Sleeping on a leaky halfway deflated sleeping pad on a backpacking trip may leave you never wanting to go backpacking again. That’s why a quality sleeping pad is a crucial piece of gear that can truly make or break your trip. There are a lot of factors that go into finding the best sleeping pad for backpacking – price, insulation, weight, size, and more.
In this blog post, we help you narrow it down by sharing a list of the most popular sleeping pads that are lightweight, warm, and durable enough to stand up to a multiday trek. At the end of this post, we also break down the important factors when choosing a sleeping pad based on your personal needs.
Ready to get out there? Here are the best sleeping pads for backpacking.
Best Sleeping Pads for Backpacking at a Glance
Therm-a-Rest ProLite Plus
Great for: 3-season backpacking, back sleepers
Pros: great value for price, durable, easy to inflate
Cons: heavier and bulkier than other sleeping pads, not great for side sleepers
The Therm-a-Rest ProLite Plus is designed with comfort in mind, and it’s my personal sleeping pad of choice. While it’s not the lightest sleeping pad available, I like that it’s one flat piece of padding without baffles. At 1.5″ thick, it’s enough padding that you can’t feel the ground or little rocks that you might have set your tent up on top of. However, it’s not so thick that if you roll around at night, you feel like you might fall off. It’s insulated enough to camp in cold temperatures, but if you camp in the winter, you might want to add a foam pad underneath. There is a women’s version available of the Plus which is a little shorter and 1 ounce lighter than the men’s Regular size.
Compared to the other lightweight sleeping pads on this list, the Thermarest ProLite Plus is a little on the bulky side when in the stuff sack, but it still packs down well enough to come along for the ride. One other advantage is that it partially self-inflates. You just twist open the valve, and the pad slowly starts to inflate on its own. You do have to finish inflating it with your own breath.
If you want to shave off an extra 5oz, check out the ProLite regular version.
Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite Sleeping Pad
Pros: most lightweight sleeping pad on the list, super compact
Cons: runs narrow, noisy when you roll over
Overall, Therm-a-Rest seems to have the market cornered when it comes to warmth and lightness, making them one of the best brands of sleeping pads for backpacking. Their Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite will keep you warm and comfortable in the backcountry, and it’s the lightest inflatable sleeping pad that we stand behind. This is also the backpacking sleeping pad of choice of BFT team member Linda who has used this sleeping pad on over a dozen backpacking trips.
This sleeping pad does tend to run narrow, so if you toss and turn, we recommend getting the wide version. It can be noisy when you roll over so if you are a light sleeper keep that in mind, but we think for the weight and warmth, this sleeping pad is worth it.
NEMO Tensor Ultralight Insulated Sleeping Pad
Pros: lightweight and compact, one of the thickest pads on our list, comes in a wide version, not noisy when you roll over
Cons: fragile – easy to puncture a hole or cause a leak
A personal favorite of mine, the NEMO Tensor Ultralight Insulated Sleeping Pad, is a lightweight, insulated sleeping pad that’s easy to store and pack while you’re backpacking. It’s got insulated layers to fend off cold but it’ll do you well to bring along extra padding if you’re camping during the winter.
It packs down very small and the valve makes it quick to inflate and deflate. It also comes in a wide version and with a thickness of 3 inches, I find this sleeping pad incredibly comfortable. I like that you can adjust the firmness by letting a little air out. You do need to be a little careful with this one as the material is relatively thin. If you want to use it directly on the ground make sure there isn’t anything sharp underneath it.
Sea to Summit Ultralight Insulated Sleeping Pad
Pros: durable valve, easiest to inflate, compresses down super small
Cons: only comfortable for warm weather trips, not great for side sleepers
The Sea to Summit Ultralight Insulated Sleeping Pad is one of the best and most well-reviewed sleeping pads for 2022. It’s a lightweight and durable pad that’s easy to transport in and out of the carry bag. One of the best features of this sleeping pad is that you can use the stuff sack to blow up the pad. You hook the stuff sack up to the valve, then you scoop up some air into the stuff sack, roll down the top, and it forces air into the sleeping pad. It takes less than a minute to fill up, and all your friends will be jealous as they huff and puff to blow their pads up. The valve on this sleeping pad is also one of the most durable valves on the market which is pretty huge considering valves are where common leakage happens.
As a bonus, the pad has an anti-microbial coating that keeps any nastiness from building up over time. This sleeping pad comes in a women’s version too. If you want a little more padding, theSea to Summit Comfort Light Insulated Sleeping Pad is a great option.
Klymit Double V Sleeping Pad
- Weight: 2lb 8.5oz
- R-Value: 1.6
- Thickness: 3 inches
- Packed Size: 5 x 9 inches
- Available sizes: double
- MSRP: $129.95 (double)
Check Price: Backcountry
Pros: side rails prevent you from rolling off, can roll over without airflow disrupting your partner, easy to inflate
Cons: heavy and bulky for long backpacking trips, only good for summer
Are you looking for a way to cuddle with your partner on backpacking trips? Look no further than the Klymit Double V Sleeping Pad. This sleeping pad fits perfectly in two-person backpacking tents and is a great option for those looking to avoid uncomfortably pushing together 2 one-person pads.
