Best Sleeping Pad for Side Sleepers: A Handy Buyer’s Guide for Picky Sleepers

Sleeping pad
Written by Dorothy Tobias

We all need to sleep at some point in our daily lives unless you are an alien from another planet altogether. A good sleep helps us to relax and allows our cells to regenerate themselves. It normally feels good when you finally rest your body on a material like a sleeping pad to just sleep after spending the whole day up and down doing various activities in the wilderness.

Did you know that various people sleep differently? Yes, it is very true that people sleep differently as some prefer to sleep on their backs, stomachs while a larger percentage of people sleep on their sides. It is estimated that at least 70% of the entire world population of people sleep on their sides.

If you are reading this, there is a high probability that you sleep on your sides. You may have been looking for the best sleeping pad for a side sleeper but still haven’t found a specific one. Lucky for you, your problem is going to be solved once and for all. We have provided a very detailed shopping guide that will help you buy some of the best sleeping pads currently available.

What is a sleeping pad?

You may have heard of several terminologies like a sleeping pad, ground pad, roll mat or sleeping mat and you are probably wondering what all these terminologies mean. The truth of the matter is that all these terms are used to refer to the same thing. If you have ever gone camping, you probably know what I am talking about.

For those who have no idea, a sleeping pad is a very simple device commonly used together with a sleeping bag so as to provide thermal insulation and paddling. It is worth noting that it will be useless to buy the best sleeping bag money can ever buy and use the sleeping bag without a barrier between the bag and the ground. This is the major reason why you need a sleeping pad.

How to shop for the best sleeping bag for side sleepers

Sleeping pads are different in various ways. You must have enough knowledge about the various sleeping pads to be able to know these differences as some are not so evident. This calls for enough research to be carried out on the various sleeping pads before deciding on which one to spend your money on.

Remember, you don’t want to create room for regrets and that means you have to get it right from the word go. They normally insist that goods once sold cannot be returned and so to prevent yourself from all the disappointments, do your research well and make your choices wisely before deciding to go for a particular sleeping pad.

When shopping for a sleeping pad, as a side sleeper here are some of the features that you should consider thoroughly.


While it is so obvious that a sleeping pad that is very thick will be more comfortable to use while camping in the wilderness. On the other hand, it is very heavy. This means you will have to check the roll sizes and make a clear decision on whether carrying that extra padding will be worth the extra wait that you will have to carry.

It will depend on which comfort you want, whether you are alright feeling comfortable while sleeping and uncomfortable while carrying the pad or the other way round. This is all a personal choice.


One of the reasons why you will normally bring along your sleeping pads while camping in the wilderness is warmth. If you prefer visiting colder environments, you understand pretty well how important warmth is out there. It is worth noting that your sleeping pad is an integral component of a much broader sleep system that has been designed to help you keep warm so that you can stay alive.

When using warmth as a feature that you should consider while buying your sleeping pad, always consider the shelter that you will sleep in most of the time while in the wilderness. An ultralight shelter or an open bivy is always much colder than a properly made snow cave or a double walled tent, and so this will guide you concerning how the warmth of the sleeping you are going for should be.

It is also good to consider the surfaces you are going to sleep on like ice, snow, rock or dirt to estimate how warm your sleeping pad should be. Last but not least, think about how much of your body will be in contact with the sleeping pad especially if you are a side sleeper.


Apart from warmth, you should always pay much attention to your comfort while using your sleeping pad. This appears to be self-explanatory, but I believe there is no harm in offering some explanations. The major reason why you are buying that sleeping bag is for your comfort.

For those who exclusively camp in warm climates, this is nothing but the truth. There is always a thought that sleeping pads with smooth surfaces are more comfortable as opposed to those having deep baffles. Furthermore, if you will be sleeping on an uneven ground, then you will encounter fewer problems by using pads which are 2 inches thick.


Most campers seem to overlook this crucial feature. It doesn’t matter where you are camping; insulation plays a huge role in ensuring a good night’s sleep. This is because body heat is normally lost to the ground and you need to include some insulation to prevent this. Good news is that many self and air inflating sleeping pads come already fitted with a layer of synthetic insulation.

Sleeping pads with down insulation are ideal for winter climate. Heat reflective materials are used nowadays to construct some sleeping pads which help in reflecting back the heat to your body instead of the ground. Please note that the temperature ratings always made on the sleeping bags are arrived at assuming that you will be using a sleeping pad.


