The Best Backpacking Sleeping Pad: Your ultimate Sleeping Comfort

Best Backpacking sleeping pad
Written by Dennis Owens

Sleeping in a tent in your backpack doesn’t need to be uncomfortable. In fact, if you’re feeling tired because you’ve slept bad or if you even got the flu because you were snoozing in a flimsy shelter, your whole outdoor experience can be ruined.

So choose the best backpacking sleeping pad to make sure you remain insulated and cozy inside your sleeping bag: a good night’s sleep can work wonders and you shouldn’t neglect it. That’s why we’ll help you pick only from the top-rated items on the market after we give you some insights on what to look for in a good mattress.

How to Get The Best Deal

It’s easy: do your research thoroughly and take the following advice into account.

Choose the right type

Even though this is a bit obvious, we’ll tell you anyway: get the same shape of sleeping pad your sleeping bag has. So don’t get a mummy pad unless you have a mummy bag. Other than that, you’ll also get to pick between manual inflation and self-inflation.

Manual inflation

This system works with you inflating the pad with the help of a manual pump or by blowing air directly into the valve.

Manual inflation

Most of these pads are great for extreme conditions if they’re insulated, and come with their own repair kits. Their general characteristics include:

  • Ease of use.
  • Durability.
  • Low weight.
  • Compactness
  • The risk of puncturing.
  • Perfect for light backpacking.

Self-inflating open-cell design

This system isn’t based on an open core design as the previous model, and that allows them to inflate on their own, thanks to a foam layer that works on an open-cell construction.

So inflating them is as easy as opening the valve: the air will enter automatically inside. If you want a harder surface for sleeping on, you can use a pump to push more air in. The characteristics of such pads are:

  • Minimal effort.
  • Durability.
  • Decreased risk of tearing.
  • Bigger weight.
  • Bigger dimensions.
  • Perfect for backpacking and camping.

Closed-cell design

This sort of construction is based on air cells tightly packed together to make the insulation foam very dense.

Ultralight sleeping pad

But since they’re rather voluminous, you’ll probably have to carry them in your car or on the outside of your backpack. Their characteristics are:

  • Low weight.
  • Increased resistance.
  • Low price.
  • Not adjustable.
  • Bulky.
  • Perfect for light camping.

Choose the right size

Size is really important because it ensures a comfortable sleep. So be particularly careful about this one, especially if you’re tall: a regular size may not suit you, and you would be better off with a larger model. Either way, the safest thing to do is to follow this rule of thumb: get a pad that has a few inches extra length more than your height.

On the other hand, you might want what’s considered a smaller pad if you value free backpack space more than personal comfort. In this case, a warm jacket beneath your feet makes for a good replacement of the length lost.

Choose the right thickness

Some people love to sleep on firm surfaces, while others can’t get any shut-eye if they’re not on a soft mattress.

Choose the right thickness

But although comfort is a highly subjective factor, if you’re sleeping on rough terrain, a softer pad is recommended. On the other hand, this adds to your bulk, so make sure you choose the thickness according to your camping spot.

Get the right insulation

Trapped heat is what will keep your body warm since the colder temperatures from both the air and ground won’t be able to reach your body. So it’s wise to look at your sleeping pad’s:

  • Temperature rating.
  • Insulation ability (R-value).
  • Materials.

As such, if you’re camping in extreme conditions, look for an all-seasons sleeping pad that’s:

  • Rated for endurance under low temperatures.
  • Rated for a high R-value.
  • Manufactured with heat-reflective materials.

These pads might be a bit more expensive since they use better insulating materials and patented technologies, but they’re worth it for winter camping.

What The Market Has to Offer

After taking these factors into account, it’s time to analyze some very well rated items that are marketed by trustworthy, reputable brands.

