Best Camping/Hiking Sleeping Pads – Reviews and Guide 2020

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Last Update: 10.Dec.2019

Best Choice Go to Amazon Shop

Therm-a-Rest NeoAir UberLite

As the absolute lightest insulated air mattress available, the UberLite keeps your pack featherweight on the trail. Proprietary construction provides the critical warmth needed in the backcountry. Boasting 2.5 inches of our legendary NeoAir comfort, the minimal UberLite makes a big impact during nights in the backcountry. To endure the rigors of the backcountry, our unique fabrics and construction meet our strict durability standards. Stuff sack and repair kit included.
Best Choice Go to Amazon Shop

Therm-A-Rest NeoAir XLite

The NeoAir XLite mattress delivers more warmth and comfort per ounce than any other three-season air mattress available. Our patent-pending technologies deliver that performance with minimal weight and less bulk than a one-liter water bottle. Softer fabrics bring better next-to-skin comfort and a boost in durability, all with no added weight. For the discerning alpinist, thru-hiker or backcountry minimalist who's counting every ounce, there is simply no better choice to assure the kind of rest you need to enjoy tomorrow. Stuff sack and repair kit included.

by Willie Test

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Last Update: 10.Dec.2019

While camping might be your time to “rough it” in the great outdoors, there’s no need to be uncomfortable when you tuck in for bedtime at the end of a long day of adventure. In fact, a great backpacking sleeping pad is just what you need to get a great night’s sleep and stay warm at night, wherever your travels might take you.

That being said, finding the best backpacking sleeping pad is no simple feat. With so many different options out there on the market today, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed when you’re shopping around. That’s where we come in.

We understand how difficult it can be to choose the best camping sleeping pad, which is why we put together this ultimate guide to finding the model that’s right for your needs. To get you started, we have all of the need-to-know information about buying a compact mattress for your outdoor sleeping needs. Let’s get to it!

Therm-a-Rest NeoAir UberLite

From alpinists to thru-hikers, those who need the lightest gear have a new standard for ultralight comfort.
As the absolute lightest insulated air mattress available, the UberLite keeps your pack featherweight on the trail. Proprietary construction provides the critical warmth needed in the backcountry. Boasting 2.5 inches of our legendary NeoAir comfort, the minimal UberLite makes a big impact during nights in the backcountry. To endure the rigors of the backcountry, our unique fabrics and construction meet our strict durability standards. Stuff sack and repair kit included.
Go to Amazon Shop
  • Technical specs

Best Use

Backpacking

Sleeping Pad Type

Air Pad

R-Value

2.0

Repair Kit Included

Yes

Stuff Sack Included

Yes

Packed Size

Large: 7.5 x 3.7 inches, Regular: 6 x 3.5 inches, Small: 6 x 3.2 inches

Sleeping Pad Shape

Mummy

Ultralight

Yes

Pad Thickness (in.)

2.5 inches

Dimensions

Large: 25 x 77 inches, Regular: 20 x 72 inches, Small: 20 x 47 inches

Weight

Large: 12 ounces, Regular: 8.8 ounces, Small: 6 ounces

Gender

Unisex

Pros

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

Cons

Less durable than some pads

Expensive

Therm-A-Rest NeoAir XLite

The peak of ultralight, three-season camp mattress performance.
The NeoAir XLite mattress delivers more warmth and comfort per ounce than any other three-season air mattress available. Our patent-pending technologies deliver that performance with minimal weight and less bulk than a one-liter water bottle. Softer fabrics bring better next-to-skin comfort and a boost in durability, all with no added weight. For the discerning alpinist, thru-hiker or backcountry minimalist who's counting every ounce, there is simply no better choice to assure the kind of rest you need to enjoy tomorrow. Stuff sack and repair kit included.
Go to Amazon Shop
  • Technical specs

Best Use

Backpacking

Sleeping Pad Type

Air Pad

Sleeping Pad Shape

Semirectangular

Sleeping Capacity

1-person

Packed Size

Long: 11 x 4.5 inches

R-Value

3.2

Pad Thickness (in.)

2.5 inches

Dimensions

Long: 77 x 25 x 2.5 inches

Weight

Long: 1 lb. ounces

Gender

Unisex

Pros

Ultra-packable design

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

Cons

Expensive

Less durable than some pads

NEMO Switchback

NEMO redefined the classic closed-cell foam sleeping pad to deliver more thickness and plush comfort in an industry-leading packed size.
Switchback features hexagonal nodes, which are molded with our dual-density Axiotomic™ foam to create Hypnoelastic™ zones that conform to your body in a perfect balance of comfort and support. Switchback™ also leverages a metalized thermal film layer to efficiently reflect heat back to your body. Blend that with 15% more heat-trapping space, this new innovative design is able to deliver a warmer, more comfortable sleep than other pads in this category.
Go to Amazon Shop
  • Technical specs

Best Use

Backpacking

Sleeping Pad Type

Closed-cell Foam Pad

Sleeping Capacity

1-person

Sleeping Pad Shape

Rectangular

Insulated

Yes

Insulation Type

Closed-cell Foam

R-Value

Unavailable

Packed Size

Regular: 20 x 5.5 x 5 inches, Short: 20 x 5 x 4 inches

Pad Thickness (in.)

0.9 inches

Dimensions

Regular: 72 x 20 x 0.9 inches, Short: 51 x 20 x 0.9 inches

Weight

Regular: 14.5 ounces Short: 10.5 ounces

Gender

Unisex

Pros

Space-efficient design

Premium dual-density, abrasion-resistant Axiotomic

More precise tooling eliminates wasted space between folded layers

Protected by the NEMO Lifetime Warranty

Cons

Not warm enough for sub-freezing temps

Weight saving not worth the sacrifice in comfort

Sleeping Pad Types: Air, Self-Inflating, and Foam

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:

Foam Sleeping Pads

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.

Air Sleeping Pads

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!

Self-inflating Sleeping Pads

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.

What to look for when buying a 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:

Weight

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.

Thickness and Comfort

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.

Warmth & R-Value

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.

Packed Size

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.

Sizing and Pad Length

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.

Durability (Denier)

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.

Valves & Inflation

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!

Our Recommendations

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:

Thermarest UberLite

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.

Thermarest Ridgerest Z-Lite

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.

Thermarest ProLite Self-Inflating Sleeping Pad

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.

In Conclusion

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!

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