Best Sleeping Pads for Camping and Backpacking

When you set out on a long backpacking journey, you need to always make sure you have the best gear available. You have your hiking boots or hiking shoes, your backpack, and you need to take with you a comfortable, lightweight and effective sleeping pad. This is a very important item when you are intending to camp, as it gives you a level of comfort that cannot be attained otherwise.

I like to make sure I have a sleeping pad that can be rolled up and carried, and for me, the weight is one of the most important issues. You want to be carrying as light a weight as possible, so you can enjoy your walk, rather than keep repeating to yourself “are we there yet”.

I have taken a look at some of the very best sleeping pads you can buy right now, so let’s have a look and see if I can help you find the one that is best for you.

The Best Sleeping Pads

1: Sea to Summit Comfort Light Insulated

Weight – 18.1oz

R Rating – 4.2

Best for late spring and summer, 3 seasons, cooler nights

Sea to Summit Comfort Light Insulated

This well-made and top quality sleeping pad comes from the Sea to Summit brand, who offer a variety of products of this type. It is made from 40D nylon face fabric and is air sprung, with 331 air cells – that’s plenty for a pad of this size. It is 2.5 inches thick, measures 6ft when in use, and packs to a useful 3.5x.6 inches, which is compact enough for any walker. It comes from a range of tried and tested sleeping pads, and while it is at the upper end of the price range, it’s a quality item.

2: Therm-a-Rest Z Lite Sol

Weight – 14oz

R Rating – n/a

Best for all round, cool nights

Therm-a-Rest Z Lite Sol

From Therm-a-Rest comes this impressive and sensibly priced sleeping pad, which at just 14oz in weight is surprisingly light for its size. Made from closed cell foam – no air pockets in this one – it offers comfort for users and measures 72×20 inches when in use. Folded for carriage it measures 20x5x5.5 inches, so can easily be strapped to a backpack. The pad is designed with denser foam underneath for durability and insulation, and softer on the top for comfort, and is specially coated to increase temperature capture by 20%. It’s a good choice, at a very reasonable price, and is also available in a smaller size.

3: Therm-a-Rest NeoAir X-lite

Weight – 12oz

R Rating – 3.9

Best for women, suitable for cooler nights

Therm-a-Rest NeoAir X-lite

This one is designed specifically for women and is a very light – 12oz – and compact sleeping pad with all the right credentials. It is an air-cell mattress and inflates in a couple of minutes offering excellent comfort, and is 2.5 inches thick when ready for use. Packed, it measures just 9×4 inches and is 66 inches long when in use. It comes with a repair kit and is highly recommended by satisfied users, and while not the cheapest item on this list, it wins in terms of weight and compactness.

4: Therm-a-Rest NeoAir X-lite Ultralight

Weight – 16oz

R Rating – 3.2

Suitable for 3 season use, great for Alpine walking

Therm-a-Rest NeoAir X-lite Ultralight

This is the ultralight, men’s version of the one above, and as such has greater dimensions. It is an air-pocket mattress and will need to be inflated to use – note, these do not usually come with a pump for inflation – and in use measures 77×25 inches, and is 2.5 inches thick. Packed, it measures just 11×4.5 inches. It utilizes the brand’s ThermaCapture reflective technology to increase heat absorption and is highly efficient. With it, you also get a neat carry pack and a repair kit. Once again, not the cheapest, but if you want the best, this may as well be the one for you.

5: ALPS Lightweight Self-Inflating Pad

Weight – 2lb 4oz

R Rating – n/a

Suitable for cooler nights and backpacking use

This model from ALPS is the regular version of their range – you can find it in a variety of different sizes – and measures 72×20 inches, and is 1.5 inches thick when in use. It is self-inflating – so no need to carry a pump – and is made from tough and durable fabric that should withstand the test of mountaineering or backpacking use. Packed, it measures just 21×4.5 inches, and it comes with its own carry pack. The fittings are high-quality brass and it is made from lightweight and comfortable polyester with a honeycomb foam interior. All in all, a good and usable sleeping pad, and at a sensible price.

