Best Sleeping Pads
We are not suggesting that you won’t be able to fall asleep on a low –quality sleeping pad. We are simply stating that the morning after you will wake up feeling energized and refreshed or sore and this depends on many factors including the quality of your sleeping pad. After a long day of hiking or backpacking, the last thing you want to do is put an effort into resting your exhausted body. Instead, it would be nice that you have great or at least decent quality equipment that will support your body and provide you a good night’s sleep.
Our Top 3 Picks
- Therm-a-rest NeoAir XLite
- Pillowed structure
- Sea to Summit Comfort Plus
- Great support
- Exped SynMat Hyperlite
10 Best Sleeping Pads
Therm-a-rest NeoAir XLite
Although the main reason for the pillowed structure of this sleeping pad is to provide comfort and support to your body, it is also providing extra insulation and isolation from the cold ground. In its manufacturing process advanced fabrics are being used for the production, one of them being nylon material which is responsible for its waterproof properties. It is promoted as a 3-season sleeping pad, although cold sleepers are not advised to use it in autumn on high altitudes. The insulation properties are provided by using the Core Matrix triangular construction design which minimized the heat loss of your body.
This is the most lightweight sleeping pad from the 3 season category. With its 1 pound, it is perfect for long backpacking trips and expeditions.
Although this is not a mummy sleeping pad, it does not have a bulky design like most rectangular pads. It is comfortable enough for sleeping, yet compact enough for packing it into your backpack.
- Not too hot for the summer and not too warm in the autumn
- A bit on the expensive side
Sea to Summit Comfort Plus
This is one of the few sleeping pads that are supported with sprung cells in order to provide your body a greater support and comfort. It is designed with 596 cells which guarantee that your body won’t bottom out into the pad and you will have a refreshing night’s sleep. It is an inflatable sleeping pad though, which means it is recommended that you pay a special attention on choosing the exact place where you are going to set it up. The pressure adjustment valve will allow that you wake up at the same elevation that you were when you fell asleep which is a pretty rare feature.
Inflation and deflation
The biggest problems when it comes to inflation and deflation are the bacteria that tend to grow inside the pad. However, this sleeping pad is treated with antimicrobial treatment which prevents such conditions.
When it comes to weight it is important that it is compared to the insulation rating. This particular sleeping bag has excellent weight to warmth ratios which makes it a perfect choice for backpacking in cold weather conditions.
This Sea to Summit sleeping pad includes a repair kit in its package as well as a waterproof sack that is made from durable nylon material.
- Much more comfortable than competitive models
- Offers great support
- A bit on the heavy side
Exped SynMat Hyperlite
The Hyperlite is a great alternative to self-inflating sleeping pads since it provides excellent support even on bumpy terrains. It is also pretty stable, which is ensured by its elevated surface that will increase its comfort. Even though this makes it perfect for back sleepers, side sleepers will not appreciate this feature so much.
With only 12 ounces on your back, the Hyperlite sleeping pad has a great warmth to weight ratio. In fact, this is the lightest full-length sleeping pad that you could find, providing this level of warmth and comfort.
The Hyperlite has an R-value of 3.3 which classifies it in the 3 season sleeping pads. However, we would advise against taking it into the mountains in cold temperatures. The pad has an insulation made from synthetic fibers to both the bottom and the top which make it perfect for spring backpacking trips.
This sleeping pad is not a nylon one like most pads from this price range. This is the main reason why it made it to our list. Instead, it uses a 20D durable fabric which decreases the possibilities of damage. Even though a patching kit is included in the package, hopefully you will manage to go by without it.
- Very lightweight
- More durable than nylon models
- Comfortable for back sleepers
- Not to comfortable for side sleepers
- Slow deflation process
Klymit Insulated Static V Lite
The feeling this sleeping bag provides while you are sleeping on it is unlike any other model on the market. It is specifically designed with side rails in order to increase the comfort. Sleeping on vertical rails feels not so comfortable and horizontal ones tend to collapse on the edges. For this reason, Klymit’s side rails provide the perfect level of comfort!
It weighs 19.6 ounces, which is a bit more than competitive options, but the R-value compensates for this fact.
