A good night’s sleep on a backpacking trip used to be a rarity, but today’s sleeping pads are much improved over their predecessors. Comfort is better than ever with advanced baffling and cell designs, weight and packed size continue to drop, and you can get all the insulation and warmth you need for cold weather. Below we break down the top sleeping pads for backpacking of 2021, including leading air, self-inflating, and foam models. With any pad you choose, make sure to take proper care to avoid holes. For more background information, see our comparison table and buying advice below the picks.

Our Team's Backpacking Sleeping Pad Picks

Best Overall Sleeping Pad for Backpacking

1. Nemo Tensor Insulated ($160)

Nemo Tensor Insulated backpacking sleeping padCategory: Air pad
Weight: 15 oz.
Thickness: 3 in.
R-value: 3.5
What we like: Light but a generous 3 inches thick; best pump sack design on the market.
What we don’t: Thinner fabric and less insulative than the XLite below.

Nemo is perhaps best known for their backpacking tents, but they’ve assembled a solid lineup of quality sleeping pads. The Tensor air pad is case in point, combining a lightweight and packable build with a comfortable sleeping platform and generous 3 inches of cushion that nicely isolate you from the ground below. For reference, this is a notable half-inch increase over the popular Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm and XLite, which is particularly beneficial for side sleepers. We also love Nemo’s intuitive Vortex pump sack that requires very little effort: simply snap it onto the flat, micro-adjustable valve, blow lightly into the opening, and roll the collar down to force air into the mat. All in all, the Tensor’s blend of comfort, build quality, and ease of use make it a standout on the market.

It’s worth noting that we had the aforementioned XLite in this top spot until recently, but the Tensor has overtaken it for a few key reasons. For starters, the Therm-a-Rest’s included pump sack can’t match the speed or convenience of the Tensor’s bag, and the XLite’s internal baffling means it’s louder and crinklier (although this issue hasn’t been a deal-breaker for us). Additionally, despite a slightly thinner 20-denier fabric (the XLite’s is 30D), the Tensor has proven to be similarly durable in our experience while coming in at $30 less. You do save a little weight and get a bit more insulation with the Therm-a-Rest, but many will find the Tensor’s extra cushion worth those tradeoffs (ourselves included), which is why we rank the Nemo at the top of our list. Note: the Tensor is getting an update for spring 2022, with notable changes including a boost in R-value (from 3.5 to 4.2), lightly reworked construction, and the use of recycled fabrics.
See the Nemo Tensor Insulated


Most Comfortable Pad for Side Sleepers

2. Sea to Summit Ether Light XT Insulated ($180)

Sea to Summit Ether XT Insulated backpacking sleeping padCategory: Air pad
Weight: 1 lb. 1.3 oz.
Thickness: 4 in.
R-value: 3.2
What we like: Excellent comfort and isolation from the ground with a super-thick build.
What we don’t: Expensive and only moderately insulated. 

For side sleepers and those who move around a lot during the night, Sea to Summit’s Ether Light XT Insulated is the ticket. With a whopping 4 inches of cushioning off the ground, the Ether is the thickest sleeping pad on this list (tied with the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Topo Luxe below) while weighing in at a respectable 1 pound 1.3 ounces. Other notable features include the same distinctive and well-padded Air Sprung Cells found on the Comfort Light below, a 3.2 R-value that should suffice for most summer and shoulder-season backpacking trips (it worked for us on nights in the mid 20s Fahrenheit), and a dual pump/stuff sack for quick and painless inflation (just take care to avoid getting a hole in the stuff sack or you’ll have to blow it up manually). Taken together, the Ether is one of the most luxurious pads on the market.

Admittedly, such a thick pad is unnecessary for many backpackers, including those who tend to sleep on their back and smaller human beings in general (we’ve found that the 2.5-in. NeoAirs are sufficient in most instances). In addition, the added cushioning that the Sea to Summit offers comes with a considerable bump in price, making the $180 Ether one of the most expensive pads in its class. For $20 less, check out Big Agnes’ Q-Core Deluxe below, which features a healthy 3.5 inches of cushioning and a higher R-value of 4.3. But all in all, for side sleepers looking to put as much space as possible between your body and the ground, the Ether is hard to beat. And Sea to Summit now offers the Ether Light XT Extreme ($200, 1 lb. 9.4 oz.), which adds Thermolite insulation to achieve an R-value of 6.2, as well as the lighter, summer-focused Ether Light XT Air ($160, 13.8 oz.) and roomier rectangular variation
See the Sea to Summit Ether Light XT Insulated


Best Sleeping Pad for Cold Weather

3. Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm ($220)

Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm backpacking sleeping padCategory: Air pad
Weight: 15 oz.
Thickness: 2.5 in.
R-value: 6.9
What we like: High R-value for 4-season backpacking. 
What we don’t: Pricey and overkill for most conditions.

For those that head out in all four seasons or experience sub-freezing temps on their backpacking trips, Therm-a-Rest’s NeoAir XTherm is worth a serious look. This pad has the same lightweight internal baffling design of the brand’s popular XLite (listed below) but adds a silver lining (literally) with ThermaCapture technology. The build mimics a built-in emergency blanket by reflecting back your body heat, giving the pad a winter-ready R-value of 6.9 with minimal bulk and weight. Lest we forget, the pad is equally as comfortable as the other NeoAir models, with a gradually tapered shape and small, unobtrusive horizontal baffles to sleep on.

Price is the biggest hurdle with the Therm-a-Rest XTherm for most backpackers, with the pad starting at a steep $220 for the regular size (the large is even more at $260). Further, the R-value of 6.9 is nice for the cold but overkill for many 3-season trips. On the other hand, the XTherm has a more durable 70-denier bottom fabric than the XLite at 30D, which is significant. If you need the extra warmth and can afford it, the XTherm is a cold-weather standout for serious adventurers.
See the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm


Best Budget Air Pad for Backpacking

4. Big Agnes Insulated Air Core Ultra ($100)

Big Agnes Insulated Air Core Ultra backpacking sleeping padCategory: Air pad
Weight: 1 lb. 6 oz.
Thickness: 3.25 in.
R-value: 4.5
What we like: Impressive warmth and plush 3.25-inch padding for just $100.
What we don’t: Relatively heavy; vertical baffles are not the most comfortable design.

