The world's most in-depth and scientific reviews of gear

The Best Backpacking Sleeping Pads of 2020

The XTherm was one of the best sleeping pads we tested again! It is light enough to allow for the addition of the Z Lite without too much struggle. Not only does the Z Lite create a pop-free barrier between inflatables and the ground  it adds a significant insulation layer between your body and warmth sucking granite.
Monday July 20, 2020
  • Share this article:
Our Editors independently research, test, and rate the best products. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Learn more

Our backpacking experts have tested over 70 of the best backpacking sleeping pads over the last decade. This 2020 update features 12 of the market's best, pitted against each other in a side-by-side comparison to find the best products for your needs. We don't just order them at retail prices, but our experts actually test them in the field. Over at least three months, we use them while guiding, hiking, and exploring while on bikes, boats, and self-propelled missions. These pads have been tested around the USA. Whether you seek the warmest or most packable pad our there, we've got you covered.

Related: The Best Sleeping Pads For Women

Top 12 Product Ratings

Displaying 1 - 5 of 12
≪ Previous | Compare | Next ≫

Best Overall Sleeping Pad


Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Xtherm


77
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Comfort - 30% 7
  • Weight and Packed Size - 30% 8
  • Warmth - 20% 9
  • Ease of Inflation - 10% 8
  • Durability - 10% 6
Weight: 18.2 oz. | R-Value: 6.9
Packs away small
Warm
Included pump doubles as a stuff sack
Versatile
Some edge collapse
Expensive

The Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm is an absolute beast that balances remarkable warmth (6.9 R-value) with a packable and lightweight design. No other pad on the market offer this amount of warmth and comfort while maintaining versatile features. With a new and greatly improved valve system, we didn't have any hesitation giving the XTherm our Editors' Choice Award once again.

While this pad is our favorite, there are budget options that will get the job done at a fraction of its enormous price tag. If you're put off by the narrow profile of the XTherm, check out the wider Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm Max for a bit more wiggle room.

Read review: Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm

Best Value


Klymit Static V2


Best Buy Award

$64.94
at Amazon
See It

61
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Comfort - 30% 7
  • Weight and Packed Size - 30% 7
  • Warmth - 20% 2
  • Ease of Inflation - 10% 8
  • Durability - 10% 7
Weight: 17.5 oz. | R-Value: 1.3
One of the wider pads, especially at the feet
Compact and light
Great value
Low R-value and warmth score
Dated inflation valve

There are many inexpensive sleeping pads on the market. However, the Klymit Static V2 is the only one we highly recommend. It's light, comfortable, and packs down small. Surprisingly, the Static V2 is much wider than the majority of pads we tested, which makes the low weight and price that much more impressive.

The bargain-basement price does come with a big drawback. The Static V2 has one of the lowest R-values of any pad we tested, making it unsuitable for temps below freezing unless you have a burly sleeping bag. For three-season use, it's hard to ignore the price, comfort, and durability of this pad.

Read review: Klymit Static V2

Best for Ultralight


Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite


Top Pick Award

$144.95
(22% off)
at Backcountry
See It

76
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Comfort - 30% 7
  • Weight and Packed Size - 30% 9
  • Warmth - 20% 7
  • Ease of Inflation - 10% 8
  • Durability - 10% 6
Weight: 16 oz. | R-Value: 4.2
High R-value for such a light pad
Packs away small
Good balance of comfort and lightweight
Expensive

Once again, the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite takes home the Top Pick in the Ultralight category for sleeping pads. This is absolutely not the lightest pad on the market, but we feel it is critical to retain decent insulative properties to be versatile enough for the mountains. The 4.2 R-value settles the XLite firmly in the three-season category, making it comfortable even for fall days in the desert when you wake up with a bit of frost on your bivy.

