A good sleeping pad can make the difference between tossing and turning all night and getting a good night’s sleep during your backpacking trip. There might be some nights you’ll be so tired that you just faceplant into your sleeping bag, but usually I haven’t found this to be the case. Sleeping pads are an important part of not only your comfort while sleeping, but also for helping to keep you warm too!

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Photo by Jack Sloop, Unsplash

While I’m perfectly fine sleeping on the ground, my fiancĂ© is not and the smallest stick, pebble, leaf or twig can cause him to have a bad night’s sleep and be stiff and grouchy the next morning. So after several morning of complaining, we went on the hunt to find the best sleeping pad to improve the quality of his sleep and his comfort while we’re on the trail. We’ve tested out a bunch of different sleeping pads and this is what we found…

Note: The R-Value is the insulation rating for the pad, similar to a temperature rating for sleeping bags. The higher the R-value, the more insulated the pad is. Most sleeping pads will range from 1.0 (warm weather) to 5.5+ (extreme cold).

Pro Tip: For pads that are compatible, I highly recommend a pump sack for inflating your sleeping pad rather than using your breath. It’s so much easier and goes a lot faster.

Here are the sleeping pads that we found to be the best options:

Quick Comparison Guide:

Name Thick RValue Weight Price
Best all around NEMO Tensor Insulated 3″ 3.5 15 oz $140-$160
Best foam pad NEMO Switchback .9″ 2 14.5 oz $40-$50
Best self inflating Therm-A-Rest ProLite Apex 2″ 3.8 22 oz $120-$180
Best low cost Klymit Static 2.5″ 1.3 16.3 oz $50-$65
Best light weight Therm-A-Rest NeoAir UberLite 2.5″ 2.3 8.8 oz $180-$200
Best for cold Therm-A-Rest NeoAir Xtherm 2.5″ 6.9 15 oz $215-$260
Best for comfort (cold) Exped DownMat XP 3.5″ 7.8 41.3 oz $230
Best for comfort (warm) Ether Light XT 4″ 3.2 17.3 oz $160-$240

NEMO Tensor Insulated Sleeping Pad

Best all around
NEMO Tensor Insulated Sleeping Pad
We found the NEMO Tensor Insulated Sleeping Pad to be the best all around because it does well at pretty much everything. It’s not “the best” at any one specific thing, but it’s a really good well rounded sleeping pad that will suit your needs in most cases. It’s very comfy and thicker than most sleeping pads while still staying light weight. It has adequate warmth for most times of the year, and it’s on the lower end of average for pricing. My fiancĂ© loved the extra .5 inch thickness of this sleeping pad and also that it’s suspended film construction makes it quieter than most other crunchy sleeping pads. Both the added thickness and additional quiet led to a better night’s sleep, which is really what pushed it to the top of our list.

Features

  • Weight: 15oz
  • Thickness: 3
  • R-Value: 3.5
  • Shape: Rectangular or Mummy
  • Packed Size: 3″ x 8″
  • Dimensions Open:72″ x 20″
  • Pad Type: Air
  • Inflation/Valve: Microadjustable valve, pump sack included
  • Above average thickness
  • Lightweight
  • Moderately Priced
  • Moderately Warm

Price: $160 on Amazon or $140 at REI.

NEMO Switchback Sleeping Pad

Best foam pad
NEMO Switchback Sleeping Pad
Generally, I’m not a big fan of foam pads. Foam pads take up more space, are heavier, and not as thick, but they are cheep and more durable, so thought we should include one in this list. This NEMO Switchback Sleeping Pad is a good all around foam sleeping pad – it’s fairly light weight, very cheep, but also a bit on the thin side. It does offer some relief from the ground, but wasn’t quite up to snuff for our desired level of comfort.

Features

  • Weight: 14.5oz
  • Thickness: 0.9″
  • R-Value: 2
  • Shape: Rectangle
  • Packed Size: 20″ x 5″ x 5″
  • Dimensions Open: 72″ x 20″
  • Pad Type: Foam
  • Inflation/Valve: N/A
  • Very Thin
  • Light weight
  • Very low price
  • Not good for cold

Price: $50 on Amazon or $40 at REI.

Therm-a-Rest ProLite Apex Sleeping Pad

Best self inflating
Therm-a-Rest ProLite Apex Sleeping Pad
We generally avoid self inflating sleeping pads because they’re heavier and take up more space. Of the ones we tried, this Therm-a-Rest ProLite Apex Sleeping Pad seemed to be the best overall. There are other pads that are more comfortable, lighter, and warmer, but those don’t self inflate so this is the one that we could find that came as close as possible to the rest in all of those other areas plus being self inflating.

The biggest plus about this sleeping pad is that you don’t have that “bouncing sensation” that you get with other air pads whenever you move. The biggest negative is that it’s not as thick as most other pads, and therefore not as comfortable. But I must say that it’s really nice to just be able to throw it into your tent and let the pad inflate by itself (took around 10mins). Also being able to then blow air into the pad too to adjust for firmness based on your comfort is a nice feature as well.

Features

  • Weight: 22oz
  • Thickness: 2″
  • R-Value: 3.8
  • Shape: Mummy
  • Packed Size: 11″ x 6.8″
  • Dimensions Open: 72″ x 20″
  • Pad Type: Self Inflating
  • Inflation/Valve: Expanding foam core self-inflates, can also top off with breaths for additional firmness
  • Thin
  • Heavy
  • Moderately priced
  • Moderately warm

Price: $120 on Amazon or $120-$140 at REI.

