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Best Backpacking Sleeping Pads: The Guide You've been Waiting for

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How many times have you ever had a good night’s sleep when on a backpacking trip?

Most of the people on these trips often tend to complain about aching backs due to a rock or a small lump of dirt or even a small stick that somehow managed to poke into the sleeping pad. After a long and tiring day of hiking, all a person wants to do is gulp down liters of water, feast on some roasted or mashed potatoes and then hit the hay. But, more often than not, you will feel tired even on the next day, if you weren’t able to sleep properly the earlier night.

This is why the importance of choosing the best backpacking sleeping pads cannot be denied.

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Sleeping Pads: Choosing the Best is Important

Sleeping Pads
Sleeping Pads

The quality of sleeping pad that you choose for your backpacking trip can either bring total success or complete failure. Some of the best backpacking sleeping pads are super soft, ultra light and insulated too. These advanced sleeping pads are continually being improved, their weight and size are being reduced, while their ability to provide warmth is being increased. They are surprisingly lightweight which means that you can literally carry them everywhere. Depending upon your need, you can choose the foam sleep mats or some of the best camping mattresses.

In this write-up, we have listed some of the best backpacking sleeping pads for camping from which you can choose one.

But before you know what the best backpacking sleeping pads are, you must know why they are the best.

Sleeping Pad Buying Advice

Before you head put to make a purchase, you can also refer to the backpacking sleeping pads reviews on the web, written by backpackers who have used such pads, and read their experiences so as to get the best one for your next exciting backpacking trips. Or, you might consider referring to one of the many sleeping pad comparison tables available online to get a better idea of different sleeping pads, their prices, weight, thickness, and R-value.

Here’s a list of things that need to be considered when you are purchasing a sleeping pad for your backpacking trip.

 1. Sleeping Pad Types: Air, Self-Inflating, and Foam

You need to know this before anything else. There are basically three Sleeping Pad Types: Air, Self-Inflating, and Foam.

Sleeping Pad Types
Sleeping Pad Types
  •     Air Pad

The air pads are the lightest option out of all the three and can fold into quite a compact size, which makes them a folding sleeping pad. However, they still offer adequate thickness. The baffling design and bonded insulation can keep the user really warm. However, there is a slight risk of puncture associated with it but that too can be dealt with a patch kit that usually comes along with it.

  •   Self-Inflating Pads

The self-inflating pads are quite a popular option among backpackers and another form of folding sleeping pads. It is a great combination of cell foam and space wherein air can be filled in for the pad. This makes it a rather durable, comfortable and a convenient option. They are more or less resistant to punctures and you are still ought to feel comfortable even if the air is a bit less in the pad. However, the only disadvantage is the fact that they do not really pack down to a small size as others.

  •  Foam Pads

The foam pads are the least comfortable option out of the three but they are dependable. They don’t pack really small as the other two but have the least chances of tearing or deflating. You might consider bringing them during those winter backpacking trips if you want.

2. Sleeping Pad’s Weight

Sleeping Pad's Weight
Sleeping Pad’s Weight

As is quite obvious, you wouldn’t want to carry a sleeping pad that is as heavy as your whole backpack itself. Weight is therefore very important to consider when you are purchasing a sleeping pad. Some of the best backpacking sleeping pads are somewhere between twelve to an eighteen-ounce range that not only offer a great level of warmth and comfort but are made up of superior materials as well.

Basically, The less it weighs, the easier it would be to carry it.

However, with more and more lightweight options, the prices would tend to go up. If you go on backpacking trips quite often, you must invest in one that would last you for a really long time.

3. Durability

Sleeping Pad's Durability
Durability (source)

When you are purchasing backpacking sleeping pads, remember one thing that durability does matter. The thickness of a fabric is usually measured in denier. If you see that a fabric has lower denier, it means that it is less durable and wouldn’t really last you much longer.

Most outdoor gear providers often claim that their product is lightweight by simply reducing the denier which isn’t good. However, some of the best backpacking sleeping pads use of thicker denier fabric at the base of the sleeping pad in order to offer extra protection while the fabric at the top remains thinner.

This means that you get maximum protection while the sleeping pad remains lightweight.

When you are choosing a sleeping pad, make sure that you choose one that has average denier. This would ensure that your sleeping pad does last for a good amount of time.

4. Thickness and Comfort

best backpacking sleeping pads
Thickness and Comfort

Most of the backpackers tend to choose backpacking pads over mattresses or sleeping pads simply because they are thinner and durable as well. Thickness and comfort are definitely a factor to consider when it comes to choosing backpacking sleeping pads. Some of the sleeping pads are as thick as 4 inches and can ensure that no stick or stone manages to find their way to poke you in the back at night. Some of the best backpacking sleeping pads distribute the weight of the individual evenly so that the person can be comfortable.

