The definitive guide to sleeping pads 12

When you go camping and want to sleep outdoors, a good sleeping pad is a paramount. It will assure you get a good night’s sleep and it is essential, especially if you find yourself in the cold.

I’ve tested a of the most appreciated mats and pads and I decided to create a definitive guide to sleeping mats, the go to resource if you’re ever in doubt about what is best for the habitat you’re going to face.

 Here is my clip describing what you’ll learn here:

Let’s make things really simple right from the start, if you are here you are looking one of two things: an inflatable sleeping pad or a foam sleeping mat. I personally like to go with both if the situation allows it and if it doesn’t add that much weight to my pack.

So, here’s what we’re going to do – below, I’ll provide tables (3 products in each) featuring my:

  1. TOP picks in self-inflatable sleeping pads
  2. TOP picks in inflatable sleeping pads (same as above only your mouth will have to be your pump)
  3. TOP picks of foam sleeping mats
  4. LIGHTEST pads and mats from the bunch (since I’ve been receiving a lot of questions about this)


Top 3 Self-Inflating Pads:

PictureModelOverall Quality RatingSee Amazon Offer
Thermarest ProLite sleeping padThermarest ProLite47 / 50ratings
Big Agnes Q-Core SL Insulated sleeping padBig Agnes Q-Core SL Insulated48 / 50ratings
Thermarest ProLite Plus - best sleeping padsThermarest ProLite Plus48 / 50ratings


Top 3 Inflating Pads (non self-inflating):

PictureModelOverall Quality Rating
See Amazon Offer
ALPS Mountaineering Comfort Series Air PadALPS Mountaineering Comfort Series Air Pad49 / 50ratings
Exped DownMat [USA]Exped SynMat UL 7 Pump Sleeping Mat47 / 50ratings
Klymit Inertia X Frame Military Recon Sleeping PadKlymit Inertia X Frame Military Recon Sleeping Pad48 / 50ratings

Top 3 Foam Sleeping Pads/Mats:

PictureModelOverall Quality Rating
See Amazon Offer
Thermarest Z-Lite SOL imageThermarest Z-Lite SOL47 / 50ratings
TETON Sports Camp Cot Pad imageTETON Sports Camp Cot Pad47 / 50ratings
Thermarest Ridge Rest SOLite imageThermarest Ridge Rest SOLite 49 / 50ratings

Lightest of the bunch:

PictureWeightTypeSee Amazon Offer
Thermarest ProLite sleeping pad
Therm-a-Rest Prolite
310 gself-inflatingratings
Klymit Inertia X-Lite image
Klymit Inertia X-Lite
172 gnon self-inflatingratings

Honorable mentions:

So many good sleeping pads out there that I couldn’t resist but to include a special table of honorable mentions – I’ll even write short blurb reviews for these babies further down the page:

PictureModelWeightOverall Quality RatingSee Amazon Offer
Klymit Insulated Static V Inflatable Sleeping Pad710g4.9 / 5ratings
Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Trekker MattressTherm-a-Rest NeoAir Trekker Mattress740g4.8 / 5ratings
Thermarest Camper Deluxe 5.0 Self Inflating Sleeping PadThermarest Camper Deluxe 5.0 Self Inflating Sleeping Pad1587g4.8 / 5ratings
Nemo Cosmo Air with Pillowtop Sleeping PadNemo Cosmo Air with Pillowtop Sleeping Pad907g4.9 / 5ratings
Big Agnes Air Core Sleeping PadBig Agnes Air Core Sleeping Pad600g4.9 / 5ratings


I kind of turned things upside down here – I presume that most of you guys who stumble upon this page know their basics. But, let us take a step back here and talk about those basics a little, just to cover our fellow newbie hiker’s needs.

Here is what you will learn here :

  • what are sleeping pads and foam mats(some people call them bedrolls or yoga mats)
  • how they work and what advantages do they offer
  • what are the most appreciated brands
  • what are the different types and what has each type specifically
  • what is the R value and temperature rating
  • what should you go for – manually inflated or self inflated
  • we mentioned the top inflating pads based on user rating and general consensus between the outdoors and camping experts – but I’ll do mini reviews of the honorable mentions, just so that you know how I go about rating a pad
  • what’s the best choice for women
  • what’s the best choice for man

How do Sleeping Pads Work?

sleeping pad worksSleeping pads help provide cushion support and insulate you from the ground surface when you go camping. They are designed to provide comfortable support for your back and protects you from rocks or sharp objects on the ground. In addition, they offer a good insulation layer from the cold ground surface. This allows you to sleep well when you are outdoors on a cold winter’s night.

