What is the best women's sleeping pad on the market? We analyzed hundreds of women's and unisex sleeping pads before narrowing it down to these top 8. We purchased each one, subjecting them to our extensive testing by our qualified experts. We spent season after season testing these top-rated women's specific pads; new this year, we also added unisex pads that come in a length and size that is proper for a female or smaller user. We did a lot of sleeping, reading, and generally lounging on these pads to accurately try them out, and we solicited multiple opinions from other ladies. We determined 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.
The 8 Best Sleeping Pads For Women
This spring, we put each of our eight contenders to the test, evaluating each one based on a variety of conditions from the snowy slopes of Denali National Park to the prickly desert landscapes of the Grand Canyon. The Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite remains our Editors' Choice for its exceptional performance. We've added a new Top Pick; the Sea to Summit Comfort Plus Insulated and the REI Air Rail 1.5 cinches our Best Buy award.
Best Overall Women's Sleeping Pad
Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite - Women's
This pad is our go-to for any time we're carrying our sleeping system on our backs and wins our Editors' Choice award because it is so light and compact. The Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite - Women's is an excellent choice for long backpacking or other self-propelled sports where weight and space are at a premium. This NeoAir is the lightest and smallest of all the products in this review. It is also very comfortable and is 2.5 inches of thick cushy air to lie on. It also will keep you warm on most 3 season excursions with an R-Value of 3.9.
Therm-A-Rest uses patented construction techniques similar to a space blanket to trap radiant heat and deflect cold air from the ground keeping you warm on the coldest of nights. This technology contributes to its small packed size because it doesn't use bulky insulating foam. Like all things ultralight the NeoAir XLite is somewhat delicate and its materials are not the most durable of the bunch. You'll need to treat this product with care, and if you do, you'll get years of use and miles of trails out of this exceptional, lightweight option.
Read review: Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite - Women's
Best Bang for the Buck
REI AirRail 1.5 Self-Inflating - Women's
Do you like sleeping on a cloud? We do and think that sleeping on the REI AirRail 1.5 Self-Inflating - Women's is as close as you can get! You may very well feel like a princess in this bed - with no pea underneath it. We're always skeptical of gimmicks that manufacturers are trying to pass off as the newest, coolest thing and so looked at the AirRail through that lens as well, but were pleasantly surprised that it is so comfortable. It is wider than the rest of the products in this review, 23" versus 20" inches, and the rails act like bumpers, cradling your arms in a very comforting way. It is also great for side sleepers as it has a cushy 1.5" pad and the "air rails" let you know when you're close to the edge.
These rails are not big enough to stop you from rolling off the pad if you tried, but they're a gentle, possibly unconscious reminder. We also like the Big Agnes Q-Core SLX Short for side sleeping because it is so thick (4.5"!) that there's no way your shoulders will touch the ground. The REI AirRail has a solidly warm R-Value of 4.2, and we think it is priced well, retailing for $90, much cheaper than many of the other products in this review.
Read review: REI AirRail 1.5 Self-Inflating - Women's
Top Pick for 4-Season Use
Sea to Summit Comfort Plus Insulated Short
As we scoured the internet for new products for this women's specific review, we were pleased to see that this product comes in a size that is appropriate for women campers. The Sea to Summit Comfort Plus Insulated comes in a women's specific size of 66" and wins a Top Pick Award for the best 4-season sleeping pad for women. The Comfort Plus has a high R-Value of 5 and is the warmest model we've tested. It's dual inflatable chambers have many unique advantages. The first is that if a puncture does occur half of the pad will remain inflated, keeping a margin of safety and comfort if you're camping in cold environments. The second advantage is that you can fully inflate the bottom of the pad for support and then tailor the pressure of the top of the pad to your comfort preference!
An R-Value of 5 is not the highest you can go in a sleeping pad, but it is the highest of the bunch we've tested and think it would be an excellent choice for year-round camping, especially when paired with a good closed cell foam pad for extra insulation. It is the second heaviest pad of the bunch, however, and we would reach for something lighter if we had to go a long distance.
Read review: Sea to Summit Comfort Plus insulated Short
Notable for the Price and Performance
Therm-a-Rest Trail Lite - Women's
A new, updated version of the Therm-a-Rest Trail Lite - Women's sleeping pad hit the market, and it has trimmed down its weight and upped the price tag a little. However, we think it is still a great value and once again award it our Best Buy Award because it is warm, comfortable and inexpensive. The Trail Lite now retails for $80, the second cheapest product in this review, and the best value. It is a great all-arounder with a high R-Value of 4.9, meaning you can stretch it to 4-season use if paired with a good foam pad. It is still pretty heavy and has a large packed size, but would be appropriate for short backpacking trips and any kind of base or car camping uses.
The Trail Lite is a very similar product to the Therm-A-Rest ProLite Plus - Women's but is $20 cheaper and slightly warmer. The ProLite Plus is three ounces lighter and packs smaller so for you ounce counters you may want to drop the extra $20. We think that the Trail Lite is one of, if not the most durable models we've tested and think it is a great value that will last a long time for all your ground-sleeping needs!
Read review: Therm-a-Rest Trail Lite - Women's
Analysis and Test Results
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.
