Therm-a-rest NeoAir Xlite
The Therm‑a‑Rest NeoAir XLite is the undisputed best sleeping pad in its class. Since first hitting the market several years ago, the XLite has accumulated droves of admirers and created its own, personal clan of happy campers. It’s ultralight, as comfortable as they come, and warm enough for year-round use. What more could you ask for, right?
The tapered design of this pad shaves precious ounces off of its total weight while still providing ample, comfortable cushioning from the cold ground. It also uses a unique design feature that makes it a far superior insulator to its peers. This takes the form of two layers of baffling that are separated by a reflective barrier that prevents cool air from the grounding reaching the sleeper.
While the XLite loses a few points for its slippery outer fabric and narrow width, it remains one of the most comfortable camping pads available. The V-shaped baffles not only make it one of the warmest pads on the market but also perfect for side sleepers and individuals who like to push the boundaries of three-season camping.
Bottom line: The XLite strikes the perfect balance between comfort, insulation, and a low pack weight, making it the ideal companion for backcountry campers of all kinds.
The Best Sleeping Pads For Backpacking & Camping
Looking for the best backpacking sleeping pad?
You’re in the right place! In this guide, we will be covering the following:
- Why you need a backpacking pad
- Types of sleeping pads
- What you should consider when buying a pad for your sleep system
- Sleeping pad reviews of the top 6 models on the market
- Our unbiased recommendation on the #1 sleeping pads for backpacking
There are many pieces of hiking gear that are useful for maintaining your safety and comfort while in the backcountry, but a high-quality sleeping pad is among the most important. The perfect pad will not only shave a few valuable ounces off your pack weight, it will also help to keep you warm, comfortable and to enjoy a good night’s sleep.
To help you find the best sleeping pad for your camping adventures, we’ve created a list of our top six picks for 2021. We’ve also included a detailed buyer’s guide that will provide all the info you need to make the right choice.
Whether you’re looking for a lightweight inflatable sleeping pad, a backpacking air mattress, or a beefy, insulated model for cold-weather camping, our guide to the best backpacking sleeping pads in 2021 has got you covered!
- Therm-a-Rest ProLite Plus
- Klymit Static V2
- Exped SynMat HyperLite
- Therm-a-rest NeoAir Xlite
- Sea to Summit Ultralight
- Big Agnes Q Core SLX
How To Choose the Best Sleeping Mat
Sleep is of vital importance to both our physical and mental wellbeing. In recent years, poor quality sleep has been tied to numerous health issues ranging from poor posture to memory problems and weight gain.
Sleep is particularly critical when you are hiking since you need to be well-rested and clear-headed to tackle the challenges of the backcountry. Whether you are new to hiking or simply searching for the perfect product, the guide below should help you decide which features are important for your particular camping needs.
Types Of Backpacking Sleeping Pads
There are three main categories of sleeping pads, each of which provides varying degrees of comfort and are ideally suited to different kinds of outdoor activities. These are closed-cell foam mats, self-inflating pads, and inflatable air pads.
Closed Cell Foam Sleeping Pads
Closed-cell or foam pads are made from varying types of solid foam materials. They are usually extremely lightweight, affordable, and durable, and are often favored by ultralight hikers since they can be used on bare ground without fear of rips or punctures.
On the downside, however, they are often bulky and are not as comfortable or cushioned as other types. Some people choose to use a foam sleeping pad in combination with another type of mat when extra cushioning is desired, but only the most diehard (and masochistic!) of minimalists use them on their lonesome.
Self-Inflating Sleeping Pads
Self-inflating pads have a fabric exterior and are filled with open-cell foam. When unrolled, the foam expands on its own, allowing air to enter inside. Typically, a few breaths of air are needed to inflate to ideal firmness, after which a valve is closed to prevent the air from escaping. When it is time to decamp, the valve is opened, and the air is pressed out of the pad.
This style of mat is not only incredibly comfortable but also tends to be warmer than other styles because the foam acts as both padding and as insulation from the ground below. These pads take very little effort to inflate, unlike air-filled pads, but they also tend to be heavier than other styles, making them less suitable for activities that require extremely lightweight gear.
Air Sleeping Pads (Inflatable Pads)
Air pads are a diverse category of inflatable sleeping pads that come in a wide variety of styles. Included in this group are thin ultralight pads that weigh less than a pound, and queen sized air mattresses which are the size of a standard mattress.
