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5 Best Sleeping Pads for Backpacking: How to Choose the Right One for You

Looking for the 5 best sleeping pads for backpacking? You've come to the right place! In this blog post, we will discuss the 5 best sleeping pads on the market and how to choose the right one for you. Sleeping pads are an essential piece of gear when camping or backpacking, and they can make a big difference in your comfort level. We'll go over some of the different types of sleeping pads available and help you figure out which one is right for you. So whether you're a beginner backpacker or an experienced outdoorsman, read on for the information you need to make the best purchase possible!

1 Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite

The Therm-a-Rest is known for producing high-quality backpacking pads, and the NeoAir XLite is its top lightweight model. For many people and uses, it's a complete package: the XLite is comfortable with Therm-a-Rest's signature internal baffling, weighs only 12 ounces (2.5 oz.

In our view, the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite is the greatest all-around 3-season sleeping pad on the market. The XLite has a unique comfort, support, warmth, and weight profile that makes it supreme for lightweight backpacking. This pad may be somewhat pricey, but it's definitely well worth it once you

It's noisier than other pads, but it's not really all that bad. This pad is also available in a slightly warmer and shorter female version.

2 Nemo Switchback

We'll start by suggesting that the Nemo Switchback is not the best choice for individuals seeking for a soft and comfy sleeping mat. You get less than an inch of closed-cell foam plus a reflective coating intended to collect incoming heat. But there are two reasons why we like this pad: it's inexpensive at just $55 for the normal size, and it's one of the lightest backpacking mats on the market at just 14.

The Switchback is a great choice for budget-minded backpackers who are looking for a lightweight and inexpensive sleeping pad. This pad is not as comfortable as some of the other options on this list, but it's a good choice for those who are looking to save some money.

The Switchback is also available in a larger and longer size for those who need more room to sleep.

Not only is it lightweight and packable, but its design also makes it extremely versatile. Use it as a seat around the campfire, replace your pack's foam backpanel with it to save weight, or slide it beneath your air or self-inflating pad for extra warmth and protection.

The Switchback is a better choice than the Therm-a-Rest Z Lite SOL in almost every way. The Nemo is thicker (0.9 inches compared to 0.75 inches) yet packs down to the same size, whereas the Switchback is lighter (1 lb 8 oz vs 1 lb 3 oz). You'll still feel rocks and roots beneath you far more than with the more expensive air alternatives above or below, and with a R-value of only 2 it won't keep you warm through the winter months. However, as a versatile add-on or a dedicated UL pad that won't burst, the Switchback is an excellent piece of gear to have in your quiver.

3 Therm-a-Rest NeoAir UberLite (best lightweight)

The NeoAir UberLite is Therm-a-Rest's lightest creation yet, shaving 3.2 ounces off the XLite above. The overall design is similar to previous NeoAir models: the familiar horizontal baffling makes it as comfortable as other NeoAir products, and the pad dimensions are identical across all four sizes.All that goodness, and yet the UberLite stuffs down smaller than a 1-liter Nalgene (Therm-a-Rest just made the stuff sack a little bigger in a recent update), allowing it to blend in with your luggage's crevasses.

The NeoAir UberLite is a lighter-weight alternative to the original NeoAir, but it has its drawbacks. When temperatures dipped into the low 40s Fahrenheit, the pad was just warm enough for us because of its R-value of 2.3, but it will likely be too chilly for peak seasons or even summer treks high in the mountains.

The UberLite is available in two sizes: Regular (20 inches x 72 inches The XLite's 15-denier fabric is even thinner than the delicate 30-denier shell of the UberLite, and it's surprisingly easy to puncture—we seem to rip a hole in our UberLite every time we go out. The XLite's greater versatility is worth $20, but for warm-weather excursions it may not be worth the price.

