6 Best Foam Sleeping Pads for Camping and Backpacking in 2024

Last Updated on 27/08/2023

best foam sleeping pads

In this guide to the best foam sleeping pads, we share the most compact and comfortable foam mats for camping. You will learn which has the highest R-value, which is the comfiest, and which is the most lightweight for backpacking. If reliability and durability are important to you then foam pads are the best.

Foam pads are the most reliable and durable type of sleeping mat for camping. They don’t inflate and so will never pop, you can use them as a seat around a campfire without fear of tearing any fabric, and you can strap them to the outside of your backpack without fear. They aren’t the comfiest option out there but they are warm and comfy enough for 3-season use.

While you can go camping in summer without a sleeping pad, the addition of a foam mat will increase your comfort and quality of sleep exponentially. These mats or pads have all been designed with giving you a comfortable night’s sleep in potentially very rough terrain. They are all relatively lightweight so carrying them is not a problem.

6 Best Foam Sleeping Pads for Camping and Backpacking


Thermarest Z Lite Foldable Foam Sleeping Pad

Therm-a-Rest Z Lite Sol Camping and Backpacking Sleeping PadOutdoor gear buy

  • WEIGHT: 410 g / 14 oz
  • DIMENSIONS 51 x 183 x 2 cm / 20 x 72 x 0.75 in
  • R-VALUE: 2

TheThermarest Z Lite is our top-rated foam sleeping pad for backpackers and hikers who want the best comfort, warmth, and the smallest pack size. If you don’t have the luxury of an inflatable sleeping pad then this is the next best thing. The compact design can be folded up very easily and packed into your backpack or strapped to the outside.

Key features include a 2 cm depth, an R-value of 2, and a pack size of 20 x 5 x 5.5 inches. Some innovative technology this pad uses is heat-trapping dimples and reflective ThermaCaptureTM coating which captures radiant heat to provide a 15% increase in warmth. The Z Lite also uses a softer foam on the top side of the mat and a more durable foam on the underside to provide both comfort and durability.

All the little nodes work independently as well as together to absorb your body weight and provide support for any pressure points. This makes it wonderfully soft and comfortable to lay on as well as flexible and durable.

CONCLUSION: The Z Lite from Thermarest is one of the best closed-cell foam sleeping pads for backpackers. Both lightweight and durable with a double-sided pad that’s easy to roll up and secure to your backpack make this a firm favorite. Used by thru-hikers around the world.

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Thermarest RidgeRest Foam Sleeping Pad

Therm-a-Rest RidgeRest Classic Camping and Backpacking Sleeping PadOutdoor gear buy

  • WEIGHT: 400 g / 14 oz 
  • DIMENSIONS (standard): 51 x 183 x 1.5 cm /  20 x 72 x 0.635 in
  • R-VALUE: 2.0

The Thermarest RidgeRest is the best roll-up foam sleeping pad we have tested in terms of durability, comfort, and weight. It features strips of ridges that provide extra comfort as well as reduce weight. This pad performed the best of any in the warmest months of the year and never felt clammy to lie on. Something that has become apparent over the years of using this mat is just how durable it is, it always springs back to shape.

The Thermarest RidgeRest is a very comfortable sleeping pad for most and is often used underneath air mattresses to add warmth and durability. The thickness of the mat is fairly standard and provides some protection from rocks or twigs on the ground, though it’s better to prepare the ground first.

It has a reasonable 2.0 R-value so it will provide some insulation in most areas, but it is not suitable for tundra or snowy locations on its own. The RidgeRest rolls up easily and can be carried on the top of a backpack or the back seat of your car.

CONCLUSION: The RidgeRest closed-cell mattress from Thermarest is a great general-purpose pad that can be used by anyone due to its simple design, closed-cell support, and light weight. It’s a great pad to have for sleeping, resting, or sitting around the campsite in almost any terrain. Best for campers and backpackers who are looking for reliability.

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NEMO Switchback Folding Foam Sleeping Pad

Nemo Switchback Foam Sleeping Pad, RegularOutdoor gear buy

  • WEIGHT: 400 g / 14.5 oz
  • DIMENSIONS: 51 x 183 x 2.2 cm / 20 x 72 x 0.9 in
  • R-VALUE: 2.0

The NEMO Switchback is a thick and comfortable foam sleeping pad with a clever design. It has little bumps like an egg box that help to improve comfort and trap heat with the help of a thermal film. The way the nodes are laid out means that as you fold it up, each layer locks into the next one so it all stays tightly held together.

