I’m sure you’ve seen the infomercials on television for the “Sleeping Pad – *insert name of pad*”. You’ll see these pads in the wild too, at sporting events, outdoor and camping events, and even in the wild. Or, at least, that’s what you’d think. The truth is, you really don’t know what’s in any of those pads, or how effective they are.
Camping and backpacking in the great outdoors brings a number of challenges that are unique to this environment. These include the need to get off the trail and set up camp and the need to sleep in the elements and the open air. This can range from simple tents or hammocks to the more complex backpacking shelters.
Luke Cuenco 06.08.21
Sleep is something we often try to put off as much as possible, unless we are particularly diligent about it. Adventures on America’s open trails are a great way to get the blood flowing and a good night’s sleep – if you have the right equipment. On a recent backpacking trip I found it very uncomfortable to sleep on a concrete slab with a very thin foam sleeping pad, which shall remain nameless here.
Since then, I’ve spent a lot of time and effort researching the best sleeping mats for camping and hiking, and my fellow adventurers have been very helpful in recommending great options. Let’s take a look at some of the best sleeping mats you can buy. + – Table of contents
1. Nemo Switchback Foldable Sleeping Mat – economical version
Some people don’t mind sleeping directly on the floor, especially in the summer, but this can sometimes make the night uncomfortable and doesn’t protect you from heat loss if you sleep directly on the floor. The backrest of the Nemo Switch is wide, but also very comfortable because it is made of closed-cell foam. The Switchback is almost an inch thick when open and weighs less than a pound.
The biggest drawback is that it takes up a lot of space even when folded, making it difficult to store for long hikes if your bag doesn’t have enough room to carry it. The Nemo Switchback can be purchased for $49.95. Benefits / Closed cell foam is elastic but comfortable. Disadvantages/noise compared to other options Summary/ Excellent if you need some type of camping storage – probably best for short trips or occasional hikes.
2. Exped Synmat UL Sleeping mat
When it comes to weight and compactness, nothing beats an inflatable sleeping pad. The Exped Synmat UL is one of those sleeping mats that is easy to inflate and even includes a unique pump bag to keep you going after a long day of hiking and traveling. Inflated, the Synmat is just over a meter wide, so you can sleep comfortably. The Synmat also has internal insulation, making it an all-weather sleeping mat compared to some of the other mats on this list.
However, if you’re looking for something cheap, that’s probably not the case, as the Synmat UL costs around $169. Benefits / Lightweight and compact – easy to inflate with the included pump bag that can also be used as a backpack. Cons: prone to defects and very expensive. Bottom Line/Perfectly suited for the professional hiker who is very concerned with weight and not afraid to put a few extra dollars into their gear.
3. Sleeping mat Klymit Static V2
When it comes to inflatable sleeping mats, I don’t think you can find a more compact and affordable mattress than the Klymit Static V2. This may be an anecdotal observation, but one of the things I like most about it is the specific pattern of the individual sections of the airbed – it just feels comfortable when the individual cells are inflated. The Klymit Static V2 weighs just one pound and, when assembled for transport, is small enough to fit in a backpack instead of hanging outside.
The mat itself isn’t very well insulated compared to the others, so it’s probably best suited for the summer months when you don’t have to worry about losing heat to the ground. On the other hand, the Static V2 is slightly wider than some of the more expensive models on this list, making it more comfortable for people with a wider stature. The Klymit Static V2 is available for $64.95. Benefits / Affordable, lightweight and compact. Cons/ Insufficient insulation and manual inflation by mouth. Bottom Line / Excellent for light backpacking and summer camping.
4. Therm-A-Rest NeoAir XLite
If American-made is a must for you, you’ll be happy to know that one of the best options on this list is the Therm-A-Rest NeoAir XLite. This sleeping pad is not only lightweight, but also shaped to provide the most comfortable sleeping space without taking up unnecessary space. The NeoAir XLite comes with a bag with a hand pump to inflate the pillow and is suitable for almost all seasons. Thanks to the WingLock valve and the hand pump bag, no moisture gets into the bag, which leads to an unpleasant smell with prolonged use.
There is a women’s version of the NeoAir XLite that has a higher R-value and a smaller size for those who are slightly colder. The Therm-A-Rest NeoAir XLite is on sale for $189.95. Front / Insulated, American made and very easy to carry. Disadvantages/ Duration, always subject to malfunctions Conclusion/ Excellent lightweight liner for the buy-one-get-one option that works for any hiking season.
5. Moosejaw x Klymit Snorigami self-inflating sleeping mat – Editor’s Choice
Aside from the clever name, this is my favorite sleeping pad on this list because of its wide range of features combined with a reasonable price. Snorigami is made of durable 75D polyester, which means it’s less prone to punctures. But even if it’s perforated, you still have a plush exterior on which to sleep comfortably. Even better: This two-inch thick sleeping pad is suitable for all four seasons of camping and hiking and works equally well on a camp bed or on the ground.
