The Best Sleeping Pad Review

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After three months of testing these sleeping pads in all conceivable conditions (including lazy river floating!), we're ready to give you the low down on which ones are the best!
Credit: Phil Gibson
If you've ever spent a restless night on the cold hard ground, you know just how big of a difference a good sleeping pad makes. We are here to help! In this review update, we've tested 10 of the best pads on the market. Over the course of the summer, we put these pads through rigorous tests and collected valuable feedback about each pad's comfort from over 50 reviewers From the wild Rockies of Colorado and New Mexico to the Nepali coast of Hawaii, we took our time to find out the strengths and weaknesses of each product so you won't have to. We learned which mats to take on long expeditions and backcountry adventures and which are better used near the car or pack raft. This year, there was a lot of competition in the world of sleeping pads and we're here to name the best.

Before you go anywhere, consider first if you'd be better off with a women's specific pad. Women's pads are usually the same weight as unisex versions but are warmer and a little smaller. If you want a mat that's comfortable for camping next to your car or raft, read through our Best Car Camping Mattress review for some really great affordable and comfortable options. Finally, round out your camping comfort with a camping pillow!

Read the full review below >

Review by: ⋅ Review Editor, OutdoorGearLab

Top Ranked Men's Sleeping Pads

Displaying 1 - 5 of 20 << Previous | View All | Next >>
Our Ranking #8 #9 #14 #12 #13
Product Name
Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Venture
Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Venture
Read the Review
REI AirRail 1.5
REI AirRail 1.5
Read the Review
Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Camper
Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Camper
Read the Review
Video video review
Therm-a-Rest EvoLite
Therm-a-Rest EvoLite
Read the Review
Nemo Astro Insulated
Nemo Astro Insulated
Read the Review
Editors' Awards  Best Buy Award         
Street Price $45
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$109
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Varies $75 - $150
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Varies $90 - $140
Compare at 6 sellers
Varies $82 - $130
Compare at 4 sellers
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100% recommend it (2/2)
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Pros Inexpensive, super comfortable, brushed fabric feels nice, durableWide, comfortable, self-inflating does most of the work for you, side rails keep you in, smooth sleep surfaceRectangular shape has more area than mummy shaped pads, durable, inexpensive, more comfortable than Exped's vertical baffles & Nemo's horizontal baffles & Big Agnes' grooves/dimples.Self-inflating, comfortable, feels more stable than most air construction padsThick, durable, horizontal baffles are comfortable, integrated pillow was nice for some people
Cons Not lightweight, more bulky than ultralight pads, not warmHeavy, bulky, not as thick as air construction padsHeavy for backpacking.Bulky when packed, not particularly lightweight, not warmHeavy, bulky, edges collapse, feels bouncy
Best Uses Casual backpacking, summer base camping, budget backpackingCasual backpacking, beginner backpackers, car camping, base camping, back sleepersRemote basecamps, luxurious backpacking, car camping.Summer backpackingBase camping, car camping, short backpacking trips
Date Reviewed Aug 13, 2015Aug 13, 2015Mar 23, 2015Aug 13, 2015Aug 13, 2015
Weighted Scores Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Venture REI AirRail 1.5 Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Camper Therm-a-Rest EvoLite Nemo Astro Insulated
Comfort - 25%  
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Weight - 25%
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Warmth - 20%
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Packed Size - 20%
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Durability - 10%
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Product Specs Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Venture REI AirRail 1.5 Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Camper Therm-a-Rest EvoLite Nemo Astro Insulated
Type Air Construction/baffeled insulation Self-inflating/Foam Insulation Air Construction Self-inflating/Air Construction/Foam Insulation Air Construction/Synthetic Insulation
R Value 1.8 4.2 2.2 2.1 2-4
Weight (oz.) 21 26 24 17 24
Packed Volume (liter) 2 3.2 3.2 2.3 2.2
Length (in) 72 72 72 71 72
Width (in) 20 23 20 20 21
Thickness (in.) 2.25 1.5 3 2 3
Breaths to Inflate 32-37 5-7 8-11 38-42


OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review



Selecting the Right Product


As camping and backpacking continue to grow in popularity, more and more people are realizing that a good sleeping pad is key to sleeping well in the backcountry. Gear manufacturers design pads for nearly every niche and price point. Understanding the differences between these products will help you pick the best mat for your needs.

