camping sleeping pad in a tent

The Best Backpacking Camp Sleeping Pads (Review) In 2021

Last Update: 08 March 2020

This is the ultimate guide on the best sleeping pads for backpacking and camping.

In this post, you will learn:

In short: if you need a sleeping pad that can self-inflate on the go, a pad with a great depth of inflation lot or just an inexpensive pick that doesn’t suck, then you will love this guide.

And understand this:

The best camping sleeping pad doesn’t have to be the most expensive. It just has to be good enough to provide sufficient comfort (and warmth) to get you through the night.

We spent up to 300 hours testing 41 different pads and air mattresses on multiple camping trips. In the end, we compiled a list of what we believe to be the most comfortable based on our hand-on testing.

So, if you want to have an outstanding night out in the wild with a sleeping pad that doesn’t suck the warmth out of you, check out our recommendations below.

Best Backpacking Sleeping Pads for Camping

1. Lightspeed Outdoors XL Super Plush FlexForm

Lightspeed Outdoors Super Plush FlexForm Sleeping Pad
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Performance Chart

83% Overall Score
Lightweight 8 Thickness 8 Insulation 10 Comfort 7

We’re avid backpackers and campers who experiment with different sleeping pads every once in a while. And quite frankly, we’ve become the meticulous type over time, always going for nothing except the best quality pads that money can buy.

So when we received Lightspeed Outdoors XL Super Plush FlexForm, we couldn’t help but put it straight to the test to see how it would hold up.

There’s a reason why Lightspeed Outdoors is a popular camping gear brand out there. They pull in the time and resources to give the finest of their creation. And their best is something we saw in Super Plush FlexForm Camp Pad in our first round of testing.

First off, the design is quite impressive. No odor from the FlexForm polyester material, no creaking noise from the 4-way stretch TPU lamination, no instances of chipping on the edges. And at 77 by 33 by 3.5 inches in dimension, this pad is big enough to fit in a two-person camping tent.

Lightspeed Outdoors takes comfort from key to King by simply giving this pad a thickness of 3.5 inches, which is enough to provide sufficient insulation in cold environment where regular mattresses simply can’t.

We care about R-value as much as you do. And this is something that we couldn’t overlook during testing. At 9.66, this pad has the highest value we’ve ever seen in a sleeping pad. It’ll provide the warmth you need to beat a cold ground.

Trust us when we say that you won’t freak out in cold weather with this pad. We’ve tested it and we love just how well it stands out.

Overall, Lightspeed Outdoors impressed us with this pad. And if we’re being brutally honest, lying on this was no different from sleeping in a king size mattress at home.

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2. TETON Sports Outfitter XXL Camp Pad

Outfitter XXL Camp Pad
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Performance Chart

65% Overall Score
Lightweight 6 Thickness 6 Insulation 8 Comfort 6

Bet you’re not a person who loves a mix of colors. Because Sports Outfitter XXL is too plain to suit anyone’s definition of iconic. But comfort really has nothing to do with looks and we’ll forgive you if you think it does.

Far from the sleek looks debate, the XXL Camp Pad is one of the most comfortable options to try, with sufficient sleep area for even a person that tosses and turns around the entire night.

It’s only 2.5 inches thick, feeling less dense than the typical mattress in your bedroom. But with an R-value of 6.2, the pad provides an extra layer of insulation to keep your body warm throughout the night.

TETON Outfitters markets this as a one-person sleeping pad. But at 6.7 feet long and 3.1 feet wide, we believe it can accommodate two campers with average body sizes, especially if they’re both side sleepers.

We love how versatile TETON Sports Outfitter XXL is. You can use it as a ground pad in a one-person tent or mount it on a camping cot. It’s mostly compatible with TETON Sports Outfitter XXL Cot, which you can click here to buy.

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3. MalloMe Sleeping Pad Camping Air Mattress

Mallome Self-Inflating Sleeping Pad for Camping
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Performance Chart

58% Overall Score
Lightweight 9 Thickness 5 Insulation 5 Comfort 4

The MalloMe camping air mattress is one of the most comfortable foam pads that we’ve been lucky to take to the wild. And while our camping extravaganza with it was as short as three nights, we’re more than willing to admit that the brand optimizes this piece for performance while keeping the price low.

