Reviews You Can Rely On

The 6 Best Backpacking Sleeping Pads of 2024

We tested sleeping pads from Therm-a-Rest, Nemo, Sea to Summit, and others to find the best option for your next night out
gearlab tested logo
Best Sleeping Pad Review (Testing sleeping pads in side-by-side testing in Colorado.)
Testing sleeping pads in side-by-side testing in Colorado.
Credit: sam schild
Friday March 15, 2024

Over the 13 years, our backpacking experts have tested close to 100 of the best backpacking sleeping pads. This update features 16 of the market's top models, pitted against each other in a side-by-side comparison to find the best options for your needs. Our experts thoroughly test these sleeping pads in the field, hauling them around the world and putting them to the test while guiding, hiking, and exploring. We've carried them on bikes and boats and with our own two feet. Whether you seek the warmest or most packable option out there, we've got you covered.

Being comfortable outdoors requires the right supplies, and lightweight is better when it comes to the best backpacking gear. We've been testing the best sleeping bags and the best tents for over a decade, and you can trust our expertise to guide you to the products you need. If car camping is more your style, have a look at our best camping mattress and camping cot reviews. And if you are looking for the top picks for women's-specific sleeping pads, we've got a dedicated review for that, too.

Editor's Note: Our sleeping pad review was updated on March 15, 2024, to include more pad recommendations and more information on our testing process.

Related: Best Sleeping Pads for Women

Top 16 Sleeping Pads - Test Results

Displaying 1 - 5 of 16
< Previous | Compare | Next >
 
Awards Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award Top Pick Award  Top Pick Award 
Price Check Price at Backcountry
Compare at 3 sellers
Check Price at Backcountry
Compare at 3 sellers
$149.89 at REI
Compare at 3 sellers
$219.00 at Amazon$171.75 at Amazon
Compare at 3 sellers
Overall Score Sort Icon
81
79
72
72
71
Star Rating
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Pros Packs away small, very warm, included pump sack doubles as a stuff sack, versatileLightweight, warm for its size, portable, cozy, adaptableComfortable, durable, warm enough for summer, great pump sackComfortable, integrated pump sack in stuff sack, quiet, warmComfortable, dual air chambers are redundant, quiet, warm, stable, supportive
Cons Some edge collapse, expensivePricey, a bit unstable compared to someNot the lightestExpensive, not very light, doesn't pack smallHeavy, expensive
Bottom Line This sleeping pad is the lightest 4-season pad we've ever seen while also being the warmest in our lineupThis cozy and toasty pad is an excellent all-around performer, offering significant weight savings and great packabilityThis pad is super comfortable and affordable, plus it has an awesome inflation bag to make setting up camp a breezeThis pad is great for winter camping but doesn't pack down very smallExtreme comfort, great warmth, and stability combine in this heavier camping bed
Rating Categories Therm-a-Rest NeoAir... Therm-a-Rest NeoAir... Nemo Quasar 3D Insu... Sea to Summit Ether... Sea to Summit Comfo...
Comfort (30%)
8.0
8.0
9.0
9.0
10.0
Weight (30%)
7.8
8.6
5.1
5.1
4.0
Warmth (20%)
10.0
7.3
6.1
8.9
6.8
Packed Size (10%)
8.0
9.0
8.5
3.0
6.0
Quality of Construction (10%)
6.0
6.0
9.0
9.0
9.0
Specs Therm-a-Rest NeoAir... Therm-a-Rest NeoAir... Nemo Quasar 3D Insu... Sea to Summit Ether... Sea to Summit Comfo...
Measured Weight 16.0 oz 13.6 oz 25.0 oz 25.0 oz 28.7 oz
Claimed R-Value 7.3 4.5 3.3 6.2 4.0
Thickness 3.0 in 3.0 in 3.5 in 4.0 in 2.5 in
Tested Length 72 in 72 in 72 in 72 in 72 in
Tested Width 20 in 20 in 20 in 21.5 in 21.5 in
Packed Volume (L) 2.4 L 2.0 L 2.1 L 8.0 L 3.1 L
Bottom Material 70D nylon 30D rip HT nylon 100% PCR PU polyester ripstop 30D/40D nylon 30D/40D nylon
Insulation Technology Triangular Core Matrix construction and ThermaCapture technology Triangular Core Matrix construction and ThermaCapture technology PrimaLoft 100% PCR Dual density Thermolite HL-1 Exkin Platinum and Thermolite HL-1
Double Size Available No No Yes No Yes
Type Air construction, synthetic insulation Air construction, synthetic insulation Air construction, synthetic insulation Air construction, Air Sprung cells, synthetic insulation Air construction, Air Sprung cells, synthetic insulation


