A sleeping mat can make or break a camping trip. It can be the difference between an epic adventure and an ergonomic 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 compact, 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 (measured as a sleeping pad’s R-value) 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 are sold in widths of 20 inches (typically labeled “Regular”) to 25 inches (often sold as “Wide”) and lengths of 6 feet to 6 feet 6 inches. Pick a size that provides adequate room for you to shift in the night without falling off the edge.
Best Sleeping Pads for Camping
Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Topo Luxe
Therm-a-Rest’s NeoAir line has long been a mainstay for back- and front-country campers. New for 2020, the flagship NeoAir Topo Luxe Sleeping Pad provides additional insulation and an elevated sleep experience. At four inches thick, it’s the thickest NeoAir Therm-a-Rest has ever released. A patented construction ensures a stable surface while keeping heat loss to a minimum. The design eliminates bulky fill materials allowing the Topo Luxe to pack down surprisingly small. Plus, two one-way valves — one for inflation and one for deflation — provide for quick setup and take-down.
Klymit Armored V
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 on broken glass. It’s also available in a non-insulated version that clocks in at 2.9 pounds.
Sea to Summit Comfort Plus Insulated
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 ounces) and non-insulated (25 ounces) versions.
After a long day of hiking, passing out trying to blow air into an air mattress is my favorite thing to do. Hardly. Thankfully, the Nemo Vector has a small, built-in foot pump at the end. Just step on it to inflate, then let your foot off so it can re-inflate with more air. This setup also prevents your breath moisture from encouraging bacteria and other 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 added weight. The Vector is available in insulated (25 ounces ) and non-insulated (22 ounces) versions.
Best Sleeping Pads for Backpacking
Sleeping bags, pads, and tents take up considerable weight in a backpack. Saving weight isn’t just for obsessive gram-counters. It’s for anyone who wants to enjoy a multi-day trip without breaking their back. The Nemo Tensor Ultralight Sleeping Pad weighs just 17 ounces or 22 ounces for the insulated version. What truly sets it apart, however, is the suspended film construction. This translates to a much quieter night’s sleep without the annoying “crinkling” sound most campers experience when shifting during the night on traditional inflatable sleep pads. Spaceframe “trusses” inside help maintain a flat, level surface even when you roll near the edge.
Therm-a-rest NeoAir XTherm
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 ounces).
Sierra Designs Granby Insulated
New for 2020, Sierra Designs released two sleeping pads that deftly balance weight and comfort in the backcountry. The all-new Granby Insulated Sleeping Pad provides three inches of flat, cushy comfort. A layer of synthetic insulation adds a bit of warmth that’s perfect for, say, desert overnights. The entire package packs down small into the included “Burrito bag” with a total weight under a pound. For a cooler alternative, theis virtually identical, but without the Granby’s insulating layer.
Best Sleeping Pads for Car Camping
REI Co-op Camp Dreamer XL Self-Inflating Deluxe
If you value comfort above else, and weight is no object, REI’s Camp Dreamer XL Self-Inflating Deluxe Bed is the ideal choice. The wordy name hints at how just how luxurious this sleeping pad — er, bed — actually is. The design blends the weight-saving portability of a self-inflating mattress with the plush comfort of a traditional foam mattress. At 78 inches tall and 32 inches wide, it’s large enough to sleep even the tallest and portliest of campers. A full four inches of cushion ensure a solid night’s sleep on just about any terrain. Although, with a pack weight over 6 pounds, this one is better suited for car camping than the backcountry.
Exped Mega Mat Duo 10
Sometimes you just need to bring your bed. That’s the idea behind Exped’s Mega Mat Duo 10 which might be even more comfortable than your real bed at home. The 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 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 this sleep mat weighs 9.9 pounds.
Best Sleeping Pads for Couples
Klymit Double V
The Double V is 47 inches wide but weighs less than the Klymit Armored 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 SynMat HL Duo
If carrying a 10-pound mattress like the Mega Mat Duo 10 isn’t your style, go lighter with Exped’s 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 ounces) and non-insulated (49.5 ounces) version.
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