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10 Best Backpacking Sleeping Pads of 2019

10 Best Backpacking Sleeping Pads

When choosing a sleeping pad for backpacking and camping, it’s best to consider its weight, durability, size, thickness, insulation, comfort, and price. Here are our picks for the best 10 sleeping pads available today based on these dimensions. Many of these sleeping pads are available in different lengths, widths, and weights, making it easy to find a good choice to fit your needs.

Make / ModelTypeR-Value/Temp RatingWeight (Regular)Price
Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLiteAirR=3.212 oz$170
Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XThermAirR=5.715 oz$200
Therm-a-Rest NeoAir UberliteAirR=2.08.8 oz$180
Therm-a-Rest ZLite SolFoamR=2.614 oz$45
NEMO SwitchbackFoamR=2.6 (est.)14.5 oz$50
Big Agnes Q Core SLXAir32 F16 oz$160
MassDrop Klymit Ultralight VAirR=4.415.2 oz$60
NEMO Tensor InsulatedAir20 F15 oz$160
Sea-to-Summit Ether Light XT InsulatedAirR=3.815 oz$190
Sea-to-Summit Ultralight InsulatedAirR=3.316.9 oz$130

1. Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite

The NeoAir XLite is the most popular inflatable sleeping pad sold today and for good reason. It packs up small and flat, taking up little room in a backpack. The XLite is 2.5 inches thick, providing plenty of comfort for side sleepers and back sleepers, with an R-value of 3.2 which will keep you cozy down to 20 degrees F. The XLite is available in a variety of widths and lengths, with the 72″ x 20″ regular size weighing in at just 12 oz. Price Range: $130-200.

Check out the latest price at:
REI | Amazon

2. Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm

The NeoAir XTherm is nearly identical to the NeoAir XLite but has more insulation and a tougher cover fabric for greater dependability in cold weather and winter. It also packs up small and flat, taking up little room in a backpack, despite having more insulation. The R-Value of 5.7 will keep you warm down to 40 below zero F, while the inflatable 2.5 inch pad provides plenty of cushion for side sleepers. The NeoAir XTherm is available in a variety of widths and lengths with the 72″ x 20″ regular mummy size weighing in at just 15 oz. Price Range: $200-240.

Check out the latest price at:
REI | Amazon

3. Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Uberlite

The NeoAir Uberlite is the lightest weight air mattress in the NeoAir product line weighing just 8.8 oz in a regular 72″ x 20″ size. With an R-value of 2.0, it has a lot less insulation value than the Therm-a-Rest XLite or XTherm sleeping pads, limiting its use to warmer summertime temperatures. But if you want to switch from an ultralight closed cell foam sleeping pad like the ZLite Sol, the Uberlite will provide a huge increase in comfort without any weight penalty. You can also stack the Uberlite together on a foam pad in colder weather to increase its insulation value and extend its range of use.  The NeoAir Uberlite is available in a variety of widths and lengths. Price Range: $180-210.

Check out the latest price at:
REI | Amazon

4. Therm-a-Rest Z Lite Sol Foam Pad

The Therm-a-Rest Z Lite Sol is an ultralight, inexpensive, and virtually indestructible foam sleeping pad, making it a favorite among ultralight backpacking fanatics and boy scout parents alike. Made with closed cell foam, it folds up into accordion-like sections making it easy to carry and attach to the outside of a backpack. One side has an aluminized reflective coating with radiates your body heat back at you.  With an R-Value of 2.8, the Z Lite Sol is a three-season pad that will keep you warm to 20 degrees F. A size regular (72″ x 20″) weighs 14 oz, but it’s also available in multiple sizes. You can trim a foam Z Lite Sol with scissors to shave off gear weight. Price Range: $35-$45.

Check out the latest price at:
REI | Amazon

5. NEMO Switchback Foam Pad

The NEMO Switchback is folding accordion-shaped closed cell foam pad with a reflective coating, like the Therm-a-rest Z Lite Sol. The only real difference between the two is that the Switchback folds up slightly smaller when folded up.  NEMO doesn’t test the R-Value of their pads (yet) but we estimate that it’s identical to that of a Z Lite Sol at R=2.6. A size regular (72″ x 20″) weighs 14.5 oz, but it’s also available in multiple sizes. Like the Z Lite Sol, you can cut a Switchback up to save gear weight or reshape it for a specific purpose. Price Range: $40-$50.

Check out the latest price at:
REI | Amazon

6. Big Agnes Q Core SLX

Big Agnes Q Core SLX
The Big Agnes Q Core SLX is a super comfy, but lightweight inflatable sleeping pad, that’s a whopping 4.25 inches thick and tailor-made for side sleepers. Rated down to 15 degrees F, the Q Core SLX is covered with a luxurious quilted top with flat valves for increased durability and rapid deflation. A regular sized (72″ x 20″) Q Core SLX weighs 16 oz, but the pad is also available in a very wide variety of lengths and widths. Price Range: $140-$220.