The Best Sleeping Pads for 2024


Best Overall Sleeping Pad


Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm NXT


81
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Comfort 8.0
  • Weight 7.8
  • Warmth 10.0
  • Packed Size 8.0
  • Quality of Construction 6.0
Measured Weight: 16 ounces | R-value: 7.3
REASONS TO BUY
Packs away small
Very warm
Pump sack is also a stuff sack
Versatile
REASONS TO AVOID
Some edge collapse
Expensive

The Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm NXT is an absolute beast of a sleeping pad. It has a remarkable 7.3 R-value while still weighing only a pound and packing down to a very small size. We can't find a single comparable pad on the market that balances warmth and comfort with such versatile features. We also love the updated valve system. The XTherm is a clear top choice, especially if you plan to be sleeping in colder temperatures.

Yes, the XTherm NXT wins our highest honors, but that doesn't mean some of the more wallet-friendly options aren't also great. There's no denying that this is an expensive pad. But it's well-constructed and should last you a long time, so we still think it's worth the price. If the narrow, 20-inch profile of the regular-sized XTherm puts you off, check out the Regular Wide or Large sizes, though they'll put an even bigger dent in your wallet. Fairweather campers in the market for a more budget-friendly buy can save a decent chunk of change with the inexpensive Klymit Static V2 or even the Sleepingo Large.

Read more: Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm NXT review

The Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm NXT is the warmest pad we tested and a great overall sleeping pad.
Credit: Sam Schild

Best Bang for the Buck


Klymit Static V2


69
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Comfort 7.0
  • Weight 7.3
  • Warmth 4.2
  • Packed Size 9.5
  • Quality of Construction 8.0
Measured Weight: 17.7 ounces | R-value: 1.3
REASONS TO BUY
Wider, especially at the feet
Compact and light
Great value
REASONS TO AVOID
Low R-value and warmth score
Dated inflation valve

There are many inexpensive sleeping pads on the market. However, the Klymit Static V2 is one we highly recommend for your next summer backpacking trip. It's light, comfortable, and packs down small. Surprisingly, the Static V2 is 3 inches wider than the standard 20-inch-width of most pads we tested, making the low weight and price that much more impressive. The Static V2 practically disappears in a pack when it's deflated, but it's still 2.5 inches thick, so it doesn't sacrifice comfort for packability.

The bargain-basement price comes with a major 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 or a closed-cell foam pad to boost the insulation. Still, for three-season use, it's hard to ignore the price, comfort, and durability this pad offers. Those planning on backpacking in colder weather should look at our other contenders, like the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm NXT. Though it will cost you, it offers a significantly higher R-value for cold-weather camping.

Read more: Klymit Static V2 review

Testing the Static V2 in Colorado. It's affordable, comfortable, and packs down small.
Credit: Sam Schild

Budget Pick for Basic Performance


NEMO Switchback


58
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Comfort 3.5
  • Weight 8.3
  • Warmth 4.9
  • Packed Size 3.0
  • Quality of Construction 10.0
Measured Weight: 14.5 ounces | R-value: 2.0
REASONS TO BUY
Lightweight
Good warmth-to-weight ratio
Can be packed in several configurations
Inexpensive
REASONS TO AVOID
Bulky
Becomes less supple over time

Many people with some exposure to the outdoors will be familiar with closed-cell foam pads. While they can't offer the high level of comfort most air pads do, this style has some redeeming features that shouldn't be ignored. The Nemo Switchback is an excellent choice for those wanting to add a bit of versatility to their arsenal of camping equipment. For ages, the Therm-a-Rest Z Lite SOL was our go-to closed-cell foam pad, but the Z Lite recently surpassed the Switchback in price, and we find the Switchback to be the more comfortable of the two.

The downside to these types of pads is they're less packable and less comfortable overall. Most people like to strap them to the outside of their packs since they are bulky. And there's no two ways about it — an air pad is just more comfortable on hard surfaces. The closed-cell foam definitely won't deflate on you in the night, but it also takes up a lot of space for how little comfort it actually provides. Still, if you're seeking high value, outstanding durability, and reliability on the trail, this is an excellent choice. For a more comfortable and packable air pad, we like the Klymit Static V2, which also comes at an affordable price, or the mid-range Sea to Summit Ultralight Air.

