Updated on May 12, 2022
 

If you’re looking for one of the best backpacking sleeping pads, you’re in the right place. We’ve surveyed the market and hand-selected a range of pads then shared some of our top picks for specific categories like lightweight, budget-friendly, and best for side sleepers. Aside from the top picks, we’ve included some runner-ups you might want to consider.

We featured the regular size version of each sleeping pad to put all the options on a level playing field so that you can easily compare them. We included other size options of the same model and mentioned if there is a women’s specific pad available.

Each sleeping pad we’ve selected has its pros and cons, and there’s not a single one out there that will be perfect for every hiker, so we did our best to give you an honest opinion to help you decide if it’s the right choice for you and your style of backpacking.

QUICK RECOMMENDATIONS

Best Sleeping Pad Overall >> Nemo Tensor Insulated

Best Sleeping Pad For Tall & Big People >> Big Agnes Q-Core Deluxe

Most Comfortable Sleeping Pad For Side Sleepers >> Sea To Summit Ether Light XT

Best Ultralight Sleeping Pad >> Therm-a-Rest NeoAir UberLite

Best Sleeping Pad For Cold Weather>> Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm

Most Affordable Sleeping Pad >> Therm-a-Rest Z Lite SOL

Best Foam Sleeping Pad >> Nemo Switchback

Best Self-Inflating Sleeping Pad>> Therm-a-Rest ProLite Plus

Best Sleeping Bags For Backpacking

 

Comparison Table - Best Sleeping Pads for Backpacking

For the best experience turn your device horizontally
NameTypeWeightR ValueThicknessVolumePriceRatingReview
Nemo Tensor InsulatedAir Pad0 lbs 15 oz3.53.0 in01.2 L$1605.0Read Review
Sea to Summit Ether Light XTAir pad1 lbs 01 oz3.24.0 in02.3 L$1804.8Read Review
Big Agnes Q-Core DeluxeAir Pad1 lbs 09 oz4.33.5 in03.5 L$1604.7Read Review
Therm-a-Rest NeoAir UberLiteAir Pad0 lbs 09 oz2.32.5 in01.2 L$2004.5Read Review
Therm-a-Rest Z Lite SOLFoam0 lbs 14 oz2.00.7 in09.2 L$464.3Read Review
Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XThermAir Pad0 lbs 15 oz6.92.5 in02.3 L$2204.6Read Review
Nemo SwitchbackFoam0 lbs 14 oz2.00.9 in09.0 L$504.4Read Review
Therm-a-Rest ProLite PlusSelf-Inflating1 lbs 07 oz3.21.5 in08.0 L$1054.7Read Review
Sea to Summit Ultralight InsulatedAir Pad1 lbs 01 oz3.12.0 in02.3 L$1404.3Read Review
Therm-a-Rest Trail LiteSelf-Inflating1 lbs 10 oz3.21.5 in11.2 L$1004.5Read Review
Therm-a-Rest NeoAir X-LiteAir Pad0 lbs 12 oz4.22.5 in01.4 L$2004.3Read Review
Big Agnes Air Core UltraAir Pad1 lbs 06 oz4.53.5 in02.1 L$1004.1Read Review
Nemo FlyerSelf-Inflating1 lbs 07 oz3.32.0 in04.2 L$1204.4Read Review
Sea to Summit Comfort Light SISelf-Inflating1 lbs 05 oz3.12.0 in08.2 L$1204.5Read Review
Big Agnes Q-Core SLXAir Pad1 lbs 02 oz3.23.5 in02.5 L$1504.2Read Review
Therm-a-Rest Trail ScoutSelf-Inflating1 lbs 06 oz3.11.0 in11.2 L$554.5Read Review
Exped DownMat XP 9Air Pad1 lbs 15 oz7.83.5 in03.6 L$2294.4Read Review
Nemo Quasar 3D InsulatedAir Pad1 lbs 09 oz3.33.5 in02.6 L$1504.6Read Review
REI Co-op TrailbreakSelf-Inflating2 lbs 08 oz5.11.7 in13.8 L$704.4Read Review
Therm-a-Rest Topo NeoAir LuxeAir Pad1 lbs 07 oz3.74.0 in04.7 L$1504.2Read Review
NameTypeWeightR ValueThicknessVolumePriceRatingReview

* Weight, thickness, volume and price shown for the men’s regular size.

* Volume refers to compressed volume.

For specific sleeping pads buyer’s guides, check out:

Self-Inflating Sleeping Pads >>

Foam Sleeping Pads >> 

Double Sleeping Pads >> 

Sleeping Pads for Side Sleepers >>

Budget Sleeping Pads >>  

Ultralight Sleeping Pads >>

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 - Best Backpacking Sleeping Pads

Nemo Tensor Insulated

Specs
  • Type: Air Pad
  • Weight: 0 lbs 15 oz
  • R Value: 3.5
  • Thickness: 3.0 in
  • Volume: 01.2 L
Features
  • Pad Thickness: 3 in
  • Sleeping Pad Shape: Rectangular
  • Metalized Film Provides Extra Insulation, Resisting Cold From The Ground

BEST BACKPACKING SLEEPING PAD OVERALL

The Nemo Tensor Insulated is one of the best-selling sleeping pads on the market today and for good reason. It’s easy to use and has all of the comfort and functionality that one would expect from a sleeping pad for its price point. It also comes with Nemo’s lifetime warranty as an added bonus. 

