Get a great night’s sleep between big outdoor adventure days by having the best camping sleeping pad! Find out which sleeping pads give you the most comfort and best value before your next trek!
Easily one of the most overlooked hiking essentials, a high-quality sleeping pad can make the difference in getting rest in between days out on the trail.
And with so many options out there, finding the best camping sleeping pad that is sturdy enough to provide comfort yet small and lightweight enough to pack on your trek can be a challenge. But if you’ve scooped up the best tent and sleeping bag, adding a sleeping pad to your gear is a no-brainer.
Read on as we’ll help you pick out the best options in this post!
Our Pick – Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite
High R-Value insulation
Small and lightweight
Top Recommended Sleeping Pads
As you venture into the wilderness, comfort is found in short supply. This is often one of the cerebral benefits of getting outdoors. But a good night’s sleep goes a long way, so why not invest in a sleeping pad that will help you achieve your backcountry goals?
The foam sleeping pad was once the standard, but now, inflatable sleeping pads with intricate designs are providing a relatively luxurious camping experience on the trail.
Below we break down the best of them (with a couple of foam pads thrown in) to help you rest easy whether you’re a thru-hiker, overnighter or car camper.
Compact and ultralight, the Therma-Rest NeoAIr Xlite is not just one of the best backpacking sleeping pads, it’s a clear standout. Sure, you’ll have to hand over a solid chunk of change to get your hands on this sleeping beauty, but you’ll be immediately rewarded the first night on the trail.
The NeoAir Xlite is a great three-season sleeping pad, but it shines most in the summer months. You’ll barely feel it in your pack both from a size and weight perspective. Yes, it isn’t insulated, but with a decent sleeping bag, you’ll have a great night’s rest without having to first drag a thick pad along the trail.
Side sleepers rejoice, the Sea to Summit Ether Light XT Insulated is the inflatable pad you’ve been seeking. Weighing just over a pound, the Ether Light has a good R-value of 3.2 but most importantly, its 4-inch thickness provides plenty of support for those who lay on their sides.
The pad is easily the thickest option in our guide and you’ll wake up praising Sea to Summit for the lack of shoulder and hip pain. The Ether Light also comes with easy inflation/deflation and enough warmth to get you through the spring, summer and fall.
The Therm-a-Rest Z Lite Sol is a bit of an O.G. It’s been around the block and while inflatable pads continue to improve, the time-proven effectiveness of this foam pad continues to make it a popular choice among ultralight and budget hikers.
For a quarter of the price of our more esteemed inflatable pads, the Z Lite Sol provides excellent bang for your buck. At a meager 14 ounces, you’ll barely notice the added weight, although the pad doesn’t pack down well.
It does, however, offer reliability and durability as it will not pop on the trail.
The above options excel in the summer and shoulder seasons. But if you’re seeking a true four-season sleeping pad, then the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm is an excellent choice. With an R-value of 6.9 you can avoid the looming cold ground with this exceptionally warm pad. In addition to a solid sleeping bag, you’ll be toasty through the morning hours.
You’ll be stoked to learn that despite its extra warmth, you’ll only be carrying a pad that weighs 15 ounces. This provides you with a top-notch warmth-to-weight ratio. Yes, you’ll have to open the wallet wide, but you’ll have no regrets.
Like the Z Lite Sol above, the Nemo Switchback is an intentional choice for adventurers who value convenience and weight over comfort.
Closed-cell foam pads aren’t going to provide you with a ton of support. The Switchback is less than an inch thick. But at a low price and weight with the assurance that it will never pop, the Switchback has its qualities.
The pad also offers additional support to your inflatable pad at a cheap price while being a handy seat at camp or on the trail.
The Klymit Static V2 has a unique and eye-catching design. Yet, despite this, it has a claim to be the best budget pad that inflates. At a similar price to our favorite foam pads, the Static V2 provides amazing comfort for its price.
Yes, the Klymit Static V2 lacks a quality R-value, keeping it from the higher spots in our guide. But when sleeping above freezing temps, there are few inflatable camping sleeping pads that offer such value.
