Best Backpacking Sleeping Pad – 11 Compact Sleeping Mats for Travel

Best Backpacking Sleeping Pad

Best backpacking sleeping pad for travel

 

Choosing the Best Backpacking Sleeping Pad

If you’ve ever had to sleep on the ground outside, on an airport floor, or in your car, you’ll know how important your comfort is to get the rest you need. Choosing the right backpacking Sleeping Pad can make the difference between a good night’s sleep and getting literally 40 winks. When you’re backpacking, moving from location to location, you often don’t know what the sleeping situation is going to be like, so having a sleeping mat fit for travel is essential. But how do you know which sleeping pad to choose?

11 Best Backpacking Sleeping Pads (Quick links skip down the page)

Why get a sleeping pad?

First off, you might be wondering whether it’s worth buying a sleeping mat for backpacking or not, but it’s actually more effective in helping you get some shut eye than your sleeping bag is! This is because you lose three times as much heat to the ground as you do the air. A sleeping mat stops you getting cold by creating a barrier between you and the ground. It also cushions you against lumpy or hard surfaces, keeping you comfortable. Once you have slept on the cold hard ground a couple of times you realize a sleeping pad is essential backpacking gear.

What types of sleeping pads are there?

Sleeping pads or sleeping mats – SAME THING. There are three main types available: foam pads, air pads, and self-inflating pads.

Thermarest RidgeRest Foam Sleeping PadFOAM PADS: These are made of closed-cell dense foam. The benefits are that they are cheap, durable, warm, and lightweight. Because they don’t puncture or leak they can be carried on the outside of your pack without worry. They also make great communal ground benches when sat around a campfire. The disadvantages are they are thinner and less comfortable than inflatable pads but are also bulkier to carry. Along with the majority of pads on this best backpacking sleeping pad list, the pad in the image to the right is made by Thermarest.

AIR PADS: These come in two types: manually inflated by breathing (in around 3 minutes), or using a built-in or external hand pump. They’re arguably the most comfortable type of mat and are the most compact. They often contain reflective or insulating materials on the inside, keeping you warmer. You can also customize your comfort level by letting some air out. The downside is that they are less durable and can easily puncture or rip.

self inflating sleeping pads 2017SELF-INFLATING PADS: These are a mix of open-cell foam insulation and chambers that automatically fill with air when the valve is opened. They are lightweight, compact, easy to set up and provide good insulation. They’re more comfortable than foam pads and more durable than air pads. The downside is that they are typically the most expensive and do not compress as small as air pads. I personally like number 6 but the one in the image is from REI.

If you’re buying an air pad or a self-inflating pad, a patch kit is almost always included when bought through our links, and it’s a good idea to watch a few how-to videos on sleeping mat repairs before you go camping.

What to Look for in a Sleeping Pad

The best backpacking sleeping pads are determined by 5 or 6 different factors. Comfort, weight, durability, pack size, warmth, and personal preferences should all be taken into consideration to get the best sleeping pad for backpacking. If your sleeping pad doesn’t weigh much or take up much space in your backpack but is incredibly comfy, durable, and easy to use – you have yourself a high-performance sleeping pad.

Comfort

Sleeping mats are generally between 2 and 4 inches thick but that isn’t the only specification to look for if comfort is the foremost priority. The type of sleeping mat (foam or inflating etc…), warmth, shape, and fabric can make the difference between a good nights sleep and a sore back. Inflatable and self-inflating pads are much comfier than your average foam pad but tend to cost more.

Best backpacking sleeping pad with pillow

Durability

A major reason why some people don’t trust inflatable sleeping pads is the perceived risk of puncturing it. I once thought like this but since switching to a self-inflating pad 4 or 5 years ago, I have never had a puncture and I sleep in the wild all the time. Obviously, if you plan on using the mat indoors or with a tent then this is not so much of a worry but should the dreaded puncture ever happen. I can just use the compact repair kit to patch it up, in the same way, I would a bike tire.

For this reason, foam pads remain the most reliable and durable sleeping pad option but most inflatable pads have incredibly tough face fabrics.

Warmth / R-Value

When choosing from our backpacking sleeping pads, the R-value is a measure of how insulating i.e. warm the sleeping mat is. The higher numbers the warmer the pad, and unlike a sleeping bag, if you opt for a higher number, it won’t make you too warm. But … the higher the number, the heavier it’ll be.