What we like most about this pad is the valve and how easy it is to inflate and deflate. You can inflate it with 3 or 4 breaths and deflate it in seconds. It also has a good 3-season R-Value at 3.5. The material feels surprisingly soft to the touch and it isn’t too slippery. Because of the soft fabric this would be a could choice for those who sleep with quilts instead of sleeping bags. It’s also very quiet. One of the quietest sleeping pads that we’ve tested. The included pump-sack works well with the valve. This pad is 3 inches thick and is quite comfortable. This is a good pad for side sleeping as we never bottomed out even when sleeping on our side. 

What we don’t care for is that it’s a little heavy for its warmth. Also after personally testing it, as well as researching online, it seems to be less durable than other options that we tested.

Sea to Summit Ether Light XT

View Women's Version
Specs
  • Type: Air pad
  • Weight: 1 lbs 01 oz
  • R Value: 3.2
  • Thickness: 4.0 in
  • Volume: 02.3 L
Features
  • Pad Thickness: 4 in
  • Sleeping Pad Shape: Mummy
  • Air Sprung Cells provide a plush sleeping experience

BEST SLEEPING PAD FOR SIDE SLEEPERS

The Sea To Summit Etherlight XT is an insulated sleeping pad that scores high marks from us for being extremely comfortable and durable. The innovative pumpsack / stuff sack combo is a nice touch as well as the easy-to-use valve system. 

What we like most about this pad is simple – the comfort. We love how luxurious this sleeping pad feels. It’s a full 4 inches thick and very stable. This would be a good pad for even the most critical side sleeper. We don’t see anyone bottoming out with this pad fully inflated. We also like how the pumpsack has been integrated into the stuff sack. It’s just one less thing to keep track of. This pad is also easy to inflate and deflate. 

What we don’t care for is that for its weight and packed size – it’s not as warm as we would like it to be. We would expect a little more warmth out of a 4-inch thick pad. It’s also quite heavy and its packed size is somewhat large compared to some of the other pads in the category. 

Big Agnes Q-Core Deluxe

Specs
  • Type: Air Pad
  • Weight: 1 lbs 09 oz
  • R Value: 4.3
  • Thickness: 3.5 in
  • Volume: 03.5 L
Features
  • Heat-Reflective Technology
  • Quilted Top
  • Internal Antimicrobial Treatment

BEST SLEEPING PAD FOR BIG & TALL PEOPLE

The Big Agnes Q-Core Deluxe is a quilted insulated backpacking sleeping pad. It’s great for people who are looking for a quiet and comfortable pad.

It’s not the lightest or most packable but we included it on our list because it’s wider than other ultralight options, making it a good choice if you toss and turn at night. This pad has a quilted top and is made of a super soft nylon-spandex fabric. These are relatively quiet materials so you won’t have to worry about that crunchy sound some other pads make. The Q-Core Deluxe uses heat reflecting fabric and quality insulation that will keep you warm on cold nights. 

The Big Agnes Q-Core Deluxe has a similar two valve set up like it’s brother the Air Core Ultra. Having two independent valves makes inflation and deflation super easy and fast. The inflate valve has a little plunger in it so if the pump bag comes loose or if you need to take a breather, you don’t lose any air. You adjust the firmness by poking the plunger with your finger to let out a bit of air. When it comes time to pack down the pad, you just open the deflate valve and the pad is completely flat in a matter of seconds. 

Aside from being quieter, the Q-Core Deluxe has a quarter inch more padding than the Big Agnes Core Ultra, so it will be a more supportive option. The Q-Core Deluxe is a tough competitor with the Sea to Summit Ether Light XT which is also featured on this list. The Q-Core Deluxe is slightly heavier but about $20 bucks cheaper and warmer than the Ether Light XT.

The Big Agnes Q-Core Deluxe comes in four sizes: Regular, Regular Wide, Long Wide and XL Wide. 

If you’re looking for an even lighter and more packable sleeping pad and don’t mind sacrificing some warmth, check out the Big Agnes Q-Core SLX

Therm-a-Rest NeoAir UberLite

Specs
  • Type: Air Pad
  • Weight: 0 lbs 09 oz
  • R Value: 2.3
  • Thickness: 2.5 in
  • Volume: 01.2 L
Features
  • Pad thickness: 2.5 in
  • Sleeping Pad Shape: Mummy
  • hrinks down to the size of a large water bottle for a minimal impact on your pack space
Therm-a-Rest NeoAir UberLite

BEST ULTRALIGHT SLEEPING PAD

The Therm-a-Rest NeoAir UberLite is an ultralight backpacking pad that is great for fast and light missions. It’s a favorite among long-distance hikers who camp mostly in summer conditions. 

What we love the most about this sleeping pad is how small and light it is while still being long and wide enough. It weighs next to nothing and rolls up to the size of a beer can. It’s Therm-a-Rest’s lightest pad yet, the runner up is the XLite which weighs 3.2 ounces more. All of this does come at a cost, it is one of the most expensive pads on this list, but it is worth the price if weight and packability are your highest priorities.  

The biggest downside of the NeoAir UberLite is the fabric is uber thin which means you need to be extra careful with it. Also, it’s not as warm as other ultralight pads out there. If the warmth and durability of this pad are a big issue for you, take a look at the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir X-Therm.  Another complaint is it makes a loud crinkly noise every time you move. 

The Therm-a-Rest NeoAir UberLite is available in two sizes: Regular and Long. 