You can spend almost $200 (or more) on a sleeping pad, but for budget-minded backpackers or those who only get out a few times a year, the Big Agnes Insulated Air Core Ultra gets the job done for half the cost. Aside from the price, there’s not a whole lot that screams “budget” about the Air Core: you get a generous 3.25 inches of padding (including 3.5 in. tall outer chambers to keep you from drifting off the side), a competitive R-value of 4.5, and a 4 x 8-inch packed size (for reference, the Nemo Tensor above compresses to 3.5 x 9.5 in.). And along with a two-way valve with dedicated openings for inflation and deflation and easy micro-adjustment, Big Agnes also includes a pump sack for easy setup.

For non-picky sleepers, recreational backpackers, or new campers with few points of comparison, the Air Core Ultra is fully capable in most 3-season conditions. But at 1 pound 6 ounces, it’s not particularly light, and most are in agreement that vertical baffles are not as comfortable as horizontal or boxed baffles like those found on the NeoAir XLite below and Ether Light above. All in all, it’s an impressive pad for just $100, and side sleepers especially will like the plush 3.25-inch thickness. For warm-weather backpacking, Big Agnes also makes the Air Core Ultra (non-insulated), which has an R-value of 1.4 and is priced at just $60. 
See the Big Agnes Insulated Air Core Ultra


Best Self-Inflating Sleeping Pad

5. Therm-a-Rest ProLite Plus ($105)

Therm-a-Rest ProLite Plus sleeping padCategory: Self-inflating
Weight: 1 lb. 7 oz.
Thickness: 1.5 in.
R-value: 3.2
What we like: Self-inflating convenience at a great price.
What we don’t: Thickness, weight, and packed size can’t compete with an air pad.

Air pads dominate the backpacking market, but self-inflating models still have a place due to their convenient set-up, greater durability, and cushy foam padding. Our favorite self-inflating design is Therm-a-Rest’s ProLite Plus, which hits a nice balance of warmth and price. The pad is super easy to use—just unroll it and open the valve to inflate—and its 3.2 R-value and 1.5-inch thickness give you enough warmth and protection for most spring, summer, and fall trips. With a price of $105 for the regular size, we also think the ProLite Plus is a solid deal for weekend warriors.

What are the downsides of the Therm-a-Rest ProLite Plus? The pad’s packed size and 1-pound-7-ounce weight make it significantly larger and heavier than a comparable air pad. And comfort-minded backpackers and side sleepers might prefer a thicker option (Therm-a-Rest also offers a ProLite Apex that increases thickness to 2 inches for an additional $15). On the other hand, the ProLite is less likely to spring a leak than most air pads with a fairly robust 50-denier fabric on the top and bottom. If you like the security of a self-inflating build, the ProLite is a proven option that won’t break the bank.
See the Therm-a-Rest ProLite Plus  See the Women's Therm-a-Rest ProLite Plus


Best Foam Sleeping Pad

6. Nemo Switchback ($50)

Nemo Switchback backpacking sleeping padCategory: Closed-cell foam
Weight: 14.5 oz.
Thickness: 0.9 in.
R-value: 2.0
What we like: Cheap and will never pop; thicker than the Therm-a-Rest Z Lite.
What we don’t: Not nearly as comfortable as inflatable sleeping pads.

We’ll start by saying that the Switchback from Nemo is not the right choice for those looking for a cushy and comfortable sleeping pad. You get a little less than an inch of closed-cell foam, along with a reflective coating designed to capture radiant heat. But we love this pad for two very important reasons: it’s cheap at just $50 for the regular version, and it will never pop. Despite the very thin and simplistic nature of foam, we’ll take the Switchback over a $150+ air pad with a hole any day. Plus, it’s incredibly versatile: use it as a seat around camp, sub it in for your pack’s foam backpanel to save weight, or slide it under your air or self-inflating pad for additional warmth or protection. Heck, we even use our foam pad to keep dinner or water warm (wrapping it around the pot) in our camp kitchen.

Compared to the uber-popular and long-standing Therm-a-Rest Z Lite SOL below, the Switchback wins out in most ways. Sure, it’s $4 more, but it’s also thicker (0.9 in. compared to 0.75 in.) yet packs down to the same size. We also think it’s a touch more comfortable, although it's a close call between the two. All that said, you’ll still feel rocks and roots beneath you much more than with the pricier air options above and below, and with an R-value of just 2 it won’t keep you insulated from the cold ground outside of the summer months. But as a versatile add-on or a dedicated UL pad that won’t pop, the Switchback is a great piece of gear to add to your kit.
See the Nemo Switchback


Best of the Rest

7. Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite ($190)

Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite backpacking sleeping padCategory: Air pad
Weight: 12 oz.
Thickness: 2.5 in.
R-value: 4.2
What we like: Ultralight, comfortable, and well-built.
What we don’t: A little thin and crinkly.

Therm-a-Rest is synonymous with quality backpacking pads, and the NeoAir XLite is their leading lightweight model. For many people and uses, it’s the whole package: the XLite is comfortable with Therm-a-Rest’s signature internal baffling, weighs just 12 ounces (3 oz. less than our top-rated Tensor above), and the R-value of 4.2 is plenty for most 3-season trips (the women's model is even warmer at 5.4). Further, the XLite stuffs downs impressively small and takes up very little space in your pack. It’s true that the NeoAir XTherm above provides more insulation and has thicker fabric on the bottom of the pad, but it’s also 3 ounces heavier and costs a whopping $220.

