If you enjoy backpacking, camping, or going on outdoor adventures on which you need to spend the night outdoors in a tent, then you know the importance of using a comfortable sleeping pad to use under your sleeping bag on the ground or in a hammock. It can make the whole difference between having a wonderful trip and an uncomfortable nightmare experience.

A good backpacking sleeping pad also needs to be compact and lightweight and thus easy to carry in or attached to your backpack, especially if you are a minimalist backpacker who likes to hike and trek with as little weight on your back as possible.

But choosing the right sleeping pad for your backpacking needs can be a harrowing task, especially if you feel like you need to compromise with the weight and size, or with the comfort or price of the pad.

This is why we have written this detailed guide, which will hopefully help you pick the best sleep pad for your needs.

Read on to find out more about the features you should keep in mind when shopping for a sleeping pad for outdoors, as well as which are the best backpacking sleeping pads for 2021.

The different types of sleeping pads

Backpacking sleeping pads come in three main categories, including air, closed-cell foam, and self-inflating.

Air pads

Inflatable sleeping pads are unmatched when it comes to a compact size when rolled down. In fact, many of the best air pads can easily be packed to the size of a bottle of water or smaller. They are also the lightest of all while providing thick cushioning and insulation. The main downside of this type of inflatable pads is the risk of puncturing, especially when used directly on the ground. Thankfully, most of them come with easy to use repair kits to resolve small deflation problems on the spot.

Foam pads

These are the oldest type but are still preferred among new and experienced backpackers and adventurers for their ease of use, and durability.

They are usually the least expensive type and will by no means lose air or deflate in the middle of the night, ruining your outdoor trip.

The downside of foam pads is that they are heavier and bulkier than inflatable air pads when rolled up or packed down. They are also not as thick as the inflatable ones in most cases, which can be a problem for some people, especially for side sleepers.

But otherwise, they are reliable, easy to set up and pack back, and can be used as secondary pads for low-temperature camping too.

Self-inflating pads

These are more puncture resistant than regular inflatable pads. At the same time, they are not as thick as them and can be bulkier for carrying.

Otherwise, they are durable, easy to set up, and comfortable, so they combine convenience and comfort while lacking on compactness and weight.

The main factors to consider when choosing the best camping sleeping pad

The weight

If you are going backpacking, then you will want to find the lightest possible gear to take with you. Since the sleeping pad is usually among the top four heaviest items which a backpacker will carry (alongside the sleeping bag, the tent, and the backpack itself), then you should opt for a pad that is light enough for you to carry on your adventures.

But then again, keep in mind that the lighter the pad is, the more fragile it is likely to be, so make sure you choose one which is light enough for carrying but which will endure through a lot of your future trips and adventures too.

All of our top picks are light enough for casual trekking as well as for thru-hiking trips.

Most of them are suitable for the ultralight backpacking movement, which is gaining momentum too.

The insulation and warmth

Backpackers and outdoor adventurers know how cold it can get at night, even in the middle of the hot summer season. It is crucial to pick a sleeping pad, which will ensure that you stay comfortably warm during the night. The insulation capabilities of the pads are measured in R-Value ratings. The higher this value is, the warmer and more insulated the sleeping pad is.

While R-values of 0-2 are more suitable for summer trips, you should consider getting a sleeping pad with an R-value of 2-4 if you are planning on using it for 3 season adventures or one with a higher value of over 5 if you are going to use it at sub-freezing temperatures.

We have included sleeping pads of all types, so you can pick the one which fits your preferences and needs.

The size

It is essential that you choose a sleeping pad that will fit you comfortably and will keep you stable on top during the night. At the same time, getting a sleeping pad that is too large can add to the weight you will be carrying, so make sure you choose the one which is wide and long enough to accommodate you and your bedding. Also, you should make sure that the pad will fit in your shelter as well.

Most of the best sleeping pads come in various size options, so you will have to choose the best one to suit your height, weight, and body type.

The size when packed

Air pads are the most compact option when it comes to packing them and rolling them up. Most of our top picks can roll down to the size of a water bottle, and even as small as a soda can.

Thankfully, today with all modern materials and technologies, even the best camping sleeping pads offering the highest insulation are designed to fold down to a size that is as compact and as easy to carry as possible. We have picked sleeping pads which can be carried in a backpack, or attached to it, so choose the one which suits your needs.

The thickness

Unlike with regular bed mattresses, the thickness of the backpacking sleeping pad, in most cases, is not a decisive factor for how comfortable it is. You should opt for a pad that is thick enough to adjust to the ground but without sinking, and at the same time, not too thick and leaving you feeling like you are lying on an inflatable pool float.

