The Best Sleeping Pad For Women Review

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The NeoAir XLite is a great choice for long and strenuous backpacking trips like the Sierra High Route. Jessica Haist blows up hers in the Bear Lakes Basin.
Credit: Jen Reynolds
What is the best women's sleeping pad on the market? We spent a spring and summer season testing out these top rated women's specific pads in a variety of conditions from the snowy slopes of Denali National Park to the prickly desert landscapes of the Grand Canyon. We did a lot of sleeping, reading, and generally lounging on these pads in order to properly try them out, and we solicited several different ladies' opinions. We discovered which pad is the most comfortable, which is the most compact, and which is the most durable - and there were some surprises. To find out more about what we thought about these air and foam dream vehicles, read on.

Why choose a women's specific pad? Check out our Buying Advice article to find out why women's models are a great option for men and women, and how to choose the one that is right for your needs. For more information on men's and unisex pads check out our Best Sleeping Pad Review. If you're looking for a cushy mattress for car camping, go have a look at our Best Car Camping Mattress review.

Read the full review below >

Review by: ⋅ Review Editor, OutdoorGearLab

Top Ranked Women's Sleeping Pads Displaying 1 - 5 of 5 << Previous | View All | Next >>
Our Ranking #1 #2 #3 #4 #5
Product Name
Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite - Women's
Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite - Women's
Read the Review
REI AirRail 1.5 Self-Inflating - Women's
REI AirRail 1.5 Self-Inflating - Women's
Read the Review
Therm-a-Rest ProLite Plus - Women's
Therm-a-Rest ProLite Plus - Women's
Read the Review
Therm-a-Rest ProLite - Women's
Therm-a-Rest ProLite - Women's
Read the Review
Therm-a-Rest Trail Lite - Women's
Therm-a-Rest Trail Lite - Women's
Read the Review
Editors' Awards  Editors' Choice Award  Top Pick Award      Best Buy Award 
Street Price Varies $126 - $128
Compare at 5 sellers
$90
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Varies $88 - $110
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Varies $80 - $100
Compare at 7 sellers
Varies $56 - $70
Compare at 4 sellers
Overall Score 
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Editors' Rating
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User Rating Be the first to rate itBe the first to rate itBe the first to rate itBe the first to rate itBe the first to rate it
Pros Very light, super compact, comfortable, versatile, warmer than normal XLiteComfortable, good valve system, warmComfortable, warm, non-slip surface.Lightweight, compact, versatile, non-slip surface, self-inflatingInexpensive, comfortable, durable, nice color
Cons Edges collapse when weighted, noisy, expensive, delicate materialsHeavy, bulky, blue color shows dirt, hard to packHeavier and bulkier than Therm-a-Rest ProLiteLow R-value, not as comfortable as other thicker pads, bulkier and heavier than NeoAir X-liteBulky and heavy
Best Uses All ultralight activities,General camping, short backpacking trips, car camping, river tripsWinter camping, car camping, or this pad can be a luxurious alternative to the ProLite if you don’t mind carrying another half pound.Light and fast activities such as international travel, alpine climbing, and backpacking.General camping, short backpacking trips, car camping, river trips
Date Reviewed Oct 20, 2014Oct 27, 2014Oct 26, 2014Oct 27, 2014Oct 22, 2014
Weighted Scores Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite - Women's REI AirRail 1.5 Self-Inflating - Women's Therm-a-Rest ProLite Plus - Women's Therm-a-Rest ProLite - Women's Therm-a-Rest Trail Lite - Women's
Warmth - 20%
10
0
7
10
0
7
10
0
8
10
0
4
10
0
8
Comfort - 20%
10
0
8
10
0
10
10
0
8
10
0
7
10
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8
Durability - 20%
10
0
5
10
0
9
10
0
8
10
0
8
10
0
9
Weight - 20%
10
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10
10
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6
10
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7
10
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8
10
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5
Packed Size - 20%
10
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10
10
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6
10
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6
10
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8
10
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5
Score - %
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10
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10
10
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10
10
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10
10
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10
Product Specs Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite - Women's REI AirRail 1.5 Self-Inflating - Women's Therm-a-Rest ProLite Plus - Women's Therm-a-Rest ProLite - Women's Therm-a-Rest Trail Lite - Women's
Type Air/ baffles Air/foam Air/ foam Air/ foam Air/foam
R Value 3.9 4.2 4.6 2.8 4.9
Packed Size (lxwxh) 9x4 10x5.5 10x5.75 10x4.25 10.5x6
Weight (oz.) 12 25 21 16 27
Length (in) 66 66 66 66 66
Width (in) 20 23 20 20 20
Thickness (in.) 2.5 1.5 1.5 1 1.5
Bottom Material 30d High Tenacity Nylon 75d Polyester 70d Nylon Soft Grip 70d Nylon 75d Polyester

