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You might think that a decent night’s sleep while hiking is a luxury. But by choosing one of the best backpacking sleeping pads available on the market today, getting your well-deserved rest is no longer an issue. Modern sleeping pads are light to carry and provide you with a soft, insulated surface to use when sleeping under the stars.

Picking the right sleeping pad for you is vital for your nighttime comfort on the trail. But understanding the difference between air, self-inflating, and closed-cell foam sleeping pads as well as all the other pad-specific features can be challenging. That’s why we compiled a list of the ten best backpacking sleeping pads, so you can spend less time counting sheep and more time exploring trails with a well-rested pep in your step!

For more of our top backpacking gear recommendations, check out:

Budget Sleeping Pads | Double Sleeping Pads 

Sleeping Pads for Side Sleepers | Foam Sleeping Pads 

Ultralight Sleeping Pads | Self Inflating Sleeping Pads

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Quick Answer - The Best Backpacking Sleeping Pads

  1. ThermaRest NeoAir XTherm
  2. ThermaRest Z Lite SOL
  3. Sea to Summit Ultralight Insulated
  4. NEMO Switchback
  5. Therm-a-Rest Trail Lite
  6. Sea to Summit Comfort Plus SI
  7. Big Agnes Air Core Ultra
  8. Nemo Tensor
  9. Therm-a-Rest ProLite Plus
  10. Exped DownMat XP 9

 

Comparison Table - Best Sleeping Pads for Backpacking

PictureNameTypeWeightR ValuePriceRating
ThermaRest NeoAir XThermAir Pad1 lb. 4 oz.5.7$$4.4
ThermaRest Z Lite SOLClosed-Cell Foam14 oz2.6$4.3
Sea to Summit Ultralight InsulatedAir Pad1 lb. 0.9 oz.3.3$$4.3
NEMO SwitchbackClosed-Cell Foam14.5 ozUnavailable$4.3
Therm-a-Rest Trail LiteSelf-Inflating2 lbs. 5 oz.3.4$4.5
Sea to Summit Comfort Plus SISelf-Inflating1 lb. 15 oz.4.1$$5.0
Big Agnes Air Core UltraAir Pad1 lb. 6 oz.Unavailable$4.1
Nemo TensorAir Pad1 lb. 5 oz.Unavailable$$4.2
Therm-a-Rest ProLite PlusSelf-Inflating1 lb. 15 oz.3.4$4.3
Exped DownMat XP 9Air Pad2 lbs. 9.3 oz.8$$$4.6
PictureNameTypeWeightR ValuePriceRating

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

Reviews - Best Backpacking Sleeping Pads

ThermaRest NeoAir XTherm

Specs
  • R Value: 5.7
  • Type: Air Pad
  • Weight: 1 lb. 4 oz.
Features
  • Pad Thickness: 2.5 in
  • Sleeping Pad Shape: Semi-rectangular
  • Patent-pending Reflective Layer Returns Heat Back To Your Body

BEST FOR: THE GLOBETROTTER

With an R-value of 5.7, the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm sleeping pad is the second warmest one on this list. Contrary to what you’d expect, it is also very light, weighing an impressive 15 ounces. Usually, warm sleeping pads and bags are also relatively heavy, but not in this case. The lightweight of this toasty pad is made possible by an innovative, patent-pending layer that doesn’t add any weight but works to reflect your body heat and store it in air pockets for ultimate warmth.

As for packing, you can compress this pad to the volume of a 1-liter water bottle. Thus, it will not take up much of your backpack’s precious space. The XTherm has a tapered design that further optimizes warmth and weight. Of course, the price you have to pay is more than most other pads on this list, but you do get your money’s worth.

ThermaRest Z Lite SOL

Specs
  • R Value: 2.6
  • Type: Closed-Cell Foam
  • Weight: 14 oz
Features
  • Pad Thickness: 0.75 in
  • Sleeping Pad Shape: Rectangular
  • Engineered For Extreme Alpine Climbing, Adventure Racing, And Long-distance Backpacking

BEST FOR: THE ALPINIST

The Therm-a-Rest Z Lite Sol sleeping pad can be summed up in a single word: “extra.” It is extra light, extra thin, extra packable, and extra durable. To start, it weighs less than a pound, or 14 ounces to be exact. It’s only 0.75 inches thick, making it extremely portable, yet still comfortable for sleeping. The pad’s accordion design helps it lay flat for easy packing. 