The dimensions are a bit tight for larger individuals. Consider checking out the wider option if you're over 6ft tall with shoulders to match. The newest update of this pad did gain some extra warmth, a cool new valve system, and unfortunately, a few ounces. If weight is a top priority, the "Uberlight" pad is likely quite good if our experience with the XLite is any indicator.

Read review: Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite

Best for Comfort


Sea to Summit Comfort Plus Insulated


Top Pick Award

$199.95
at Backcountry
See It

70
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Comfort - 30% 9
  • Weight and Packed Size - 30% 4
  • Warmth - 20% 8
  • Ease of Inflation - 10% 7
  • Durability - 10% 8
Weight: 25.5 oz. | R-Value: 5
Super comfortable
Two air chambers for comfort adjustment
Quiet operation
Supportive
Expensive
Heavy

The Sea to Summit Comfort Plus is the only pad in our review to utilize two separate air chambers. This gave a huge boost to the pad's durability and makes it an extremely comfortable model. Its dual-density density design is firm on the ground layer and pillowy soft on top. You won't be sliding around on this pad, and its wider design makes it optimal for those with wide shoulders. Its top shelf comfort is revolutionary in the camping game.

The Air Sprung cells, coupled with variable density chambers and a high R-value, make for one heck of a sleeping pad. The only real downside of is its weight relative to our highest rated warm sleeping pads. Its not one we'd recommend for those that love to save on the ounces. If you seek lavish comfort, this is the pad to buy, but it comes at the cost of packability and weight.

Read review: Sea to Summit Comfort Plus Insulated

Best Pad on a Budget


Therm-A-Rest Z Lite Sol


Best Buy Award

$34.95
(22% off)
at Backcountry
See It

55
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Comfort - 30% 1
  • Weight and Packed Size - 30% 8
  • Warmth - 20% 4
  • Ease of Inflation - 10% 10
  • Durability - 10% 10
Weight: 14 oz. | R-Value: 2.6
Lightweight
Good warmth-to-weight ratio
Can be packed in several configurations
Inexpensive
Collects dirt in dimples
Compresses after many uses, losing insulating ability

The Therm-a-Rest Z Lite SOL has been on the market since our gear testers can remember, and for good reason. Its versatility is attractive for people from all walks of life. Its composed of a simple lightweight closed-cell foam pad. This pad offers reliability in the background that's hard to beat. While most other contenders can pop the inflatable design, you don't have to worry about thrashing this highly durable contender around on the ground. Its a favorite for those that like to use it outside of the tent as a small butt pad. In addition, the accordion design allows you to cut the pad down to any length you want, and each segment weighs almost exactly one ounce. Also, the high 2.6 R-value can be stacked with other pads, making even those with a lower R-value suitable for cold climates. Overall, the reliable and durable design at a low cost is one that's hard to beat.

Unforuntately, while it is durable and reliable and relatively lightweight, its not that packable. Unlike other pads that can be rolled up into packages just a little smaller or larger than a Nalgene bottle, this pad needs to either be stored on the outside of your pack, or it'll take up some room. Its also not as a thick or comfortable as many inflatable pad options. If you're seeking high value, great durability, and reliability on the trail, this is an excellent choice.

Read review: Therm-a-Rest Z Lite SOL


Setting up the nest for an evening hang and solid nights' sleep has become quicker and easier over the last few years. The new gen Therm-a-rest pads aren't perfect but dang they're getting close.
Setting up the nest for an evening hang and solid nights' sleep has become quicker and easier over the last few years. The new gen Therm-a-rest pads aren't perfect but dang they're getting close.

Why You Should Trust Us


This review is brought to you by the sleeping pad testing dream team - aka OutdoorGearLab Senior Review Editors Andy Wellman, Matt Bento and Brian Martin. These three come to the campsite with heavy climbing backgrounds - a pursuit where you learn to appreciate a restorative night's sleep outdoors. Andy has been testing and writing for OutdoorGearLab for over five years and climbing for over 20. He has climbed extensively around the world and has also run a publishing company that put out bouldering guides to the Southwest. He is joined by Matt and Brian, both alumni of Yosemite Search and Rescue, where versatile, reliable, and durable equipment is a necessary part of everyday life.