For backpacking, around 2.0 – 5.0 is ideal, depending on the temperature where you’re heading—anything over 5.0 is ideal for cold weather camping. Anything less than 1.0 is only suitable over 10 degrees, so is better for warm locations. The company NEMO choose not to specify an R-Value for their sleeping mats and instead list the temperature ratings, which is cool.

Best backpacking sleeping pad warmth

Weight

When you’re backpacking, weight is always an important consideration, since you’re wearing your life on your back. Foam pads are generally the lightest but can be bulky to carry. Air pads and self-inflating pads are getting lighter all the time thanks to new materials and construction methods. There is less and less difference in the weight of different pads however there is still a large gap in the price between standard foam mats and the best inflatable sleeping pads.

Size

The average size of a sleeping mat is 72 x 20 inches, but most brands offer various shapes and sizes, from mummy to tapered to ¾ and women-specific pads, which all pack up smaller than a regular. Choose a sleeping mat in your size to avoid carrying more than you need to, as bigger normally means heavier. The important thing is to ensure your shoulders and hips fit on the pad when laying flat on your back. Regular sizing will be fine for most people but there are different sizes available if you’re a larger or smaller build.

Best backpacking sleeping pad pack size

Pack size

For similar reasons to wanting a lightweight sleeping pad, a compact pack size is also important for backpackers. You only have so much space in a backpack and so you are left with there is plenty of two main options. You can opt for a foam pad that you can rough handle and strap to the outside of your pack, or you can choose a compact sleeping pad that will tuck nicely into your bag. Uninsulated inflatable sleeping pads usually pack down the smallest but there is plenty of competition.

List of 11 Best Backpacking Sleeping Pad


Thermarest NeoAir XLite Sleeping Pad


Thermarest NeoAir X LiteWEIGHT
: Regular 12 oz / 340 g

R-VALUE: 3.2

THICKNESS: 2.5 in / 6.3 cm

LENGTH: 72 in / 183 cm

WIDTH: 20 in / 51 cm

PACK SIZE: 9 x 4 in / 23 x 10 cm

MATERIAL: 30D rip HT nylon

The Thermarest NeoAir XLite mattress delivers lots of warmth and comfort per ounce for a three-season air mattress. The patent-pending reflective layer bounces your body heat back at you and collects within the internal baffled structure. The 30D ripstop fabric is tough and durable while feeling soft next to your skin and packs down to the size of a 1-liter water bottle.

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Thermarest NeoAir XTherm Sleeping Pad


Thermarest Neo Air X Therm Sleeping PadWEIGHT
: Regular 15 oz / 425 g

R-VALUE: 5.7

THICKNESS: 2.5 in / 6.3 cm

LENGTH: 72 in / 51 cm

WIDTH: 20 in / 51 cm

PACK SIZE: 9 x 4 in / 23 x 10 cm

MATERIAL: 70D nylon base fabric, 30D rip HT nylon top fabric, Nylon core, reflective ThermaCapture layers

The Thermarest NeoAir XTherm is the warmest lightweight sleeping pad available. With an R-value of 5.7 but only weighing 15 ounces is quite impressive and shows an incredible warmth to weight ratio. The soft textured fabric is non-slip and doesn’t make much noise when you move around on it in the night. The reflective ThermaCapture layers make this a true 4-season sleeping pad for backpacking.

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Nemo Tensor 20R Sleeping Pad


Nemo Tensor 20R Sleeping PadWEIGHT
: Regular 13.5 oz / 385 g

TEMPERATURE RATING: 30 to 40 F / -1 to 4 C

THICKNESS: 3 in / 8 cm

LENGTH: 72 in / 183 cm

WIDTH: 20 in / 51 cm

PACK SIZE: 8 x 3 in / 20 x 7.5 cm

MATERIAL: 20D PU Polyester Ripstop, Aluminized Film, Primaloft insulation

The Nemo Tensor 20R is an ultralight sleeping pad with a tiny pack size that is ideal for most backpacking trips. The innovative low-stretch fabric baffles reduce elasticity to provide better support and stability. Patent pending space frame construction inside the pad reduces weight and improves stability when putting weight on one side. As well as having Primaloft microfiber insulation, the Tensor 20R has an inner aluminized layer which reflects up to 90% of your body heat for full 3 season use.