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A stacked view (top to bottom) of the ProLite, XLite, EvoLite, AirRail, UltraLight, XTherm, Astro Insulated, and Comfort Light Insulated.
Credit: Jeremy Bauman

Types of Sleeping Pads


In this review, we classify our mats based on three basic construction types: closed cell foam (often referred to as CCF), self-inflating, and air construction.

Closed Cell Foam


These are the simplest pads made. They are little more than a piece of foam between you and the cold ground. Most are less than half an inch thick and aren't comfortable. They rely on tiny air pockets within the foam to protect you from the ground's heat-zapping convective powers.

Pros: Durable, inexpensive, lightweight
Cons: Bulky, uncomfortable, often difficult to brush off snow and dirt

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The Z-lite Sol is a great foam pad. Because it doesn't inflate, you don't have to worry about using it directly on the ground.
Credit: Jeremy Bauman

Self-inflating


These products use an open celled foam (like a sponge) sandwiched between two pieces of fabric. When the valve is open, the foam expands and inflates the pad. The foam also traps air and retains heat.

Pros: Supportive, easy to inflate, decently comfortable, less bulky than foam
Cons: Less durable than foam, less comfortable than air construction, can be fairly bulky

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The AirRail is the bulkiest inflatable pad we reviewed. You could fit several other mats into the same space of this one. It is also the heaviest pad at 26 oz.
Credit: Jeremy Bauman

Air construction


These are the latest craze in the evolution of sleeping pads. They are similar in construction to inflatable pool toys except that they are much warmer, lighter, and more durable. The downside to air construction pads is that they take a long time to inflate compared to self-inflating pads. Once inflated, they provide about 2 inches of cushion between you and the ground. This type of pad relies on either synthetic, down, or baffled structures to provide insulation. Generally, air construction pads are the lightest weight and most compact pads available. We think that air construction pads are the best choice for most outdoor sleepers.

Pros: Often super comfortable, thickness makes lumpy ground less of an issue, can pack down crazy small
Cons: Not as durable as foam, take longer to inflate, sometimes feel bouncy

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The horizontal baffles on the Astro are a little deeper than the NeoAir series pads. However, the Astro was still flat enough to be comfortable. The biggest issue with this pad is that it feels unstable when slightly deflated and the edges collapse when weighted.
Credit: Jeremy Bauman

For a detailed discussion about the differences between different types of mats and how they keep us comfortable, see our article on How to Choose the Best Sleeping Pad.

Criteria for Evaluation


We evaluated each pad based on the following criteria:

Comfort


Here we evaluated how well each pad transformed rocks and roots into plush heavenly clouds. Although comfort is subjective and one can quickly become inured to pains of the thin, ultralight pad we've found the following to be true: thicker pads cushion the hips and knees better than thinner pads; flat surfaces are more comfortable for your head than bumpy surfaces; grippier fabrics keep you attached to the pad for longer; and more surface area means more comfort. The most comfortable pad will depend upon your preferences. Side sleepers almost always prefer thick air construction pads while back sleepers sometimes preferred self-inflating pads. Our comfort scores are based on the feedback of over 50 reviewers who each used one or more of these sleeping pads. Many were first time campers on guided trips (they typically gave a lower comfort score) and many were seasoned backpackers and guides (they typically ranked pads higher). As always, keep in mind that our scores are relative. A score of nine out of ten means that the pad was among the most comfortable of its competitors, not that it's going to compare to your Tempur Pedic at home.

Hands down, the most comfortable pad we snoozed on was the Best Buy award winning Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Venture which received a comfort score of 9/10. Our reviewers loved the rectangular shape of the Venture and loved the feel of the material on the outside. The Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite, NeoAir XTherm, Nemo Astro Insulated, and Therm-a-Rest EvoLite all received a score of 7/10. It's worth noting that each of these pads has a relatively smooth surface. Several outliers thought that the REI AirRail 1.5 was the most comfortable, but most of our testers preferred the other pads listed above because of their thickness. The Therm-a-Rest Z Lite SOL is a closed cell foam pad and was not surprisingly the least comfortable pad we reviewed earning a score of 1/10. Foam pads just don't convert grass lumps into clouds as well as inflatable pads.