The quest for the best sleeping pad began by delving deep into what was available in the market, and what products among those were the high performers. We looked at over 70 models before choosing the 12 models discussed here. We then bought these pads retail and disbursed them to our trusty gear testers. These pads went on guided backpacking trips in Colorado and New Mexico, and we brought them along on trips in the Eastern Sierra and Utah. All the while, we paid attention to how well the pads performed in key areas that we identified ahead of time as most important in the function of a sleeping pad — things like weight and packed size, durability, and warmth, in addition to comfort.

Related: How We Tested Sleeping Pads

NeoAir XTherm pads. Nose Bivy  Mt. Huntington  AK.
This pad inflates easily with 12-14 big breaths.
This pad is thick and comfortable  with smooth horizontal baffles.

Analysis and Test Results


Our sleeping pad review offers recommendations for all folks out there. We take the time to sleep in each one, with a variety of different shaped people - women, men, children, and all in between. We assess key metrics like comfort, packed size, weight, warmth, ease of inflation, and durability. Using these metrics as an anchor point for assessment, we rate each product based on performance. While there are many high performers, there are also many that have specific niches that shouldn't be missed.

Frigid desert night on hardpacked ground? No problem. If you're on a supported adventure and don't have to haul the Synmat XP 9 on your back  it is amazingly comfortable.
Frigid desert night on hardpacked ground? No problem. If you're on a supported adventure and don't have to haul the Synmat XP 9 on your back, it is amazingly comfortable.

Related: Buying Advice for Sleeping Pads

Value


Value can mean many different things to different people. We aren't just looking at the price of a sleeping pad, we're looking at how well it performs across a range of metrics, and if the price is justified by this performance. The Therm-a-Rest pads we tested were incredibly expensive but are indeed quite good value as they offer durable construction and some mind-blowingly good performance. There are many high value options in this review, but we'd like to point out a few that won't break the bank, but will provide a great deal. If you want the creme de la creme, be ready to shell out a few extra clams. In general, the lower the price, the lighter and less warm the pads tend to be.


Of them all, our Best Buy winner, the Klymit Static V2 offers excellent comfort and warmth at a lower price. If you're seeking packable and light, the Sea to Summit Ultralight needs to be looked at, but its not as warm as the Klymit Static V2. Another super low-priced (and high value) option is the classic Therm-A-Rest Z Lite Sol. While it scores low in the metrics, its the most reliable pad option as there as its made of foam and won't pop in the backcountry. If car camping is your dig, be sure to look at the Nemo Astro Insulated which offers exceptional warmth, but it a bit too large and bulky for backcountry carry.

Finding a balance between price  durability  warmth  comfort  and weight can certainly be a tricky process. Our goal in this review is to take an in-depth look at the pros/cons of what is available on the market today.
Finding a balance between price, durability, warmth, comfort, and weight can certainly be a tricky process. Our goal in this review is to take an in-depth look at the pros/cons of what is available on the market today.

Comfort


Here we evaluate how well each pad transforms rocks and roots into plush clouds. Although comfort is subjective, thicker pads cushion hips and knees better than thinner pads. Flat surfaces are more comfortable for your head than bumpy surfaces. Grippier fabrics keep you from sliding off of the pad, especially when you have to set up on ground that isn't entirely flat. More surface area means more comfort. Several of our testers noted that after years of sleeping outside, their priorities are leaning more towards comfort than having the absolute lightest pad money can buy. Maybe this is due to life's natural course of trending towards feeling like the tin man needing oil, but it is undeniable. A plush air pad offers significantly better sleep than the shoulder crushing closed-cell pads we all started backpacking with in the 90s.


