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10 Best Backpacking Sleeping Pads of 2024

10 Best Backpacking Sleeping Pads

An insulating sleeping pad is a must-have for backpackers who sleep on the ground in tents and under tarp shelters to prevent body heat loss to the ground. The best backpacking sleeping pads are air mattresses or foam pads because they’re lightweight and compact. While they vary in composition and thickness, they are all designed to complement your sleep insulation, keeping you warm, so your body can recover after a day of hiking.

When choosing a sleeping pad it is important to also consider its weight, R-value, durability, size, thickness, comfort, and price. What are your priorities?

Make / ModelTypeR-ValueWeight
NEMO Tensor All-Season UL InsulatedAir5.414.1 oz
Exped Ultra 5RAir4.820 oz
Sea-to-Summit Ether Light XT InsulatedAir3.216.3 oz
Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite NXTAir4.512.5 oz
Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm NXTAir7.315.5 oz
Big Agnes Rapide SL InsulatedAir4.818 oz
Sea-to-Summit Ether Light XT ExtremeAir6.226.6 oz
NEMO Insulated Quasar 3DAir3.325 oz
Therm-a-Rest Z Lite SolFoam214 oz
NEMO SwitchbackFoam214.5 oz

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.

1. NEMO Tensor All-Season UL Insulated

NEMO Tensor All-Season Sleeping Pad
The NEMO Tensor All-Season Ultralight Insulated Air Pad strikes an excellent balance between low weight and comfort. Three and a half inches thick, it provides plenty of clearance for the bony hips of side sleepers but rolls up flat and is amazingly small when deflated. While it contains internal reflective layers like Therm-a-Rest’s NeoAir pads, it’s noticeably quieter and not crinkly sounding. Weighing just 14.1 ounces in a mummy size regular (72″ x 20″), the Tensor All-Season has an R-value of 5.4, making it suitable for 3+ season use.  An inflation sack is included. Read our NEMO Tensor All-season Ultralight Insulated Air Pad Review.

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2. Exped Ultra 5R

Exped Ultra 5R

The Exped Ultra 5R Air Mattress is a lightweight inflatable sleeping pad that’s three inches thick and has an R-value of 4.8. It contains synthetic insulation, instead of reflective films, which makes it very quiet to sleep on, and is covered with a durable 20d polyester non-slip fabric. The pad has a pair of flat stemless valves for inflation and deflation and vertical baffles that are designed to keep you from rolling off the pad at night. The Ultra 5R is available in three mummy and three rectangular sizes including a regular width, a wide width, and a long and wide pad. All six sizes are priced identically so you can pick the size you want without having to sweat a higher price point. The Ultra 5R is also bundled with a large 45L inflation sack/dry bag called a Schnozzel (a $50 value, also available separately), which can be used as a waterproof pack liner. Read the SectionHiker review. 

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3. Sea-to-Summit Ether Light XT Insulated Pad

Sea-to-Summit Ether Light XT Insulated

The Sea To Summit Ether Light XT Insulated Sleeping Pad has extra thick 4″ air sprung cells that 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 sack/air pump is included for ease of use. The Ether Light has an R-Value of 3.2, making it suitable for three-season use, while a size regular (72″ x 20″) weighs in at 15 oz. Multiple sizes are available. Read our Sea-to-Summit Ether Light XT Review.

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4. Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite NXT

Thermarest NeoAir Xlite NXT

New for 2023, the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite NXT is now a full 3″ thick and warmer than ever. It packs up small and flat, taking up little room in a backpack but provides plenty of comfort for side sleepers and back sleepers with an updated R-value of 4.5 making it one of the best 3-season pads available. The XLite NXT is available in a variety of widths and lengths, with the 72″ x 20″ regular size weighing in at just 12.5 oz. The XLite NXT also comes with an inflation sack that can be used as a stuff sack.