At OutdoorGearLab, you'll often find we've awarded a product our Editors' Choice, which is the best overall no matter the cost, as well as a few Top Picks for niche specialties. With so many different features to consider and price points ranging from $70 to $200 in our review alone, it can be a mind-boggling task to sort through which women's specific sleeping pad is right for you. In order to illustrate the relative value of each pad in our test, we considered the important features in each contender (such as warmth, comfort, weight, durability, and packed size) relative to its price, and mapped them out in the chart below. Award winners such as the Best Buy winning REI Air Rail 1.5 are marked by blue dots, and just hover your mouse over a dot to see which product it represents. The lower and further right a product falls, the better value we believe it to be. The Therm-a-Rest Trail Lite, at $80, also offers up a great value.
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 regarding 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 a remarkable example of products that have been designed specifically with women in mind, and in turn have become better products.
All that being said, this time around we've searched for more options for us ladies, and smaller people in general. We sifted through all sleeping bag manufacturers' sites to see who makes pads in smaller sizes, specifically in the 66-inch length that is a great size for a woman around 5'5" or 5'6". That way we can still get the great products that are in the Men's review but carry fewer materials (and weight) around consequently. We've now evaluated all the products that will fit us regardless if they're supposed to be "women's specific" or not.
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.
Two of the new pads we brought to the review this time around use a thin layer of synthetic insulation that is lighter and more compact for a higher warmth ratio than the open cell foam. These are the Sea to Summit Comfort Plus Insulated and the Big Agnes Q-Core SLX Insulated. The one exception that does not use foam or synthetic insulation 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.
The women's pads we tested have R-Values ranging from 3 Therm-a-Rest Prolite - Women's to 5 (Sea to Summit Comfort Plus Insulated) 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.
It was tough to objectively compare the warmth of pads from Big Agnes because it does not have an assigned R-Value and instead gave a rating in degrees Fahrenheit. So, we had to go based off of our own experiences sleeping on this pad and how warm it seemed compared to the models that we know what the R-value is and based on what the temperature was when we tested it.
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, the Big Agnes Q-Core SLX and the Therm-A-Rest Trail Lite. Not surprisingly, these were three 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 all slightly wider than the others and mostly rectangular. 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. The Q-Core also has bigger outer tubes that have a similar cradling effect, but it felt slightly less stable and more "boaty" than the AirRail.
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. We should also mention the Sea to Summit Comfort Plus in this metric. Its waffle-like surface absorbed your body in a very comfortable way, and you can tailor the amount of pressure the top layer has the right pressure for you. It also seems slightly wider than the average sleeping pad. Overall we had a comfortable bunch this year!
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, 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.
The Comfort Plus has a unique durability advantage. It has to separate inflatable chambers so if there is a puncture in one side it will stay inflated on the other. We tried it out and even with only one side inflated this pad is quite comfortable, and it will continue to keep you insulated from the ground until you're able to repair the puncture.
Another durability factor our testers noticed was the color of the top materials. The lighter colored mattresses like the REI AirRail and the Trail Lite Women's showed dirt much easier than darker colored mattresses like the ProLite Plus. For the NeoAir and other, rubber surfaced pads like the Q-Core this is a non-issue because of its smooth, 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.
For all backpackers, the weight of their gear should be considered. As part of your sleeping system, your pad should be considered part of the big three 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 cannot 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. A new contender this year that utilizes synthetic and heat reflective technology similar to the NeoAir is the Big Agnes Q-Core is nipping a the NeoAir's heels and weighs in at 16.6 ounces. The heaviest was the REI Trekker at 30.7 oz, which is almost a full pound heavier than the NeoAir.
Packed size is another important factor to consider when trying to slim down your pack size. Again, foam insulated mattresses cannot compete with air core construction or thin layers of synthetic insulation.
The NeoAir XLite Women's and the Q-Core are tied for the smallest packed size at 8.27 x 3.94 inches, followed by the REI AirRail at 9.84 x 5.51 inches. The Therm-A-Rest ProLite Plus is close and rings in at 9.84 x 6.3 in inches. The bulky REI Trekker has the largest packed size at 23.62 x 5.12 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 correctly, 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 can 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.
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 in filling our mattresses, like the NeoAir Torrent Pump, which is an electrical pump that will annoy your neighbors while you fill up your mattress. The the NeoAir Pump Sack allows you to fill up your mattress manually without fainting, and also acts as a stuff sack. The Sea to Summit Comfort Plus comes with its own stuff sack pump which is definitely a bonus!
Since women sleep colder than men and have a different anatomy and size as well, manufacturer's have created pads for sleeping specific to these qualities, sometimes by calling a product "women's" and sometimes creating a product that comes in a variety of sizes, one being the most ideal for the average woman. This review is here to help you find the pad that is the most comfortable, light, compact, and/or durable, depending on your specific needs. We want you to have all the info you need to make the right choice for your next trip sleeping out on the ground. Whether it is ice fishing in the Yukon or sleeping on the beach in Baja, you'll find the best option in one of these products we've reviewed. Check out our Buying Advice article to find out why women's models are a great option for both men and women, and how to choose the one that is right for your needs.
— Jessica Haist