Advantages of Sleeping pads

Compared to air mattresses, sleeping pads are preferable for those who want a firmer surface to lie on. They are more durable in nature and they can usually be rolled up to save space.

Advantages of Air Mattresses

Insta-Bed Raised Air Mattress With Never Flat PumpThey need to be inflated with a hand-powered or electric pump. Some are designed to be self inflating, which is handy but can cost you more than an air mattress that you would manually inflate. You can also inflate the mattress to the degree of firmness that suits you. Although air mattresses are more at risk of punctures, though they can be easily fixed with a puncture kit when you are outdoors. Depending on the model, air mattresses can be cheaper than sleeping pads.

Sleeping pads brands

When it comes to searching for some excellent sleeping pads brands there are plenty of amazing options that can be explored. For example the pads for sleeping with self-Inflating technology from ALPS Mountaineering are one of the best, You can also opt in for Big Agnes air core sleeping pads.

There’s a ton of choices out there such as Coleman, another company that makes great self-inflating or rest easy camping pads.

Intex has also come up with a few  interesting new arrivals in the arena of pads for outdoor sleeping, but they are still primarily focused on air mattress options.

In case you are looking for some static or insulated pads then consider getting one offered by Klymit – one of my personal favorites coming to the market with only cutting edge products.

Those who are looking for super light weight pads will probably love the stuff coming from Therm-A-Rest one example being Therm-A-Rest Nemo.

All of these are considered best brands for pads and air mattresses and I can say I tried and tested my fair share of them. I’ll offer more information in the rest of the guide.

A lot of info to digest, I know, just take your time and if in doubt, you can hardly go wrong with the pads we talked about at the beginning of the guide.

Types of Sleeping Pads

Closed cell foam pads are firm sleeping pads and are designed to be lightweight. They can either be folded or rolled after use to save space. They feature air pockets concealed within the foam substance, which acts as a good insulator as well as giving a cushioning effect. This is probably the most similar technology to that of a proper air mattress but it’s also least portable of all the pad options and takes up the most space.

Self Inflating foam pads are more compressible than foam pads and they can be easily packed into a smaller space – some of them to a size of a water bottle. As the name suggests, they can be self inflated between each use (featuring an air valve). Even if it is punctured, the foam substance still offers the user some protection from the ground. This is probably the most popular option amongst campers and hikers, simply because they are relatively cheap and lightweight.

Standard air core pads are inflatable sleeping pads with a good durable cover to protect and insulate the user. They have to be inflated and deflated for each use using a standalone pump (sometimes even just your mouth). They can easily be deflated and folded into a small size after use, meaning that they are probably the most portable option.

Synthetic insulated air core pads offer more insulation with specially manufactured synthetic material. This is usually indicated by a higher thermal resistance (or R value) compared to standard air cord pads. A high R value means that the pad is more effective in its insulation properties.

Down filled air core pads are filled with goose down, which similarly adds insulation value to the pad and protects the user from the cold surface.

Structurally insulated air core pads have vertical baffles on the surface to provide thermal insulation and are also effective.

All of the pads and airbed listed are PVC-made, if you want to explore more options. you can go through our guide on PVC (vinyl) vs. rubber (rubberized cotton) air mattresses and pads.

Important points to consider when buying sleeping pads

Sleeping Pad R value or Sleeping Pad Temperature rating– The higher is the R value of a sleeping pad the more you are protected for cold. You benefit of higher insulation from cold surfaces which means you are not going to face cold if you use them directly on the ground. Always check the R value before buying sleeping pads. There are many manufactures who mentions the R Value on the sleeping pad, though a part of them prefer to refer to it as a temperature rating.

What’s Better  – Manually Inflating or Self-Inflating?

Self inflating sleeping pads are more hassle free to use compared to manually inflating pads. They can be inflated using an air valve and do not require any manual effort or additional pumps. However, they do cost more than manually inflating pads for this additional function. Also if the self inflating function fails then you have to resort back to using a pump to inflate. They may also not inflate to the degree of firmness you desire.