No matter the size, this style of mat is filled with air and must be inflated via a valve by mouth or with a foot pump or pump sack. Baffles inside the mats inflate and provide the cushioning. This type is usually one of the most comfortable, although the style of baffle strongly determines this.
Camping Mat Considerations
Type of Outdoor Activity
The type of mat you choose will largely depend on the type of outdoor activity you typically partake of. Individuals who camp in established campgrounds or out of their cars will have the opportunity to use much heavier models – or even full-size air mattresses – since they will not be carrying their gear to a campsite.
Hunters or campers who plan to use one camping spot for an extended period may also choose to utilize models which prioritize comfort over weight. However, ultralight hikers or anyone who wants to do a multi-week hike would be wise to pick the lightest pad possible, even if it means sacrificing a little bit of comfort.
Since one of the primary purposes of a sleeping mat is to create a barrier between the ground and your body, the climate and season you typically find yourself in will also determine which type you need.
If you favor summertime camping, you’ll not have to worry about ground temperature, and can pick a thin, uninsulated model. But if you plan to do any camping during cold weather, an insulated sleeping pad that provides a thermal barrier between you and the ground will not only make your sleep more comfortable but may be vital to your safety.
For most campers, the ideal model is one that offers a good balance between padding, insulation, and weight. Although closed-cell foam pads offer excellent value, they typically aren’t as comfortable as other styles, so most buyers will be better served by a self-inflator or air pad style model of pad.
Comfort is, of course, one of the primary things you should consider when purchasing. Each model’s unique design will impact how well you sleep, and different people will find different styles to be more comfortable than others.
Since preference is so subjective, try to borrow or test as many pads as possible before buying your own. This will help you decide what kind of mat is best for you. During this process, you may find that tapered pads don’t allow enough room for your legs, or you may decide that you prefer deep baffles to shallow ones, or smooth face fabric to texture face fabric.
If you are unable to test pads in advance, consider your favored sleep position when choosing.
Do you sleep on your back, stomach, or side? People who sleep on their back are likely to find most styles of sleeping mat comfortable. If you sleep on your side, look for products which cannot easily compress or form low spots under the shoulder and hip. Self-inflating mats or air pads with shallow baffles are often best.
These same recommendations apply to individuals with old injuries, arthritis, or with physical issues which make extra padding especially important. Stomach sleepers will want to look for rectangular rather than tapered models, and may even want to consider purchasing a wider mat so that their legs and arms won’t stretch off of the sleeping surface during the night.
Warmth (Sleeping Pad R-Values)
As noted above, one of the primary functions of a camping sleeping pad is to provide a barrier between the cold ground and your body.
During colder weather, you’ll be most comfortable on any model which does not allow any part of your body to come into contact with the floor of the tent. This is especially important for side sleepers since low points are prone to form beneath shoulders and hips and may cause you to become chilled.
Not only can lack of insulation be a cause for sleepless nights but during extreme weather, it can become dangerous to sleep on a mat which allows too much heat to transfer from your body to the ground.
If cold weather camping is in your future, look for either a self-inflating pad or for an air pad which has insulated baffles. Often this type tends to weigh more, but the extra insulation will provide welcomed warmth.
You should also look for sleeping pads which have an internal heat barrier of some kind. In certain pads, this barrier is nestled between two layers of baffles. The upper baffles keep warm air near your body, and the reflective barrier keeps cold air from the lower baffles from rising.
Many manufacturers assign an R-Value which represents how well the sleeping pad insulates against heat loss. R-values range from 1 to 6.5, and the higher the R-value, the more insulation the mat will provide. As a general rule, pads with an R-value of 1 are good in temps as low as 50°F, whereas an R-value of 3 will work at 22/23°F and an R-value of 6.5 at -30°F.
Other Factors to Consider in a Sleeping Pad
Choosing a sleeping mat that is warm and comfortable is the name of the game, but there are a few other things that you should keep in mind when selecting a mat.
Budget is undeniably one of the factors which will determine the quality of product you can buy.
Since it is such an important piece of camping equipment, your mat is one of those items that you really shouldn’t scrimp on. There are some less expensive brands of backpacking sleeping mat that cost less than a hundred dollars, yet still provide a good, quality night’s rest. However, most decent sleeping mats will cost more.