As we mentioned above, the Nemo Tensor recently dethroned the XLite as our favorite sleeping pad. To be fair, we do like the XLite’s WingLock valve, which features one-way inflation for improved efficiency and boasts plastic “wings” along the side that can be twisted open to quickly release air. The XLite also uses a slightly thicker 30-denier fabric (compared to the Nemo’s 20D), although both will require care to avoid punctures. And the XLite is both lighter and warmer, but the difference is marginal enough that most backpackers won’t be swayed by those factors alone. All told, the Therm-a-Rest remains an excellent 3-season choice thanks to its desirable mix of weight, comfort, and warmth.
See the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite  See the Women's Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite


8. Sea to Summit Comfort Light Insulated ($170)

Sea to Summit Comfort Light Insulated padCategory: Air pad
Weight: 1 lb. 5.9 oz.
Thickness: 2.5 in.
R-value: 3.7
What we like: Super comfortable.
What we don’t: Heavier than the leading Therm-a-Rest pads.

Best known for waterproof gear and accessories, Australia-based Sea to Summit has made a big splash in the sleeping pad world over the last few years. In a crowded field, the Comfort Light Insulated sets itself apart with an innovative cell design that we’ve found does an excellent job distributing weight and providing the right mix of support and softness. As the name implies, comfort is a priority with a slightly wider shape (21.5 in. maximum compared with 20 in. on most regular-width designs), 3-season-friendly R-value of 3.7, and a high-quality feel to the materials.

At nearly 1 pound 6 ounces, you do add some weight with the Sea to Summit Comfort Light Insulated compared to other pads at or near the top of this list, which also translates to a bit more bulk in your pack. And you’re not adding much in the way of durability either, with a 30D x 40D construction that is rather thin. Finally, the pad is 1.5 inches thinner than the brand’s own Ether XT above, so side sleepers and heavier backpackers will likely prefer that option. That said, the Comfort Light adds a second layer of Air Sprung Cells around the torso, which makes it extremely plush and a great choice for back sleepers. And you can bump up to the celebrated Comfort Plus Insulated for a bit more warmth (R-value: 4), but in our opinion it’s not worth the extra 7 ounces and $30.
See the Comfort Light Insulated  See the Women's Comfort Light Insulated


9. Nemo Flyer ($120)

Nemo Flyer backpacking sleeping padCategory: Self-inflating/air pad
Weight: 1 lb. 7 oz.
Thickness: 2 in.
R-value: 3.3
What we like: The thickness of an air pad and reliability of a self-inflating model.
What we don’t: Thin 20-denier shell.

Nemo’s Flyer is in a category of its own as a hybrid air/self-inflating pad that brings together the best features of both styles. To create the Flyer, Nemo took the design of a self-inflating pad, trimmed down the amount of open-cell foam by 60 percent, and added insulation and comfort via air-filled baffles. The net result is a mat that’s reasonably light at 1 pound 7 ounces, easy to set up (it's self-inflating), and decently compressible with a stuffed size of 6.5 x 10 inches. And importantly, the Flyer retains the supportive, plush cushioning of a self-inflating pad, which keeps you insulated from the ground even in the event of a leak.

What do you sacrifice with the Nemo Flyer? Sporting a 20-denier shell, the pad is similarly vulnerable to punctures as the brand’s much lighter Tensor, although (as we mentioned above) you’ll at least have a little foam cushioning with the Flyer to keep you protected if the pad gets a hole. It’s also a bit more expensive and no warmer than the Therm-a-Rest ProLite Plus above, but the Nemo wins out in thickness (2 in. vs. 1.5 in.) and packed size (6.5 x 10 in. vs. 6.8 x 11 for the Therm-a-Rest). If you prefer a self-inflating build but want to keep things light and compact, we think the Flyer is well worth checking out. 
See the Nemo Flyer


10. Big Agnes Insulated Q-Core Deluxe ($160)

Big Agnes Insulated Q-Core Deluxe sleeping padCategory: Air pad
Weight: 1 lb. 9 oz.
Thickness: 3.5 in.
R-value: 4.3
What we like: Thick construction and impressive warmth at a reasonable price.
What we don’t: The Ether Light XT above wins out in weight and comfort.

Steamboat Springs-based Big Agnes makes some of our favorite lightweight backpacking gear. And from their wide-ranging sleeping pad line, the Insulated Q-Core Deluxe stands out as one of their best. Featuring PrimaLoft Silver synthetic insulation and a very thick 3.5-inch construction (its sides are even taller at 4.25 in.), the pad is a strong option for side and active sleepers and in chilly conditions (the R-value is a respectable 4.3). You pay a weight penalty at 1 pound 9 ounces, but the Deluxe is a well-built, comfort-focused design.

In terms of ultra-thick sleeping pads, the Q-Core Deluxe goes head-to-head with the Sea to Summit Ether Light XT above. Compared to the insulated version of the Ether, the Big Agnes is around 8 ounces heavier and half an inch thinner, although you save $20 and get more warmth (the Ether has an R-value of 3.2). But in our opinion, the biggest difference is comfort: the Ether’s cell-like construction is more plush than the Q-Core’s rigid, quilted top. Finally, it’s worth noting that we previously had Big Agnes’ Insulated Q-Core SLX here, which is $10 cheaper and 7 ounces lighter than the Deluxe model but falls noticeably short in warmth and overall build quality (we put a hole in ours after only moderate use).
See the Big Agnes Insulated Q-Core Deluxe


11. Nemo Quasar 3D Insulated ($150)

Nemo Quasar 3D Insulated backpacking sleeping padCategory: Air pad
Weight: 1 lb. 9 oz. 
Thickness: 3.5 in.
R-value: 3.3
What we like: A versatile and comfortable pad for backpacking, camping, and more.
What we don’t: Heavier than most air pads here.

It might be called a “backpacking” sleeping pad, but let’s face it: a lot of us use our mats for more than just nights on the trail, whether it’s bedding down in a vehicle, at a frontcountry campground, or on a friend’s living room floor. For a pad that can do it all, check out Nemo’s new-for-2021 Quasar 3D. Marketed as a “quiver killer,” the Quasar combines a decently lightweight build with a roomy rectangular shape (no mummy option) and impressive comfort. Soft contours hug your body and keep you centered on the pad, and you get 3.5 inches of cushioning (great for side sleepers) and an elevated baffle at one end to prop up your head or keep your pillow in place. Added up, the Quasar toes the line between a camping mattress and a backpacking pad better than most.