The Honorable Mentions Sleeping  Inflating Pads Reviewed

Klymit Insulated Static V Inflatable Sleeping PadThe Klymit Insulated Static V Inflatable Sleeping Pad is a lightweight sleeping pad that’s self-inflatable and easy to carry around. Its special features include a V chamber design on the surface, which supposedly increases insulation and reduces heat loss. It also contains synthetic microfiber material (Primaloft) to increase its insulation properties. However, it is prone to ruptures and it’s adviseable to keep the repair kit at hand. Its long length is suitable especially for tall people and it is a popular choice.

Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Trekker MattressThe Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Trekker Mattress is another air mattress that offers a good lightweight alternative. Its features include a patented Triangular Core Matrix, which are multiple internal air cells providing good insulation, without the need for synthetic material. Like other air mattresses, it is also prone to ruptures on sharp surfaces. However, because it’s mainly composed of air, it is probably more lightweight than other options in it’s price range. It is particularly suitable for those backpackers who want to save the most space and pack the least amount of weight.

Thermarest Camper Deluxe 5.0 Self Inflating Sleeping PadThe Thermarest Camper Deluxe 5.0 Sleeping Pad can be self inflated and provides good around-the-season cover. It is extremely comfortable but the main selling point is its durability. The only downside is that it sometimes does not inflate fully and needs further manual inflation. It also weighs more compared to other options. However, it is good for those who just wants a good night’s sleep when outdoors.


Nemo Cosmo Air with Pillowtop Sleeping PadThe Nemo Cosmo Air with Pillowtop Sleeping Pad is an excellent air inflated sleeping pad. It is manually inflated and comes with its own foot pump. It also has a pillow top cover allowing extra comfort for your sleep. The cover is durable and suitable for most outdoor surfaces. It is ideal for travelers and backpackers, but can be used indoors as well. With that said, it ‘s probably one of the more expensive options available.


Big Agnes Air Core Sleeping PadThe Big Agnes Air Core Sleeping Pad is another inflatable air core sleeping pad with vertical beam pattern that helps provide insulation. It boasts a tough nylon surface providing good durability, and the I seam design which minimizes cold air conduction. It is a cheap option but you have to inflate the sleeping pad by blowing, which can take quite a bit of effort and time. It is still a comfortable option and popular because of its price.

A Few More Inflatable and Foam Pads Reviewed

Therm-A-Rest BasecampTherm-A-Rest Basecamp – has a foam core that can be compressed quite easy. This an all-season pad that offers comfort throughout the year. It’s high quality materials will keep it as good as new for years of use in any habitat. Give it a try, you will not regret it.




Therm-a-Rest Trail Scout MattressTherm-a-Rest Trail Scout Mattress – If you were to see this thing in person you might think it’s just a foam pad, but you’d be wrong, this baby packs some serious heath. The best part about Therm-a-Rest Trail Scout Mattress  is that it is very light weight. It comes in four different sizes: light-weight, medium, regular and large. This is actually ideal for newbies, or the occasional backpacking camper. I highly recommend it for summer camps and car camping. You can not go wrong with Therm-a-Rest as they are one of the top pads and mats manufacturers. They are appreciated throughout the campers community.


Therm-A-Rest Trail LiteTherm-A-Rest Trail Lite –  can be carried away in a backpack quite easily. It comes with a stiff sack and is perfect for overnights and car camping. It is easily to repack into a small sack, it actually takes very little space as compared to other sleeping pads that are available in this price range. This is recommended for campers of any level and is a very versatile mat. This will keep you warm and will be a good companion when the weather gets rough. I had one of these for about 5 years now and it never let me down.


Thermarest inflatable mat Trail Pro 5.0Therm-A-Rest inflatable mat Trail Pro 5.0- Green Moss – has a thickness of 50mm which makes it ideal for camping in mountains. It is also covered with an unique fleece that’s been double stitched for extra protection. This foam based pad is also quite durable and highly reliable. It’s made of punched foam and finished with 100 % polyester. It weighs only 910 g.



Thermarest NeoAir Dream MattressTherm-A-Rest NeoAir Dream Mattress – has a special micro fleece shell and can easily be packed into amazingly little space. When you buy it the company also provides a pump sack and and repair kit. This baby is a little bit pricey but it is well worth the money. Two things that I like about it are the Contour-hugging and that it has an open-cell foam topper. The micro fleece shell is also machine-washable.