Keep in mind that if you are a side sleeper or tend to toss and turn a lot, you should choose a sleeping pad that will keep you safely centered and prevent you from rolling off in the middle of the night.  This means picking a thicker pad or one with a side rail design, which will help keep you comfortable and will balance the weight properly for you. Back sleepers can get a good night’s sleep on thinner pads.

The shape

While most backpacking sleeping pads are unisex, there are some which are designed specifically for women too.

Keep in mind that the most common regular size for a sleeping pad is about 72 inches in length and about 20 inches wide, while the large size is usually 77-80 inches in length and 25 inches wide.

As for the shapes, there are various shapes, with the mummy pads and the rectangular pads being the most common ones. The mummy pads taper toward the feet, while rectangular ones provide more foot space which is suitable for tossers and turners and active sleepers.

Some brands and models offer small sizes, which will allow you to save quite a bit of weight in your backpack. There are also extra-large and even double pads for larger people or couples.

Some brands offer women-specific backpacking sleeping pads. These are usually shorter (around 66 inches), and some of them provide more insulation, suitable for petite ladies and cold sleepers.


The most commonly used durability measure when it comes to camping and other outdoor gear is denier (D). It measures the fabric’s thickness, so the higher the denier is, the sturdier and more durable the material.

But the higher the denier, the bigger the weight of the fabric is.

So, it is best to choose a pad that offers the perfect balance between durability and weight.

The noise

It may sound strange to newbie backpackers, but experienced campers and outdoor adventurers are familiar with the frustration of having to sleep on a squeaky or crinkly sounding pad all night.

Some pads make more noise than others and are definitely not suitable for light sleepers.

Best Backpacking Sleeping Pad

Here are the top-rated best backpacking sleeping pads for 2021.

Therm-a-Rest NeoAir UberLite Sleeping Pad

Type: Air pad

Weight: 12-oz.

Thickness: 2.5 inches

R-Value: 2.0

Top advantage: An ultra-light and comfortable, quiet air pad with a pump sack suitable for summer backpacking, with a warranty by Therm-a-Rest

Top disadvantage: A low R-value making it unsuitable for colder temperatures, and a high price

The Therm-a-Rest NeoAir UberLite is among the lightest of all pads on this list, and on the market. Made by the reputed Therm-A-Rest brand, this air pad is not only ultra-light but is also quite comfortable to sleep on. It has horizontal double-stacked triangular baffling, which adds to its comfort and stability, as well as its durability to punctures even when used on uneven grounds.

Since it has an R-Value of 2.0, it is not particularly insulated, making it perfect for summer backpacking and hiking, and not suitable for sleeping outdoors at sub-freezing temperatures.

The NeoAir UberLite sleeping pad comes in 3 size options, a large one (25 x 77 inches), a regular one (20 x 72 inches), and a small one which is 20 x 47 inches. All of them have a thickness of 2.5 inches, and thanks to their tapered design, fold up into packs, which are smaller than a standard water bottle. The largest is 7.5 x 3.7 inches only when folded up. It comes with a convenient sack and a repair kit.

The air pad is straightforward and quick to inflate via blowing in the valve.

Overall, this is one of the best sleeping pads you can buy for minimalist summer backpacking.

Nemo Tensor Ultralight Sleeping Pad – Insulated

Type: Air pad

Weight: 1lb. 2 oz.

Thickness: 3.5 inches

R-Value: 3.5 with PrimaLoft insulation

Top advantage: This is a quiet inflatable backpacking pad that comes in different sizes, and in insulated and non-insulated options, with a reliable pump system and pump sack

Top disadvantage: It is heavier and larger than some of the other ultralight models on this list

The Nemo Tensor Ultralight Sleeping Pad comes in a wide variety of size options, including a long wide, regular, regular mummy, regular wide, and short mummy. It is also available in insulated and non-insulated versions.

The regular size is 72 x 20 inches, the regular wide is 72 x 25 inches, and the long wide is 76 x 25 inches, and they fold up to small packs of 8 x 3 inches, 9.5 x 3 inches and 9.5 x 3 inches respectively.

The insulated variant has a 3 inch soft cushioned loft with an added Thermal Mirror insulation to keep you warm and cozy even in lower temperatures.

It has space frame baffles for better weight distribution, quiet sleep, and stability, and has an R-Value of 3.5 rated to 10-20 degrees Fahrenheit. The non-insulated options are rated for temperatures 35-45 degrees Fahrenheit.