You’d think that inflating a double sleeping pad would be more difficult than a single, but this sleeping pad is quick to inflate and deflate using a similar stuff sack mechanism as the Sea to Summit sleeping pad mentioned above. The downside of this sleeping pad is its bulkiness and weight, but if you could split the weight in 2, it’d be the same weight and size as some of the other sleeping pads we recommend on this list of the best sleeping pads for backpacking.
If you don’t mind caring the extra weight, there is an insulated version available that will allow you to use this sleeping pad for 3-season trips. And be sure to check out our guide to the best double sleeping bags to pair with your 2-person sleeping pad!
Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Xtherm Sleeping Pad
Pros: warmest sleeping pad on our list, extremely lightweight for how warm it is
Cons: most expensive sleeping pad on our list, noisy when you roll over, easy to slide off the slippery material if you move around a lot
This is one of the priciest sleeping pads on this list, but the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Xtherm Sleeping Pad is also the warmest by far and one of the lightest. It’s made for mountaineering, winter camping, and backpacking so if that’s the kind of thing you’ll be doing, then investing in an ultra-warm, comfortable, lightweight sleeping pad like this will be worth it in the long run.
If you camp in winter, you have to carry a lot of extra gear, so it’s nice to have a sleeping pad that is lightweight and doesn’t take up too much room in your pack. The downsides of this sleeping pad are it’s an expensive investment, and the slippery material is noisy and easy to slide off of if you move around in your sleep.
This sleeping pad can also be a little delicate – several reviewers experienced leaks or valve issues with this pad, but Therm-a-rest offers a limited lifetime warranty and their customer service is great if you do have an issue.
Big Agnes Insulated Q-Core Deluxe Sleeping Pad
Great for: people who toss & turn at night, side sleepers, 3-season backpacking
Pros: thickest sleeping pad on our list, comes in a wide version, extremely comfortable
Cons: time-consuming to inflate, doesn’t pack down very small
The Big Agnes Insulated Q-Core Deluxe Sleeping Pad is the ideal sleeping pad for anyone seeking maximum comfort and who doesn’t mind carrying a little extra weight and bulk. For its weight, you get a high R-Value of 4.3, which makes it a great choice for 3-season backpacking. Another cool feature is that in addition to the 3.5-inch thickness, it also has 4.25-inch outer chambers to make sure you’re nice and cradled in the middle, making this the perfect sleeping pad for side and active sleepers.
One downside of this sleeping pad is the inflation process – the pad comes with an inflatable airbag, but many reviewers note how tedious it is to use (around 5 minutes to inflate) vs. a self-inflating sleeping pad. I have used an older model of this sleeping pad in the past and although I found it to be super comfortable, I experienced leaks so take caution inflating this sleeping pad.
NEMO Switchback Foam Sleeping Pad
Pros: doesn’t require inflation, most durable sleeping pad option, budget-friendly
Cons: thinner than inflatable sleeping pads, doesn’t provide warmth in cold weather, bulky to carry
If you don’t like inflatable sleeping pads and prefer something simple that requires no setup time after a long day of hiking, check out the NEMO Switchback Foam Sleeping Pad. This foam sleeping pad is lightweight and incredibly durable since you don’t have to worry about leaks or valve issues. It’s pretty barebones and not quite as warm and comfortable as the other options on this list, but if you’re on a budget and want something simple, this is a good option for you.
Many reviewers note pairing this sleeping pad with an inflatable sleeping pad for extra padding and warmth on backpacking trips or using this pad as a sleeping space for their dog. You can also use this sleeping pad as a sit pad when it’s folded up. The downside of a foam sleeping pad is you typically must carry it on the outside of your pack since it doesn’t compress like an inflatable pad does.
REI Co-op Trailbreak Self-Inflating Sleeping Pad
- Weight: 2lbs 8oz
- R-Value: 5.1
- Thickness: 1.75 inches
- Packed Size: 6.5 x 20 inches
- Available sizes: regular, long
- MSRP: $74.95 (regular)
Check Price: REI
Pros: inexpensive for an inflatable pad, durable
Cons: heaviest and bulkiest sleeping pad on our list, hard to inflate/deflate
If you are looking for a high-quality, budget-friendly sleeping pad, look no further than the REI Co-op Trailbreak Self-Inflating Sleeping Pad. With an R-Value of 5.1, this is a warm sleeping pad that is great for 3-season trips.
The downside of this sleeping pad is the weight and size – this is ideally a car camping sleeping pad, but it can also be used for short backpacking trips or if your backpacking sleeping bag and/or tent is small. There is also a women’s version available, which will save you a few ounces.
