Which is the best backpacking sleeping pad in the market today, and why do they matter?
Whether you are hiking, trekking or off on a longer expedition, a good night’s sleep can make all the difference before a new day. Without a good night’s rest that refreshes your mind and body, you may be tired, irritable and have a less than awesome day. When you’re on the road, energy is everything. Enter sleeping pads, your one guaranteed comfort quotient in the great outdoors.
As someone who has roughed it camping out in freezing temperatures and tropical jungles, I can honestly tell you – I would rather have a sleeping pad than a tent. The cold and the mosquitoes I can handle, sleeping on the bare ground with a root in your back? That’s a whole other story.
If you’re new to exploring and camping outdoors, you might be worried about how cozy your sleeping bag is. It’s important to remember here that a sleeping bag with a mattress can create a level of warmth, insulation, and comfort that simply wouldn’t be possible with a sleeping bag alone.
The good news is, it’s the year 2017 and the options for great camping sleeping pads are a dime a dozen. In fact, there are so many options that you may need some help narrowing down the best sleeping pads for you to use. I’ve used quite a few different sleeping pads over the years, here are some of the best sleeping pads on the market right now…
Sleeping Pads: What Factors Should You Consider?
Looking at all the options for sleeping pads on the interwebs can be a bit mind-boggling. Every adventure you go on is different. Some may be long, so you need a sturdy and durable sleeping pad. Some may be short, and cold – so you need to focus on warmth. At the end of the day, you’re also going to be tired. So a pad that inflates quickly may come in handy. As a primer, here are some of the factors I look at when I feel the need to buy a new sleeping pad.
Sleeping Pad Dimensions
After a long day outdoors, there’s almost nothing as comforting as feeling ‘snug as a bug in a rug.’ You need to understand how well you’d fit into a sleeping pad based on its’ dimensions compared to your own dimensions. These factors vary depending on the person. For the tiny and compact, you’ll need to see if there are smaller lengths and widths available. If you’re tall, make sure your entire body will fit to prevent awkward situations where you struggle to find the right balance over your sleeping pad in your bag. Do a little research and find the best backpacking sleeping pad for you.
Inflating Your Sleeping Pad
The two main possibilities when it comes to inflating your sleeping pads are automatic and manual. The best self-inflating air mattress uses an air valve to suck in air and expand to create a comfortable airbed. Sleeping pads that inflate manually usually use an air pump or need to be blown into to expand. I recommend carrying a mini pump or a buying a pad with an integrated pump to make it easier.
Sleeping Pad Durability
This is an essential factor, especially if you are setting off on a long trip. Sleeping pads are what keep you warm and insulated no matter where you are. In a cold spot, you can’t afford to compromise on durability for price. On a long hike, make sure to pick up something that you know will last and is made of quality materials, with the appropriate R-value – which is how sleeping pad manufacturers measure the insulating capabilities of a mattress.
Sleeping Pad Price
The factor is what all your research hinges on. It’s definitely a bummer to narrow down amazing sleeping pads and then realize that they are totally out of your budget. (Can you really put a price on a good nights sleep, though?) Make sure you have a price range in mind and a buffer range that you are willing to extend your budget to as soon as you start your research.
Why Sleeping Pads Are Important
Sleeping pads are an essential part of the camping experience today. You must invest in camping sleeping pads if you’re an avid camper. Here are some of the reasons you should always pack a sleeping pad for an adventure…
- They give you warmth and keep you away from the cold at nights.
- They help you get a great night of sleep.
- They calm and relax your muscles after an intense day on the trails
and most important of all, they are portable and handy.
The Eight Best Backpacking Sleeping Pads of 2017
When Packed: Large 9.5 x 4.5 x 4.3 inches and Regular 8.5 x 4 x 4 inches
When Unfurled: Large 77 x 25 x 2.5 inches and Regular 72 x 20 x 2.5 inches
Large 1 lb. 5 oz. and Regular 1 pound
Large $229.95 and Regular $189.95
The Therm-a-rest Neo Air series is ultra light and the best air mattress in terms of comfort. You can use it in more than just one weather condition, though it is great for colder weather. The pad inflates faster than traditional valves thanks to the SpeedValve technology developed by the folks at Therm-a-rest. SpeedValve also lowers the deflation time, making it ideal for a quick pack up at the camp site. The air pad is perfect for backpacking and comes with a repair kit and a stuff sack. The is without a doubt, the best Thermarest mattress, the most comfortable Thermarest in this price range and is the one I travel with myself.
