Last Update: 10.Dec.2019
Shrinks down smaller than any other NeoAir® sleeping pad.
R-value of 2.0, which makes it best for adventures in cool weather.
Made in the USA from domestic and imported materials
Less durable than some pads
Ultralight sleeping pad designed for compact-minded backpackers
WingLock valve eases inflation and quickens deflation
Triangular Core Matrix offers the best warmth-to-weight ratio
Less durable than some pads
Premium dual-density, abrasion-resistant Axiotomic
More precise tooling eliminates wasted space between folded layers
Protected by the NEMO Lifetime Warranty
Not warm enough for sub-freezing temps
Weight saving not worth the sacrifice in comfort
First things first, let’s talk about the different kinds of sleeping pads for backpacking. It turns out that all camping mattresses aren’t made alike and that there are some important differences to be aware of when shopping around. Here are the different types of mats out on the market today:
The original form of camping mattresses, a foam sleeping pad is exactly what it sounds like – it’s a single piece of closed-cell foam cut to fit the length of the average person. This kind of camping sleeping mat is insanely simple as they are made solely of foam that’s designed to trap heat in tiny little air pockets to insulate you from the ground.
However, foam sleeping pads are usually less than a half an inch thick, which means they aren’t the most comfortable mattress options out there. Additionally, thanks to their foam design, they tend to be quite bulky and need to be strapped to the outside of your backpack when moving from camp to camp.
That being said, what a foam sleeping pad lacks in comfort and packability, it makes up for in price and durability. It’s quite literally impossible to pop a foam sleeping mat, and you’d have to try pretty darn hard to rip it during the course of regular backpacking activities. Plus, foam mattresses are almost always the cheapest option, with some models featuring price tags below $30.
Featuring the latest and greatest in sleeping pad technology, air camping mattresses combine packability and ultimate comfort into one great package. Although they do, in some ways, resemble pool toys, air pads are the most comfortable and most insulative of any of the camping mattresses.
There are many kinds of air mattresses, however, so don’t be fooled into thinking that they’re all the same. The highest quality air sleeping pads will be made of a durable material that inflates to provide two to four inches of insulation to keep you warm and comfortable at night.
Thanks to an air pad’s inflatable structure, they tend to be the most compact sleeping pads on the market. In fact, the most compact model around rolls up to be just about the size of a 12-ounce beer can. What more could you want?
If you’re a keen lightweight backpacker, you’ll probably want to opt for an air mattress for your camping trips as they tend to be the best ultralight sleeping pads around.
The downside to all of this lightweight, compact, inflatable goodness? Air sleeping pads will cost you a pretty penny. But, if you want quality, there’s really nothing that can beat an air mat for camping!
In many ways, a self-inflating sleeping pad is sort of a hybrid between its foam and air cousins. This kind of pad is basically a piece of open-celled foam that’s smushed inside a fabric outer. When you open the valve to inflate the pad, the foam instantly starts expanding, creating a comfortable surface for you to sleep on.
Self-inflating pads are a good mix between the affordability of a foam pad and the comfort and compactness of an air-filled model. While self-inflating mattresses don’t really excel at anything in particular, they are a good all-around product for people who don’t need the utmost in performance or quality.
Generally speaking, self-inflating mats are convenient, as you don’t need to spend time blowing them up, but that convenience comes at the price of weight and bulk, at least when compared to an air pad. But, if you want a mattress that’s a bit more comfortable than foam and less expensive than an air model, you can’t go wrong with a self-inflating sleeping pad.
Now that you’re familiar with the different kinds of backpacking sleeping pads, it’s time to discuss the various features that you should look out for when shopping for your next piece of outdoor gear. Here are some things to consider:
As with any piece of gear while backpacking, the weight of a sleeping pad is of the utmost importance. When you’re carrying your entire life on your back, there’s no room for excessively heavy objects – sleeping pads included.
Thus, when buying a sleeping pad, be sure to check out an individual product’s weight. The lightest models on the market are air mattresses that currently tip the scales at just under 9 ounces, which is amazingly light. More affordable options often weigh between 1 and 2 pounds, so keep this in mind while shopping around.