The R-value of the sleeping bag is a very crucial feature that must be considered before buying one. The insulation of a sleeping pad is normally measured using an R-value which is the capacity to offer resistance to heat flow. Higher R-values lead to better insulation, and the lowest R-value is normally 1.0 and the highest value being 10.

If you are going to be camping in the summer, then make sure that your sleeping pad has an R-value of 3 or above. Women are generally considered to be cold sleepers, and therefore they should go for sleeping pads with an R-value of a minimum of 4.

Sleeping pad inflation

Some sleeping pads come with both a deflation valve and a high volume inflation valve which are essential in increasing air flow both inside and outside. On other pads, you will find bigger neck openings responsible for quick inflation with minimum breaths.

Sleeping pads with different inflation layers or chambers are very easy to use because if one chamber performs poorly, the other chambers will come in handy and provide sufficient insulation.


Most sleeping pads are normally between 2-4 inches in thickness. As a side sleeper, you will need an even thicker sleeping pad so as to offer extra comfort. These thick sleeping pads take more to be inflated by mouth, but as long as your comfort is guaranteed, I don’t think you will be worried about the time.

One way valves

Can you imagine how frustrating it can be to blow in air into a sleeping pad by mouth only for the air to come out again. This will mean that you will have to blow in air into the sleeping pad faster that it comes out. This will further exhaust you considering that you will have been exhausted by the activities of the day.

Most sleeping pads of late have a high technology system which includes one-way valves. These valves ensure that air blown in cannot come out through the same valve. This makes the whole blowing process easier; there is another valve to be used to release the air out of the pad. This is an important feature that should be considered.

We are pretty sure that after going through all these features listed above, you are now qualified to make an informed decision when buying a sleeping pad. However, if you would like us to recommend some particular sleeping pads, then please take a look at our compilation. These are some of the best sleeping pads you can ever come across.

The best sleeping pads every side sleeper should have

Whether you are a seasoned camper or a beginner and you are a side sleeper who is looking for the best sleeping pad, you should find a sleeping pad that you will fall in love with in this comprehensive roundup.

WACOOL Air Core Sleeping Pad

Wacool Sleeping Pad

Weight: 3.4 pounds

Dimensions: 15 x 7.3 x 5.4 inches

Features: Integrated pump, dual usage exhaust valves, air tube system, diamond ripstop fabric, ultra compact, extra-large

Best Use: Hiking, camping, thru-hiking, outdoor sleeping, backpacking, hillwalking and bush crafting

The WACOOL Air Core Sleeping Pad is a very compact and light sleeping pad. This sleeping pad performs better than the traditional air mattress and offers the best comfort as compared to the self-inflate foam sleeping pads. This sleeping pad is very easy to use; forget about the use of an air pump or even human breath inflation when using this sleeping pad.

With a wide width, as a side sleeper, this must be a dream come true as this sleeping pad also comes at an affordable price. You should never be worried about tear as the heavy duty fabrics used to make this sleeping pad seem to handle that well. With the inbuilt pump, inflation is as fast as it has never been before and the two valves provide the quickest and complete deflation to fit in the carrying bag fully.

Did we mention that this sleeping pad is also waterproof? Whether you are going to camp in an environment full of moisture, why should you be worried as long as you have the this sleeping pad with you.

Check the price on Amazon

Exped MegaMat 10

Exped Sleeping Pad

Weight: 5.8 pounds

Dimensions: 30 x 78 x 4 inches

Features: 3-D construction with vertical sidewalls, Air cored foam insulation, exped Mini Pump, velvety soft tricot top surface

Best of Use: Hiking, camping, outdoor sleeping, hill walking or climbing

Talk of being soft and plush and what should come into your mind when sleeping pads are concerned is the Exped MegaMat 10. This sleeping pad does not have the squishy feeling or the regular firmness that regular foam pads have. When you compare this sleeping pad with other sleeping pads of the same size and thickness, this one packs smaller and is much lighter. It is also exceptionally warm.

You want a sleeping pad with the best craftsmanship? This is it. The materials are great looking, non-slippery and of a very high quality. With this product, inflating this sleeping pad is a very simple task. The velvet soft tricot top surface offers a next to skin comfort.