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We used this pad side by side with the others in this review. Our testers consistently raved about the Venture's high level of comfort.
Credit: Jeremy Bauman

Weight


The human powered nature of outdoor sports keeps weight at the forefront of gear purchasing decisions. As with any sport, the lightest gear is usually the most expensive. If you're planning on tackling a first ascent in the Himalayas or if you just want every performance edge money can buy, you'll do well considering weight a key metric. If the nature of your objectives tend to be more casual, weight probably isn't as important of a metric as it's marketed to be. To clarify, we're not saying weight isn't important, we're just saying that other variables might be worth sacrificing a few ounces here and there. In our tests, we have found that many people would rather carry a few extra ounces if it means a comfortable and/or warm night's sleep.

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We used the UltraLight as much as possible during our two months of testing. It is lightweight, packs small, and is pretty comfortable. We just wish it was a little warmer.
Credit: Jeremy Bauman

Typically, the three heaviest necessities in backpacking are your shelter, sleep system, and backpack. The more miles or elevation you travel in day determines the importance of added weight. Generally speaking, foam pads are lightweight, but aren't comfortable. Meanwhile, self-inflating pads tend to be much heavier than their air core counterparts. In our tests, we found air construction pads provide the highest weight-to-performance ratio of any pad type. Most pads we reviewed weigh between 12 and 26 ounces. If you're only hiking a couple miles to setup camp, or are going to basecamp for a week in the same location, that 14 ounce difference will go unnoticed compared with gains other metrics like comfort and warmth. Contrastly, if you're trekking the Appalachian Trail, the extra effort of carrying 14 ounces is significant. The more strenuous your journey, the more important weight becomes.

The weight of the pads we tested ranged from 9.1 ounces (Klymit Intertia X Frame) to 29.6 ounces (Nemo Cosmo Air). Remember to check the warmth score of a lightweight pad before purchasing it to make sure that it will meet your needs in that category. Finally, many pads are available in multiple sizes and some of our testers minimize weight by taking short torso-length pads and using a backpack, boots, or other gear under their legs. Our favorite pad for ultralight backpacking is the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite. Twelve ounces give you an R-value of 3.2, a packed size roughly equal to a liter water bottle, and a lot of comfort to boot.

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Comparing the size of the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite Regular (left) and XLite Women's (right). Both of these products are remarkably light, with the women's version beating out the regular by a few ounces. The XLite Regular won a Top Pick for Ultralight use in this review and the women's version won an Editors' Choice in our women's specific review.
Credit: Max Neale

Warmth


A pad's ability to insulate you from the cold below is a crucial concern, especially in winter when the temperature difference between your body and the ground can exceed 60 degrees. That's a very high temperature gradient going on in what is often less than an inch! Thermal conductivity in sleeping pads is a very complicated issue with a multitude of variables, but let's discuss the basics. First, cold is nothing more than the absence of heat and heat is just movement of energy from warmer objects to colder ones. Second, we lose heat via three mechanisms: conduction, convection, and radiation. If you sleep on the ground without a sleeping mat, the ground can conduct heat away from you up to 160 times faster than the air around you. The products in this review are designed to lift you off of the ground thus preventing very much heat to be lost through conduction.

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While the EvoLite elevated us above the snow, it wasn't very warm, leaving our tester to shiver all night long in this snow shelter.
Credit: Ethan Printy

Within the pad itself, you will lose lots of heat through convection when air moves around inside the pad. Generally, the most important variables for a pad are its thickness (thicker is warmer), insulation , and air circulation (more circulation equates to less warmth). Sleeping pads are usually given a warmth number called an R-value that relates to a its resistance to heat loss. Although home insulation uses the same R-value system, unfortunately, there is no outdoor industry standard for measuring R-values in sleeping mats since there are many more variations in these pads compared to home insulation. Our warmth variable reflects our experience while testing the pads, which was generally on par with the differences between the R-Values. In our comparison table above and in each individual review, we report the R-value that is advertised by the manufacturer. Without diving into complicated engineering jargon, when comparing R-values, know that the measurement is fairly linear: a pad with an R-value of 5.0 is five times warmer than a pad with an R-value of 1.0. Thus, the warmest pad we tested (Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm) has a stated R-value of 5.7 and is subsequently about 5.7 times warmer than the Sea to summit UltraLight that has an R-Value of about 1.

