No matter if you’re a beginner or an experienced backpacker, there’s no doubt that a good sleeping pad is among the things you need most for your travels. Fortunately, there are a lot of sleeping pads made primarily with backpackers in mind, characterized by a very small weight yet solid R-values and great comfort.
Keep reading to find out what the best backpacking sleeping pad to watch for is.
Best Backpacking Sleeping Pad
Best Backpacking Sleeping Pad Reviews
Therm-a-Rest NeoAir UberLite
From Therm-a-Rest comes a great backpacking sleeping pad in a higher price range that’s truly lightweight, compact, and comfortable.
The NeoAir UberLite is all about being, well, light. All of its three versions – small, regular, and large – have a small weight of just 6, 8.8, and 12 ounces, respectively. This backpacking sleeping pad also has one of the smallest packed sizes on the market, as the small version packs to 6”x3.3”, the regular to 6”x3.5”, and the large to 7.5”x3.7”.
As for their inflated size, all of these have a thickness of 2.5 inches. The small inflates to 47”x20”, the regular to 72”x20”, and the large to 77”x25”. The design of the UberLite is simple, yet very effective, since it uses the Therm-a-Rest Triangular Core Matrix structure. This reduces the pad’s heat loss and makes sure that it’s comfortable.
It is insulated, but the R-value of 2.0 doesn’t quite cut it. However, it will be good enough as long as it’s not winter. Such lightweight pads aren’t really meant for winter anyway. Still, most backpackers will find it good enough to be used as a three-season sleeping pad. It’s not self-inflatable, so you will need to blow into a valve, but it is quite easy to both inflate and deflate.
This sleeping pad is so light that you likely won’t even feel it on your back. With a weight ranging from 6 to 12 oz., it’s very hard to beat in this regard. Despite the small weight and packed size, which are always welcome, it does everything else very well. It’s very comfortable, it’s good enough to be used for three seasons, and it’s not hard to inflate and deflate, either. It comes with a repair kit, which seasoned backpacker will certainly find useful.
You’re probably better off going alone on road trips if you are to use the UberLite, as it tends to be loud, which will likely annoy some people. Some people might also be disappointed with a 20-inch width of small and regular versions, too. The R-value is a bit on the low side, but it’s not that bad for such a light pad. Other than this, the price is the only real issue. It might be a turnoff, even though it’s worth it for such a lightweight, compact sleeping pad.
Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Xlite
The Xlite is an air mattress made by Therm-a-Rest that’s in a higher price range but offers quite a decent R-value and is very lightweight and compact.
This product was specifically designed to keep backpackers above the ground and as warm as possible. It has an R-value of 3.2, which is about as good as it gets for a lightweight sleeping pad, so backpackers are sure to have a good night’s sleep with it during the spring, summer, and fall. The manufacturer’s Triangular Core Matrix structure further ensures this and warrants maximum comfort.
As for the weight, it varies between 8 oz and 16 oz. based on the size. Like other Therm-a-Rest pads, this one also comes in three sizes, all of them 2.5 inches thick, which is enough to keep you well above the ground. The small version packs to 9”x3.3” and inflates to 47”x20”. The regular version packs to 9”x4”, its dimensions when inflated being 72”x20”. Finally, the large version’s packed dimensions are 11”x4.5”, but when inflated, those rise all the way to 77”x25”.
These dimensions will definitely satisfy most backpackers, especially since the large version is very wide. The Xlite is not self-inflatable, so be prepared for some long breaths. It’s still quite easy to inflate and deflate, though, so this shouldn’t be a deal-breaker.
First off, this product does what it’s made for very well. Its thickness, combined with the structure, prevents you from feeling the cold ground. It’s also quite comfortable thanks to its structure and suits every sleeping position. It has a great R-value for its weight, which is very low, making this Therm-a-Rest sleeping pad very easy to carry. Although not self-inflatable, it’s easy enough to both inflate and deflate. All of these benefits make this a sleeping pad that’s particularly good for backpackers.
The Xlite has two issues that Therm-a-Rest is known for, the price and the noise. Although it’s well worth the price, it still is quite expensive, which might turn away some backpackers. The only other complaint is the noise, but this shouldn’t be a problem either if you’re going on most of your backpacking adventures alone.
Nemo’s Tensor is a thick backpacking sleeping pad with multiple versions designed to meet each adventurer’s needs and desired price range.
Perhaps the main highlight of the Nemo Tensor is the wide range of versions it is available in. It has two mummy and three normal, rectangular versions, all of which can be non-insulated and insulated, making for a whopping total of ten versions. The mummy models have rounded edges and are a bit lighter than the normal ones.
The dimensions of the short mummy are 48”x20”, while those of the regular mummy are 72”x20”, same as the regular version. There are also regular wide and long wide versions which, when inflated, measure 72”x25” and 76”x25”, respectively. When packed, the mummy-shaped versions weigh 12 oz. and 17 oz. and measure 8”x2.5” and 8”x3”, respectively.