Read more: Nemo Switchback review

sleeping pad - the switchback is an excellent adjunct for cold weather camping and...
The Switchback is an excellent adjunct for cold weather camping and can be added underneath another three-season pad to stack R-values.
Credit: Brian Martin

Best for Ultralight Adventures


Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite NXT


79
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Comfort 8.0
  • Weight 8.6
  • Warmth 7.3
  • Packed Size 9.0
  • Quality of Construction 6.0
Measured Weight: 13.6 ounces | R-value: 4.5
REASONS TO BUY
High R-value for such a light pad
Small packed size
Good balance of comfort and lightweight
REASONS TO AVOID
Expensive

The newest version of the legendary Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite NXT again takes home high honors in the ultralight category. The most current version of this pad gained some extra warmth and shaved off a few ounces. Plus, it's now considerably quieter than previous versions — light sleepers who couldn't handle the crinkling sound from this pad can now sleep soundly.

It's critical to retain decent insulative properties in order to be versatile enough for high-elevation backpacking and other shoulder season missions. The 4.5 R-value of the XLite NXT makes it incredibly cozy for cold summer nights in the mountains. This pad is comfortable for fall days in the desert when you wake up with a bit of frost on your bivy, and we've weathered quite a few snowstorms with it keeping us warm, too. The width of this pad is a bit tight for larger individuals (20 inches), and it's also pretty expensive. If you can dish out a bit more, consider checking out the Regular Wide or Large size options if you're wider, taller, or both. If you value comfort above all else in the backcountry, check out the Sea to Summit Comfort Plus Insulated.

Read more: Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite NXT review

We love how comfortable, warm, and packable the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite NXT is.
Credit: Sam Schild

Top Tier Comfort and Inflation


Nemo Quasar 3D Insulated


72
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Comfort 9.0
  • Weight 5.1
  • Warmth 6.1
  • Packed Size 8.5
  • Quality of Construction 9.0
Measured Weight: 25.0 ounces | R-value: 3.3
REASONS TO BUY
Very comfortable
Excellent pump sack
Fair price
Durable
REASONS TO AVOID
Large packed size
Heavy

The Nemo Quasar 3D Insulated is a supremely comfortable sleeping pad. And while more expensive than the most budget-minded options, it's still a great value for anyone looking for an all-around sleeping pad for camping and backpacking. It inflates incredibly easily with the included pump sack, which was the best of any pump sack we tested. This pad is also made of durable materials, and the 3.5 inches of cushion will keep you dreaming peacefully beneath the stars all night.

The Quasar is affordable, comfortable, and inflates quickly, but it is also one of the heavier pads we reviewed. If you bring this backpacking, you won't regret it when you have it set up in less than a minute. And yet, you may think twice about it when you're leaving the trailhead and your pack feels downright heavy. We think it's better suited for car camping in front country sites or short backpacking trips. For those adventures, this pad is a terrific choice. For longer journeys, the lightest pad we tested is the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir UberLite which is around 1/3 of the weight of the Quasar, but you're giving up some comfort and durability.

Read more: Nemo Quasar 3D Insulated review

We loved how easy it was to inflate the Nemo Quasar 3D with the included pump sack.
Credit: Sam Schild

An Exceptional Level of Comfort


Sea to Summit Comfort Plus Insulated


71
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Comfort 10.0
  • Weight 4.0
  • Warmth 6.8
  • Packed Size 6.0
  • Quality of Construction 9.0
Measured Weight: 28.7 ounces | R-value: 4.0
REASONS TO BUY
Super comfortable
Two air chambers for comfort adjustment
Quiet operation
Supportive
REASONS TO AVOID
Expensive
Heavy

The Sea to Summit Comfort Plus Insulated is the only pad in our review to utilize two separate air chambers, allowing different pressures and densities to fine-tune your sleep surface. Even thicker sleeping pads just don't have the same adjustability and ultra-high level of comfort you can achieve with this pad. On top of that, two air chambers mean that if one pops, you won't be rendered to sleeping on the hard ground. That's the kind of insurance we like.

The Air Sprung Cell Technology, coupled with variable density chambers and a high R-value, makes for one heck of a sleeping pad. The only real downside to the Comfort Plus is its weight relative to our warmest sleeping pads. This isn't the pad we'd recommend if you're counting every gram. If you seek lavish comfort while out on the trail, this will provide it, but it comes at the cost of packability and weight. Others who value weight savings and comfort will find the 13.6-ounce Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite NXT more attractive.