The V2 packs down tight, has a wide foot base than most and promises to be durable.
If you plan on camping purely during the summer months, then the insanely light Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Uberlite should be on your radar. This pad is the champ of summer. Weighing a mere 8.8 ounces, you’ll receive great comfort, easy inflation and a fantastic packed size.
“Weighing” it down, however, are the thin materials used to create a light and summertime pad. The exterior is thin and uninsulated, so the pad runs the risk of an easy puncture. The NeoAir UberLite, however, does come with a handy warranty.
Even some of the best pads in our guide can have loud crunching noises whenever you move. The Nemo Tensor Insulated is a comfortable sleeping pad with a high R-value that stays virtually silent through the night.
It has a rectangular shape which is becoming more unique as other pads switch to mummy shapes to save on weight. Despite this, the Tensor Insulated remains just 15 ounces.
Speaking of shape, you’ll also have an option for a wide and long model. Thanks to a great pump sack, inflation is also easy.
At a budget-friendly price, the Big Agnes Insulated Air Air Core Ultra is one of the best backpacking sleeping pads. Yes, it’s heavy, but that bulk adds up to great warmth, comfort and durability. Three things that you don’t always associate with a sleeping pad under $150.
The weight and size add up to 3.25 inches of pad between you and the ground. The ribbed design also makes it harder to slip off the side so you can better enjoy the beefy comfort the Air Core Ultra provides.
Getting it up to size is simple thanks to a two-way valve. The pad also packs down impressively in the morning.
We’ve all been there, at the end of a long day and that sleeping pad isn’t going to inflate itself. That is, unless you have the Therm-a-Rest ProLite Plus.
It’s one of the best self-inflating pads on the market, offering great convenience at a solid price. In addition, self-inflating pads are known for their durability and this one comes with extra foam padding.
After inflation, users can enjoy the decent 3.2 R-Value and the 50-denier fabric will do its very best to stop any potential puncture. The pad, however, is heavy and doesn’t pack down as well as other options.
Although its stated use is a backpacking sleeping pad, the weight of the Nemo Quasar 3D Insulated makes it best for car camping. Weighing at just over 1.5 pounds, the Quasar sleeping pad offers a fantastic 3.5 inches in thickness, a decent 3.3 R-value and plenty of room within its rectangular design.
It all adds up to a great option to chuck in the back of the car, or whenever you’re just a short stroll from camp. Once you’ve laid down, you’ll appreciate the elevated cushion for your head and the contours that subtly keep you in place.
Another option for side sleepers is the Sea to Summit Comfort Light Insulated. This option actually provides more warmth than the Ether Light, while Sea to Summit’s patented Air Sprung Cells maximize the body’s point of contact with the pad, ensuring a warm night’s sleep.
The Comfort Light has a wide design, providing you with more room to move. Its thicker fabric also adds extra durability to what is a strong pad. Holding it back, however, is its heavier weight and packed size.
The best sleeping pads money can buy cover a range of budgets, materials and adventures. What makes a pad right for you depends on those three things, among others. Let’s dive in.
Even with a solid sleeping bag, the cold ground can seep its way into your bones, making for an uncomfortable night’s sleep. The sleeping pad isn’t just a layer of softness between you and the hard ground, but also a barrier to the cold. This barrier becomes more important through the night as your body compresses the pad and you lay ever closer to the ground.
The warmth of your sleeping pad is determined by its R-Value. The higher this number, the warmer and more insulated your sleeping pad. This can mean adding weight to your pack, although improvements in pad tech have minimized the difference.
Those setting out on a summer-only adventure shouldn’t spend too much time focusing on R-Value unless you plan on sleeping at high elevation. But purchasing a pad with an R-Value between three and five will allow you to experience three of the four seasons and thus provide you with more value for money.
If you plan on winter camping, you’ll want a pad with an R-value approaching seven. It’s also handy to bring along a closed-cell foam pad to put underneath in case your inflatable pad loses air through the night.
For backpackers and long-distance trekkers, weight factors into a lot of decisions. So too, how much space a certain item takes up in your pack. If you’re car camping, weight and packed size may not play such a large role. But both of these qualities can determine just how good a sleeping pad is.