For a more in-depth discussion about what affects a pad's warmth, please read our How to Choose the Best Sleeping Pad article.

If you're a summer hiker, warmth isn't nearly as important for you as it is for winter wanderers. Unless you are a cold sleeper, most of the pads in this review will be plenty warm if you only like recreating in temperate climates. If you camp in the heat, you don't want a warm pad! The Sea to Summit UltraLight is a great pick for this because it is has an R-value of 0.7, is lightweight, packs ridiculously small, and doesn't break the bank. If you're frequently cold when camping, upgrading the R-value of your sleeping pad is recommended but often comes at the expense of added weight and bulk. We think that our Editors' Choice NeoAir XTherm supplies an unmatched level of warmth for its weight and packed size.

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Layering the Therm-aRest NeoAir XTherm on top of the ZLite Sol will give you a cozy R-value of over 8.
Credit: Clayton Kimmi

Packed Size


Packed size can be a really important metric to consider if you're packing into a small backpack. If you are ok with strapping your mat to the outside of your pack, you won't mind bulky pads. The packed sizes of the products in this review vary quite a bit. For the most part, foam pads are the most bulky followed by the gamut of self-inflating designs. Air construction pads are the least bulky and are what you should look for if a small packed size is really important to you.

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A comparison of packed sizes of these pads. The UltraLight was by far the smallest and the AirRail was by far the biggest.
Credit: Jeremy Bauman

Depending on the model, a self-inflating pad may or may not pack down small enough to fit inside your backpack. Older designs are usually bulky and don't pack down much smaller than foam pads. Newer designs use less foam and can pack down relatively small. The updated Therm-a-Rest ProLite is a super compressible self-inflating mat. The Therm-a-Rest EvoLite fits somewhere between the typical design of self-inflating mats and air construction mats. It achieves the thickness of many air construction pads while still providing some self-inflation.

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The ProLite is the most compressible self-inflating pad we've used.
Credit: Jeremy Bauman

Air construction sleeping pads are by far the most compact and can sometimes pack down nearly as small as a soda can. These are the best pick for anyone going ultralight. The Sea to Summit UltraLight packs down incredibly small and was by far the least bulky pad we reviewed. Many air construction pads can be crammed into the same compression sack as your sleeping bag for a further reduction in packed size.

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The Sea to Summit UltraLight packs down quite a bit smaller than any other in the review. If you want the smallest pad possible and don't need extra warmth, choose this one.
Credit: Jeremy Bauman

Closed cell foam pads like the Therm-a-Rest Z Lite SOL are the bulkiest type of pad. Usually, only very short folding foam pads can fit inside your backpack. As a result of their large packed size, there are several different strategies you can use to transport your foam pad. Sometimes, you can remove the frame of climbing and mountaineering packs are use a folded piece of foam instead. Many times this is just as supportive but weighs less! Longer foam pads can sometimes be placed around the interior of a pack so that they function like a foam liner, but this only works with large backpacks and makes packing difficult.

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Most of the NeoAir pads we've tested (left to right): All Season (19 oz.), XTherm (15 oz.), XLite Regular (12 oz.), Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite Women's (11 oz.), and Z Lite SOL (14 oz.). The women's model packs the smallest of all the models shown here. The All Season and XTherm have a more durable bottom material and the All Season is square, not tapered, and thus rolls up more evenly.
Credit: Max Neale

Durability


Significant advances in textile development make lightweight inflatable pads, such as the NeoAir XTherm, fairly durable. We were very impressed by the amount of abuse our inflatable pads handled without tearing or delaminating. Over the years, we have used inflatable pads for extensive 40-day backpacking trips without any durability issues. Take care of your pad and it will take care of you. That said, we do always recommend traveling with a mini repair kit in case of punctures. If you want to add even more durability to your pad, you can use Tyvek as an inexpensive ground cloth. Few other materials add as much protection for their weight.

The least durable pad we tested was the Klymit Insulated Static V Lite. Unfortunately, this was the only pad we reviewed that came back with holes in it after a summer of use. Thankfully, inflatable pads are easily patched and most come with patch kits. The most durable pad was the Therm-a-Rest Z Lite SOL because it is made of foam and is virtually indestructible in comparison with inflatable pads. The most durable inflatable pads were the Therm-a-Rest Venture and the Nemo Astro Insulated that are both constructed with 75 denier polyester on the top and bottom.