To begin with, the air mattress is self-inflating. And while we didn’t necessarily test this feature more than once, it’s impressive how fast only a few breaths filled it up. About 60 seconds of breathing air into it and you’re good to take a nap on it.

MalloMe stays true to “your body deserves better” slogan by adding a SoftFoam padding on top of the original thickness, giving you more cushioning than your body even deserves. The result is simply excess comfort, which is superb.

Or what more could you possibly ask for?

While we tested this pad in a camping tent, its thickness and the additional cushioning made us feel like high school juniors sleeping on school mattresses with ViscoSoft memory foam toppers. To say that you’ll sleep well is obviously an understatement. With MalloMe camp pad, you sleep in luxury like a guest in a five-star hotel.

As if that’s not enough, MalloMe nicely optimizes the weight of this air mattress, keeping it as low as possible and making it perfect for backpacking, camping, and everything in between. Plus, it truly folds down to a small size, which you can fix on your backpack’s strap and get going.

Our only caveat about it (and which we passionately dislike the pad for) is that it is a reserve of hot summer camping only. With an R-Value that barely goes beyond 2, you cannot use this pad even in autumn unless you combine it with other warmer sleeping gear such as sleeping bags.

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4. Exped Megamat 10 Self-Inflating Sleeping Pad

Exped Megamat 10 Insulated Self-Inflating Sleeping Pad (Single and Duo)
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Performance Chart

83% Overall Score
Lightweight 5 Thickness 9 Insulation 10 Comfort 9

We’ve never for once thought that an outdoor gear brand can design a sleeping pad that feels dense like a mattress on an actual bed.

So when we learned that the Exped Megamat 10 is more like a bed than a sleeping pad, we had a feeling that this was too good to be true.

But our own testing aligned with Exped’s ad copy and we can confidently say that, except for a few flaws, this sleeping pad is worth the money.

First, there’s more to Megamat 10 than just the knitted tricot fabric that easily stretches to deliver superior body comfort. There’s also size. At 77 inches long, the pad is lengthy enough to accommodate tall users. And with a width of 52 inches, the dual model is wide enough to share with a friend – or a loved one.

What’s more?

Exped pays close attention to the depth of this mattress, giving it a thickness of 3.9 inches, which is the highest that we’ve seen in our test on camping sleeping pads.

Good depth means better insulation and that couldn’t be truer than with Megamat 10. Camping even in cold weather got easier for us with this one. And we’re confident that it will for you, too.

Then there’s its R-value, which – quite frankly – is one of the best we’ve ever seen (second only to Lightspeed’s in this list). If we were to rate this one based on R-value alone, we’d definitely give it a 10 out of 10. In fact, its R-value of 9.5 makes it one of the warmest sleeping pads in the market.

The bottom line is this:

If you’re in the market for an all-season sleeping pad that can give you the biggest bang for the bucks, go with Exped Megamat 10.

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5. Big Agnes Air Core Ultra Sleeping Pad

Big Agnes Air Core Ultra Sleeping Pad
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Performance Chart

78% Overall Score
Lightweight 10 Thickness 9 Insulation 4 Comfort 8

Big Agnes is one of the enormous outdoor brands in the market today.

Think of any camping gear you’d wish to take to the wild, from camping tents to camping chairs, and Big Agnes always has something for you.

And when it comes to a sleeping pad, the Air Core Ultra is their best that we can recommend.

Air Core Ultra has been around for a while. And it’s one of the most affordable picks that we’ve had the chance to take to several backpacking and camping trips.

Big Agnes gets the comfort of this core pad right from the start by making it 3.5 inches thick. This is enough to provide a good level of cushioning in a campsite, giving you the comfort you need to survive a couple of nights in the wild.

The anti-noise construction may not be Ultra’s selling point. But we think it’s a good part of the build, particularly because it ensures there are no squeaky noises, which then ensures you fall asleep faster and get the most out of your camping adventure.

