When choosing a sleeping pad for backpacking and camping, it’s best to consider its weight, durability, size, thickness, insulation, comfort, and price before making a decision to buy it. Here are our picks for the best 10 sleeping pads available today based on these dimensions. Many of these sleeping pads are available in different lengths, widths, and weights, making it easy to find a good choice to fit your needs.
1. Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite
2. Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm
3. Therm-a-Rest Z Lite Sol Foam Pad
4. Big Agnes Q Core SLX
5. Klymit Insulated V Ultralite SL
6. NEMO Tensor Air Pad
7. Sea-to-Summit Ultralight Insulated Pad
8. Therm-a-Rest ProLite
9. Therm-a-Rest RidgeRest Sol Foam Pad
10. Exped Synmat HL
How to Choose a Sleeping Pad
Choosing a sleeping pad requires prioritizing across multiple factors, some of which can be at odds with one another.
THICKNESS: Thicker sleeping pads are often more comfortable for side sleepers because they provide more cushioning under the hip bones. Depending on their length and width, it may take more breaths to inflate a very thick air pad, something to factor into your decision.
LENGTH AND WIDTH: Most popular sleeping pads are available a wide range of lengths and widths. While large pads are often more comfortable, they’re often heavier. Most pads are available in a standard 72″ x 20″ size. But many pads are also available in longer, shorter, and wider sizes, or mummy and rectangular shapes.
WEIGHT: A sleeping pad is one of the most important items on your gear list in terms of comfort and sleep insulation. While the weight of all backpacking gear matters, don’t make the mistake of being miserable at night by choosing a pad that compromises the quality of your sleep, simply to reduce the weight of your gear list.
COMPACTNESS: The size and compactness of a sleeping pad can be an important fact depending on your style of packing and the size of your backpack. Inflatable pads usually pack up smallest, self-inflating pads are usually larger, and foam pads are the largest. Depending on how you pack, foam sleeping pads may need to attached to the outside of your backpack because they’re so large. While closed cell foam pads don’t absorb water if they get wet, you’ll want to dry one off before you put a sleeping bag or quilt on top of it, after a wet day on the trail.
INSULATION: There are two types of sleeping pads: those intended for three-season (spring, summer, and autumn) use and those intended for use year-round. While four season sleeping pads are slightly heavier, they can be an excellent value if you can only afford to buy one sleeping pad.
DURABILITY: Foam sleeping pads are the most durable, self-inflating pads are the next most durable, and inflatable air mattresses the least. Inflatable pads tend to fail in two places: the valves and at the seams of fabric. Flat valves that are flush with the surface of the sleeping pad are more durable than stick valves because they have no moving parts and can’t catch on obstructions.
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Disclosure: Therm-a-Rest, Klymit, Sea-to-Summit, Big Agnes, Exped, and NEMO have all provided the author with many free gear samples for testing and review during the past 10 years.
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