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Here the NeoAir Venture is used along with an ultralight tarp and sleeping bag. The pad's high level of durability make it suitable for use directly on the ground in a pinch.
Credit: Jeremy Bauman

Editors' Choice Award: Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm


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The NeoAir XTherm was the highest scoring pad we reviewed. If we had to have just one pad, this would be it. It is the highest performing pad we've ever used
Credit: Jordan Roeder

The reigning Editors' Choice winner, Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm, has earned top honors in our review of the best sleeping pad for several years in a row. In this updated review, we compiled feedback from over 30 testers who used this pad and we agree that it is the highest performing all-purpose pad on the market. Other than the hefty $200 price tag, there isn't much not to love about this pad. It is super lightweight, ultra warm, packs down small, and is impressively durable. If you want one pad to rule over all four seasons in the mountains, this is definitely the pad for you. Its performance continues to be unparalleled. The XTherm transforms cold snow and ice into a soft and supple air bed fit for a queen. If you want one pad that provides maximum performance year round, the XTherm is the pad for you.

Top Pick Award for Ultralight: Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite


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The XLite's super small packed size ensures that you can always fit this pad in your pack. This is a really great pad for fast and light endeavors. Here's it's compared with a one-liter water bottle.
Credit: Jeremy Bauman

Once again, the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite wins a Top Pick award for Ultralight trips. We love it for its small size, low weight, and comfort. It works fabulously for everything from summer backpacking to fast and light winter trips when supplemented with a foam pad. If you adventure primarily in the summer, this pad will be plenty warm for you. For years, this pad has been a favorite of ours and it continues to earn a place in our packs and under our backs. The Sea to Summit UltraLight nearly won this award because it weighs about the same, is nearly as comfortable, and packs down smaller. However, the XLite ultimately took the lead because it is much warmer. Both are excellent pads and the UltraLight is $60 cheaper! If you don't need as much warmth and want an ultralight pad that will keep your wallet a little heavier, the UltraLight is tough to beat.


Best Buy Award: Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Venture


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A tester relaxes on the NeoAir Venture in between belay sessions.
Credit: Phil Gibson

The Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Venture earned our Best Buy Award for its combination of comfort, durability, and low price! It is more comfortable than the XTherm and Xlite due to its rectangular shape and more comfortable surface material. Although its durable fabrics make it heavier, this pad is less likely to experience wear and tear. Our testers reach for this pad on extended, remote basecamp trips where the benefit of the extra comfort of using it for many nights exceeds the drawback of carrying its extra weight on the walk in and out. We loved using this pad while guiding backpacking trips where a totally restful night's sleep is more important than a few extra ounces. If you're an outdoor enthusiast looking for a just one affordable pad for car camping and backpacking, then we highly recommend the Venture. Likewise, if you backpack for the sake of luxurious camping in beautiful locations, we think this pad will keep you cozy for years.

Best Buy Award: Therm-a-Rest Z Lite SOL


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Matt Wilhelm smears his way across the The High Sierra's Evolution Traverse with the Them-a-Rest Z Lite SOL in tow.
Credit: Max Neale

Closed cell foam pads offer exceptional durability and cost very little. The Therm-a-Rest Z Lite SOL blends durability with a relatively small packed size to create our favorite inexpensive pad. This is ideal both for the budget conscious and for the ultra hardcore: thru-hikers, alpine climbers, and mountaineers all depend on closed cell pads for the most ambitious objectives. Though not as durable as the Ridge Rest SOLite, this pad offers the significant advantage of being compact. As you can see in the photo above, a 1/2 length version takes up very little space on the side of a pack.

Best Pads for Specific Applications


Accessories


Another option for a small portable way to inflate your pad is to use the Therm-A-Rest AirTap Pump Kit. It allows you to turn any bag or stuff sack into a pump for your pad.

With all inflatable pads there is always a chance that the pad could get punctured or the valve could malfunction. To protect yourself in these situations we recommend the Therm-a-Rest Instant Field Repair Kit and the Therm-A-Rest Valve Repair Kit.

For added comfort we recommend checking out our camping pillow review!

Jeremy Bauman
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