Big Agnes however fails when it comes to R-value. While the Ultra is an upgrade of the Original Air Core, the brand doesn’t give it the power to provide sufficient insulation from cold. Since they’ve assigned it an R-value of a measly 1, it’s only good for camping in warm weather.

Again, the fabric used for the construction is NOT slip-resistant. This may be a problem if you toss and turn a lot, as you’re more than likely to wake up from the ground instead of from an actual Air Core Sleeping Pad. The quick fix to this is to go for a non-slip sleeping pad like the Nemo Tensor reviewed below.

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6. Foxelli Sleeping Pad

Foxelli Self-Inflating Sleeping Pad
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Performance Chart

60% Overall Score
Lightweight 9 Thickness 4 Insulation 7 Comfort 6

Are you on a tight budget and a sleeping pad is at the top of your camping gear wish list? Or maybe you’re just looking for an affordable option with good performance? Foxelli, a self-inflating mattress, may be the best option for you – and for good reasons.

In our eyes, Foxelli is a pad in its own class. Its basics are as simple as a soft, comfortable touch, a large sleeping area, and absolutely zero squeaky noise.

Made of tough military grade polyester fabric, Foxelli can take a beating from harsh weather and keep holding up perfectly, not to mention last for long because it’s abrasion and tear resistant.

Even better is its level of insulation. We’re confident that with its R-value of 5, this pad will give you the warmth you need to sleep well, even in the nights when your campsite gets a bit cold.

Furthermore, the brand’s air leakage test was thorough, in our opinion, which is something that adds even more value to the build of this pad.

But there’s one area where Foxelli fails terribly, and that’s on comfort. While the brand claims that this backpacking sleeping pad is comfortable, our hand-on tests proved otherwise.

Think about it like this:

Would you consider a pad about an inch thick? Of course not. At 0.98 inches thick, you don’t really get a cozy feel when you lie on Foxelli – unless you’re lucky to find a soft spot in a campsite. Not to mention that your ribs will suffer the brunt of it if you are a side sleeper.

In fact, the lack of sufficient depth means you’ll feel rocks and roots poking into your skin underneath.

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7. WELLAX UltraThick FlexFoam Sleeping Pad

WELLAX UltraThick FlexFoam Sleeping Pad - Self-Inflating 3 Inches Camping Mat for Backpacking
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Performance Chart

83% Overall Score
Lightweight 7 Thickness 8 Insulation 10 Comfort 8

The idea behind designing Wellax Flex Foam was simple: to give you a sleeping pad that’s as comfortable as your bed at home.

Tested thoroughly in multiple environments, from desert and mountains to rainy conditions and snowy campsites, this foam pad has proven to be an all-season self-inflating mattress that you can bring to just about any campsite.

Plus, it’s a multipurpose choice, good for backpacking, camping, hiking, and traveling.

From a design standpoint, we are confident that Wellax gets the size of this single-person pad right the first time. At 77 inches long and 28 inches wide, you get a large sleeping area to rest your body, even if you’re the kind of sleeper who tosses and turns all night.

To provide the right balance between comfort and durability, Wellax uses a 20D rip-stop nylon fabric for construction. They then add a TPU layer on top of the nylon for waterproofing, silence, and abrasion resistance.

This pad is as thick as Paria Recharge Sleeping Pad. At 3 inches, it’s more comfortable than Therm-a-Rest RidgeRest SOLite Reflective Pad and Foxelli Sleeping Pad with Pillow.

With a sleeping surface that’s as smooth as the touch of cotton wool, squeaky noise is simply nonexistent. And that means you get to sleep peacefully throughout the night.

As if being thick and smooth is not even enough, Wellax goes even further to give this FlexFoam an R-value of 9.5 to provide the warmth you need to survive in all environments.

And when it’s time to wrap up your adventure far away from home and reconnect with your urban lifestyle, simply fold it down to a size as small as 31 by 8 inches for storage and transportation.

The bottom line is this:

If you’re in the market for a warm, all year round sleeping pad that you can use in any weather condition, choose Wellax UltraThick FlexFoam.

