The Best Sleeping Pads for Camping
Sleeping outside is an amazing experience that leaves you feeling connected to nature and the universe. Looking up at the night sky saturated with twinkling stars fills even the most cynical mind with wonder. If you don't want to wake up stiff and ache-y, however, a sleeping pad is in order. While you can certainly sleep in just a sleeping bag, the hard ground is unforgiving and can get cold. A sleeping pad provides a comfortably padded surface and helps you stay warmer. Unlike yoga mats which are too thin or a mattress which would be too cumbersome, a dedicated sleeping pad is a happy compromise that is just right.
There are several different types of sleeping pads: air, self-inflating, and closed-cell foam. Air pads need to be inflated with breath or with a pump. Self-inflating pads combine air and open-cell foam. They inflate automatically once the pad's valve is opened. Closed-cell foam pads don't need to be inflated at all. Each type of sleeping pad comes with its own pros and cons. Which type of camping you're doing (such as backpack camping versus car camping) can affect your sleeping pad decision. If you're backpack camping, you'll likely want a lighter weight sleeping pad. Season can also impact your sleeping pad decision. We prefer sleeping pads that are comfortable, easy to set up, durable, and have a good price.
Most Comfortable: Sea to Summit Comfort Plus Insulated
The Sea to Summit Comfort Plus Insulated Sleeping Pad is a comfortable sleeping mat with a dual layer design. It is available in sizes small, regular, large, regular rectangular, and large rectangular. The regular size measures 72 inches by 21.5 inches by 2.5 inches. The small is 66 inches long (same width and depth as the regular size) and the large measures 79 inches long, 25 inches wide, and 2.5 inches deep. The small weighs 25.2 ounces, the regular weighs 28 ounces, and the large weighs 35.8 ounces. It is heavier than our other choices, but also warmer with an R-value of 5 so reviewers found it kept them comfortable even in cold weather. For that reason, this sleeping pad is considered to be all-season rather than just three-season. Exkin Platinum fabric and Thermolite insulate work to prevent heat loss. Additionally, because this sleeping pad has two layers, if your mat gets punctured on one level, the other can remain inflated so it won't be the end of the world or completely ruin your camping trip. Sea to Summit's warranty policy states that it is good for the "intended life of the product under normal use."
Lightweight Choice: Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite
The Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite is a lightweight sleeping pad that is available in three sizes: small, regular, and large. The small size measures 47 inches by 20 inches, the regular measures 72 inches by 20 inches, and the large measures 77 inches by 25 inches. They are all 2.5 inches thick. They weigh 8 ounces, 12 ounces, and one pound, respectively so are very lightweight and great for backpackers. The R-value is 3.2, which seems standard for warmth in lightweight sleeping pads. This three-season pad has a tapered, mummy design which helps to reduce weight. Some reviewers in the past had noted that this sleeping pad crinkled at night, however this issue has been largely resolved and noise is barely noticeable at this point. You can inflate it either with your breath or with a pump. You can wipe the sleeping pad down with an all-purpose cleaner or even wash with a hose or in the bathtub. If you like this sleeping pad but wish it were a bit warmer, check out the NeoAir Xtherm. Therm-a-Rest offers Limited Lifetime Warranty.
Also Great: Exped SynMat HL
The Exped SynMat HL is a lightweight three-season sleeping pad. It measures 72 inches long and has a tapered design. It is available in several different sizes so you can choose one that is best for you. The Synmat HL MW measures 25.6 inches across at the shoulder versus 16.5 inches across at the feet. It is a little thicker than the Therm-a-Rest at 2.8 inches, which side sleepers particularly appreciated. The mat weighs just under a pound at 15.5 ounces so it is appropriate for backpackers. The R-value is 3.3, just a little warmer than the Therm-a-Rest. Additionally, testers loved that it comes with a Schnozzel Pumpbag which allows you to inflate the mat conveniently and easily, no need for batteries or trying to exhale into the mat yourself when you may be out of breath from a day's hike. The pump weighs 2.1 ounces. It also comes with a packsack to store everything, which weighs 0.4 ounces. Exped offers a 2-year warranty on this product.
Though the Sea to Summit Comfort Plus Insulated sleeping pad is a little more expensive and a big heavier than our other picks, you simply can't beat it for comfort. It offers a double layer of inflation and helps to keep you warm. It is durable with 40D fabric and comes with an impressive warranty that reviewers appreciate. The Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite is a good choice for backpackers given how lightweight it is. We like that it is made in the USA and has a Limited Lifetime Warranty. The Exped SynMat HL is another good choice for backpackers. It is easy to inflate with the Schnozzel Pumpbag but the fabric isn't as tough as our other picks. Next time you go camping, bring a sleeping pad with you. One night sleeping soundly and comfortably on one and you'll never want to go camping without one again.