Read more: Sea to Summit Comfort Plus Insulated review

sleeping pad - durable fabrics stood up to pine cones, duff, and even sharp teeth...
Durable fabrics stood up to pine cones, duff, and even sharp teeth with ease.
Credit: Matt Bento

Notable Performance for Price


Sleepingo Large


57
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Comfort 3.0
  • Weight 8.3
  • Warmth 5.0
  • Packed Size 9.5
  • Quality of Construction 4.0
Measured Weight: 14.6 ounces | R-value: 2.1
REASONS TO BUY
Extremely lightweight
Decent warmth-to-weight ratio
Easily packed
Very inexpensive
REASONS TO AVOID
Not the most comfortable
No pump sack

The Sleepingo Large is one of the most affordable air-construction sleeping pads in our fleet. It is certainly not the most comfortable out of the bunch, but it offers enough, particularly for the price. Compared to closed-cell foam pads like the Therm-A-Rest Z Lite Sol, which are often similar in price, the Sleepingo offers far superior comfort. While this pad might not be our first choice for side sleepers, given its relatively thin padding, it does perform well when sleeping on your belly or back.

Though the Sleepingo is very affordable and performs decently, we should mention some important considerations. First, this pad provides the least amount of padding compared to the rest of the air-construction pads in our lineup. Second, it lacks an ASTM-tested R-rating, which makes the stated value a little less valuable than it would be otherwise. For these reasons, we feel it's best to use this pad in fair weather only. When the temperatures drop, the warmth and comfort of the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm NXT is a better pick.

Read more: Sleepingo Large review

sleeping pad - the sleepingo packs up into a tidy little package - small enough to...
The Sleepingo packs up into a tidy little package - small enough to be packed into a Nalgene bottle!
Credit: Brian Martin

Compare Products

select up to 5 products to compare
Score Product Price
81
Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm NXT
Best Overall Sleeping Pad
$240
Editors' Choice Award
79
Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite NXT
Best for Ultralight Adventures
$210
Top Pick Award
72
Nemo Quasar 3D Insulated
Top Tier Comfort and Inflation
$160
Top Pick Award
72
Sea to Summit Ether Light XT Extreme
$219
71
Sea to Summit Comfort Plus Insulated
An Exceptional Level of Comfort
$239
Top Pick Award
71
Therm-a-Rest NeoAir UberLite
$230
70
Sea to Summit Ultralight Air
$129
70
Big Agnes Rapide SL Insulated
$150
70
Exped Ultra 3R
$160
69
Klymit Static V2
Best Bang for the Buck
$75
Best Buy Award
69
Big Agnes Boundary Deluxe Insulated
$180
66
Sea to Summit Comfort Light Insulated
$189
58
NEMO Switchback
Budget Pick for Basic Performance
$60
Best Buy Award
57
Sleepingo Large
Notable Performance for Price
$50
57
Therm-A-Rest Z Lite Sol
$58
55
Tame Lands
$43

sleeping pad - the therm-a-rest neoair xtherm nxt is incredibly warm, considering...
The Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm NXT is incredibly warm, considering how light it is.
Credit: Sam Schild

How We Test Sleeping Pads


For this review, we analyzed what makes a great sleeping pad based on our years of experience sleeping in the backcountry. Then, we devised a plan to compare the best pads in side-by-side comparison tests. The pads in this review 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 they performed in key areas crucial to a sleeping pad's function, like comfort, ease of inflation, packed size, and weight.

Rolling up the NeoAir XTherm after another solid night of testing.
Credit: Sam Schild

We tested these backpacking sleeping pads across five rating metrics:
  • Comfort (30% of total score weighting)
  • Weight (30% weighting)
  • Warmth (20% weighting)
  • Packed Size (10% weighting)
  • Quality of Construction (10% weighting)

For more information on our testing process, see our how we test article.

Why Trust GearLab


Our wide and varied sleeping pad review team is led by Sam Schild, a backpacker, trail runner, and mountain biker based in Colorado. He has backpacked the Pacific Crest Trail, Continental Divide Trail, Grand Enchantment Trail, and Colorado Trail three times, along with countless shorter backpacking trips. Sam is joined by Matt Bento and Brian Martin. These two come to the campsite with heavy climbing backgrounds — a pursuit where you learn to appreciate a restorative night's sleep outdoors. Matt and Brian are both alumni of Yosemite Search and Rescue, where versatile, reliable, and durable equipment is a necessary part of everyday life.

This pad inflates easily with 12-14 big breaths.
This pad inflates easily with 12-14 big breaths.
NeoAir XTherm pads. Nose Bivy, Mt. Huntington, AK.
NeoAir XTherm pads. Nose Bivy, Mt. Huntington, AK.
This pad is thick and comfortable, with smooth horizontal baffles.
This pad is thick and comfortable, with smooth horizontal baffles.
We've tested sleeping pads in a variety of real-world scenarios on adventures across the world.

