Believe it or not, your sleeping bag isn’t the only thing keeping you warm and toasty at night. For a good night’s sleep in the bush, sleeping pads are the true unsung heroes.
Not only do camping sleeping pads add a layer of heavenly comfort between you and a patch of rocky soil, but they also prevent precious body heat from escaping through the ground. Below, we review the best sleeping pads in 2023.
The Top Sleeping Pads Reviewed
Our winner for the best sleeping pad is the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir UberLite Sleeping Pad. It beats the competition in nearly every category as being the lightest, most insulating, and most compressible sleeping pad on the market this year.
Best Overall Sleeping Pad
Brand Name | Product Type
The Therm-a-Rest NeoAir UberLite Sleeping Pad is 2023’s best sleeping pad. Whether you’re gearing up for an epic coastal thru-hike or just looking for a few weekends of front-country camping this summer, the UberLite is an excellent choice. It’s recommended for three-season use but can even handle mild winter climates as well.
Because it doesn’t use the same reflective materials as other NeoAir models (such as the Topo and Xlite), the UberLite doesn’t suffer from that ‘potato chip’ rustling sound, making it a very quiet pad.
The UberLite offers a spectacular warmth-to-weight ratio. It has an R-Value of 2.3 and weighs between 6 oz (size small) and 12 oz (size large). The face fabric is an abrasion-resistant 15D nylon and, when inflated, has a 2.5” thickness.
Best Runner-Up Sleeping Pad
Coming in at a close second, the Sea to Summit UltraLight Insulated Mat offers a decent warmth-to-weight ratio, durable fabric, and an excellent price. The reason it takes second place is for its lower warmth-to-weight when compared to the NeoAir UberLite.
Weighing 19 oz (size large), the UltraLight Insulated Mat features a light and durable 40D ripstop nylon outer. An R-Value of 3.1 makes this a veritable three-season pad.
That said, for ultralighters looking to shed a few ounces off their summer kit, the UltraLight Mat will do the trick. And, for those on a budget, this is an affordable and comfortable sleeping pad with impressive specs.
- Not super warm
Best Sleeping Pad for Backpacking
The updated version of Thermarest's popular NeoAir X-lite mattress is now 6x quieter than before, making it one of the best mattress choices for long hikes.
For extended backpacking trips, you need something lightweight, durable, and versatile. With all the expenses involved in planning such a trip, a low price point doesn’t hurt, either. For all this, the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Xlite Sleeping Pad Large fits the bill.
Though not as light as the UberLite, the Xlite is only 1lbs and boasts a significantly higher R-value of 4.5. Meanwhile, the 30D Rip Nylon outer is tough and abrasion-resistant. For extended backpacking trips, it's sure to keep you toasty in a wide array of conditions.
This air mattress has been a long-time favourite among thru-hikers. It's also available with Regular Wide sleeping pad dimensions.
- Easy to inflate
- Could be thicker
- A little narrow
Best Budget Sleeping Pad
Gear junkies routinely watch their income disappear into equipment black holes. Luckily, you don’t necessarily need a small fortune to comfortably enjoy the great outdoors. Meet our line of budget sleeping pads.
Lightweight, warm, and virtually indestructible, the Therm-a-Rest RidgeRest Classic offers excellent value for a closed-cell foam sleeping pad. Weighing in at a mere 19 oz (540g), this highly versatile sleeping pad meets the demands of glampers and ultralighters on a budget. And, with an R-Value of 2.6, this supportive pad boasts essential heat-trapping valleys for those cold nights on the trail.
- Thoughtful design
- Warmth-to-weight ratio
- Not super packable
Best Ultralight Sleeping Pad
If you seriously want to rock the ultralight ethos, then you’re going to need a Therm-a-Rest Z-Lite SOL. Therm-a-Rest ranks among the leading sleeping pad manufacturers, while their Z-Lite is a leader among closed-cell foam pads.
With an R-Value of 2.0 and a weight of just 10 oz, the Z-Lite is the lightest closed-cell foam pad on the market. The accordion shape makes it highly packable, especially in a frameless backpack where it doubles as a lumbar support.