Therm-a-Rest Z Lite SOL

Specs
  • Type: Foam
  • Weight: 0 lbs 14 oz
  • R Value: 2.0
  • Thickness: 0.7 in
  • Volume: 09.2 L
Features
  • Pad Thickness: 0.75 in
  • Sleeping Pad Shape: Rectangular
  • Engineered For Extreme Alpine Climbing, Adventure Racing, And Long-distance Backpacking

BEST BUDGET SLEEPING PAD

The Therm-a-rest Z Lite is a closed cell foam pad that exceeded our expectations in terms of comfort and is best suited for long-distance thru-hikers, climbers, and minimalists who are willing to sacrifice comfort to avoid a puncture and save some weight.    

What we like most about this pad is that it’s basically indestructible. It won’t puncture like inflatable pads, it’s waterproof, it’s very easy to use, and the price is right. It can be used on its own or it can be used in conjunction with an inflatable pad to boost the inflatable pad’s R-Value. 

What we don’t care for is the fact that is bulky and while it is more comfortable to sleep on than we had anticipated it still doesn’t come close to the comfort of the thicker inflatable pads in this category. While you could potentially fit the Z Lite inside a pack the majority of users will need to strap this to the outside of their pack, we are not a fan of strapping large items to our packs.

Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm

Specs
  • Type: Air Pad
  • Weight: 0 lbs 15 oz
  • R Value: 6.9
  • Thickness: 2.5 in
  • Volume: 02.3 L
Features
  • Pad Thickness: 2.5 in
  • Sleeping Pad Shape: Semi-rectangular
  • Patent-pending Reflective Layer Returns Heat Back To Your Body

BEST BACKPACKING SLEEPING PAD FOR COLD WEATHER

The Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm is an inflatable sleeping pad that boasts the most warmth per ounce of any lightweight sleeping pad available on the market today. For this reason, it is a popular choice amongst long-distance hikers who might be traveling in colder conditions and alpine environments. It is also a top choice for cold sleepers and winter campers. 

What we like most about this pas is simply how warm it is while maintaining a reasonably light weight. It’s easy to inflate and somewhat easy to deflate and pack up. This is the warmest inflatable pad that we’ve tested. We like that Therm-a-rest doesn’t use any synthetic insulation on the inside that might degrade over time. The Thermacapture technology seems to work really well. After you lay on the pad for a few minutes you can really feel the pad warming up and transferring warmth back towards your body.  

What we don’t care for is the valve system. While it does function as it should it’s a lot more clunky when trying to connect the pump sack to the sleeping pad than we’d like to see on a sleeping pad at this price point. It’s also a little difficult to fine-tune the pressure in the pad. We also found the material to be noisy and the pad itself to be a little unstable near the edges. Price is also a barrier for this pad. 

Nemo Switchback

Specs
  • Type: Foam
  • Weight: 0 lbs 14 oz
  • R Value: 2.0
  • Thickness: 0.9 in
  • Volume: 09.0 L
Features
  • Pad Thickness: 0.9 in
  • Sleeping Pad Shape: Rectangular
  • Metalized Thermal Reflective Film Reflects Heat Back To Your Body

BEST FOAM SLEEPING PAD

The Nemo switchback is Nemo’s take on the classic “Z” style folding foam pad. Nemo uses a proprietary dual density closed cell foam with a reflective layer to help boost the R-value while maintaining a smaller size. This is a good pad for thru hikers, mountaineers, climbers, and anyone who doesn’t want to risk a puncture on the trail. It can also be used as an addition to an inflatable pad for anyone winter camping. 

What we like most about this pad is that it’s essentially indestructible and that set up and pack down take seconds. We like that it folds up smaller than its competitors while maintaining a slightly better R-Value. 

What we don’t care for is that it’s still quite large and will usually need to be strapped to the outside of the pack. It also only has an R-value of 2 meaning this is really only suitable for summertime camping. It’s not uncomfortable but we wouldn’t purchase this pad for the comfort factor. 

Therm-a-Rest ProLite Plus

View Women's Version
Specs
  • Type: Self-Inflating
  • Weight: 1 lbs 07 oz
  • R Value: 3.2
  • Thickness: 1.5 in
  • Volume: 08.0 L
Features
  • Semi-rectangular Shape
  • Exclusive Atmos Foam Reduces Weight And Increases Compressibility
  • Stuff Sack Included

BEST SELF-INFLATING SLEEPING PAD

When you are out skiing or on alpine adventures, you most definitely want a sleeping mat to keep you off the ground, but you’ll also want something light and compact. Introducing the Therm-a-Rest ProLite Plus! This mat only weights 1 lb. 7 oz., but offers 1.5 inches of thickness and an R-value of 3.4, so on those snow adventures, you will be warm and insulated.

Sea to Summit uses it’s exclusive Atmos foam in this pad, which is what contributes to the lightweight, but it will also compress really well, so you have extra room for those extra clothing layers. And combined with a mixture of nylon and polyester on the surface, you will not slip on this pad, so no shivering rude awakenings!

Sea to Summit Ultralight Insulated

View Women's Version
Specs
  • Type: Air Pad
  • Weight: 1 lbs 01 oz
  • R Value: 3.1
  • Thickness: 2.0 in
  • Volume: 02.3 L
Features
  • Pad Thickness: 2 in
  • Sleeping Pad Shape: Semi-rectangular
  • Reflective Fabric And Thermolite Insulation Combine To Prevent Heat Loss
Sea to Summit Ultralight Insulated Backpacking Sleeping Pad

The Sea to Summit Ultralight Insulated is a three season sleeping pad that is light, small and fairly warm. This would be a great pad for someone who is trying to shave weight but isn’t into the superlight, minimalist sleeping pad options. 