The most comfortable pad will depend on your preferences. Our comfort scores come from a host of reviewers who each used one or more of these contenders. Many were first-time campers on guided trips (they typically gave a lower comfort score), and many were seasoned backpackers (they ranked pads higher). Side sleepers preferred a wider pad with minimal collapse around the edges, while back sleepers could sleep better on a narrow pad. Keep in mind that our ratings are relative. A score of 9/10 means that the pad was among the most comfortable competitors, not that it's going to offer the same level of comfort as your Tempur-Pedic.

Gear testing is a hard rock life. The Static V2  though not extremely thick  did an excellent job padding our tired ol hips from the rocks.
Gear testing is a hard rock life. The Static V2, though not extremely thick, did an excellent job padding our tired ol hips from the rocks.

Hands down the most comfortable pads we snoozed on is the Sea to Summit Comfort Plus Insulated (a Top Pick for Comfort) and the Exped Synmat 9. These pads both offer an excellent footprint and a nice variability in firmness while keeping you well cushioned from a rocky surface below. The comfort plus is quite special as the dual inflation zones can be inflated to different pressures giving a nice pillow top with a firm under construction.

While the majority of our testers preferred horizontal baffles to those that run the length of a pad  everyone agreed the quilted Comfort Plus was the most comfortable.
While the majority of our testers preferred horizontal baffles to those that run the length of a pad, everyone agreed the quilted Comfort Plus was the most comfortable.

The Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite and Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm both offers excellent comfort at a fraction of the weight as the most comfortable pads. They are significantly narrower than the more comfortable and heavy offerings on the market but retain the necessary features to get a good night's sleep.

The Synmat was longer  wider  and thicker than any other pad we tested. It was also heavier than the others but there are certainly applications where this ultra-comfortable pad is useful.
The Synmat was longer, wider, and thicker than any other pad we tested. It was also heavier than the others but there are certainly applications where this ultra-comfortable pad is useful.

Weight and Packed Size


Weight is an omnipresent factor when selecting and using outdoor equipment. If all things are held constant and one item weighs less than another, you should absolutely select the lighter item. Unfortunately, there are always tradeoffs when using ultralight equipment, be it durability, warmth, or size of the pads footprint. More important than weight is making sure whatever you end up with something that satisfies your specific needs rather than just selecting whatever is lightest.


Even compared to the largest inflatable mat we tested  the Exped Synmat 9  the Z Lite is cumbersome.
Even compared to the largest inflatable mat we tested, the Exped Synmat 9, the Z Lite is cumbersome.

The weight of the pads tested range from 8.8 ounces (Therm-a-rest Uberlite) to over 35 ounces (Exped Synmat XP 9). Check the warmth score of a lightweight pad before purchasing it to make sure it will meet your needs. Many pads are available in multiple sizes, and some testers minimize weight by taking short, torso-length pads and using a backpack, boots, or other gear under their legs. The Therm-a-Rest Uberlite is an excellent choice for ultralight backpacking in the warmer months, weighing in at 8.8 ounces, but it's not warm enough for winter camping.

Our favorite pad for ultralight backpacking is the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite. 16-ounces give you an R-value of 4.2, a packed size roughly equal to a liter bottle, and a lot of comfort to boot. The Nemo Tensor Insulated boasts similar specs but edges past the XLite in comfort thanks to a rectangular design, box baffles, and less "crinkly" materials for a quieter night's sleep. The Klymit Static V2 was not the absolute lightest, but it was one of the lightest wider pads. Keep in mind that most of the pads under 17 ounces are also usually pretty narrow and achieve part of their weight savings by reducing the sleeping area. If you toss and turn a bit, a wider pad like the Static V2 may be worth the few extra ounces.

With a standard 12oz coffee mug for scale  these pads represent the spectrum of sizes. The Static V2 on the far left is a similar packed size to other light weight award winners such as the XLite and XTherm. The far right  Exped Synmat 9  was extremely comfortable for long periods and ultra warm but has a large packed size.
With a standard 12oz coffee mug for scale, these pads represent the spectrum of sizes. The Static V2 on the far left is a similar packed size to other light weight award winners such as the XLite and XTherm. The far right, Exped Synmat 9, was extremely comfortable for long periods and ultra warm but has a large packed size.