4 Klymit Static V2

The Klymit Static V and Static V2 are the most affordable air pads on the market. They're made of heavier materials than other lightweights and are a little bigger in diameter than typical pads. The V-shaped air tubes on this pad are pleasant, although the vast distances between air chambers allow you to bottom out while moving around. The Static V & V2's main drawback is their low R-value, which makes them only appropriate for summer trips. Klymit offers a number of insulated versions of this pad, including the Insulated Static V and Insulated Static V Lite.

Klymit's revolutionary X Frame pad may have given the company a foothold in the market, but their most recent Insulated Static V Lite is their finest product. The X Frame removes extra materials and appears to be a skeleton (and offers no insulation from the ground), whereas the Static V Lite is more conventional and pleasant. The Klymit Insulated Sleeping Mat is a heavy duty mattress with closed cell foam construction that measures 23 inches wide, which we particularly appreciate. The raised baffles along the sides make the Klymit a sturdy and spacious sleeping platform suitable for active sleepers.

5 Klymit Hammock V Sleeping Pad

The Klymit Hammock V Sleeping Pad is one of the most comfortable hammock sleeping pads on the market. This hammock sleeping pad has a generous design with side wings that ensure that no matter how much you move throughout the night, you're covered from all angles.

This hammock sleeping mat is incredibly stable due to its no-slip security. Its size makes it ideal for people of all sizes, and its adaptability allows it to fit in a variety of hammocks.

This is a rather big and broad sleeping mat, but it folds down to a surprisingly tiny 10" x 5" size (20.5cm x 13.5cm). It weighs only 27 ounces, so it's simple to store and ideal for hikers.

You can use it as a 4-season hammock sleeping mat with an R-value of 4.4. This pad's 20D polyester construction is very durable, resistant to puncture and abrasion. If anything tears this pad, it comes with a built-in patch kit to fix it.

This is a good, wide hammock sleeping pad option. It's also worth noting that the valves on this hammock pad are very simple to operate, but they have been known to come off. Otherwise, this is an excellent choice for a wide hammock sleep mat.

What kind of sleeping pad do I need?

Types of pads

Sleeping pads for camping today are generally one of three forms: closed-cell foam pads, "self-inflating" open-cell foam pads, or completely inflatable air construction mattresses.

Closed-cell foam pads are solid foam strips that may have complex textures to help cushion your body and retain heat. The most cost-effective of the three types and also the most durable, our budget pick belongs in this category. Because there's nothing to pierce, a pad of this type can last for decades if used infrequently. You may

"Self-inflating" open-cell foam pads are among the most popular choices for automobile campers and others who don't mind sacrificing weight or bulk. These pads are filled with a couch cushion-like foam that compresses when you unroll the pad and open up the air valve, two of our top picks for car camping and doubleThe typical time it takes for the top of a foam pad to firm up completely is around a dozen breaths. These have a cushiony feel that is most similar to a mattress (much like your own at home), and they're generally quieter than fully inflatable air mattresses. Self-inflating pads are typically the most comfortable of the three

Four of the nine pads we tested for automobile camping—including the LuxuryMap—are self-inflating. In general, we thought that self-inflating pads were more comfortable for car camping (and felt more like a real mattress) than cheaper solid-foam or pricey air-construction pads, owing to their combination of-length inflatable air mattresses are the heaviest, bulkiest, and most expensive type of camping mattress. But they're also the plushest, most comfortable option for car campers who want to sleep like they're at home. Most people find that an air mattress is too heavy and bulky to haul on a backpacking trip—and they like to stick with a portable sleeping pad.

Fully inflated air-construction mattresses obtain almost all of their loft from your own lungs or an electric pump. The finest of today's air pads are impressively light and compact, making them the ideal choice for most backpackers; our top pick for backpackers and several other notable choices fall into this category. However, they are also vulnerable to leaks, which can be a real problem in the middle of the night. A few companies have solved this by selling air pads with a built-in foot pump or an external electric pump (our budget pick for car camping is one example).