Klymit Static V2 Sleeping Pad

Best low cost
Klymit Static V2 Sleeping Pad
This was our first sleeping pad when we first started backpacking and for that, I think it’s a great option. It’s very low cost, but doesn’t offer a whole lot of comfort or warmth. It’s a good “starter pad” if you’re not sure how much backpacking you’re going to do and don’t want to invest in something better. The Klymit Static V2 Sleeping Pad will elevate you slightly from the ground, but it’s really only effective if you sleep flat on your back – side sleepers will end up with shoulders and hip bones hitting the ground. It also does very little to insulate you and keep you warm, but for the cost, you really can’t go wrong with giving it a try. However, you’ll likely end up upgrading to a higher quality pad later on like we did if backpacking is something you decide to stick with.

Features

  • Weight: 16.33oz
  • Thickness: 2.5″
  • R-Value: 1.3
  • Shape: Rectangle
  • Packed Size: 3″ x 8″
  • Dimensions Open: 72″ x 23″
  • Pad Type: Air
  • Inflation/Valve: 10-15 breaths
  • Average thickness
  • Lightweight
  • Very low cost
  • Not good for cold

Price: $50-$65 on Amazon.

Therm-a-Rest NeoAir UberLite Sleeping Pad

Best light weight
Therm-a-Rest NeoAir UberLite Sleeping Pad
By far one of the lightest and most compact sleeping pads out there. But of course as with any lightweight item, the lighter the weight, the higher the cost. The other trade-off for such a light weight pad is that it’s not very insulated (best for summer weather only), and it’s a little on the low side for comfort. It’s a bit thin and if not fully inflated as much as absolutely possible (which is difficult to maintain all night), shoulders and hip bones and elbows will sag into the ground. But it’s difficult to beat the weight of this pad coming it at roughly half a pound!

Features

  • Weight: 8.8oz
  • Thickness: 2.5″
  • R-Value: 2.3
  • Shape: Mummy
  • Packed Size: 6″ x 3.3″
  • Dimensions Open: 72″ x 20″
  • Pad Type: Air
  • Inflation/Valve: WingLock valve (air will only travel one direction depending on which way it’s opened), pump sack included which provides faster inflation/deflation.
  • Average thickness
  • Very light weight
  • Expensive
  • Not good for cold

Price: $180-$200 on Amazon or $160-$220 at REI.

Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Xtherm

Best for cold
Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Xtherm
While the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Xtherm doesn’t have the highest R-Value of all of those on this list, it’s much lighter weight than the only one that comes in above it, and that’s always the give and take… warmth an comfort vs. weight and price. This pad is pretty comfortable (if a bit crinkly) and you won’t be able to push through to the ground unless you’re kneeling on the pad, which also makes it good for side sleepers. It’s also above average for keeping you warm, which ultimately is its biggest plus. Most other cold weather pads use synthetic fiber insulation, which is bulky and heavy. But this pad uses reflective metalized coating inside the pad, which is also very effective at reflecting heat. And for that warmth and comfort, it’s reasonable in weight, even if a bit on the expensive side (you can’t have everything).

Features

  • Weight: 15oz
  • Thickness: 2.5″
  • R-Value: 6.9
  • Shape: Mummy
  • Packed Size: 4″ x 9″
  • Dimensions Open: 72″ x 20″
  • Pad Type: Air
  • Inflation/Valve: WingLock valve (air will only travel one direction depending on which way it’s opened), pump sack included which provides faster inflation/deflation.
  • Average thickness
  • Lightweight
  • Expensive
  • Very warm

Price: $215-$260 on Amazon or $220-$260 at REI.

Exped DownMat XP 9

Best for comfort (cold weather)
Exped XP 9
This pad is so comfortable and so warm, it’s just a shame it’s so big and heavy! The Exped DownMat XP 9 was actually the most comfortable pad we tried, but didn’t get best overall due to the size and weight. This thing almost feels like sleeping on your regular mattress at home. It’s nice and thick, doesn’t bounce around much with movement, and is super insulated helping to keep you warm into negative temperatures. It’s insulated not just with air, but down as well, which is what helps to be so effective at radiating your body heat back to you. The only real downside is the weight and the size, but if comfort especially in cold weather is a higher priority to you, then this sleeping pad is a great way to go.

Features

  • Weight: 41.3 oz
  • Thickness: 3.5″
  • R-Value: 7.8
  • Shape: Rectangle
  • Packed Size: 5″ x 9″
  • Dimensions Open: 72″ x 20.5″
  • Pad Type: Air with 700-fill-power goose down
  • Inflation/Valve: Exped Schnozzel Pumpbag included which provides faster inflation/deflation.
  • Extra thick
  • Very Heavy
  • Expensive
  • Very warm

Price: $230 on Amazon or at REI.

Ether Light XT

Best for comfort (warm weather)
Ether Light XT
So comfy you’d almost think you were sleeping on your mattress at home! Or at least your at home air mattress, which is what we felt like with this sleeping pad. It ‘s air-sprung cells are meant to mimic that of a regular mattress, which is part of why it’s so comfortable. The Ether Light XT sleeping pad is the thickest one on our list, and with it, you’ll find it difficult to push through to the ground. So it’s great for side sleepers! While it’s a bit on the heavier side of “regular” sleeping pads, it’s surprisingly light weight for one that’s this thick. It’s fairly warm and would honestly probably be perfectly fine for any trip as long as your not camping in the dead of winter.

Features

  • Weight: 17.3oz
  • Thickness: 4″
  • R-Value: 3.2
  • Shape: Mummy
  • Packed Size: 4.5″ x 9.5″
  • Dimensions Open: 21.5″ x 70″
  • Pad Type: Air with Exkin Platinum insulation
  • Inflation/Valve: Airstrea Pump, multi-function valve quick and easy inflation, deflation and adjustment.
  • Extra thick
  • Heavy
  • Expensive
  • Moderately Warm

Price: $160 on Amazon or $190-$240 on Sea to Summit.

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