Best Sleeping Pads: Top 5 + How to Choose the Right One

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If you have ever spent a night on the cold hard ground with a stick jabbing your hip and a rock under your shoulder you already know the importance of a sleeping pad.

Just because you are roughing it in the back-country does not mean you should be forcing yourself to suffer uncomfortable sleepless nights the whole time.

In fact, using a sleeping pad on thru-hikes has been proven to increase overall performance simply by providing a better night’s rest.

So, what do the best sleeping bags consist of? How do you know how to choose the best sleeping pad for your adventures?

Just like all outdoor gear, the options are staggering and the lingo sometimes confusing.

You will need to evaluate materials, construction, warmth, and compare all of this too the factors that are most important for the type of back-country trekking you will be doing.

But before you rip out your hair over another gear decision, we are here to help you sort through all of the elements that matter most and how to apply them to your final decision. 

Top 5 Best Sleeping Pads

PRODUCTDESCRIPTION 
Best Sleeping PadKlymit Static V2 Sleeping Pad
-Weight: 16.6 oz
-R Value: 1.3
-Very affordable
-Slightly wider
-More durable than standard pads
Check Price
Best Sleeping PadTherm-a-Rest NeoAir Xlite Ultralight Sleeping Pad
-Weight: 12oz.
-R Value: 3.2
-Exceptional warmth-to-weight ratio
-Packs down small
-Comfortable and supportive
-Trusted brand with great warranty
Check Price
Best Sleeping PadSea to Summit Comfort Light Insulated Sleeping Pad
-Weight: 15oz.
-R Value: 3.8
-Lightweight warmth
-Comfortable
-Thick & Durable
-Good valve system
-Quick inflation/deflation
Check Price
Best Sleeping PadTherm-A-Rest NeoAir XTherm Lightweight
-Weight: 15oz.
-R Value: 5.7
-Exceptional warmth-to-weight ratio
-Packs down small for a 4-season pad
-Comfortable and supportive
-Trusted brand with great warranty
Check Price
Best Sleeping PadsNemo Tensor Insulated Sleeping Pad
-Weight: 15 oz.
-R value: Not listed but 10-20 degree F rated
-Quiet for an inflatable pad
-Comfortable and supportive
-Many size/shape options
-Good valve system
-Pump sack included
Check Price

Quick Answer: Best Sleeping Pad


How to Choose the Best Sleeping Pads


Types of Sleeping Pads

Tent on a beach in the Philippines

First and foremost, we need to take a look at the different types of sleeping pads. There are so many ways to gain that little extra layer of comfort so let’s go through them one by one.

Closed Cell Foam Pads

Tent with sleeping bags and sleeping pads with a waterfall behind it in Northern Wisconsin

These types of sleeping pads are perfect for hikers that love to keep it simple. No bells or whistles here. Just a basic dense foam filled with small closed air cells that trap warmth and elevate you off the ground.

Closed-cell foam sleeping pads are a minimalists dream as they provide almost as much comfort as inflatable pads but with three times the durability and half of the weight.

These can generally be packed down by rolling them uptight and attaching to the bottom of your pack or fold into a Z formation that can be strapped to the front.

Easy as that. Gone are the worry of your pad deflating in the middle of the night, or popping halfway through your trip. 

Air Pads

Tent camping in Patagonia

Air pads, or inflatable pads, are pretty self-explanatory. However, don’t think of them as the bulky air mattress you drag out to the living room when friends come to visit.

Instead, air pads can usually be inflated in less than three minutes by using your breath or a customized hand pump depending on the brand.

While you will have to be sure that the area you set up in is cleared of debris to prevent snagging (we also recommend using a ground cover tarp under your tent) the warm and comfort benefits are definitely worth it.

Many air pads come with some form of internal insulation like down or reflective materials to increase your overall warmth.

Also, since the increased popularity of ultra-lightweight hiking many air pad manufacturers have been able to trim the fat and give you options that are almost as light as closed-cell foam pads. 

Self-Inflating

Tent camping in Greenland

Self-inflating sleeping pads are a combination of the inflatable air pads and the closed-cell foam. There is no need for pumps or manual blowing, simply open the valve and air travels through the cell pockets and poof you’re done.

Like air pads, it is recommended that you use a ground tarp to prevent puncturing as these pads are still susceptible to abrasions. They also tend to be bulkier than air pads and more expensive than closed-cell foam.

They are also not as pack-able as the previous two options making them better for weekend trips or car camping. 

Shape and Size Considerations

Tent camping in Patagonia

Like your outdoor clothing, you want to make sure that your sleeping pad matches up with the frame of your body. Too short and your legs will hangover, too long and you are wasting precious room and weight in your pack.

However, matching the size of your pad to your height is fairly easy as pads lengths are usually measured in inches and/or centimeters. Regular sized pads generally measure around 72 inches long which will fit most body types.