What’s more, self-inflating convenience is provided by the air cored foam insulation.The only con that should be corrected is that this sleeping pad should have been made extra-wide because even though 30 inches is alright, 40 inches could be more comfortable.

Check the price on Amazon

Therm-A-Rest Trail Pro Mattress

Therm a Rest Pro Mattress

Weight: 7 pounds

Dimensions: 9 x 9 x 8 inches

Features: Diagonal-cut foam, Two Inch (5 cm) of supportive loft, semi-rectangular shape, vacuum-poured foam

Best of Use: Hiking, camping, thru-hiking, outdoor sleeping and bush crafting

If you are those people who prioritise comfort and ease of use as factors to be considered when buying a sleeping pad then the Therm-A-Rest Trail Pro Mattress self-inflating sleeping pad should be the first consideration for you. As a side sleeper you should be able to lie on your side and your hips don’t touch the ground and this a requirement fully met by this sleeping pad.

For those trying to balance cost, size (compressed), comfort, durability, packing and reliability then this mattress takes the blue ribbon. The diagonal cut form is very effective in adding warmth while not increasing the weight. The vacuum-poured foam ensures that this is a lightweight sleeping pad.

If you don’t want to glow in the dark while sleeping in the wilderness then you will fall in love with the color of this sleeping pad. It doesn’t show dirt and is very easy to store as well. This sleeping pad offers a time tested performance, and we couldn’t recommend it more.

Check the price on Amazon

OutdoorsmanLab Ultralight Sleeping Pad

OutdoorsmanLab Sleeping Pad

Weight: 0.95 pounds

Dimensions: 2.78 x 4.8 x 10.24 inches

Features: Ultra-light Ripstop 20D Nylon fabric w/ high-end TPU coating, easy-to-use air valve allows 2 inches thick with patent pending air-cell design

Best of Use: Hiking, camping, thru-hiking, outdoor sleeping, backpacking, hillwalking and bush crafting

For those who are conscious about the weight and space taken by their sleeping pads, this is the ideal sleeping pad. This is the best recommendation we can make to such people. This OutdoorsmanLab Ultralight Sleeping Pad weighs only 0.95 pounds and packs tiny to 9 x 2.75 x 2.75 inches. This sleeping pad is smaller than your travel umbrella or water bottle.

Another bonus is that it pairs perfectly with the Outdoorsman Lab sleeping bags. This sleeping bag has been made to last. Using the professional grade ultra-light Ripstop 20D Nylon fabric w/ high-end TPU coating, this sleeping pad is waterproof, weather-proof, durable and is resistant to both abrasion and tear.

The easy to use air valves allow the inflation to be done by 10-15 breaths. Some few cons, this sleeping pad is not good for cold weather camping if you’ll need it to insulate you from the ground. It also doesn’t have enough cushioning, and this will make some side sleepers feel uncomfortable.

Check the price on Amazon

Fox Outfitters Self-Inflating Camp Pad

Fox Outfitters Sleeping Pad

Weight: 1 pound 10 ounces

Dimensions: 20 x 72 x 1.5 inches

Features: A unique ripstop fabric, abrasion resistant base fabric, rapid rise open cell foam, diamond pattern, lightweight impact-resistant valves

Best of Use: Camping, backpacking, hiking, hammocks, tents.

Some campers would want their sleeping pads to have all the quality features that you would expect from a quality sleeping pad. However there are those who just want their sleeping pads to have the basic features. If you fall under the latter group, then the Fox Outfitters Self-Inflating Camp Pad is ideal for you.

One thing you’ll notice about this sleeping pad is that it is the perfect camping companion. This is because it is crafted from materials and components that have been time tested and are known not to disappoint. The self-inflating pad is also very lightweight, compressible and softer than you could ever imagine.

The fact that this sleeping pad is self-inflating makes everything quite simple and easy. The only issue about this sleeping pad that should be addressed is that the material used is somehow slippery. It is ideal to be used by summer lightweight campers, but for those camping in spring/fall; it might not really perform to your expectations as you might need something heavier.