Many backpackers are concerned with weight, as seen by the recent surge in popularity of ultra-light backpacking. On this list, you'll find everything from the 8.8-ounce Therm-a-Rest NeoAir UberLite to the 1-pound 9-ounce Nemo Quasar 3D Insulated. We believe that the screen of televisions have gotten thinner, so too has the average backpacking sleeping pad. But there is a limit to how much a sleeping pad can shrink before it becomes unusable. The thinnest and lightest pads on the market today hover around an inch thick when inflated, which is barely enough to take the edge off of a rock or stone.

The less it weighs, the more delicate it becomes. It makes little sense to invest in a $200 ultralight sleeping pad if you only intend on using it on a few easy summer vacations. Even if it's light, make careful when setting up camp and storing your sleeping pad.

Thickness and Comfort

When it comes to sleeping on the ground, comfort is relative, and most individuals who can't handle a night under the stars don't backpack or camp at all. Backpacking pads are thinner and less comfortable than camping mattresses and pads, although recent advancements in outdoor technology have improved matters. Sea to Summit's Air Sprung Cells are our top pick Some of the most comfortable sleeping pads around, although they can’t quite compete with Therm-a-Rest in terms of weight and R-value per ounce.

You may notice a lot of chatter in product comments about being a back sleeper or a side sleeper. Back sleeping more evenly distributes your weight, whereas side sleeping puts a higher percentage of weight around the hips and shoulders. If you are a side sleeper or don’t sleep particularly well in the outdoors, check out a substantial pad like the Big Agnes Insulated Q-Core Deluxe (3.5 inches thick in the middle and 4.25 along the sides) or Sea to Summit Ether Light XT Insulated (4 inches thick). If you require a lot of cushion, consider one of the lighter choices on our list of the top camping mattresses and backpacking sleeping pads.

Baffle Design

When it comes to comfort, baffle style has a significant influence. In general, we've found that vertical baffles—such as those on the Insulated Air Core Ultra from Big Agnes—are less supportive and more comfortable than horizontal or boxed ones. On the other hand, Sea to Summit's Air Sprung Cells on their Ether Light XT

Another standout is Nemo’s Quasar 3D, which boasts a raised baffle at the head end for keeping your head and/or pillow elevated. To be fair, baffle shape and layout are largely a matter of personal preference, and there are certainly some quality vertical designs on the market. But on the whole, we’ve found they feel a little less natural and fall short in both comfort and stability.

What’s an R-value?

When it comes to a sleeping pad, the same is true of your home's walls: you can't tell what's inside and how warm it will keep you just by looking at it. Two pads may appear identical, but one may include synthetic or down insulation and/or baffled structures to create more insulation. An R-value is a measure of loft or thick sleeping pad will not necessarily translate to a good night's sleep, but it is an important consideration nonetheless. Most three-season backpacking pads have an R-value between one and five; the higher the number, the better insulated—and therefore warmer—the sleeping pad. For most people in most conditions, we think an R-value of two or three is plenty for three-season use. If you camp in very cold weather—say, below freezing—or if you sleep "cold," meaning that you tend to feel colder than other people do, then look for a pad with an R-value closer to five. You can find the R-values of all the pads on the links provided.

A higher R-value implies a warmer pad. However, the spot you put your pad, the sort of camping you're doing, and seasonal changes will all influence how comfortably you sleep at night.

R-value, or the amount of insulation a sleeping pad provides against the ground, is a key specification to consider. Don't underestimate R-value: even using an inadequately insulated or uninsulated mat in cold weather can leave you chilly. Even a warm and thick sleeping bag will not protect you since your body compresses the insulation along the ground. much insulation you need depends on the conditions in which you'll be camping. For three-season use, an R-value between two and four is usually sufficient. If you camp in very cold weather—say, below freezing—or if you sleep "cold," meaning that you tend to feel colder than other people do, then look for a sleeping pad.