What we love the most about this pad is that it is very light and compact. It’s just a bit over one pound and gives you 2 inches of thickness. Paired with a warm sleeping bag, it can handle below freezing temperatures. It is made up of what Sea to Summit calls Air Sprung Cells which give the pad extra comfort and plushness even though it’s not super thick. These cells move around with you and push the air around to eliminate any pressure points. 

The Ultralight Insulated is one of those jack of all trades, master of none kinds of pads. There are lots of close contenders. The NEMO Tensor Insulated is an inch thicker and weighs less and is $20 cheaper. If you are a side sleeper and have particularly boney hips, you might have some issues with your hips and shoulders digging into the ground. 

If you love the concept of this pad but you’re looking for one for 4-season use, check out the Sea to Summit Ether Light XT, which is also featured on this list. 

The Sea to Summit Ultralight Insulated comes in two sizes: Regular Mummy and Large Mummy. 

This pad is also available in a women’s version which comes in two sizes: Regular Mummy and Large Mummy. 

Therm-a-Rest Trail Lite

View Women's Version
Specs
  • Type: Self-Inflating
  • Weight: 1 lbs 10 oz
  • R Value: 3.2
  • Thickness: 1.5 in
  • Volume: 11.2 L
Features
  • Pad Thickness: 1.5 in
  • Sleeping Pad Shape: Semi-rectangular
  • Rolls Up Small For Easy Packing
Therm-a-Rest Trail Lite

The Therm-a-Rest Trail Lite is a great sleeping pad for backpackers on a budget who don’t want to sacrifice a good night’s sleep.

The Therm-a-Rest Trail light is very reasonably priced considering how warm and comfortable it is. We’d be more than confident using it in spring through fall. You might even get away with using it in winter if you put a foam pad underneath. It’s super easy to blow up and also pack away. The material is also relatively thick, making it one of the more durable options on this list. 

It’s not the lightest or smallest on this list so we wouldn’t recommend using it for long journeys. We looked for more drawbacks of this sleeping pad but couldn’t find a whole lot to complain about.

If you want to save even more cash, check out the Therm-a-Rest Trail Scout.

The Therm-A-Rest Trail Lite also comes in a women’s version.

Therm-a-Rest NeoAir X-Lite

Specs
  • Type: Air Pad
  • Weight: 0 lbs 12 oz
  • R Value: 4.2
  • Thickness: 2.5 in
  • Volume: 01.4 L
Features
  • Baffled internal structure provide comfort, stability and support
  • WingLock™ valve maximizes air flow for easy inflation and quick deflation
  • Pump sack included

The Therm-a-Rest NeoAir X-lite is an inflatable sleeping pad that boasts one of the best warmth to weight ratios on the market. For this reason, it is a popular choice amongst long-distance hikers who might be traveling in colder conditions and alpine environments. 

What we like most about this pad are its top features. We love how lightweight it is while maintaining the respectable R-value of 4.2. It also packs down small so it has a minimal footprint in a pack. 

What we don’t care for is the valve system. While it does function as it should, it’s a lot more clunky when trying to connect the pump sack to the sleeping pad than we’d like to see on a sleeping pad at this price point. It’s also a little difficult to fine-tune the pressure in the pad. We also found the material to be noisy and the pad itself to be a little unstable near the edges.

Big Agnes Air Core Ultra

Specs
  • Type: Air Pad
  • Weight: 1 lbs 06 oz
  • R Value: 4.5
  • Thickness: 3.5 in
  • Volume: 02.1 L
Features
  • Pad Thickness: 3.5 in
  • Sleeping Pad Shape: Rectangular
  • High-volume Valve Allows For Efficient And Easy Inflation
Big Agnes Air Core Ultra

The Big Agnes Air Core Ultra is a synthetically insulated sleeping pad that packs down to the size of a water bottle. 

We love that this pad has vertical baffles that are bigger on the outside than they are on the middle which cradles your body, keeping you in the center of the pad. No one likes rolling off their pad in the middle of the night. This design works pretty well even on uneven ground. If you like this feature too, it’s common among all the Big Agnes sleeping pads we’ve featured on this list. We also love the amount of padding, there’s 3.25 inches of cushion. It’s good for side sleepers because you won’t have your hip bones pushing into the ground like they might with thinner pads. The $100 price tag is also a big plus, considering what you get. 

The Air Core Ultra has a two valves, one for inflation and the other for deflation. We quite like this system for a few reasons. One is because it sits flush to the pad so it doesn’t poke out, which makes it more durable than stick valves. Also, the inflate valve has a little plunger in it so if the pump bag comes lose or if you need to take a breather, you don’t lose any air. This system also makes it super easy to adjust the firmness. The deflate valve makes pack up fast and easy, unlike some other systems that you really have to squeeze the air out.

Our biggest complaint is the stuff sack is tight which makes it tricky to repack the pad. Another downside is it is noisy. Each time I moved it sounded like I was opening a bag of chips. If you’re the kind of person that just knocks out as soon as they lay down it shouldn’t be an issue. If the noise really puts you off, check out the Big Agnes Q-Core which is made out of quieter materials. 