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5. Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm NXT

Thermarest Xtherm NXT

The NeoAir XTherm NXT is nearly identical to the NeoAir XLite NXT 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 7.3 will keep you warm down to 40 below zero F, while the inflatable 3″ inch thick pad provides plenty of cushion for side sleepers or back sleepers alike. The NeoAir XTherm NXT is available in a variety of widths and lengths with the 72″ x 20″ regular mummy size weighing in at just 15.5 oz. The XTherm also comes with an inflation sack that can be used as a stuff sack.

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6. Big Agnes Rapide SL Insulated

Big Agnes Rapide SL Insulated Sleeping Pad

The Big Agnes Rapide SL Insulated Air Pad is a 3+insulated sleeping pad that is lightweight enough that it can be used for 3+ season use . With an R-value of 4.8, the Rapide SL is an incredible 4.25 inches thick and insulated with 2 layers of reflective film, much like Therm-a-Rest’s NeoAir pads but far quieter. A low-profile flat valve provides rapid inflation, deflation, and micro-adjustments so you can fine-tune the inflation firmness. Weighing just 18 oz, the Rapide SL Insulated Air Pad includes an inflation sack for rapid deployment.

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7. Sea-to-Summit Ether Light XT Extreme

Extreme ether light
The Sea-to-Summit Ether Light XT Extreme Sleeping Pad is an insulated inflatable sleeping pad that is 4″ thick and has an R-value of 6.2 making it suitable for cold weather backpacking and camping use. Weighing 25.6 oz, the sleeping surface of the Ether Light XT Extreme is made up of air-sprung cells, which mimic a pocket spring mattress so that the surface of the pad conforms to your body shape regardless of whether you sleep on your back, side, or stomach. The Extreme is insulated with a reflective platinum coating and 2 layers of Thermolite synthetic insulation positioned inside the top and bottom sides of the pad. The pad’s 30/40d nylon covering offers a warm hand as well as added puncture and abrasion resistance. A pump sack is included. Read our Review

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8. NEMO Quasar 3D Insulated Air


The NEMO Quasar 3D Insulated Air Sleeping Pad is a 25 oz (R=3.3)  inflatable sleeping pad with body-mapped baffles that are designed to gently prevent you from rolling off the pad at night. When inflated, it provides three and a half inches of luxurious support, perfect for side sleepers when used with or without a pillow. When deflated, the Quasar 3D packs up incredibly flat and small, making it ideal for smaller volume backpacks, where storage space is at a premium.Read our NEMO Quasar 3D Review.

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

Z Lite Sol

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 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 2.0, the Z Lite Sol is a good warm weather sleeping pad. A size regular (72″ x 20″) weighs 14 oz, but it’s also available in multiple sizes. You can also trim a foam Z Lite Sol with scissors to shave off gear weight. Read our ZLite Sol Review.

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10. NEMO Switchback Foam Pad

Nemo Switchback Sleeping Pad

The NEMO Switchback is a 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.  A size regular (72″ x 20″) weighs 14.5 oz and has an R-value of 2. Like the Z Lite Sol, you can cut a Switchback up to save gear weight or reshape it for a specific purpose. Price Range: $45-$55. Read our NEMO Switchback Review. 

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Backpacking Sleeping Pad Guide

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

Sleeping Pad R-Values and Air Temperature in Degrees

What’s the correlation between air temperature and sleeping pad R-values? When do you need a pad with a higher R-value? This table is based on Exped’s recommendations in Fahrenheit and Celsius degrees.

Air Temperature (F):503025100-15-25-40
Minimum R-Value12345678
Air Temperature (C):10-1-4-12-18-26-32-40
Minimum R-Value12345678

In addition:

  • R-values are additive, so you can combine 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

Sleeping Pad 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.

Sleeping Pad Dimensions

Most popular sleeping pads are available in 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.

Sleeping Pad 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. For example, most sleeping bag and quilt temperature ratings assume that you’re sleeping on a pad with an R-value between 4.0 and 5.0. If you sleep with a pad that has a lower R-value, even in summer, you probably won’t be able to experience the full temperature rating of your sleep insulation. That’s a sobering thought.

