Reviews You Can Rely On

Best Sleeping Pad For Women of 2021

The Synmat UL is a very comfortable rectangular shaped pad, it's great...
Photo: Ian McEleney
By Jessica Haist ⋅ Review Editor
Friday June 11, 2021
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Looking to get the best sleep while you're out on the trail? For over 8 years, we've slept on more than 60 of the best women's sleeping pads; for our 2021 update, we've purchased 11 of the best models and put them to a side-by-side comparison to find the best. We carried these pads with us all over North America on extended backpacking, horse packing, car camping, and mountaineering trips. We've slept on sand, snow, and slabs, measuring their warmth and comfort. We inflated, deflated, and compressed them to test their durability and useability — so you don't have to. Ladies, if you're planning on sleeping on the ground this year, whether it is a glamping trip or a long thru-hike, we've got you covered.

Related: Best Backpacking Sleeping Pad of 2021

Top 11 Product Ratings

Displaying 1 - 5 of 11
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Awards Top Pick Award    Best Buy Award 
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$100 List
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Overall Score
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63
Star Rating
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Pros Comfortable, quiet, lightweightComfortable, lightweight, small packed sizeVery warm, comfortable, quiet, included air pumpComfortable, durableComfortable, good valve system, warm
Cons Expensive, heavier than the NeoAir XLiteNot very warm, not very durableHeavy, expensiveHeavy, bulky, expensiveHeavy and bulky
Bottom Line A versatile sleeping pad that is incredibly comfortableThis super comfortable sleeping pad is a great choice for summer backpacking and camping tripsIt's ultra-warm and comfortable, and is made for a woman's shape; however, it's a bit heavy for backpackingThis comfortable car camping mat is the heaviest and bulkiest of the bunchA comfortable, warm sleeping pad with unique "rails" that will cradle you when you sleep
Rating Categories Ether Light XT Insu... Exped SynMat UL Ether Lite Xtreme Comfort Plus SI Co-op AirRail Plus
Warmth (25%)
7.0
5.0
10.0
8.0
7.0
Comfort (25%) Sort Icon
9.0
9.0
9.0
9.0
8.0
Durability (10%)
7.0
6.0
7.0
8.0
9.0
Weight (25%)
8.0
8.0
4.0
2.0
3.0
Packed Size (15%)
8.0
9.0
5.0
4.0
6.0
Specs Ether Light XT Insu... Exped SynMat UL Ether Lite Xtreme Comfort Plus SI Co-op AirRail Plus
Measured Weight 15 oz 14.6 oz 24.2 oz 34.4 oz 25 oz
ASTM R Value 3.5 2.9 6.3 5.1 3.7
Thickness 4 in 2.8 in 4 in 3 in 1.5 in
Width 21.5 in 25.6 in 21.7 in 21 in 23 in
Packed Size 11 x 4.5 in 10.4 x 4.3 in 6.9 x 9.4 in 7.25 x 10.75 in 9.84 x 5.51 in
Tested Length 66 in 77.6 in 66 in 67 in 66 in
Bottom Material 40D nylon 20 D polyester 30D / 40D nylon 30D knitted polyester 75D polyester


Best Overall Women's Sleeping Pad


Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite - Women's


85
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Warmth 9
  • Comfort 7
  • Durability 6
  • Weight 10
  • Packed Size 9
Incredibly lightweight
Packs down small
Comfortable
Versatile
Loud
Pricey
Made from delicate material

The Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite pad is our go-to for any time we're carrying our sleeping system on our backs for extended periods of time because it is so light and compact. New warmth testing standards have increased this pad's R-value up to a whopping 5.4, sealing the deal for the NeoAir. It is a great choice for long backpacking or other self-propelled sports where weight and space are at a premium. It is also very comfortable and features 2.5 inches of thick cushy air to lie on. It 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 of the year. This technology contributes to its small packed size because it doesn't use bulky insulating foam. Pack it small, sleep warm - it has an unbeatable warmth to weight ratio.

Like all things ultralight, the NeoAir XLite is somewhat delicate, and its materials are not the most durable. You'll need to treat this product with care, and if you do, you'll get years of use and lots of trail miles out of this great, lightweight option.