An aluminized surface and an egg-carton pattern unite to reflect your body heat and provide a decent level of insulation. Because it’s R-value is just 2.6, the Z Lite Sol is considered a warm-weather pad. Additionally, the closed-cell foam used in the construction of this pad bears years of use, making it worthwhile as a summertime mountain sleeping pad. The Z Lite Sol was created for alpine climbers and long-distance thru-hikers, meaning that weight and durability are optimized. If you’re looking for a no-frills, ultralight weight and ultra durable pad at the low end of the cost spectrum, then the Z Lite Sol is the pick for you!

Sea to Summit Ultralight Insulated

Specs
  • R Value: 3.3
  • Type: Air Pad
  • Weight: 1 lb. 0.9 oz.
Features
  • Pad Thickness: 2 in
  • Sleeping Pad Shape: Semi-rectangular
  • Reflective Fabric And Thermolite Insulation Combine To Prevent Heat Loss

BEST FOR: HUMID ENVIRONMENTS

This sleeping pad is the second Sea to Summit selection on this list, and it’s here because it’s another great option from a well-renowned company. The UltraLight Insulated Air sleeping pad is less heavy-duty than the Comfort Plus listed above, but it is more portable. Weighing just above a pound, it belongs in a backpack. And with an R-value of 3.3, 3-season camping with this pad is not only possible but comfortable. For convenience, a special valve allows you to effortlessly inflate, deflate, and adjust pressure however you want.

In case you accidentally puncture the pad, it comes with an on-the-go repair kit with six patches and a one-way valve insert. Wear and tear are no longer an obstacle to the success of your adventure. Interestingly, the UltraLight sleeping pad also takes care of microscopic danger, as it has an anti-microbial coating against mold, excellent if you are exploring humid environments.

NEMO Switchback

Specs
  • R Value: Unavailable
  • Type: Closed-Cell Foam
  • Weight: 14.5 oz
Features
  • Pad Thickness: 0.9 in
  • Sleeping Pad Shape: Rectangular
  • Metalized Thermal Reflective Film Reflects Heat Back To Your Body

BEST FOR: THE ECO-FRIENDLY CAMPER

With an efficient hexagonal pattern, the affordable NEMO Switchback sleeping pad is a durable and packable choice. Its unique design allows for wider and taller nodes (the raised areas on the surface of the pad), meaning that you get a plushier feel without compromising size. For even more warmth, this sleeping pad has a metalized film that reflects your heat to your body. The NEMO Switchback is made up of dual-density foam that is resistant to abrasions and a tough lower layer, making it super durable and long-lasting. 

If you want to pack light, you can use this pad on its own. It weighs 14 ounces and, with a thickness of only 0.9 inches, it’s super portable. You can also layer it with another pad for extra insulation during extra cold weather trips. And if the environment matters to you as much as your outdoor experiences, you’ll love the fact that the Switchback is fully recyclable.

Therm-a-Rest Trail Lite

Specs
  • R Value: 3.4
  • Type: Self-Inflating
  • Weight: 2 lbs. 5 oz.
Features
  • Pad Thickness: 1.5 in
  • Sleeping Pad Shape: Semi-rectangular
  • Rolls Up Small For Easy Packing

BEST FOR: EASE OF USE

If you’re in search of an excellent all-around sleeping pad, then the Therm-a-Rest Trail Lite is worth your consideration. It’s made with plush open-cell foam and is warm enough to be listed as a 3-season pad. However, because of this, it is thicker and heavier than average ultralight pads. The pad is 1.5 inches thick and weighs 1 pound and 10 ounces, making it suitable for backpacking as long as you’re not trying to go ultralight. 

One of the best features of this sleeping pad is that it is self-inflatable. You must admit, stopping for the night after a long hike and not having to inflate your sleeping pad with your breath is pretty awesome. Besides that, this pad has a semi-rectangular shape, which ensures gap-free pairing with other pads so you and your partner can be cozy and comfortable side-by-side all night long.

