Contrary to common beliefs, a sleeping pad is not a luxury for sleeping in nature, but a necessity. Sleeping pads can be found in many types and here we are going to research and explain every one of them, and by the end of this buying guide, you will have the skills to choose the best backpacking sleeping pad available.
There are even sleeping pads which are made only for your body, excluding the legs support aspect.
The choice of a sleeping pad is just as important as choosing a sleeping bag, if not even more important. For instance if you have a sleeping bag that endures temperatures below zero, and it is combined with a sleeping pad with lower quality, with lower thermo isolation properties, you will slowly lose your body heat during the night.
The heat from your body will go towards the ground instead of staying with your body and keeping you warm. As a result, you would probably freeze. To avoid such situations, choose the most suitable sleeping pad for your needs. Before starting your sleeping pad research you should know that they are divided in two main types:
- Inflatable sleeping pads
- non-inflatable sleeping pads
Non-inflatable pads are constructed with foamy and spongy materials. The bottom side of the pad is usually covered with thin aluminum material for increased isolation from the ground. The thickness of this material is usually 1 or 1.5 cm, although they lose their quality over time. For this reason, many backpackers use two of these pads put one over another.
Inflatable sleeping pads have more loft, thus you are sleeping further from the ground. When inflated, they are usually two to ten centimeters high. They are usually in a mummy form and get wider at the shoulder part.
This construction is applied because it takes much less space when packed than the usual shape. In these pads, the most important thing is the material which they are made from, and its thermal properties depend on the material. The other feature you should look for in a sleeping pad is whether the body slides from the pad when it is set up on an uneven surface.
Things to Consider When Buying A Backpacking Sleeping Pad
In cheap pads with lower quality, the inflatable material is usually nylon, which is not suitable for extreme weather conditions. When sleeping on such a pad you would feel as though you are sleeping on an icy surface.
The pads that are higher quality, and usually more expensive, often have material which is not so smooth on the top side, while the material on the bottom side is more sticky and enables the pad to stay stable no matter the terrain.
According to experts, the best sleeping pads are those marked with the sign ‘Thermal pads,’ which are built from a specific layer of thin nylon material as an outside layer, and with light polyurethane foamy material on the inside.
Thermal pads have the best thermal properties and the spongy material allows you to feel more comfortable on uneven terrain. They also prevent the pad from sliding on the ground.
Inflatable sleeping pads are usually inflated manually. Still, the most popular pad is the self inflatable pad, which means that part of it is inflated by itself, while the other part, should be done manually. It is done by leaving the pad for up to ten minutes.
This way, the pad inflates up to some point by itself. After that, it should be inflated with your own air. In general, inflatable pads should not be put directly on the ground. They are a bit more comfortable, but their thermal properties are also lower.
Choosing A Sleeping Pad
Nemo Astro Air Insulated Sleeping Pad
- Weight: 1 lb 8 oz / 672 g
- Width: 20 in / 51 cm
- Length: 72 in / 183 cm
- Thickness: 2.5 in / 6 cm
- Packed Size: 8.5″ x 4.5″ / 22 x 11 cm
Price: $57.05 – $149.95
Description: The one feature that you should ask for in a sleeping pad is its comfortableness. This Nemo Astro Air Insulated Sleeping Pad has that and so much more. To start with, it doesn’t make much noise when you move, which is very important for some people who are light sleepers.
When inside, you don’t feel trapped, but more of hugged with warmth. It is definitely lofty inside. This Nemo Astro product provides the best features for the specific price range. The good thing is that it is very easy to control the amount of air in it, so it won’t be hard to find your soft spot.
The only downside is that it is not auto inflating which would probably put it in another price range. There is also a built-in pillow, so you don’t have to carry one with you.
Although, if you are used to a higher pillow, I recommend taking another one with you. It is an extremely durable and lightweight product, which is recommended for outdoor sleeping.
Related: This Nemo Astro product is available in three different colors. There are also several different sizes.