Read review: Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite - Women's

Best Bang for the Buck


REI Co-op AirRail Plus - Women's


63
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Warmth 7
  • Comfort 8
  • Durability 9
  • Weight 3
  • Packed Size 6
Weight: 25 ounces | R-value: 3.7
Comfortable
Good valve system
Warmest of the bunch
Heavy
Bulky

Do you like sleeping on a cloud? We do and think that sleeping on the REI AirRail Plus - Women's is as close as you can get. Along with being comfortable, it has a trimmed down weight and packed size that retails for a reasonable price. It is wider than the rest of the products in this review, 23" versus 20-21.5" inches, and the rails act like bumpers, cradling your whole body in a very comforting way. It's a great choice for side sleepers as it has a cushy one-inch pad, and the "air rails" let you know when you're close to the edge.

Unfortunately, the R-value has been slightly downgraded to 3.7, so it's not as warm as we once thought, but we think it is priced well. If you're seeking a great value sleeping pad for short backpacking trips or camping trips in the warmer days of the year, this is a good choice.

Read review: REI Co-Op AirRail Plus - Women's

Incredibly Comfortable and Warm


Sea to Summit Ether Light XT Insulated - Women's


79
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Warmth 7
  • Comfort 9
  • Durability 7
  • Weight 8
  • Packed Size 8
Weight: 15 ounces | R-value: 4.2
Very comfortable
Quiet
Versatile
Warm
Expensive
Heavier than the NeoAir XLite

Every time we lie down on the Sea to Summit Ether Light XT, we're blown away with our experience of comfort. It has pretty great warmth and weight specifications and packs down very small. It boasts has a women's specific shape that is wider at the hips and narrower at the shoulders, providing space where we need it. It is a cushy four inches thick and is great for side sleeping. If you're a slave for creature comforts, you're going to want to consider this deliciously cozy pad that we have a hard time getting off of. We also love how stable and quiet the Ether feels, in comparison to the loud crunchy sounding materials of other inflatable and packable pads.

Unfortunately, this pad isn't the warmest or lightest, but your tentmate will thank you for the silent sleep. If you're seeking a super comfortable pad and are willing to carry a few extra ounces for good quality sleep, this is by far our first recommendation. The Ether Light is a good choice for all your summer backpacking needs.

Read review: Sea to Summit Ether Light XT Insulated Women's

Compare Products

select up to 5 products to compare
Score Product Price Our Take
85
$180
Editors' Choice Award
A great choice for your long backpacking trips, this pad is light, compact and warm
79
$200
Top Pick Award
Comfortable and warm, this model will have you sleeping like a baby out on the trail
76
$140
Scored decently well in all our metrics, and has an excellent packed size
75
$150
It's very comfortable but not very warm; we'd recommend it for summer backpacking trips
72
$200
It's a good choice for winter camping, as it's incredibly warm and comfortable
72
$130
Not the warmest of pads, but it inflates to be a huge, cushy mattress
63
$100
Best Buy Award
A great value for a super comfortable sleeping pad
63
$80
This warm and comfortable model should be noted for its price and performance
62
$140
Comfortable, but also very heavy and bulky
60
$105
Slightly on the heavy and bulky side, this pad is a warm and comfortable choice for camping
51
$95
Compact and lightweight, it's an adequate model

The author settling into a cozy night&#039;s sleep on the REI AirRail Plus.
The author settling into a cozy night's sleep on the REI AirRail Plus.
Photo: Ian McEleney

Why You Should Trust Us


This review is crafted by outdoor educator and guide Jessica Haist. Jessica holds a Master's Degree in Adventure Education from Prescott College in Arizona. Originally from Canada, Jessica moved to the U.S. from her native Toronto and now resides in Mammoth Lakes, CA, where she avidly engages in several outdoor pursuits, including climbing, backpacking, mountain biking, and skiing.