But as with the majority of gear that seeks to be the jack of all trades, the Quasar 3D is master of none. At 1 pound 9 ounces for the insulated design (3.3 R-value), it has one of the poorest warmth-to-weight ratios of any air pad here. And while $150 is a fairly competitive price point, you can save $50 with the Big Agnes Insulated Air Core Ultra, which is both lighter and warmer. But if comfort is the main factor in your equation, it’s true that the Quasar 3D is a cut above most backpacking pads. Finally, Nemo also offers a non-insulated version (R-value: 1.8) for $130, and it doesn’t hurt that both models are bluesign-certified and made with 100-percent-recycled materials.
See the Nemo Quasar 3D Insulated


12. Therm-a-Rest Z Lite SOL ($46)

Therm-a-Rest Z-Lite SOL backpacking sleeping padCategory: Closed-cell foam
Weight: 14 oz.
Thickness: 0.75 in.
R-value: 2.0
What we like: Durable and lightweight.
What we don’t: Nemo Switchback above is thicker and more comfortable.

Therm-a-Rest’s Z Lite SOL is a backpacking classic. This basic 3/4-inch pad features tough closed-cell foam, a reflective coating for a boost in warmth, and a budget-friendly price of $46. Further, the pad folds up accordion-style into a reasonably compact package for storing on the top, side, or bottom of a pack. As with the Nemo Switchback above, the Z Lite is not a leader in terms of comfort, but it’s hard to argue with the dependability of a cheap foam mat. 

You’ll see the Therm-a-Rest Z Lite SOL strapped to a surprisingly high number of packs. Ultralighters love the low weight and dependability, budget backpackers love the price, and winter campers use it as a second mat for a boost in warmth. In the end, the Switchback above beats it in comfort with its thicker, more plush design, but the Z Lite is the proven choice that still gets the slight edge in weight (14 oz. vs. 14.5 for the Nemo) and price ($46 vs. $50).
See the Therm-a-Rest Z Lite SOL


13. Therm-a-Rest NeoAir UberLite ($200)

Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Uberlite backpacking sleeping padCategory: Air pad
Weight: 8.8 oz.
Thickness: 2.5 in.
R-value: 2.3
What we like: Crazy light and surprisingly comfortable.
What we don’t: Limited durability and insulation.

Based off the popular NeoAir series, the aptly named NeoAir UberLite is Therm-a-Rest's lightest creation yet, shaving an impressive 3.2 ounces off the XLite above. We brought the UberLite on a backpacking trip into the Grand Canyon and it held up nicely: the familiar horizontal baffling makes it just as comfortable as the other NeoAir mats, we didn’t experience any punctures despite sleeping in a floorless Hyperlite shelter, and the tiny stuff sack fit easily into the smallest crevices in our pack.

The NeoAir UberLite has a lot of appeal for those looking to trim their base weight, but, unsurprisingly, it comes with a fair number of compromises. With an R-value of 2.3, the pad was just warm enough for us when temperatures dipped into the mid 40s Fahrenheit, but it likely will be too cold for the shoulder seasons or even summer trips high into the alpine. Further, the 15-denier fabric is even thinner than the XLite’s delicate 30-denier shell and therefore is prone to punctures (you’ll want to make sure to bring your patch kit on every trip). For $10 less, we prefer the XLite’s greater versatility, but for warm-weather adventures when weight is your primary consideration, the UberLite is the pad to get. 
See the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir UberLite


14. Sea to Summit Ultralight Insulated ($140)

Sea to Summit Ultralight Insulated sleeping padCategory: Air pad
Weight: 1 lb. 0.9 oz.
Thickness: 2 in.
R-value: 3.1
What we like: Light, packable, and very comfortable for the weight.
What we don’t: Not the best value.

Sharing the cell-like design of their Comfort Light above but in a trimmed-down form is Sea to Summit’s Ultralight Insulated. At just over 1 pound and with an impressively small packed size, the Ultralight is nicely cushioned with 2 inches of thickness, has a respectable R-value of 3.1 for warmth in most 3-season conditions, and boasts the brand’s aforementioned Air Sprung Cells that add noticeable boosts in plushness and all-around comfort. Taken together, the Ultralight strikes us as an impressively well-rounded air pad with no serious concessions.

All that said, we have the Sea to Summit Ultralight Insulated ranked here because it simply doesn’t stand out from a value perspective. For $40 more, the brand’s Ether Light XT above offers double the padding for only a 0.4-ounce weight penalty. Alternatively, Nemo’s $20-pricier Tensor is an inch thicker and weighs less at 15 ounces, although it’s a step down in durability with a thin, 20-denier fabric (the Ultralight Insulated is 30D x 40D). But the combination of comfort and weight undeniably are competitive, which is why we've included this Sea to Summit pad here. For those who prefer a self-inflating design, Sea to Summit also makes the Ultralight SI, which checks in at an impressively light 1 pound 3 ounces and has an R-value of 2.6.
See the Sea to Summit Ultralight Insulated  See the Women's Ultralight Insulated


15. Therm-a-Rest Trail Pro ($130)

Therm-a-Rest Trail Pro sleeping padCategory: Self-inflating/air pad
Weight: 1 lb. 13 oz.
Thickness: 3 in.
R-value: 4.4
What we like: Thick and very comfortable.
What we don’t: The heaviest self-inflating design on our list.

Therm-a-Rest’s ProLite Plus above is our favorite self-inflating pad for its combination of warmth and price, but their spendier Trail Pro stands out as a cushier and more luxurious option. Similar to Nemo’s innovative Flyer above, the Trail Pro takes properties from both self-inflating and air pad designs by alternating ridges of foam and air, which nicely balances weight and comfort. You also get a 3-season-worthy R-value of 4.4 (for reference, the ProLite Plus is 3.2), as well as an impressively thick and well-padded build (3 in. vs. the ProLite’s 1.5 in.). All in all, from a comfort standpoint, the Trail Pro is a real winner. 