It is made of sturdy 20D PU polyester with soft and quiet fabric.

It has a high capacity Vortex pump sack for easy and fast inflation.

The air pad comes with a lifetime warranty by Nemo and is a very quiet, comfortable, and thick pad that comes in so many sizes and options that there is one for any backpacker out there looking for a good night’s sleep.

Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Xlite Ultralight Backpacking Air Mattress

Type: Air pad

Weight: 8-oz.

Thickness: 2.5 inches

R-Value: 4.2

Top advantage: With its lightweight, comfort and superb insulation, it is one of the top-rated backpacking sleeping pads for 3-season hiking and backpacking, it comes in different sizes and options and packs into the size of a regular 32-oz water bottle

Top disadvantage: It is more expensive than some of the other sleeping pads on the market, and could be a tad too small for larger users

The Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Xlite Ultralight Air Mattress is among the best ones you can find if you enjoy hiking, trekking or mountaineering from the spring to late fall.

It has a 4.2 R-Value, which will ensure that you are warm and cozy in all three seasons, except in extreme cold winter conditions.

The air mattress for backpackers comes in small (20 x 47 inches), large (25 x 77 inches), regular (20 x 72 inches), and regular wide (25 x 72 inches) size options. You can also buy it with either a standard or with a winglock valve for 3x faster inflation and deflation. When folded, it packs into its stuff sack and assumes the size of a water bottle.

Thanks to its triangular core matrix, which consists of full thermal foam inserted in ridges made of air and foam, you will be safely and comfortably tucked away from the cold ground. The downside is that the insulation may make a crinkling sound, which can be annoying to light sleepers. The 30D fabric is puncture resistant and sturdy.

As a whole, the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Xlite is among the best 3-season backpacking sleeping bags you can buy in 2021.  It comes in different size options and is comfortable for people with average body sizes. Also, it is lightweight and folds down to a very compact size, which is essential for minimalist 3-season backpackers.

Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm Ultralight Backpacking Air Mattress 

Type: 4-season air pad

Weight: 20-oz

Thickness: 2.5 inches

R-Value: 7.2

Top advantage: An ultralight 4-season camping air mattress that is perfect for cold sleepers and all-year-round backpacking trips

Top disadvantage: It is on the high end when it comes to price

The Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm Ultralight air pad is one of the lightest and most compact of all 4-season backpacking sleeping pads on the market.

It comes in large (25 x 77 inches) and regular (20 x 72 inches) sizes.

The inflatable insulated sleeping pad has a reflective ThermaCapture technology that will capture and trap the radiant heat from your body to keep you warm even in sub-freezing temperatures. It has a baffled Triangular Core Matrix construction with two layers, which helps preserve the heat and provides added comfort and support.

The NeoAir XTherm Ultralight air mattress has a non-slip textured cover so that your bag stays in place during the night.

It is only 2.5 inches thick and can be inflated in just two minutes.

When packed, this insulated and light pad folds down to the size of a water bottle, with a weight of 20 ounces. It comes with a stuff carry sack and a repair kit.

It is quite expensive, but it is durable, reliable, and comfortable, and is backed with a limited lifetime warranty.

Overall, the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm Ultralight backpacking air pad is one of the best options if you are planning on going on backpacking and outdoor adventures during all seasons. It will keep you warm, stable, and comfortable, and at the same time, is ultra-light and packs down to the size of a standard water bottle. It is a perfect option for cold sleepers and for those of you who spend time outdoors in extreme conditions.

Klymit Static V2 Sleeping Pad, Ultralight Sleeping Pad

Type: Air pad

Weight: 16.33 ounces

Thickness: 2.5 inches

R-Value: 1.3

Top advantage: It is one of the best budget-friendly options if you want a comfortable, light and reliable air pad for lightweight backpacking trips

Top disadvantage: A low R-Value which makes it suitable on for use in warm spring, summer and fall days and nights

The Klymit Static V2 is an air pad for backpackers, which is offered at a very reasonable price, and yet will provide you the comfort you need to sleep on the ground like many of the much more expensive sleeping pads would.

For a price of under $65, you will receive a lightweight, comfortable, and compact when folded down air pad for camping. It is, in fact, wider than most of the higher-end inflatable ones, making it more comfortable, especially for larger people of up to 225 lbs.

Its unfolded and inflated size is 72 x 23 x 2.5 inches, and when folded, it is 3 x 8 inches in its included stuff sack. The inexpensive inflatable pad weighs a mere 16.6 ounces.