Sleeping Pad 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 the smallest, self-inflating pads are usually larger, and foam pads are the largest. Depending on how you pack,  foam sleeping pads may need to be 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.

Sleeping Pad Types

There are three types of sleeping pads: air mattresses, self-inflating mattresses, and closed-cell foam pads. Air mattresses provide the greatest comfort and pack up the smallest when deflated. Most come with a lightweight stuff sack that can be used to inflate them. Self-inflating mattresses are usually the heaviest and will up partially with air when unrolled for use. You still have to blow them up a bit, but only a minor amount. Closed-cell foam pads are the least expensive but they are bulky have to be attached to the exterior of your pack. They are very reliable however because they’re made with foam so they can’t be punctured and they’re waterproof, so they won’t get heavier if it rains.

Sleeping Pad R-Values

The most reliable measure of insulation is R-value. Beginning in 2020, a new Sleeping Bag R-Value Standard was adopted by the outdoor industry and most of the major sleeping pad manufacturers including Therm-a-Rest, NEMO, Sea-to-Summit, REI, Big Agnes, and Klymiy have retested and re-rated their sleeping pads using it. Klymit, notably, has not. This new standard benefits consumers because it makes it possible, for the first time, to compare sleeping pads by their R-values because they all use the same testing methodology.

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

Sleeping Pad Durability

Foam sleeping pads are the most durable, self-inflating pads are the next most durable, and inflatable air mattresses the least. Inflatable air mattresses 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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  1. Wonder if the New Neoairs NXT will ever come in the 47 inch length such as the old models. I had reached out to Thermarest, and they said no, but im skeptical that they understood what i was asking about. So either its “no” or just mediocre customer service these days.

  2. Is the Neoair NXT the new model that’s supposed to be much quieter than the “potatoe chip” models

  3. Thank you for the review.
    The utility of these is drastically limited.
    What this reader wants is a price indication and recommendations from your test.
    Thank you

    • Here’s the problem with that. Everyone has different needs and every trip has different environmental requirements. Some personal judgement is required. My goal is just to narrow the field to the best pads so you can avoid the heap of junk out there and to give you some insight into the tradeoffs. There are detailed evaluation criteria at the bottom of the page as well as linked reviews to help you with your decision. But it takes two to tango.

      • William, I think Philip makes a good point. How’s he supposed to know what temperature you plan to sleep in? I appreciate that he strives to educate his readers…I’ve learned a ton here…rather than dumb things down like backpacker magazine which is driven entirely by advertising.

  4. I assume that it took significant pooled money from the manufacturers to develop the R-value testing methodology and equipment. I wish there were something comparable for resistance to deflation from valve failure, seam failure, and puncture. Do you think there is any chance of that?

  5. There is also big agnes zoom ul. Should be out very soon.
    Only 17oz for regular wide (25×72) and R4.3. 3.5″ height.

  6. No love for the Big Agnes Rapide SL? This was was high on my list (still is) until I heard about the Zoom. Seems similar to the Exped 5R ($50 cheaper but without the Schnozzel).

    • Big Agnes got out of the sleeping pad business a few years ago, so let’s just say I’m biding my time to see if they can field serious products again. As backpackers, we have lots of other choices that are market-proven without chasing the latest bright and shiny object.

      • Thanks, that’s fair. By the way, there’s a 2019 post at BPL that discusses r-values. Tuens out the EN rating protocol for sleeping bags specifies an r-value of 4.8. If your pad has a lower value then there’s a decent chance your sleeping bag will feel cold as temps approach its lower limit. Something to think about when designing or evaluating a sleep system. (And don’t forget the specification for sleep clothes.)

    • The Rapide SL served me well during a 5-day trip to Isle Royal N.P. Temps at night got down into the 40’s and I was very warm when combined with my EE quilt. And the pad was pretty comfortable. Downsides of the pad was that it was a bit noisy against the bottom of my tent and the inflation bag is garbage, used a Flextail pump to inflate it instead.

