This is a personal preference. Some people like to have the option of inflating their pad and the cushioning, and others like the firmness of a foam pad and not having to worry about the inflating pad developing an air leak in the middle of the night.

– How much should I spend on a high-quality sleeping pad?

It really is a personal preference. I would buy the best one you can reasonably afford that has good reviews within the camping/hiking community.