Analysis and Test Results


Our sleeping pad review has something for everyone. We sent out folks of all different sizes equipped with each pad to do a deep dive into critical features such as comfort, weight, packed size, warmth, ease of use, and construction quality. Using these metrics as an anchor point for assessment, we rated each product based on performance. While there are many high performers, many have specific niches that shouldn't be missed.


Value


Value can mean many different things to different people. In our case, we aren't just looking at the price of a sleeping pad — we look at how well it performs across a range of metrics and if this performance justifies the price. If you want the creme de la creme, be ready to shell out a few extra bucks. In general, the lower the price, the less warm you can expect your pad to be. The Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite NXT and Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm NXT are incredibly expensive but are still a good value as they offer durable construction, extra warmth, and excellent all-around performance.

If you're anything like our testers, your first sleeping pad may well be a closed-cell foam pad, and rightfully so. These pads are an excellent choice for those getting into backpacking because they are lightweight and super affordable. But when you upgrade to an inflatable pad, you don't have to chuck that old closed-cell foam friend. Instead, save it for an extra layer of warmth during winter camping. Now that's value.

The Klymit Static V2 offers excellent comfort at a lower price. But with an R-value of just 1.3, this pad is only warm enough for summer backpacking. The Nemo Quasar 3D Insulated is more expensive, but a good value for a comfortable and reliable pad that's easy to use. Other low-priced (and high-value) options are the Therm-A-Rest Z Lite Sol and Nemo Switchback. While these closed-cell foam pads score low in the comfort metric, they're one of the most reliable pad options since they're not in danger of springing a leak.

sleeping pad - finding a balance between price, durability, warmth, comfort, and...
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.
Credit: Brian Martin

Both the Z Lite Sol and Switchback offer a versatile layer of insulation that you could use for winter warmth, rip in half for an uber-light solution for fastpacking, or bring a few sections along to use as a sit pad on your next backpacking trip. If you want us to split hairs (which we expect is why you're here), the Switchback has a better feel on the ground, taller dimples, and seems to offer slightly more comfort.

sleeping pad - a strong competitor for a heat reflective foam pad, the switchback...
A strong competitor for a heat reflective foam pad, the Switchback just barely edges out the competition for a touch of extra comfort.
Credit: Brian Martin

Comfort


Many of our testers have noticed their priorities shifting through the years. We've gone from ultralight and minimalist to more comfort-oriented. It's undeniable — as you get older, you want more comfort. A plush air pad offers significantly better sleep than the shoulder-crushing closed-cell pads from decades past. Fortunately, many inflatable sleeping pads are even lighter than closed-cell foam pads while also being more comfortable.


Hands down, the most comfortable pads we snoozed on are the Sea to Summit Comfort Plus Insulated, Sea to Summit Ether Light XT Extreme, and the Nemo Quasar 3D Insulated. These pads offer a nice variability in firmness while keeping you well-cushioned from uneven ground and rocky surfaces below.

The most comfortable pad will depend on your preferences. Our comfort scores come from a host of reviewers who each used one. Some testers were first-time campers on guided trips (they typically gave a lower comfort score), and many were seasoned backpackers (they tended to rank the 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.

The Comfort Plus is quite special, as the dual inflation zones can be inflated to different pressures. This gives you a nice pillow top with a firm under construction. While this increases the pad's overall weight, the ability to have dual densities creates a uniquely comfortable pad. The Ether Light XT Extreme provided an impressive level of comfort as well. With a whopping four inches of thickness, you won't feel any lumps underneath you. The Quasar 3D Insulated is also an extremely comfortable pad overall, with 3.5-inch thick air baffles and a softer face fabric than most other sleeping pads.

sleeping pad - the dual air chambers of the sea to summit comfort plus allow you to...
The dual air chambers of the Sea to Summit Comfort Plus allow you to dial in the feel of the pad to your preference, perfect for side sleepers.
Credit: Brian Martin

The Big Agnes Rapide SL Insulated provided an impressive level of comfort as well, thanks to some large side rails. It is undeniable how much overall comfort is boosted when you don't feel like you're going to slip off to one side of your sleeping pad. The Big Agnes Boundary Deluxe Insulated is another remarkably comfortable pad. It has a unique two-way baffle design that feels firm underneath you and gives enough cushion in any position. It also has side rails and is 2.75 inches thick in the middle and 3 inches on the side rails. This is notably not as thick as advertised (and we double and triple-checked), but either way, it'll still provide an extremely comfortable night's sleep.