The Therm-a-Rest Trail Pro, however, is not without downsides. At 1 pound 13 ounces, it’s the heaviest self-inflating model on our list by a considerable 6 ounces, although it’s also the thickest and warmest. Packed size is another downfall, with the Trail Pro measuring a fairly bulky 8.8 x 11 inches when compressed (the ProLite Plus, by comparison, is 6.8 x 11 in.). But there’s no denying the lavish feel, and the Trail Pro’s added thickness and plushness make it worth considering for comfort-minded backpackers.
See the Therm-a-Rest Trail Pro


16. Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Topo Luxe ($150)

Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Topo Luxe sleeping padCategory: Air pad
Weight: 1 lb. 7 oz.
Thickness: 4 in.
R-value: 3.7
What we like: Same thickness as the Ether Light XT but cheaper, more durable, and warmer.
What we don’t: Fairly heavy and bulky for an air pad.

At the opposite end of the spectrum from their weight-conscious UberLite is Therm-a-Rest’s comfort-focused NeoAir Topo Luxe. This is the thickest pad in the brand’s NeoAir collection, with a generous 4 inches of cushion between you and the ground (the same as Sea to Summit’s Ether Light XT above). In addition, the pad utilizes two layers of stacked, triangular baffles to maximize stability and minimize heat loss, and the rectangular shape makes it easier to sprawl out than with tapered mummy designs. Added up, the NeoAir Topo Luxe is a well-built and premium pad at a pretty reasonable price.

In comparing the NeoAir Topo Luxe to Sea to Summit’s Ether Light XT above, it’s warmer with an R-value of 3.7 (the Ether Light’s is 3.2), uses more durable fabrics (50D vs. 30 and 40D), and costs $30 less. On the flip side, the Therm-a-Rest is heavier by around 6 ounces and doesn’t pack down as small. We also think the Sea to Summit’s Air Sprung Cells win out in overall plushness, although that’s largely a matter of personal preference. All in all, both are thick and thoughtfully constructed designs for comfort-oriented backpackers, and a final decision will likely come down to how you prioritize weight versus durability and cost.
See the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Topo Luxe


17. Exped DownMat XP 9 ($229)

Exped DownMat XP 9 winter sleeping padCategory: Air pad
Weight: 1 lb. 15.6 oz.
Thickness: 3.5 in.
R-value: 7.8
What we like: The highest R-value backpacking pad on the market.
What we don’t: Heavy and overkill for most conditions.

Most of the sleeping pads on the list are built for 3-season conditions with varying levels of insulation. But for the highest R-value of any backpacking pad, the Exped Downmat XP 9 takes the cake at 7.8. With a unique design that uses 700-fill goose down as insulation, the XP 9 also is a substantial 3.5 inches thick and quite comfortable to sleep on. You can't inflate this pad manually, as the moisture from your breath can damage the down fill, but the included waterproof compression sack doubles as a fully functional pump bag. For 4-season backpacking, base camping, and as an expedition mat, the Exped wins out in warmth. 

Our big concern with the Exped DownMat XP 9 is that it’s lacking in practicality, and in particular when compared to the uber-popular Therm-a-Rest XTherm above. In parsing out the differences, the XTherm has an impressive R-value of 6.9, which is ample for most cold weather, and weighs significantly less at just 15 ounces for a regular size (that’s half of the weight of the Exped). It’s true that the DownMat is 1 inch thicker, not as crinkly as the XTherm, and wins out in sleeping comfort, but it’s an unnecessarily heavy and bulky pad for most people to carry in their pack.
See the Exped DownMat XP 9


18. Therm-a-Rest Trail Scout ($55)

Therm-a-Rest Trail Scout sleeping padCategory: Self-inflating 
Weight: 1 lb. 6 oz.
Thickness: 1 in.
R-value: 3.1
What we like: The cheapest self-inflating design on our list by a wide margin.
What we don’t: It’s also the least comfortable.

The eighth and final Therm-a-Rest pad to make our list is also the cheapest: the Trail Scout. For only $55, the Trail Scout undercuts the self-inflating competition above by a considerable $50-$85 and doesn’t sacrifice much in the way of quality. Most notably, you get a respectable R-value of 3.1 (great for most 3-season backpacking), competitive 1-pound-6-ounce weight, and the brand’s WingLock valve described above. For those on a strict budget, there’s a lot to like with the Trail Scout.

What do you compromise by saving with the Therm-a-Rest pad? Comfort is the most obvious concession, with a thin 1-inch build that doesn’t keep you very far off the ground. For side sleepers or those who place a premium on cushioning, we recommend spending up for a thicker model like Therm-a-Rest’s own ProLite Plus or Trail Pro above. But for a cushier and warmer alternative to the cheap foam options on our list, the Trail Scout has its place.
See the Therm-a-Rest Trail Scout


19. Klymit Insulated Static V Lite ($76)

Klymit Insulated Static V Lite sleeping padCategory: Air pad
Weight: 1 lb. 3.6 oz.
Thickness: 2.5 in.
R-value: 4.4
What we like: Wide sleeping platform and great price.
What we don’t: Not a standout in any specific category.

Klymit’s radical X Frame pad may have put the company on the map, but their follow-up Insulated Static V Lite is their best offering. Whereas the X Frame cuts away excess materials and resembles a skeleton (and offers no insulation from the ground), the Static V Lite is a little more traditional and comfortable. We particularly like the 23-inch width (most regular pads are 20 in. wide). Combined with raised baffles along the sides, the Klymit is a stable and roomy sleeping platform that is great for active sleepers.