The above weight ranges are all for regular-size pads. Many come in various sizes, so sometimes the extra weight can mean more room for longer and larger bodies. Likewise, extra weight can be put towards insulation, extra support and durability. All important things to consider when debating whether to choose that lightweight pad.
The lightest pad in our guide is the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir UberLite which reaches a slender weight of 8.8 ounces. This is a good choice for lightweight summer camping and it packs down to a diminutive size, but it won’t keep you warm when the mercury dips.
The rule of thumb is the thicker the pad, the more comfort it provides. Add on some extra insulation and some foam exterior and you’ll be sleeping like a baby.
If you’re someone that prioritizes comfort, then a pad’s thickness should stand out. But keep in mind features such as the R-Value and closed-cell foam. The former adds warmth, and the latter ensures your pad re-inflates through the night if it happens to lose air.
Lastly, all side sleepers should key in on a pad’s thickness. Thicker pads provide far more cushioning for your shoulders and hips.
Air pads dominate the sleeping pad market, as the above list proves. This is because air pads not only can compact down to the size of a Nalgene bottle but also provide the best insulation and often comfort.
Maintenance and price are the two drawbacks. As with anything that inflates the risk of puncture, particularly in the backcountry, is high. So be sure to bring a patch kit. Plus, because of the air pad’s unmatched qualities, they aren’t the most budget-friendly option.
Foam pads may not add as much comfort and warmth, but they are ever reliable. What they lack in R-Value they make up for in their inability to be punctured, they won’t deflate and their mix of weight and durability make them a popular long-distance option.
The majority of sleeping pads will come in regular and long versions. The regular is built to suit most body sizes, with a longer design for taller folks.
Unfortunately for those after a longer layout, you’ll be forking out a higher price and your pads’ weight and packed size will increase. The same foes for wider designs, which aren’t as common but are beloved among those that like plenty of room to move in their sleep.
There are also torso-length pads that are popular among thru-hikers. These cut weight dramatically but, of course, the comfort stops at the hip.
So you’ve bought a brand new sleeping bag, one that’s thick and comfortable. After a long day hiking in the woods, you know have to inflate it can hold you easily above the ground.
Your pad’s inflation device will quickly help you fall in or out of love with your chosen pad. Ease of inflation is such a handy feature, more so when you’re tired.
Traditionally, pads had a push valve for inflation. But this means the pad loses air and works inefficiently. They also take time to deflate. Modern valves can be flat and also come with separate inflation and deflation valves. Before purchasing make sure you understand what valve you have and how it can impact your trip.
As the name suggests, pump sacks help you inflate your sleeping pad. You’ll be happy to know that this item is also quite versatile.
Rather than huffing and puffing until the pad is blown up to size, simply swoop the bag through the air and squeeze it into the pad. Not only does this save you a lot of energy, particularly at high elevations, but it eliminates moisture from your breath. This is critical when the temperature drops as this moisture may freeze, which will result in a reduction of your pad’s R-value.
Many sleeping bags include pump sacks, with some also acting as the pad’s stuff sack and even a dry bag.
Taking care of your sleeping pad isn’t a difficult task. If you have an air pad, you can keep it rolled up, with no air in its stuff sack whenever it isn’t in use.
For those with air pads that have closed cell foam, you’ll need to leave it unrolled and ensure all valves remain open. This will help keep the foam in working order.
Like a close cell pad, those with regular foam pads need to ensure the foam doesn’t become too compacted. So ensure it’s not underneath heavy items when it’s in storage. Foam pads that roll up and don’t fold should remain unrolled during long periods of dormancy.
Age and budget are two of the biggest deciding factors when choosing your next sleeping pad. After all, the older we get, the less likely we will have the structural integrity (or will) to sleep atop a cell foam pad.
There are some excellent inflatable sleeping pads that remain budget-friendly. These provide you with a semblance of comfort and warmth while enjoying the outdoors.
While not a budget option, the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite provides amazing value, being both light and warm. When looked after, it can last several major adventures, becoming a trusted camp companion along the way.
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