Check out the latest price at:
REI | Amazon

7. MassDrop Klymit Ultralight V

The MassDrop Klymit Ultralight V is an inflatable pad that weighs 15.2 ounces (72″ x 20″) and has an R-Value of 4.4, making it ideal for spring or autumn backpacking and camping when the ground temperature is cold and you need a little extra insulation. It’s made with a durable 20D polyester fabric for extra durability, with a dual flat valves for fine tuning the inflation level. It features lofted air pockets with a depth of 2.5″ with side rails to keep you comfortably on the pad. It’s also available in multiple sizes. Bargain priced at $60.

Check out the latest price at:
MassDrop

8. NEMO Tensor Insulated Air Pad

The NEMO Tensor Insulated Air Pad strikes a good balance between a light weight and comfort. Three inches thick, it provides plenty of clearance for the bony hips of side sleepers, with a minimal compact size when deflated. Weighing just 15 ounces (72″ x 20″), the Tensor has two internal reflective layers and a flat valve for increased durability. NEMO doesn’t yet test the R-value of their sleeping pads, but rates the Tensor Insulated down 20 F. The pad includes an inflation storage sack and is available in multiple sizes with both mummy and rectangular shapes. Price Range: $160-$180.

Check out the latest price at:
REI | Moosejaw

9. Sea-to-Summit Ether Light XT Insulated

Sea-to-Summit Ether Light XT Insulated

The Sea To Summit Ether Light XT Insulated Sleeping Pad has extra thick 4″ air sprung cells provide excellent comfort for side and back sleepers. ThermoLite synthetic insulation and a platinum liner reflect warmth back to you to minimize radiant heat loss. A flat valve makes it quick to inflate and deflate, and a combination stuff/air pump is included for ease of use. The Ether Light has an R-Value of 3.8, making it suitable for three season use, while a size regular (72″ x 20″) weighs in at 15 oz. Multiple sizes are available. Price Range: $190-$210.

Check out the latest price at:
REI | Moosejaw

10. Sea-to-Summit Ultralight Insulated Pad

The Sea To Summit Ultralight Insulated Sleeping Pad has 2″ thick air sprung cells that adapt to a sleeper’s curves like the mattress of their bed at home, providing excellent comfort for side and back sleepers. Flat valves make it quick to inflate and deflate, and a combination stuff/air pump is included for ease of use. The Ultralight has an R-Value of 3.3, making it suitable for three season use, while a size regular (72″ 20″) weighs in at 16.9 oz. Multiple sizes are also available. Price Range: $130-$150.

Check out the latest price at:
REI | Amazon

How to Choose a Backpacking Sleeping Pad

Choosing a sleeping pad requires prioritizing across multiple factors, some of which can be at odds with one another.

THICKNESS: Thicker sleeping pads are often more comfortable for side sleepers because they provide more cushioning under the hip bones. Depending on their length and width, it may take more breaths to inflate a very thick air pad, something to factor into your decision.

LENGTH AND WIDTH: Most popular sleeping pads are available a wide range of lengths and widths. While large pads are often more comfortable, they’re often heavier. Most pads are available in a standard 72″ x 20″ size. But many pads are also available in longer, shorter, and wider sizes, or mummy and rectangular shapes.

WEIGHT: A sleeping pad is one of the most important items on your gear list in terms of comfort and sleep insulation. While the weight of all backpacking gear matters, don’t make the mistake of being miserable at night by choosing a pad that compromises the quality of your sleep, simply to reduce the weight of your gear list.

COMPACTNESS: The size and compactness of a sleeping pad can be an important fact depending on your style of packing and the size of your backpack. Inflatable pads usually pack up smallest, self-inflating pads are usually larger, and foam pads are the largest. Depending on how you pack,  foam sleeping pads may need to attached to the outside of your backpack because they’re so large. While closed cell foam pads don’t absorb water if they get wet, you’ll want to dry one off before you put a sleeping bag or quilt on top of it, after a wet day on the trail.

INSULATION: There are three types of sleeping pads: those intended for one season use (summer), three-season use (spring, summer, and autumn), and four season, year-round, use. Most backpackers buy three season pads, but one season pads also fine if you only backpack and camp in warm weather. While four season sleeping pads are slightly heavier, they can be an excellent value if you can only afford to buy one sleeping pad. The most reliable measure of insulation is R-value, but some sleeping pad manufacturers still rate their pads with temperature ratings. (A new Sleeping Bag R-Value Standard has been ratified by the outdoor Industry but won’t be available to consumers until 2020.) For three-season backpacking and camping, an R-value of 2, or higher, is recommended. For winter backpacking and camping, an R-value of 5, or higher, is recommended. R-values are additive, so you can stack two pads to increase your warmth level. Women need higher R-values pads because they have lower body mass than men. An additional R value of 1 is usually a good hedge for women and other cold sleepers

DURABILITY: Foam sleeping pads are the most durable, self-inflating pads are the next most durable, and inflatable air mattresses the least. Inflatable pads tend to fail in two places: the valves and at the seams of fabric. Flat valves that are flush with the surface of the sleeping pad are more durable than stick valves because they have no moving parts and can’t catch on obstructions.

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Disclosure: Therm-a-Rest, Klymit, Sea-to-Summit, Big Agnes, Exped, and NEMO have all provided the author with many free gear samples for testing and review during the past 10 years. 