Klymit Static V2 Inflatable Sleeping Pad
- New and Improved
- Incredibly Lightweight
- Flawless Design
- Packed Weight: 16.33 oz; Size: 3″ x 8″ – Inflated Size: 72″ x 23″ x 2.5″ – Includes: Stuff Sack, Patch Kit and Lifetime Warranty
Description: This is a new and improved version of the previous Kymit Static V2 Inflatable Sleeping Pad. It is now more suitable for long hikes and backpacking trips with its 12% less weight; it only weighs 16.33 oz.
The packaged dimensions are also smaller than the previous version, but also from many other sleeping pads from this range. It certainly wouldn’t hurt if backpackers use that space for something else. This sleeping pad is specifically designed to limit air movement, which means that the heat loss will happen slower than with any other pad.
This could be useful in cold weather conditions. Although this doesn’t mean that it is suitable for the winter. Even though it has less air inside, which means less cold air in the winter months, it is not recommended to be used as a winter pad.
Its main downside is that the system of inflation is a bit complicated, but once you learn how to gauge the air properly, you would fill it up in a minute. The important thing is that this sleeping pad holds onto the air very nice, so there are no air leaks.
Related: This Klymit product is available in only one color – green.
Big Agnes Q-Core SL Insulated Sleeping Pad
- X-Static synthetic insulation with the natural performance of silver filament to enhance thermodynamic, anti-microbial and anti-odor properties
- Estimated R-Value of 4.5. Rated at 15F. Internal polyurethane coating. Durable inflation valve
- Alternating I-Beam construction creates a smoother, more comfortable feel. Durable, light-weight nylon rip-stop top and bottom
- Includes stuff sack and repair kit. The repair kit is in a small pocket on the inside end of the stuff sack. It’s sort of hidden, so look twice
- Larger outsider air chambers keep you cradled in the middle of the pad
Description: The Big Agnes Q-Core SL Insulated Sleeping Pad is a very comfortable sleeping pad with deep loft. The material provides sleep in silence; it doesn’t make noise when moving around. If you are a side-sleeper this is the right choice for you. It is perfect for side-sleepers since the hips and shoulder sink down enough while still maintaining the softness of the pad and the loft in between.
The inflating however is its downside. It takes some time and effort to inflate this pad, and if you want to achieve a firm state, you would have to give your best. It is good though that after inflating it, no matter its firmness, it remains in that state over the night, and it doesn’t leak at all.
So it will provide you some quality sleep once you set it up. This is a product made for cold weather. Even though the ground is cold, it has a nice isolation and you won’t feel a thing. It is important to mention that it doesn’t soak moisture which is understandable given the range it is in. It is also very durable and can support weight for up to 240 lbs, of course distributed upon it.
The packed size is very small, which makes it suitable for backpacking. It would be nice if a built-in pillow was included, but considering the other features, this is a small slipping of the company.
Related: This is a sleeping pad made from the Big Agnes Company. It is available in one color – orange.
Therm-a-Rest Z Lite Sol Mattress
- Advanced Warmth: ThermaCapture surface on sleeping pad reflects radiant heat back to your body, amplifying the warmth of the heat-trapping dimples by 20%
- Compact Design: Folding design is compact and easy to pack.
- Extra Durable: Virtually indestructible closed-cell foam provides lasting, economical comfort.
- Space Savings: Peaks and valleys work together to add support while trapping heat and nest inside one another, to save space when packed.
- R-Value: 2.6
Price: $33.71 – $130.19
Description: This Therm-a-Rest Z Lite Sol Mattress and its unique design will exceed your expectations. It is specifically made for cold weather conditions although it is perfectly good for warm weather as well.
Even though it looks a bit bulky, it packs very well. It is perfect for back and chest sleepers although if you are a side sleeper, check out our other suggestions, this one is not suitable for you. However, if you are a back sleeper, this is the most comfortable sleeping pad, compared to many other models on the market.
Because of its Therma Capture technology, it is also noticeably warmer than many other models. It creates air pockets that create isolation between you and the ground and it provides you the heat produced by your body instead of balancing it with the ground temperature.
If it is too hot for you, flip the silver side down, it will help. Because of its double thickness, it is very comfortable for seating too.
Its biggest advantage is that it is very easy to set up and stow away, so you wouldn’t waste any time and energy on that. All in all, if it is in your budget, try it out and you won’t regret it.
