If you’re a side sleeper, your main concern in finding the right sleeping pad will likely be thickness. Thin pads just won’t cut it when your hips and shoulders are sinking to the ground, keeping you tossing and turning from side to side throughout the night. To help you out, we’ve rounded up the best sleeping pads for side sleepers who just want to get a good night’s sleep while car camping or backpacking. Each of the sleeping pads in the list below inflates to at least 2 inches thick, so you can focus on other features to narrow down and choose which one is your perfect fit.
For more of our top backpacking gear recommendations, check out the Best Backpacking Sleeping Pads.
Quick Answer - The Best Sleeping Pads for Side Sleepers
- Big Agnes Q-Core Deluxe
- Therm-a-Rest NeoAir UberLite
- Sea to Summit UltraLight
- NEMO Tensor Insulated
- Sea to Summit Comfort Light
Comparison Table - Best Sleeping Pad for Side Sleepers
|Big Agnes Q-Core Deluxe||1 lb. 9 oz. to 1 lb. 14 oz.||Rated for temperatures down to 15°F||4.25 in||$$$||4.7|
|Therm-a-Rest NeoAir UberLite||6 oz. to 12 oz.||2.0||2.5 inches||$$$||4.5|
|Sea to Summit UltraLight||15.1 oz. to 1 lb. 4.9 oz.||3.3||2 in.||$$||4.6|
|NEMO Tensor Insulated||15 oz. to 1 lb. 5 oz.||Rated for temperatures down to 10-20°F||3 in.||$$$||4.6|
|Sea to Summit Comfort Light||1 lb. 4.1 oz. to 1 lb. 10.6 oz.||4.2||2.5 in.||$$$||4.7|
Reviews - The Best Side Sleeper Sleeping Pad
Big Agnes Q-Core Deluxe
- R Value: Rated for temperatures down to 15°F
- Thickness: 4.25 in
- Weight: 1 lb. 9 oz. to 1 lb. 14 oz.
- Heat-Reflective Technology
- Quilted Top
- Internal Antimicrobial Treatment
BEST FOR: COMFORT CAMPING
At a plush 4.25 inches thick, the Q-Core Deluxe provides the most comfortable thickness of a sleeping pad you can still reasonably take backpacking. While it won’t be winning any ultralight awards, this pad is surprisingly lightweight, thanks in large part to the minimalist I-beam construction that keeps weight down while maintaining structural stability. Synthetic insulation and heat-reflective technology on the pad’s surface combine for a warm 3-season experience, and the quilted top is pillow-soft for extra comfort.
This pad’s thickness is an automatic win for side sleepers, as are the large outer chambers that keep you in the middle of the pad, cradled comfortably for a good night’s sleep rather than falling off the sides. The material technology is aviation-grade and helps prevent holes, though the pad comes with a repair kit if any punctures do occur. A high-volume valve means easier and more efficient inflation and speedy deflation when you’re ready to pack up camp. If you’re inflating with your own breath, the antimicrobial treatment on the inside will help keep nasty bacteria from ruining the pad from the inside out and ward off odors. Cushy yet lightweight, this sleeping pad will give side sleepers a well-deserved night’s rest.
Therm-a-Rest NeoAir UberLite
- R Value: 2.0
- Thickness: 2.5 inches
- Weight: 6 oz. to 12 oz.
- Included Repair Kit
- Double-Layer Construction (to maximize warmth)
- Tapered Design (to minimize weight)
BEST FOR: ULTRALIGHT ENTHUSIASTS
For side sleepers looking for the lightest outdoors set-up they can assemble, the NeoAir UberLite is the sleeping pad to choose. Packing down smaller than any other sleeping pad in the NeoAir line, the UberLite still offer 2.5 inches of stable cushioning to ensure you get a good night’s sleep. And at an astonishing weight – 8.8 oz. for the regular size – you’ll hardly even notice it in your pack.
With an R-value of 2.0, this minimally-insulated pad is best for summer camping, but don’t underestimate its warmth. The matrix construction offers 2 stacked layers of triangular baffles, which keep insulation in place with hundreds of individual cells optimizing stability and minimizing heat loss. This pad also lacks the internal Mylar layer that makes other sleeping pads annoyingly noisy, so you won’t keep your tent-mates awake with constant squeaking.
Sea to Summit UltraLight
- R Value: 3.3
- Thickness: 2 in.
- Weight: 15.1 oz. to 1 lb. 4.9 oz.
- Integrated Pump
- Antimicrobial Treatment
- Repair Kit Included
- Spare One-Way Valve
BEST FOR: EASY INFLATION
Suitable for 3-season camping and backpacking, Sea to Summit’s Ultralight insulated sleeping pad is designed for ease of use. The Airstream pump integrated into the bottom of the included stuff sack will be a top feature for those who hate spending minutes inflating their pad – just attach the pump nozzle to your pad’s inflation valve, and you’ll be able to use one breath of air to roll up larger amounts of air into the pad. No more huffing and puffing at high altitudes after a long day of hiking.
If you do decide to use your breath to inflate the pad, the inner antimicrobial treatment will help ward off microorganism growth, extending the life of your pad and keeping it fresh. High-loft insulation increases warmth while packing down small, and the outer layer has a metalized layer to reflect heat. Side sleepers, rejoice: the cell structure of the Ultralight Insulated pad is engineered to support your weight using dozens of minuscule, flexible points to keep you from hitting the ground even if you roll onto your side. Strong ripstop nylon fabric is lightweight but durable, and if you do encounter a puncture in your pad, a repair kit with six adhesive patches and a spare valve insert is included.