The R-value of this sleeping bag is 4.4 and it is good enough to make you feel comfortable in snowy weather conditions. It is interesting to mention that comparing to other sleeping pads with the same R-value, this one, tends to feel warmer. The reason for this is simple, yet impressive. The baffles are designed a bit deeper than competitive models, so when the sleeping bag lays on top of the pad it fills the baffles. This leads to trapping the warmth inside, therefore you feel warmer and more comfortable. It is a brilliant and simple technology for increasing the warmth properties which is used in this sleeping pad only.
- Baffles provide greater warmth
- Affordable price
- Not so durable
- A bit noisy
Big Agnes - Air Core Ultra
The Air Core Ultra provides you 3,25 in elevation from the ground which means that the probability of you feeling the pine cones or rocks on the ground is significantly decreased. The baffles, however, might not provide the same level of comfort. It is important to mention that the level of comfort significantly decreases if the pad is less inflated than its optimum capacity.
This is not a sleeping pad that is particularly lightweight. However, it is not in the heavy category neither. Nevertheless, if you are looking for a lightweight sleeping pad, take a look at our other suggestions such as the Sea to Summit Ultralight sleeping pad.
The R-value of the sleeping pad is 1, which means its isolation properties are minimal. This suggests that this sleeping pad should only be used in the summer when the temperature of the ground is higher. However, in high temperatures, this is a positive feature since it will keep your body colder.
- Relatively high
- Great price
- Low R-value
- Not so light
Therm-a-Rest EvoLite Mattress
Even though air sleeping pads are usually the more comfortable option, this inflatable pad proves this wrong. It is the perfect combination of a semi-inflatable sleeping pad and an air pad and it features the best of both models. Although its design features strips in a horizontal line, the surface feels as a flat one when sleeping on it. It is also a rather stable sleeping pad.
The R-value of the sleeping pad is 2.1 which means that it could withstand cold weather up to some degree. However, it is advertised as a 3 season sleeping pad which is good news for everyone except the cold sleepers who are advised to look through our warmer suggestions.
It weighs only 17 oz which makes it pretty light sleeping pad. However, if this is the main feature you are focusing, it is good to know that there are lighter options you could choose.
- Easily inflatable
- Affordable price
- Pretty low R-value
- A bit bulky
REI AirRail 1.5
The comfort this sleeping pad provides is noticeably different from other models on this list. The reason for this is because it is about 3 inches larger in width than the usual 20-inch size.
It is designed with side rails in order to protect you from falling over it and ending up on the ground.
With its 26 ounces, it is not the lightest sleeping pad in the suggestion list. However, it is one of the warmest sleeping pads. Nevertheless, we don’t recommend it to be used in the summer. The warmth of the pad is due to its side rails which are reducing the air flow of cold air inside the pad, thus keeping you warmer.
The material used in the production process is a 75D polyester. The material is also making the pad less slippery which is quite nice. However, the density of the material is not more durable than other pads from this price range on the market.
- Pretty warm
- Side rails
- Great comfort
Sea to Summit UltraLight
The design of this sleeping pad is pretty specific and it is responsible for the comfort it provides. Instead of baffles, Sea to Summit uses dot weld construction which is taking care of the bouncing issue and the weak edge construction which is the most common issue in pads. This makes the pad extra supportive, therefore your night’s sleep would be quite comfortable. However, the same dots that provide its comfort, tend to collect dirt which is making maintenance quite difficult.
The inflation process is pretty easy with this sleeping pad since the construction takes up most of the internal space. For this reason, fewer breaths are needed in order to blow the pad completely.
- Stable, comfortable
- Dot welds design
- Extra lightweight
Not so warm
Tends to get dirty
Nemo Tensor Field
It is designed with a baffles construction and the fabric used in the production is a low stretch which creates a stable sleeping pad surface. It is not only stable enough so that you don’t sink in or comfortably roll around, but you could also put your elbows on it and they won’t end up touching the ground.
The material and the design of this sleeping pad make this sleeping pad pretty durable.
Although the product is not too cheap, you would end up using it for a long time, especially if you know how to take care of it.