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review


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What's the Difference Between a Men's and Women's Pad?
Women have a different anatomy than men (surprise!) and very often have different sleeping requirements than their male counterparts. It has been scientifically proven that typically, women sleep colder than men. Manufacturers of women's pads have realized this, and have created models that are generally warmer with more insulation added in areas that count, like the torso and foot areas. Women are typically shorter and have narrower shoulders than men, and so pads designed for them have been trimmed down to their size – thus reducing the potential bulk and weight from a larger men's specific mattress.

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Veronica Palmer blowing up the Therm-A-Rest ProLite Women's sleeping pad at Thousand Island Lake, CA with the Z Packs Hexamid Duplex in the foreground.
Credit: McKenzie Long

Not Just for Women Anymore
Men are starting to clue into the fact that women's sleeping pads provide a better bang for the buck in terms of weight-to-warmth ratios. All of the women's pads we tested have higher R values than the equivalent men's versions. They are usually the same weight as the men's version, but come in a smaller, more compact packed size. We have spoken to some men who prefer to buy the women's version – especially if they're under 5'6 – because of the higher weight-to-warmth ratio. Some tall men are buying women's pads too, and just putting their backpacks or other gear under their feet for insulation. This is an awesome example of products that have been designed specifically with women in mind, and in turn have become better products.

Construction Types
The women's pads we tested are available in two types of construction. Most of the pads we tested were a self-inflating foam and air construction, where open cell foam is glued to the top and bottom of the pad's interior. These pads are comfortable and hold their shape well, but are not the most compact.

The one exception is the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite - Women's that uses a structurally insulated air core construction, which is a lot less bulky than foam. It is designed with internal baffles that provide structure and warmth, and then compresses very small.

To learn more about other types of construction used in unisex versions, check out our Best Sleeping Pad Review.

Criteria for Evaluation
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Snow camping in Alaska with the NeoAir XLite Women's, which has a higher R value than the men's XLite.
Credit: McKenzie Long

Warmth
The women's pads we tested have R Values ranging from 2.8 (Therm-a-Rest Prolite - Women's) to 4.9 (Therm-a-Rest Trail Lite - Women's) and are designed for use primarily in three season conditions – but some can be used for winter temperatures as well. R value ratings are based on how well a material insulates. R values were originally used by the construction industry to rate home insulation. In the realm of sleeping pads, the R value scale measures how well a pad insulates the sleeper from the cold ground temperature and conserves the convective heat from the sleeper's body warmth. A pad's thickness and the amount of air circulation within affects its R value. Generally, the thicker the pad, the warmer, and the less air circulation the better.