Moving on to the rectangular version, the Tensor regular weighs 18 oz, the regular wide 22 oz., and the long wide 24 oz. The packed size of regular version is 8”x3”, while the regular wide and long wide have the same packed size of 9.5”x3.5”. These characteristics are for the insulated versions and may slightly differ for non-insulated ones.
All Tensor sleeping pads are three inches thick and are made of 20D polyester, which makes them very comfortable for every sleeping position. Additionally, they are made to be quiet, and quiet they are due to the Thermal Mirror film.
When it comes to temperatures, the insulated version will serve you great for temperatures between 10° and 20° Fahrenheit (-12° to -7° Celsius) and up. The non-insulated versions are suitable for temperatures starting with 35° to 45° Fahrenheit (2° to 7° Celsius).
Finally, this product also comes with a pump sack that makes the inflation process cleaner and easier, as well as a lifetime warranty should anything go wrong.
The addition of wide versions will pleasantly surprise all adventurers that prefer having additional space while they sleep, ensuring they don’t fall off the pad. These are also quite cozy and are well suited for cold nights. Since it’s not self-inflatable, the pump that comes with the Nemo sleeping pad is a nice addition. Of course, there’s also a lifetime warranty to help you feel safer.
Again, this is not a self-inflatable sleeping pad, so it might be a bit hard to use at first because of a sack pump. There are no real downsides to the Tensor. Perhaps the price could be a bit lower since the smallest version is a bit pricey. However, this is just a slight shortcoming and shouldn’t be a problem for most backpackers.
Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm
If you’re one of those people who needs a sleeping pad for all four seasons no matter the cost, the XTherm has you covered. It’s in a very high price range, but it offers unbeatable insulation throughout the year.
Right off the bat, it’s important to mention that the XTherm has an amazing R-value of 5.7, which means it can help keep you warm on temperatures from -4° Fahrenheit (-21.6° Celsius) and up. The ThermaCapture technology that captures heat, coupled with the Triangular Core Matrix structure and tapered design native to Therm-a-Rest ultralight sleeping pads, is what makes this possible.
Amazingly, this sleeping pad isn’t very hard to carry on your back despite its insulation. Additionally, it’s still lighter than some other similar sleeping pads. The regular version weights 15 oz. and the large version just 20 oz. Not unlike other Therm-a-Rest products, this one’s dimensions are 72”x20” and 77”x25”, respectively, and all of them are two and a half inches thick.
The XTherm is not self-inflatable, but it does come with a nylon pump sack. Expectedly, it comes with a repair kit as well.
This is a premium sleeping pad meant for the most persistent of backpackers. It has a huge R-value for its weight, is still lighter than most other pads, and has quite a well-done interior. With all this in mind, it’s no surprise that the XTherm is quite comfortable. The large version also gives you a lot of width if necessary.
Although the high price is justified, this is quite an expensive sleeping pad. It’s also a bit noisy, which seems to be common with Therm-a-Rest pads and which might annoy some backpackers. Other than this, it might not be as durable as some other products in its class, but it does come with a repair kit.
Sea to Summit Sleeping Mat
Sea to Summit has made an insulated sleeping pad that’s in the medium price range and has a good R-value.
According to Sea to Summit, this is a 2.5-season sleeping pad which will keep you warm from late spring to early fall. Still, it has an R-value of 3.3, which is very good for an ultralight pad. Its height of two inches should be enough for most backpackers and also warrants a small weight.
Speaking of weight, these weigh around 16.9 oz and their packed size is in the 3.75-4”x 9” range. There are plenty of models, with extra small, small, regular, and large versions, as well as women’s regular and large models.
A great thing about this sleeping pad is the width of 21.5” for all versions except the two large versions, which have a width of 25”. The extra small version is 50” long when inflated, the women’s regular, as well as the small, 66”. The regular version has an inflated length of 72”, just like the women’s large version. Finally, the large version has a length of 78”.
Additionally, the Sea to Summit sleeping pad has a multi-functional valve that helps with inflating and deflating. It also comes with a pump sack that further helps with this, as well as six patches in the repair kit and a spare valve flap in case of an emergency.
This sleeping pad is available in a lot of different versions, including two tailored specifically to women. Its R-value of 3.3 will be enough to keep you warm throughout the night if you’re not planning your activities during the winter or late fall. Another great thing about the Sea to Summit sleeping pad is the width of 21.5”, since most other comparable models usually have a width of 20”.
The main complaint is the noise that this sleeping pad is capable of making, so unless you’re planning on backpacking alone, carry a blanket in case this bothers your fellow travelers.
An ideal backpacking sleeping pad should be very comfortable and lightweight. You should aim for the one that meets your needs in terms of packed size, dimensions, and thickness, the latter being all the more true if you’re a side sleeper. The point of these is to feel nonexistent and prevent you from sleeping on the ground. However, there’s even more to finding the best backpacking sleeping pad.