sleeping pad - the big agnes boundary deluxe insulated has 2.75-inch thick baffles...
The Big Agnes Boundary Deluxe Insulated has 2.75-inch thick baffles with 3-inch rails to keep you centered on the pad all night.
Credit: Sam Schild


The Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite and NeoAir XTherm offer excellent comfort at a fraction of the weight. They aren't quite as cozy as the more comfortable and heavy offerings on the market, but they still have all the necessary features to get a good night's sleep. Plus, your back won't be as tired at the end of the day if you're carrying one of these pads.

sleeping pad - the xlite nxt is an excellent sleeping pad that makes shoulder...
The XLite NXT is an excellent sleeping pad that makes shoulder season backpacking gear decisions easy.
Credit: Sam Schild

A few of the sleeping pads we tested come in a double size: the Exped Ultra 3R, Sea to Summit Comfort Plus, and Nemo Quasar 3D all come in this bigger size that will fill your entire tent floor. These double-wide options are incredibly comfortable and can provide some of the best backcountry sleep you'll have.

sleeping pad - the nemo quasar 3d insulated has plush cushioning that makes...
The Nemo Quasar 3D Insulated has plush cushioning that makes sleeping on lumpy ground a non-issue.
Credit: Sam Schild

Weight


Weight is an omnipresent factor when selecting and using outdoor equipment. If all other considerations are equal, and one item weighs less than another, you should select the lighter item. Unfortunately, there are always tradeoffs when using ultralight equipment. With sleeping pads, you may have to make sacrifices regarding durability, warmth, or the size of the pad's footprint. More important than weight is making sure whatever you end up with is something that satisfies your specific needs rather than just selecting whatever is lightest.


Many pads are available in multiple sizes, which will affect the weight. Some backpackers minimize weight by taking short, torso-length pads and using a backpack, boots, or other gear under their legs. Some backpackers get large or wider-sized pads to increase comfort, but this will also increase the weight.

Check the warmth score of a lightweight pad before purchasing it to make sure it will meet your needs. Generally, the higher the R-value, the heavier a pad will be.

The weights of the single pads we tested range from the 8.8-ounce Therm-a-Rest NeoAir UberLite to over 28 ounces. The UberLite is extremely light, but you sacrifice warmth and durability if you want this amount of weight savings. You'll have to be careful if you're using this pad, but if you need to strip ounces above all else, this pad will get you there.

sleeping pad - the therm-a-rest neoair uberlite is incredibly light and packs down...
The Therm-a-Rest NeoAir UberLite is incredibly light and packs down very small.
Credit: Matt Bento

The Sea to Summit UltraLight Air is also impressively light without losing all its comfort. That said, it has the lowest R-value of any pad in our lineup, so you'll need to relegate it to your summer gear kit. Our favorite pad for ultralight backpacking is the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite NXT. It weighs well under a pound and has an impressive R-value for the weight. It packs down to about the size of a 1-liter bottle and has an impressive amount of plush comfort.

sleeping pad - the therm-a-rest neoair xlite nxt is one of lightest pads we tested...
The Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite NXT is one of lightest pads we tested and has a great warmth-to-weight ratio.
Credit: Sam Schild

The Klymit Static V2 is not the absolute lightest, but it's one of the lightest wider pads. Most of the options under 17 ounces are about 20 inches wide, while the Static is 23 inches. A wider pad may be worth a few extra ounces if you tend to toss and turn. However, keep in mind that this pad also lacks insulation and is best used for summer excursions.

sleeping pad - the klymit static v2 isn&#039;t the lightest, but it&#039;s also wider than...
The Klymit Static V2 isn't the lightest, but it's also wider than most standard pads.
Credit: Jenna Ammerman

Warmth


If you're like us, you go backpacking and camping to enjoy nature, not to shiver through the night, only to run back to your car for the heat in the morning. Anyone who has suffered through a bone-chilling night out knows the value of a solid insulation layer between you and the frozen ground you're sleeping on. We spent nights with our teeth chattering, so hopefully you won't have to. Thanks to the new ASTM R-value standardization, we can now pretty reliably know how well a sleeping pad will insulate if it has a published R-value.


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 moves 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 the ground, preventing heat from being lost through conduction.

Warmth isn't nearly as important for summer hikers 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. And, if you camp in the heat, you probably don't want a warm pad at all. But if you get cold when camping, upgrading the R-value of your sleeping pad is recommended, though this often comes at the expense of added weight and bulk.