No one likes to be uncomfortable while sleeping and camping outside is no exception. For most of us (except for the select ultralight backpackers in the crowd), comfort is king, so we want to find a sleeping pad that matches our needs.
For the most part, the thicker the mattress, the more comfortable, especially when it comes to air-filled pads. Thus, you can often get an idea of how comfortable a particular model is going to be based on how thick it is when inflated.
As you might imagine, a foam sleeping pad is rarely going to be as comfortable as an air-filled alternative. Since foam pads are usually quite thin, they actually do little more than insulate you while you sleep, so don’t expect five-star comfort with that $20 foam mattress.
Let’s face it: the ground is cold. Even in the middle of the summer, the ground is going to be much colder than the ambient air temperature, which means you need to insulate yourself to keep you warm as you sleep.
When it comes to sleeping pads, warmth and insulative quality is measured in terms of an “R-value.” Basically, the higher the R-value, the warmer the sleeping pad. The warmest four-season pads usually have R-values around 4 while more affordable three-season options will be between 1.5 and 2.5 in R-value. Generally, the thicker the pad, the better the R-value.
We all have limited room in our backpacks, so a compact sleeping pad is a good choice. Air and self-inflating sleeping mats tend to have the smallest packed size, making them relatively easy to shove into your pack. On the other hand, a foam pad is often big and bulky, requiring you to strap it to the outside to move from camp to camp.
Since we humans come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, you’ll want to find a sleeping pad that fits your needs. For the most part, camping mattresses come in three sizes: short, regular, and long.
Short pads are usually just long enough to cover your head, torso, and upper thighs, making them a good option for shorter folks or ultralight backpackers. Regular length pads are often around 6 feet long, while long mats are usually sized to be 6’6”.
Additionally, you can choose to get a rectangular or mummy-shaped pad. Rectangular mats are more spacious and more comfortable to sleep on but are often heavier and less packable. On the other hand, mummy-shaped pads can feel constraining at first but are usually lighter and more compact.
No one wants a sleeping pad that falls apart or gets a hole in it after just a few uses. That’s why we look for mattresses that are durable and made of high-denier fabrics. A denier is a measure of the fabric thickness used in a particular product, with higher denier fabrics being more durable than lower denier alternatives. Of course, the higher the denier, the heavier the product, but this is often worth it when it comes to getting a more durable camping mat.
If you’re going to buy an air or self-inflating pad, you need to check out the valves and inflation system before you click “purchase.” While some pads will inflate relatively easily, others require a few minutes’ worth of huffing and puffing to come to life. However, pads that require more inflation tend to be the most comfortable, so don’t write them off completely!
If you’re looking for a good sleeping pad to take with you on your next adventure, here are our top picks for each category of camp mattress:
Top Pick for Air Sleeping Pads
This super lite air mattress tips the scales at just under 9 ounces, making it one of the lightest sleeping pads out there. Plus, it compresses down to the size of a beer can, so there’s no reason not to have it in your pack.
Top Pick for Foam Sleeping Pad
The Thermarest Ridgerest Z-Lite is an innovative foam sleeping pad that folds up accordion-style for easy transport between camps. Plus, it has a heat-reflective layer and an R-value of 2.6 to help you stay warm at night at an affordable price.
Top Pick for Self-Inflating Sleeping Pads
The Thermarest ProLite is our top choice for a self-inflating sleeping pad due to its relatively light weight and small packed size. Incredibly comfortable, the ProLite requires only a few puffs of air to reach your desired firmness for a great night’s sleep.
A high-quality sleeping pad is one of the best investments you can make for your backpacking gear list. With a good camping mattress, you can sleep well at night, wherever your adventures might take you. So, whether you want a foam, air, or self-inflating mattress, there’s one out there for you, if you know what to look for in the best sleeping pad for camping!
In the Toptravelpoint Blog you will always find useful and up-to-date information about hiking and camping. & Bryce
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