Even with the best foam sleeping pad around, you still may want to go lighter. Cut your Z-Lite down to a torso-length pad.
Most of your body heat escapes through your back, so ditching the lower half won’t constitute a huge loss of heat. Also, for extra comfort, use your empty backpack to extend your pad.
Want to go lighter still? Cut your toothbrush in half.
- Seriously ultralight
- Warmth-to-weight ratio
- Foam pad less comfortable than inflatable pads
Best Sleeping Pad for Couples
If you’re looking for an insulated, compact, 3-season backpacking pad for couples, check out the Divide Insulated Sleeping Pad by Big Agnes. This ultra-cozy, double sleeping pad is built to fit inside a standard two-person tent.
The Divide is built using a Thermolite insulation system alongside layers of heat-reflective film. These features give it a respectable R-value of 4—dependably warm for a three-season pad.
In terms of weight, you’re looking at 60 oz (1.7kg). While it’s certainly not the lightest option on the market, it’s actually decent for a double sleeping pad.
With the Divide’s impressive sleeping pad dimensions, you’ll have no excuse not to cuddle in the woods.
- Cosy for two
- Advanced technology
Best Sleeping Pad for Women
The women’s Therm-a-Rest ProLite Plus boasts an excellent warmth-to-weight ratio. With an R-value of 3.9, it’s slightly warmer than the men’s. Of course, with such a high R-value, it is on the heavier side at 1 lb 6 oz.
The ProLite Plus has a comfortable thickness of 1.5” and is considered a self-inflating sleeping pad. And a self-inflating sleeping pad saves you precious time and effort.
Meanwhile, the WingLock Valve helps keep your air mattress firm during the night, and makes deflating your self-inflating sleeping pad easier when breaking camp.
- Very warm
- Highly compressible
Best Weight-to-Comfort Sleeping Pad
The Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Topo Luxe takes the classic and beloved NeoAir and makes it even better. With an opulent 4” thickness it remains remarkably packable.
When compressed, it’s only slightly larger than a 1L Nalgene bottle. It features a TwinLock Valve, which utilises separate one-way valves for inflation and deflation. The outer is a highly durable 50D polyester.
As you’d expect with this level of decadent comfort, this camping mattress is on the heavier side. But, at 1 lb 7 oz, it’s not as heavy as you might’ve guessed.
- Lavishly comfortable
Best Wide-Size Sleeping Pad
Both large folks and the perpetually restless will appreciate the LuxuryMap Sleeping Pad (X-Large) by Therm-a-Rest. Besides a generous 76cm (30”) width, the LuxuryMap is also exceptionally comfortable; this is thanks to the 7.6cm (3”) of bump-swallowing loft.
With an R-value of 6, you’ll be able to use this pad comfortably throughout the year. The 50D polyester top-knit offers supple comfort, while the bottom-knit boasts a highly durable and tear-resistant 75D polyester.
For those in need of a little extra space on camping trips, the LuxuryMap is ideal. With a hefty weight of 5lbs 2oz (2.33kg), however, consider opting for something a little lighter on extended foot trips.
Best Sleeping Pad for Winter Camping
The STS Ether Light XT Extreme Insulated Sleeping Mat is a highly durable and insulated pad, perfect for winter camping, mountaineering, and alpinism. It features a 75D polyester outer and comfortable 9 cm thickness.
At 16.75 oz, the DownMat HL is just over a pound—unbelievably light for a sleeping mattress with an R-Value of 6.0. Yep, it’s rated for temperatures as inhumanely cold as -32°C (-25.6 F).
Obviously, a sleeping pad of this calibre is a small investment. The use-case is for those embarking on a wintry adventure with (1) funds to spare and (2) a disposition towards the ultralight.
- Exceptionally warm
- Surprisingly lightweight
- Highly packable
Remember our best mattress for couples? For those of you who liked our pick but prefer to sleep solo, check out Klymit's Insulated Static V Sleeping Pad. It offers the same advanced technology and contoured V-shaped baffles while weighing just 24 oz (680g) and boasting a 4.4 R-Value.