- Easy to pack up and deflate
- Provides uncompromising warmth and insulation.
- Tends to be a little noisy, may disturb a tent-mate.
- Heavier than most sleeping pads in this range.
Length: 72 inches / 184 cm and Width: 21.5 inches /55 cm. Comes in 2 other sizes, Large and Small.
The Sea to Summit Ultra Lite mat is a competitively priced sleeping pad that combines comfort and portability. This lightweight sleeping pad reduces the weight you’re carrying, making hikes lighter and faster. Sea to Summit’s unique ‘TPU’ lamination process draws inspiration from the medical and aeronautical industries to create a tight mattress that never faces delamination issues. An anti-microbial coating also prevents any issues that warm or moist air may cause. Make sure to get the manufacturer warranty if you buy this one!
- Easy inflation, deflation and fine-tuning of air pressure
- Anti-microbial treatment prevents issues from moist air
- With a lower R value (measure of insulation) of 0.7, the sleeping pad may not provide adequate warmth in colder areas.
- Dimples prone to collecting dirt.
Length: 185 cm / 72 inches and Width: 52cm / 20 inches
580 g / 20 oz.
$150 (on Amazon)
The Mammut light combines the lightness of an air pad with the warmth and comfort of a foam-based pad. This European mattress is one of your go to sleeping pads for camping out in cold, alpine environments (it’s literally called mammoth, guys!) You’ll also find that this pad is less slippery than most because of an additional slip resistant fabric layer.
- The unique shape and additional width in the centre increases comfort.
- A hand pump helps you inflate the bag faster.
- May be a bit warm for less-than-alpine environs
- Iso mats are not completely compressible.
8 x 4 x 4 inches
The Exped is light, easy to inflate and deflate and made of strong, durable fabric. One of the sleeping pads that is priced differently according to the size, the Exped comes in three sizes starting at ‘Medium.’ On trials, we found the shape perfect for fitting more than one sleeping pad and mat in a tent and retaining a spacious yet snug feel. This mattress literally gave me the most comfortable sleep I’ve had outdoors in years – and it wasn’t just because I was dead tired from climbing a mountain all day! A great lightweight air bed!
- Warm, insulated, and durable over long treks
- Tapered profile makes it lighter
- Tends to deflate over the course of the night if not inflated precisely.
- May tend to get a bit noisy when you move in your sleep.
Regular: Length: 183 cm / 72 in and Width: 51 cm / 20 in
Sizes range from XS and S to Regular and Large
Regular: 1 lbs 2 oz or 0.54 kg
Regular: $89. Prices for XS start at $59
This ultralight thermarest mattress is, as far as self-inflating sleeping pads go, the smallest sleeping pad. Unrivalled in terms of convenience, the Pro Lite comes in a range of four sizes. (XS, S, Regular, Large.) If you’re looking for a lightweight air bed, the die cut foam of the Pro Lite makes it easy to pack and carry from camp to camp. It is the best self inflating air mattress around. It is one of the best air mattress in this range and is a great lightweight air bed. Aren’t the Thermarest Prolite 4 specs great??
- Ultralight and compact when packed.
- Best self-inflating air mattress, requires minimal inflating effort.
- May not be thick enough to provide solid back support, especially to someone with chronic back problems.
Length: 198 cm / 77 inches Width: 63 cm / 24 inches Height: 5.5 cm / 2.1 inches
This is a great inflatable camping mattress, as a blend of an air mattress and an insulation pad, the Norrsken guarantees you won’t need a double sleeping pad to get the level of comfort and warmth you need. It is also great for tall folks, much longer than the average sleeping pads you find today.
- The inflation valve is easy to use and the 2 point closure makes it more secure.
- The bright lemon colour makes it easy to spot if you leave your tent at night.