Big Agnes – Superlight Q-Core Sleeping Pad

Big Agnes - Superlight Q-Core Sleeping Pad

Weight: 1.6 pounds

Dimensions: 14 x 9 x 4 inches

Specifications: X-static insulation; 4.5 R-value; 15°F temperature rating; polyurethane coating; I-Beam construction; nylon rip-stop; stuff sack included; repair kit included

Best Use: backpacking

Description: This 4.2 stars Big Agnes – Superlight Q-Core Sleeping Pad is perfect for backpacking since it has a small weight and reduced dimensions. Therefore, fitting it into your backpack doesn’t pose any problems at all.

Besides, it comes in two models, depending on the sleeping bag you have: regular Mummy style or Wide Long. Both these models come in orange and are made from excellent materials.

One of them is used for the insulation, which is manufactured from a synthetic fabric called X-Static. This insulation is doubled with a silver filament, in order to repel any sort of bacteria, microbe, and odor.

Plus, the synthetic material keeps you particularly warm, considering that the temperature rating is 15°F, and the R-value is 4.5. The internal coating itself contributes to this good insulation since it’s manufactured from polyurethane.

And if you still get cold during the night, you have the option of adding a cell foam pad to keep yourself even warmer.

The design is a very strong one, with durability always being top of mind for Big Agnes. The inflation valve is quite resistant so it won’t damage, the top and bottom are made from sturdy yet light rip-stop nylon, and the construction is an alternating I-Beam for increased softness and comfort.

Improved user experience is another feature, considering that you get valuable extras, like the stuff sack for storage and the repair kit. But let’s not forget about the air chambers which help settle yourself very cozily in its center.

Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Trekker Mattress

Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Trekker Mattress

Weight: 1.9 pounds

Dimesnions: 6 x 9 x 12 inches

Specifications: Triangular Core Matrix; ThermaCapture technology; manual inflation; fiberless insulation; 75D polyester bottom; 50D top; 3.0 R-Value

Best Use: hiking

Description: This 4.7 stars Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Trekker Mattress has a retail price varying between $89.98 – $149.95, depending on the size you choose: Large, Large Torso and Regular.

It’s also one of the best camping sleeping pads you’ll find since it’s made with great patent-pending technologies. For instance, the design is a Triangular Core Matrix which is made from more than 100 insulating cells.

Their purpose is to make air circulate equally from the inside to the outside, in order for the sleeping pad to attain more balance, and therefore to keep more warmth coming to you.

The efficient insulation and increased warmth are further guaranteed by another technology registered for patenting, called ThermaCapture. This is supposed to keep heat inside with the help of the insulating cells.

Therefore, much less convective heat is lost in the process. Besides, the fiberless insulation is another contributing factor to the overall warmth, especially since the R-value is 3.0.

But the good, resistant materials used are also lightweight, helping you optimize space whenever you’re hiking.

Manual inflation keeps it compact and adds to a reduction of the overall volume too. And even if it’s said that manually inflating pads are more prone to puncturing, the sturdy polyester-made bottom and top ensures increased durability. Plus, it’s a very comfortable fabric to sleep on.

Sea to Summit Comfort Light Insulated Mat

Sea to Summit Comfort Light Insulated Mat

Weight: 1 pound

Dimensions: 4.5 x 9 inches packed

Specifications: 331 air sprung cells; multi-function valve; manual inflation; TPU lamination; 4.2 R-value; nylon stuff sack; repair kit

Best Use: cold-weather camping

Description:  This 4.9 stars Sea to Summit Comfort Light Insulated Mat is priced between $152.95 – $240.67, depending on the size you choose: small, large or regular. It’s a great product to have regardless of the size you pick because it’s the ultimate sleeping pad when it comes to increased comfort.

For instance, the regular size has 331 air sprung cells. That means you get a sort of matrix made from singular loops welded together. When pressure is applied on one, the others will act normally, which helps with an even weight distribution, so that the mattress will fit your body shape perfectly.

The inflation is manual, and it can be done with the multi-function valve included, that’s also good for deflating the mattress and adjust its pressure. This design will help you get the optimal pressure for your desired level of thickness, increasing your comfort.