The Best Sleeping Pad for Women

Thermarest NeoAir Xlite Sleeping PadWomen campers I know go for Thermarest NeoAir Xlite Sleeping Pad or products similar to it. It’s extremely light weight, durable and completely reliable. It has a unique reflective layer that helps in recycling the body heat, result –  the body warmth is conserved. This makes all the difference when you have to “survive” in cold weather conditions. You can easily buy this pad from any nice online shopping portal, you can also contact the nearest camping material shop that carries pads. Read more about this pad here on

This pad also has an unique Triangular Core matrix construction which helps in achieving maximum support in addition to stability. It is available in only one color – that is yellow – and it can be easily repacked as small as a water bottle. You can easily carry it along during your camping and adventure trips. The pad sack and repair kit are provided with the complete pack.

You can easily inflate the Thermarest NeoAir Xlite Sleeping Pad as it comes with self-inflating option which means there is no requirement for any pump or electricity. You can easily fill the entire pad with a few strong breaths.

The Best Sleeping Pad for Men

Therm-a-Rest ProLite PlusWhen it comes to buying the best pad for men then Therm-a-Rest ProLite Plus is a great option. This pad has an unique diagonal-cut foam which helps in achieving maximum warmth.

If you love to go for mountaineering, winter camping or ski touring then Therm-a-Rest ProLite plus is one of the best choices. The company did their best to reduce the weight of this pad by 10 percent by converting it into a Tapered shape. Moreover in order to achieve complete insulation, a diagonal-cut foam is used.

A stuff sack is also provided when buying it. The R Value of this pad is about 3.8. Urethane Foam is used in constructing it which is considered as  one of the finest and durable types of foam. It is considered an ideal pad for mountaineering expeditions and extreme cold weather conditions.

Read more about it on Amazon >>


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James Menta

Camping Gear Reviewer at
Three things you need to know about James - he holds a degree in Materials Technology from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, he is a zealot for the great outdoors and he can never find his glasses.       In brief intermissions between looking for his glasses, he is the Editor-in-chief of

12 thoughts on “The definitive guide to sleeping pads

  1. Reply Robert Aug 4,2015 11:47 pm

    Hi James
    I only go camping In the colder months. I do not like misquitos, sweaty nights, snakes or animals raiding my site. I usually go for 1 to 2 nights out in the Charles Deam Wilderness Area in the Hoosier National Park. I had a cheap 3/4 inch pad that I thought was “amazing” the first time I used it. I had previously been sleeping on the cold ground….Wow the difference it makes when you get off the frozen ground. I have been building up my gear and I am looking at getting a new pad. I have been doing my homework and I think I have decided on the Thermarest Trail Pro Long. Weight is not really an issue. I only hike about a mile or 2 in before setting up shop. I need durrability, warmth and confort. Is that the right pad for me? Thanks

  2. Reply Matt F Mar 13,2015 3:09 pm


    I am 6’8″ 340 and will be camping with the cub/boy Scouts for the next 13-15 years if all goes well. Have you ever checked out Nemo? I am looking T COSMO™ INSULATED 30XL SLEEPING PAD and I think it’s the one for me given how large it is. Yes it’s a beast to pack in, but well worth it for a good nights sleep. Let me know what you think you clearly know a tremendous amount on this topic. Thanks!


    • Reply James Menta Apr 8,2015 1:03 pm

      Hey Matt,

      Thanks for the comments, it’s great that people find the research I share helpful.

      Nemo is a good brand and I especially love their backpacking pillows. Nemo as a brand is probably not featured as much on the website as they should be.

      This usually happens when I don’t have enough of sample data from actual consumers to rate a sleeping mat or bed and I can’t afford getting one for testing myself. I do remember that I rated their Cosmo model with a 4.9/5 in the Guide to best sleeping pads. . Just scroll down to the honorable mentions section and you’ll see it there.

      I would say that it’s very unlikely that you can go wrong with Nemo

  3. Reply JOhn C Dec 2,2014 1:52 pm

    Hey, James. I’m traveling to Europe with my wife and daughter next summer for two weeks, but we will be staying in hotels. The problem is, the European style does not often include two beds, so it is quite possible that one of the three of us will be sleeping on the floor on a regular basis. I’m a side sleeper, and of course I will be packing this sleeping pad many times over the two weeks. So, I’m looking for something that packs small and gives good cushioning. Your recommendation?