It has a low R-Value of 1.3, which shouldn’t be a problem unless you like camping in cold and in sub-zero temperatures.

It has a V-chamber design, which adds to the support and comfort while limiting heat loss and air movement while you sleep.

In conclusion, we must say that the Klymit Static V2 is an excellent choice for people who want a comfortable sleeping pad for 3-season outdoor adventures because it is cheaper than the high-end air mattresses, and yet is wide and comfortable, and it folds up to a very compact size. So, if you are looking for the best budget-friendly air pads for the outdoors, this is the best one you will find in 2021.

Exped SynMat HL Sleeping Pad

Type: Air pad

Weight: 12.9 ounces

Thickness: 2.8 inches

R-Value: 3.3

Top advantage: It is another extremely lightweight inflatable pad with a vertical baffle design, and is easy to inflate and deflate, with an included pump sack.

Top disadvantage: It is more expensive than some of the other air pads in the range.

The Exped SynMat HL Sleeping pad is an ultra-light, compact, and comfortable 3-season air pad for backpackers. It has a tapered design that allows the pad to maintain a lighter weight. The tapering at the foot end may be a bit narrow for sleepers who roll around at night, though. On the other hand, thanks to this feature, it can fit comfortably, even in small tents.

It comes in several sizes: small, medium, medium-wide, and large-wide. The large-wide option is 77.6 x 25.6 inches in size, with a tapered down width of 15.7 inches at the feet.

The air pad is covered with 20D fabric and has microfiber insulation, which is light and yet warm, suitable for use in 3 seasons.

The sleeping pad is covered with a comfortable anti-slip GripSkin coating with a honeycomb pattern, which keeps it airtight and prevents hydrolysis.

It is 2.8 inches thick for cloud-like cushioning.

It also has a nifty Schnozzle pump sack, which allows for easy and rapid inflation while preventing the humidity from your breath from affecting the excellent insulation.

The pump bag attaches very easily to the flat valve and also doubles as a compression stuff bag for the pad. It does add a couple of ounces to the weight of the pad but is very suitable for backpackers who are prone to lightheadedness or like to camp at higher altitudes.

All said, this air pad by Exped is an excellent option if you want a comfortable, and yet light and compact inflatable pad that you can use for 3-season hiking and camping trips. It is quite expensive, but it is sturdily built and provides extra comfort and insulation despite its light size and small size when folded up.

Sea to Summit Ultralight Insulated Sleeping Pad

Type: Air pad

Weight: 15.9 ounces

Thickness: 2 inches

R-Value: 3.5

Top advantage: It is comfortable, durable, and ultra-light for backpacking, and offers 3.5 R-Value insulation suitable for 3-season use.

Top disadvantage: This is a model for women and children, so it may be too short and too small for some men to use

This lightweight and comfortable inflatable sleeping pad for 3-season use is among the best you can find in 2021. This specific model is for ladies only, so the sizes are a tad smaller for taller and bigger men.

You can get it in a small size of 66 x 21.5 inches, a women’s large 72 x 25 inches, and a women’s regular at 66 x 21.5 inches. The sizes for men are 72 x 21.5 inches for regular, and 78 x 25 inches for large.

All of the mattresses have a comfortable thickness of 2 inches when inflated.

The regular air pad for ladies folds down to a size of only 3.75 x 9 inches and weighs 15.9 ounces only.

The pad is made of sturdy 30D and 40D nylon and features a layer of air-sprung cells that offer both insulation and cushioning. The pad has a liquid extruded lamination, which makes it even more durable and reliable, and at the same time makes it very quiet and comfortable to sleep on even by light sleepers.

It is easy to inflate and deflate thanks to its multifunctional valve and the airstream pump included, which doubles as a stuff sack.

It has a 3.5 R-Value and is an excellent option for 3-season trips.

As a whole, the Sea to Summit Ultralight Insulated sleeping pad is a superb choice for backpackers and adventurers who like to pack lightly but without compromising with their sleeping comfort. It is a durable and comfortable, insulated air pad suitable for 3-season use, and is available in a variety of size options, although this specific model is for women only.

Big Agnes Q Core SLX Ultralight Sleeping Pad

Type: Air pad

Weight: 21 ounces

Thickness: 4.25 inches outer loft and 3.5-inch inner loft thickness

R-Value: 3.2

Top advantage: It is a thick and cushioned sleeping pad with side rails, suitable for tosser-turners, side sleepers, back sleepers, and people looking for the ultimate comfort no matter where they are. It comes in a wide variety of sizes.

Top disadvantage: It is heavier than some of the other air pads.