Sea to Summit Comfort Plus SI

Specs
  • R Value: 4.1
  • Type: Self-Inflating
  • Weight: 1 lb. 15 oz.
Features
  • Pad Thickness: 3 in
  • Sleeping Pad Shape: Semi-rectangular
  • Pad Is Wider At The Hip And Narrower At The Shoulder For Efficient Warmth Without Excess Bulk

BEST FOR: BACKCOUNTRY ADVENTURES

This open-cell foam sleeping pad is designed with a warmth-efficient shape – wider at the hips, and slightly narrower at the shoulders. With a thickness of 3 inches and an R-value of 4.1, this is a sleeping pad worthy of serious outdoor adventures, even in colder climates. 

The Sea to Summit Comfort Plus SI is designed for convenience and, as it says, comfort. A low-profile valve ensures fast deflation of the sleeping pad, so you can pack up in no time. Another convenient feature, the non-slip print, will keep you from rolling off onto the cold ground at night. And for even more comfort, it has a soft knit fabric on top for a cozy and relaxing feel.

Big Agnes Air Core Ultra

Specs
  • R Value: Unavailable
  • Type: Air Pad
  • Weight: 1 lb. 6 oz.
Features
  • Pad Thickness: 3.5 in
  • Sleeping Pad Shape: Rectangular
  • High-volume Valve Allows For Efficient And Easy Inflation

BEST FOR: CRADLE-LIKE COMFORT

Are you looking for the utmost comfort during warm-weather camping? Then turn your attention to the Big Agnes Air Core Ultra Sleeping Pad. Its minimalistic construction cuts weight without diminishing comfort. This updated sleeping pad is more lightweight and easier to use than its award-winning namesake. The ease of use is due in part to a high-volume valve that makes inflation and deflation incredibly fast and easy.

It only weighs 1 pound and 4 ounces, making it very packable without adding excessive weight to your pack. The cradle-like qualities come from the raised outer edges that keep you snug in the middle of the pad. Furthermore, you can feel safe while sleeping on this pad, as it has an antimicrobial coating that prevents bacteria and mold from sharing the comfort with you.

Nemo Tensor

Specs
  • R Value: Unavailable
  • Type: Air Pad
  • Weight: 1 lb. 5 oz.
Features
  • Pad Thickness: 3 in
  • Sleeping Pad Shape: Rectangular
  • Metalized Film Provides Extra Insulation, Resisting Cold From The Ground

BEST FOR: ULTRALIGHT COMFORT

If you are looking for a lightweight sleeping pad with lots of updates and ergonomic features, then the NEMO Tensor Insulated Sleeping Pad might be a good choice. Within its thoughtful design, there is a point-deflection system that makes up a stable surface and prevents your elbows, hips, and knees from sinking in and touching the cold ground. The Tensor is also very warm, using 2-layer metalized film to effectively reflect your heat to battle temperatures as low as 10°F. Weighing in at only one and a half pounds with a negligible packed size, this pad is ideal for ultralight backpackers looking to shed weight and increase comfort and warmth on the trail.

Therm-a-Rest ProLite Plus

Specs
  • R Value: 3.4
  • Type: Self-Inflating
  • Weight: 1 lb. 15 oz.
Features
  • Pad Thickness: 1.5 in
  • Sleeping Pad Shape: Semi-rectangular
  • Thick, Patent-pending Diagonal-cut Foam For Year-round Comfort

BEST FOR: THE WINTER-LOVING BACKPACKER

The Therm-a-Rest ProLite Plus Sleeping Pad is yet another self-inflatable sleeping pad. It uses an expandable foam that you can further inflate on your own if you prefer a firmer pad. This foam cuts its weight down to 1.5 pounds. It also increases the pad’s compressibility, making it easy to travel with, especially in the winter when you need space in your pack for a warm sleeping bag and other winter camping essentials.

Furthermore, with an R-value of 3.4, it can be considered a 3-season pad, but also as a year-round one. Its surprising warmth comes from the diagonally-cut foam that holds on to heat better than vertical channels that can be found in most other self-inflating sleeping pads. And this makes it a strong candidate for ski camping and other wintry adventures. For a comfy rest, the pad has a stretch knit fabric that is super smooth and provides flexibility and support.

Exped DownMat XP 9

Specs
  • R Value: 8
  • Type: Air Pad
  • Weight: 2 lbs. 9.3 oz.
Features
  • Pad Thickness: 3.5 in
  • Sleeping Pad Shape: Rectangular
  • The Included Pumpbag Doubles As A Waterproof Compression Bag

BEST FOR: THE ARCTIC EXPLORER

Exped DownMat XP 9 with Pump is the only sleeping pad on this list filled with goose down. This choice of material makes it very insulated, so its R-value reaches an impressive rating of 8. Surprisingly, despite this warmth, its weight is just under 2 pounds. What’s more, it is also a durable pad that has internal lamination and uses a non-slip fabric resistant to UV rays and abrasions. 