Outside of the extra space and very competitive price, however, the Insulated Static V Lite doesn’t really stand out. Using 30-denier fabric, we’d expect it to weigh less than 1 pound 3.6 ounces (the warmer 15-oz. XTherm has a higher denier rating on the bottom of the pad), so you sacrifice durability without the typical reward of weight. Its V-like baffles also can’t match the sleeping comfort of the premium options above from Sea to Summit, Therm-a-Rest, Big Agnes, and Nemo, which drops the Klymit to the very bottom of our list. For a cheaper but less insulated option from the brand, check out their Static V2.
See the Klymit Insulated Static V Lite


Backpacking Sleeping Pad Comparison Table

Sleeping Pad Price Category Weight Thick R-Value Denier Packed
Nemo Tensor Insulated $160 Air pad 15 oz. 3 in. 3.5 20D 3 x 8 in.
Sea to Summit Ether Light XT $180 Air pad 1 lb. 1.3 oz. 4 in. 3.2 30Dx40D 4.5 x 9.5 in.
Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm $220 Air pad 15 oz. 2.5 in. 6.9 70D 4 x 9 in.
Big Agnes Insulated Air Core $100 Air pad 1 lb. 6 oz. 3.25 in. 4.5 Unavail. 4 x 8 in.
Therm-a-Rest ProLite Plus $105 Self-inflating 1 lb. 7 oz. 1.5 in. 3.2 50D 6.8 x 11 in.
Nemo Switchback $50 Foam 14.5 oz. 0.9 in. 2.0 N/A 5 x 20 in.
Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite $190 Air pad 12 oz. 2.5 in. 4.2 30D 4 x 9.1 in.
Sea to Summit Comfort Light $170 Air pad 1 lb. 5.9 oz. 2.5 in. 3.7 30Dx40D 4.5 x 9.5 in.
Nemo Flyer $120 Self-inflating/air 1 lb. 7 oz. 2 in. 3.3 20D 6.5 x 10in.
Big Agnes Q-Core Deluxe $160 Air pad 1 lb. 9 oz. 3.5 in. 4.3 Unavail. 5 x 8.5 in.
Nemo Quasar 3D Insulated $150 Air pad 1 lb. 9 oz. 3.5 in. 3.3 30D 4.5 x 8 in.
Therm-a-Rest Z Lite SOL $46 Foam 14 oz. 0.75 in. 2.0 N/A 5.5 x 20 in.
Therm-a-Rest NeoAir UberLite $200 Air pad 8.8 oz. 2.5 in. 2.3 15D 3.5 x 6 in.
Sea to Summit UL Insulated $140 Air pad 1 lb. 0.9 oz. 2 in. 3.1 30Dx40D 4 x 9 in.
Therm-a-Rest Trail Pro $130 Self-inflating/air 1 lb. 13 oz. 3 in. 4.4 50D 8.8 x 11 in.
Therm-a-Rest Topo Luxe $150 Air pad 1 lb. 7 oz. 4 in. 3.7 50D 5.5 x 9 in.
Exped DownMat XP 9 $229 Air pad 1 lb. 15.6 oz. 3.5 in. 7.8 75D 6.3 x 9.4 in.
Therm-a-Rest Trail Scout $55 Self-inflating 1 lb. 6 oz. 1 in. 3.1 Unavail. 6.25 x 11 in.
Klymit Insulated Static V Lite $76 Air pad 1 lb. 3.6 oz. 2.5 in. 4.4 30D 5 x 8 in.


Backpacking Sleeping Pad Buying Advice

Sleeping Pad Categories: Air, Self-Inflating, and Foam

Air Pads
Backpacking sleeping pads fall into three general categories: air, self-inflating, and closed-cell foam. Air pads offer unmatched compactness, often rolling down to the same size as a Nalgene bottle. They’re also the lightest option, while at the same time providing unmatched thickness. Bonded insulation or baffling techniques can bring impressive warmth, highlighted by the Therm-a-Rest XTherm with an R-value of 6.9. The primary downside is a greater puncture risk, and it’s a big consideration. Middle of the night deflations can ruin a trip really fast. Bringing along a patch kit should alleviate most concerns, but it’s still the biggest reason to not buy an air pad.

Backpacking sleeping pad (REI Flash 3-Season stuffed)
Air pads are the clear leaders in weight and packability

Self-Inflating Mats
The self-inflating mattress was a revolutionary idea when the Therm-a-Rest was invented in 1972. By combining open-cell foam and a space for the pad to expand and fill with air, it brought convenience, decent durability, and comfort. It’s a testament to that technology that most of today’s self-inflating pads haven’t deviated much. Compared with air pads, self-inflating options are more puncture resistant, and you still have some semblance of padding if it deflates in the middle of the night. Negatives are that the foam brings extra poundage and they don’t pack down as small as an equivalent air pad. Backpacking options are also often not as thick (exceptions include Sea to Summit's SI line), leading to complaints from side sleepers.

Backpacking sleeping pad (Nemo Flyer laying inside tent)
Self-inflating pads balance comfort and convenience

Foam Pads
The old closed-cell foam pads still have a place on this list as a dependable, tried-and-true option. Yes, they’re the least comfortable option, don’t pack as small, and don’t have the highest R-values, but they also have exactly a zero percent chance of deflating in the middle of the night. And they’re the perfect secondary pads to bring along for winter camping. Designs like the Therm-a-Rest Z Lite SOL and Nemo Switchback are staples for long-distance trekkers and thru-hikers due to their versatile and lightweight constructions.

Sleeping pad (Nemo Switchback)
Backpacking with the foam Nemo Switchback


Weight is a primary consideration for many backpackers—just look at the quick rise of the ultralight backpacking movement. On this list, you’ll find everything from the 8.8-ounce Therm-a-Rest NeoAir UberLite to the 1-pound-15.6-ounce Exped DownMat XP 9. We think that the best backpacking pad options are in the 12- to 18-ounce range, offering cutting-edge materials along with respectable levels of comfort and warmth. And our top pick, the Nemo Tensor Insulated, does just that as a fantastic and lightweight 3-season pad at just 15 ounces.

As with any piece of outdoor gear, the less it weighs the more fragile it will be. It doesn’t make a ton of sense to buy a $200 ultralight sleeping pad if you only plan on using it on a couple of easy weekend trips each summer. And regardless of its weight, make sure to take reasonable care when setting up camp and stowing your pad (more on this in "Sleeping Pad Care" below).

Sleeping pad (Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Uberlite)
Therm-a-Rest's UberLite feels almost impossibly light in hand

Thickness and Comfort

Comfort is relative when sleeping on the ground, and most people who can’t handle a night under the stars don’t backpack or camp at all. Backpacking pads are thinner and less plush than camping mattresses and pads, but the latest outdoor gear technology has made advances in this department. We think Sea to Summit’s Air Sprung Cells (2 inches thick on their Ultralight Insulated, 2.5 inches on their Comfort Light, and 4 inches on their Ether Light XT Insulated) make for some of the most comfortable sleeping pads around, although they can’t quite compete with Therm-a-Rest in terms of weight and R-value per ounce.