Your sleeping pad’s weight is another key factor to consider. As mentioned above, most modern lightweight models will weigh between one and two pounds, though well-insulated, four-season products will weigh more and those specifically designed for ultralight hiking may weigh a little less.
Again, finding the ideal mat for your needs entails deciding what your priorities are when buying. Insulation or weight savings? Comfort or pack space? Setting your parameters will simplify the selection process and help you avoid purchasing something you’ll need to replace just a few months down the line.
The materials your prospective pad’s made of should also be investigated before purchase. This may at first seem like a trivial part of the selection process, but the kind of material used for a mat can make a big difference in your sleep quality.
One of the most common complaints people cite when evaluating a sleeping mat is the noise created by shifting around while you sleep. The nylon fabric used by most manufacturers makes a loud hiss or swishing sound when a sleeper moves in their sleeping bag. This can not only be irritating to that person but to everyone in their nearby vicinity.
If you’re a light sleeper, or simply don’t want the sounds of nature interrupted by a steady swishing refrain from the synthetic surface of your pad, look for a model that has a brushed surface fabric that keeps the noise to a minimum.
Ease of inflation is most important for both air pads and self-inflating sleeping pads. It usually only takes a few breaths to inflate a sleeping mat, but some models that have deeper baffles that can be challenging to inflate.
If you feel like expending a lot of energy inflating your mat, consider finding a model that either needs very little air to inflate or which can be inflated via a stuff-sack-style pump sack.
Last but not least important is your pad’s durability. Pads are inevitably going to take some of the rough treatment in your pack and inside your tent, so look for the most puncture-proof materials on offer.
Closed-cell mats are undoubtedly the most indestructible, but a good air mat shouldn’t be overlooked, especially if you know how to repair it yourself and the manufacturer has used robust fabrics in the design.
The Best Sleeping Pads for Camping: Our Top 6 Picks
Klymit Static V2
Best for Summer Camping
The Klymit Static V2 is one of the best camping pads out there for campers on a budget who want a product which strikes a balance between durability and weight.
Klymit’s unique V-shaped baffle design along with their deep weld patterning are instantly recognizable, and many people find that the unique shape of the baffles keep the mat from forming low points where their hip or shoulder contact the ground.
This often means the Klymit Static V2 is a more comfortable sleeping surface than sleeping pads which make use of horizontal or vertical baffles. The V-shaped baffles also prevent free movement of air within the sleeping pad, which makes this design both warmer and more comfortable to sleep on.
Despite its budget price, the Klymit Static V2 has some impressive features. Antimicrobial laminate inside of the mat prevents the growth of mold and bacteria which can cause unpleasant odors and premature deterioration in other sleeping pads. Dynamic side rails which are integrated into the baffle design will keep you at the center of the mat throughout the night. Additionally, the side rails curve slightly when this mat is in a hammock, making it an excellent choice for campers who prefer hammocks to tents. Finally, the simple to use Twist-Pull inflation valve makes inflating the Static V2 quick and easy.
- V-chamber body mapping limits heat loss and air movement for a more comfortable nights sleep
- Quickly inflates in 10-15 breaths
- Sleep soundly in the center thanks to the dynamic side rails
- Has an R-Value rating of 1.3
- Extremely lightweight and packs down to the size of a soda can
- Stuff sack and patch kit is included
- Klymit’s unique V-shaped baffles offer excellent cushioning
- Noise limiting fabric prevents irritating rustling
- Rectangular shape offers more leg room than tapered pads
- Affordable price tag compared to similar lightweight sleeping pads
- Two mats can be pushed together easily for couples
- Low R-value makes the V2 a poor choice for cold weather
- Slippery exterior fabric means it tends to slip around during sleep
- Doesn’t always deflate easily despite the well-designed valve
Therm-a-Rest ProLite Plus Pad
Best 3-Season Pad
Acquiring high-quality hiking gear can put a lot of pressure on anyone’s wallet. Thankfully, Therm-a-Rest’s ProLite Plus offers many of the same features as top brands at half the price. Although it weighs in at 1 pound 4 ounces for the regular size, and almost two pounds for the large size, the fact that you can use this sleeping mat year-round makes up for the extra weight.
The ProLite Plus comes in small, regular, and large sizes, and can also be found in a women’s specific design.