Taller people can also opt for the long size which is generally 78 inches. While you can lose a surprising amount of body heat by having a pad that is too short, some ultralightweight hikers still opt for the ¾ length pad which is around 47-48 inches and packs down much smaller. 

The width of your sleeping pad is likely to go hand in hand with the shape. Most regular sized sleeping pads measure about 20 inches in width which can accommodate most of your average adventurers.

These tend to be mummy/oval-shaped to maximize on the weight to comfort ratio. But, if you have broader shoulders or are the type of person that tosses and turns throughout the night you may want to opt for a large size sleeping pad.

These are generally 25 inches in width and come in either mummy or rectangle shapes giving you a lot more shoulder and wiggle room.

However, if you are considering a larger sleeping pad also be sure that your tent is capable of housing it. Many of the one person tents can run small so with a large pad you might be sacrificing some gear space. 

Insulation and R-Value Are Important

Travelers sleeping in Antarctica

Evaluating a sleeping pads R-value against the type of climate you plan to be trekking in is crucial. That is because the R-value signifies how resistant it is to heat flow.

The higher the R-value the better insulation and protection from the cold ground you can expect. On average sleeping, pads range from 1-11 in R-value and can even jump higher than that when you are looking for mountaineering or snow trekking style pads.

If you are hiking in moderate climates, and R-value around 4-5 is perfectly suitable as it will protect you on chilly nights but keep you cool enough on muggy summer evenings. 

Also, looking at the insulation and R-value of your sleeping pad is actually more important than the temperature rating on your sleeping bag.

This is due to the fact that most sleeping bag manufacturers assume that you will be using some sort of sleeping pad to insulate you from the earth. Without a properly insulated sleeping pad that expensive sleeping bag decreases in its overall functionality. 

Sleeping Pad Add-ons to Consider

Lina and David Stock jr of Divergent Travelers Adventure Travel Blog in a tent in Africa.
  • Sleep systems: Many sleeping bags come with a sleeve to slip your pad into. This keeps everything securely in place and prevents you from slipping off the pad in the middle of the night. So, make sure to check the sleeve width of your pad if you want to opt for this feature.
  • Patch kit: If you want to go with an air pad, bringing a repair kit is a must. Most air pads come with a couple of patches, but you can never be too prepared so bringing an extra could save your trip and your back.
  • Pillow: You may think bringing a pillow or opting for a pad with one built-in is a bit of overkill, but remember it is all about getting a good night’s rest. Many inflatable pads use a hand pump that can double as a small pillow for added comfort. 

Sleeping Pad Activity Matching


Tent camping in Greenland

Now that we have a bit more information on what to look for when choosing the best sleeping pad, let’s see how these elements stack up in the various outdoor camping scenarios.

Thru-hiking

Camping in Canada

When thru-hiking you are looking to conserve space and weight everywhere you can.

That is why you should look for a sleeping pad that is durable enough to last the entire trek, light enough to keep your gear weight down and packable enough to take up as little space as possible.

Here is where closed-cell foam pads are the best option. They won’t cost you an arm and a leg and tick all the necessary boxes. 

Backpacking, Biking, Kayaking, etc.

Lina Stock of Divergent Travelers Adventure Travel blog camping in Baja Mexico

On these types of trips, you are likely to have long labor-intensive days. So, when you go to lay your head down at night you will want to be as cozy as possible to soothe those aching muscles.

This is where air pads are the best fit. They are still extremely pack-able taking up minimal space but give you the most support needed to get back after it the next day. 

Winter Camping or Alpining

Lina Stock of Divergent Travelers Adventure Travel Blog camping in Greenland

Here is where insulation and R-value are key. You will want to be as high off the snow-packed earth as you can get with enough insulation to prevent the chill of the climate from seeping in.

This is when you may want to consider stacking two types of sleeping pads. Using a closed-cell foam pad and the bottom topped with a high R-value air pad will give you maximum insulation and protection. 

Car Camping 

Lina Stock of Divergent Travelers car camping

In this scenario, weight and size are rarely an issue. Here you can go with whatever sleeping pad you find the most comfortable regardless of the other considerations.  


Best Sleeping Pads Recommendations


Klymit Static V2 Sleeping Pad

Klymit Static V2 Sleeping Pad

The freedom to shed weight and pack size without sacrificing comfort or durability. The Static V2 lets you count ounces without abandoning luxury.

It offers the same exceptional comfort of the original Static V, in a pad that weighs just one pound and packs to the size of a soda can.

Weight is shed by using lighter fabric on top, while still retaining an ultra-durable underside. This pad is right at home on summer backpacking trips.

