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We live in an age where most of us can pop on to our phones at any instant and see beautiful pictures of adventurous folks scaling the world’s tallest mountains. These mountains are undoubtedly beautiful and the efforts of these folks shouldn’t be discounted. But what we often don’t see are photos of those cold nights spent sleeping in a small tent on the ground. And when you’re tucked into a tent on a cold night, the right sleeping pad can make all the difference in your outlook on the days to come. In this article, we’ll highlight ten of the best mountaineering sleeping pads so you can get the best night’s rest in the alpine and we’ll offer some things to consider when buying a sleeping pad for your mountaineering ventures.

For more of our top mountaineering gear recommendations, check out the Best Mountaineering Backpacks.

 

Quick Answer - The Best Mountaineering Sleeping Pads

  1. Nemo Switchback
  2. Therm-A-Rest Z Lite Sol
  3. Klymit Static V2
  4. Therm-A-Rest Pro Lite Plus
  5. Big Agnes Q-Core SLX
  6. Therm-A-Rest NeoAir Xlite
  7. Mountain Equipment Aerostat Down 7.0
  8. Nemo Tensor Alpine Air
  9. Sea To Summit Comfort Plus Insulated
  10. Sea To Summit Ether Light XT

 

Comparison Table - Best Mountaineering Sleeping Pads

PictureNamePad TypePad ShapeThicknessInsulatedPriceRating
Nemo SwitchbackClosed-Cell Foam PadRectangular0.9"Yes$4.2
Therm-A-Rest Z Lite SolClosed-Cell Foam PadRectangular0.75"Yes$4.1
Klymit Static V2Air PadSemi-rectangular2.5”No$4.5
Therm-A-Rest Pro Lite PlusSelf-Inflating PadSemi-rectangular1.5”No$$4.5
Big Agnes Q-Core SLXAir PadRectangular4.25”Yes$$4.2
Therm-A-Rest NeoAir XliteAir PadSemi-rectangular2.5”No$$4.2
Mountain Equipment Aerostat Down 7.0Air PadRectangular2.8”Yes$$4.8
Nemo Tensor Alpine AirAir PadSemi-rectangular3"Yes$$$4.4
Sea To Summit Comfort Plus InsulatedAir PadMummy2.5"Yes$$$4.4
Sea To Summit Ether Light XTAir PadSemi-rectangular4”Yes$$$4.5
PictureNamePad TypePad ShapeThicknessInsulatedPriceRating
Want to learn more about a technical term? Check out our Features Explained section below.

Need buying advice? Take a look at these Things to Consider.

Reviews - The Best Sleeping Pads for Mountaineering

Nemo Switchback

Specs
  • Insulated: Yes
  • Thickness: 0.9"
  • Pad Type: Closed-Cell Foam Pad
  • Pad Shape: Rectangular
  • Dimensions (Regular): 72 x 20 x 0.9 inches
  • Weight (Regular): 14.5 ounces
  • Dimensions (Short): 51 x 20 x 0.9 inches
  • Weight (Short): 10.5 ounces
Features
  • Space Efficient Design Means More Thickness In A Smaller Package
  • Traps More Warmth Around Your Body
  • Abrasion-Resistant Foam For Enhanced Durability
  • Thermal Reflective Films Reflects Heat Back To Body

BEST FOR: LIGHTWEIGHT COMFORT

The design of the NEMO Switchback allows for more warmth from an uncompressed sleeping bag to be trapped around your body. It’s also designed so that it takes up less space while still providing the thickness you need to get a comfortable night’s sleep. This sleeping pad uses dual-density, abrasion-resistant foam that achieves a great balance between support and durability. It also includes metallized thermal reflective film that reflects heat back to your body. This pad can be used as a standalone or it can be paired with another pad for extra insulation in extreme cold.

Therm-A-Rest Z Lite Sol

Specs
  • Insulated: Yes
  • Thickness: 0.75"
  • Pad Type: Closed-Cell Foam Pad
  • Pad Shape: Rectangular
  • Dimensions (Regular): 72 x20 x 0.9 inches
  • Weight (Regular): 14 ounces
  • Dimensions (Short): 51 x 20 x 0.9 inches
  • Weight (Short): 10 ounces
Features
  • Aluminized Surface For Heat Reflection
  • Egg-Carton Pattern Increases Softness
  • Accordion-style Design Folds Up Quickly
  • Compact Size For Traveling Light And Fast

BEST FOR: LONG-DISTANCE MOUNTAINEERING

The Therm-a-Rest Z Lite Sol is primarily designed for extreme alpine mountaineering, adventure racing,  and long-distance backpacking. The design is all about minimizing weight and reducing dimensions so it can be stored in a more compact fashion. The aluminized surface on one side of the sleeping pad returns heat back to your body and increases overall warmth by as much as 20% when compared to Therm-a-Rest’s previous model. This pad is designed with an egg-carton pattern for increased softness and the accordion-style design makes it easy to pack up and get out of camp quickly.