Side sleepers and campers with larger frames conclude that the self-inflating foam pads provide more protection from the ground than baffled sleeping pads and the smoother surface texture is an excellent choice for anyone who finds the contoured shape of blow up air mattresses a nuisance. It also tends not to move around beneath you when you shift during sleep.
This ProLite Plus went through a recent redesign which dropped its weight by several ounces thanks to the inclusion of Atmos foam in its core. Diagonal channels within the foam allow it to expand more quickly once unrolled and also help to lessen its weight. However, like all self-inflating mats, it can be challenging to compress the ProLite Plus down to its pack size. In our opinion, due to it’s heavier weight we’d rate this as the best camping sleeping pad.
- The Atmos foam reduces the overall weight by 10% and enhances compressibility to keep your pack size down
- Has an R-Value rating of 3.4
- The expanding foam core self inflates, merely top up with a couple of breathes to get the right firmness
- Regular size weighs 1 lb 11 oz and is 72 x 20 x 1.5 inches big
- Self-inflating; needs only a few breaths to reach ideal firmness
- One of the least expensive four season sleeping pads available
- Perfect for restless sleepers, since the fabric is quiet and it rarely slips
- Just about as durable as a closed cell foam pad
- Can be difficult to compress down to its pack size
- Comparatively heavy, and not ideal for ultralight backpacking
- There can be small issues with fabric quality including seam leaks
Therm-a-rest NeoAir Xlite Pad
Best Camping Pad Overall
The Therm‑a‑Rest Neo-Air XLite comes from a line of exceptionally well-engineered products designed for the perfect balance between comfort and weight. The key feature of these mats are the V-shaped internal baffles. The two layers of baffles are separated by a reflective thermal layer which keeps warm body heat against your body, while cold rising up from the ground is prevented from rising.
While not specifically designed for winter conditions, the XLite performs better during colder periods of three-season camping than many other products. It’s also an excellent choice for campers who prefer sleeping on their side as side sleepers will find that the dual layer baffle system keeps their shoulders and hips from connecting with the ground.
Although some people believe that inflating this mat takes much longer than average, the inflated sleeping pad is also much thicker than most ultralight models. Considering how thick it is once inflated, it is surprisingly light and compact once packed up. At under one pound and approximately the size of a water bottle, the Therm‑a‑Rest NeoAir XLite easily fits into a hiking backpack.
- Reflective layer returns heat back to your body and creates air pockets that conserve warmth
- Packs down to less than a 1-liter water bottle while weighing only 12 ounces
- Tapered design and advanced fabrics help keep the weight down without skimping on warmth
- R-Value: 3.2
- Innovative V-shaped baffles provide cushion and warmth
- Soft outer fabric is more comfortable and quieter than other pads
- Excellent choice for side sleepers
- Comfortable enough for car camping
- Outstanding warmth-to-weight ratio
- Takes some effort to inflate fully
- Seems narrower than similarly shaped sleeping pads
- If you often move when sleeping, this sleeping pad may slip around too much
Sea to Summit Ultralight Pad
Best for Gram-Counters
The Sea to Summit Ultralight pad takes cues from the mattress you use at home to create a thin, lightweight model that packs small yet provides a comfortable cushioned sleeping surface. Additionally, the easy to use valve makes inflating and deflating this sleeping pad both quicker and easier than many air mattress style pads. It also stays inflated throughout the night eliminating those annoying 3 a.m. top-ups which can ruin a good night’s sleep.
The Air Sprung system works in the same way coils in a traditional mattress do, and distribute your weight more evenly thus preventing low spots in the mat. However, some side sleepers may find that their shoulders or hips may contact the ground. This issue is exacerbated on rough or uneven ground. Most people, however, conclude that the sleeping pad works well and provides a comfortable night’s rest. It should be noted that the Sea to Summit Ultralight Mat has a low R-value. This isn’t an issue during the spring or summer, but if you plan to use it during cold weather, it will need to be augmented with a reflective barrier or extra padding to keep out the cold.