For warm-weather backpacking, an R-value of 1-3 will be sufficient. If you're going to be camping in colder conditions, then look for an R-value closer to 4 or 5. If you're going winter camping, you'll want a pad with an R-value higher than 6.

The Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm NXT supplied an unmatched level of warmth for its weight and packed size. While it isn't as light as some pads, the 7.3 R-value is outstanding, especially considering the pad packs down small and barely weighs a pound.

sleeping pad - the therm-a-rest neoair xtherm nxt is shockingly-warm and is...
The Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm NXT is shockingly-warm and is competitively light, too.
Credit: Sam Schild

For most backpackers, we think the amount of warmth that the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite NXT provides is more than adequate. We've used the NeoAir XLite with a down quilt in temperatures as low as 15 degrees Fahrenheit, and it's kept us warm enough.

The Sea to Summit Ether Light XT Extreme is another of the warmest pads we tested. This pad is warm enough for 4-season use, but the thick insulation inside the air chambers means it doesn't pack down very small. It's also one of the heavier pads we tested.

sleeping pad - the sea to summit ether light xt extreme is a true 4-season pad...
The Sea to Summit Ether Light XT Extreme is a true 4-season pad that's ready for winter camping.
Credit: Sam Schild

If having some customization with your kit is crucial, consider using an inflatable pad with an added closed-cell foam pad during frigid days out. This will add a significant amount of insulation to your sleeping setup. The Z Lite Sol and the slightly more comfortable Switchback will both bump the R-value of your sleep system up by 2 if used underneath an inflatable pad. Either way, adding one of these pads to your system will give you the versatility to take them alone or in combination with an inflatable for colder conditions.

sleeping pad - layering your pad over a closed-cell foam pad will add more...
Layering your pad over a closed-cell foam pad will add more insulation value.
Credit: Clayton Kimmi

Tent floor-sized double sleeping pads can also greatly increase how warm you sleep in a tent. Intrepid camping duos should consider the benefits of these larger double-width pads. The insulation of two-person sleeping pads covers the entire floor of your tent, resulting in a massive boost in warmth. The Exped Ultra 3R, Nemo Quasar 3D Insulated, and Sea to Summit Comfort Plus all come in this snuggle-inducing wider size for couples to stay warm.

sleeping pad - while they are generally heavy, the warmth and comfort benefits of...
While they are generally heavy, the warmth and comfort benefits of tent floor-sized sleeping pads can't be overlooked. We found warmth benefits beyond the stated R-values when compared to single person pads.
Credit: Brian Martin

Packed Size


If a sleeping pad doesn't fit in your pack along with the rest of your gear, it's not a good choice for backpacking. For this reason, we considered the size of a sleeping pad when fully deflated. We've quantified packed size in liters because we find this unit of measurement best, especially for visually understanding volume. It's easy to understand the size of one liter since most people have seen a Nalgene bottle. To calculate the total volume of a sleeping pad when packed, we measured the dimensions in inches, calculated the total cubic inches, and converted the cubic inches to liters.


Many of the sleeping pads that pack up the smallest are also some of the least warm, thinnest, or both. The exception to this is the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite NXT, which packs down into a 2-liter stuff sack but is 3 inches thick when inflated, and it has an R-value of 4.5. We think the XLite hits the sweet spot in terms of packability while still remaining comfortable and warm enough for most conditions. However, if packed size is your top priority, you can do even better than the XLite. The Sea to Summit UltraLight Air packs down to 0.8 liters and is 2 inches thick when inflated. The tradeoff is an R-value of only 1.1.

sleeping pad - the sea to summit ultralight packs down quite a bit smaller than...
The Sea to Summit UltraLight packs down quite a bit smaller than most other products in the review. If you want the smallest pad possible and don't need extra warmth, consider this one.
Credit: Jeremy Bauman

The Therm-a-Rest NeoAir UberLite also packs down to a small 0.9-liter package. It's 2.5 inches thick and has a slightly higher R-value of 2.3. The Klymit Static V2 packs down to the same 0.9-liter size and is 2.5 inches thick, but the 1.3 R-value won't keep you warm on chilly nights either.

sleeping pad - the klymit static v2 packs down into one of the smallest stuff sacks...
The Klymit Static V2 packs down into one of the smallest stuff sacks of any sleeping pad we tested.
Credit: Sam Schild

If you need to save all your pennies but still keep things compact, the Sleepingo is absolutely worth a look.

