Getting a good night’s sleep while camping outdoors is often easier said than done. You’d imagine that you’d be able to pass out quite easily after spending a full day hiking. Sadly, that isn’t always the case. And while all of us here LOVE the outdoors, many hikers and campers struggle to get quality sleep while in the wilderness — even when we’re downright exhausted! This is why you need to be armed with the best backpacking sleeping pad.
The best sleeping pads make you comfortable enough to get the rest you need for the activities to come in the following day, even for side sleepers.
It’s not just about comfort though, sleeping pads also help keep your body warm, which can protect you from falling into hypothermia when camping in colder climates.
After researching and testing dozens of lightweight sleeping pads that fit nicely in a camping backpack, we’ve compiled a list of the best 10 that we could get our hands on.
A sleeping pad’s R-Value (resistance Value) is a numeric value illustrating heat flow resistance and overall ability to insulate the camper from cold ground temperatures. Most manufacturers disclose the R-value of sleeping pads. For those manufacturers that do not have an R-value listed, expect thick heavy sleeping pads to hold more warmth. If you are considering purchasing a sleeping pad that does not have an R-value check for temperature/performance information. It is important to also check out the product reviews of any sleeping pad (regardless of R-value or not) to see how other consumers perceived performance. The R-value is tested in a 70-degree room with little air flow, nearly the opposite of what a camper can expect, product reviews from other reviewers may give you the best idea of how you can expect your sleeping pad to perform while sleeping outdoors.
As a rule, it is recommended that consumers purchase a sleeping mat with at least an R-value of three to provide adequate insulation from the ground, even during the summer the ground remains cool enough at night to leach warmth from a sleeping individual. A typical camper can expect to remain comfortable with a sleeping Pad that has an R-value of 3 Often women sleep “cold” and require a sleeping pad of at least 4 for comfort regardless of the season. There are some sleeping pads designed specifically for women that focuses insulation on the core and feet of the sleeping pad, reducing heat loss. Also, keep in mind that raising the R-value of your sleeping pad will not cause you to become too hot while you sleep. The R-value measures the products ability to provide insulation, so if you are concerned that you or a fellow camper may sleep “cold” err on the side of caution and purchase the pad with the higher R-value.
Cost, Customer Reviews, and Other Considerations
The R-value is not necessarily the most important thing to consider when purchasing a sleeping pad. We mentioned before that the R-value of any sleeping pad is obtained during testing in a 70-degree room with limited airflow thus the accuracy of this number is in some instances debatable. For many campers (specifically side sleepers) the R-Value is inaccurate as their entire body isn’t contacting the camping mat and some pads require full surface contact to maintain warmth.
There are other factors that determine customer satisfaction. Weight, compact-ability, and portability is extremely important. If you can’t carry your sleeping pad comfortably and predominantly back-pack, you won’t be satisfied with the sleeping pad that you purchased. For you, a specialty ultralight sleeping pad will be needed.
Other factors to consider are how the sleeping pad is filled and used. Some sleeping pads autofill or require no filling, some sleeping pads require that you also purchase or use an included air pump to inflate your sleeping pad. There are sleeping pads that cost nearly 300$ that provide warmth, comfort, and durability as well as sleeping pads that cost 50$ or less while only modestly sacrifices to warmth and durability. The best way to determine whether a sleeping pad will fit your needs is to compare specifications while reading customer reviews of products that are within your price range. To help you we’ve compiled a list of the best sleeping pads available on the market.
Let’s have a look at our reviews of the most comfortable sleeping pads for backpacking, shall we?
Backpacking Sleeping Pad Reviews
The Big Agnes Q – Core SLX pad is a soft, lightweight, rectangular sleeping pad. It differs from the Tensor with its large side tubes that keep you centered while you sleep. It’s also 1.25 inches thicker than any other pad listed above.
That said, thickness doesn’t necessarily mean comfortability. We found that you won’t feel very stable while sleeping on the SLX. The excessive thickness makes you feel like you’re laying on a pool float.
If you do end up going with this pad, be sure to buy a pump as filling up the pad by lung will leave you gassed for hours. It sports the same 15-degree claim but again fails to provide studies that verify its validity.
The NEMO Tensor Insulated camping pad is a quiet, soft, and rectangular pad that’s comfortable yet rather lightweight. Rectangular pads give your legs more room when you’re asleep. The drawback of rectangular pads is the fact that they take more time and effort to inflate. The pad is built out of rather thin fabric so you’ll have to be gentle with it.
NEMO claims it can work in temperatures as low as 15 degrees Fahrenheit but there are no studies confirming that. The design and comfort of the Tensor pad is worth exploring as it might just turn out to be the right pad for you.