Look no further than the Coleman Aerobed Comfort Queen-size Pad. This sleeping mattress is comfortable and convenient, it even has a built-in pump, so you don't have to worry about forgetting anything to get a perfect night's sleep. It's also great for all your van adventures!
What to look for when buying a sleeping pad
In your search for the perfect wilderness mattress, consider the following:
When we think of comfort two things come to mind: softness and support. You want a sleeping pad that feels as if it was designed for you. If you want to feel like you’re on a cloud, a thick, inflatable pad is a good choice. For those seeking something more rigid, a closed-cell foam pad offers a firmer feel.
R-value is a measure of a barrier’s absolute thermal resistance. In other words, how effectively does a layer resist heat flow or, conversely, how well does a layer trap heat. The higher the R-value, the greater the resistance to heat loss. In 2018, ASTM International set a new standard for lab testing R-values which has become consistent across sleeping pad brands.
There is no precise rule for which R-value is best—it all depends on your own temperature regulation, gender, and body mass. If you already own a sleeping pad, check its R-value and ask yourself if you’d prefer something warmer.
When purchasing a sleeping pad in person, it’s common to test it out before buying it. But when it comes to shopping online, many of us simply read reviews to see which offers the most comfort for the least weight. Unfortunately, we often forget about size.
Always check the dimensions of a sleeping pad and compare them to your own physical measurements. You want something slightly longer and wider than you to account for displacement.
Finding the right dimensions isn’t just important for tall folks; you don’t want to end up with a pad that’s unnecessarily long either, adding useless weight and volume to your pack.
The average sleeping pad can range from less than a pound to more than four. While weight isn’t a necessary consideration for car campers or front-country campers, hikers should opt for something light.
For winter sleeping pads, give priority to R-value before narrowing in on a lightweight option.
Most sleeping pads come with their own stuff sack, which not only protects the pad from tears and deformations, but allows for maximum compression. Depending on things like R-value and the material construction of the pad, packability will vary.
For most, a good rule of thumb is to choose a pad that is roughly the size of a 1L Nalgene. For ultralighters, something the size of a Coke can is ideal, but will inevitably have a lower R-value. As for car campers, just make sure it fits in your trunk!
FAQs for sleeping pads
Do you need a sleeping pad for camping?
Even cowboy campers and ultralighters rely on their comfortable sleeping pads for a good night’s rest. A sleeping pad is as necessary as a sleeping bag.
Does a camping sleeping pad have to be your height?
Roughing it in the woods is quite distinct from suffering in the woods. Given the spartan nature of camping, you’re going to want to maximise your comfort with the items you have. That’s why having gear that meets your needs is essential—especially since it’s a small investment.
Of course, ultralighters may disagree. A Therm-a-Rest Z-Lite cut to torso-length is common among them; however, their emptied-out backpack usually substitutes as the second half of their pad.
Not having a long enough pad means precious heat will escape; having too long a pad means unnecessary ounces. Like Goldilocks and the three bears, best advice is to stick with the bed that’s just right.
Does the sleeping pad go inside the sleeping bag?
Because of its size, your sleeping bag likely won’t accommodate you plus a sleeping pad. If you’re tempted to try it, remember that putting a layer between the ground and your pad can reduce its R-value.
For the frustrated tossers-and -turners out there: If you want to keep your bag fastened to your pad, purchase some adjustable straps that can be sewn to the outside of your sleeping bag. When you’re ready to hunker down, simply buckle them around the sleeping pad et voilà. Or, check out the Big Agnes System, an innovative way to attach a sleeping bag to a sleeping pad using an integrated sleeve.
Can a sleeping pad be too warm?
Just like a sleeping bag, a sleeping pad can be too warm. That said, it won’t cause the same discomfort that a sleeping bag will. The bigger issue with a too-toasty pad is that you’re paying extra bucks for a feature you won’t use, while adding more weight to your pack.
This concludes our top picks for best backpacking sleeping pads in 2023. Remember, whether you prefer self-inflating pads or closed-cell foam pads, your choice should reflect your needs.
For its lightweight design, warmth, and packability, we recommend the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir UberLite, our choice for the best sleeping pad of the year.
Check out the NeoAir (and any other best camping matt) for a great night’s sleep outdoors!