Great baffled construction
- Pretty expensive
Big Agnes - Q Core SLX Sleeping Pad
The material used in the production process is much more durable than similar sleeping pad models, therefore the higher price.
Even though the material is a rip-stop fabric which is quite common, it is a bit thicker than most models, therefore its durability.
Additional features include a repair kit which is necessary for your backpacking or camping trips. However, due to its durability, it is likely probably that you are going to need one.
- Soft surface, yet it offers great support
- Extra durable
- Repair kit included
A bit on the expensive side
Criteria for Evaluation
It is important to mention that what works for another person might not work so well for you too. People have different preferences and they should purchase their products based on these preferences. With the sleeping pad, it is important whether you are a side sleeper or a back sleeper. This will determine the softness of your sleeping pad.
Why is a sleeping pad so important?
Having a top-notch pad is important for many reasons. Even though comfort is in the top three reasons, it is not the most important one. A sleeping pad’s main role is to act as an isolator between you and the cold ground. Then why do you need a sleeping pad in summer? The truth is, even though the weather might make you think it’s a good idea that you hike in a swimming suit, the ground has a different temperature. The difference in the air temperature and the ground temperature could make you feel sore in the morning even though you were not cold during the night.
Needless to say, more expensive products usually have more features, although there are exceptions. The prices vary from $30 to $300 dollars for a sleeping pad with the highest quality. This doesn’t mean that you should get the most expensive one unless you have the need to do so. Sleeping pads with high isolation properties are intended for adventurers going on high altitude exhibitions and backpackers who spend a lot of time sleeping on the ground. For the rest of you, a sleeping pad with a price range from $100 to $150 should get the job done. The final destination is also very important in the decision-making process. Rocks tend to be colder than softer terrains, therefore require a better isolation pad which means that the price will significantly increase.
A sleeping pad is not the lightest thing into your backpack. In fact, it might be as heavy as your tent. If you are planning on doing a lot of hiking make sure you choose the lightest possible sleeping pad option. In our suggestion list, we have included lighter sleeping pads that are for casual hikes or serious backpacking trips as well.
This is the first thing you should consider when looking for a sleeping pad or a sleeping bag. Even though most beginners are not familiar with the R-value of a sleeping pad, it is a feature that will provide you much greater comfort. R-value is a feature that becomes more important as the temperatures drop. However, if you are looking for summer sleeping pad only, feel free to ignore this value. R-value is the thermal resistance that your sleeping pad possesses. The bigger its resistance capacity, the greater is its ability to prevent the transfer of heat from the ground to your body. A sleeping pad with a higher R-value will have a bigger heat conduction resistance which will cause you to have a good and warm night’s sleep.
That said, if you are looking for summer sleeping pad, a R-value of 2 should be sufficient isolator from the ground. Most sleeping pads have R-value from 2-4 and they are promoted as 3 season pads. However, autumn on a mountain could feel as a winter on lower altitudes. For this reason, we recommend a higher R-value. Sleeping pads with R-values above 5 would be ideal for temperatures bellow the freezing point. They are even suitable for sleeping on ice or snow surfaces. Nevertheless cold sleepers are advised to choose a sleeping pad with a higher value in order to feel more comfortable.
Type of sleeping pad
Sleeping pads come in two forms: foam sleeping pads and air pads. The comfort they both provide is pretty much at the same level, however foam sleeping pads are much lighter, therefore more suitable for longer backpacking trips. They are also being used for other purposes such as providing extra support for your back in case you are carrying a backpack without a frame. However, they are also bulkier than air pads and not as durable. Aid pads on the other side are more compact, which is the main reason why they are backpackers’ first choice. If you also prefer them over the foam pads make sure you bring with you a tape since they are known for their surprise punctures on the field.
Sleeping pad noises
Nothing could disrupt your sleeping cycle like a squeaky old sleeping bag that won’t let you enjoy the sounds of nature. Even though you are not a light sleeper, some pads are making enough noise to wake up the person in the tent right next to you. Nevertheless, when one is advertised as a quiet one, don’t expect it to be anything like your home mattress. It will make some noise if you move around, but hopefully, this will not wake you up. Another thing interesting to mention is that sleeping pads are made from synthetic materials. Some of these materials have a thin coating that makes them even noisier. However, after the first few uses, this coating wears off and you get yourself a nice and quit sleeping pad.
