We all know sleep is pretty important. It is especially important when you are out in the wilderness on a multi day backpacking trip. Even if you aren’t busting through a workout all day, its nice to be able to camp comfortable wherever you end up. This post aims to help you decide what’s best for your needs, and also provide links to some of the best sleeping pads for camping, hiking, car trips, or whatever you need them for.

Types of Sleeping Pads

Self Inflating Pads

Self-inflating sleeping pads have an open-cell foam layer that allows the mattress to inflate automatically and quickly. The auto inflation allows for a quick and easy setup of a relatively comfy sleeping pad. Many of these pads can be inflated more via manual inflation to get the proper firmness. Self inflating pads run the risk of popping, or getting leaks. For this reason, it is a good idea to cary repair kits which can often be included with the purchase or purchased separately. Self inflated pads usually pack up nice and small, but are heavier than foam pads. They make self inflating pads warm enough for winter.

Best Used For: Backpacking, overnight hiking, car camping

Closed Cell Foam Pads

The foam sleeping pad is the most basic sleeping pad style. Foam pads are lightweight, durable, and often the most affordable sleeping pad option. Because they don’t pack up very small, you pretty much have to pack them by strapping them to the outside of your pack. They make pads warm enough for winter. Foam pads are usually the least comfortable sleeping pad option.

Best Used For: Mountaineering, ice climbing, bike touring, thru-hiking, ultralight adventures, basically anything where weight is a concern

Manual Inflating Pads

Manual inflation pads are often lighter weight than self inflating pads and less expensive. Of course, they require manually blowing into a valve on the end of the pad or using a manual pump. They also make these pads warm enough for winter camping.

Best Used For: Backpacking, lightweight camping, car camping, if you need a comfortable mattress

What to Look For In a Sleeping Pad

Durability

If you aren’t going to be able to be careful with your pad, and it is going to take a beating, you may be better off getting a foam pad that can’t pop or really break in any way. Not only are the less expensive, but they can take a serious beating. You also will be able to put it down on dirt, or rocks wherever if you are just looking for a place to sit. Blow up pads can be pretty durable, but they can’t take a beating like foam pads.

Packability (Weight and Size)

If you are backpacking, it is really nice to save weight and pack size. Nothing is quite as light as foam pads, but they don’t pack up so nicely. Most foam pads you will have to strap onto the outside of your bag, while blow ups can weigh slightly more, they can pack very nicely into your bag.

Price

This one is pretty straightforward. If you are on a budget, foam is probably the way to go. If you are willing to dish out some extra cash for comfort, warmth, and packability, blow up pads are amazing.

Insulation

A sleeping pad’s ability to insulate is measured using an R-value, a measurement of a materials thermal resistance.  The higher the R-value, the warmer it will be. This is especially important if you are camping in winter, where having an R value above 5 will keep you warm in almost any conditions.

Size

Bigger people need bigger pads, and they do come in different sizes.

The Best Sleeping Pads for Camping

The Best Foam Pads

Therm-A-Rest Z Lite Sol Ultralight Foam Backpacking Mattress, Regular – 20 x 72 Inches

This is probably the best and most comfortable foam pad out there. In addition to being extremely lightweight, the foldable design makes it easy to strap onto the outside of any bag.

Weight: 10 Ounces

Sizes: Comes in a short and long sizes

R Value: 2.6 (Not ideal for cold winters, but it is doable)

Pack Size: 20 x 5 x 5.5 inches

Therm-A-Rest RidgeRest Classic Foam Camping Sleeping Pad, Regular – 72 x 20 Inches

This is Therm-A-Rest’s most basic and inexpensive option. It’s lightweight and works even in winter, and won’t hurt your wallet. This option isn’t nearly as comfortable as the z lite option, but you can’t go wrong with the price.

Weight: 14 Ounces

Sizes: Comes in multiple lengths for different sized people

R Value: 2.6 (Not ideal for cold winters, but it is doable)

Pack Size: 20 x 8 inches (diameter) rolled.

Buy the newer version with slightly better R value at EMS Here.

The Best Self Inflating Pads

1 Premium Self Inflating Sleeping Pad Lightweight Foam Padding and Superior Insulation Great For Hiking & Camping Thick Outer Skin

This is one of the best pads for the money. Warm, comfortable, fantastic company and warranty, and great reviews by many. The pack size is a on the larger size.

Weight: 2.09 Pounds (950 grams)

Size: 72 inches by 22 inches wide. 1.5 inches thick.

R Value: 3-4 (good for almost any situation)

Pack Size: 15.9 x 9.8 x 6.5 inches (diameter) rolled.

 

The Best Manual Inflation Pads

THERM-A-REST NeoAir Xlite Sleeping Pad, Regular

Self Inflating Sleeping Pad

If you need light, super comfortable option, this is one of the best out there.

Weight: 12 oz / .35 kg

Size: 72 inches by 20 inches wide. 2.5 inches thick.

R Value: 3.2 (good for almost any situation)

Pack Size: 9″ x 4″

Need a warmer option?

Check this one out

THERM-A-REST NeoAir® Venture™ Sleeping Pad, Regular

Sleeping Pad for Camping

Durable, comfortable, and from one of the best pad making companies. Great comfort reviews across the board and no reports of leaking. Lightweight, and easy to blow up.

Weight: 1 lb, 4 oz

Size: 72 inches by 20 inches wide. 2 inches thick.

R Value: 1.8 (in winter, use a foam pad underneath)

Pack Size: 23 x 11.5 inches (diameter) rolled.