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8. Hikenture Double Sleeping Pad

HIKENTURE Double Inflatable Sleeping Pad
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Performance Chart

78% Overall Score
Lightweight 9 Thickness 9 Insulation 4 Comfort 9

Hikenture started with one big goal: to ensure you get better sleep in the wild without breaking the bank. And this navy blue, double sleeping pad is one of their most comfortable and versatile options yet.

We tested this for two nights, in a car camping trip and in a tent. And while that’s a really short time to make sound conclusion, we’re pleased that it passed our sleep test.

Hikenture is as versatile as you’d want it to be. You can use it for car camping because it fits well in standard and crossover SUVs. Or you can use it in a tent because it’s thick enough to provide a good level of comfort when placed on the ground.

There’s a really cool design mix in this gizmo: a rugged polyester pongee construction for strength and durability, a TPU coating for abrasion and scratch resistance, and a puncture proofing mechanism that provides a shield from harsh objects.

Hikenture is 3.75 inches thick and it’s soft like a pillow. There are no squeaky noises and no cracking sounds. You get better sleep, the kind likened to the exact same comfort you get from your home’s bed.

You’ll love Hikenture double sleeping pad even more because it’s self-inflating. There’s no need to pump your lungs hard here. You just need to leave the pad in open air for about 8 minutes and it’ll fill up on its own.

Hikenture would have earned a higher score for performance. But it didn’t because of an extremely lower R-value. At 1.5, the R-value is so low that this pad is “useless” in cold conditions. Plus, its puncture resistance capability is not one of the best out there.

This should work fine for summer camping. But if you’re interested in a four-season sleeping pad, you’ll be better off with XL Super Plush FlexForm, the TETON Sports XXL or about two other sleeping pads listed in this guide (you know which ones they are).

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9. Paria Outdoor Recharge Sleeping Pad

Paria Outdoors Recharge XL Sleeping Pad
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Performance Chart

90% Overall Score
Lightweight 10 Thickness 10 Insulation 6 Comfort 10

Paria Outdoor must have noticed a design flaw with many sleeping pads in the modern market.

In a way, the brand must have discerned that some pads are either too thick with pathetic insulation or too thin with a decent R-value.

They took the challenge, combined thickness and R-value in the right balance, and made one of the most comfortable sleeping pads ever.

Don’t get us wrong:

Many sleeping pads out there are good. But they’re not as good enough as Paria Outdoor Recharge.

From a design standpoint, we strongly believe that Paria has given the Recharge the best of its design ability. For starters, the pad sports a laminated synthetic microfiber sandwiched between a 40D diamond rip-stop nylon.

And the result is a robust and durable sleeping pad that you can use for backpacking, camping, and kayaking.

We can’t stress enough just how satisfied we’ve been with Recharge’s warmth and insulation level. And if there’s a point where we feel like we really got the best value for our money, we’re more confident that it was on thickness and the R-value.

About 4 inches thick with an R-value of 4.7, Paria Recharge is one of most comfortable 3-season camping pads that we’ve ever tested – and certainly the best you can take to the wild yourself.

We had a difficult time inflating this sleeping pad. At the very least, it required around 24 breaths to fill up. Yet despite the struggle, we loved the inner flap as it ensures the air you pump into the pad doesn’t easily escape.

The absence of a reflective material on this sleeping pad’s surface means you don’t have to deal with squeaky noises (we really hate that sound) no matter how many times you toss and turn at night (we tend to do that a lot when we are flu-stricken).

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10. Outdoorsman Lab Camping Sleeping Pad

OutdoorsmanLab Ultralight Backpacking Sleeping Pad
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Performance Chart

68% Overall Score
Lightweight 10 Thickness 6 Insulation 5 Comfort 6

The first product we ever tried from Outdoorsman Lab was their water-resistant sleeping bag. It was a steal for the price, because the quality and performance did exceed our expectations.

Months later, we decided to try their sleeping pad to see if it would hold up. If it stood up to our rigorous testing in the wild, we’d be happy to add it to our favorite list of camping essentials and use it every once in a while.