NEMO Tensor Insulated
- R Value: Rated for temperatures down to 10-20°F
- Thickness: 3 in.
- Weight: 15 oz. to 1 lb. 5 oz.
- Repair Kit Included
- Pump Sack Included
- Suspended Film Construction (to reduce noise)
BEST FOR: LIGHTWEIGHT WARMTH
3 inches thick with 2 metalized layers of insulation, the Nemo Tensor will effectively keep side sleepers warm and off the ground from late spring to early fall. The suspended construction is quieter than other sleeping pads when shifting at night, allowing you (and your friends) to get a better night’s sleep. The baffles, which are the internal cells that make up the structure of a sleeping pad, also evenly distribute your weight to keep your hips and elbows off the ground and help create a more stable sleeping surface.
Inflation and deflation are efficient with this pad’s unobtrusive valve, and the included lightweight pump sack offers faster inflation when you’re exhausted at the end of the day. Premium, durable fabrics are soft and luxurious while minimizing weight, making for a small packed size that will keep your shoulders and hips happy while backpacking.
Sea to Summit Comfort Light
- R Value: 4.2
- Thickness: 2.5 in.
- Weight: 1 lb. 4.1 oz. to 1 lb. 10.6 oz.
- Integrated Pump
- Repair Kit Included
- Spare One-Way Valve
- Antimicrobial Treatment
BEST FOR: COOL-WEATHER DURABILITY
The hip and shoulder support on the Comfort Light will keep side sleepers happy even in cool fall weather. Sea to Summit calls this pad’s structure “Air Sprung Cell” technology, which consists of 2 layers of cells under the torso to maximize comfort and insulation. At the head and legs, the cells cut down to 1 layer to reduce weight while still providing support. The cells function similarly to mattress springs to offer ultimate comfort, even on your side.
Durability is a non-issue with this ultralight pad thanks to the 40-denier ripstop nylon — 1 denier is a single strand, so 40 strands create a tough layer to resist punctures without adding too much weight. If your pad does get punctured, the included repair kit will help you patch it up. Thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) is used to bond with the shell fabric to prevent delamination and extend the lifespan of your pad, combined with an antimicrobial treatment on top of the TPU to ward off mold issues that might arise from warm, moist air collecting inside. Inflation is a breeze thanks to the pump integrated into the stuff sack, so save yourself some air and try out this reliable Sea to Summit pad on your next backpacking trip.
THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN BUYING SLEEPING PADS
All of the sleeping pads on our list for side sleepers are air pads, meaning you have to inflate them before sleeping on them. Air pads offer ultimate comfort for sleepers of all types, especially those that are at least 2 inches thick, but they are susceptible to punctures. If you camp and backpack with a furry friend with long nails, a closed-cell foam pad might be the way to go — these also tend to be less expensive, but you’re likely sacrificing comfort. Do some more specific research to decide which type best suits your outdoor lifestyle.
The amount of emphasis on weight for your sleeping pad depends on whether you’ll be backpacking or car camping more often. Ultralight sleeping pads can get pricey, but it’ll be worth it when you’re out on the trail and have plenty of room and less weight in your pack for an extended backpacking trip. Technology has also advanced to the point where ultralight pads can offer plenty of comfort and support, as with the lightweight pads above, but if you truly want a comfortable experience, opt for the thickness of a slightly heavier sleeping pad.
As we’ve mentioned, the thicker the pad, the more comfortable it’s likely to be for campers who prefer to sleep on their sides. Look for sleeping pads that are 2 inches thick or more for the best support, as they’ll help keep your hips and shoulders from sinking to the ground.
The level of insulation you need in a sleeping pad depends entirely on when and where you’ll be using it. For colder climates, look for greater insulation to protect your body from the cold ground. If you’re a 3-season camper, lighter insulation will do the trick. For those who only camp in hot, dry climates, you can likely get away with minimal insulation.
Width, like many sleeping pad features, is a personal preference. Side sleepers who tend to not move around much at night may be fine with a regular width sleeping pad. Many brands offer wide versions of each of their pads, which can offer extra room and increase comfort so you don’t have to worry about rolling off in the middle of the night.
Your height and preferences will determine what length sleeping pad you need. Look for a few inches of extra space beyond your head-to-toe measurements so you have room for a pillow and some foot space.
Sleeping pads generally come in 3 common shapes: mummy, rectangular, and semi-rectangular. Some people feel constricted by the mummy shape, but the design can help reduce weight. If you prefer a little more room while you sleep, rectangular may be the way to go. For more on choosing the right sleeping pad for your needs, check out this Backpacker magazine article.
R-value, put scientifically, measures thermal resistance. Materials with higher R-values are more thermally resistant, so they offer more warmth. A typical scale increases in insulation from an R-value of 1.0 to an R-value of 9.5. Some brands, such as Big Agnes and NEMO, offer temperature ratings in place of R-values for their sleeping pads, but the standards for these ratings are much more likely to vary from brand to brand. Therm-A-Rest generally recommends an R-value of 1.0 – 2.0 for summer, 2.1 – 3.3 for 3-season camping, 3.3 – 5.0 for winter, and 5.0+ for extreme winter conditions.
The cells in an air sleeping pad that create the internal structure and the seams you see on the outside.
An issue that arises in sleeping pads when the pad is left exposed to heat or pressure for too long, resulting in a bubble internally. In a foam-core sleeping pad, flipping the pad over may help, but an air pad that’s been delaminated will likely need to be replaced.
Thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) is a material that is typically applied in sleeping pads to prevent delamination of the internal shell fabric.