Patch it up
Every backpacker should be prepared for unexpected surprises on his trip. After all, it is why you are carrying all that gear on your back. A repair kit that will fix a puncture is a great idea for your backpacking gear.
That said, keep in mind that most punctures happen because of sharp objects underneath the pad. For this reason, it is always advised that you quickly scan the terrain for sharp objects before setting it up. Even so, be prepared that these things happen because of multiple reasons, so a repair kit will save you the trouble of sleeping on the cold ground. Most sleeping pads, that are with high quality, come with repair kits. However, if yours doesn’t have one, we recommend that you order it immediately.
When it comes to dimensions of the sleeping pad it is very similar to choosing a mattress. For a better nights sleep you need proper support for your body and its main pressure points. If you are a back sleeper, those pressure points include the waist area, upper back and neck. For side sleepers, it is crucial that their sleeping pad provides support in the shoulders and hips. By doing so, a sleeping bad will feel more comfortable and your sleep quality will increase.
Another important thing to mention is that if you are already investing in a sleeping pad with a decent quality, let it be a full-length sleeping pad. Believe it or not, some weight-conscious backpackers prefer to get extra short sleeping pads that are supporting their torso only and leaving their legs without proper isolation from the ground. Even though the warmth is not the only issue here, sleeping with your legs at a lower level than your torso might cause lower back issues. For this reason, we advise against these sleeping pads.
This brings us to the next point – support of your arms. If you are a side sleeper, a regular size sleeping pad should be enough for your body to fit in. However, if you are a back sleeper, you might need a larger or wider sleeping pad. When looking for the perfect dimension for you, make sure you include your arms as well since sleeping with your arms on the ground is never a pleasant experience. Nevertheless, you don’t want to get a wider sleeping pad that your own body size since it will also be heavier. It is similar to carrying something in your backpack that you know that you are not going to use.
Sleeping pad shape
Similar to the sleeping bags, sleeping pads should be compatible with them. If you are getting a mummy shaped sleeping bag, it is only logical that it is followed by a mummy shaped sleeping pad. Even though this is a matter of personal preference, a mummy shaped sleeping pad will save you some weight because the unused corner sections of the pad are completely removed. However, if you are used to rectangular sleeping bags, it is better to stick to the rectangular sleeping pad as well. After all, sometimes few extra pounds are worth the comfort they are providing. If you haven’t already chosen the rule is very simple. Rectangular sleeping pads allow you to move freely while you are sleeping and they are also allowing you to sleep with your legs spread a bit. Mummy sleeping pads on the other side are tighter on the feet and you are left with only one sleeping position. If you are a restless sleeper, you are risking ending up on the ground.
Sleeping pad thickness
People tend to look for thicker sleeping pads because they believe it will provide them more insulation and comfort. Even though they are right about the comfort, the insulation is something that does not depend on the thickness of the sleeping pad. If your sleeping pad is firm, it will prevent the middle part of it to bottom out while you are sleeping. This will provide better support for your spine, therefore, you will wake up without any back pain or feeling of exhaustion. However, what’s more important than this is the structure of the sleeping pad. The structure will make some parts of your body to sink in the pad, or it could make you feel as though you were sleeping on your home mattress. A nice sleeping pad structure combined with a high-quality mattress could indeed deceive your body into thinking it is sleeping at home.
Sleeping pad packing
Packing is a necessary part of every backpacking trip. However, as many of you may already know, it is not as fun as you’d think. Some sleeping pads are easier to unpack and set them up, but they will take some time packing them. In this part, the foal sleeping pads have the absolute advantage. Air sleeping pads on the other side must be fully packed inside the backpack, otherwise you are risking a puncture.
Q: What size of a sleeping pad do I need?
