Is A Yoga Mat Suitable For Camping (What’s The Difference?)

In recent years, yoga has become an extremely popular pastime for people of all walks of life. If you have taken an interest in the sport, then you will know that it requires the use of a yoga mat. These spongy floor liners make yoga much more comfortable and when you are in your final resting pose, they are often so comfortable, you might fall asleep.

It stands to reason then that a yoga mat could double up as a camping mat, but would this be a good idea? Are they similar?

A yoga mat is not typically recommended for camping and you will always be better investing in a proper sleeping pad, specially designed for sleeping outdoors. 

In this post, we will be exploring the key differences between a yoga mat and a camping mat and discovering whether it is ever a good idea to substitute one for the other. 

Can I Use A Yoga Mat For Camping?

A yoga mat will not provide you with the comfort, insulation or compact design that you would get from a sleeping pad.  A yoga mat and a sleeping mat are not the same things. They may appear to be similar at first glance, and let’s be honest, in many ways they are. But when you look more closely, you will begin to notice that these two items serve two very different purposes and when it comes to camping, a yoga mat will not provide you with the comfort, insulation or compact design that you would get from a sleeping pad. 

What Is The Difference Between A Yoga Mat And A Sleeping Pad?

A yoga mat is made for physical exercise whereas a sleeping pad is made for, well, sleeping. You can see immediately why the two might not share the same characteristics. We wrote a whole article about the Best Camping Mats, to help you further 

When looking at what equipment you should take camping, the only time you should pack a yoga mat is if you intend to do yoga on your camping trip. Otherwise, always pack your sleeping pad. Let’s take a look at the key differences between the two.

Insulation

When you are sleeping in a tent, you are in very close proximity to the ground. There are even those who skip the tent and really embrace the experience of sleeping under the stars. But while this closeness to nature is one of life’s greatest pleasures, it could also serve as a way of making you ill. 

This is because, when you sleep, your body temperature naturally drops. When you are sleeping on the ground, the cold night air from underneath you can make you even colder and in the worst-case scenario, could cause hypothermia.

Sleeping mats are sold with information on the R-value. This relates to how well they resist heat loss. This is an incredibly important aspect of this type of camping equipment and something that is not given when purchasing a yoga mat. Even if the yoga mat does resist heat loss, it is hardly likely to matter to someone practising downward dog. 

Conversely, a yoga mat is not designed to maintain heat and as such, should never be used as a sleeping pad. This is particularly important when you are camping anywhere that the temperature could drop significantly. 

There has been some suggestion that thicker yoga mats might be suitable for camping as they may provide better insulation. There are yoga mats that are up to an inch thick and while these would probably provide more protection from the cold than their thinner counterparts, they still are not designed with camping in mind. 

Comfort

A yoga mat has one purpose in mind; activity. Yoga is all about movement and as such, these mats are designed with a decent amount of traction to prevent the user from slipping around as they practice. 

They also tend to be very thin and if you have ever tried to do yoga outdoors, you will notice how you can feel the ground perfectly under your body. It isn’t a very comfortable experience, so just imagine trying to sleep on one. 

In contrast, a sleeping pad is meant for sleeping. Manufacturers have this restful activity in mind and, unlike the yoga mat, create something that will contour to your body and provide protection against anything underneath. 

There are many sleeping pads on the market and you will likely find that some are better than others. It is important to look at the materials used but for the most part, you will notice that sleeping pads are filled with something to keep you comfortable. Yoga mats are not, they are merely one dense piece of material. 

A lot of it comes down to personal preference, but as a general rule, the most comfortable sleeping pads have a closed-cell foam interior. This cushions you from anything underneath and allows you to sleep in any position without any discomfort. 

Portability

A yoga mat is far from being the heaviest item in the world and if you decided to take one camping, it certainly wouldn’t weigh you down to the point that you couldn’t cope. That being said, that isn’t to say that a sleeping pad won’t be far easier to transport, especially if you are hiking between campsites.

Yoga mats are typically a lot heavier than sleeping mats; on average, a sleeping pad won’t be any heavier than a couple of pounds. In contrast, the average yoga mat can weigh twice as much as this. While this may not be a huge weight, on top of everything else you need to carry, every pound matters and if you can shed weight, it can make a huge difference. 

Different Types Of Sleeping Pads

Your choices are pretty good when it comes to choosing the right type of sleeping pad for you. The most important things to think about are where you will be camping, for how long and your personal preference. 

In the main, there are three types of sleeping pads. 

  • Closed-cell foam sleeping pads are filled with small air bubbles and this helps to retain a lot of the heat making these excellent for anyone camping in a particularly cold location. They are less compact than other types of sleeping pad but they do offer excellent durability. 
  • Air sleeping mats are very similar to air mattresses just on a much smaller scale. They can be totally deflated making them easy to carry. However, there is a risk that they will puncture and so may not last as long. An air-filled sleep mat might not be as insulation as a foam mat since the internal air will only ever be the same temperature as the air around it. 
  • A self-inflating pad fills with air but there is also a foam element. You get the best of both worlds with this type of sleeping pad but then you also get the drawbacks of each type. 

Suitable Sleeping Pad Substitutes

It is evident that a yoga mat is not a suitable substitute for a sleeping pad. The good news is that sleeping pads are very inexpensive and even for some of the best quality ones, you won’t expect to have to break the bank. 

Thermarest Mondoking sleeping matHowever, there are some people who simply do not like the idea of sleeping on a sleeping mat, and others who, for whatever reason, don’t have one. 

The good news is that you don’t need to break out the yoga mat just yet because there are many viable options when it comes to your sleeping surface when camping. 

  • Air beds or mattresses are a good option but they are typically a lot bigger and sometimes require an electric connection. They are not good for people who are on foot and are much better suited to those using an organised campsite. 
  • We love campbeds, we spent alot of time looking for the most comfortable campbeds in an earlier article.
  • If you want a rustic experience reminiscent of a night in the ‘I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here’ camp, then a hammock can be a good choice. Not only will these keep you off the ground but they can also be super comfortable and fun. 
  • If you are in a pinch and find yourself in need of an emergency camping bed, piling up lots of blankets and sleeping bags can be something of a lifesaver. 

Conclusion

Going camping requires you to be made of tough stuff since you won’t have all the creature comforts that you are used to at home. However, that doesn’t mean to say that it should be an uncomfortable experience. 

Getting a good night’s sleep in your tent can be easy when you use the right equipment but it’s important not to make the mistake of replacing a sleeping pad with a yoga mat. These two items both serve a purpose and just as you wouldn’t perform your daily yoga routine on a sleeping pad, you shouldn’t attempt to use your yoga mat for sleeping in a tent. 

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