What's the Best Way to Attach a Sleeping Pad to Your Backpack?

You can do without a lot of things in the backcountry, but a good night's sleep is not one of them. If you are planning a trip into the wilderness, know that a sleeping pad is crucial to maintaining your appreciation for the great outdoors.

A quality sleeping pad insulates and isolates you from the cold, hard ground and the long, hard day. The trick is figuring out the best way to bring it along with you and how to store it on your backpack.

how to attach a sleeping pad to a backpack

Sleeping pads don't weigh much but they are bulky. Inflatable sleeping pads can be compressed into small rolls, but are useless if they get torn or punctured, so care must be taken to keep them safe from snags or abrasions in transit. 

Self inflating sleeping pads and foam sleeping pads are tougher but they're also much more bulky and take up more space in your pack which makes them challenging to store.

Where to Store Your Sleeping Pad

If your backpack has a large enough capacity, a sleeping pad can be packed inside. Because of its size, shape, and light weight, it should be packed vertically and to the side, with items of similar size and weight for balance on the other.  

You always want to pack heavy items at the center of your backpack and since a sleeping pad is very lightweight, it can be easily stored off to the side which helps keep your backpack balanced on your back.

If your pack will not accommodate this, you will have to figure out how to attach the sleeping pad to the outside of the backpack. ​

Most backpacks offer a variety of choices when it comes to attaching gear to the outside. Side straps, back straps, and bottom straps are the most common.

These straps may use friction buckles, hook and loop closures, or snap clips to connect the ends. Integrated straps allow you to cinch your sleeping pad, vertically or horizontally, directly to the pack itself. 

The Best Storage Spot to Protect Your Sleeping Pad

The safest way for your sleeping pad to ride outside is vertically, down the outside center of the pack. This way your sleeping pad is shielded from branches and briars by your body. Packing it this way also lets you keep heavier items, in and on the pack, closer to your spine and does not throw you out of balance. Your sleeping pad can be strapped to a side, but care should be taken to balance the weight with the opposite side. Side to side balance is critical for backpacking.

If your pack is equipped with bottom straps, ​this can be an ideal spot to store your sleeping pad.  This frees up space inside of your backpack to store other items and the straps on the bottom of your pack are intended for a sleeping pad so you probably won't be able to use them to hold on to anything else.

One thing to watch out for if you store your sleeping pad on the bottom of your backpack is that you may find yourself getting caught on branches and trees more frequently.  Self inflating sleeping pads that are rolled up can be very wide, usually wider than your body, which means after you walk past a branch safely you still need to worry about your pad and backpack getting caught on the branch.


Some backpacks come with a floating lid.  These lids can be removed completely for use as a day pack or simply extended to heighten the quantity of gear you can cram in.

If your pack has a floating lid, you can secure your sleeping pad between the pack sack and its hat. Carrying it high and horizontally keeps it out of the bushes, but make sure to duck under low hanging branches. 

Wrap Up

How and where you carry your sleeping pad should lie somewhere between personal preference and packing conditions.

Hiking in heavy woodlands can be an exercise in evasion ops if you have too many things hanging off the sides. Hiking at high elevations, in rocky terrain, or on long trips may require a lot of food or equipment.

To attach sleeping pad to backpack in a pinch, a cord, rope, bungee cord, compression strap, sweatshirt, or jacket can be used to tie it on. Short lengths of emergency "rope" can be made from several plastic grocery bags looped together through the handles. These should keep your sleeping pad secure until you can return to civilization and get your backpack straps repaired.

Whatever it takes to get it there, your sleeping pad is a camping luxury you can't live without and a sleeping pad with a hole in it is dead weight so keep your sleeping pad safe by using any of the 3 storage methods covered in this article.

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