A: Choosing a sleeping pad for the first time requires a lot of research or a lot of useful advises. We are providing the second option of explaining how to choose the right size for your sleeping pad. The size of a sleeping pad is something that you decide by your personal preference. For instance, there are full length sleeping pads and half-length pads. The shorter ones support only your torso and your legs are left outside the pad and the ground is their support system. Although this is not too horrible because it allows you to minimize the weight, full length sleeping pads are much more comfortable. The shortened ones are designed in a way that leave your legs on a lower elevation than your torso and this could cause stiffness in the morning. So, for those of you who suffer from back and neck issue, this type of sleeping pad is to be avoided.
If you do decide to go at a minimum length, than make sure your hips are on the pad. However, for colder weather we recommend that you make sure your feet and legs are insulated as well. The typical length of a full length sleeping pad is around 78 inches and the shortened ones are around 47 inches.
As for the width of the sleeping pad, it is standard and it is around 20 inches. However, there are wider sleeping pads for bigger people or the restless sleepers who tend to roll around in their sleep.
Q: What R-value of a sleeping pad do I need?
A: The R-value of a sleeping pad is something that you are allowed to skip if you are only looking for a summer sleeping pad. However, as the temperatures drop, this value becomes more and more important. It is in fact, the level of insulation that your sleeping pad is able to provide to your body. A sleeping pad’s main purpose is to act as an isolator between you and the cold ground. Even though the temperature outside might be extremely hot, the ground is much colder than the air temperature. In order to protect your body from being directly connected to a cold source all night, and wake up with a cold or with stiffness in the morning, we are using sleeping pads. However, the level of isolation of a sleeping pad varies. Some are only able to maintain your body temperature, while others have higher insulation properties and it is able to keep your body warmer. In the “Criteria used for the evaluation” section, you have pointers on which R-value to choose according to the weather conditions of your backpacking or camping destination.
However, if the manufacturer has not stated this value, this means that the sleeping pad has not been tested and the isolation and insulation level it provides are unknown. We are advising against such purchases since they are not considered reliable products.
Q: How to find a proper place for setting up the sleeping pad?
A: Knowing how to choose the right place for setting up your sleeping pad could increase the durability of the product itself. It could also increase the comfort of your night’s sleep which is why this is an important question. We are all aware that placing it on sharp objects could cause damage to the sleeping pad. However, you should also know that even small and not so sharp rocks could cause you a great discomfort and you could feel it through the sleeping pad. You should also avoid uneven terrains since not all sleeping pads have a high level of stability. It is also advised to avoid terrains covered with grass since it is usually a place with high humidity that could lower the insulation properties of the pad.
According to all this, the best place for setting up a sleeping pad would be on an even surface, free from rocks and pine cones and away from grass.
Q: Why do I need to use a sleeping pad?
A: Using a sleeping pad is usually optional. However, there are advantages and disadvantages that you will experience no matter which choice you make. For instance sleeping in nature without a sleeping pad could decrease the weight of your load. However, it will also make your sleep much less comfortable and you could get cold. For the summer, you could even survive without a sleeping pad. However, when the temperatures drop, you will need an isolation pad and you will need a good one. If you intend on sleeping on snow or ice, carrying a sleeping pad with you might become a life of death situation.
That said, without a sleeping pad, you will end up sweating and shivering at the same time. For this reason, we advise that you sacrifice a bit and pick a pad with good quality if you haven’t already. After you try using it once, we doubt that you are going to leave it at home and sleep on the ground. And this tells you everything you need to know.
The market is not lacking sleeping pads. In fact, there are over 20 manufacturers of sleeping pads, each of them producing various versions of them. They have different features and they are intended for different types of users. For this reason, all we can do is show you the options and leave you to decide which one is most convenient for you. Some of the features are more relative than others, however, the comfort of the sleeping pad is something that varies greatly from one person to another. We highly advise you to remember this when reading any type of review for a sleeping pad. That said, hopefully, you will be able to find the right fit for you among some of our suggestions. After doing an extensive research, we have found these 10 sleeping pad options to offer the best features for the most affordable prices.
If you have any questions or doubts about our suggested products or sleeping pads in general, pop us a question in the common section bellow. Some of our experts will give you useful pointers for your purchase. Have a great backpacking trip!