- Heavier than most sleeping pads in the range
- May seem a bit thin if you’re used to thicker mattresses
3.2 x 6.2 x 9.9 inches
1 pound / 453 grams
The Big Agnes Double Z is a power packed mean machine in the world of sleeping pads. Not only is it super comfortable (why wouldn’t it be at 4″ of thickness?) it is also warming and insulating with an R value of 4.7. The most awesome thing about this air mattress is the ‘internal stabiliser’ that makes sure your weight is distributed evenly while you snooze.
- Thicker than most self inflating sleeping pads at 4″
- Patch kit is included in the event of a tear or damage to the pad.
- May not be wide enough for certain body types
- Tends to gradually lose air overnight
72 x 20 x 3 inches
1 lb 5.5 oz / 610 g
Starts at $149
The Nemo Vector is a great option if you are looking to save on space and cut down some weight. The pad comes with an integrated foot pump that can also act as a pillow, so you can spare your breath and leave your pump behind at home. The extra valves make it faster to deflate and compress, and it packs up real compact – into the size of a water bottle!
- Integrated foot pump makes inflation easier – I’d pick a foot pump over manually blowing into a sleeping pad any day
- Thermal mirroring film reflects radiant heat
- May be a little narrow for the average american body type.
- Not ideal for extremely freezing temperatures
Choosing The Best Backpacking Sleeping Pad for Your Needs
What Kind of Trip? Sleeping Pad Benefits Price Range
Short, Ultra Low Budget Backpacking Trip Thermarest Ridgerest Solar Closed-cell foam mattress with Heat-reflecting surfaces for different temperatures. $39 upwards
Road Trip, Sleeping in a car Teton Sports Comfort Lite Weighing just over 2 pounds, this is a thick, easy to inflate mattress (no pump needed) with a high comfort factor. $94
Long Backpacking Trip Klymit Insulated Static V The most comfortable thermarest mattress in the prolite range, compact. The thermarest prolite 4 specs are enviable. $76 upwards
Light Backpacking, Camping Outdoors, Short trip Klymit Inertia X Frame Lightweight sleeping pad, frame with strategically placed, comfort inducing 'holes.' $69.95
Backpacking and Camping in Extreme Cold Temperatures Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm Reliable, insulated and warm with an R-value of 5.7 $104 - $152
So What IS The Best Backpacking Sleeping Pad?
After all my intense comparison, experimentation, and perusal, I’ve come to the conclusion that I can’t pick just one sleeping pad to rule them all. In terms of absolute comfort, durability and ease of use – there’s no doubt that the Thermarest Neo Air Xlite SV (Max) performs brilliantly. It is one of the best sleeping pads and air mattress around. The thermarest weight is optimal to carry as well. If you’ve got the budget, don’t think twice before going the Thermarest backpacker lite way before your next trip.
But wait, Thermarest doesn’t get to take all the glory. The underdog here is a sleeping pad that changed the game. With an innovative frame that is surprisingly comfortable, lightweight and positioned at an extremely reasonable price of $70, ladies and gentleman: The Klymit Inertia X Frame .
What makes the Klymit Inertia X Frame awesome are three main factors. First, this is so comfortable compared to other camping sleeping pads that you hardly realise you’re sleeping on just a frame. Second, the X Frame when collapsed is lighter than most sleeping pads. Third, the cost factor is perfect when you weigh the benefits. Also, the X Frame may just make the perfect pool float! If you want to be more comfortable carry this sleeping bag with mattress.
So to recap; the best sleeping pad out there is the Thermarest Neo Air Xlite SV, closely followed by the The Klymit Inertia X Frame which is a great price compared to most other inflatable sleeping pads…
If you are on a real budget then heck; take a foam sleeping pad instead. Just do NOT get the cheapest one you can find; it’ll fall apart within a few weeks. The KRY outdoor camping mat is a good bet!
Now that the results are in, I hope you find it easier to choose the best sleeping pads perfect for your size, comfort needs and preferences. The next time you’re heading off into the wilderness or looking for the perfect gift for backpackers, pick up a sleeping pad – I guarantee you’ll find yourself redefining what it means to be a ‘happy camper’ on your adventure!
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