If you're in a warm climate during the summer, the ideal sleeping bags have an R-value of 3 or less. The majority of our selections above have an R-value of 3 to 5. Finally, if you're going snow camping and you want an R-value of over 5, bring a combination of pads. If a sleeping pad process that happens when your body heat escapes through the ground, making you feel cold. The thicker and more insulated your sleeping pad is, the less likely you are to recoil. To find out how well a mattress will perform in this regard, we look at its R-value. An R-value is a measure of insulation and ranges

Recommended sleeping pad R-values:

  • Summer-only backpacking: 1 to 3

  • 3-Season backpacking: 3 to 5

  • Winter camping on snow: 5+

The ASTM Standard

All current sleeping pads on the market are now tested using an ASTM International standard test. A sleeping pad that are sandwiched between a hot plate (35 degrees Celsius) on top, which represents the body, and a cold plate (5 degrees Celsius) underneath, which reflects the ground. To measure how much energy the upper plate consumes in order to maintain a does the new standard work? Only time will tell if the sleeping pad is great for you no need to worry.

Packed Size

The amount of insulation, pad type, and fabric thickness all have an impact on the packed size. The most compact air sleeping pads are uninsulated or lightly insulated ones. Some models compress down to the size of a can of soda, which is a long way from the foam and self-inflating sleeping pads that dominated the market only a decade ago.

If you're shopping for a self-inflating or closed-cell foam sleeping pad, the packed size might be an issue. A foam option like Therm-a-Rest Z Lite is 20 inches long, which means you'll need to attach it to the outside of your pack. Self-inflating sleeping pad may have similar issues, although much insulation you need depends on the conditions in which you'll be camping. For three-season use, an R-value between two and four is usually sufficient. If you camp in very cold weather—say, below freezing—or if you sleep "cold," meaning that you tend to feel colder than other people do, then look for a sleeping pad.

Sleeping Pad Dimensions and Shape

Sleeping pads are available in two or three sizes to fit your height and preference. A "standard" pad is usually about 72 inches long and 20 inches broad (at its widest point), whereas a "large" often measures between 77 and 80 inches long and 25 inches wide. They fall into one of two categories: mummy sleeping pads that taper down to Choose the Right Sleeping Pad for you.

How we picked

The most important variables that customers use to choose a sleeping pad are comfort, warmth, and pricing. We also took into account factors like valve quality, inflation method, and surface finish. Some pads include valves and inflation methods that are easier to use or come equipped with smart anti-clogging measures. We liked valves with easy-to-handle handles. Pricing is another consideration. In general, the more expensive the sleeping pad the sturdy the build was. A backpacking sleeping pad is going to be much different than a standard sleeping pad that isn't looking to be the lightest or best backpacking sleeping pads.

At the end of a long day, simplicity reigns supreme. “When my mind stops working, I want my sleeping pad to be so simple to set up that I don't need my brain anymore,” said one hiker.

When it comes to waiting for a pad to inflate, there's nothing more annoying than having to wait. During our tests, the best valves were one-way, preventing air loss when we took a deep breath. Some of the pads in our test group utilized electronic pumps, hand pumps, or a converted stuff sack for inflation and saved our testers cheeks.

Some sleeping-pad surfaces were found to be more slippery than others. The nylon of your sleeping bag is slipperier than standard bedding at home. If you sleep on a slope and use a slippery, nylon sleeping pad to match that surface, you could wake up off your pad, especially if you're camping in temperatures below freezing.

Pads can squeak or crunch, much like a bag of potato chips. (This is the primary argument against the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite.) While some people may regard this noise as a minor irritation at worst, for others it's a dealbreaker; after spending a weekend camping with a noisy pad, you might end throwing it in the river with the other so called best backpacking sleeping pads.

The most important variables that customers use to choose a sleeping pad are comfort, warmth, and pricing. We also took into account factors like valve quality, inflation method, and surface finish. Some pads include valves and inflation methods that are easier to use or come equipped with smart anti-clogging measures.

Finally, we picked pads that are simple to deflate and carry around in the morning. Some pads need to be flattened before folding, while others should be rolled or packed into a bag. The sooner and neater this operation is on a cold or rainy day, the happier the camper will be.

