Your sleeping mat can make or break a camping trip. It can be the difference between an epic adventure you’ll remember forever and a bad nightmare complete with little sticks and rocks poking you in the back.
Gone are the days of carrying uncomfortably thin foam mats or large, heavy mattresses. With all our futuristic technology, we can finally make sleeping pads that are small, lightweight and comfortable.
We’ve rounded up some of the best sleeping pads on the market for camping, backpacking, and couples. When choosing yours, keep a few things in mind:
- How warm do you need it to be? Warmth usually introduces weight, so only go as warm as you need it. Sometimes wearing an extra jacket means you don’t have to buy another sleeping pad for the colder seasons. Many pads are filled with foam or synthetic insulation to make them warmer. Newer models have a thin metallic reflector that bounces heat back up to you, keeping you warmer without the weight.
- Larger mats are going to be heavier. Tapered mats are narrower at the feet and cut the corners off at the shoulders to save weight. Most mats come widths of 20 to 25 inches and lengths of 6 feet to 6 feet 6 inches. Pick a size that gives you enough room to move without falling off.
Klymit Armored V – $200
Inflatable air mattresses are comfortable and packable — until they have a leak. Then they’re useless. Always pushing the envelope with design, Klymit is addressing this problem by putting armor on the bottom of the Armored V sleeping pad.
A total of 300,000 tiny flexible scales make up the SuperFabric outer shell on the bottom of the sleeping pad. The 100 denier fabric is flexible between each scale, so you can still fold and roll the mat for storage and transport. The Armored V keeps you 2.5 inches off the ground so you can sleep easy, even if you’re on broken glass. The Armored V is also available in a non-insulated version that clocks in at 2.9 pounds.
Sea to Summit Comfort Plus Insulated – $200
Air-filled sleeping pads are usually constructed with vertical or horizontal tubes to hold in the air. Vertical tubes can be bouncy and fold you up like a taco. Horizontal tubes can compress at the sides, causing you to you roll onto the ground. The Sea to Summit Comfort Plus has neither of these, using a layout called AirSprung cells instead. These cells hold a nice even surface that is extremely comfortable.
The quiet fabric keeps you warm and asleep all night long. The top and bottom of the mat are different chambers so you can tweak the amount of air in each for the perfect feel. If one gets punctured, you still have half the mat to sleep on. The pad is available in insulated (28 oz) and non-insulated (25 oz) versions.
Nemo Vector – $180
After a long day of hiking, passing out trying to blow air into an air mattress is my favorite thing to do. Hardly.
The Nemo Vector has a small foam pump at the end. Just step on it to pump, then let your foot off so the foam can re-inflate with more air. This set-up also prevents your breath moisture from encouraging all the microorganisms to grow inside the mat.
A small micro-adjustment valve lets you fine tune the fill. Rolling up is quick with the big dump valve. A metallic Thermal Mirror film on the bottom reflects your heat back up to you for warmth without the weight. This is available in insulated (25 oz) and non-insulated (22 oz) versions.
Nemo Tensor Insulated – $170
Sleeping bags, pads, and tents take up considerable weight in a backpack. Saving weight isn’t just for the gram-counters, it’s for anyone who want to enjoy a multi-day trip more. The insulated Nemo Tensor weighs only 15 oz.
The 3-inch-thick, 6-foot-long sleeping pad uses SpaceFrame “trusses” inside to maintain a nice flat surface, even when you roll near the edges. PrimaLoft insulation in the top layer provides a cozy feel and extra insulation when it’s cool. The 20 denier fabric and Thermal Mirror film inside both help save weight but keep you comfortable. The Tensor is also available in a non-insulated version (14 oz).
Therm-a-rest NeoAir XTherm – $199
Nothing beats the Therm-a-rest NeoAir XTherm for warmth-to-weight ratio. Using multiple ThermaCapture layers to reflect heat back up to you, the pad is warm enough for all four seasons but still extremely light and packable. The XTherm is only 15 oz, whereas other winter mats can be twice as heavy.
Horizontal tubes for air provide a smooth, stable platform. A textured, no-slip fabric on top gives it a soft feel and a quieter sound, reducing the “potato chip bag” sound in the middle of the night. With no bulky insulation inside, the XTherm packs down to the size of a one-liter water bottle. The NeoAir is also available as a non-insulated XLite (12 oz).
Big Agnes Insulated AXL Air Sleeping Mat – $179
No one has been able to dethrone the reigning NeoAir XTherm pad, but the Big Agnes Insulated AXL Air will definitely try. New infor 2018, the insulated AXL Air is only 13 oz — and it’s 1.25 inches thicker than the XTherm. The insulation inside is Primaloft combined with a mylar sheet to reflect heat back to you.
The AXL Air can be inflated with the Pumphouse dry sac pump. Fill the bag with air, then roll it down, pushing the air into the sleeping pad. Some pads suffer from sloping outer edges, but the AXL Air has larger outer tubes, keeping you comfortably caught in the middle. A high volume valve dumps air quickly for roll-up. If you do need to blow air manually into it, the anti-microbial coating on the inside prevents funky smells and delamination.
A non-insulated (9 oz) version is also available.
Klymit Double V – $130
The Double V is 47 inches wide but weighs less than the Klymit Amored V mentioned above. That’s enough room for you and your significant other and maybe the dog. Or forget the dog — he’s got his own bed.
The V-chamber design on the Klymit sleeping pads limits air movement, keeping warm air close to you and cool air on the bottom. It also keeps air underneath you when you roll or get up so you don’t hit the ground. Body Mapping Technology means you’re supported whether you’re on your back, side, or stomach. The Klymit Double V is available in an uninsulated version (2.7 pounds).
Exped Mega Mat Duo 10 – $369
Sometimes you just need to bring your bed. That’s the idea behind the Mega Mat Duo 10. It might even be more comfortable than your real bed at home.
Four inches of high-density foam perfectly fit in a two-person tent. The top liner stretches with your body, and the mat keeps you off the ground completely, providing a luxurious sleep.
The foam mostly self-inflates the mat, then you can top it off to your liking with the included hand pump. When it’s time to go dump the air, use the large deflate valve and stuff the rolled-up mat into the included dry bag carry sack. The huge side opening on the stuff sack makes packing the mat back in a breeze. Be prepared for a haul, though, as the mat weighs 9.9 pounds.
Exped SynMat HL Duo – $249
If carrying a 10-pound mattress isn’t your style, go lighter with the Exped SynMat HL Duo. When you’re out of breath from carrying all your gear, just use the Schnozzel pump bag to fill up the mattress. Fill with air, roll it down, repeat. This keeps moisture out of the mattress and the fabric inside in better shape.
The two sides can be inflated separately, giving you control over the firmness. If one side punctures, you’ve still got half the mat to spend the night on. The vertical tubes are stable and won’t allow you to roll off the sides. The GripSkin honeycomb-pattern coating keeps you from sliding around.
The SynMat is available in an insulated (39.8 oz) and non-insulated (49.5 oz) version.