A pumpbag used to inflate the pad is included with the purchase of the sleeping pad, which can also fulfil the role of a waterproof compression bag. Winter campers tend to value such multi-use properties since it saves them precious space in their overloaded bags. Plus, there is a repair kit included, so you won’t be left without a good sleep even if your pad gets punctured. Just a note: this is the most expensive sleeping pad on this list.

LEARN HOW TO CHOOSE HIKING GEAR FOR YOUR NEXT ADVENTURE

 

THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN BUYING A BACKPACKING SLEEPING PAD

SLEEPING PAD TYPE

Sleeping pads come in three different categories: air pads, self-inflating pads, and closed-cell foam pads.

Air

Air pads are mattresses that you inflate with your breath or a portable pump. The advantage of air pads is that they are lightweight and soft, however, they are more prone to puncturing or ripping.

Self-Inflating

Self-inflating pads are sturdier and more durable than air pads. As the name suggests, they inflate automatically when the valve is opened, saving time and energy at the end of a long hike. Self-inflating pads tend to be bulkier and heavier than air pads due to a layer of foam which is added inside the pad for extra insulation.

Closed-Cell Foam

Closed-cell foam pads are basic camping pads built with one single layer of dense, patterned foam, usually folding like an accordion. Closed-cell foam pads are affordable, lightweight, and virtually unbreakable, but not as comfortable other types of sleeping pads.

 

INSULATION (R-VALUE)

The R-value of a sleeping pad indicates the level of insulation of a sleeping pad. The R-value ranges from 1 (ideal for camping in warm weather) to 11 (maximum insulation for cold-weather trips). While closed-cell foam pads offer little or no insulation, most other backpacking pads on this list are fine for three-season use with an R-value of 3 or above.

 

SLEEPING PAD LENGTH

Sleeping pads can be short, regular or long.

Short pads measure between 47 and 48 inches in length, and are lighter and easier to pack. They do not fit the whole body however, providing insulation only for for your back and head. Legs don’t require as much insulation as other body parts, so a short sleeping pad is worth considering if you are hiking in warmer months or trying to cut down on weight. Regular and long pads are normally 72 and 78 inches in length, respectively, and are more suitable to colder climates as they will protect the entire body.

 

SLEEPING PAD SHAPE

Sleeping pads can be rectangular, semi-rectangular or mummy shaped. The first two shapes offer the most moving space and are recommended for campers who tend to shift position often during the night. Mummy-shaped sleeping pads are narrower around the legs but are also lighter to carry and occupy less space in your backpack.

 

INFLATION

Manufacturers usually indicate how many breaths are needed to inflate an air pad. Backpacking air pads normally inflate with less than 8 breaths, but some models are built with a built-in hand pump that can come in handy at the end of a long day of hiking.

As you can probably guess, self-inflating pads inflate automatically once the valve is opened. The process takes about 10 minutes. Self-inflating pads should be stored hanging and semi-inflated with the valve open. Here’s more information on how to store and care for a sleeping pad

 

 

FEATURES EXPLAINED

NODES

The raised bumps that look make closed-cell foam pads look like an egg crate that offer warmth and comfort.

R-VALUE

The measurement that indicates the level of insulation of a sleeping pad, ranging from 1 (minimal insulation) to 11 (maximum insulation).

CLOSED-CELL FOAM

A dense and durable type of foam, used to build basic sleeping pads. Closed-cell foam is extremely lightweight and moisture resistant.

AIR PAD

A sleeping pad that can be inflated by breathing into it or with a pump.

SELF-INFLATING PAD

A sleeping pad that automatically inflates when the valve is open. The inflating process usually takes about 10 minutes.

 

 

READ MORE

For more of our top backpacking gear recommendations, check out these popular articles: 

Backpacking Sleeping Bags | Self-Inflating Sleeping Pads

Budget Sleeping Pads | Double Sleeping Pads

Sleeping Pads for Side Sleepers | Foam Sleeping Pads

Ultralight Sleeping Pads

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