A successful journalist and news reporter in the past, George is now focused on freelance work to be able to dedicate more time to the most important things in his life: family, friends, his dogs, and fishing.
John is an avid traveler, hiker, and RVer. Moreover, it seems like he knows everything when it comes to fishing and hunting: his father started sharing all the tips and tricks he knew when John was a kid. No wonder we trust his opinion every time a new article is being created.
Last updated: May 10, 2021
Outdoorsly is reader-supported. We may earn a commission through products purchased using links on this page. Learn more about our process here
Do you feel uncomfortable trying to get a good night of sleep while you’re camping in the woods? If you do, then you need to consider getting a sleeping pad. The best sleeping pads are thick, lightweight, and insulated, and this will help to keep you comfortable and warm during cold nights.
At first, it might seem that trying to find a suitable product is somewhat tricky. Despite a wide variety of models available on the market, our review is aimed at making things as easy as possible for you. We are going to take a closer look at sleeping pads made of different materials, compare thickness, R-value, and other parameters below that are important for each camping trip to ensure warmth and ultimate comfort. Stick with us, and by the end of this article, you will know everything about what makes the best sleeping pad for your next outdoor adventure.
The absolute winner that we have identified here is our Editor’s Choice, the Therm-a-Rest MondoKing 3D. If you’re looking for superb comfort from a thick sleeping pad and excellent insulation, it’s harder to find one better than this one.
This model is a self-inflating foam sleeping pad, which means it will spare you all the effort from having to blow to inflate it yourself. It comes in a large (77” x 25”) and XXL (80” x 30”) sizes. Next, it has a thickness of 4 inches, which is definitely good enough to provide you with great comfort. It is made of high-quality polyester and thermal foam to keep you warm at night and offer a comfortable sleep. Also, it has an R-value of 8.0, which means that it’s well insulated to suit sleeping on in any weather climate. To inflate this sleeping pad, you must open dual valves that will do the trick.
Many users of this sleeping pad think this is the perfect product for the non-backpacking type of trips. Users love transporting this sleeping pad for car camping, RV’s, and boats too. But, they would not recommend trying to carry this around on or in your backpack simply because it is on the heavier side for a sleeping pad weighing at 5 pounds.
For people that are shopping for the best sleeping pad while on a budget, we’ve got you covered! With our choice for the best value, the Sleepingo Camping Sleeping Pad offers the top-notch quality at the most affordable price of any sleeping pad on our list. For just $40, you’re getting one of the top-rated products on the market.
It is an air sleeping pad that does require approximately 10 to 15 full breaths to fully inflate. This is actually not bad considering others where you might need more than 20 breaths to achieve the same result. Also, this sleeping pad is more suited for warmer climates and not for the harsh winter, as it only has an R-value of 2.1. This is the primary indicator of how well insulated a sleeping pad is and how warm you’ll feel. Unfortunately, it only comes in the one regular size (75” x 23”), and the thickness of the sleeping pad is roughly 2 inches. The size is not that relevant, as it can support an amazing 350 pounds of weight.
What’s also great about this sleeping pad is that it is very light (weighs less than 1 pound) and is very easy to transport as you can roll it up once it’s deflated. To top things off, if you encounter any problems with this, you’ll be glad to know that it comes with a lifetime warranty!
On the opposite end of the price spectrum, we have the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Xlite as one of the best sleeping pads money can buy. For roughly $185, this self-inflating foam sleeping pad is extremely durable, comfortable, and warm to sleep on. It comes in plenty of different sizes, which is great if you have a family or have different body types.
The product is available in small, regular, large, and regular wide sizes. It is made of high-quality 30D nylon and thermal foam, which is fantastic for providing you with the warmth you need. That being said, its R-value of 4.2 enhances the warmth of this sleeping pad, which is within the recommended range (4-6) for sleeping in colder climates. You might think that a sleeping mat that offers plenty of insulation and warmth should be thick, but this option is anything but that as it only has a thickness of 2.5 inches. Therefore, this is excellent once it is deflated, as it is not heavy at all to transport around. The regular size once deflated only weighs 12 ounces.
While some might think a self-inflating sleeping pad takes forever to expand, this has a special WingLock valve, which means it will inflate three times faster than regular self-inflating sleeping pads. A few people did note that this model can be a bit noisy as it can make squeaky sounds when it rubs against the floor of your tent.
Why did it make our list?