Sleeping pad (Sea to Summit Comfort Light Air Sprung Cells)
Sea to Summit's Air Sprung Cells provide excellent comfort

You may notice a lot of chatter in product comments about being a back sleeper or a side sleeper. Back sleeping more evenly distributes your weight, whereas side sleeping puts a higher percentage of weight around the hips and shoulders. If you are a side sleeper or don’t sleep particularly well in the outdoors, check out a substantial pad like the Big Agnes Insulated Q-Core Deluxe (3.5 inches thick in the middle and 4.25 along the sides) or Sea to Summit Ether Light XT Insulated (4 inches thick). If you need serious cushion, consider one of the lighter options on our list of the best camping mattresses and pads

Sleeping pad (Big Agnes Air Core Ultra thickness)
The Big Agnes Air Core Ultra is a great budget option for side sleepers

Baffle Design
While on the topic of comfort, it’s important to note that baffle design can have a pretty considerable impact too. In general, we’ve found that vertical baffles—like those found on Big Agnes’ Insulated Air Core Ultra—tend to be less supportive and comfortable than horizontal or boxed. On the flip side, we really like Sea to Summit’s Air Sprung Cells found on their Ether Light XT and Comfort Light pads above, which have a decidedly plush and nicely padded feel. Another standout is Nemo’s Quasar 3D, which boasts a raised baffle at the head end for keeping your head and/or pillow elevated. To be fair, baffle shape and layout are largely a matter of personal preference, and there are certainly some quality vertical designs on the market. But on the whole, we’ve found they feel a little less natural and fall short in both comfort and stability.

Sleeping Pad R-Value: How Much Do You Need?

A critical spec in comparing sleeping pads is R-value, or how much insulation a pad provides from the ground. Don’t underestimate R-value: using an uninsulated or too lightly insulated pad even in cool temperatures can make you quite cold throughout the night. And even a warm and thick sleeping bag won’t save you because your body compresses the insulation along the bottom of the bag, thereby letting cold air up and compromising its ability to keep you warm. To combat this from happening, you’ll need a sleeping pad that offers an appropriate level of protection from the cold ground.

Sleeping pad (dog sleeping on Therm-a-Rest XTherm)
The XTherm's 6.9 R-value is great for winter and dog approved

In terms of recommended ranges, summer-only backpackers who stick to warm conditions can get away with an R-value of 3 or less. Most 3-season backpackers should get a sleeping pad with an R-value in the range of 3 to 5, and this where a majority of our picks above are rated. Last but not least, winter camping requires an R-value that exceeds 5, with the most popular model being the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm and its R-value of 6.9. If you will be camping on snow, it’s a good idea to bring a combination of pads, especially if one is of the inflatable variety (imagine waking up in the middle of the night on top of snow on essentially a deflated balloon). For this reason, many winter campers bring along a closed-cell foam model like the Nemo Switchback or Z Lite SOL to be safe. For a deeper dive into this topic in general, see our article on Sleeping Pad R-Value Explained.

Backpacking sleeping pad (inflating the Sea to Summit Comfort Light in Colorado wilderness)
The women's Sea to Summit Comfort Light (R-value: 3.9) is great for 3-season use

Recommended sleeping pad R-values:

  • Summer-only backpacking: 1 to 3
  • 3-Season backpacking: 3 to 5
  • Winter camping on snow: 5+
Sleeping pad (Exped DownMat in snowy conditions)
Exped's DownMat has an R-value of 7.8

The ASTM Standard
All current sleeping pads above are now rated based on a standardized ASTM International test, which was introduced last year. In this process, pads are sandwiched between a hot plate (35 degrees Celsius) on top, which mimics the body, and a cold plate (5 degrees Celsius) underneath, mimicking the ground. Over the course of four hours, testers measure how much energy the top plate uses in order to stay at a consistent 35 degrees. The less energy it takes, the more insulative the pad. The more energy it takes, the less insulative the pad. The net result is more accurate and dependable ratings across the board.

Packed Size

Packed size is a function of the pad type, amount of insulation, and fabric thickness. Uninsulated or lightly insulated air pads are far and away the most compact. Some even compress to the size of a can of soda, which is a far cry from the foam and self-inflating pads that dominated the market only a decade ago. A quick scan of our comparison table above shows that most air pads, even warm options like the Therm-a-Rest XTherm, pack down small enough to easily fit inside a backpacking pack. Designs like the XLite pack down impressively small and can be gripped in one hand.

Backpacking sleeping pad (small stuffed size)
Ultralight air pads have impressively small packed sizes

If you are considering a self-inflating or closed-cell foam pad, packed size can present a problem. A foam option like Therm-a-Rest Z Lite is 20 inches long (most air pads are about 7 to 10 inches), which means you’ll need to strap it to the outside of your pack. Self-inflating pads can have similar issues, although modern designs like the Nemo Flyer (6.5 x 10 in.) are reasonably small and should be workable for storing inside most bags. For some, packed size may not be an issue at all, but it’s one of a number of reasons why air pads have become so popular.

Sleeping Pad Dimensions and Shape

Most sleeping pads are unisex and come in two or three sizes that allow you to choose based on your height and comfort preferences. A “regular” pad often is right around 72 inches long and 20 inches wide (at its widest point), and the “large” often is between 77 and 80 inches long and 25 inches wide. In terms of shape, they fall into two basic categories: mummy pads that taper towards the feet to cut weight, and rectangular pads that are more spacious and accommodating for comfort-minded or active sleepers.

Sleeping pad (Therm-a-Rest XTherm size)
Testing the "L" version of the XTherm, which is 25 inches wide and 77 inches long

Occasionally you’ll find a “small” size, and some brands even offer torso pads that are only about 2/3 the length of a regular pad. These aren’t the most comfortable models, but they do allow you to cut significant weight. Because your legs have fewer contact points with the ground, some people don’t mind the short length (and they sometimes throw an extra piece of gear under their feet for cushioning and warmth). On the other end of the spectrum are double pads like the Big Agnes SLX Tent Floor. Measuring 50 inches wide at the top (40 inches at the feet), it takes up nearly the entire tent floor to eliminate any possible gaps. Realistically, a double pad is fairly impractical as it’s heavy and bulky to pack, but it can be a fun option for couples and small families.