Klymit Static V2

Specs
  • Dimensions: 78 x 26 x 2.5 inches
  • Insulated: No
  • Weight: 23.6 ounces
  • Thickness: 2.5”
  • Pad Type: Air Pad
  • Pad Shape: Semi-rectangular
Features
  • V-Shaped Chambers Support Your Body’s Pressure Points
  • Side Rails Help You Stay Centered On The Pad So You Don’t Roll Off
  • Inflates With 15 To 20 Breaths
  • Pad Reservoirs Maximize Loft And Warmth

BEST FOR: TALLER MOUNTAINEERS IN WARM WEATHER

The Klymit Static V2 is the oversized version of the Static V, which makes it great if you’re a taller individual who can never seem to find a sleeping pad that’s big enough. This pad inflates with just under 20 breaths and it has small side rails that help you stay centered on the pad all night. This is helpful for those of you that tend to roll around in your sleep. The pad’s chambers work to support your body’s pressure points while the internal air reservoirs help to maximize loft and warmth. This sleeping pad has an R-value of 1.3, which makes it best for adventures in warm weather.

Therm-A-Rest Pro Lite Plus

Specs
  • Insulated: No
  • Thickness: 1.5”
  • Pad Type: Self-Inflating Pad
  • Pad Shape: Semi-rectangular
  • Dimensions (Long): 77 x 25 x 1.5 inches
  • Weight (Long): 31 ounces
Features
  • Light Foam Reduces Overall Weight
  • Easily Compresses To Store in Your Pack
  • Thick, Diagonal-Cut Foam Offers Added Comfort
  • Expanding Core Self-Inflates Effortlessly

BEST FOR: ALL-SEASON WARMTH

The Therm-a-Rest ProLite Plus is a great sleeping pad for all-season warmth. It offers an R-value of 3.4, which means this pad is quite warm on its own. It even comes with a stuff sack that helps you easily compress the pad for storage inside your pack. The pad’s lightweight foam core expands on its own once you unroll it and the valve makes it easy to top off the pad to your desired firmness just before you settle in. The pad’s diagonal-cut foam design provides excellent comfort in an exceptionally lightweight package for extended backpacking trips all year round.

Big Agnes Q-Core SLX

Specs
  • Insulated: Yes
  • Thickness: 4.25”
  • Pad Type: Air Pad
  • Pad Shape: Rectangular
  • Dimensions (Regular): 72 x 20 x 4.25 inches
  • Weight (Regular): 16 ounces
  • Dimensions (Long Wide): 78 x 25 x 4.25 inches
  • Weight (Long Wide): 22 ounces
  • Dimensions (Regular Wide): 72 x 25 x 4.25 inches
  • Weight (Regular Wide): 20 ounces
  • Dimensions (Petite): 66 x 20 x 4.25 inches
  • Weight (Petite): 15 ounces
Features
  • Synthetic Insulation For Warmth With Minimal Bulk
  • Nylon Fabric Improves Tear Strength And Durability
  • High Volume Valve For Fast Inflation/Deflation
  • Antimicrobial Treatment Prevents Microorganism Growth (AKA mold)

BEST FOR: THREE-SEASON COMFORT

The Big Agnes Q-Core SLX is rated down to 32 degrees Fahrenheit and has all the features you’re looking for in a three-season sleeping pad. It includes synthetic insulation which works to keep you warmer without adding unnecessary weight and bulk to the pad. The double-ripstop nylon fabric used in this pad improves tear strength and durability by as much as 25% over previous models and the new high-volume valve reduces time spent inflating and deflating the pad. The pad boasts a quilted top for a more pillowy sleeping surface and it is finished with an antimicrobial treatment that prevents microorganism growth. In other words, you won’t notice this pad starting to smell funky after just a few outings.