Reviewing women's sleeping pads began with understanding what was available, and more specifically, what was worth testing. We combed through many products during the selection of the top 11 that are discussed here. We then thought about what was most important in a women's sleeping pad and made sure to focus on these things during testing. Aspects such as warmth and comfort, weight, durability, and packed size were key. We then tested the pads in varied terrain and environments, on various trips, including climbing and mountaineering expeditions, extended backpacking trips, and car camping extravaganzas. The result is a comprehensive review that will set you off on the right foot in your search for a women's sleeping pad.

Related: How We Tested Sleeping Pad for Women

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Analysis and Test Results


When it comes to sleeping pads, women have different needs than men. It's not surprising that our anatomy is different and scientific research shows that women typically sleep colder than men. Outdoor gear suppliers have noticed this and created sleeping pads specifically for women. There's extra padding in the torso and foot areas, providing more insulation. The width of the pads also tends to be a little shorter and narrower for shoulders that aren't as wide. Essentially, each is trimmed down, reducing bulk and weight. When a sleeping pad is engineered correctly, it'll offer more comfort with a better fit for most women, or shorter, curvy folks in general.

Related: Buying Advice for Sleeping Pad for Women

We love how thick the Ether Light is; unlike the Big Agnes Q Core...
We love how thick the Ether Light is; unlike the Big Agnes Q Core, you don't feel like you're on a boat, and it's very stable.
Photo: Jessica Haist

Value


At OutdoorGearLab, we do care about the weight of your wallet. As a result, we wanted to highlight some pads that offer exceptional value. These are options that do all things it needs to without spending an arm and a leg. The REI Co-op AirRail Plus offers the best value overall. While it's not the lightest of the products out there, it boasts immense comfort and swaddles you with its rail system. It's light and packable enough to take on your next backpacking adventure. The Therm-a-Rest Trail Lite is a great value option for car camping or if you don't mind carrying a little extra weight in your backpack. Notably, the Sea to Summit Ultralight is a high-scoring product for a relatively low price. It is very lightweight and relatively comfy at a reasonable price point. In general, there's a trade-off of weight and packability to save a few extra bucks. If you're okay with this trade-off, you can find some excellent deals.


Not Just for Women


People of all genders 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 people 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 for women, and in turn, have become better products.

All that 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 64-66 inch length that is a great size for a woman around 5'3" to 5'6". That way, we can still get the great products that are in the men's/unisex models 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. We have noticed this time around that manufacturers are making pads of different shapes than their unisex models and are more tailored to a typical (if there is such a thing) woman's shape — wider at the hips and narrower at the shoulders.

Warmth


The women's pads we tested have R-Values ranging from 2.7 Therm-a-Rest Prolite - Women's to 6.3 (Sea to Summit Ether Light Xtreme) and are designed for use primarily in three-season conditions — but some can be used in 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. There are now new R-value testing standards that the outdoor industry has implemented in the US, called the ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) standards, and all manufacturers in this test have gotten on board. These standards have shaken things up by significantly bumping up some pads' R-values and decreasing others. The most affected were the NeoAir, bumping up from 3.9 to 5.4, and many of the foam-insulated, self-inflating pads took a hit to the negative.

The Women&#039;s ProLite Plus is a decent winter camping option...
The Women's ProLite Plus is a decent winter camping option, especially when paired with a foam pad for extra insulation.
Photo: McKenzie Long

Construction Type and Warmth


The women's pads we tested are available in two types of construction. Most of the pads we tested are 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. Several newer pads 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 Ether Light, UltraLight Insulated, and Ether Light Xtreme as well as the Big Agnes Q-Core SLX Insulated. We suspect that this compressible, light synthetic insulation is the way of the future. 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 but can be very noisy. It is designed with internal baffles that provide structure and warmth and then compress very small.

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 Sea to Summit Ether Light LX, Sea to Summit Ether Light Xtreme, and the Sea to Summit Comfort Plus SI. Not surprisingly, these were three of the thickest mattresses we tested, making them cushy to lie on, especially for side sleepers, and they felt more stable than other products we tested. 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 Big Agnes 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. Thankfully there is a movement towards more comfort over the years we've been testing.