Granted, Outdoorsman Lab camping pad has earned a good reputation for quality design and performance. In fact, it has had hundreds of campers logging hours of sleep in the wild and praising it for being better than many options out there.

But does this campsite bedding truly live up to the hype?

In our eyes, Outdoorsman Lab sleeping pad is a work of innovation and creativity. And while it isn’t as comfortable as the likes of Paria Recharge, we can confidently say that, from our performance testing, it’s a good pad to consider.

In terms of design, this sleeping pad features an ultra-light 20D nylon built with a high-end TPU coating. This material combination makes the pad sturdy, not to mention versatile enough that you can take it to weekend trips, camping, backpacking, hiking, and everything in between.

This thing feels almost weightless. In our weight comparison, the pad is around 10 pounds less the weight of Megamat 10 and 6 pounds less that of XL Super Plush FlexForm. In short, if you’re in the market for a lightweight and inexpensive sleeping pad, this is for you.

And that’s not all there is to Outdoorsman Lab camping pad.

We also love how easy it is to inflate. Once you fill it with air, it’s as large as 73 inches long and 21.6 inches wide, providing just enough sleeping area for most campers and especially side sleepers. And when it’s time to wrap up your camping adventure, simply fold it down to a size as small as 8 inches long and 3 inches wide for storage and transportation.

This isn’t the thickest sleeping pad we’ve tested. With a depth of just 2.2 inches, you don’t really expect it to be nearly as comfortable as Paria Recharge or Nemo Tensor.

However, the diamond shaped cells adds some depth to elevate the comfort a bit. All that extra padding means you can sleep well on any surface and never have to worry about feeling uneven ground.

While the additional depth provided a decent insulation, this pad wasn’t as warm as Teton Sports XXL because of a lower R-value of 2.2. It will hold up just fine for 3-season camping. But it won’t be any useful in the winter season.

Buy this only if you’re interested in a sleeping pad that you can use in the summer, autumn, or spring season.

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11. Therm-a-Rest RidgeRest SOLite Camping Pad

Thermarest Ridge SOLite Closed Cell Foam ground pad
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Performance Chart

58% Overall Score
Lightweight 10 Thickness 4 Insulation 5 Comfort 4

Are you under budget and looking for an inexpensive sleeping pad?

Or maybe it’s your first time to plan a camping trip and you just want to try a simple camping ground pad for a couple of nights?

Try Therm-a-Rest Ridge Rest SOLite.

This sleeping pad is an upgrade of the Ultra Classic Ridge Rest. It’s a simple, compact, and lightweight model in the brand’s outdoors product line.

In terms of design, the SOLite sports a strong high-density crosslinked polyethylene foam, making it one of the most durable options that can last for numerous backpacking and camping trips.

To be clear, this upgrade isn’t as robust. And it isn’t the most comfortable sleeping pad either.

So why include it here anyway?

We did so because it’s still a good pick for the price point, provided you use it on grass or a leveled ground free from sharp objects – or in your car.

SOLite has a reflexive layer that provides additional warmth in the nights when you need it the most.

On packability and portability, this pad folds down to a small size for easy transportation. And at 0.81 pounds, SOLite appeals to outdoor enthusiasts who love ground pads that feel almost weightless. We honestly love how lightweight this is.

It’s rather disappointing that this inexpensive pad isn’t as comfortable as Hikenture and Paria Recharge sleeping pads.

As much as you’re getting 1,440 square inches of sleeping area from it, SOLite is only 0.6 inches thick, the thinnest ever we’ve tested. You’ll feel closer to the ground every single night you sleep on this, especially if you’re the kind of camper who tosses and turns around a lot.

If you need more comfort, and you don’t mind spending a couple more bucks on a sleeping pad, you should consider an option like Teton Sports XXL (reviewed before) or Nemo Tensor (reviewed next).

With an R-value of 2.8, SOLite camping ground pad is a great buy for three-season camping. Buy this if you won’t be camping in cold conditions. But if you’re into four-season camping, you should go for Lightspeed Outdoor XL Super Plush FlexForm.