There were a few pads that stood out for their extremely large packed size as well. The Nemo Switchback and Therm-a-Rest Z Lite Sol are both closed-cell foam pads, which means they don't deflate. You'll likely have to carry either of these pads strapped to the outside of your backpack if you go with one of these no-frills options.

sleeping pad - the therm-a-rest z lite sol doesn&#039;t pack down small enough to fit...
The Therm-a-Rest Z Lite Sol doesn't pack down small enough to fit inside most backpacks.
Credit: Bennett Fisher

Quality of Construction


If your sleeping pad doesn't hold up to the abuses of the trail, then you can't rely on it on your next backcountry endeavor. We've used inflatable pads for 150-day thru-hikes without any durability issues. We're pretty impressed by how much abuse most of these pads can handle without tearing or delaminating. Take care of your pad, and it will take care of you.


Modern materials make lightweight inflatable pads durable enough to keep you comfortable and warm for long stretches of time without failing. That said, we always recommend traveling with a mini repair kit. Most of the sleeping pads we tested here come with one.

Even the most durable pads can be punctured with a sharp thorn, a rock, or 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.

Some of the most well-constructed and durable inflatable pads we tested are the Sea To Summit Comfort Plus Insulated, Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm, Nemo Quasar 3D, Sea to Summit Ether Light XT Extreme, and Big Agnes Boundary Deluxe. They all utilize thicker materials that won't puncture as easily.

sleeping pad - the boundary deluxe is well-constructed with a recycled nylon...
The Boundary Deluxe is well-constructed with a recycled nylon ripstop bottom.
Credit: Sam Schild

The most indestructible pads we tested are the Therm-a-Rest Z Lite Sol and Nemo Switchback because they are made of foam and will not puncture like inflatable pads. Even if they rip or break down, they can still function as a barrier between you and the ground. For those who want to go ultralight and fast, give both of these pads some serious time and consideration. They can be cut down to shave off more weight and virtually never completely fall apart. An important note with closed-cell pads is that they do crush over time, losing valuable millimeters of loft.

sleeping pad - about six months of use versus a brand new z lite. you can see the...
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.
Credit: Brian Martin

The Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Uberlite is constructed from a 15-denier nylon that feels alarmingly thin. We never punctured this pad during our testing but would never leave home without a patch kit and a ground cloth when carrying it.

Another aspect of construction quality we looked at was how easy a pad is to use and inflate. With the difficulty of inflation being one of the main drawbacks of air construction mats, manufacturers have developed an array of valve styles to help alleviate this issue.

sleeping pad - filling up a sleeping pad the old fashioned way can be pretty...
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.
Credit: Brian Martin

Some pump bags can be frustrating, but some work really well. We were especially impressed with how well the inflation sack worked on the Nemo Quasar 3D. The included sack works the best of any inflation system we tested, filling up the pad after less than four rounds of filling the inflation bag.

The sleeping pad stuff sack on all Sea To Summit pads also doubles as an inflation bag. While this inflation bag doesn't work quite as well as the one from Nemo, it still gets the job done. And since the inflation bag is integrated into the stuff sack, you don't have to keep track of one more thing.

The Sea To Summit Ether Light's stuff sack doubles as a pump sack for inflation.
Credit: Sam Schild

The Exped Ultra 3R has perhaps the most unique inflation bag design of any we tested. This inflation sack has a gooseneck portion that pushes air into the pad at a higher pressure. We had this inflation bag pop off the first couple of times we were using it, so it's not perfect, but it definitely allows for higher pressure inflation.

The Exped Ultra 3R has a uniquely-shaped inflation bag that funnels air into the pad to get higher pressure inflation.
Credit: Sam Schild

The newest design in the vast sea of valve/sack options is the Winglock valve on the Therm-a-Rest XLite NXT, XTherm NXT, and UberLite. The Winglock isn't perfect, but it is a massive upgrade to these pads, allowing air in and out exponentially faster and easier than before. These pads also come with an inflation sack that doubles as a stuff sack, though we didn't find it worked quite as well as the one from Nemo.

sleeping pad - the xtherm nxt&#039;s winglock valve and pump sack allow for easy...
The XTherm NXT's Winglock valve and pump sack allow for easy inflation.
Credit: Sam Schild

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

sleeping pad - testing the therm-a-rest neoair xlite nxt while backpacking in...
Testing the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite NXT while backpacking in Arizona.
Credit: Sam Schild

Conclusion


Choosing the right sleeping pad can be a daunting task. This essential piece of backpacking gear can be very expensive, but we think spending more here is often worth it. Hopefully, this will help you narrow your choices in searching for the perfect sleeping pad for your needs. We'll continue to add the best and most promising products into this category to find the best sleeping pads available so everyone sleeps well in the backcountry.

Sam Schild, Brian Martin, and Matt Bento