Sleeping on a pad while you’re backpacking can make the world of difference to how warm and comfortable you are overnight, and how well you sleep at night.
A good sleeping pad will keep you up off the cold, hard ground, and provide padding and insulation while you sleep, working with your backpacking sleeping bag to keep you comfortable and warm overnight.
This buyer’s guide picks out the best backpacking sleeping pads for a range of budgets, weight and warmth requirements.
Our guide also includes tips on how to choose the best sleeping pad for you, whether you’re planning a thru-hike or planning to do go backpacking around the world.
The best backpacking sleeping pads for travel and thru-hikes
1. Big Agnes Insulated Q-Core Deluxe | Overall best backpacking sleeping pad
- Choose if: You value a balance of comfort, warmth quality, weight and packability, this pad is our top pick as the overall best backpacking sleeping pad
- Sleeping pad type: Air pad
- Price: $160
- R-value: 4.3
- Weight: 1lb 9oz
- Dimensions: 72 x 20 x 3.5
- Packed size: 5 x 8.5
- Other features: Comes with inflation pump sack, a protective storage stuff sack, replacement valve seal and 3M repair patch. This sleeping pad has taller (4.25 inch) outer chambers to keep you cradled in the middle of the pad (and not rolling off the sides).
With a soft-touch, quilted top and quiet ripstop fabric base, this Big Agnes backpacking sleeping pad offers the best of all worlds, hence why it’s top of our list of the best backpacking sleeping pads out there.
Weighing just over 1.5lb, it’s a lightweight sleeping pad offering pillowy comfort and a respectable warmth rating that will stand up to most environments across three seasons.
For lighter sleeping pads that don’t offer as much thickness or insulation, see the options below.
12 new from $119.98
1 used from $109.49
2. Sea to Summit Ether Light XT Insulated Air Pad | Lightweight ‘luxury’ backpacking sleeping pad
- Choose if: You want a lightweight, yet plush and quiet insulated backpacking sleeping pad
- Sleeping pad type: Air pad
- Price: $180
- R-value: 3.2
- Weight: 1lb 1.3oz
- Dimensions: 72 x 21.5 x 4 inches (regular)
- Packed size: 4.5 x 9.5
- Other features: Available in a women’s version and comes in long, regular or short lengths as well as mummy and rectangular options. This air pad also includes a repair kit and stuff sack.
At 4 inches thick but still packing down small, this Sea to Summit inflatable pad is a lightweight, comfortable sleeping pad option for those backpackers wanting some luxury for camp.
If life’s too short to sleep uncomfortably too close to the cold ground then this is the sleeping pad for you! It’s also great for side sleepers who struggle to find the right level of comfort when lying in that position on thinner pads.
It’s quieter than other backpacking sleeping pads and we also love that it’s available in men’s and women’s shapes and a range of different sizes so you can get the most appropriate size for your shape and height.
If you don’t need as much warmth as the Big Agnes inflatable pad above, but still want comfort, this Sea to Summit sleeping pad is a great choice as it’s a few oz lighter, earning its place near the top of this ‘best backpacking sleeping pads’ list.
3 new from $180.01
1 used from $144.03
3. Sea to Summit Ultralight Insulated Air | Ultralight insulated sleeping pad
- Choose if: You won’t be camping anywhere really cold and need an affordable, yet ultralight, packable sleeping pad.
- Sleeping pad type: Air pad
- Price: $140
- R-value: 3.1
- Weight: 16.9oz
- Dimensions: 72 x 21.5 x 2in
- Packed size: 9 x 4.
- Other features: Available in men’s and women’s versions, and several different lengths. Comes with a stuff sack (which doubles as a pump sack), a repair kit and spare valve.
While not as plush and quiet as the Sea to Summit Ether Light XT insulated pad above, their Ultralight Insulated air pads have a similar R-value, at a similar weight, and pack down slightly smaller. They’re also less expensive!
The downsides – the this backpacking sleeping pad is not as quiet, thick or ‘plush’ as the more luxurious Ether model.
That said, depending on your priorities, this inflatable sleeping pad also makes a great choice for backpacking where you need a great warmth-to-weight ratio and don’t need the R 4.2 rating or higher cost of the even more ultralight Therm-a-Rest option below.
4. Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite Sleeping Pad | Ultralight inflatable pad for colder climates
- Choose if: You want an ultralight backpacking sleeping pad for cold nights that packs down small for stashing inside your backpack.
- Sleeping pad type: Air pad
- Price: $190
- R-value: 4.2
- Weight: 12oz
- Dimensions: 72 x 20 x 2.5
- Packed size: 4 x 9
- Other features: This ultralight mummy-shaped pad comes with its own pump sack.
If you enjoy ultralight backpacking or are aiming to cut down the weight of your gear to the lightest possible without going without essential items, then these Therm-a-Rest lightweight sleeping pads are exceptionally lightweight, while still offering good insulation for cold nights, with an R value of 4.2.
Plus, it packs down to the size of a water bottle and will easily fit in one of these top backpacks.
It does make a noise when you move around, but we assume that with this warmth rating and after a long day of trekking you’ll be crashed out asleep in no time regardless!
19 new from $149.89
12 used from $122.58
5. Therm-a-Rest Trail Pro Sleeping Pad | Best self inflating sleeping pad
- Choose if: You value the comfort of a self-inflating foam sleeping pad for a good night’s sleep. This pad has a higher R-value than the pads above, while still being relatively lightweight considering it’s a self-inflating pad.
- Sleeping pad type: Self-inflating open-cell foam pad
- Price: $150
- R-value: 4.4
- Weight: 1lb 13oz
- Dimensions: 72 x 20 x 3
- Packed size: 8.8 x 11
- Other features: Also available in a Long and Regular Wide size.
Being a self-inflating pad, the Therm-a-Rest Trail Pro offers more support and firmness compared to air sleeping pads.
This mummy-shaped self-inflating sleeping pad provides plush comfort while still being light and small enough when packed, and therefore a good option for backpacking where you value having the luxury thicker, well-insulated pad to sleep on.
Because of its 3 inch thickness, this pad is especially attractive for side-sleepers.
12 new from $169.55
6. REI Co-op Trailbreak Self-Inflating Pad | Warmest self-inflating sleeping pad for smaller budgets
- Choose if: You choose value for money, warmth and a good night’s sleep over traveling ultralight then this budget sleeping pad is a great choice.
- Sleeping pad type: Self-inflating open-cell foam pad
- Price: $70
- R-value: 5.1 / 5.3 (women’s)
- Weight: 2lb 8 / 2lb 5 (women’s)
- Dimensions: regular: 72 x 20 x 1.75 / 66 x 20 x 1.75 (women’s)
- Packed size: 6.5 x 20 / 6 x 20
- Other features: Separate, color-coded valves for inflation and deflation, includes a stuff sack and compression straps for easy storing and packing. This backpacking sleeping pad also comes in men’s and women’s sizes (women’s pictured) and different lengths.
If you’re not concerned about having a bulkier and slightly heavier pad than the ultra light inflatable pads above, then you can treat yourself to the relative comfort and warmth that one of these highly-rated REI self inflating pads offers.
For $70, you get one of these R 5.1/5.3-rated self-inflating pads that should elevate the quality of your sleep on even those colder nights in the backcountry.
7. Nemo Switchback | Durable closed-cell foam pad (budget choice)
- Choose if: You want a budget-friendly, lightweight and durable foam pad and are less concerned about comfort and packability
- Sleeping pad type: Closed-cell foam pad
- Price: $55
- R-value: 2
- Weight: 14.5oz
- Dimensions: 72 x 20 x 0.9
- Packed size: 20 x 5.5 x 5
- Other features: The textured ‘egg-crate’ closed cell foam design helps with comfort and insulation. Sleep with the reflective silver side up to benefit from its body heat-reflecting properties. This foam pad is also available in a short length if you want to save space and weight (or don’t need the full length).
Closed cell foam pads like this Nemo option are a great choice if you need some protection from the hard, cold ground and want a lightweight sleeping mat that won’t be at risk of puncture – meaning you don’t need a puncture repair kit or pump sack, either.
These closed cell foam pads are pretty inexpensive so also make a great choice if you’re on a budget. While you are unlikely to sleep as comfortably as you may on an air pad, this foam pad offers durability and simplicity.
6 new from $79.88
These backpacking sleeping pads also help save room inside your backpack as you can carry them strapped to the outside when you’re hiking.