Therm-A-Rest NeoAir Xlite

Specs
  • Insulated: No
  • Thickness: 2.5”
  • Pad Type: Air Pad
  • Pad Shape: Semi-rectangular
  • Dimensions (Long): 77 x 25 x 2.5 inches
  • Weight (Long): 16 ounces
Features
  • Air Pockets Conserve Warmth
  • Reflective Layer Returns Heat To The Body
  • Softer Fabrics For Better Comfort
  • Packable Design For Less Weight And Bulk

BEST FOR: THE BACKCOUNTRY MINIMALIST

If you’re counting every single ounce that goes into your pack, this is the sleeping pad for you. The NeoAir XLite from Therm-a-Rest is lightweight, easily packable, and will help you rest easy at the end of a long day. The pad includes a reflective layer that returns valuable heat to your body and creates air pockets that help you conserve additional warmth. This pad is made with softer fabrics to make it more comfortable on your skin and also helps improve the durability of this pad. The tapered design helps to reduce the overall weight of this pad while also making it less bulky when you store it away in your pack during the day.

Mountain Equipment Aerostat Down 7.0

Specs
  • Insulated: Yes
  • Thickness: 2.8”
  • Pad Type: Air Pad
  • Pad Shape: Rectangular
  • Dimensions (Regular): 72.8 x 21.25 x 2.8 inches
  • Weight (Regular): 20.4 ounces
  • Dimensions (Long): 78.75 x 23.6 x 2.8 inches
  • Weight (Long): 24.3 ounces
Features
  • Insulated Air Chambers Reduce Convective Heat Loss, Keeping You Warmer
  • Water-resistant Lamination Keeps Pad Dry
  • Two-way Valve Prevents Air From Escaping So Pad Won’t Deflate Overnight

BEST FOR: SERIOUS COLD-WEATHER USE

This sleeping pad uses down insulation to achieve an R-value of 5.0. This makes the Mountain Equipment Aerostat Down 7.0 sleeping pad a great choice for mountaineers in serious cold weather. It is designed with internal foam plugs and vertically-aligned baffles (see Features Explained) that work to reduce down migration. Water-resistant lamination keeps the pad dry while the two-way, self-sealing valve reduces the likelihood of air escaping once the pad is inflated. The insulated air chambers work to further reduce convective heat loss and also provide a luxurious cushion of air upon which you’ll get a great night’s sleep.

Nemo Tensor Alpine Air

Specs
  • Insulated: Yes
  • Thickness: 3"
  • Pad Type: Air Pad
  • Pad Shape: Semi-rectangular
  • Dimensions (Long Wide): 76 x 25 x 3 inches
  • Weight (Long Wide): 24 ounces
  • Dimensions (Regular Mummy): 72 x 20 x 3 inches
  • Weight (Regular Mummy): 17 ounces
Features
  • Three Layers Of Metallized Films Helps To Efficiently Retain Body Heat
  • Micro-adjustable Air Valve For Easy Inflation And Fast Deflation
  • Includes Pump Sack So You Can Save Your Breath
  • Premium Fabrics Help Minimize Weight And Bulk

BEST FOR: STRETCHING OUT IN WARMTH AND STYLE

The NEMO Tensor Alpine Air will make it easy to stretch out and get comfortable, whether you’re stretched out on a portaledge or inside a mountain bivouac. The pad boasts a total of three layers of metallized reflective film to improve heat retention and keep you warm during cold-weather camping adventures. The pad’s micro-adjustable, multifunctional, zero-profile air valve makes it easy to inflate and deflate while the included pump sack helps you save your breath. It also helps to minimize any buildup of moisture that can occur inside sleeping pads when you blow them up with your mouth. Finally, this pad uses premium, 20-denier fabrics to shave weight and reduce bulk.

Sea To Summit Comfort Plus Insulated

Specs
  • Insulated: Yes
  • Thickness: 2.5"
  • Pad Type: Air Pad
  • Pad Shape: Mummy
  • Dimensions (Regular): 72 x 21.5 x 2.5 inches
  • Weight (Regular): 27.6 ounces
  • Dimensions (Short): 66 x 21.5 x 2.5 inches
  • Weight (Short): 25.2 ounces
  • Dimensions (Long): 79 x 25 x 2.5 inches
  • Weight (Long): 36 ounces
Features
  • Double-layer Design Provides Additional Support
  • Synthetic Insulation And Platinum Fabric Combine To Prevent Heat Loss
  • Independent Layers For Standalone Inflation
  • Pump Integrated Into Stuff Sack For Easy Inflation

BEST FOR: SUPREME COMFORT ON COLD NIGHTS

With an R-value of 5.0, the Sea to Summit Comfort Plus Insulated pad is a mountaineer’s dream on a cold night. The pad combines platinum fabric with synthetic insulation to prevent both radiant and convective heat loss. It boasts a two-layer design that allows each layer to be inflated independently of the other. This allows the pad to retain cushion if one of the layers is punctured. It also allows you to inflate the bottom layer more for protection against hard terrain and the top layer less for a soft, comfortable sleeping surface. This sleeping pad also has a pump integrated into the stuff sack to make inflation much easier.