  7. Nemo tensor is comfy but so fragile. The valve fails frequently. I would not take it on a multi day trip.
    The Sea to Summit is bulky, heavy and not warm enough for the rating. Not a backpacking pad. The most popular on a through hike is Therm-a-Rest XLite. I own all of these pads. My opinion is subjective and based on personal experience. To add comfort and warmth to the sleep I use foam pad on top of inflatable pad…

  8. In looking at sleeping pads on the internet, I see a lot of comments/advice on sleeping pad width but I don’t see anything on sleeping pad length. I’m 5’10” and fit on a regular 72″ length pad. Is it as simple as that; go with the shortest length possible to save weight, packing space, inflation time, etc? Are there are any reasons why I should consider going with a longer 78″ pad instead?

    • Lengthwise, it really is that easy. But think about how much padding you want underneath you. For example, I like a 4 inch thick inflatable pad because I think its more comfortable. And give some though as to how packable your sleeping pad is. For example, a foam pad is not packable at all and must ride on the exterior of your backpack, whereas something extremely thin like a thermarest xlite can be rollup up and carried inside.

  9. If I am wanting to sleep on a pad and not have my feet (or head) hang off the end is there a “buffer” amount in the length of the pad that you would recommend looking for over my height? Would this change if you were a back or side sleeper or if you were sleeping in colder/warmer temperatures? Would a longer pad be more comfortable? I know personal preference makes a difference, I was just curious to your thoughts.

  10. Hi again. Let me rephrase my previous question. I find myself in the same boat as John, I am 2″ shorter than a 72″ length pad, so just like he stated, I would “fit” on that pad. If I were 6′ tall, I would still technically fit on that pad as well, but I would imagine it would be pretty easy to end up with my head or feet hanging off. My question is if you think a 2″ extra length is enough of a buffer where I won’t have to faff about trying to stay on the pad. I don’t live near a store where I could test this out in person, so I’m trying to do my best to figure this out so I don’t have to deal with shipping and returning pads via mail. I really don’t like the thought of getting a longer (78″) pad (bigger volume of air to inflate, more weight, larger pack space), but I agree with what you have written in a lot of your reviews – sleeping comfort is important. I sleep on my side and I don’t sleep like the dead but I also don’t sleep like a rotisserie chicken. I sometimes lay on my back in the morning. Again, just curious to hear your thoughts.

    • 1) Use a pillow. Sea to Summit has pillows that attach to their sleeping pads. The pillow will keep you on the pad at night, but even if you feet do hang off, so what? Just move back onto the pad.
      2) Use an ultralight bivy sack. Put the pad and the sleeping bag/quilt inside. You are cocooned.
      3) Use an ultralight quilt. The pad straps hold the bag to the pad, so you’re effectively strapped in and on the pad all night long.

    • As someone who is 6’6″ and has a history of nothing ever being long enough…

      When you sleep on your side you tend to curl a little so no issues there. When you sleep on your back even if your feet hang off the end of the pad by a couple of inches they’re not going to touch the ground.
      If I were you I wouldn’t hesitate to go with the 72″ pad but FWIW the extra weight and size of a longer pad is pretty negligible.

  11. The Nemo Tensor is on sale, 30% off at REI. It looks like the Nemo Alpine is out of stock at REI. I’m sure it’s all due to the new styles coming, but it’s a good deal for the Tensor.

  12. You don’t have any self-inflating pads on your list. Is their weight/comfort/dependability ratio the issue? I bought one over the summer when a leak to my inflatable pad had me sleeping on my 1/8 evo pad for a night… with my old bones, one night was enough. :)

  13. That’s an interesting sequence of temperature intervals associated with each R value. Seems kind of quirky.

  14. I got the Xtherm a few years ago because I thought it was the most puncture resistant of the inflatables. Do you think that is still true?

    • It’s quite tough. You’d have to try to puncture it. The way to figure out which is technically the toughest is to look at the specs for the bottom fabric. The “tougher” ones have a 40D bottom fabric/material or higher.

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