Depending on the model, a self-inflating pad may or may not pack down small enough to fit inside your backpack. Older designs are bulky and don't pack down much smaller than foam pads. Newer designs use less foam and can pack down relatively small. While we didn't have any self-inflating pads in our pad update this go-around, they are still on the market and fill a niche for those who want a super comfortable sleep without all the fiddling.

Layering the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm on top of the ZLite Sol will give you a cozy R-value of over 8.
Layering the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm on top of the ZLite Sol will give you a cozy R-value of over 8.

Warmth


A pad's ability to insulate from the cold below is an important concern, especially in winter, when the temperature difference between your body and the ground can exceed 60 degrees. That's a high-temperature gradient going on in what is often less than an inch!


Thermal conductivity in pads is a complicated issue with many variables, but let's discuss the basics. First, cold is nothing more than the absence of heat, and heat is the 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, preventing heat from being lost through conduction.

The XLite certainly isn't as warm as the Sea to Summit Comfort Plus but it is significantly lighter and can still see you through a cold night or two with your life intact.
The XLite certainly isn't as warm as the Sea to Summit Comfort Plus but it is significantly lighter and can still see you through a cold night or two with your life intact.

If you're a summer hiker, warmth isn't nearly as important as it is for winter wanderers. Unless you are a cold sleeper, most of the pads in this review will be warm if you only like recreating in temperate climates. If you camp in the heat, you probably don't want a warm pad. If you're cold when camping, upgrading the R-value of your sleeping pad is recommended but often comes at the expense of added weight and bulk. The Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm supplies an unmatched level of warmth for its weight and packed size. While it isn't ultralight, the 6.9 R-Value is mind-blowing considering the pad packs down small and barely weighs over a pound.

Ease of Inflation


In this review, we've included ease of inflation in our metrics. With the difficulty of inflation being one of the main drawbacks of air construction mats, manufacturers have come up with an array of valve styles to help alleviate this issue.


The newest design in the vast sea of valve/sack options is the winglock valve fixed to the XLite and XTherm. We were skeptical but hopeful when we found out the extremely dated Therm-a-rest valves were being updated. The Winglock isn't perfect, but it is a massive upgrade to these pads, allowing air in and out exponentially faster and easier than the past.

The new winglock valve and pump sack included with the XLite isn't perfect but it's as good as other brands designs and about a thousand times more effective than the previous valve included on this pad.
The new winglock valve and pump sack included with the XLite isn't perfect but it's as good as other brands designs and about a thousand times more effective than the previous valve included on this pad.

You can inflate the pad by opening the stuff sack, so it fills with air, then folding it closed and pushing the trapped air through the valve and into the pad. The Nemo Tensor employs a similarly effective design. The upside, other than speeding inflation, is that no moisture from your breath enters that pad. While moisture accumulation in pads is not a major deal, it is something to keep an eye on. After a trip, you should keep the pad inflated, with the valve open, to allow moisture out.

The Exped Schnozzel pumpbag  which was included with the Synmat 9  was compatible with several of the pads we tested. After experiencing how useful a pumpbag can be  you likely won't venture away from home without one.

While some pump bags can be frustrating, the introduction of the Exped Schnozzel pump sack was a pleasant surprise. The extremely lightweight fabric and generic nozzle made for easy inflation with nearly every pad we tested that was equipped with modern valves. The included Therm-a-Rest pump bag was made from heavy material that resisted poofing up effortlessly like the Schnozzel.

It's hard to beat the new winglock valve and the rather minimal amount of air it takes to fill the new Therm-a-Rest pads. While the pump sack is definitely the way to go  filling the old fashioned way isn't too bad.
It's hard to beat the new winglock valve and the rather minimal amount of air it takes to fill the new Therm-a-Rest pads. While the pump sack is definitely the way to go, filling the old fashioned way isn't too bad.