The Big Agnes Core Ultra comes in three sizes: regular, regular wide and petite.

If you’re looking for an even smaller and lighter pad, and don’t mind sacrificing some warmth and coin, check out the Big Agnes Q-Core SLX.

Nemo Flyer

Specs
  • Type: Self-Inflating
  • Weight: 1 lbs 07 oz
  • R Value: 3.3
  • Thickness: 2.0 in
  • Volume: 04.2 L
Features
  • Microadjustable valve for fine-tuning and fast inflation/deflation
  • First self-inflated pad to use 3D sculpting
  • Repair kit included

The Nemo Flyer is a self-inflating style sleeping pad that offers first of it’s kind insulation. The Flyer utilizes baffled open-cell foam that offers supreme stability and added warmth. Due to its size and weight – The Flyer is best suited for shorter overnight backpacking trips, rafting trips, and car camping trips.   

What we like most about this pad is that it’s durable and comfortable without being huge. This really is a very comfortable and stable sleeping pad. Possibly one of the most comfortable sleeping pads we’ve tested and an excellent choice for side sleepers. We also really like the grippy pattern on the bottom of the pad that holds the sleeping pad in place. 

What we don’t care for is that it’s simply too heavy and bulky to take on long trips. It also doesn’t really self-inflate. You will have to manually inflate this pad the old fashion way. This pad is also very tricky to deflate and pack up. 

Sea to Summit Comfort Light SI

View Women's Version
Specs
  • Type: Self-Inflating
  • Weight: 1 lbs 05 oz
  • R Value: 3.1
  • Thickness: 2.0 in
  • Volume: 08.2 L
Features
  • Semi-rectangular Shape
  • Reversible One-way Valve To Prevent Inflating While Trying To Pack
  • Stuff Sack Included

The Sea to Summit Comfort Light SI is a self-inflating style sleeping pad that uses an open cell foam interior in conjunction with the Delta Core Technology to produce a sleeping pad that provides solid comfort in a manageable size. This is a good sleeping pad to have around for those who primarily car camp but would also like to do a few short backpacking trips each season. 

What we like most is that it provides a comfortable and stable night’s sleep. The outer material feels very soft to the touch. This is a good choice for side sleepers as they won’t have to worry about bottoming out at their hips or shoulders. We also like the non-slip pattern on both sides of the pad to help prevent sliding when sleeping on a slope. 

What we don’t care for is that it’s very hard to pack down. We actually split the stuff sack trying to get the pad back inside. It’s also on the heavy and bulky side just like the other self-inflating mats that we have tested.

Big Agnes Q-Core SLX

Specs
  • Type: Air Pad
  • Insulated: Yes
  • Weight: 1 lbs 02 oz
  • R Value: 3.2
  • Thickness: 3.5 in
  • Volume: 02.5 L
  • 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)

The Big Agnes Insulated Q-Core SLX is an inflatable sleeping pad that comes in at a very reasonable price point. While we found that the Big Agnes Insulated Q-Core SLX doesn’t do anything exceptionally well, we did find it to be a very good middle-of-the-road sleeping pad. 

What we like most about this pad is that the (Long Wide) version works very well for big and tall sleepers. We like that the included pump sack is upcycled. We like how the baffles on the outer edges hold you in the center of the pad creating a stable night’s sleep. The material is soft to the touch and not too noisy. 

What we don’t care for is the valve system. The valve seems a little outdated and the pump sack detaches from the valve too easily. Although we like that the pump sack is upcycled, we don’t actually think this pump sack is very functional. It takes a long time to inflate the pad and just overall doesn’t seem to work as well as other pump sacks that we’ve tested. It’s also quite heavy for a pump sack. 

Therm-a-Rest Trail Scout

Specs
  • Type: Self-Inflating
  • Dimensions: 72” x 20”
  • Insulated: Yes
  • Weight: 1 lbs 06 oz
  • R Value: 3.1
  • Shape: Semi Rectangular
  • Thickness: 1.0 in
  • Volume: 11.2 L
  • Inflation Type: Self-Inflating
Features
  • Fast-Acting Pump Sack Makes Inflation/Deflation Fast And Easy
  • Customize The Firmness By Adding A Few Breaths After The Self-Inflation Process
  • Packs Down Into A Small Stuff Sack To Maximize Space

The Therm-a-Rest Trail Scout is a self inflating lightweight backpacking sleeping pad. It’s a great option for beginners, scouts and budget conscious backpackers. 

What we love the most about the Trail Scout is its overall value. While it’s not the flashiest pad out there, it does do a great job at balancing weight, durability, packability and price. Compared to other budget sleeping pads, the Trail Scout is an excellent value. It inflates mostly on its own, you’ll need to give it a few extra blows to fully inflate it. 

The biggest downside of this pad is it’s thin, it’s only one inch thick. It’s certainly an upgrade from a closed foam pad but it’s nowhere near as comfortable as the thicker pads that are on this list. For a slight upgrade in comfort while still staying on a tight budget, check out the Therm-a-Rest Trail Lite.

The Therm-a-Rest Trail Scout comes in three sizes: Regular, Short and Long. 