Women's-Specific Sleeping Pads

Some sleeping pads also come in a women’s version that looks nearly identical to its unisex counterpart, so what’s the difference? To start, they’ll be shorter than the unisex pad—for comparison’s sake, the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite is 72 inches long for the unisex version versus 66 inches for the women’s model. They also may offer a little more insulation (the women's XLite has an R-value of 5.4 vs. 4.2 for the unisex pad), making them a great choice for all shorter adults who sleep cold. And finally, some models tweak the dimensions and concentration of foam around the hips for greater room and comfort.

Backpacking sleeping pads (length comparison)
A women's 66-inch pad next to a regular-length 72-inch model

Durability (Denier)

The most common measure of durability in the outdoor gear world is denier (D), which measures the thickness of a fabric. The higher the denier, the tougher the material will be. Let us be clear: denier matters and you can feel the difference. So does weight, however, so it’s important to find the right balance for your backpacking style. Ultralight backpackers cut every possible ounce and usually know how to take care of their gear (otherwise it would be an extremely expensive hobby, if it isn’t already). The downside is that lower-denier fabrics have shorter lifespans and a higher propensity for durability issues in the backcountry. On our list above, thickness ranges from the 15-denier, 8.8-ounce Therm-a-Rest NeoAir UberLite to the 75-denier (and much heavier) Exped DownMat XP.

Sleeping pad (Nemo Tensor inflating)
Our top-rated Nemo Tensor is fairly thin at 20D

Inflation and Deflation: Valve Types

Both air and self-inflating sleeping pads utilize a valve to inflate/deflate, and there have been a fair number of changes in the designs over the past few years. Traditional sleeping pads open and close by twisting and pushing or pulling a round plastic valve connected to the side of the mat. These work pretty well in general, and they’re still used on some old and budget-oriented designs, but there are downsides. For one, the valve works inefficiently because it’s completely open while inflating, which allows some air to escape in between breaths. Further, their upright profile takes up space when rolled up, and they are slow to deflate.

To address these issues, a number of manufacturers including Sea to Summit, Nemo, and Big Agnes have turned to flat valves. Beyond the slim profile, they often have dedicated openings for inflating and deflating, and importantly, a flap that keeps air from escaping while blowing into the opening. We've found these pads with two separate valves for inflating and deflating to be reliable, efficient (it takes about 10 breaths total to inflate and deflation is almost instantaneous), and add essentially no weight—all excellent characteristics.

Moreover, in spring of 2020, Therm-a-Rest released a new valve called WingLock, which is a twist on the traditional valve type. Their new build allows for one-way inflation—with no air loss between breaths—and twisting the side “wings” quickly release air. In use, we’ve found it’s not as fast as the flat valve competition, but its sturdy build and replaceability (something that’s not typically possible with a flat valve) make it worth the tradeoff in efficiency for high-volume users like thru-hikers.

Therm-a-Rest WingLock valve (closeup)
The WingLock valve on the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir

Pump Sacks

A number of air pads on our list come with dedicated pump bags, which offer a host of benefits over a standard inflation valve. Most notably, pump sacks allow you to save your breath, cut down on inflation time, and prevent moisture from getting inside your pad (which can lead to mold if not dried out properly or even freeze on particularly cold nights). And in many cases, the pump bag doubles as the pad’s stuff sack, which means you’re not adding any weight by gaining this convenience.

Backpacking sleeping pad (inflating Sea to Summit pump sack)
Using Sea to Summit's combo pump/stuff sack

That said, not all pump sacks are created equally, and some designs are much more functional and convenient to use than others. For example, we’ve found that the Nemo Tensor’s Vortex pump sack is incredibly efficient and user-friendly: simply snap the Vortex onto the pad’s flat inflation valve, blow lightly into the open bag, then roll the collar down and push the trapped air into the mat. Sea to Summit includes a similar system with models like their Ether Light XT and Comfort Light Insulated, and we’ve found it takes only around three or four full bags to inflate the pads. On the flip side, Therm-a-Rest’s pump sack is a little less intuitive and takes longer to fill their NeoAir models. To be fair, the differences are fairly minimal, and we always appreciate saving time and breath after a long day on the trail.

Sea to Summit Ether Light XT Insulated (pump sack)
Pump sacks save you considerable time and effort

Sleeping Pad Care

If you are like most backpackers, you don’t head out year-round. To store a self-inflating pad in the offseason, make sure to leave it unrolled and the valve(s) open. By doing this you’ll keep the foam in good shape. If it’s stored compressed, the pad will lose its self-inflating nature because the foam will become overly compacted. Having a hard time finding a spot to store the pad? Under a bed or behind a couch are popular options.

Air pad storage and care is a little simpler. Remove all the air from the pad and keep it rolled up in its storage bag to protect it from punctures. As for caring for a closed-cell foam pad: Hmmm. Try to not let your dog eat it, how about that? Okay, there are a few other tips. Don’t leave heavy objects on top of it to avoid undue compressing of the foam, and, if it’s a rollable type, store it unrolled so it doesn’t lose its shape.

Sleeping pad (Big Agnes Air Core Ultra rolled up)
Rolling up the Big Agnes Air Core Ultra

Sleeping Mattresses for Camping

Sleeping pads for backpacking are light, pack down small, and are reasonably comfortable. But if you don’t plan on venturing far from the car, we recommend a thicker and more luxurious camping mattress instead. These mats are plush and warm, often layered with extra foam padding. They’re also a whole lot more durable because the manufacturers don’t have to use thin materials as a means to keep weight down. To see our full list of favorites and a breakdown of important features, check out our article on the best camping mattresses and pads.
Back to Our Top Sleeping Pad Picks  Back to Our Sleeping Pad Comparison Table

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