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Sea To Summit Ultra Light Insulated Sleeping Pad


Sea To Summit Ultralite Insulated Sleeping PadWEIGHT
: Regular 15.5 oz / 480 g

R-VALUE: 3.3

THICKNESS: 2 in / 5 cm

LENGTH: 72 in / 183 cm

WIDTH: 21.5 in / 55 cm

PACK SIZE: 4 x 9 in / 10 x 23 cm

MATERIAL: 40D rip-stop nylon, TPU lamination process, anti-microbial treatment

The Sea-To-Summit Insulated Ultra Light has a single layer of medium resolution Air Sprung Cells to reduce weight and pack size. While only 2-inches deep, the 3-season sleeping mat feels comfortable and warm on level ground. The dimpled cells are an effective alternative to long baffles and offer good grip on uneven ground. All Sea to Summit‘s sleeping mats come with a stuff sack, repair kit, and a spare silicone one-way valve flap.

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Thermarest Z-Lite Sol Sleeping Mat


Thermarest Zlite Sol Sleeping MatWEIGHT
: Regular 14 oz / 396 g

R-VALUE: 2.6

THICKNESS: 0.75 in / 2 cm

LENGTH: 72 in / 183 cm

WIDTH: 20 in / 51 cm

PACK SIZE: 20 x 5 x 5.5 in / 51 x 13 x 14 cm

MATERIAL: Molded closed cell Crosslinked Polyethylene

The Thermarest Z-Lite Sol is a favorite among ultralight hikers and backpackers who prefer the longevity of a solid mat over the comfort of an inflatable. Instead of rolling up like a traditional foam camping pad, the Z-Lite folds up like an accordion to create a rectangular shape. For some backpacks, this can make packing it a little tricky but nothing you can’t handle. The heat-trapping dimples and reflective coating both help keep you warm but doesn’t make it any comfier.

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Similar Recommendation: Thermarest RidgeRest is a classic roll up sleeping mat with very similar specs to the Z-Lite Sol.


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Thermarest Prolite Sleeping Pad


Thermarest Prolite Sleeping PadWEIGHT
: Regular 18 oz / 510 g

R-VALUE: 2.4

THICKNESS: 1 in / 2.5 cm

LENGTH: 72 in / 183 cm

WIDTH: 20 in / 51 cm

PACK SIZE: 11 x 4.1 in / 28 x 10 cm

MATERIAL: 50D mini hex rip polyester, Urethane Foam

The Thermarest ProLite probably the lightest and most compact self-inflating sleeping pad on this list. Taking just a handful of breaths to fully inflate, the die-cut foam packs down small but expands in an instant. This makes set up super fast and easy as well as adding to the overall comfort and insulation. An ideal choice for general backpacking and camping, the fabric is soft to the touch and rugged to resist sharp objects.

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Klymitt Static V2 Sleeping Pad


Klymitt Static V2 Sleeping PadWEIGHT
: Regular 16.33 oz / 463 g

R-VALUE: 1.3

THICKNESS: 2.5 in / 6.5 cm

LENGTH: 72 in / 183 cm

WIDTH: 23 in / 59 cm

PACK SIZE: 3 x 8 in / 7.6 x 20 cm

MATERIAL: 30D Polyester Top, 75D Polyester Bottom

The Klymitt Static V2 is a comfortable backpacking sleeping pad with a V chamber construction which is supposed to minimize air movement and heat loss within the insulation. The design also features side rails to cradle you in the center of the pad and provide extra cushion. The generous dimensions are great for sprawling out and pack up surprisingly small.

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Exped Synmat Hyperlite Sleeping Pad


Exped Synmat Hyperlite Sleeping PadWEIGHT
: Regular Mat: 12.9 oz Pump: 2.1 oz Packsack: 0.4 oz = 15.4 oz / 437 g

R-VALUE: 3.3

THICKNESS: 2.8 in / 7.1 cm

LENGTH: 72 in / 183 cm

WIDTH: 20.5 in / 52 cm

PACK SIZE: 7.5 x 3.5 in / 19 x 9 cm

MATERIAL: 20 D Polyester, TPU polyether film laminate, hydrolysis resistant, Honeycomb Gripskin coated, Oeko-Tex 100 certified insulation

The Exped SynMat HL is a lightweight 3-season camping pad for hikers and backpackers. Its tapered profile will fit into the smallest solo backpacking tent and packs down extremely small. The 20 D fabric is tough yet comfortable and the vertical baffles help keep you in the center of the pad. The microfiber insulation helps retain heat while the 2.8-inch thickness certainly gets you off the ground.