Check the price on Amazon

Fox Outfitters Airlite Sleeping Pad

Fox Outfitters Airlite

Weight: 37 oz

Dimensions: 72 x 20 x 3.5 inches for the Regular size, 78 x 24 x 3.5 inches for the Long size

Features: Ultra-compact, integrated pump, double brass valves, air tube system, diamond ripstop

Best of use: Camping, backpacking, hiking

Fox outfitters is a company with an excellent reputation when it comes to the production of camping hammocks and outdoor gear. They have produced yet another great product which is the Fox Outfitters Airlite Sleeping Pad. This sleeping pad has been specifically designed for serious backpackers and campers. The sleeping pad has been crafted from a foundation of materials and components that have been tested over time hence ensuring nothing but high quality.

These sleeping pads are light and versatile and are ideal for cold temperatures. The Airlite sleeping pad has taken outdoor living to a whole new level by having the sleeping pad covered with a light weight diamond ripstop fabric which is very durable.  Most people complain that it is too narrow.

It also lacks an R-value so if you were to use the R-value as one of the factors to make a choice whether to buy it or not then you will be stuck. We recommend this sleeping pad whether you will be out for the adventure solo or with your family through a challenging terrain as it will always keep you comfortable.

Check the price on Amazon

Hiker Hunger Self Inflating Sleeping Pad

Hiking Hunger Sleeping Pad

Weight: 30 oz / 1.8 lbs

Dimensions: 72 x 20 x 1.5 inches

Features: Rapid rise open cell foam, 75D non-slip ripstop fabric, R-Value of 3.3, self-inflating, emergency patch kit

Best of Use: Camping, backpacking, hiking, hammocks, tents

If you have grown tired of trying to choose between cheap pads made using low quality materials and overpriced pads, then the Hiker Hunger Self Inflating Sleeping Pad is what you had been waiting for all that time. This sleeping pad is ideal for everyone who wants to enjoy outdoor activities be it thru-hikers, backpackers, day campers and everyone in between including boy and girl scouts.

With a high R-value of 3.3, you can be sure that you will stay warm even during winter. This sleeping pad is also super comfortable and is availed at a pocket friendly price. It is also worth noting that this bag is ultra-light and very compact. The amount of cushioning you will find in this pad is just incredible.

The only slight issue is that it does not come with a repair kit which might make things difficult for you in case you might want to repair it. Otherwise this is a high-quality sleeping pad that every serious camper should get hold of.

Check the price on Amazon

Big Agnes Air Core Sleeping Pad

Big Agnes Air Core

Weight: 1.6 pounds

Dimensions: 10 x 5 x 5 inches

Features: Durable inflation valve, internal polyurethane coating R-Value: 4.1. Rated to 35F, stuff sack and repair kit included, lightweight 70D nylon diamond rip-stop top and bottom

Best of Use: Hiking, camping, thru-hiking, outdoor sleeping and bush crafting

Exploring the wilderness the whole day while assured that you will have a comfortable good night’s sleep is something that every camper always wishes for. The Big Agnes Air Core Sleeping Pad is a lightweight sleeping pad that packs into a very small size. Most campers are normally worried about the weight and packing size of their sleeping pads, with this sleeping pad worrying about such issues will be a thing of the past.

The presence of a small insulating layer insider the layers ensures that heat is minimized as much as possible (R-value 4.1). Most reviewers suggested that Big Agnes should make sure the product comes with guidelines on how it should be operated because as per now the only information printed on the product is the brand name.

It also happens to leak a lot, and this is something that you should bear in mind while buying it. This is a great product which is offered at a much lower price point compared to the fancier ones.

Check the price on Amazon

Found the sleeping pad that’s right for you?

Sleeping pads are very necessary for your survival in the wilderness. You don’t have a choice here on whether you should have one or not, especially when sleeping outdoors in winter. Depending on your camping needs, please make a wise choice and leave no room for regrets.

Remember our life is very important, and it comes above everything else and this is why no matter how expensive a sleeping pad may be, as long as it will keep you alive in certain environmental conditions please do hesitate to go for it.

Featured Image Source: “Board bag makes excellent sleeping mat” by goosmurf is licensed under CC BY 2.0


Dorothy Tobias

Dorothy is a full-time writer, who loves traveling, good food, and understands the beauty of a night spent under the stars. She likes to discover new experiences wherever she goes and she feels most comfortable in her tent, with her favorite sleeping bag. Dorothy started camping with her family when she was 4 years old and remained loyal to the practice throughout the years. Today, she is an experienced backpacker and camper and knows everything there is to know about products in this niche.