The Snorigamic is a self-inflating sleeping bag, and all you have to do to give yourself a little extra resilience is inflate a few puffs of air to get the perfect airbed for the road. The Moosejaw x Klymit Snorigami self-inflating sleeping pad is available for $69.00. Pro/ Affordable, durable, hybrid design for comfortable sleep. Self-inflating Disadvantages: Not as wide as the other options, bigger than a pure airbag. Bottom Line/Large for the recreational adventurer who needs to be prepared for anything and needs a compact sleeping pad.
To sleep or not to sleep….
Should I use a sleeping pad when camping? Not at all. But you also don’t need to bring a tent when you go camping. Sleeping mats are synonymous with comfort. If you’re going to be hiking in colder parts of the United States, a sleeping pad is a must, unless you want to get really cold in the middle of the night when the ground under you starts to get cold. Therefore, it’s probably best to always bring a sleeping pad or some sort of bedding to separate you from the floor and ensure a comfortable sleep.
Sleeping bags and side sleeping bags
For those of you who are most comfortable sleeping on your stomach or back, it may come as a surprise, but pillows (especially polyurethane foam pillows) tend to be very uncomfortable for those who sleep on their sides. If you sleep on your side, I can only recommend that you look for the thickest sleeping pad possible. Thicker pillows offer you the most comfort with this type of sleep and are usually only a few grams heavier than regular 2.5 inch thick pillows.
Inner or outer bag
As a general rule, you should put a ground sheet under your sleeping bag, as this provides the best insulation against the ground. However, sometimes thinner mattresses can slide out from under you. That’s why some people prefer to put them in the sleeping bag, so this doesn’t happen and you can move around more easily without falling off the pillow.
How long does it take for a self-inflating sleeping mat to be ready for use?
Depending on the model, it takes 5 to 15 minutes to fully inflate a self-inflating sleeping mat. If you exceed this value, you should look for another one, as this could be a sign of a defect.
What is the best sleeping mat for comfort?
In terms of instant comfort, most thick self-inflating pillows offer the most comfort. Foam pillows can be good, but you have to find the right one for you. For comfort: The thicker the pillow, the better.
About the author
Luke Cuenco. Luke writes regularly for TheFirearmBlog.com, OvertDefense.com, AllOutdoor.com, and of course .com. Luke is a competitive shooter, gun enthusiast, reloader, outdoorsman and generally interested in all things outdoors. Luke is also a licensed private pilot and is in the process of obtaining his commercial pilot’s license in hopes of becoming a professional pilot.
Luke’s other interests are all things aerospace and defense, and American Conservatory activities. Instagram: @ballisticaviation YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/c/BallisticAviation thefirearmblog.com/blog/author/luke-c/ overtdefense.com/author/luke-c/ alloutdoor.com/author/lukec/ We are committed to finding, researching and recommending the best products. We receive commissions for purchases you make through the links in our product reviews. Learn more about how it works.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the best sleeping pad for backpacking?
Sleeping pads and sleeping bags are often the most overlooked piece of camping gear. Now that the cold season is here, sleeping pads are suddenly in high demand. Although there are many new sleeping pads on the market, there are only a few that are good enough to really make the cut. Sleeping pads are used by backpackers and campers for their comfort and warmth when they sleep.
The times of year that you tend to use your sleeping pad tend to vary, but with the temperatures getting cooler and the nights getting longer, the warmer you need your sleeping pad to be. In this article, we’ll cover the best sleeping pads for summer, winter, and winter camping/backpacking, ranging from ultralight inflatable pads, to air mattresses, to traditional sleeping pads.
What is the most comfortable sleeping pad for camping?
With the excitement of camping season in full swing, many of us will soon need to head out into the great wild. But before you go, you might want to pick up a sleeping pad to keep you as comfortable as possible. You don’t have to spend a lot of cash to get a good one, but you do want to make sure it is comfortable. If you’re looking for the best sleeping pad for camping, then you have come to the right place. What is the best sleeping pad for camping?
If you are someone who likes to camp, then this is a question you will certainly have to ask yourself. Sleeping on the ground is uncomfortable, and the only way to ensure that your sleeping bag is going to be comfortable enough is to get a sleeping pad. While it is quite common to find sleeping pads that are designed to keep you warm, they can sometimes be very uncomfortable. The majority of sleeping pads are made from an insulating material, which makes them warm yet very uncomfortable.
What is a good weight for a backpacking sleeping pad?
When it comes to selecting a sleeping pad for backpacking, there are a few things to consider. The thickness or weight of the pad is one obvious factor, but there are also a few things to consider beyond this. If you are someone who enjoys camping or backpacking, you know how important it is to have a good sleeping pad to rest your weary body and let you get a good night’s sleep. And as a consequence, you also know how hard it is to find the right pad for you.