Sea To Summit Ether Light XT

Specs
  • Insulated: Yes
  • Thickness: 4”
  • Pad Type: Air Pad
  • Pad Shape: Semi-rectangular
  • Dimensions (Regular): 72 x 21.5 x 4 inches
  • Weight (Regular): 15 ounces
  • Dimensions (Large): 78 x 25 x 4 inches
  • Weight (Large): 19.8 ounces
Features
  • Greater Thickness With Lower Overall Weight
  • “Spring” Construction Delivers Supreme Comfort And Support
  • Metallized Layer Minimizes Radiant Heat Loss, Keeping You Warmer
  • Lightweight Fabric For Easy Field Repairs

BEST FOR: EXTENDED-SEASON SLEEPING COMFORT 

The Ether Light XT from Sea to Summit will keep you out and about when the rest of your friends have run for the comfort of home. It delivers greater thickness with lower overall weight through a “spring-and-loop” construction style that creates the feel of a pocket-sprung mattress. This makes the pad supremely comfortable and supportive while a metallized layer works to reflect heat back to the body and minimize radiant heat loss. Because the pad is made from lightweight fabrics, you’ll also be able to easily repair it in the field if a puncture or scrape does occur.

 

THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN BUYING A MOUNTAINEERING SLEEPING PAD

CLOSED-CELL FOAM VS. AIR PAD

Pads that use closed-cell foam are relatively inexpensive and tend to last. They’re also lightweight and provide decent insulation against the cold. Perhaps the largest benefit of this type of sleeping pad is that you don’t have to worry about punctures or leaks. You’ll be able to carry this pad on the outside of your pack without worrying about it scraping against a tree or rock. And you’ll also be able to use it as a sit pad when you’re hanging around camp. The downfall of this type of sleeping pad is that they don’t provide a lot of support or cushion. In other words, they aren’t as comfortable as some of their counterparts. 

Air pads are either self-inflating or require manual inflation by the user. Self-inflating pads are generally more expensive than closed-cell foam pads and aren’t quite as compact as manual-inflating air pads. They meet a nice middle ground between the two, however, and can be a great choice for the kids. 

Manually-inflating air pads are the top-of-the-line options in terms of comfort and insulation when mountaineering. They’re also lightweight and most pack down to a relatively small size when not in use. They also allow you to customize the firmness of your mattress by adding or removing air to your liking. The downsides of this type of sleeping pad include higher price, greater likelihood of tears or punctures, and a bothersome tendency to feel like they’re losing air. It’s best to blow up this type of mattress right before you go to sleep, as fluctuating external temperatures can sometimes be the cause of these pads feeling as if they’re not providing as much cushion as you’d like. 

 

INTENDED ACTIVITY

Now that you understand a little more about the different types of sleeping pads, it’s time to dive into your intended activity. Are you going to be hiking the full length of the Pacific Crest or Appalachian Trail? Do you need a pad that will keep you comfortable sleeping in high alpine environments? Or do you just need a pad that you can throw down in the back of your car for the night? 

There is a lot of variety in the ways people use their sleeping pads and, as a result, there are sleeping pads made for almost any intended activity. While the breakdown we’re about to offer is generalized, we hope it will give you a good metric to start from. 

If your intended activity is car camping, you’ll probably be most happy with a self-inflating pad or a thick air pad. This will give you more cushion and you won’t really be worried about a larger pad taking up too much space. 

If you’re heading out for a few days on a backpacking, kayak camping, or bike packing trip, consider a self-inflating pad or a lightweight air pad. These will be easier to fit into your setup and provide plenty of comfort overnight. 

Minimalist backpacker and thru-hikers should choose from ultralight air pads or closed-cell foam pads. You don’t want to carry a bunch of extra weight or be trying to stuff a large pad into a small backpack. 

Finally, if winter camping is your thing, certainly do more studying into R-values and look at thicker air pads or self-inflating pads that have more insulation. Synthetic fibers and down are two of the best insulation materials used in winter camping sleeping pads. 