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Sleeping Pads from thickest to thinnest. From bottom to top: Therm-A-Rest's NeoAir XLite Women's, REI AirRail 1.5 Women's, Therm-A-Rest TrailLite Women's &amp; ProLite Plus, Kelty Backpacker (discontinued) and Therm-A-Rest ProLite Women's. Generally the thicker the pad, the warmer.
Credit: Jessica Haist

Comfort
We evaluated the comfort of these pads on how well we slept on various ground surfaces, including rock solid granite slabs and lumpy sand. In our testers' opinions, the most comfortable pads we tested were the REI AirRail 1.5 Self-Inflating - Women's and the Therm-A-Rest Trail Lite. Not surprisingly, these were two of the thickest mattresses we tested, making them cushy to lay on, especially for side sleepers. We also liked the generous shapes of these mattresses, which were both slightly wider than the others we tested. We especially loved the REI AirRail's "air rails", tubes on each side that made the mattress wider and gave it a cradling effect for back-sleepers. We think the Therm-A-Rest NeoAir XLite is also quite comfortable with its 2.5 inch thickness, but it takes a bit of getting used to because it is bouncier and crinklier than the other pads in this review.

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Our side sleeping testers find the REI AirRail comfortable because you can feel the rails so you know where the pad ends, but we do not believe they would stop someone from rolling off the pad.
Credit: Ben Traxler

Durability
All of the pads we tested in this review are inflatable, and therefore inherently less durable than closed-cell foam pads that are reviewed in the unisex pad review. We evaluated durability mostly on the toughness of the materials of these pads, which ranged from 30-75 Denier strength fabrics. The Trail Lite Women's features the strongest materials and the NeoAir XLite Women's has the most fragile. That being said, we think the NeoAir XLite is surprisingly durable, and some of our testers have owned this model for many years without incident. Luckily all of the pads we tested are relatively quick and easy to patch.

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Therm-A-Rest's ProLite Plus has a durable 70 denier fabric and a more rubbery underside that helps it stay in one place, but does tend to pick up more dirt.
Credit: Ian McEleney

Another durability factor our testers noticed was the color of the top materials. The lighter colored mattresses like the REI AirRail and the ProLite Women's showed dirt much easier than darker colored mattresses like the ProLite Plus. For the NeoAir this is a non-issue because of its rubbery, cleanable surface. One tester hiked the entire Pacific Crest Trail with the women's ProLite, and the bright orange turned an ugly brown by the end. It is also interesting to note that during her 2000+ mile hike she never once had to patch her Prolite pad.

Weight
For all backpackers, the weight of their gear should be carefully considered. As part of your sleeping system, your pad should be considered part of the big 3 items (shelter, backpack, and sleeping system) that affects pack weight. Choosing these three items carefully can greatly reduce your pack weight, and therefore boost your hiking enjoyment. Foam weighs more than air, so all the self-inflating foam mattresses can not compete with air core constructed mattresses. Knowing that, the lightest women's pad that we tested by far was the Therm-A-Rest NeoAir XLite Women's, weighing in at a slim 12 oz. The heaviest was the Trail Lite at 27 oz, almost a full pound heavier than the NeoAir.

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All of the women's pads we tested came with their own stuff sacks. From L to R: Neo Air, Prolite Plus, REI Air Rail, Prolite, Trail Lite, and a discontinued model from Kelty.
Credit: Jessica Haist

Packed Size
This is another important factor to consider when trying to slim down your pack size. Again, foam insulated mattresses cannot compete with air core construction. The NeoAir XLite Women's has the smallest packed size at 9x4 inches, followed by the Therm-A-Rest ProLite - Women's at 10x4.25 inches. The bulky Trail Lite has the largest packed size at 10.5x6 inches. Many people have difficulty rolling their inflatable pads up to the original size it came in, and are not able to fit it back into its stuff sack. For more information on how to do this properly, check out our Buying Advice article.

Inflation Method & Accessories
Although many of our reviewed sleeping pads claim to be "self-inflating" some people are disappointed by the amount the pads inflate on their own. Just so we're all on the same page, even the manufacturers don't claim that their pads are able to completely inflate on their own. Instead, they claim they will inflate most of the way, and if people prefer a firmer mattress they can blow a few more breaths in before closing the valve.