Exped DownMat XP 9

Specs
  • Type: Air Pad
  • Weight: 1 lbs 15 oz
  • R Value: 7.8
  • Thickness: 3.5 in
  • Volume: 03.6 L
Features
  • Pumpbag included
  • High-frequency welded seams are airtight
  • Very durable
Exped DownMat XP 9 Backpacking Sleeping Pad

The Exped DownMat XP 9 is one of the warmest, most reliable and comfortable winter backpacking mats you can find. If you’re looking for a pad that can keep you toasty even in extreme weather and you don’t mind carrying a bit more weight, this might be the pad you’ve been looking for. 

The Exped DownMat XP9 is insulated with down which has a higher warmth to weight ratio over synthetic options. This means it is more packable and lighter for the same amount of warmth. We also love how solid and stable the pad is. The DownMat XP 9 includes Exped’s Schnozzel Pumpbag, which inflates the pad in about two minutes. This system saves you a lot of effort and is much better for the longevity of the pad as you aren’t blowing into it, which might trap moisture inside, making the down much less effective.

The biggest downside of the DownMat XP 9 is its size and weight. Compared to other mats on this list, it’s bulky and heavy. The weight penalty might be worth it though if you can’t stand a crinkly delicate mat. At $230 for the regular size, it’s pretty pricey but considering what you get, we think it’s worth it if you’re going to be doing a lot of winter camping. 

The Exped DownMat XP 9 comes in two sizes: Regular and Long Wide. 

Nemo Quasar 3D Insulated

Specs
  • Type: Air Pad
  • Weight: 1 lbs 09 oz
  • R Value: 3.3
  • Thickness: 3.5 in
  • Volume: 02.6 L
Features
  • Body-mapped baffles to keep you centered on the pad
  • Made of 100% postconsumer recycled materials
  • Pump sack included
Nemo Quasar 3D Insulated Backpacking Sleeping Pad

The Nemo Quasar 3D Insulated has a unique shape that makes it great for side sleepers or people who move around a lot. 

What we love the most about the Quasar 3D is how well it molds to your body, allowing your limbs and hips to relax in a way that a flat pad doesn’t. It’s gently curved towards the middle so the baffles cradle you and keep you centered on the pad through the night. Like the Big Agnes Q-Core Deluxe, the Quasar 3D gives you 3.5 inches of cushion, which is plenty for getting your hips on shoulders off the ground incase you roll over to your side. The head baffle is slightly elevated which gives some extra support and keeps your pillow in place. 

Another detail we liked about this pad is the flat inflate/ deflate valve. I sits flush to with the rest of the mat, instead of sticking out like some valves do, which are less durable than this design. The Quasar 3D comes with NEMO’s Vortex pump sack, which inflates the pad fairly quickly.

NEMO markets the Quasar 3D as the “quiver killer” but we’re not convinced with this title. While it is a great pad, it’s not the lightest, cheapest or warmest making it a middle of the road option. It’s also a bit noisy, not as bad as some other pads on this list but still worth considering. 

The NEMO Quasar 3D comes in two sizes: Regular and Long Wide.

REI Co-op Trailbreak

View Women's Version
Specs
  • Type: Self-Inflating
  • Weight: 2 lbs 08 oz
  • R Value: 5.1
  • Thickness: 1.7 in
  • Volume: 13.8 L
Features
  • Stuff sack with compression straps included
  • Very affordable
  • A bit heavy and bulky
REI Co-op Trailbreak Backpacking Sleeping Pad

The REI Co-op Trailbreak is a self inflating budget sleeping pad. It’s a decent option for beginners who  don’t mind carrying a bit of extra weight to save some cash. 

What we love the most about the REI Trailbreak is its price. It’s one of the best value pads on this list. If you’re just starting out and you don’t want to splurge on a high end sleeping pad but also want some more padding than you’d get from a foam pad, this could be a good middle ground. 

The biggest drawback of this pad is it is very bulky so it’s not ideal for backpacking. You’ll most likely end up strapping it onto the outside of your pack. It weighs over 2 pounds, making it one of the heavier pads on this list. If you’re just getting started with backpacking it could be a good starting pad. If you decide to upgrade, you could use the Trailbreak for car camping. If you’re budget has a bit of wiggle room, take a look at the Big Agnes Air Core Ultra, which will give you much more padding, and it’s much better suited for backpacking trips.

This pad is self inflating and it does firm up a bit on its own but you’ll still need to give it a few blows to pump it up completely. Packing it back up also takes some effort but that can be expected with self inflating pads. 

The REI Trailbreak comes in two sizes: Regular and Long. It also comes in a women’s version which also comes in a regular and long size.

Therm-a-Rest Topo NeoAir Luxe

Specs
  • Type: Air Pad
  • Weight: 1 lbs 07 oz
  • R Value: 3.7
  • Thickness: 4.0 in
  • Volume: 04.7 L
Features
  • Pump sack included
  • Two one-way valves (1 for inflation / 1 for deflation)
  • A bit noisy
Therm-a-Rest Topo NeoAir Luxe Backpacking Sleeping Pad

The Therma-a-Rest Topo NeoAir Luxe is one of the thickest, most luxurious lightweight sleeping pads out there. 

What we loved the most about this pad is how it balances comfort and weight. While there are certainly more comfortable mats out there, none of them pack down this small or are this light. This thing is 4 inches thick, making it a great choice for side sleepers. We also love the cool topo design on the fabric of the pad. 

The biggest downside is it’s not warm enough for winter camping. It’s not cheap, so if you’re looking at doing a lot of winter camping, you might want to check out the Exped Downmat XP 9 instead. It’s also quite noisy, something to keep in mind if you move around a lot. 

