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The Best Sleeping Pads for Getting Your Beauty Rest While Camping

It feels like COVID-19 canceled most of 2020. Thankfully, escaping into the great outdoors is still allowed. So, if you’re looking to spend a few nights road-tripping or car camping, now is a great time to upgrade your camp sleep setup. After a sleeping bag, a decent sleep pad is the next best investment toward ensuring a sound night’s rest. We’ve rounded up the best sleeping pads on the market for camping, backpacking, and even couples.

Best Sleeping Pads for Camping

Klymit Armored V

Klymit Armored V Mat

Inflatable air mattresses are comfortable and packable — right up until they leak. Then they’re useless. Always pushing the envelope with design, Klymit is addressing this problem by putting “armor” on the bottom of the aptly named 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.

Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Topo Luxe

Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Topo Luxe Sleeping Pad

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 minimizing heat loss. 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.

Sea to Summit Comfort Plus Insulated

Sea To Summit Comfort Plus Mat

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, while 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.

Nemo Vector

Nemo Vector Backpacking Sleeping Pad

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

Big Agnes Insulated Q-Core SLX

Big Agnes Insulated Q-Core SLX Sleeping Pad

Big Agnes’ newly redesigned Insulated Q-Core SLX sleeping pad is now tougher and lighter than ever before, allowing it to pack down much smaller. Thanks to PrimaLoft Silver Insulation, it also sleeps warmer than previous generations. Offset I-beam construction provides added support and stability for a more comfortable night’s sleep in the backcountry. At just over a pound (17 ounces for the smallest, 20″ x 66″ model), it’s a fantastic three-season sleeping pad when you need to balance portability and comfort.

Nemo Tensor Ultralight Sleeping Pad

Nemo Tensor Mat

Sleeping bags, pads, and tents take up considerable weight in any 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

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 weighs just 15 oz, whereas other winter mats can be twice as heavy. Horizontal air tubes provide a smooth, stable platform. A textured, no-slip top fabric gives it a soft feel and a quieter sound, reducing the dreaded “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

Sierra Designs Granby Insulated Sleeping Pad

New for 2020, Sierra Designs released two sleeping pads that deftly balance weight and comfort in the backcountry. The 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, the Sierra Designs Shadow Mountain Sleeping Pad is virtually identical, but without the Granby’s insulating layer.

Best Sleeping Pads for Car Camping

REI Co-op Camp Dreamer XL Self-Inflating Deluxe

REI Co-op Camp Dreamer XL Self-Inflating Deluxe Bed

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 six pounds, this one is better suited for living out of your car than the backcountry.

Exped MegaMat Max 15 Sleeping Pad

Exped MegaMat Max 15 Sleeping Pad

Sometimes — even when you’re camping — you just need to bring the whole bed. That’s the idea behind Exped’s MegaMat Max 15 which might be even more comfortable than your best mattress at home. The six inches of air-channel-cored, open-cell 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 mini pump. When it’s time to dump the air, use the extra-large deflate valve and stuff the rolled-up mat into the included Sidewinder stuff sack with carry strap. The huge side opening on the stuff sack makes packing the mat back in a breeze. Be prepared for a haul, though, as this sleeping pad weighs close to eight pounds.

Best Sleeping Pads for Couples

Klymit Double V

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). This goes great with one of the best lightweight sleeping bags.

Exped SynMat HL Duo

Exped Synmat Duo Mat

If carrying an eight-pound mattress like the MegaMat Max 15 above 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 air 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.

How to Shop the Best Sleeping Pads for Camping

A sleeping mat can make or break a camping trip. It can be the difference between an epic adventure and an ergonomic nightmare with sticks and rocks poking you in the back all night. 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. 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.

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