The Big Agnes Q Core SLX Ultralight Sleeping Pad is a cushy, lightweight, and rectangular inflatable pad that is 3.5 inches thick and provides ultimate comfort even for side sleepers and for tossers and turners. Thanks to its 4.25-inch side air chambers, you will remain in the center of the sleeping pad no matter what.

It comes with an inflation sack for easy setup and deflating. Plus, its interior is treated with an antimicrobial coating to prevent the buildup of harmful microorganisms.

The thick and comfy pad has an R-Value of 3.2 thanks to its superb insulation, making it an excellent option for 3-season trips and adventures.

The pad comes in a long (20 x 28 inches), petite (20 x 66 inches), regular (20 x 72 inches), wide long (25 x 78) inches, and wide regular (25 x 72 inches) size options. It is also available in sizes suitable for two people, and are up to 50 inches wide and 78 inches long.

When folded, the regular size is only 4 x 8 inches and weighs 21-oz.

In conclusion, we must say that the Big Agnes Q Core SLX Ultralight Sleeping Pad is the best sleeping pad for camping for people who want to feel comfortable even when sleeping outdoors. At the same time, this thick inflatable pad with convenient side air chambers is also very light and folds down to a size that is comparable to that of a water bottle.

It is suitable for 3-season use and is the best option you will find if you prefer sleeping on your side, or if you tend to turn and toss a lot when sleeping.

Therm-a-Rest Z Lite Sol Ultralight Foam Mattress

Type: Closed-cell foam pad

Weight: 14 ounces

R-Value: 2.0

Top advantage: It folds up in a rectangular box form, which is compact and easier than rolling it, and can be packed in different configurations.

Top disadvantage: It can compress and lose its insulation abilities over the years.

The Therm-a-Rest Z Lite SOL is a classic, budget-friendly option that has been among the top-rated and preferred foam pads by backpackers for years.

It has a nifty foldable design which makes it easy to fold and unfold.

It is also made of compact and lightweight foam, which provides comfort, and is not prone to losing air or getting punctured as air pads do.

Thanks to its ThermaCapture coating, and its nifty heat-trapping dimples, this foam pad will trap the radiant heat and thus keep you warm all night long.

It has an R-Value of 2.0 and has a dense bottom and a softer top side for added insulation and comfort. You can use it in warmer weather as a sleeping mat, and as a second mat when the temperatures fall.

The molded foam mattress by Therm-a-Rest comes in regular (20 x 72 inches) and small (20 x 51 inches) sizes and the regular one will fold down to a rectangle sized 20 x 5 x 5.5 inches, and weighing just 14 ounces.

It is one of the best budget-friendly foam pads you will find on the market and is still one of the bestselling ones in 2021.

Nemo Switchback Foam Sleeping Pad

Type: closed-cell foam pad

Weight: 14.5 ounces

Thickness: 0.9 inches

R-Value: 2

Top advantage: One of the most durable backpacking sleep pads which will not get punctured or leak, no inflation required, it can be used as a seat, and it is offered at a low price.

Top disadvantage: It is not as comfy as air pads, and is suitable for summer use only.

The Nemo Switchback Foam Pad is one the best closed-cell foam pads for sleeping, perfect for minimalist summer backpackers.

It costs under $40 and yet is among the most durable of all sleeping pads for backpackers, which we have tested.

Because it is not inflatable, there is no risk of puncturing it, but this means that it is not as comfortable as the air pads.

It has a minimalist thickness of just 0.9 inches and yet will provide you with the support and weight balance you need to get restful sleep outdoors.

It has an R-Value of 2 and features a metalized film layer, which helps reflect the heat from your body back to you, instead of letting it get absorbed by the ground underneath. It is rated for use in temperatures as low as 20-30 degrees Fahrenheit, and thanks to its taller nodes, it will provide further insulation.

The Switchback comes in a regular size of 72 x 20 inches, which packs down to 20 x 5 x 5.5 inches, and a short size which is 51 x 20 inches, and packs down to 120 x 5 x 4 inches, and weighs 10.5 ounces.

The closed-cell foam pad by Nemo is inexpensive and is backed by a lifetime warranty for defects.

As a whole, the Nemo Switchback is an ultra-light minimalist backpacker’s dream and the best sleeping pads with closed-cell foam. So, if you prefer to pack light and go on hiking, backpacking or other outdoor trips in the summer season, then this is one of the best options for you, especially if you have a limited budget. It can also double as an extra cushioning, protection, and insulation for your winter sleeping pad.

Last update on 2021-03-01 at 17:25 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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