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The Trail Lite is self-inflating, but sometimes we were impatient and blew it up ourselves because we wanted to lie down on it!
Credit: Ian McEleney

For those of us who have chosen to go with a non-self-inflating mattress, like a NeoAir, we may get a bit light headed before our mattresses are full. There are several accessories to aid us with filling our mattresses like the NeoAir Torrent Pump, an electrical pump that will annoy your neighbors while you fill up your mattress; and the NeoAir Pump Sack that allows you to fill up your mattress manually without fainting, and also acts as a stuff sack.

Editors' Choice Award Winner: Therm-A-Rest NeoAir XLite Women's
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McKenzie took the NeoAir XLite with her on a climbing trip to the Alaska Range. Here she tests its warmth at basecamp with Mt. Frances and Denali looming in the background. Pair this pad with a foam pad and it works great for cold weather, high altitude, and/or snow camping.
Credit: Luke Lydiard
The Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite - Women's lives up to its name by being the lightest and smallest sleeping pad we tested. This mattress is so versatile, that it was our lead tester's first choice for all of her adventures. Its compact size and featherlight weight make it a great choice for extended backpacking trips or fast-and-light excursions. You won't have to compromise on comfort with the NeoAir XLite, it is the thickest pad in this review at 2.5 inches and has a warm R value of 3.9 for extended 3 season use. To reduce bulk and achieve the NeoAir XLite's small size and weight, Therm-A-Rest uses patented construction techniques to trap your radiant heat and deflect cold air from the ground without using bulky insulating foam. The XLite is less durable than other models we tested, but when treated right, our testers have gotten years of use out of this excellent pad.

Top Pick Award for Comfort: REI AirRail Women's 1.5
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Our tester Nickki Naylor called the REI AirRail her "princes bed" because it was so comfortable and she was excited to get to bed every night she was camping!
Credit: Jessica Haist

Sleeping on the REI AirRail 1.5 Self-Inflating - Women's is like sleeping on a cloud. One of our testers went as far as to call this pad her "princess bed". Our testers loved this pad because of its cushioning rails that provide a cradling effect. We were surprised at first, because we thought the rails were a bit of a gimmick; but after sleeping on the AirRail we discovered that they are quite comforting. The AirRail is slightly wider than the rest of the pads we tested (23" versus 20") which is great for back sleeping because your arms can stay on the mattress instead of falling off the sides. Side sleepers were also happy with the air rails because they could feel when they were near the edge of the pad. We doubt this pad would stop anyone from rolling off his or her mattress, but it sure is comfortable. The AirRail is also very warm with an R value of 4.2.

Best Buy Award: Therm-A-Rest Trail Lite Women's
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The Trail Lite is the warmest pad we reviewed and our testers think it is one of the most comfortable because of the extra padding in the torso area.
Credit: Ian McEleney

At $69.95, the Therm-a-Rest Trail Lite - Women's is the least expensive pad we have tested, and definitely offers the greatest bang for your buck. The Trail Lite is durable, warm, and comfortable. If you are looking for a good all-around sleeping pad that you can take with you on any trip from car camping, short backpacking trips, winter camping all the way to expedition style camping, the Trail Lite is a great choice. It is a bit on the bulky and heavy side for a backpacking pad, so you may want to go with something like the NeoAir XLite if you are going on extended trips where you have to carry your pad. When compared to the Therm-A-Rest ProLite Plus - Women's, the Trail Lite is a very close competitor that costs less; the Trail Lite has a warm R value of 4.9 where the ProLite Plus is 4.6. The Trail Lite weighs 6 oz more than the ProLite Plus, but we found the Trail Lite more comfortable to sleep on because it has a slightly wider cut at the feet. We think the Trail Lite Women's provides an outstanding value for a excellent all-around pad.

Jessica Haist
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