Comes in variety of sizes
Made of high-quality and warm materials
Pad is not too thick, which makes it easy to pack and carry
An annoying thing that many users describe when using a sleeping pad is that it can often slip around, so some have a hard time staying in one spot. That’s why with our choice for the Best Anti-Slip Sleeping Pad, the Exped SynMat HL is the way to go. It offers an anti-slip GripSkin honeycomb-patter coating to ensure that it stays in one spot so that you don’t wake up during the middle of the night.
The Exped SynMat HL is an air sleeping pad, which means you’ll have to inflate it manually using your breath. A neat feature of this sleeping pad is that it comes with a Schnozzel pump bag. If you don’t feel like inflating it yourself, you can use this pump sack to do the work for you, which it will do rapidly. As handy as this feature is to have, some users have said it does not always work.
This sleeping pad comes in three sizes: medium, medium wide, and large and is made of comfortable 20D polyester. It has a thickness of just under 3 inches and an R-value of 3.3, which makes it quite useful for 3-season warmth (excluding winter). Next, this versatile sleeping pad packs to a very small size too, which is great if you’re looking for an easy-to-transport sleeping pad.
There are plenty of great closed-cell foam sleeping pads out there, but, for us, you’ll get the best bang for your buck with the Nemo Switchback Foam Sleeping Pad. The Nemo Switchback is known for its plushness and ease of packability, which is exactly what you want in a sleeping pad for extended outdoor trips.
While it is one of the thinnest sleeping pads on our list, it still has most of the comfort of a 3-inch thick sleeping pad. You get the most out of this 0.9-inch construction thanks to its Axiotomic dual-density foam, which is optimized for resistance and comfort. Also, a metalized thermal layer of film inside this sleeping pad is what helps to reflect the heat back to your body while you’re sleeping! While a product this thin is not meant for all-weather usage, it still has an R-value of 2.0, which shows it’s much more suited for warmer environments.
A big bonus of this thin-layered sleeping pad is that it is very light and compact. It comes in two distinct sizes: regular and short, and has a lifetime warranty. As great as this sleeping pad is, a number of users said that after frequent usage, the foam felt like it has lost much of its support and felt compressed.
What are our favorite features?
Lightweight and easily packable
Uses dual-density foam for more comfort
Metalized thermal layer reflects heat back to your body
When it comes to inflating an air sleeping pad, oftentimes, you’ll have to do it manually, which can be a tedious thing. But, there are some models that are very easy to inflate, and the AirExpect Camping Sleeping Pad with Built-in Pump is a great example here.
As it states in the name, with this sleeping pad by AirExpect, you also get a built-in hand pump. This means you no longer have to feel dizzy during blowing to inflate this pad since all you have to do is use a pump. This air sleeping pad only comes in the one size (80″ x 30″) and also comes in three different colors. Next, this sleeping pad is very lightweight, which makes it easy to transport either in or on your backpack. If it happens to rain or get wet where this sleeping pad is, it shouldn’t be a problem because it is waterproof and also is anti-skid.
Despite being light in weight, users will absolutely love that this sleeping pad is puncture-proof, ensuring it is durable enough to take a few bumps here and there. The majority of users love this sleeping pad, but a few of them did find that it lacked support and didn’t do a good job of holding in the air.
If you’re passionate about camping in all seasons and especially enjoy it during the rough winter months, you’re going to get a sleeping pad that is both comfortable and insulated. For that, we turn our attention to the WELLAX UltraThick FlexFoam Sleeping Pad. The overall quality of this WELLAX sleeping pad is excellent, and nothing could be more important than its R-value of 9.5! This is, by far, the highest R-value on our list, and it means that this sleeping pad will keep you that much warmer while you sleep during those cold nights. It is a self-inflating foam sleeping pad that only comes in one size, which is unfortunate because this is a great sleeping pad. But, it is waterproof and abrasion and tear-resistant, which basically means that it’s ultra-durable and shapes up well against the elements that camping can often throw at you. On top of being very warm to sleep in, this sleeping pad also has excellent heat reflection, which plays a role in maintaining your body heat.
Apart from being very warm, you might be surprised to find out that this thickness of this mattress is only 3 inches! This is helpful because it’s not bulky and can be rolled up and packed away in the carry bag this sleeping pad comes with. The overwhelming majority of owners rave about this sleeping pad, but some did mention that the bottom seam could rip.