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12. Nemo Tensor Ultralight Sleeping Pad

Nemo Tensor Ultralight Air Sleeping Pad
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Performance Chart

73% Overall Score
Lightweight 10 Thickness 8 Insulation 4 Comfort 7

Nemo Tensor is undemanding and comfortable. And we think it’s a thick sleeping pad with a decent level of insulation to get you through the night.

It’s one of the quietest sleeping pads our reviewers have ever tested. And while it’s somewhat expensive, it’s a versatile and durable sleeping pad built to give you the best value for your money.

Size matters for all of us. And it turns out that we aren’t the only ones who factor it in when buying sleeping pads. Even Nemo seems to understand this. Which is why they bring you the Tensor in Regular and Regular Wide sizes, so you can choose an option that best suits you.

The insulated model sports Spaceframe baffles that suspend mirror films such that they’re separate from your body. The result is enhanced body support while eliminating squeaky and crinkly noises, making it as quiet as your bed’s mattress so you can sleep silently throughout the night.

Tensor’s 1.7 R-value translates to an insulation of 10 to 20 degrees Fahrenheit. As good as it is for summer time, it won’t hold up well in cold temperature that goes below 25 degrees F. At the very least, this pad only makes a good option for 3-season camping.

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Comparison Table for the Best Sleeping Pads

Product Name Weight Size Thickness R-Value
Lightspeed Outdoors XL Super Plush FlexForm 6.0 lbs 77 x 30 x 3.5 inches 3 inches 9.66
TETON Sports XXL Sleeping Pad for Camping 9.0 lbs 82 x 38 x 2.5 inches 2.5 inches 6.2
MalloMe Sleeping Pad Camping Air Mattress 3.6 lbs 84 x 30 x 2 inches 2 inches 2.5
Exped Megamat 10 Insulated Sleeping Pad 10.64 lbs 77.6 x 52 x 3.9 inches 3.9 inches 9.5
Big Agnes Air Core Ultra Sleeping Pad 1.25 lbs 72 x 20 x 3.5 inches 3.5 inches 1
Foxelli Sleeping Pad with Pillow 2.42 lbs 72.05 x 24.61 x 0.98 inches 0.98 inches 5
WELLAX UltraThick FlexFoam Sleeping Pad 7 lbs 77 x 28 x 3 inches 3 inches 9.5
HIKENTURE Double Sleeping Pad 3.64 lbs 79 x 47.5 x 3.75 inches 3.75 inches 1.5
Paria Outdoor Products Recharge Sleeping Pad 1.25 lbs 76 x 23 x 4.7 inches 4 inches 4.7
Outdoorsman Lab Camping Sleeping Pad 1 lb 73 x 21.6 x 2.2 inches 2.2 inches 2.2
Therm-a-Rest RidgeRest SOLite Reflective Pad 0.81 lbs 72 x 20 x 0.6 inches 0.6 inches 2.8
Nemo Tensor Ultralight Sleeping Pad 1.3 lbs 72 x 20 x 3 inches 3.0 inches 1.7

Buyer’s Guide: Choosing the Best Sleeping Pad

There’s more to camping than just finding a suitable campsite and connecting with Mother Nature. Inside your camping tent or RV should be a good sleeping pad that can give you an unforgettable nighttime sleep in the wild.

To put this in another way, a sleeping pad can be the difference between a good night and waking up sore and weary.

So how do you choose the best camping sleeping pad for the money? Here’s a guide to help you do just that.

1. Type of Sleeping Pad

choosing the best sleeping pad

You first need to understand the different types of sleeping pads so as to know which one to go for. There are three types of sleeping pads, each with its own merits and demerits. In the end, the one you choose will mostly depend on its benefits as well as the shortcomings.

Let’s go through each type in brief:

Closed Cell Foam Pads

Closed cell foam pads are basic in design. They sport a thin layer of dense foam with closed air pockets. Not only are they lightweight, they’re also durable.

Because these sleeping pads are inexpensive, they’re the best options for backpackers and campers on a budget. Moreover, they’re less prone to leaks and are therefore likely to last longer.