It uses Axiotomic duel density foam that provides advanced durability and abrasion resistance so you can use this directly on the ground or inside a tent without any trouble. The NEMO Switchback uses a range of innovations to ensure you won’t get too cold like taller nodes for capturing warm air, a hexagonal nesting pattern that increases softness, and a thermal reflective film. It only has a 2.0 R-value however they recommend it can be used down to 20º F.

CONCLUSION: The Switchback foam sleeping pad from NEMO provides that extra bit of comfort and depth to most other foam backpacking sleeping pads. It doesn’t weigh too much and ensures a very comfortable night’s sleep. This is the kind of foam camping pad you want when the ground is especially rough.

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ALPS Mountaineering Foam Mat

ALPS Mountaineering Foam Mat, Regular 375 - Green

  • WEIGHT: 255 g / 9 oz
  • DIMENSIONS: 51 x 183 x 1 cm / 20 x 72 x 0.375 in (6 x 20 in packed)
  • R-VALUE: 1.0

The ALPS Mountaineering Foam Mat is about as simple as they come. It follows a basic design with no ridges or nodes – just a thin rectangular foam pad with a grippy outer layer that traps heat and protects you from the uncomfortable ground. It is ideal for rolling up and strapping to the outside of your backpack and can be used as a sitting mat whenever you stop to rest.

The advantage of this type of foam camping pad is that it doesn’t collect condensation underneath your sleeping bag and there are no folding seams to weaken over time. The downside is that it is bulky and heavy for its thickness but many people don’t mind that and instead choose it for its flat surface.

CONCLUSION: The Foam Mat from ALPS Mountaineering is excellent as an underlayer to an inflatable air bed when camping in the colder months or as a single layer in summer. We feel the price is a little steep considering its relative thickness but in the long run, it is worth owning one or two of these to layer up your sleeping pads depending on the season.

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EXPED FlexMat Foam Camping Pad

Exped Flexmat Plus Foam Sleeping Pad, MOutdoor gear buy

  • WEIGHT: 325 g / 11.5 oz
  • DIMENSIONS: 183 x 52 x 1.8 cm / 72 x 20.4 x 0.7 in
  • R-VALUE: 1.5

The EXPED FlexMat Sleeping pad is similar to the NEMO Switchback although each of the nodes is about twice the size. The larger spongy bumps don’t make much difference when sleeping on your back but on your side I think I prefer the NEMO. It features the same interlocking design so that it folds up as compactly as possible without trying to wrestle it into a stuff sack.

It has an R-value warmth rating of 2 which means it is suitable down to about 40º F and good for 3 season use. The FlexNet is quite thick and comfortable however because the nodes are so pronounced, you can feel them through your sleeping bag. It uses closed-cell technology and can be used in a variety of ways from sleeping to sitting on as a seat.

CONCLUSION: The FlexMat sleeping pad from EXPED is perfect for backpacking and camping with such a simple design to make setting up your bed as easy as possible. It is an incredibly popular pad but I just found the others to be more comfortable a small thing I found is that in the morning you often get small amounts of condensation between the nodes. Still, one of the very best that deserves to be in this guide.

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MeMoreCool Memory Foam Camping Mattress

MeMoreCool Memory Foam Camping Mattress Pad 4" Foldable Floor Mattress, Portable Roll Up Mattress for Floor, Adults Portable Sleeping Pad & Guest Bed, Roll Out Mattress for Camping/Car/Travel, Cot

  • WEIGHT: 4.535 kg / 10 lbs
  • DIMENSIONS: 190 x 76 x 9 cm / 75 x 30 x 3.5 in
  • R-VALUE: 3.0

The MeMoreCool Memory Foam Camping Mattress is in a different league to other pads in this guide as it is not really designed for hiking and backpacking. Instead, this is a highly durable and extra deep foam camping mattress you can use in the back of your car or when at a campsite.

This pad weighs over 5 kg / 12 lbs so backpacking with it is pretty much out, though it does come in five sizes from kids to a double. It can be used inside or outside and has a protective bottom layer to ensure it sustains minimal damage.