Finding the right size of a sleeping pad can sometimes be a bit of an adventure because most of them don’t come in various sizes. This can usually be challenging for people who are shorter. However, with the Big Agnes Air Core Ultra Sleeping Pad, you can find something for everyone. This multipurpose sleeping pad comes in many different sizes from petite, regular, and long to wide regular, wide long, and double wide. With these many sizes, it’s hard not to find a size that works for you.
This air sleeping pad is made of nylon double ripstop fabric, which is comfortable to touch. Also, this specific model comes with great insulation and advanced heat reflective technology. This will help to keep you warm and your body to retain heat while you’re sleeping at night. It’s also important to point out that if you plan on camping during the warmer months and don’t want an insulated pad, you can get an uninsulated model as well.
Users love this 3-season pad for its smooth sleeping surface and light construction since it weighs just over 1 pound. This sleeping pad is a big hit among users, but some did point out that it could lose some air after a few uses.
Like with any product out there, harsh conditions can ruin the material. In this case, it’s best to find a sleeping pad that has a good warranty, and that’s exactly what you’ll get with the TRIPHUNTER GEARS Self-Inflating Sleeping Pad. This model offers customers a lifetime limited warranty protecting you from any defects that aren’t of your own doing. Even if you have a problem with this sleeping pad, it comes with its own repair kit which is incredibly helpful to have if the problem happens while you’re camping in the woods.
This self-inflating foam sleeping pad only comes in one size (73” x 22”) and is made of high-quality 75D polyester materials. If you’re not looking for a thick sleeping pad, this one might be for you as it only is 1.5 inches thick. Despite this low thickness, it has an R-value of 4.0, which puts it in range to be used in colder environments. Oddly enough, for a sleeping pad that isn’t thick at all, this one weighs a bit more than others at just over 2.3 pounds.
Many travelers note that this sleeping pad is very comfortable to lie on because of its skin-friendly material, and they also love that it’s very easy to clean afterward. What users did not like, however, was that they felt that it became flat way too easily, possibly because of its low thickness.
Lastly, this is a sleeping pad that can handle just about anything the weather and seasons throw at it. We’re labeling the Klymit Insulated Static V Lite the Best All-Season Sleeping Pad thanks to its fantastic insulation, which makes it a good 4-season camping model. This all-season sleeping pad makes sleeping in the woods comfortable year-round in any weather. This is an air sleeping pad that is easy to inflate. Unfortunately, it only comes in one size, but it is spacious enough to snuggly fit most people.
Next, the manufacturer offers 75D polyester as its material of choice, and the product has a thickness of 2.5 inches. Since this is a sleeping suitable for year-round outdoor adventures, it has an R-value of 4.4, making it very warm. While one can think this makes it quite heavy, that’s simply not the case as it only weighs a tidy 1.2 pounds. On top of that, it can be rolled up and packed into its own stuff sack and can easily be carried anywhere you want.
People love this sleeping pad for its comfort, and a unique feature that they point out is that it has side rails to help keep you on the pad, in the event that you like to toss and turn in your sleep. As for the drawbacks, there were a few complaints that it did leak air.
What are its best features?
Excellent pad for year-round camping
Decent thickness without any extra weight
Comes with its own stuff sack
Side rails is a great feature
What could be improved?
Air can leak
Only comes in one size
Things to Consider
After a long day of hiking in the woods, you might be inclined to just rest your body anywhere in your tent. However, if you’re one who craves a comfortable rest, you’re definitely going to want one of the best sleeping pads. As you’ve just seen, we have presented to you the 10 most popular ones available on the market today. All of these are top of the line products that will definitely give you the best rest possible. In our buying guide section, we’ll focus in more detail the individual elements as to what makes these sleeping pads great.
Advantages of camping sleeping pads
By far, the biggest advantage to having one of the best sleeping pads is that it’s extremely convenient when you are camping in the woods. Getting a good night’s sleep can often be very difficult when you’re in unfamiliar territory, and you’re sleeping on rock-solid ground. However, with one of these models, you’re almost guaranteed to have a much more comfortable sleep, and your back will most certainly not be in massive pain in the morning!
Another reason you’ll want to use a sleeping pad during your outdoor camping trips is that they all range in their R-value, which means some are more suitable for certain seasons.
If you’re looking for a sleeping pad to keep you warmer during the cold winter camping months, you’ll want to look for a model that has a higher R-value (4-6), but if you’re camping during the warmer months, a sleeping pad with an R-value of 0-2 is perfect.
Lastly, a huge plus of using a sleeping pad, especially while you’re backpacking in the woods, is that they are extremely easy to carry around. Since these sleeping pads use air, when they are deflated, you simply roll them up, and you can carry them either in your backpack or as an outside attachment to your backpack.