Editor's note: Help support this site by making your next gear purchase through one of the links above. Click a link, buy what you need, and the seller will contribute a portion of the purchase price to support SectionHiker's unsponsored gear reviews, articles, and hiking guides.

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12 comments

  1. I have the Massdrop Klymit, but after two years, it has started losing air overnight, bottoming out in the middle of the night, which is really uncomfortable in the cold. Luckily, on the last trip with the Scouts, I had an old Thermarest Prolite Plus in the trunk and swapped over to that for the second night.

    I’m now in the hunt for a new mattress. Any feedback on mattresses that do NOT work with quilts or sleeping bags that use little or no insulation on the mattress side? I’ve recently purchased a ZenBivy bed — not as light or compact as my current REI Igneo but really comfortable — and I now understand that the Klymit mattress relies on some sleeping bag insulation lofting in the deep channels to provide insulation.

    • I’m a big fan of Thermarets NeoAirs in terms of durability. I have a 7 year old XLite and a 5 year old XTherm. Bomber and lifetime guarantee. Yadda Yadda.

      R-value is R-value irrespective of whether your sleeping bag or quilt has bottom insulation. The only caveat would be for pads that have big air channels where heat can escape, like the MassDrop Klymit. You want a pad that your sleep insulation can lay flush against.

      • Thanks. The main competitor was the NEMO Tensor, but OutdoorGearLab gave it a lower score on durability.

      • I’ll second the NeoAir. This fall, I replaced a 6 year old NeoAir All-Season with an XTherm, mostly to save weight (All-Season was rectangular, XTherm is mummy and slightly higher R-value.) I’ve used the XTherm once so far, and found it met all my needs. I used it under a quilt, in 30-degree temperatures, and never felt cold coming through the bottom of the pad. Not too difficult to inflate by mouth, either. The pump-sack that comes with it is marginally useful, with the same design deficiency of all Thermarest stuff sacks: it doesn’t have a one-way valve, so at some point, the backpressure forces air out while you’re reinflating the sack. (Of course, I wouldn’t rule out operator error, either.)

  2. Interesting the Exped did not make the top 10…. Too many QC issues?

    • Exped is focused on making car camping mats these days, like the MegaMat. These are designed to be carried on your back, not a camper.

      • Thought i made this comment earlier, but it doesn’t seem to have appeared…

        “Exped is focused on making car camping mats these days…”

        I’m curious about this statement, as Exped makes a whole range of pads, from what they call “Base Camp” and “Travel,” to “Trekking” and “Fast + Lite.”

        http://www.exped.com/usa/en/product-category/mats

        For some reason, though, i have noticed that Exped stuff doesn’t show up in the stock of many U.S. retailers, even online.

        I have a few of their pads. The Synmat HL lite, tapered, rounded corners, almost three inches thick, the long/wide version. With the stuff sack, Schnozzle inflation bag, and repair kit, weight comes it at about 20 ounces. Similar weights for Downmat HL winter pad and an older Synmat 7 pad i keep around as a backup. No holes or blowouts yet.

        A main reason i like them, aside from just being comfortable, is that they don’t make the potato-chip-bag noise that some of the other, slightly lighter pads i’ve checked out.

        Some people find the pool-raft-shaped baffles offputting, but with the right level of inflation, i don’t notice any hill-and-valley effect.

  3. Cant wait until you review the Thermarest Apex pad.

  4. Phil, thanks for the review. Howsomever I think you should have included the REI FLASH air mattresses.

    I have an REI FLASH Insulted 3 season air mattress at a 3.7 R value for 15 oz. (At 25 F. it was fine)

    Also I have the REI FLASH All Season Insulated air mattress at a 5.3 R value. (Likely good to -10 F.)

    With both I use the valve-compatible Sea to Summit pump bag/dry bag. Very fast inflation and no moisture gets in the mattress. The pump/dry bag serves as a dry bag for clothes. I just roll is done to fit the quantity of clothes inside. Dual use gear is the backpackers goal.

  5. Have you had the chance to try out the new Nemo Tensor Alpine sleeping pad? If so, I’d love to hear your impressions. It seems like it was made to compete with the Thermarest NeoAir Xtherm pad. For winter, I really want to switch from the Thermarest NeoAir XTherm to either the Tensor Alpine pad or the Sea to Summit Etherlight XT pad coupled with a ZLite Sol (whether that combination proves be be warm enough for me, a very cold sleeper, remains to be seen).. I love the warmth of the XTherm pad, but find it very uncomfortable. Also, I much prefer the flat valves on the Tensor Alpine and the Etherlight XT pad to the twist valve on the Thermarest, and my elbows are always falling off the edges of the Thermarest pad.

  6. I’ve been frustrated by the lack of wide pads available. I cannot sleep on a 20″ wide pad and most often, the wide size only come in the longer length that I don’t need. It has gotten better recently with a few option now available (NEMO, Klymit), but others refuse. I even had an e-mail exchange with folks at Therm-a-Rest and they basically came back telling me they just didn’t want my business. Ug.

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