Plus, the inflation and deflation processes are accelerated thanks to the included pump so that you can set it up in less than a minute. Or you can inflate it with a maximum of 12 breaths if you misplace the pump.

There’s also no risk of delamination or bacteria accumulating inside, thanks to the TPU lamination that’s connected to the outside fabric. That makes this sleeping pad very durable, and very safe to inflate with your breath.

Basically, you get a resistant, comfortable and warm sleeping pad with an R-value of 4.2, to insulate you from the cold. The Thermolite technology prevents any internal convection, and the Exkin Platinum won’t let heat disperse on the outside.

Plus, the whole thing is very light and small, adding the extras of a resistant nylon stuff sack and a repair kit.

Nemo AstroTM Air Sleeping Pad

Nemo AstroTM Air Sleeping Pad

Weight: 1.9 pounds

Dimensions: 11 x 6 x 6 inches

Specifications: lateral baffles; small packed size; 75D polyester shell fabric; lifetime warranty

Best Use: camping

Description:  This 4.6 stars Nemo AstroTM Air Sleeping Pad has a retail price ranging between $81.89 – $149.95, depending on a plethora of sizes and colors. It’s a very comfortable and high pad since it uses lateral baffles. These are used to prevent the pad from folding around you, so you’ll be sure to sleep on an even surface at all times.

Besides, since it only weighs 1.9 pounds, it’s not too big of a burden for your backpack, and the dimensions are likewise pretty compact to optimize your backpack’s space.

The materials it’s made from guarantee its low weight and small volume, just like the manual operating system. So you can either inflate it by blowing air with your mouth, or you can acquire an inflator which is sold separately.

But the nice thing about manual inflation is that you can control the amount of air you fill it with so that you decide the end softness or firmness depending on your particular preferences.

The 75D polyester used for manufacturing the shell is very resistant apart from efficiently preventing heat loss, so even if you don’t inflate it to the max, you still won’t damage it.

This sleeping pad is perfect for side sleepers who want a silent pad that doesn’t move erratically, offering you a good night’s sleep, promises which are insured by the lifetime warranty that comes with its purchase.

Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm Mattress

Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm Mattress

Weight: 1.6 pounds

Dimensions: 1-liter water bottle (packed)

Specifications: comfortable; packable; tapered design; ThermaCapture technology; Triangular Core Matrix™; MAX version available; 5.7 R-value

Best Use: all-seasons camping

Description: This 4.4 stars and $229.94 Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm Mattress is the best camping sleeping pad for extreme conditions particularly. That’s because it has a huge R-value of 5.7, that helps you endure the lowest temperatures you can think of.

This amazing feat comes courtesy of two (almost) patented technologies: ThermaCapture and Triangular Core Matrix.

The first helps keep radiant heat inside, while the second will prevent the loss of convective heat. So you’ll get a very warm sleeping pad, although it’s not at all voluminous or heavy.

At just 1.6 pounds, this is a lightweight pad that’s promised to be packed to the small dimensions of a 1-liter water bottle. Without the regular insulating materials to add to its bulk, and with a tapered construction, both the characteristics of compactness and lightweight can easily be explained.

Plus, the inflating system should also add to its low volume, since you fill it with the help of an included nylon sack, in which you scoop air to blow inside the mattress.

But it’s still comfortable since it can get to a thickness of 2.5 inches if you choose to fully inflate it. That, along with the baffle-based structure makes this pad very supportive, providing increased stability.

And if you’re on the larger size, you can choose the MAX versions for even lower prices that accommodate people with bigger torsos.