How to find the best sleeping pad?
To find the best sleeping pad, you must know exactly what to look for. Everyone’s needs are different, and as we pointed out already, some sleeping pads can be more or less suitable for various seasons. Thus, it’s important that you identify what you need it for and when. If you’re unsure of what to check, we’re here to help. In this section, we’ll explain in more detail the individual components of these products. These features include its type, size, material, thickness, shape, R-value, weight, valve, and its price. After reading this section, you should be able to identify the right sleeping pad for you confidently.
There are three common types of sleeping pads, and we’ll explain each one here.
Air sleeping pad – This type of sleeping pad requires you to use the power of your lungs and your breath to inflate it. This manual way of inflating your sleeping pad has both good and bad to it. The good is that when you deflate it, you can get it down to almost the size of a pop can, which is great because you can carry it in just about any way possible. The bad is that it’s fairly easy to get tired of blowing into the valve to get this sleeping pad inflated. On the other hand, you can take a pump with you to make things easier.
Self-inflating foam sleeping pad – If you’re not a fan of constantly blowing air to get your sleeping pad inflated, you’ll definitely enjoy a self-inflating foam sleeping pad. This one will inflate on its own when you open the valve. A fantastic example here is the Therm-a-Rest MondoKing 3D. Unfortunately, these self-inflating sleeping pads tend to be much bulkier than the manual inflating pads.
Closed-cell foam sleeping pad – With this type of sleeping pad, there is no air that needs to be injected into the sleeping pad as it uses tiny foam cells to provide padding. For this type of sleeping pad, all you need to do is put it on the ground, and it’s ready to be used.
The size of your sleeping pad can often be a determining factor as to which one of them to buy. It is important because it can influence the way that you pack your belongings for your hiking or camping trip. For example, if you are going hiking or backpacking for the day, and you want to bring as little things as possible, getting a sleeping pad that is quite bulky is not the best idea.
Unfortunately, when packing a closed-cell foam sleeping pad, this is probably the bulkiest sleeping pad you’ll come across. At the same time, if you want one that is extremely easy to carry around, an air sleeping pad, such as the Sleepingo Camping Sleeping Pad, can be incredibly convenient to put in your backpack.
The material used to make sleeping pads tends to be some form of nylon or polyester. Some, like the Therm-a-Rest MondoKing 3D, feature a thermal foam material in it as well that helps it to retain heat. A few other sleeping pads feature thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) as their material of choice, and this gives the sleeping pad a bit more elasticity and resistance to abrasions.
Users have found that those that are non-slip and silent are much more comfortable to have because it means they can sleep on somewhat uneven surfaces and not slide or move around.
Silent sleeping pads are always nice to have because you won’t want one to squeak and make noise constantly, especially if you are a light sleeper. Lastly, most of the sleeping pads are soft to touch and skin-friendly, such as the TRIPHUNTER GEARS Self-Inflating Sleeping Pad.
There’s a bit of a catch when it comes to the thickness of sleeping pads. Generally, the more comfortable you want to be when lying on a sleeping pad, the heavier the sleeping pad should be. This is because in order to be softer, the sleeping pad has to be thicker, and this thickness translates into excess weight. On top of that, if you are packing a thicker air sleeping pad, this means that it’s going to take you more breaths to fill it up, and we already know how tiring it can be to fill up a regular sleeping pad. When it comes to deciding about what kind of thickness you want in a sleeping pad, just remember that comfort comes at a cost!
The best sleeping pads are available in two shapes: rectangular and oval. Once again, choosing between either of them comes down to personal preference. Rectangular-shaped sleeping pads afford the person lying on it more space and room to move around. Thus, if you are one who tends to toss and turn during the night, the rectangular-shaped sleeping pad is likely to be there for your sleeping movements. Oval-shaped sleeping pads are much smaller in size and are more suitable for the still sleeper. Since they are much smaller in shape, oval sleeping pads tend to take up less packing room and are easier to transport.
Perhaps, one of, if not, the most important factors when it comes to figuring out which sleeping pad to buy is the R-value. In a nutshell, the R-value is an expression of how well your sleeping pad will help keep your body warm and insulated from the cold ground.
The higher the R-value number your sleeping pad has, the warmer it will be.
