How Long Does a Self Inflating Sleeping Pad Take to Inflate?


Before purchasing my first self inflating sleeping pad I had no idea what to expect. I had no idea how long it would actually take to fully inflate my sleeping pad. So how long does a sleeping pad take to inflate?

How Long Does a Self Inflating Pad Take To Inflate?

The self inflating design on these sleeping pads allows you to get where you’re going, take the pad out of its stuff sack, open the valve and lay it in place. That’s basically all it takes to setup your sleeping pad. 

After flattening it out and opening the valve you should be able to hear the air start to draw into the valve.  That air then starts to inflate its open cell foam core on the inside of your pad. When you’re backpacking just lay out your pad and walk away.  Come back later and the pad should be pretty close to where it needs to be.

So how long does a self inflating pad take to inflate?  It usually takes about 20-30 minutes for a sleeping pad to fully inflate.  However it probably won’t fully inflate all on its own. If you want that full firmness you’ll have to give it a puff or two.

Let Your Pad Inflate Before Heading Out

Even though you should always store self-inflating sleeping pads with the integrated valve open, that’s not how they’re shipped.  Companies like therm-a-rest ship their sleeping pads in a compressed state with the valve closed.  

So before you use a sleeping pad you need to open up the valve and give it at least 24 hours for the foam to decompress. You’re just trying to give the pad enough time to rebound a little so it can get closer to full inflation. 

Top The Pad Up With a Few Extra Breaths

So your pad takes about 20-30 minutes to fully inflate, but that’s the end of it.  A self-inflating pad will never completely inflate by itself. You’ll need to supplement the pad with a breath or two to fully inflate the pad.

Most of the time a single puff of air is all it takes to fully inflate the pad.  You can further adjust the firmness by laying down on the pad, reaching over your shoulder and just barely opening up the valve. 

I like to let out just enough air so my butt is barely off the ground. Side sleepers usually want to keep more air in their sleeping pad. Once you get to your desired firmness close the valve and enjoy your sleep in comfort.

For more information check out this post explaining how much air you should put in a sleeping pad.

Don’t Over Inflate Your Pad(You’ll Roll Off)

Do you toss and turn throughout the night? Have you ever rolled off the edge of your sleeping pad? Your sleeping pad is either too narrow or over-inflated. You don’t have to duct tape yourself to the pad to get a good nights sleep, just let out some air.

Most backpackers tend to overinflate their sleeping pads. Your pad shouldn’t look stiff to the touch. Aim for that 75% full look. Just full enough to keep your butt off the ground without making you unstable.

Over-inflating your sleeping pad may actually cause you to roll off in the middle of the night. You’re much better off letting a little bit of air out so the pad conforms to your body.

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