6: Klymit Static V Lightweight

Weight – 18.6oz

R Rating – 1.3

Suitable for backpacking use, perhaps not for colder nights

 Klymit Static V Lightweight

This pad from Klymit – another well-known brand – features their clever V-shaped design with side rails, offering excellent comfort and support. It’s an inflatable design with inner air pockets and is made from very durable 75D polyester that is extremely light and strong. In use, it measures 72×23 inches and it is 2.5 inches in thickness for maximum support, and it packs into a package of just 8×3 inches. It can be inflated by a person in 10 to 15 breaths thanks to its clever technology, is available in a variety of colors, and is a great choice of a sleeping pad at the price.

7: Klymit Insulated Static V Lite

Weight – 19.6oz

R Rating – 4.4

Suitable for 3 seasons, cool nights

Klymit Insulated Static V Lite

This is an up-market version of the above pad, and as such is suitable for use in more arduous and challenging climates. It’s made from 30D polyester for added insulation, can also be inflated in 15 breaths, and measures the same as that above – 72x23x2.5 inches – when in use. Packed, it measures just 5×8 inches, so it will be easy to tuck away and carry. It comes with the V-shaped design and handrails that the brand is known for, has many satisfied users, and at the price is not an expensive item for a winter-friendly sleeping pad.

8: Exped SynMat HL

Weight – 12.5oz

R Rating – 3.3

Suitable for 3 season use, cold nights

Exped SynMat HL

Exped, the brand that produces this sleeping pad, claims it is the lightest in the world for its comfort and warmth. At 12.5oz – bear in mind I am reviewing the ‘medium’ version and there are other sizes – and with an R value of 3.3, it may as well live up to those claims. It’s an air mattress that comes with its own clever pumping system, so is easy to use, and it measures 72×20.5 inches when in use, with a thickness of 2.5 centimeters. It is made from durable, strong fabric and when packed away you will forget it is there. Also available in 25.6-inch width and a slightly longer version, it is by no means cheap but is very good quality indeed.

9: Therm-a-Rest Trail Pro

Weight – not given

R Rating – n/a

Suitable for 3 seasons, warmest in the range

Therm-a-Rest Trail Pro

Another from the market-leading Therm-a-Rest brand, this one – the Trail Pro – is a quality item that offers a wide variety of features. It is a foam model that includes specially designed foam interior sections for added warmth and comfort, is 2 inches in depth and measures 20×72 inches. This is the regular version; you can choose a large version at 77 inches long, or an extra wide at 25 inches. It packs down to a very compact size and is easy to use, and at the price is certainly worth looking at if a foam mattress is what you are looking for.

10: Exped Downmat UL Winter

Weight – 24oz

R Rating – 7.0

Suitable for 4 seasons, frost and snow

Exped Downmat UL Winter

This model from the Exped range – the second from the brand I have featured – has an amazing R-Value of 7, which is by far the best here so far. It is designed for winter use and is equipped with the brand’s trademark interior air pocket technology and fast action pump. Made from quality, durable materials and coated against slipping, it measures 77×25 centimeters and is around 2 centimeters thick. When packed it forms a package of 10×5 inches, which is suitably compact. The outer layer is 20D polyester for added comfort, and although this is one of the most expensive pads on the list, if you need a pad for winter use, this is it.

11: Big Agnes Q Core SLX

Weight – 15oz

R Value –

Suitable for 3 seasons, not for freezing nights

Big Agnes Q Core SLX

This one from Big Agnes, a well-known brand in the world of backpacking equipment, is a decent design with some neat touches. It has a quilted outer layer and air pockets inside, so it needs inflation with a pump, is designed for excellent comfort, and when in use measures 20×66 inches, so is suitable for women or men who are not too tall. Packed, it measures a mere 4×7 inches. With many satisfied users testifying to its effectiveness, this mid-price sleeping pad could be a good choice for female walkers or backpackers.