5. Sizing and Pad Length

sleeping pads for camping
Sizing and Pad Length

The sizing and pad length also needs to be considered as they would determine the comfort factor. Most of the backpacking sleeping pads in today’s times come in approximately two to three sizes which you can choose from according to your weight and height. Most often the regular one is around 72 inches while the larger one is somewhere around 77 inches. There are a few brands that have torso pads which are even smaller than the regular sleeping pads. Some other brands also offer women’s version of sleeping pads with the only difference being that they would be slightly smaller than the unisex one. Insulation at times is also more than the unisex one which is why shorter adults prefer this one.

Other than that, you also have to see as to how compact the backpacking sleeping pad is. The lighter a sleeping pad is, the more convenient it becomes to carry it around. The air pads are mostly more compact than the others. In fact, some of them are so compact that they can literally be packed down to the size of a water bottle. While purchasing, make sure that you choose one that would fit inside your backpacking trip bag easily.

6. Inflation and Deflation: Valve Types

Sleeping Pad Buying Advice
Inflation and Deflation (source)

The valves are present in both self-inflating pads as well as air pads. The traditional sleeping pads open and close by simply twisting and pushing a plastic valve. These valves work pretty well but, remain completely open when you are inflating the pad, therefore allowing some of the air to escape.

With the advancement in technology, flat valves have been invented. The backpacking sleeping pads that utilize these flat valves have different openings one for inflation while the other one is meant for deflation. These also come with a flap which prevents the air from escaping when you are filling it up. These kinds of valves are rather efficient and reliable which makes them a much favorable option.

Best Backpacking Sleeping Pads

Sleeping pads are rather lightweight, pack down really small and are absolutely comfortable. When purchasing, you would definitely need to consider a lot of factors. With so many choices present in the market of today’s times, it can obviously become rather overwhelming to choose the right one according to your requirements. Which is why we have compiled a list of ten of the best backpacking sleeping pads that the market has to offer, along with their specifications.

1. Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite

Sleeping Pad Types
Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite

The Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite is considered as one of the best lightweight sleeping pad amongst all. The brand itself is associated with producing quality backpacks. This sleeping pad is the perfect amalgamation of superior comfort, weight, and warmth. It has solid insulating properties with the R-value being 3.2. This ultralight sleeping pad works really well in all seasons and therefore has been a favorite of many backpackers since long. It packs down really small which makes it very easy to carry around.

This sleeping pad does come with a repair kit. it is a bit rounded in shape and is about 2.5 inches thick. This one is a bit on the expensive side, but considering all of its features; it is definitely worth the investment especially if you go on backpacking trips often.

2. Sea to Summit Comfort Plus Insulated

Thickness and Comfort
Sea to Summit Comfort Plus Insulated

Just as the name suggests, the comfort level with this sleeping pad is beyond imagination. Considered as one of the best backpacking sleeping pads, it has an insulated dual chamber design and has the capability to inflate the top and bottom section independently. The Air Sprung Cells construction has been done in such a way that it can accept pressure point while still being able to support everything present around it. It actually distributes weight evenly without any kind of bounciness.

Also, even when the top is a bit deflated, you wouldn’t really have many issues as is quite common with the other sleeping pads. It has an R-value of 5 which means that it can keep you really warm even in rather cold conditions. However, this model isn’t as lightweight as the other but if you don’t mind carrying a little extra weight; this might just be the perfect one for you. Several variations of this model are available and you can choose the one according to your need.

3. Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Xtherm

ultralight sleeping pad
Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Xtherm

This is one another inflatable sleeping pads from the same brand and don’t be surprised if you see more of the same. This also is a multi-season sleeping pad. Backpackers choose this one mostly because of its wonderful insulation, impressive durability and for being relatively light-weight. This is considered as one of the best backpacking sleeping pads because of being almost puncture proof and for the fact that it can pack down really small. The internal design is baffling which is quite synonymous with the whole NeoAir line.

However, this sleeping pad has an additional feature of ThermaCapture technology. This lining doubles up as an emergency blanket that reflects back the user’s body heat. This is what gives this sleeping pad an impressive insulation. The pad is again a bit on the expensive side but is actually really comfortable and would ensure that you have a good night’s sleep. It is definitely worth all the money that you spend on it.

4. Nemo Tensor Insulated

best backpacking sleeping pads
Nemo Tensor Insulated

The thickness of Nemo Tensor is 3 inches and has been designed for absolute comfort. This is an insulated sleeping pad and weighs about 15 ounces. This is rather helpful for people who prefer sleeping on their side. The inside of the sleeping pad has Primaloft insulation along with a thermal reflective barrier. The great thing about this model is the fact that it is quieter than the rest of them and also has reflective internal barriers. However, this one does take up a lot more of time and effort to blow up.

The Nemo claims to work efficiently in about 15 degrees Fahrenheit while no R-value is present. It is lightweight and comparatively cheaper but the durability isn’t that great so if you’re someone who is extra careful with their backpacking gear, this might be the one for you.