Of course, self-inflating pads have been on the market for decades and make the task of inflating easier. The downside of self-inflating pads is that they are less comfortable, bulkier, and heavier than air construction pads. While these self-inflating pads have their cult following among hardcore wilderness Luddites, the new sleeping pad technologies are certainly getting lighter, warmer, and even more comfortable, which makes these self-inflating pads a bit less attractive.

Filling up a sleeping pad the old fashioned way can be pretty exhausting. While pump bags may seem gimmicky  they are incredibly useful both for keeping moisture out of your pad as well as speeding up the process.
Filling up a sleeping pad the old fashioned way can be pretty exhausting. While pump bags may seem gimmicky, they are incredibly useful both for keeping moisture out of your pad as well as speeding up the process.

Durability


Advances in textile development make lightweight inflatable pads, durable. We have used inflatable pads for 40-day backpacking trips without any durability issues and are impressed by the amount of abuse our inflatable pads handled without tearing or delaminating. Take care of your pad, and it will take care of you. That said, we always recommend traveling with a mini repair kit


Even the most durable pads can be punctured with a sharp thorn, a rock, or are a shard of glass. It only takes a tiny hole to render a pad completely useless, and this can be a potentially dangerous scenario in colder temperatures. A small repair kit weighs a few ounces at most, and most repairs are pretty easy in the field. 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. Also, be sure to always carry a repair kit with you if you have an inflatable pad.

The valve tolerances on the Flash were noticeably less tight than most other pads we tested. While they didn't fail  this is definitely a concern.
The valve tolerances on the Flash were noticeably less tight than most other pads we tested. While they didn't fail, this is definitely a concern.

Thankfully, inflatable pads are easily patched, and most come with patch kits. The most durable pads tested were the Therm-a-Rest Z Lite SOL, and Therm-a-Rest Ridge Rest SOLite because they are made of foam and are virtually indestructible in comparison with inflatable pads. The most durable inflatable pads are the Synmat 9, Comfort Plus, Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm, and the Nemo Astro Insulated that all utilize thicker materials and even dual air chambers in the case of the Comfort Plus.

About six months of use versus a brand new Z Lite. You can see the foam cells break down eventually losing a significant amount of padding over time.
About six months of use versus a brand new Z Lite. You can see the foam cells break down eventually losing a significant amount of padding over time.

The Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Uberlite is constructed from a 15 denier nylon that feels alarmingly thin, while the Nemo Tensor uses a slightly thicker 20D nylon. We never punctured these pads during our testing, but would never leave home without a patch kit while hiking with these pads. If you're seeking the most durable and reliable pad option out there and don't want to carry a patch kit, consider the less comfortable, but highly reliable Therm-A-Rest Z Lite Sol that utilized close-cell technology.

Ultimately  deciding our Editors' Choice between the new Therm-a-Rest pads (the XTherm and XLite) was challenging. It came down to how impressed we were with the warmth/weight ratio of the XTherm  though both pads are excellent.
Ultimately, deciding our Editors' Choice between the new Therm-a-Rest pads (the XTherm and XLite) was challenging. It came down to how impressed we were with the warmth/weight ratio of the XTherm, though both pads are excellent.

Conclusion


Every year we get one year older. The ground seems to become harder, and gravity stronger. Having a plush, pillowy pad beneath the meat vehicle, and terra firma is critical for getting the most out of any adventure. We once again tested a wide variety of pads in all the conditions we could so you could make a choice that matches your needs before getting out there. We evaluated the overall performance and value of these pads down to give you an idea of how they might perform for you. It might not be a surprise, but with the new updates to overall warmth and ease of inflation/deflation with Therm-a-Rest pads, they ran away with some serious bling when we were divvying up awards.

Brian Martin, Matt Bento, & Andy Wellman