 

INSULATION (AND R-VALUE)

A sleeping pad’s R-value denotes how well it resists heat flow. In other words, a higher R-value means the pad is designed to keep you warmer and more insulated from the cold ground. While it’s not always necessary to get a sleeping pad with a high R-value, especially if you do most of your mountaineering in the summer, keep in mind that a higher R-value typically translates to a warmer you! 

There are, however, different types of insulation used in sleeping pads as well. Synthetic insulation is commonly used in air pads to reduce heat loss to the ground. Four-season sleeping pads may use down insulation to further reduce this heat loss.  

There is no magic formula for determining the “right” R-value for you, but most mountaineers will prefer a pad with an R-value of at least 3, even during the summer months. If you always tend to sleep cold, think about opting for a sleeping pad with an R-value of 4 or higher. And if you’re going to be mountaineering in extreme cold weather, look for pads with an R-value of 5 or higher. 

 

DIMENSIONS AND WEIGHT

The dimensions of your sleeping pad come into play as soon as you lie down. If you’re taller, you’ll want a longer pad. If you’re wider, you’ll want a wider pad. We know that’s not rocket science, but keep this in mind: the more of your body that hangs off the ends of edges of your sleeping pad, the more opportunities for heat loss. Thankfully, most sleeping pad manufacturers offer their pads in long and wide sizes so that you can find the right model that fits you. 

When it comes to weight, this factor largely plays into how much you want to carry on your intended activity. As we mentioned above, car campers probably don’t need to worry too much about the weight of their sleeping pad. Multi-day bike packers and kayak campers don’t have to carry that weight directly on their backs either. 

But if you are undertaking a long and arduous mountaineering trip, every ounce begins to matter the further you progress on your journey. Pads with a mummy or tapered shape will help you save weight while still enjoying the necessary features that will help you sleep comfortably. 

 

INFLATION SYSTEM

The inflation system, or air valves, on a sleeping pad can wind up causing problems if they’re not designed well. This is the primary area where air flows into and out of the pad. So if it doesn’t allow air to flow well enough, it’ll take way too much effort to inflate your pad. Conversely, if it doesn’t create a tight seal, you’ll find yourself sleeping on hard ground when you wake up in the middle of the night. 

Two-way, self-sealing valves are designed to eliminate both of these unfortunate circumstances. They don’t let air in until you provide enough air pressure, which is usually best done with a hand pump or pump sack. They also don’t let air out until you’ve manipulated them precisely to do so. When it comes to inflating sleeping pads, these valves go a long way to keeping your pad inflated and keeping you comfortable. 

There’s one more thing that should be mentioned about inflating air pads. If you’re using your own breath to inflate them, this increases the likelihood that moisture can get trapped inside. In cold temperatures, this can lead to freezing issues and in warm temperatures we start worrying about mold growth. When in doubt, get a hand pump or pump sack to inflate your pad. Better yet, buy a pad that already has one of those pumps integrated in its design! 

 

 

FEATURES EXPLAINED

R-VALUE

R-value is a measurement that refers to a material’s ability to resist heat transfer. A higher R-value means greater resistance and a lower R-value means less. In terms of sleeping pads, a higher R-value means less heat transfer away from your body (i.e. greater heat retention to keep you warmer). 

BAFFLES

Baffles help to control air flow within an inflatable sleeping pad. When they’re doing their job properly, they work to keep cold air near the ground and the warm air from your body closer to your body. 

AIR VALVE

This is where air is let into, and out of, your sleeping pad. It is also one of the primary culprits when a sleeping pad doesn’t retain air. The design and construction of the air valves plays a major role in the performance of mountaineering sleeping pads. 

DENIERS

This is a term that refers to the thickness of individual fibers used to create fabric. Fabrics with higher denier count tend to be thicker, sturdier, and more durable. A lower denier count means a fabric is softer and silkier. 

RESERVOIRS/AIR CHAMBERS

Relevant only to air pads, this term refers to the pockets of air created inside the pad when it is inflated. The design of these chambers plays a large role in how well the pad retains air, cushions your body, and retains warmth. 

PUMP SACK

A pump sack looks like a large stuff sack (you know, the thing that you stuff your sleeping bag into). Except these have a vinyl gasket on the bottom and they attach to your pad. By pulling the sack outwards you fill it with air. Then, when you compress the sack, the air is pushed into the pad. This is a much easier and efficient way to inflate air sleeping pads.

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