ALSO CONSIDER: The Therm-a-Rest Z Lite Sol, which is a similar size, price, weight and R-value, so it’s worth comparing availability and prices between the Nemo sleeping pad above, and this one.
Backpacking sleeping pads buyer’s guide
Correctly pairing your sleeping bag with a sleeping pad is really important when it comes to ensuring you have a suitable sleep system that will keep you warm and comfortable when camping.
Bag warmth ratings are calculated assuming the bag is used by someone who is (a) wearing warm clothes and socks to bed, and (b) also lying on a sleeping pad with an R-rating of around 5.5, which is a fairly well-insulated sleeping pad typically recommended for use when camping in temperatures that drop below freezing overnight.
Types of backpacking sleeping pads
There are three main types of pads to choose from that are sufficiently packable and light enough to be considered for backpacking (as opposed to car-camping, when weight and portability is less of a concern and you can opt for more plush and/or heavier / cheaper options).
Air pads pack down really small to make packing your backpack a breeze.
These inflatable pads are a comfortable, versatile option, as you can choose the firmness by putting more or less air into them when inflating them.
Air pads tend to be the most compact option than foam sleeping pads when packed, although on the downside they can be punctured or rip (especially if you camp with a dog) and tend to be more expensive than closed-cell foam options.
It’s worth getting a separate pump for these inflatable sleeping pads so you’re not blowing into the pad and introducing moisture from your breath.
Self inflating sleeping pads
Self inflating pads are made from a combination of open-cell foam insulation and air.
While self inflating pads tend to be heavier and more expensive than air pads and foam pads, from a comfort perspective you may consider it to be worth the sacrifice to achieve a better night’s sleep, in which case a lightweight self-inflating pad is definitely worth considering.
Closed-cell foam pads
Closed-cell foam pads are a more traditional option. Foam pads tend to be light and very durable, however they are also bulky to carry and not as warm or comfortable as self-inflating and inflatable pad options.
These sleeping pads are definitely a good option to consider if you’re on a budget or are thru-hiking and want a simple pad that you can also use as a seat and can carry on the outside of your pack.
A closed cell foam pad can also be paired with an air pad to add extra insulation under your sleeping bag for camping in particularly cold conditions (add the R-values of the air and foam pads together to get an idea of how much of a difference this will make!).
Sleeping pad features
Know the R-value
This measures the sleeping pad’s ability to resist loss of your body heat (to the cold ground). Higher R-values will help keep you warmer.
For 3-season camping, most sleeping pads tend to range from 2 to 5.5+.
Generally, we look for R-ratings of between 3 and 4.5 for most cold weather and winter camping, but not extremely freezing temperatures. This is typically the best R-rating range for most people shopping for backpacking sleeping pads, assuming you’re not going in winter.
Weight and Packed size
Ultralight sleeping pads will weigh less than 1lb, and the more premium sleeping pad options will pack down the smallest.
Sleeping Pad Comfort
While the R-value and overall padding are important considerations when it comes to comfort, also consider the sleeping pad dimensions and overall shape of the sleeping pad. Are you happy with a tapered shape, or would you prefer a rectangular pad, for example?
Some inflatable pads can be very ‘crinkly’ and make a noise with the slightest movement (for example, as you adjust position or roll over at night). A noisy sleeping pad can get annoying if that sort of thing bothers you.
For air pads in particular, it helps to know which sleeping pads will come with a patch kit or hand/airbag pump sack.
If your inflatable sleeping pad doesn’t come with a patch repair kit or pump sack then you may want to get these separately. After all, an air pad isn’t much good to you if it doesn’t stay inflated!
Who makes the best sleeping pads for backpacking?
Some of the most popular backpacking sleeping pad manufacturers include Therm-a-Rest, Sea to Summit and NEMO, which each offer a range of different sleeping pad styles with varying warmth ratings, weights, prices and levels of packability.
Other camping brands such as Big Agnes also sell sleeping pads, such as the very popular Big Agnes Insulated Q-Core Deluxe.
How much does a backpacking sleeping pad cost?
Backpacking sleeping pads range from $50 for basic closed-cell foam pads to ~$200 for self inflating pads and premium ultralight air pads for backpacking.
If you’re gearing up for a backpacking trip near home or traveling internationally, then you should definitely consider having a way to purify water so you can feel confident in drinking water from all sorts of sources. If that sounds like you, read our guide to the best backpacking water filters, next!