The Exped SynMat HL is one of the few pads in the same warmth and weight class as the NeoAir XLite. That in itself is a major achievement. It sports a vertical baffle design that helps you stay centered while laying on the pad.
We’re not overly fond of the vertical baffle support and don’t find the SynMat as comfortable as the XLite. The pad is thinner than the XLite, costs more, is harder to deflate, and only sports a 2-year warranty in comparison to the — XLite’s lifetime warranty.
The Therm-A-Rest NeoAir XTherm is an even warmer version of the above-listed XLite pad and is one of the best sleeping pads for backpacking in colder climates. You might be wondering why we’d even put it on this list if it’s essentially just a variation of the previous product. Well, what can we say, it’s too good to leave out.
Insulation capabilities are often overlooked by people who want to buy a new sleeping pad, however, if you plan to go backpacking in colder areas, getting the XTherm may be the only way to get a good night’s sleep without receiving a cold, rude awakening from the icy breeze every few minutes.
For its weight, the warming capabilities of this pad are incredible. It carries the same drawback as the XLite with its crinkling sound whenever you move, but as we mentioned earlier, the noise is nothing compared to all its benefits.
The Klymit Static V is the best budget air pad readily available to consumers. It has thicker fabric than most lightweight pads and is over three inches wider than the standard pad size. It sports V-shaped air tubes — hence the name — that are rather comfortable.
The large spaces between each air chamber might cause you to bottom the pad out when shifting from side to side. It doesn’t do much in the insulation area so it’s recommended that you only use this pad in warmer climates.
There is a heavier — albeit more expensive — version of the pad if you’re looking for something that brings more to the table. Overall, if you’re on a tight budget and want to backpack in warmer areas, this pad could be a great option.
When it comes to versatility, we consider the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite a top choice for any hiking aficionado or backpacker. It’s suitable for use during any season and is quite the maverick with its combination of excellence in support, comfort, warmth, and weight.
Most backpacking experts agree that the XLite is a good all-around choice for lightweight hiking. This pad is a bit pricey, but the value you get in return is well worth it.
The one flaw of the XLite is the fact that it makes noise when you shift your body. This is due to the heat reflective material that increases its warming capabilities. For those of you (hunters especially) that want to remain as low profile as possible, this extra “noise” might be a downside.
While this sleeping pad might be a bit noisier than other models on the market, this factor alone is not usually enough to negate all the other selling points this high-quality product brings to the market. For those of you smaller in body size, this sleeping pad also comes in a women’s version that’s shorter and a bit snugger in fit.
The Sea to Summit UltraLight Insulated Mat is one of the strongest competitors that the NeoAir XLite has. In some cases, it’s even a better option.
It’s without a doubt one of the most comfortable sleeping pads we’ve ever had the honor of testing. The “Air Sprung Cells” may sound like buzzy sales talk, but in reality, the dimples trick your body into thinking that you’re sleeping on a regular mattress.
It’s also cheaper, inflates and deflates faster, and has thicker fabric than the NeoAir XLite. It’s wider than the NeoAir XLite which gives your arms more room. Its main weakness is that it bottoms out easier. That means that you’ll feel the ground whenever sitting up or leaning on one elbow.
You shouldn’t face any problems with it bottoming out while you’re lying down though and — unless you sleep upright — that’s what really matters. It comes in numerous styles including the comfort series which sports more cushy dimples.
Let us start by saying that we haven’t spent that much time using the newly released sleeping pad named Big Agnes Insulated AXL. That said, in the time we’ve used it, we’ve seen relatively good performance. It’s one of the lightest sleeping pads released to date. Coming out at a measly 10.6 oz., this pad is one of the best lightweight sleeping pads available on the market, managing to contend with the industry-leading NeoAir XLite.
The AXL is thick and comfortable. It can be packed down to a small fold and is quieter than the XLite. It’s pretty easy to inflate but the deflation isn’t as stress-free. It’s a bit wider than the previous items on the list which gives you more room at night.
The one area where the AXL falls short in comparison to the XLite is warmth. Big Agnes claims that the pad can be used in temperatures as low as 15 degrees Fahrenheit but there’s no live testing that verifies that.
The AXL still has a lot to offer despite its shortcomings in the heating area which is why it manages to make our list of the best backpacking sleeping pad options available to consumers.
Conclusion of These Pads
We hope our list helps you find a great sleeping pad for your next backpacking trip. As fellow outdoor enthusiasts, we work hard to bring you reviews of the best camping equipment to help you enjoy Mother Nature in all her glory.
As with any product, do your research and choose the pad the best fits your needs. Also, don’t forget to check out our links for more info direct from the manufacturer and for the best prices online.
Did we miss anything? If you know of a product that you felt should have been included in this list, feel free to contact us and share with us your thoughts or experiences. We’d love to hear from you!
Thanks for reading and happy camping!