Closed cell foam pads don’t have sufficient insulation, which explains why they aren’t the most comfortable options out there. Also, they don’t pack down easily, not to mention they’re a bit difficult, as they don’t fold small.

Self-inflating Sleeping Pads

Often made of thin laminated fabric, self-inflating sleeping pads are plush, lightweight, and more durable than cell foam camping mats.

As the name suggests, these pads inflate themselves – without your intervention. That means you can save your breath and you don’t have to spend extra bucks on hand pump. Simply take the pad from the carrying pouch, unfold it, make sure it spreads out well, and leave it in the open. Mother Nature will inflate it for you.

While self-inflating sleeping pads are pricier than cell foam pads, they have decent insulation levels, they’re comfortable, and they’re less subject to air leaks.

The downside is they tend to be heavier than closed cell foam pads and manually inflating pads since they tend to hold some air in them even after deflation. Some models can lose air at night and fall in flat.

Manually Inflated Air Pads

If you fancy a more traditional sleeping pad, or you’re interested in a pad that’s comfortable enough for side sleepers, then a manually inflated pad bag – also known as air pad – is the best option to consider.

Manually inflated sleeping pads are lightweight and well built. They pack down easily. And they’re more comfortable than self-inflating camp pads.

It’s important to note that they’re a lot more similar in design with self-inflating models. The only difference between the two is how air gets into them. With manually inflated pads, you use your own breath to fill up the bag. Or you can use a built-in or external hand pump depending on the model you choose.

These air pads are the most comfortable models that we’ve ever tested.They allow you to customize their firmness by adding or releasing air as desired. You will love them because they fold down small owing to the fact that they also deflate fully when it’s time to pack up. Plus, they’re super lightweight!

The problem with these pads is that they’re expensive and prone to air leaks and punctures.

2. Warmth and R-Value

sleeping pad stypes and brands

The warmth of a sleeping pad may be the least factor to consider when camping in summer. But it’s one of the most important things to pay close attention to if you need a pad that can help you survive the nights in the cold seasons.

Granted, you need your sleep system setup to be as lightweight as possible. But you also need to take the warmth of your sleeping area seriously. Which is to say that other than choosing a good shelter and appropriate campsite, your sleeping pads and backpacking bags must be as warm and as comfortable as possible.

This is where the R-Value comes in.

And what is it exactly?

R-value in a sleeping pad is the ability to resist heat flow (hence the R). It indicates how much insulation a sleeping pad can provide in a campsite. More often than not, the higher the R-value the higher the level of insulation and warmth.

Think about it this way:

A pad goes between your body and heat-zapping ground. Depending on the surface you decide to sleep on (ice, dirt, rock, snow, or grass), the pad you choose should have the right R-value to insulate you from cold and keep you warm throughout the night.

And note this:

When it comes to R-value, we think it’s important to make your choice based on the coldest condition you expect to encounter in a campsite.

Manufactures generally give their sleeping pads an R-value between 1 and 10. Pads with R-value between 1 and 5 are good for three-season camping. Any pad with an R-value above 5 is good for winter camping.

Now, if you’re going to camp in the winter season, go for a sleeping pad that has an R-value of 5 or higher. In our case, these would be Exped Megamat 10, Lightspeed Outdoor XL Super Plush, and Teton Sports XXL.

If you’re a three-season camper, a pad with an R-value between 2 and 5 should be good enough for you. You’ll need something like MalloMe Sleeping Pad or Therm-a-Rest Ridge Rest SOLite Reflective Pad.

You can still use a low R-value pad in the winter. But this will only work well if you combine it with a foam pad to supplement the R-value.

One of the most important things to keep in mind is that the level of a pad’s inflation can affect its actual R-value. The more air the pad has, the more warmth to expect though this also depends with inner construction. Those which restrict air movement (pocketed air cells) and subsequently limit creation of convection currents are generally warmer than those that allow free air flow within them.

However, too much air in a pad isn’t as good. It makes the pad quite firm. And this may be downright uncomfortable for some people.

The best thing to do is to test the inflation level and determine what’s comfortable enough for you.