Related: This sleeping bag, manufactured by Therm-A-Rest comes in only one design, which you can check out yourself. There are several sizes available.
Sea to Summit Ultralight Mat
- NEW Air Sprung Cells provide unrivalled comfort and support. The UltraLight Regular is designed with 181 air sprung cells.
- Multi-Function Valve integrates inflation and deflation plus pressure adjustment into one low-profile design.
- Extruded TPU Lamination with Antimicrobial treatment prevents delimitation and internal bacterial growth.
- Equivalent R-Value is 0.7
- High quality Nylon stuff sack and a 3M repair kit included.
Price: $94.41 – $130.00
Description: This Sea to Summit Ultralight Mat is most suitable for backpackers since it is very lightweight compared to some competitive products. It is comfortable, but it is relatively thin and if you are slightly overweight, there is a great possibility that you would touch the ground while sleeping.
However if you are not a side sleeper, you would probably be very comfortable. Nevertheless, it is wider than usual, 21 inches when inflated. As a bonus, it comes with a sack, although you can attach it to your backpack, and a repair kit, just in case.
Although it is not suitable for cold weather conditions, it is easy to inflate without a pump and can be done in less than a minute. Its main downside is that it is a bit noisy, so if you are a light sleeper, look for another alternative through our other suggestions.
If you are planning on ordering make sure you get the right choice because the company has a questioning customer service system. They are fast to reply, but the return policy is not so fast.
Related: This Sea to Summit sleeping pad comes in three different dimensions – small, regular and large.
Exped Syn Mat Hyperlite Sleeping Pad
- Microfiber insulation bonded to top and bottom for maximum loft/warmth
- Tapered profile minimizes weight, gap-free coupling/pairing
- Single FlatValve for inflate and deflate
- 20D fabric
- I-beam construction
Price: $115.76 – $189.00
Description: The surprising fact about this Exped Syn Mat Hyperlite Sleeping Pad is that it is extremely lightweight, but with very good insulation. The pad is wide enough so that your arm doesn’t end up hanging on the ground.
When inflated, it is high enough so that your hips and shoulder don’t touch the ground and it is soft enough so you don’t get sore after the night’s sleep. Its main downside is that it is a bit noisy, but considering its other features, it is worth it.
When inflated, it stays the same height during the night, it doesn’t leak at all. It is a bit pricey, but you might notice that this bag comes in the luxurious category.
The air chambers are filled with microfibers in order to eliminate cold spots and create a warm and supportive air cushion. And the best feature is that it is able to float. So if you happen to go on a hiking trip with a lake as an end destination, you would get two in one product.
Related: This sleeping pad from the Exped Company is currently available in only one size – medium size.
Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite Sleeping Pad
- New, soft-touch fabrics and baffled internal structure provide unrivaled stability and support
- Advanced fabrics and a tapered design make this the lightest 3-season backpacking air mattresses available
- Patent-pending, reflective ThermaCapture technology traps radiant heat
- Triangular Core Matrix construction minimizes convective heat loss
- Low-bulk materials make the XLite mattress the most compact NeoAir mattress ever
Price: $97.46 – $403.93
Description: The Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite Sleeping Pad is the most lightweight sleeping pad available and at the same time, in our suggestion list. This is a self inflatable mattress which is comfortable enough. It is very good for cold weather temperatures and will keep you isolated from the cold ground temperature.
If you mind a mattress that is slippery, look for another alternative in our other suggestions, because it is a bit of a struggle to keep it under you if it is placed on an uneven surface. It is easily inflatable and it is as hard in the morning as when you first inflated it; so there is no air leakage.
All in all, it is recommended as a quality sleeping pad that is light and suitable for backpacking.
Related: This Therm-A-Rest sleeping pad is available in marigold color and in several sizes.
Usually the price indicates the quality of the sleeping pad, at least in these chosen suggestions. The durability however, depends only on the material and technology used. It can vary from product to product, even though it is from the same company.
Make sure you check all our suggestions and thoroughly read all its features. After that, hopefully you will make the right choice that will keep you warm, comfortable and satisfied with your product.
Have you ever used a sleeping pad while camping? What are your favorite features when it comes to picking one out?