    • Reply James Menta Dec 4,2014 7:53 am

      Hi John,

      I believe that what you are looking for might be the ALPS Mountaineering – just look under the best low rise mattresses in the left sidebar on this page to read more about it.

      It’s designed to pack small for camping but has the best cushioning in the category so you can use it wonderfully inside.

      I hope this helps

  4. Reply Keith Jun 27,2014 8:55 am

    Hi, I was also looking at a comfortable & warm but lightweight/small packing size but full length self inflating mattress but have read some are ‘Noisy’ and as I tend to turn around a lot in bed I don’t want to keep myself or my wife awake all night.

    What are your recommendations please?

    • Reply James Menta Jun 28,2014 1:57 pm

      Hi Keith,

      After seeing your comment and after a few similar emails in the past few months, I decided to do a review that’s aimed at just what you’re looking for – silence and comfort. I made a couple of Skype calls yesterday to my fellow hikers who are still hitting it hard and it seems that we have a clear winner in this category, a combo actually (a pad and a pillow) – read about it here:

      Quietest sleeping pad and pillow combo review


  5. Reply John Jun 18,2014 4:03 am

    Hi James, great article! Had some questions you can hopefully answer. I usually camp with a double high air mattress.. quite comfortable, but still very heavy and bulky and a pain to have to add air every night.. (cold ground and weight of 2 people not a great mix I suppose). Im worried about comfort more than anything, camp only in summer, and need something durable, im a big guy 6ft4 320lbs. I am looking for a pad that would fit my needs as well as my wife’s needs. I wake up when she gets up in the middle of the night, or even just moves on the air mattress, along with sometimes falling off or tipping off the end. I have been debating sleeping pads, but wonder if they will provide the necessary comfort. I dont mind firm, but i do not want to wake up feeling as if I have slept on the floor. Do you have any reasonably priced recommendations, or even some good basic requirements I should be looking out for with respect to shopping around for a mat? (ie. specific thickness of mattress etc. I was looking at self inflating models but open to anything. Car camping only in summer only so warmth not necessarily an issue. Thanks in advance!

    • Reply James Menta Jun 20,2014 12:32 pm

      Hey John,

      Thanks for saying that.

      About your question – from what you told me, I take it that you are not a camping pad kind of a guy, and in my age and with the beer-belly lifestyle i completely get where you’re coming from 🙂

      First, if you went for a double high in the past just because of the fear that you might end up on the ground and you are willing to give up the height I think that this Lightspeed Deluxe would be a bulls eye. It’s one of the strongest camping air bed out there, but still comfortable. the pump is battery operated so it’s just plug and play. Maybe two simple foam mats underneath (those thin cheap ones) and you’re set.

      If you simply like the extra height, I would go with this Insta Raised Queen .It’s not as puncture resistant as the first one (then again, few are) it’s bulkier, but probably somewhat more comfortable. Again, it’s easy to set up.

      Hope this helped a little


  6. Reply Janet Jun 15,2014 7:45 pm

    Hi James,
    We are currently travelling Europe on a motorbike and are having trouble with mattresses/airbeds. We are sleeping on them every night so need something durable and comfortable.
    What would you recommend? We’re thinking of the Exped Synmat 7. Size and weight is of utmost importance as we are struggling to keep to a minimum.
    Any thoughts would be appreciated.

    • Reply James Menta Jun 15,2014 10:58 pm

      Hi Janet,

      I envy you guys right now :)I am in my beer-belly years and can only day-dream about what you guys are doing. Kudos for living the dream.

      About your question – you said that size is of the utmost importance and I think that I have just the thing for you. This baby packs to a size of water bottle:

      You said that you are thinking of Synmat 7, so I am assuming that you are sleeping separately. If changing that is and sleeping together is an option for you, I would go with Lightspeed Deluxe. It’s one of the best and most durable outdoor mattresses I’ve ever come across. And it’s still light and packs small.

      Here’s the link to it:

      The Synmat is comfortable but made from materials that are prone to punctures. Just take a look at the two suggestions I’ve made and you can see the difference in the material quality even in the pictures.

      If you don’t like any of the two, you will definitely find your bed in this complete guide I made about sleeping pads.
      These are the best of the best. Just chose one of those and you’re golden.

      Live it up for me too
      My best,

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