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Ian Clarke : Sleeping with your Bike : Part One

Updated: Jan 24, 2019


…and before you ask “no – I don’t have a problem”!! (well not one I can talk about openly at least…..)

When heading out on the bike there are many questions to consider, especially when camping off the bike, and it is very easy to get overloaded with information about what you should and should not have with you. Unfortunately, there are a lot of opinions (if you ask everyone is willing to offer one…), so I will try to be clear and alleviate some of the confusion for you.

Things to consider when camping off the bike :

  • Fit for purpose – does it do what it is supposed to do?

  • Cost – can you afford it? If you spend a lot will you get the use out of it and therefore value for money?

  • Volume / Weight – can you carry it?

When considering bike camping and sleeping the first consideration is where will you be sleeping? Are you looking at a manicured lawn that is billiard table smooth? Or are you going to be rough camping on a hillside hidden out of sight? One would assume that if you have got this far that you already have some form of ‘shelter’, whether this be a tent, a tarp, or something else.

There are two considerations for sleeping off the bike – a sleeping mat and a sleeping bag. I will tackle each separately. Hence part 1 – the sleeping pad and part 2 – the sleeping bag

Sleeping Pads :

So are you going to sleep directly on the ground? This can be done, but I wouldn’t recommend it. Can be very uncomfortable and probably won’t sleep too well. So I would recommend something between you and the ground – a sleeping mat. The purpose of the mat is to provide comfort and insulation that enhances your sleep. There are three different options available – air pads, self-inflating pads and closed-cell foam. So what do you choose?

Below are a couple of pictures showing some of the varied range of mats, both inflated and rolled up. As you can see there are a lot of variations available to choose from:


Features of sleeping pads :

  1. R-value: How do you compare one pad with another? The effectiveness rating is called the R-value and means you can compare two different pads with ease. The higher the R-value the better it will insulate you from the ground. Having a higher R-vlaue will not lead to overheating (like a sleeping bag), it will simply insulate better. Some pads can provide more insulation along the core and feet where cold sleepers tend to loose more heat.

  2. Weight: The lighter the pad, generally, the higher the cost, but it is an important consideration for a biker.

  3. Length: How long do you want the pad? Do you want to insulate just your upper body or the legs and feet too? A smaller pad will weigh less and use less space.

  4. Width: How wide do you need the pad? If you are a bigger person you may want a wider mat. The same is true if you roll around when you sleep. Often when you have a longer pad, you also get a wider pad. However, it does need to fit in your tent…

  5. Surface: If you ‘toss & turn’ at night you may need to consider the material of the pad to reduce the possibility of sliding off at night. Usually you only find out when you wake up cold…..

Types of Sleeping Pads :

Air pads – as the name suggests, are air inflated – a little “huff & puff” from you. Generally only a couple of minutes, but if you have asthma or a chest infection this may not be so easy… Some pads do have their own inflation bag hand pump that alleviates the need to blow.

✔ What’s good?

  • Comfortable

  • Light

  • Compact

  • Custom fit - firmness

✖ What’s not so good?

  • Can be expensive

  • Can be punctured

  • Can deflate during the night (hopefully not)

  • Noise

Self-inflating pads – These are a specific type of air pad where you simply undo the valve and allow the cells to expand. The pad is made up of foam air pockets that can be compressed, so when the valve is opened the air fills the cells and expands the pad ready for use.

✔ What’s good?

  • Comfortable

  • Light

  • Compact

  • Custom fit – firmness

  • Warm

✖ What’s not so good?

  • Can be expensive

  • Not as compact as air pads

  • Can be punctured

  • Can deflate during the night (hopefully not)

  • Noise

Closed-Cell Foam pads – these are the most basic form of sleeping pad. They are easily accessible from a whole host of stores and are very cheap to buy

✔ What’s good?

  • Cheap

  • Light

  • Good insulation

  • Durable

  • Can be used as a sit mat

✖ What’s not so good?

  • Bulky

  • Less comfortable

  • Can tear easily on a rough surface

  • One shape fits all


#EXP52 #IanClarke #Camping #SleepingPads #SleepingMats #SleepSystems #RValue #CampingandMotorcycling #Adventure #Travel

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