3. Weight

Lightweight sleeping pad tied to a backpack

One of the things we know so far about sleeping pads is that the weight varies from brand to brand.

Lightweight picks are good for backpacking. And they’re often the best option for outdoor enthusiasts who love to pack small and almost weightless. In general, pads with mummy and tapered shapes, such as the Outdoorsman Lab pad, have less volume and often pack small on the go.

Cell foam pads are also great for campers and backpackers who are interested in lightweight items. But they tend to be somewhat expensive than the bulkier options.

4. Number of Users

This is a no-brainer, right?

Well, not entirely.

Many backpackers and campers tend to overlook this attribute when choosing a sleeping pad. Yet it’s an important factor to consider, just like inflation level and R-value.

In other words, you need to choose a sleeping pad based on your needs, too. And that means you must consider the number of people that will be using it.

If you plan to go for a solo camping trip, a one-person sleeping pad should be good enough for you. Our recommendation of the single pads includes Outdoorsman Lab and Nemo Tensor.

If you want to go camping with a friend or spouse and you wish to buy a sleeping pad that will easily fit the both of you, choose a double. These have just the right length and width to accommodate two people. A good example is the Hikenture Double Sleeping Pad.

5. Determine the Use of the Sleeping Pad

sleeping pad on the ground outdoors

Are you into backpacking and camping?

Or maybe you’re more into thru hiking and minimalist backpacking?

What about car camping?

The sleeping pad you use for one kind of camping or backpacking will be different from the other. So you first need to determine what you’ll use the pad for before actually buying one.

Car Camping

You can use just about any sleeping pad for car camping. Mostly, the one you choose will depend on your budget and brand preference.

When it comes to choosing the best sleeping pad for car camping, you really aren’t limited on weight or size. So go ahead, choose a thick, large mattress and enjoy its comfort.

If you already have a sleeping bag and blanket, and you would like to add a sleeping pad in the system for more warmth, it would be best to go for the inexpensive Therm-a-Rest Ridge Rest Reflective Pad.

Backpacking

Self-inflating and manually inflated pads are good for backpacking. Just make sure the one you choose is as lightweight as possible, especially if you plan to move more frequently.

Also, make sure the pad has a good thickness and that the R-value is good enough for the season. Paria Outdoor Recharge is an example of a lightweight pad with a decent R-value. Go with it if you’re interested in a 3-season backpacking pad.

Minimalist Backpacking

We recommend that you choose an extremely lightweight sleeping pad for minimalist backpacking. Anything that weighs a pound or less is really a big deal in this case. Nemo Tensor Ultralight Pad is a good example.

Thru Hiking

Weight and durability are two significant factors to consider when choosing the best sleeping pad for thru hiking.

More often than not, closed cell foam pads are the best options to consider.

They’re not only light in weight but they also feature durable construction that can easily survive multiple uses in different campsites.

6. Choose a Thick Sleeping Pad

If a sleeping pads isn’t thick, then it’s not comfortable. And if it’s not cozy, then it’s not worth buying.

Agreed, sleeping pads won’t provide the comfort that matches the mattress on your four-post bed. But if it’s cushioned enough, it should stand up to any surface you throw it to.

Look:

We don’t know where you plan to go camping next. But we do know that you’ll use a sleeping pad on any surface, where any could mean grass, ice, hard rocks, or snow.

So your sleeping pad must be strong and thick enough to give you the best protection from different objects on whatever ground you choose to sleep.

Thicker sleeping pads are a big deal these days, although how thick is thick enough will definitely depend on your personal view as well as your campsite.

Author-bio

ABOUT DANIEL MSANII

When he's not camping or adventuring the outdoors, you'll find him grinding hard on his keyboard to put up some super-awesome content on campingmaniacs.com. Starting off on camping escapades back in 2011, he has grown fond of the activity over the years. His exposure to a myriad of different camping terrains, gear and the outdoor atmosphere has hitherto changed his perception of the entire outdoor life. He enjoys sharing the experiences of his adventures and gear reviews with the awesome camping community on this platform. Read more about us.

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