A hole in a sleeping pad ruin s any camping or backpacking excursion. Most inflatable air mattresses include repair kits, which is good. The bottom of some pads is made of higher-denier materials for added protection. (Denier is the number of strands in each fiber in a fabric; the greater the denier, the more higher-denier material, the tougher it is.) The bottom of some pads also has an antimicrobial treatment to resist mold and mildew.

We also tried some car-camping pads that didn't self-inflate at first. However, we quickly learned that a self-inflating pad offered us more comfort and ease of use, and we incorporated it into our selection criteria for a car-camping pad.

Care, use, and maintenance

A puncture, rip, or tear in a sleeping pad spoils any outdoor excursion. Fortunately, many inflatable air construction designs come with repair kits, as do some self-inflating camping pads. Look for a pad constructed of thicker, higher-denier textiles (lower-denier fabrics are the thinnest, lightiest part about an inflatable sleeping pad is that a hole or tear can instantly turn it into a $0 paperweight. The best way to prevent this from happening is by using a ground cloth, which is placed between the bottom of your tent and the ground. This adds an extra layer of protection against sharp objects that could puncture your pad.

Dodging damage

When possible, avoid storing your sleeping pad in a hot car or hot tent during the day, and resist the temptation to take your pad close to the campfire, since stray sparks have ended the life of many a pad.

When camping with your sleeping pad, avoid areas with lots of rocks, sharp plants, and pine cones; these might puncture or abrade your sleeping mat (if you use your sleeping pad as a sitting area for breaks during the day, follow the same precautions). Choose a location that is protected from the wind—you'll be more comfortable and will also keep your pad from best way to wash your sleeping pad is by hand in cool water with a mild soap. You can also spot-clean areas as needed with a damp cloth. Some manufacturers recommend using a front-loading washer on a delicate cycle, but this could damage the fabric and coatings, so we don't recommend it.

The more layers between your sleeping pad and the ground, the better. A tent footprint, a groundsheet, and/or a tent with a bathtub floor will help protect your pad. Deflate and roll up your sleeping pad on protected surfaces. “It may be obvious, but don’t store your [inflatable] sleeping pad on the outside of your pack during the day. Store it inside your pack,” said National Outdoor Leadership School guide and instructor Ryan Linn.

Patching up

If you discover a puncture near a bathtub, fill the tub with soapy water, inflate the pad, and then submerge it in the tub (the soap bubbles make any air leakage more obvious). To really push the air around, fold your pad in half and then in quarters. Finally, if the pad has a leak, tiny air bubbles will come to the surface. If you have an inflatable sleeping pad with a hole or tear, all is not lost—there are several ways to patch it up. One option is to use a repair kit that comes with the pad; these typically include adhesive-backed fabric patches and a tube of glue. Another option is to use duct tape; this can be wrapped around the

If you find a hole while backpacking in the woods, Linn recommends placing your pad (not fully inflated) in a lake or puddle. The technique is comparable to taking a bath at home. However, if you're in the backcountry, you should avoid introducing soap—even biodegradable soap—to natural settings.

When a little, hard-to-find hole forms, most firms recommend repairing it with only the glue in the factory repair kit. If you don't have a repair kit, urethane-based glue like Gear Aid or Aquaseal will suffice. Linn uses barge cement in the field to mend shoes; this is comparable to lo’s recommendation to use a shoe-repair glue.

Once the glue is dry, it's time to re-inflate your sleeping pad and get back to camping.

Because they are relatively comfy and simple to set up, air mattresses or inflatable sleeping pads are the most popular option for car camping. There are, however The top of the pad is sometimes pierced by thorns that puncture through to the bottom. Gear Aid or bike-tube patches will suffice in a pinch. Use the self-adhesive fabric patch that comes in your kit (for most pads) to cover larger holes, and apply a little glue beforehand to ensure it stays put. Aftermarket patches from therm a rest and z lite may do the trick.

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