For example, if you’re going to be camping during the hot summer months, a sleeping pad with an R-value of 0-2 should be just fine. However, if you plan on going camping during the winter months, and you potentially might have to lay your sleeping pad down on some snow, you’re definitely going to want to find a model with an R-value of anywhere above 5. It’s critically important that when deciding which sleeping pad to buy, that you pay close attention to both where you’ll be using this sleeping pad and its R-value.
Another factor that seasoned backpackers will need to check carefully is the weight. It should go without saying that ideally, you’ll want to find one that suits your needs and is light enough for you to carry. If you plan on going for a long hike or you have a long way to get to your campground, you’re not going to want to purchase a sleeping pad that is bulky and heavy. For example, a sleeping pad like our Premium Pick, the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Xlite, might be the way to go for you. It weighs less than a pound while deflated and is incredibly easy to carry around.
The valve is another feature to not take lightly since, depending on the type of sleeping pad you choose, it can have a significant influence on the amount of effort you have to put in to inflate it. Some come with a single or dual valve, and this helps to increase the rate of inflation so that you don’t use all your energy trying to inflate it.
A really big bonus with the AirExpect Camping Sleeping Pad is that it comes with its own built-in hand pump, which means you don’t have to waste a single breath trying to inflate it! On the other hand, the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Xlite comes with its own unique WingLock valve, which helps to increase the rate of inflation by three times the normal rate.
Sleeping pads that come with additional accessories add value to your purchase. Extra items don’t come with every sleeping pad, and some of them are quite rare. However, for ones that do come with accessories, you can expect to find a carry sack. This is particularly helpful if you don’t have any other bags to hold or store your sleeping pad in. Another good accessory to have is a pump sack, which allows you to inflate the product faster. While it’s not very common, a repair kit can sometimes be included, like in the TRIPHUNTER GEARS Self-Inflating Sleeping Pad.
The best thing about having a comfortable night of sleep in the woods while using one of the top-notch sleeping pad is that they are generally very affordable. Depending on the model you want and the features you need, you will find various price tags.
Let’s start at the bottom end of the prices. To get the best value, check the Sleepingo Camping Sleeping Pad, which you can get for just $40. On the higher end of sleeping pad prices, you can take a look at our Premium Pick, the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Xlite, which costs around $185.
Inflating and deflating your sleeping pad ultimately comes down to which type of sleeping pad you purchase. As we mentioned, the closed-cell foam sleeping pad doesn’t require inflating or deflating. Inflating the air type is very simple, and you can use either your breath or some even come with its own special hand-pump, which does all the work for you. To deflate your sleeping pad, simply open up the valve, and begin rolling it towards the valve while gently applying pressure with your knees to deflate it quicker. Once it’s fully deflated, roll it up and pack it away.
To ensure that your backpacking sleeping pad lasts longer, there is a handful of useful tips to follow. One of them is always ensuring that you avoid putting them on rough terrain. A tear or rip in the sleeping pad will make it useless, so it’s always a good idea to use or pack it in a safe space, like in a dedicated spot in your backpack, if possible. After using it, it’s always best to clean it. Lastly, while you’re at home, find a dry area to store your sleeping pad with the valve open so that air does not get trapped inside.
Finding the right sleeping pad for lower temperatures can be related directly to the insulation. As we’ve mentioned, the insulation of a sleeping pad is measured by its R-value, and for lower temperatures, you’re going to want to buy one that has a higher number. Remember, the higher the R-value is, the more insulated the sleeping pad will be. Another thing you might want to focus on is its thickness, as it is also a great indicator of warmth retention and comfort. On the other hand, more insulated and thicker sleeping pads are often much heavier and bulkier to transport.
In our verdict, we present to you the top three most impressive sleeping pads.
First off is our Editor’s Choice, the Therm-a-Rest MondoKing 3D. We love this sleeping pad for its overall fantastic quality and design. This one is thick enough for those that desire a comfortable pad to sleep on. Also, it has a tremendously high R-value of 8.0, meaning it can be used in all-seasons, especially those cold winter months.
Next, for shoppers that are more budget-conscious, they should take a look at our Best Value selection, the Sleepingo Camping Sleeping Pad. On top of its affordable price, it doesn’t take long to inflate. This particular model is perfect for camping during warmer months and is also waterproof.
Last up is our Premium Pick, the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Xlite. Despite its price tag, you’re getting great quality with this model as it has its own WingLock valve, which helps to inflate it at a rate that is three times faster than normal. Users also love that this product comes in many sizes and is very light to carry as well. It’s no wonder why we’ve included it on our list of the best sleeping pads!