Paired with a warm sleeping pad the AlpinLite will keep you warm...
Paired with a warm sleeping pad the AlpinLite will keep you warm from early spring to late fall in the mountains.
Photo: Ian McEleney

Durability


All of the pads we tested in this review are inflatable. Therefore they are inherently less durable than closed-cell foam pads reviewed in the unisex pad review because they can be punctured.


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 and the AirRail features the strongest materials, and the Synmat UL has the most fragile. That 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.

We like Sea to Summit&#039;s valve system. It is easy to use and seems...
We like Sea to Summit's valve system. It is easy to use and seems durable.
Photo: Jessica Haist

Many of the newer pads on the market have excellent valve technology that seems more durable and easy to use than older models that twist shut. Sea to Summit's valves have burly openings and tabs that allow for the one-way valve to be open or the whole thing to open up for easy deflation. These models also all come with patches and extra valve pieces. All of Therm-a-Rest's models got new one-way valves that increased their durability since, in the past, there were complaints of leaky valves.

The Therm-a-Rest ProLite Women&#039;s new Wing Lock valve system is...
The Therm-a-Rest ProLite Women's new Wing Lock valve system is greatly improved over the old valve.
Photo: Ian McEleney

Another durability factor our testers noticed was the color of the top materials. The lighter-colored mattresses like the REI Trail Lite 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.

Our furry friend helped us test the ProLite Plus&#039; durability.
Our furry friend helped us test the ProLite Plus' durability.
Photo: Jessica Haist

Weight


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. Carefully choosing these three items can significantly reduce your pack weight and therefore boost your hiking enjoyment.


Foam weighs more than air; thus, all the self-inflating foam mattresses cannot compete with air core constructed mattresses. 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 ounces. The Big Agnes Q-Core has similar technology and is much thicker but weighs in at 16.6 ounces. Two of the Sea to Summit models are nipping at the NeoAir's heels, the Ether Light (15 ounces) and the Ultralight Insulated (14.6 ounces). Ironically, the heaviest was the Sea to Summit Comfort Plus SI at 34.4 ounces, which is 22.6 ounces heavier than the NeoAir. Many of these pads now come with "pump sacks" included which can add additional weight to your kit as well. Consider leaving them at home.

The NeoAir XLite women&#039;s is our favorite lightweight backpacking...
The NeoAir XLite women's is our favorite lightweight backpacking option.
Photo: Ian McEleney

Packed Size


Packed size is another essential 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, the Q-Core, and the Exped Synmat UL are tied for the smallest packed size, followed by the Ultralight Insulated, and are all in the range of 8-9"x4-5". The Ether Light is close and rings in at 11 x 4.5 inches. Many people have difficulty rolling their inflatable pads up to the original size they came in and are not able to fit them back into their stuff sacks; this may take more than one go at rolling and squeezing all the air out.

Our testing fleet. The REI Trekker (previously tested) and Sea to...
Our testing fleet. The REI Trekker (previously tested) and Sea to Summit Comfort Plus SI had the largest packed size and the NeoAir has the smallest.
Photo: Jessica Haist

Inflation Method and 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 in a few more breaths before closing the valve.

The NeoAir XLite is a great choice for long and strenuous...
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.
Photo: Jen Reynolds

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 pads are full. Several accessories aid us in filling our pads, like the NeoAir Torrent Pump, which is an electrical pump.

Using the Ultralight&#039;s pump sack makes inflation very easy.
Using the Ultralight's pump sack makes inflation very easy.
Photo: Ian McEleney

The the NeoAir Pump Sack allows you to fill up your mattress manually without fainting, and also acts as a stuff sack, and it's now included with the pad. Sea to Summit has provided stuff sack pumps with all of its non-self-inflating products, which is a bonus. Sea to Summit also includes attachment points for all their mats for their proprietary pillow systems.

The rainbow of women&#039;s sleeping pads.
The rainbow of women's sleeping pads.
Photo: Jessica Haist

Conclusion


Since most women sleep colder than men and have different anatomy, manufacturers have created pads specific to these qualities, sometimes 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.

Maggie Smith on the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite sleeping pad during a...
Maggie Smith on the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite sleeping pad during a break from biking from San Francisco to Los Angeles.
Photo: Max Neale

Jessica Haist