Choosing a sleeping pad for your next backpacking trip can be a daunting task. This one piece of equipment is a large factor in keeping you warm at night and help you get a good night’s sleep to be able to get those miles (and smiles!) in. Everyone sleeps a little different so there isn’t one sleeping pad that’ll do it for everyone. You’ll want to consider a number of factors when choosing the right one for you including the R Value, weight, shape, cost, and features.
What exactly is R-value? A sleeping pad’s ability to insulate is measured using an R-value. This is the measurement of a materials thermal resistance. To make things simple: the higher the R-value, the warmer it will be. If you are looking to camp only during the summer months (and not on high elevation peaks), R-value won’t be too important. Your main purpose will be comfort and to keep your body off the cold ground. If you’re a winter camper, you’ll want a higher r-value to be sure you stay warm enough at night. Fun tip- you can bolster the r-value by using multiple pads. This may look like an airpad with a thinner foam pad under that.
Other considerations when looking for your next sleeping pad is how you sleep and your body type. If you’re tall, look for a sleeping pad that comes in a long version. If you have broad shoulders, you’ll want to make sure the top doesn’t taper in too much. I recommend trying out a few different sleeping pads before committing to one.
The last factor to consider is cost. If you’re an avid backpacker or have a big trip coming up, it’ll be worth it to invest in a high quality, lightweight, and comfortable sleeping pad. If you only plan on spending a few nights on the trail a year (or less), you might want to consider making due with carrying a few ounces of extra weight with a more budget friendly pad.
Now that you have a better idea of what to consider when shopping for a sleeping pad for backpacking, here are our top recommendations-
The Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite is a top pick for backpackers and it’s easy to see why. This pad is a great 3 season option being comfortable, supportive, lightweight, and packable. The one downside is it does make more noise than many other sleeping pads. If you tend to camp with others and roll in your sleep, you might want to rethink this one- or just bring ear plugs for everyone! This pad is also available as a slightly warmer and shorter women’s version.
R Value: 3.2
Weight: 12 oz
The NeoAir XTherm is deceiving as it looks like only the color was changed from the NeoAir XLite. This one is actually a bit tougher with a more durable cover fabric and it has a higher R-value. It weighs just a few more ounces and is a great pick for winter camping. If you are a cold sleeper and want that one piece of gear that will make your nights more comfortable, this is a great option for you. It also features a reflective material so this pad is slightly crinkly as well.
R Value: 5.7
Weight: 15 oz
The Sea to Summit UltraLight Insulated Mat has a much different design compared to most pads on the market. It features individual air sprung cells that mimic your mattress at home. It is extremely comfortable for both back and side sleepers. You need to use their hand pump which means no future mold issues for breathing moist air in. If you’re looking for an extremely comfortable and quiet sleeping pad for a bit less than the NeoAir options above, you’ll want to take a closer look at Sea to Summit’s UltraLight Insulated Mat.
R Value: 3.3
Weight: 15.5 oz
The Therm-a-Rest Z Lite Sol is a great option for those newer to backpacking, tough on their gear, or anyone looking for a multipurpose ultralight option. Being made of foam, there’s no risk of puncturing this pad. It folds up into accordion-like sections which make it easy to strap onto the outside of your pack. A size regular weighs 14 oz but you can easily make it into a 3/4 length sleeping pad with a pair of scissors, plus it doubles as a convenience mat to sit on at camp. Best part? It’s a fraction of the price of inflatable sleeping pads making it a fantastic option for those on a tight budget or someone who doesn’t backpack on a regular basis.
R Value: 2.6
Weight: 14 oz
The REI Co-op Flash Insulated Pad is a great option if you’re looking to keep your sleeping pad budget around $100. It was designed with many great features including flat valves and a similar cell design to the Sea to Summit pad, both making it quick to inflate. One negative is this pad isn’t as wide in the shoulder area so a caution if you are broader up top. A great buy for those looking for a quality inflatable pad.
R Value: 3.7
Weight: 15 oz
The Klymit Inertia X-Lite is the sleeping pad for you if you want to make every ounce count and are not too picky about your sleep surface. Being the lightest 3/4 sleeping pad on the market at only 5.6 ounces you can justify bringing a pair of sleep socks with you. It uses body mapping technology to give you padding where you need it (head, hips, and shoulders) with the dead weight literally cut out. I used this on my JMT thru hike and while it’s not as comfortable as the other options, it does keep you more comfortable than sleeping on the ground. Bonus? It only takes 2-4 breaths to inflate.
R Value: ?? (not listed on website- we recommend for summer nights/warm sleepers)
Weight: 5.6 oz
Last modified: February 23, 2018