Therm-a-Rest Topo NeoAir Luxe comes in four sizes: Regular, Regular Wide, Large and X-Large. 

VIDEO REVIEW: BEST BACKPACKING SLEEPING PADS

THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN BUYING THE BEST BACKPACKING SLEEPING PADS

TYPE OF SLEEPING PAD

There are 3 general types of sleeping pads that each have their own pros and cons. There is no single best backpacking sleeping pad type, just the right piece of gear for the job. As you learn about the different types of pads, keep in mind your particular preferences and needs when choosing the best fit for you.

Air Pads

Therm-a-rest Neo Air Xtherm Backpacking Sleeping Pad

Comfortable, lightweight, and compact, air pads provide some of the best bang for your buck and are offered in a range of price points. These lightweight sleeping pads inflate with air to create a soft and buoyant sleeping surface. An inflatable air pad will lift your body far enough off the ground that you’ll stay warm and cozy all night long if you pair it with the appropriate sleeping bag for the season.

Summer air pads are typically less expensive than winter air pads and provide a modest amount of insulation value. Winter air pads, although pricier, provide a huge insulating advantage in extremely cold climates. Some winter pads have been known to insulate so well that backpackers actually had to unzip their sleeping bags to cool off.

Downsides to using an air pad include a higher price tag versus other types of pads, especially the more lightweight and compact they get. They are also susceptible to punctures but can be repaired in the field with ease. Lastly, air pads aren’t the quietest choice and can be somewhat noisy when turning over.

Closed-Cell Foam Pads

Therm-a-rest Z Lite Foam Sleeping Pad

The most basic sleeping pad you can buy is a closed-cell foam pad. Lightweight and inexpensive, these pads are highly durable and can be lashed to the outside of your backpack, freeing up precious space inside. These sleeping pads offer the best entry-level price point.

Their singular size makes them bulkier than other options and while durable, they tend to be the least comfortable option available. They are very easy to deploy as they don’t require any inflation – just roll it out and you’re good to go!

Closed-cell foam pads are often used in conjunction with other types of sleeping pads to add extra insulation on extremely cold nights or another layer of padding for car camping trips. One major benefit is that they can be cut to size, so if you want to carry the lightest weight possible you can trim the pad to cover only the length of your torso instead of lugging around a full body-length pad.

Self-Inflating Pads

Sea To Summit Comfort Light Self Inflating Sleeping Pad

A cross between air pads and closed-cell foam pads, self-inflating pads are a more luxurious option if you have the space to pack one and don’t mind the extra weight. They tend to be wider and thicker than other options and are some of the warmest pads you can buy. Priced in the middle of the road, these pads offer a huge bump up in comfort from closed-cell foam pads, but their bulk and weight can be a downside.

Arguably the biggest advantage self-inflating pads have over air pads is their reliability. Since self-inflating pads have an open-cell foam pad within their core, they will provide some comfort and still insulate even if punctured. If you’re unable to repair your self-inflating pad on the trail, you’ll still have a decent night’s sleep.

INTENDED USE

Consider what type of backpacking or camping you’ll be doing most often. Choosing the right ground pad is as much about how you’ll be using your pad as it is about your personal needs and preferences.

Backpacking

After a tough day on the trail, an air pad or self-inflating pad is going to provide the best night’s sleep to help you recover for the next day’s adventure. There is a wide variety of options within these two types of pads. Therefore, you can choose the best intersection of price, weight, size, and warmth.

Minimalist Backpacking

Lightweight enthusiasts looking to shed ounces and keep their overall pack weight down should stick to air pads. For the extreme minimalist, consider getting a “short” pad that will trim size and weight from your knees down, saving precious ounces.

Thru-Hiking

If you’re completing a through-hike of several hundred or even a few thousand miles, such as the Appalachian Trail or the Camino de Santiago, you’re going to need a combination of light weight and durability. A closed-cell foam pad is your best choice, eliminating the need for repairs and saving space in your bag.

Winter Backpacking

If you’ll be in extreme wintery conditions with snow and sub-freezing temperatures, the best possible choice is an air pad with a high R-value. Some manufacturers add a reflective layer that returns heat to your body, so keep an eye out for that. It’s also a good idea to bring a second pad as a backup, such as a closed-cell foam pad, in case your air pad gets punctured. It can also be doubled up to maximize your insulation power.

Car Camping

When your campsite isn’t far from where you parked, a self-inflating pad will be your best bet. As the warmest and most comfortable type of pad available, weight and space shouldn’t be as big of a concern.

SPECS

After deciding on what type of sleeping pad is best for you based upon your specific needs and intended use, there are a few key features that are important to keep in mind. You’ll have to weigh the importance of each of these and balance them accordingly.

Insulation (R-Value)

How well a material insulates is rated by a metric called R-value, which is a measure of thermal resistance. The higher the R-value number, on a scale from 1 – 10, the better a material is able to insulate you.

Weight

Although weight is highly scrutinized by ultralight enthusiasts, all backpackers should take it into consideration. Being strategic with your packing and keeping your multi-day pack relatively light can save you on a long hike and help you go further each day. Look for pads that come in a mummy shape or have a short version to trim down on precious ounces.

Length

Backpacking Sleeping Pad length

This feature relates to both insulation and weight depending on what type of conditions you’ll be backpacking in. If the weather is warm, consider a short sleeping pad to reduce weight. If the weather is cold, you’ll need to keep your legs warm with a regular length pad (72” inches) or a long sleeping pad (78” inches) if you’re above 6’ 0” feet tall.

