During the fall season, fallen leaves from deciduous trees such as maple, oak, etc. can be found in abundance. Dead leaves can be gathered and placed under your sleeping system in order to sleep more comfortably and presumably warmer.

How much R-value does a pile of leaves provide? This is of course dependent on the type of leaves (or composition), quantity, dampness and other factors.

Considering the possible variation, what level of R-value could you expect by gathering dead leaves?

  • Are you camping in a campground or LNT? I think it may make a difference since in campgrounds you typically would have rock-hard dirt under your pad, and in the woods you'd usually have quite a bit of soft loam under you, which will already provide significant insulation. Commented Jul 27, 2013 at 14:02
  • Both. The R-value rating should be independent of what is underneath. If you provide some data on either scenarios that could be useful as well.
    – ppl
    Commented Jul 27, 2013 at 17:34
  • I think it might be different depending on what's underneath, but haven't tried it. The reason I say this is that it seems like it might compress more on a packed surface than on a surface like loam, which has some give. Maybe not, though. Commented Jul 27, 2013 at 17:42
  • I've retagged, it's better to use existing [insulation] tag then create new one, with not very unknown term. I think those tags will get you more traffic, because they are more popular. Commented Jul 29, 2013 at 18:36

3 Answers 3


Leaves under your tent will offer almost no value as you will crush them when you lay in your tent. The primary benefit from leaves comes from dead air space. However they will provide a more smooth and soft sleeping surface.

Leaves piled around your tent will provide good insulation as long as they do not get wet. I could not find an R value, but I did manage to find this fairly realistic test using leaves for insulation.



This is almost certainly close to the R-value for a "dead air" space the same thickness as the leaf layer and the less compressed the leaves are the higher the R-value.
Setting up a test for this using a heat source and one or more thermometers shouldn't be too difficult.

  • What are the expected R-values for different thickness (relevant to leaves 'loft') of "dead air" space?
    – ppl
    Commented May 9, 2013 at 12:41
  • 2
    I can't give you numbers on temperature, but the bushcraft guru's recommend at least 6 inches of compressed leaf litter. Commented May 10, 2013 at 15:40

When I have to sleep in moist cold air I always put some newspapers under my matras. It absorbs the water thus keeping me much better dry and warm. If those leaves are dry when find them you can also put them under your matras with the same effect. I think it will work even better than putting them under the tent.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.