For a mat so thick and heavy, you might expect it to be overly firm but this is one of the softer pads out there. You really sink into it like a bed and its easy to lie in in the morning. It’s made from high-density foam and has high heat retention abilities making it an all-year choice for camping.

CONCLUSION: When you are driving to the campsite and weight is no issue then why not take something larger to sleep on? This is exactly the thinking the folks at MeMoreCool have come up with in its Memory Foam Camping Mattress. It can be used inside or out, but best used inside a nice tent at a camping spot you don’t intend on leaving all that soon.

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selection of foam sleeping pads for camping

Guide to the Best Foam Sleeping Pads

What we sleep on plays a huge role in our quality of sleep and affects how we feel the next day. The best foam sleeping pads for camping can help you fall asleep faster and improve your quality of sleep too. They can be used on their own or in combination with an air bed for extra protection and warmth. 

Foam sleeping pads are both deceptively simple and quite complex depending on how deep you look into them. On the simple side, a no-frills rolled-out flat surface like the ALPS Mountaineering Foam Mat is effective, while on the more complex side – the two Thermarest pads have attention to even the smallest details, which in the end – will result in a warmer night’s sleep at least.

Outside temperatures, the length of your trip, and the type of sleeper you are can all play a factor in choosing a foam sleeping pad.

R-Values and Warmth

R Values give us an indication of how low a temperature a sleeping pad or other equipment will continue to keep us warm. We have a chart here that explains the correlation between the R-Value and the outside temperature. The majority of sleeping pads average around the R 2 value which is suitable down to temperatures of 40º F or 4.4º C.

The addition of sleeping bags, extra ground insulation, or even two sleeping pads (or one folded back on itself) will allow you to endure lower temperatures. R-1 values are for summer and spring, while R2-R-4 ratings also include fall and any sleeping bags for winter a R5-R8 level is good, extra insulation will also help in very cold conditions

Different times of the year obviously produce different camping weather and temperatures and it is important if you head out in the colder months that you understand you need better or more equipment to keep you warm. The sleeping pads generally use reflective surfaces, dual surfaces with a tougher on for the bottom, and a series of nodes to capture war air – all to keep you warm at night.

Comfort

Comfort is a subjective thing with some people being able to sleep on literal rocks, while others require a six-inch deep mattress and still don’t sleep well. Foam pads improve comfort drastically although inflatable and self-inflating pads are much comfier due to their increased depth. Any foam mattress will be more comfortable than the earth and even in warm or hot weather, it’s recommended you use one, even if it’s a thin one that keeps your chest off the ground.

Foam sleeping pads are for the most part comfier the deeper they get. Another test for how comfy a foam pad will be to sleep on it is to see how easily you can squeeze the mat between your finger and thumb. If you can easily feel through the mat without much resistance the foam is likely too soft. The density of a foam camping pad should be firm to pinch so that when you are laying on it you don’t squash it flat.

Thermarest Z Lite pack size medium and small

Pack Size

The size in which you’re sleeping pad folds or packs down is an important consideration. With the exception of the heavy MeMoreCool mattress, the rest are lightweight and either roll or fold down smaller. Rolled pads tend to be kept on the outside of your pack – either down the side or horizontally across the top or bottom for very quick use (even as a quick seat when having a small rest on the trail). Because EVA foam camping pads are so durable it really doesn’t matter if it scrapes against the odd rock or branch.

Folding pads can also be attached to the outside of your pack, but some also fold down small enough that you can pack them inside your backpack instead. Backpackers traveling through airports will appreciate this as it means you won’t lose it or have to wrap your bag in cellophane.

Weight

The weight of anything you carry on your back is always a consideration and sleeping pads are no different. With the exception of the heavy MeMoreCool mattress, the rest of the pads are all lightweight coming in less than half a kilogram or 15 ounces. Given that they will ensure your sleep is better than the ground, assist with keeping warm, and can be flexibly used – most backpackers will agree that they are definitely worth the extra weight.

It’s a generally accepted fact that the colder the region you will be going to – the more you will need to carry to keep warm. Sleeping pads are no different and carrying a little extra weight for a high R-Value piece of equipment is always worth the tradeoff.

Dimensions

All the closed-cell sleeping pads and simple foam sleeping pads are designed primarily to protect and insulate your core region of the upper body and also your legs. Some campers prefer to fold theirs in half for extra comfort for their chest only.