12: Sea and Summit Comfort Plus SL

Weight – 1lb 15oz

R Value – 3

Suitable for 4 seasons

Sea and Summit Comfort Plus SL

This self-inflating design from the Sea and Summit brand is an interesting one. It’s not the lightest by any means, but it does offer great levels of comfort and warmth, is well-made and packs down to a small size. A 30D stretch knit fabric covers the inner foam and air pocket technology, which is intended to provide high levels of comfort, while the inner design means that heat is retained for the best effectiveness. It measures 6ftx20 inches when in use, and packs down to 6.5×11 inches, and is also available in a larger size if required. It’s a very nice pad, if not the cheapest on the list.

13: Therm-a-Res Prolite Ultralight

Weight – 18oz

R Value – 2.4

Suitable for 2.5 seasons

Therm-a-Res Prolite Ultralight

Back to our old friends Therm-a-Rest, who are the market leader for a reason. This sleeping pad is entirely typical of the brand. It’s nicely made, self-inflating, and has an expanding foam core for extra comfort and support. This one measures 72x20x1 inches when inflated, and packs down into a tiny 11×4.1 inches. It’s intended for summer, spring and autumn use and is also available in other sizes. If you are looking for a suitable sleeping pad for regular backpacking, this could be the one, and it ’s not expensive given the quality.

14: Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm

Weight – 20oz

R Value – n/a

Suitable for 4 seasons

Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm

Our final model from Therm-a-Rest is this one. It is not the lightest at 20oz, but it is a compact sleeping pad with all the right credentials. It is an air-cell mattress and inflates in a couple of minutes offering excellent comfort, and is 2.5 inches thick when ready for use. Packed, it measures just 11×4.5 inches, and 77×25 inches when in use. It comes with a repair kit and is highly recommended by satisfied users, and while not the cheapest on this list, it wins in terms of weight and compactness. It is also available in other sizes, so check them out before you buy.

Factors to Consider

Before I attend to my list of features, a little bit about the ‘season’ rating. This is an indication of what the pad is designed for. 1 season indicates suitable for warm summer nights only; 2 seasons is for cooler weather, from spring through summer but not for winter; 3 seasons is suitable for cold but not frosty nights, and 4 seasons is usable in frost or snow.

A few factors to consider:

Buying Online – there are benefits to online purchasing, such as savings, but it may be wise to check the item out in person first.

Packed Size – this is an important factor, as you want to be able to pack away your sleeping pad without it taking up too much space.

Weight – as said above, you want a pad that is light when folded for ease of carriage.

Comfort – check the specifications for comfort levels; in general, the thicker the pad, the more comfortable you will be.

Price – the price range across my choices is quite wide, so make sure you have a budget ready.

Warmth – check the ‘R Value’ and other specifications for warmth levels.

Types – Air Pad, Self-Inflating or Foam Pads – these are self-explanatory to a degree, and if you check my descriptions I have covered them for you.

Noise – not really an issue with sleeping pads, but you may find an air-filled model makes more noise.

Repair – if buying an air model, try and buy one with a repair kit included.

Length & Width – various lengths and widths are available; be aware that where I have reviewed one size I have mentioned if there are other sizes available.

Shape – some manufacturers have introduced unusual shapes for effective use; these are certainly worth investigating further.

Thickness – the thicker it is, the more comfortable it will be, but the more space it will take up when packed.

Durability – if you’re a regular walker you want a sleeping pad that will withstand the constant unpacking, use and packing that it is intended for. I’ve concentrated on quality brands so you will find all of the ones listed very durable.

The Verdict

The sleeping pad is an item that will come down entirely to personal choice, influenced by what type of use it will be put towards, and how much you want to spend. I am not going to recommend any one item here, as all do the job very well but with different degrees of suitability for the conditions, so use my review as a guide, and as always, buy the very best you can afford.

One thing – for those thinking about taking a sleeping pad on the Camino de Santiago.  I did the first time I walked, there was no need for it and I only used it to have an afternoon nap under trees during the hottest parts of the day.

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