SPECS:

  • Weight: 16.6 oz
  • R-Value: 1.3
  • Very affordable
  • Slightly wider
  • More durable than standard pads

Check Klymit Static V2 Sleeping Pad price at Amazon


Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Xlite Ultralight Sleeping Pad

Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Xlite Ultralight Sleeping Pad

The Therm-A-Rest NeoAir XLite Ultralight Inflatable Air Mattress for three-season backpacking, mountaineering, and camping is the ultimate minimalist’s expedition sleeping pad.

Offering maximum warmth for the weight, it’s designed specifically for adding a padded layer of warmth and insulation between a sleeping bag and ground in alpine conditions.

Proprietary reflective ThermaCapture technology traps radiant heat within the mat, while the Triangular Core Matrix minimizes heat loss during sleep.

With an R-value of 3.2, it’s ideal for sleeping outside in spring, summer, and fall. The baffled internal structure provides support and comfort in a 2.5-inch inflated mattress, for a restful night in the back-country.

SPECS:

  • Weight: 12oz.
  • R-Value: 3.2
  • Exceptional warmth-to-weight ratio
  • Packs down small
  • Comfortable and supportive
  • Trusted brand with a great warranty

Check Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Xlite Ultralight Sleeping Pad price at Amazon


Sea to Summit Comfort Light Insulated Sleeping Pad

Sea to Summit Comfort Light Insulated Sleeping Pad

The Sea to Summit Comfort Light Insulated sleeping mats feature hybrid layer Air Sprung Cell technology, a double layer of high-resolution cells in the torso for maximum comfort and insulation, and a single layer of medium resolution cells in the head and legs for reduced weight.

Air Sprung Cells are small, point-weld divided air chambers which individually absorb pressure and conform to the contours and movement of your body without affecting adjacent cells.

The result is a mattress that supports you better. Sea to Summit uses Exkin Platinum, a quiet non-woven fabric, to reflect radiant heat loss back to the user and Thermolite insulation to prevent convective heat loss between your body and the ground.

SPECS:

  • Weight: 15oz.
  • R-Value: 3.8
  • Lightweight warmth
  • Comfortable
  • Thick & Durable
  • Good valve system
  • Quick inflation/deflation

Check Sea to Summit Comfort Light Insulated Sleeping Pad price at Amazon


Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm Lightweight Sleeping Pad

Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm Lightweight Sleeping Pad

The Therm-A-Rest NeoAir XTherm Lightweight Inflatable Backpacking Air Mattress for backpacking and camping is the ultimate winter expedition sleeping pad.

Offering maximum warmth for the weight, it’s designed specifically for adding a padded layer of warmth between a sleeping bag and ground in harsh, cold conditions.

Inflates easily in less than two minutes by blowing into the valve, for quick setup in a bivy or a tent. The four-season Therm-A-Rest NeoAir XTherm sleeping pad is perfect for lightweight expeditions in rugged environments, both summer, and winter.

SPECS:

  • Weight: 15oz.
  • R-Value: 5.7
  • Exceptional warmth-to-weight ratio
  • Packs down small for a 4-season pad
  • Comfortable and supportive
  • Trusted brand with a great warranty

Check Therm-A-Rest NeoAir XTherm Lightweight Sleeping Pad price at Amazon


Nemo Tensor Insulated Sleeping Pad

Nemo Tensor Insulated Sleeping Pad

Offering quieter, more supportive sleep at a tiny packed size, Tensor ultralight sleeping pad stands apart as the ultimate back-country adventurer’s best friend.

Updated with a zero-profile, micro-adjustable valve and included Vortex pump sack, NEMO’s lightest sleeping pad uses premium 20D fabrics to shave grams without sacrificing plush comfort.

Spaceframe baffles offer unparalleled stability, weight distribution, and a quieter sleeping experience by using low-stretch die-cut trusses to eliminate springiness and keeping your elbows and hips from poking through to the ground.

SPECS:

  • Weight: 15 oz.
  • R-value: Not listed but 10-20 degree F rated
  • Quiet for an inflatable pad
  • Comfortable and supportive
  • Many size/shape options
  • Good valve system
  • Pump sack included

Check Nemo Tensor Insulated Sleeping Pad price at Amazon


Not finding what you are looking for? Check out our favorite places to go shopping for travel gear.

  • Shop Columbia: The industry leader in outdoor apparel and products; You can find anything from great jackets, gloves, hats, shirts, and travel pants.
  • Shop REI: They offer some of the best outdoor gear around. We love REI since they have a year Love it or hate it no questions guarantee.
  • Shop Moosejaw: Has a huge selection of outdoor gear at killer prices.

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About David Stock

I have always been an outdoorsman so becoming an adventure traveler was just the next natural step. I love nature, I love to get off the beaten path and I like to explore. I enjoy scuba diving and cars. And yes, Lina and I have a naked dog.



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