5. Big Agnes Q-Core Deluxe Pad

Sleeping Pad Buying Advice
Big Agnes Q-Core Deluxe Pad

This sleeping pad is a super comfortable and lightweight sleeping pad and has large tubes on its sides which keep the individual centered. The pad is also surprisingly thick and claims to work down to about 15 degrees Fahrenheit. This pad does have the ability to challenge some of the best backpacking sleeping pads.

This has about 5 different variations which you can choose from. The top of the pad has a rather comfortable stretchy fabric which might feel like a quilt. It also has a built-in heat reflective layer and is quieter than most of the other models. The antimicrobial treatment and Primaloft Silver Insulation present inside are also worth mentioning.

6. Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Venture

Sizing and Pad Length
Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Venture

This sleeping pad isn’t just comfortable and durable but is rather inexpensive as well. This one is in fact even more cozy and comfortable than the XLite and XTherm because of its surface material and rectangular shape. It has a relatively smooth surface with the baffles quite small and close together. Being made up of durable and heavier fabric, it means that it is less likely to tear. You can take it along with you on trips when you feel that carrying a bit of extra weight isn’t much of a concern.

If you are someone who loves their sleep dearly even on backpacking trips, this is the perfect one for you. This sleeping pad would neither break your back or your bank and would definitely last you for years.

7. Klymit Insulated Static V Lite

Klymit Insulated Static V Lite

The Insulated Static V Lite is considered as one of the best backpacking sleeping pads from this brand. This model is more like the conventional ones and yet is comfortable. This sleeping pad has raised baffles on the side and its width is 23 inches. The combination of both these things means that you get a stable platform along with enough room for sleeping.

The sleeping pad, however, isn’t as lightweight as the other models while the denier isn’t also as amazing as expected. But, it does pack down really small. Also, the wide shape and the price that it comes at, make it worth purchasing.

8. REI AirRail 1.5

Inflation and Deflation: Valve Types
REI AirRail 1.5

The REI AirRail 1.5 is a self-inflating pad which keeps the weight down. There are two outer tubes on both the sides which remain a bit higher than that of the middle portion. This means that there are fewer chances that you would wander off the sleeping pad at night. It has a wider shape and measures about 23 inches. The R-value is 4.2 which means that you can use it in every season.

The sleeping pad isn’t completely self-inflating as you would need to inflate it a bit by yourself so as to completely inflate the outer tubes. The thickness however isn’t as impressive as the other models and can be a bit of a problem for the people who prefer to sleep on their sides. But, you pack it down into a really compact size. It isn’t as lightweight as you would expect it to be but that does mean that it would last you for quite a good amount of time. Considering the price that it is available at, you might as well purchase it.

9. Exped DownMat HL Winter

Sleeping Pad Buying Advice
Exped DownMat HL Winter (source)

 This one has been created for those backpackers who go backpacking even during winters. The R-value is 7.0 which is actually the highest when compared to all the other models. Most of the backpackers who have used this have said that this sleeping pad does manage to keep them warm even in the chilliest of weather conditions, conditions where the temperature was as low as 0 degrees Fahrenheit. But how is it so warm? It is because the brand uses 700-fill quality goose on the inside of the sleeping pad.

This is great when you plan to go backpacking in really cold areas but other than that you can easily replace it with some other sleeping pad. Its weight is surprisingly lighter considering how warm it is. It also does pack down really small which makes it very easy to carry. Of course, it is much more on the expensive side but is absolutely worth the money that you spend on it.

10. REI Flash Insulated

best backpacking sleeping pads
REI Flash Insulated

The REI Flash Insulated is absolutely lightweight and weighs only about 15 ounces. It has an R-value of 3.7 and has a superb inflation and deflation system. The pad has dedicated valves for deflating as well as inflating which means that no amount of air would be able to escape when you blow in it. You would only need to blow about 7 to 8 times to completely inflate it. However, it is only about 2 inches thick which means that the side sleepers wouldn’t find it much comfortable. You won’t get a repair kit with it and would need to purchase it separately.

This sleeping pad is available at a decent price and is great for people who like to travel light.

Sleeping Pad Care

foam sleep mat
Sleeping Pad Care

Obviously, no one travels all the time.

Therefore, you need to make sure that you have stored your backpacking sleeping pads really nicely especially if you want them to last you long. When not travelling, leave the sleeping pad unrolled with the valves open. This would help the foam to remain in a good shape. This is especially true for the self-inflating pads. If you roll them up and then store it, it would begin to lose its self-inflating nature.

You could think about storing it under the bed or maybe up in your attic. Storing the air pads is comparatively simpler. All you would need to do is deflate it entirely and then keep it in the bag that it came in so as to safeguard it from any punctures. While for the closed-cell foam pad ensure that there are no heavy objects kept over it. This would ensure that there isn’t any kind of pressure on it.

The best backpacking sleeping pads would have all of the features that you would ever need. You consider purchasing any of the ones as has been listed above. However, do ensure that you follow all our tips that would help you to get the best one. You could also refer to the ratings of the users so as to get a better idea of what you are purchasing.

So now you know which sleeping pads to buy, go on and follow your wanderlust to the ends of the world!

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