Related: Large MAX; Regular MAX

Klymit Inertia X Frame Ultralight Backpacking Pad

Klymit Inertia X Frame Ultralight Backpacking Pad

Weight: 9.1 ounces

Dimensions: 6 x 3 inches

Specifications: 3 season use; Inertia X-frame; 3-5 breaths inflation; push valve; pump included; stuff sack; repair kit; lifetime warranty

Best Use: 3-season camping

Description:  This 4 stars and $63.99 Klymit Inertia X Frame Ultralight Backpacking Pad from Klymit is truly one of the best camping sleeping pads since it’s very light. At just 9 ounces and packed dimensions of mere inches, it can get to an inflated size of 72 x 18 x 1.5, easily accommodating taller and larger people.

Not to mention that the setup is very quick since inflation can easily be done in less than 5 breaths. Besides, since it has a push valve that’s easy to use, you can inflate as well as deflate this mattress in no time.

You can also use the included dry air pump to push air inside with absolutely no effort from your lungs, which might be better for minutely adjusting pressure and inflating it more. That’s especially useful for people who want to sleep on firmer surfaces.

This pad was crafted by using body mapping to identify pressure zones. That entails an increased comfort because this pad offers you the needed support without being too bulky or too heavy.

And it could be argued that it’s the lightest, smallest pad ever manufactured considering that it has an Inertia X Frame that has the ability to decrease its packed size to that of a Coke can.

Ensuring air flow and insulation, this frame is made with ripstop nylon: 75D for the bottom and 30D for the top, making it sturdy enough to resist pressures as high as 10 psi.

The dimensions are reduced thanks to the cutout areas of this mattress, on which Klymit bases its loft pocket system, that’s currently awaiting its patent. This technology works with the insulation found at the bottom of your sleeping bag, helping it work more efficiently and keeping your backside warmer. That explains why this sleeping bag is perfect for 3 season camping.

Related: RECON Coyote-Sand ($65.09); King’s Camo ($75.57)

Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite Sleeping Pad

Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite Sleeping Pad

Weight: 1 pound

Dimensions: 11 x 9 x 3 inches

Specifications: baffled internal structure; soft fabrics; tapered design; ThermaCapture technology; Triangular Core Matrix; stuff sack; repair kit

Best Use: 3-season backpacking

Description:  This 4.1 stars Therm-a-Rest pad has a price range of $120.48 – $439.06, varying in accordance with the size you choose.

However, the overall weight is quite minimal, and you won’t even feel it in your backpack, which is why it’s great for campers and hikers who want to optimize their space to perfection. Besides, the packed dimensions are quite small too, considering that it’s as small as a 1-liter water bottle.

These achievements can be explained by the use of its advanced materials, combined with a slender construction.

But the fabrics used are also very soft to the touch, and the internal construction is based on a baffle structure, contributing to increased comfort.

You’ll get a delicate, refined material on your skin that keeps you very supported, as well as balanced during your sleep.

Plus, you’ll be warm enough if you use this sleeping pad for its intended 3-season backpacking. Since it’s made with ThermaCapture, a technology that awaits its patent, all the radiant heat will be trapped inside. And thanks to the Triangular Core Matrix design, almost no connective heat will be dispersed either.

Will You Get The Best?

All these sleeping pads are manufactured with the utmost care for ensuring you a comfortable sleep in the wilderness, thanks to increased insulation, support, and comfort.

Choose your Backpacking sleeping pad

owever, it’s worth noting that not all these pads are appropriate for the same type of outdoor activities since their use of materials and craftsmanship employ different design principles.

So tell us: which one of these pads do you think is the right match for you? What are you looking for in a sleeping pad? What sort of outdoor trips do you generally go on that this pad would be perfect for?

Or do you agree with the people who claim that a blanket under the sleeping bag is just as good as a sleeping pad?

Let us know your opinion in the comments below. And feel free to tell us if we’ve missed anything in this article.


Dennis Owens

Dennis Owens is a graduate of National Camping School and REI Outdoor School. He knows everything about what gear to take with you, how to plan your trip to stay safe and what to do if you get lost in the mountains. We are lucky to have Dennis with us as he is a ‘walking encyclopedia’ when it comes to the wilderness.