Types of Sleeping Pads
There are three main sleeping pad types: foam pads, self-inflating pads, and air pads. Foam pads are very durable, while usually lightweight and inexpensive. However, they can’t be packed, so they’re not good for backpackers.
Self-inflating pads, although handy, are more expensive and a bit too bulky for backpacking, but there are models specifically made for it. Otherwise, they are great all around because of their good insulation and comfort.
Air pads aren’t self-inflatable and are not meant to be used during the winter, but on the flipside, they are very lightweight and more compact than other sleeping pad types. Sure, an air pad can occasionally deflate or be noisy, but it still is the best backpacking sleeping pad type by far.
Weight and Packed Size
As already stated, a small packed size is one of the most important factors that a good backpacking sleeping pad should have, but the same goes for the weight. Ideally, you’re looking for an ultralight sleeping pad so it doesn’t slow you down while backpacking.
Such sleeping pad shouldn’t weigh more than 20 oz., unless you’re going for a large version. Most of these have a very good packed size already, having dimensions similar to those of a one-liter water bottle, which is exactly what you should look for.
Shapes and Size
Shape is another thing you should look for while choosing the right backpacking sleeping pad, as every ounce tends to be important. This is why there are so-called mummy-shaped pads. They have a tapered shape since most people don’t have a need for additional width around the feet. This helps not only with the weight, but with the packed size as well.
At the same time, you should look for a size according to your body type and height. If you’re a tall person, you’ll likely need to go with a bigger model. Otherwise, if you like to curl up while sleeping, you can go for a smaller model to trim the weight and packed size even further.
Backpacking sleeping pads can fall into three construction categories – foam, self-inflating, and air pads – all three of which were previously discussed. There are some additional traits regarding construction, such as rails at the ends of a sleeping pad, which are great at helping people stay in the middle. Other than that, honeycomb and similar designs help spread the air evenly across the surface. This is especially important for side sleepers, as the air tends to move entirely to the sides for them.
Air pads, which are most suitable for backpackers, fortunately vary in terms of thicknesses. They are usually two to four inches thick. As a rule, a bigger thickness equals more weight. However, if comfort is a top priority or you’re a big person, feel free to go for a thicker sleeping pad, as it’s not going to be much heavier and you’re making sure you’re not touching the ground this way.
Backpacking Sleeping Pad FAQ
How does a self-inflating sleeping pad work?
Self-inflating sleeping pads have open-celled foam in the middle and a valve. By opening the valve, the air comes in and expands the foam, which further inflates the pad. However, there’s no such thing as a truly self-inflating sleeping pad, since it still needs a few additional breaths to keep it firm, even more so if you’re looking to intentionally make it as firm as possible.
How to choose a sleeping pad
You should always choose a sleeping pad that best suits as much of your needs as possible. In other words, its characteristics such as type, function, weight, and thickness need to be adjusted to your backpacking preferences. Don’t forget to take your personal traits, such as your height and sleeping style, into consideration.
What size sleeping pad do I need?
Choosing the best backpacking sleeping pad size is all about two things – your size and your sleeping style. If you’re a side sleeper, your sleeping pad should be quite thick in order to support your bodyweight. If you have broad shoulders or are big in general, make sure to go for a large model, as these are always at least a few inches wider than others.
Also, if you really want to decrease the weight and packed size of the sleeping pad, and you don’t mind sleeping in a curled up position, you can go for a small model, although it might not be the best way to go about it.
How to inflate a sleeping pad
This depends on the type of your sleeping pad. Self-inflatable sleeping pads start inflating as soon as you open the valve, and as such do not require your intervention, except at the very end, where you might need to breathe in a few more times.
Other pads require you to blow into a valve yourself, but many models now come with a pump sack, which makes this process easier, faster, and cleaner. If your sleeping pad didn’t come with a sack, see if it at least supports it so you can buy one separately.
Do I need a sleeping pad?
If you’re thinking about buying a backpacking sleeping pad, first ask yourself how serious your trips are. In case they last multiple days, they’re certainly a great asset. They can help you stay well above the ground while sleeping, which is very important as nights in nature are usually cold.
If you’re still reluctant about buying a sleeping pad, also keep in mind that most sleeping pads are very comfortable and that all of them can be used outside of backpacking trips, e.g. at home or in your backyard.
All five backpacking sleeping pads showcased here are really good, so whichever one you choose, you won’t regret it. The best backpacking sleeping pad overall is the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm because it’s very comfortable and has an amazing R-value, so it will keep you warm throughout the whole year. Another great thing about it is its weight, which isn’t too big despite the insulation it provides.
If its downsides, which are limited to its high price and the noise it makes, prove to be too much for you, consider the Nemo Tensor. It doesn’t have these flaws, yet it has a lot of different versions you can choose from. It likely won’t keep you warm during the winter, though, so choose carefully.