How to Choose the Best Sleeping Pad for Backpacking
I owned the same old sleeping pad for a long time since I started backpacking more than a decade ago, but a few years back I decided it was time to upgrade. Since my original investment, sleeping pads have come a long way. Now they are lighter, more comfortable, and much more compact than ever before.
In my search for the best backpacking sleeping pad, I became overwhelmed with the number of options. There was a lot to consider like price, R-Value, weight, and size. So I did a bunch of research on how to choose the best sleeping pad for backpacking and wanted to share with you what I learned
So, how do you choose the best sleeping pad for backpacking? Here are the factors to consider when making your purchase:
Foam Sleeping Pads vs Inflatable Sleeping Pads
There are two basic types of sleeping pads. The first is a closed-cell foam pad. These are the cheapest and most durable pads available, but they tend to be less comfortable. Their stiff shape also means you don’t have the ability to pack them down, and most people end up carrying them on the outside of their pack.
The other option is an inflatable sleeping pad. These can either be self-inflating or manually inflated by blowing air into them. These provide more cushion than a foam pad but are less durable since they are prone to puncture. This means you have to be very careful when using an inflatable sleeping pad directly on the ground in order to avoid leaks. Inflatable sleeping pads are significantly more comfortable than foam pads, and in many cases the difference in weight is negligible.
Insulation: The R-Value
The R-value is an indicator of insulation. R values range from 1.0 on the low end to 10 on the high end, and the higher the R-value the more heat the pad is going to retain. Most sleeping pads intended for backpacking have R-values around 2.0-5.0.
The first thing you’ll want to think about is the type of climate you’ll be using your sleeping pad in. If you are a fair weather backpacker and will be spending most nights in warm summer temperatures, then you can get away with a lower R-value. On the other hand, if you are doing winter or snow camping, then you will want something with an R-value closer to 5. Pads with R-values higher than 5 are heavier and generally intended for car camping.
Weight is an important factor to consider for all of your gear, and sleeping pads are no exception. Closed-cell foam pads are the lightest and generally weigh in at less than a pound.
The lightest inflatable sleeping pads are comparable in weight to the foam pads. The Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite is pretty much the lightest option available at 12 ounces. Depending on how plush you want to go, a reasonable weight range for an inflatable pad is 10 ounces up to 2 pounds. And while not always the case, there tends to be a tradeoff between weight and durability with inflatable sleeping pads. If you choose one of the ultralight inflatable options, you need to treat it with caution and avoid using it directly on the ground.
Inflatable sleeping pads vary anywhere from one to four inches thick, and a thicker pad is going to offer additional comfort if you are a side sleeper. The downside of a thicker pad is that they take longer to inflate by mouth. If you are a back sleeper and tend to stay put throughout the night, then you might be ok with a thinner pad. Closed-cell foam pads tend to be thinner, usually running at less than 1 inch thick.
Length and Width
In order to cut down on weight, sleeping pads are getting smaller and smaller. In fact, some sleeping pads now come in 3/4 length meaning the bottom of your legs and feet will be hanging off. Many also have a tapered or mummy-shaped design where the head and foot are narrower than the rest of the pad.
While it varies across brands, a regular-sized sleeping pad is approximately 72 inches long by 20 inches wide, and most brands make their sleeping pads in multiple sizes to accommodate those who are shorter, taller, or have broad shoulders. If you move around a lot while you sleep, you may wan to buy a wide sleeping pad.
Women’s Backpacking Sleeping Pads
Some backpacking sleeping pads come in a women’s specific version. These tend to be shorter and are sometimes a little wider to accommodate various body shapes and larger hips. Women’s sleeping pads are also made to be warmer, with a higher R-value since women often sleep colder than men.
This is one area where sleeping pads have made some serious advancements. Some sleeping pads these days are smaller than a Nalgene bottle when packed down, meaning they take up way less space in your bag than they used to. For backpacking, you’ll want something that packs down to about 4-5.5 inches by 8-11 inches. Of course, you can use something larger, but we’d only recommend that for shorter trips or if you’re splitting up gear between your partner or campmate.
One-way valves: Many of the newest sleeping pads, like the Sea to Summit UltraLight Insulated Sleeping Pad, have one-way valves. That means when you are blowing them up, the air can’t come back out of the valve, making it easier to blow up. Then when you want to deflate it, there is a separate valve that you open where the air escapes from.
Self-inflating: There are a few pads on the market that are self-inflating. My Therm-a-Rest ProLite Plus is one of them. If you choose to buy a self-inflating pad, you should be prepared that after some use, the pad might not self-inflate like it used to. At that point, you will end up blowing it up with your mouth just like the rest, but the self-inflation is a nice feature while it lasts.
Integrated pump: Many newer sleeping pads come with a pump integrated into the stuff sack. You basically fill the stuff sack with air and push or roll that air into the sleeping pad for easier filling. This does add a few ounces, but normally this isn’t too much of an issue.
What is the best sleeping pad for backpacking that you’ve found? Do you have a favorite? Leave a comment below and let us know!