It’s important that you purchase a sleeping pad with the right dimensions for your body size in order to ensure you are properly covered. Many of the listed pads come in multiple sizes and you should choose the size that’s longer than your height.

Therm-a-Rest Z Lite Sol Camping and Backpacking Sleeping Pad

Durability

One of the main reasons backpackers love foam pads so much is that they are the most durable of any sleeping mat. You can scrape them, stand on them, accidentally trap them in a door, and use them as a seat without ever having to worry about popping or ripping them. While it doesn’t take a bodybuilder to rip one in half, you really need to intentionally try to break it to cause any real damage.

One reason many people use foam mats is to lay underneath an air mattress or inflatable pad to protect it from punctures. Professional camping mats with things like down insulation and thermal linings cost a lot more than foam pads so it is kind of ironic that the high-end gear users still end up carrying a foam pad.

Value

Like the weight of equipment, their cost and value are also something that needs consideration On the lower end simple foam or dimple designs will keep you comfortable enough, while the more you spend the innovations in designs will ensure an even better and warmer night’s sleep. In the end, how often you camp, how much you value your sleep and your budget will all need to be taken into account.

Thermarest Foam Sleeping Pad with Sleeping Bag Outside

What Are the Benefits of Foam Sleeping Pads?

When we are rested, our brains and bodies function much better, so why wouldn’t we want this when out hiking or camping? Foam sleeping pads provide a range of benefits including:

  • Quality of sleep is improved due to the sleeping pads’ comfort and warmth, allowing you to be more focused and energetic throughout the day.
  • Extra warmth is provided by the sleeping pad, even the simplest piece of foam will be warmer than straight-up earth. The more innovative designs with nodules and reflective surfaces will fair even better.
  • Protection from thorns, sharp stones, and wet ground.
  • Durable uses such as a seat or yoga mat with a sleeping pad are easy too.
  • Lightweight foam pads weigh far less than other styles, which makes more room for other things in your backpack.
  • Good value vs inflatable insulated sleeping pads.

What Are the Disadvantages of Foam Sleeping Pads?

There are some downsides to a foam sleeping pad when compared to other styles, such as:

  • Not as comfortable as air mattresses which tend to be softer, especially if you love to sleep on your side, you may find your hip bone digging into the ground through your thin pad.
  • Lower insulation than inflating or self-inflating mattresses.
  • Packed size of foam pads tends to be bulky and a need to carry them on the outside which can in turn make you bulkier, which can be an issue in close terrain.

 

pros and cons of foam sleeping pads

Are Foam Sleeping Pads Warm Enough For Winter?

Winter can mean different things to different people, but for this, we will consider anything approaching freezing overnight as winter or cold conditions. We use the different R-value ratings to determine if a sleeping pad is warm enough for winter. Anything above R4 should be fine for most people. The higher the R-Value is, then the more insulation and thermal resistance you will receive. 

A ground mat, a four-season sleeping bag, and your clothes will all factor into the overall warmth you feel whilst spending the night outdoors and these items used in conjunction with each other should keep you toasty. Doubling up foam pads can also assist in increasing your relative warmth because, in winter, you will need more than just a foam sleeping pad to get you through the night.

What Does Closed-Cell Foam Mean For Sleeping Pads?

Closed-cell foam is the material that many camping mats are made from. It is lightweight, durable, insulative, waterproof, and comfortable to lie on which makes it ideal for its purpose. It is made up of millions of tiny cells which work independently of each other which is why it is durable.

You can get it in large sheets which you can then trim down to size or you can customize a sleeping pad to be just big enough for your body. When in doubt, use a closed-cell foam pad.

Are Foam Sleeping Pads Any Good?

Foam pads are the most reliable type of sleeping mat for camping. They can’t be punctured, don’t need inflating, and never fail. They are not the warmest or most comfortable type of sleeping pad but you know what you are getting with foam. You don’t have to worry about waking up to a deflated air mattress or cold back – you just lay it down and you are good to go.

 


We hope you found our recommendations in this guide to the best foam sleeping pads helpful. Do you have a foam pad that you love? Send us a picture.

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Gear Assistant

This article has been written and/or edited by Andrew N. 20+ years of hiking, mountaineering, and camping experience, with access to all the latest outdoor gear.

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