Width

Sleeping pad width

The best backpacking sleeping pads have a standard width of 20”. If you need something wider, a regular length pad can sometimes be found in wide sizes up to 30”, or you can opt for a long sleeping pad that includes a few extra inches of width.

ADDITIONAL EXTRAS

Integrated Sleeping Systems

When buying your sleeping bag, check to see if there is an option to integrate a sleeping pad. Some manufacturers have a built-in sleeve that will keep your sleeping pad from sliding out from under you during the night. This can be a good choice for restless sleepers who move a lot in the night.

If you prefer to sleep in a hammock, check to see if there is an integrated slip for a pad. Some brands, such as the ENO Double Nest hammock, offer this feature to help insulate you against cold air beneath your hammock.

Hand Pumps

Backpacking Sleeping Pad Hand Pump

When inflating an air pad, using a hand pump can make the task much simpler. Other reasons to consider using one are to prevent the buildup of moisture from your breath inside the pad. Although rare, the moisture could freeze in extremely cold environments or even cause bacteria to grow in very hot weather. Some of the best backpacking sleeping pads come with a pump sack, to help you inflate your mat.

Repair Kit

Sleeping pad repair kit

If you’ve chosen an air pad or a self-inflating pad, a repair kit is a good way to protect your investment and help you out in a pinch while on the trail. Many pads come with a basic repair kit but it’s always a good idea to have a backup or a better quality kit that can aid in a variety of repairs.

FEATURES EXPLAINED ABOUT THE BEST BACKPACKING SLEEPING PADS

R-Value

The number used to determine the warmth of a sleeping pad based on its ability to resist (hence the “R”) heat loss. A higher R-value equals a warmer sleeping pad. R-values are based on a scale that ranges from 1 (minimally insulated) to 11 (maximum insulation).

Stuff Sack

Backpacking Sleeping Pad Stuff Sack

A compact protective pouch where you can store your sleeping pad when not in use.

High-flow Valve

Sea To Summit Comfort Plus Sleeping Pad

In self-inflating sleeping pads, a high-flow valve is the mechanism that allows air to rush in and inflate the pad. Twist the valve again and compress the pad to force air out and deflate for travel.

Accordion-style Design

Therm-a-rest Z Lite SOL backpacking sleeping pad

A closed-cell foam sleeping pad with an accordion-style design means that the pad folds up in a Z-like pattern instead of being rolled up. This helps it pack down in a more minimal way.

F.A.Q. ABOUT THE BEST SLEEPING PADS FOR BACKPACKING

What kind of sleeping pad is best for backpacking?

Light and packable sleeping pads are best for backpacking. Ideally they will have some type of insulation and be made of durable materials.

Is a sleeping pad necessary for camping?

Yes, if you want to be comfortable, a sleeping pad is a must when camping. A sleeping pad provides warmth and cushioning from the cold, hard ground.

How do I choose a sleeping pad?

Warmth, thickness, durability, packability, weight, and price are all factors to consider when choosing a backpacking sleeping pad. Also, if you’re a woman, look out for women’s specific sleeping pads. These have a bit of extra insulation in the hips and at the feet, two spots where female bodies typically get colder at night. 

What is the most comfortable backpacking sleeping pad?

A combination of thickness, enough width and warmth add up to a great night’s sleep in the backcountry. Something else to consider is how noisy a pad is. Additionally, some high tech pads use a type of insulation that crinkles every time you move making even the most comfortable pad unbearable.

How thick should a sleeping pad be?

3 – 3.5 inches is a decent thickness for a backpacking sleeping pad. This amount of padding will get you off the ground and prevent your hips from digging in if you roll over to your side. When looking at thickness, you have to balance comfort with weight. 

What is the thickest backpacking sleeping pad?

The thickest backpacking sleeping pad we looked at was the Therm-a-Rest Topo NeoAir Luxe which is 4 inches thick. There are thinker pads out there, but we don’t consider them to be good options for backpacking.

What is a good weight for a backpacking sleeping pad?

Ideally, you want to try to find a backpacking sleeping pad that is under 1 pound. If you’re going to be camping in extreme winter conditions, you might need a thicker, warmer pad. However, if you are mostly camping in warmer weather, stick to the 1 pound rule.

What is the warmest backpacking sleeping pad?

The Exped Downmat XP9 is one of the warmest backpacking sleeping pads out there. With an R-Value of 7.8, it was designed for four season adventures.

What is a thermarest pump sack?

Therm-a-Rest makes various pump sacks that match their numerous models of sleeping pads. For instance, the NeoAir pump sack was designed for the brand’s NeoAir mattresses. It’s an ultralight sack that inflated the sleeping pad. This 40-liter sack doubles as a pack liner and can be used to convert the sleeping pad into a camp seat. 

Is there a quiet sleeping pad?

The Big Agnes Q-Core and the NEMO Tensor don’t make too much noise when you roll around on them. This is because they are made of a soft outer fabric and the insulation isn’t as crinkly as other models.

Are Klymit sleeping pads good?

Klymit sleeping pads tend to be comfortable and well priced. However, they typically aren’t as warm and well designed as other backpacking sleeping pads on the market.

Sleeping pads for backpacking
5K Shares
Tweet
Pin5K
Share39
Email
Flip