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Nemo Astro Air Lite 20R Insulated Sleeping Pad


Nemo Astro Air Lite 20R Insulated Sleeping PadWEIGHT
: Regular 19 oz / 540 g

TEMPERATURE RATING: 15 to 25F / -9 to -4C

THICKNESS: 3.5 in / 9 cm

LENGTH: 72 in / 183 cm

WIDTH: 20 in / 51 cm

PACK SIZE: 8 x 4 in / 20 x 10 cm

MATERIAL: 20D PU Polyester Ripstop, PrimaLoft Insulation

The Nemo Astro Air Lite 20R insulated sleeping pad is a plush 3.5 inches thick when fully inflated with horizontal baffles for maximum comfort. The simple design also includes a raised baffle pillow at one end which is such a good feature I don’t know why more pads don’t have it. Nemo‘s new colors for 2017 and a lot of positive reviews make this a serious contender for best backpacking sleeping pad.

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Sea To Sumit Comfort Light Sleeping Pad


Sea To Sumit Comfort Lite Sleeping PadWEIGHT
: Regular 21.9 oz / 620 g

R-VALUE: 4.2

THICKNESS: 2.5 in / 6.3 cm

LENGTH: 72 in / 184 cm

WIDTH: 21.5 in / 55 cm

PACK SIZE: 4.5 x 9 in / 11 x 23 cm

MATERIAL: 40D ripstop nylon face fabric with TPU lamination, Exkin Platinum® fabric, Thermolite® insulation

The Sea-To-Summit Comfort Light Insulated mattress features a double layer of high resolution, Air Sprung Cells in the torso to keep you warmest and most comfortable where it counts. The legs and head use a single layer of the air cells and the whole thing is covered in a non-woven fabric for extra quiet comfort. Heat is reflected into the Thermolite insulation to keep you warm even on frozen ground for an R-value of 4.2.

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Big Agnes Q-Core SLX Sleeping Pad


Big Agnes Q-Core SLX Sleeping PadWEIGHT
: Regular 16 oz / 465 g

R-VALUE: 3.0

THICKNESS: 3.5 in / 9 cm

LENGTH: 72 in / 183 cm

WIDTH: 20 in / 51 cm

PACK SIZE: 4 x 7.5 in / 10 x 19 cm

MATERIAL: TPU Laminated Double Rip-Stop, WRM HL high loft insulation

The Big Agnes Q-Core SLX delivers quilted comfort and support for backcountry adventures. The double rip-stop material is supposed to be 25% more tear resistant than other models however there is a repair kit included just in case. The cushioned side bumpers provide extra support to stop the edges from collapsing under pressure. The 3.5-inch depth and high loft insulation gets you off the ground and keeps you warm all night.

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Which sleeping mat suits which type of backpacking?

Which sleeping mat you choose often depends on the type of backpacking you’ll be doing:

Lightweight backpacking: If you’re traveling light or can’t carry much, an ultralight air pad is worth its weight in gold. One thing I have done before is buy a cheap foam pad and trace around my torso and cut off any excess material. A great way to save a few grams!

Mixed locations: If you’re likely to be doing a mix of camping outdoors, indoors, and activities, a self-inflating or air pad kept in a rucksack is the best option—with a repair kit on hand.

Car camping/campervanning: If you’re on wheels, you can afford to carry a bigger, thicker, heavier sleeping mat, so self-inflating pads are great but paired with a closed cell foam under pad, you will avoid any unwanted punctures.

Hiking backpacking: For high adventure treks, a foam pad offers the best durability. Opt for a ¾ length to make it lighter and put clothes under your feet for insulation if required.

Winter backpacking: If you’re backpacking outdoors in winter, you need a high R-value air pad or self-inflating pad on top of a foam pad.

Added extras

  • Some pads come fixed to a sleeping bag, or in a textured/brushed fabrics—ideal if you fidget or slide.
  • One-way valves make newer air pads easier to blow up.
  • Some air pads have separate inflation chambers in case one fails.
  • Women’s pads have more insulation around the feet and core, where most heat is lost.
  • Chair kits enable air pads to double as a seat with a backrest.
  • There are 2-person sleeping pads available for backpacking buddies.
  • Side baffles or rails stop you rolling off in your sleep—these are ideal for children.
  • Air pads are more expensive than foam pads and are heavier.
  • They can also be noisy if you fidget in your sleep.
  • The manually-inflated type can result in mold or freezing due to the moisture from your breath.

Thanks for reading this list of our 11 best backpacking sleeping pad for backpacking. Be sure to subscribe and follow us on social media.

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