- Uses Air Sprung Cells with a single chamber for maximum comfort and lightweight ease of use
- Face fabric is made from 40 denier ripstop nylon, providing a keen balance between weight and durability
- 181 Air Sprung Cells are formed by a matrix of dot welds and function like individual coils in a pocket-sprung mattress for unrivalled support and comfort
- An antimicrobial treatment designed to prevent warm moist air trapped inside the mat spawning mould
- Regular sized sleeping pad only weighs 12 ounces and is 72 x 21.5 x 2 big
- Includes stuff sack, repair kit, and spare silicone 1-way valve insert
- Extruded TPU Lamination is resistant to bacterial growth
- Inflates quickly and stays inflated throughout the night
- Lightweight; small, regular, and large sizes are all 1 pound or less
- Pad R-Value of only 0.7 makes it only suitable for warm weather camping
- Too thin to be comfortable on rough terrain or for side sleepers
- Thin material can be prone to more punctures
Big Agnes Q Core SLX Pad
Best Sleeping Pad for Side Sleepers
Big Agnes is a legendary and well-respected company, and the Big Agnes Q-Core SLX lives up to the high expectations of outdoor enthusiasts. At only 1 pound, this model is a versatile and comfortable option for campers in need of an ultralight product that is both durable and comfortable.Unlike many ultralight pads, the Q-Core SL sleeping pad boasts an impressive R-value of 5. This makes it an excellent choice for extended season camping. The mat’s unique X-Static insulation not only keeps you warmer than other options but thanks to the inclusion of silver filaments, it’s more resistant to microbes and odor.
The Big Agnes Insulated Q-Core SL comes in long, wide and petit sizes to fit any sized hiker, and the alternating I-beam baffles provide a great deal of support even for heavier individuals and side sleepers. However, some campers found the shape of the regular pad to be too narrow and combined with the slippery fabric; some found it hard to stay on the pad while sleeping.
- Weighs just one pound (regular size pad)
- Antimicrobial treatment inside the mat prevents microorganism growth
- Minimalist I-Beam construction reduces weight and provides consistent stability and comfort
- Uses advanced heat reflective technology to return your body heat and keep you warm
- Holds an R-Value rating of 4.5, making it suitable for temperatures down to 15°F (-9°C)
- Uses lightweight ripstop nylon to improve durability, combined with a quilted top to give superior comfort
- High volume valve allows for efficient and easy inflation and superfast deflation
- X-Static insulation has anti-microbial and anti-odor silver filament
- R-Value of 5 making it ideal for cooler camping conditions
- Durable inflation valve allows for quick deflation
- Weight: 1 lb
- 3.5 inches thick
- Like many lightweight pads, the nylon ripstop fabric is noisy
- Some campers report issues with slow leaks that result in a deflated mat
- Requires a lot of effort to inflate
Exped SynMat HyperLite Pad
Best Ultralight Sleeping Pad
The Exped Syn Mat Hyperlite pad is the perfect solution for backpackers who need to travel light but who value a comfortable night’s sleep. While every ounce counts when it comes to hiking gear, many people sacrifice their comfort by choosing ultra-lightweight products with little padding or insulation. Thankfully, a new generation of ultralight pads has emerged in recent years which provide more cushion and warmth but weigh less and have a smaller packed size than closed cell foam mats.
The key to the Exped Syn Mat Hyperlite’s comfort are the unique insulated baffles which provide excellent protection from the cold ground yet deflate to almost nothing. This allows this product to pack down to the size of a water bottle and weigh less than 1 pound.
If comfort is your goal, the Exped Syn Mat Hyperlite truly rises above the competition. Once inflated, this model is one of the most comfortable lightweight mats available. While there are warmer and better-padded sleeping mats available, they often weigh quite a lot more for the same level of protection from rough and stony ground.
The other fundamental difference between the Exped Synmat Hyperlite pad and other mats is weight. Self-inflating models and air pads just cannot compete with the impressively low weight of this product. However, due to its materials and innovative design, the Syn Mat is more expensive than average.
- Clever baffle design with lofted microfiber insulation
- Tapered mummy-style saves weight & design allows for two Synmat Hyperlites to lay seamlessly together
- At less than 1 pound, it is incredibly lightweight pad
- Packed size is about the same shape and size as a water bottle
- FlatValve inflation valve avoids wear and tear and discomfort while sleeping
- One of the most comfortable and supportive ultralight sleeping pads
- Packs up to the size of a water bottle
- The unique side baffles keep you centered on the pad
- Two mats will easily fit together for couples
- Easy inflation and deflation
- Thinner material is more vulnerable to punctures
- Cost is higher than average
- Noisy fabric rustles when you shift position
Last update on 2021-06-16 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API