10 Best Backpacking Sleeping Pads in 2019

Sleeping Pad Score Weight R-Value/Temp Rating
Top Pick: Nemo Tensor Insulated
97
15 oz 10-20°F
Cold Weather Pick: Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm
96
15 oz 5.7
Ultralight Pick: Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite
95
12 oz 3.2
Sea to Summit Comfort Light Insulated
91
21.8 oz 4.2
Klymit Static V2
91
16.6 oz 1.3
Big Agnes Q-Core SLX
87
16 oz 32°F
Therm-a-Rest ProLite
96
18 oz 2.4
Best Value: Outdoorsman Lab Ultralight Sleeping Pad
85
16 oz 2.2
Closed Cell Foam Pick: Nemo Switchback
82
14.5 oz 20-35°F
Therm-a-Rest Z Lite Sol
80
14 oz 2.6

We put 10 of the best backpacking sleeping pads to the test to find which are worth your money. We field tested them for three months in conditions ranging from summer heat to snow-capped mountains, and the Nemo Tensor Insulated emerged as our all-around Top Pick.

Although other pads had more impressive specs in certain categories, the Tensor was the best balance of comfort, insulation, and size. It was warm and comfy and didn’t crinkle as loudly as other inflatable pads we tested. It was the pad that consistently gave us the best night’s sleep.

Read on for our full reviews and tips on choosing the right sleeping pad for your backpacking adventures.

The 10 backpacking sleeping pads we tested.

The 10 backpacking sleeping pads we tested.

Top Pick: Nemo Tensor Insulated

Nemo Tensor InsulatedWhile other pads outshone the Nemo Tensor in specific categories, the Tensor had the perfect balance of features to make it our top all-around pick.

Our testers loved the comfort of this pad. It has a unique design that uses square baffles instead of the waffle-style or horizontal baffles on the other pads that we tested. They made sleeping on this pad feel uniquely stable and comfortable.

The Nemo Tensor also uses a slightly softer material than most other inflatable sleeping pads. This makes it feel plush even when you are lying directly on it.

It was also one of the quieter pads in our test. The material had the same slight crinkle as the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm, but once the pad was inflated it was barely noticeable.

Although the Tensor isn’t the lightest sleeping pad, 15 oz is impressive. Nemo doesn’t give R-values, but they state that this pad is rated to 10-20°F. We slept comfortably down into the forties with this pad, and don’t see it having any issues with slightly colder temperatures.

The only major drawback with the Tensor is that the fabric is only 20D, which is relatively thin. While we didn’t have any durability issues, this may not be the best choice if you’re hard on your gear.

Overall, for three-season use, the Nemo Tensor Insulated is a compact sleeping pad that allows uniquely comfortable backcountry sleeping.

Product Specs

  • Weight: 15 oz
  • Length Tested: 72″
  • Available Lengths: 48″, 72″, 76″
  • R-Value: 10-20°F

Best Cold Weather Sleeping Pad: Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm

Therm-a-Rest NeoAir X-ThermThe XTherm has one of the best warmth-to-weight ratios on the market, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a better choice for winter adventures.

Although we didn’t have a chance to test it out in anything colder than around 40 degrees, it kept our testers plenty toasty. The R-value of 5.7 means that this pad can hold up in sub-zero temps.

It packs all that warmth and a remarkable amount of comfort into only 15 oz. Although it takes up a little more pack room than some other pads in our test, the warmth and comfort more than justify it.

It comes at a steep price, though. The XTherm is one of the pricier models in our test.

Other reviewers have commented on the noisy crinkly sound that the insulation makes, and this was definitely a bit of an issue for us. One of our testers said it sounded like “sleeping on a plastic bag.”

It wasn’t enough to disturb our sleep after a long day on the trail, but it was consistently annoying. If you toss and turn a lot at night when camping, the XTherm might not be the best pad for you.

Although this pad is a plush 2.5 inches thick and ranked high in our comfort test, our 6-foot male tester found the regular length a little too narrow. Therm-a-Rest does offer a large size with an extra 5 inches of width.

We like the Therm-a-Rest XTherm for cold-weather adventurers that involve camping on snow. If you’re mostly a three-season camper, a 5.7 R-value is probably overkill, but the XTherm is still light enough to make it a solid choice for a quiver-of-one backpacking pad.

The mummy shape of the NeoAir X-Therm.

Product Specs

  • Weight: 15 oz
  • Length Tested: 72″
  • Available Lengths: 72″, 77″
  • R-Value: 5.7

Best Ultralight Sleeping Pad: Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite

Therm-a-Rest NeoAir X-LiteAt only 12 oz, the XLite barely registered in our packs. Design-wise, it’s extremely similar to the Therm-a-Rest XTherm. Although it doesn’t have the burly insulation, a 3.2 R-value is still nothing to scoff at. It’s more than up to any three-season backpacking trip.

The XLite doesn’t pack down quite as small as our Top Pick, but it’s still one of the most compact sleeping pads in our test when rolled up.

Like the XTherm, it’s on the narrow side, so it may not be comfortable for broad-shouldered backpackers.

If you’re counting every ounce but don’t want to sacrifice comfort or warmth in the backcountry, this is the pad for you.

Product Specs

  • Weight: 12 oz
  • Length Tested: 72″
  • Available Lengths: 47″, 72″, 76″
  • R-Value: 3.2

Best Value: Outdoorsman Lab Ultralight Sleeping Pad

Outdoorsman Lab Ultralight Sleeping PadThe Outdoorsman Lab Ultralight Sleeping Pad is a top-seller on Amazon (along with many virtually identical pads), and we were impressed that this relatively inexpensive pad held its own among the much pricier models.

It’s not as comfortable as the thicker air pads, but it’s enough to sleep comfortably. Like most waffle-style pads, pressure points hit the ground easily and quickly. This pad was most comfortable when we were lying flat as opposed to on our side.

We didn’t love the valve. It could be difficult to open, and it was a little tricky to hold in the release to let air out while packing it up.

Overall, though, this backpacking pad is impressive for the price. It’s not the cheapest out there, but we do think it’s a great value for the comfort and weight.

Product Specs

  • Weight: 16 oz
  • Length Tested: 73″
  • Available Lengths: 73″
  • R-Value: 2.2

Best Closed-Cell Foam Sleeping Pad: Nemo Switchback

The Nemo Switchback all folded up.

The Nemo Switchback is relatively new to the market. Its design is similar to the ultralight classic Therm-a-Rest Z Lite Sol, but with some slight differences that gave it the nod over the Therm-a-Rest.

The soft foam ridges are surprisingly comfortable for a closed-cell foam pad, and we found that we didn’t entirely mind spending nights on it. Although we didn’t have a chance to test it down to its temperature limit, this pad gets good reviews for warmth and is rated slightly warmer than the Z Lite Sol.

The Switchback packs just slightly smaller than the Z Lite Sol, and we appreciated the lack of bulk.

At the end of the day, both of the closed-cell foam pads in this test are excellent choices. But the minor differences made the Switchback our favorite over the Z Lite.

Nemo Switchback

Product Specs

  • Weight: 14.5 oz
  • Length Tested: 72″
  • Available Lengths: 51″, 72″
  • Temp Rating: 20-35°F

Reviews of the 5 Other Backpacking Sleeping Pads We Tested

Sea to Summit Comfort Light Insulated

Sea to Summit Comfort Light InsulatedThe Sea to Summit Comfort Light Insulated is a great sleeping pad that feels well-constructed and durable. Although we liked sleeping on it, there wasn’t much about it that stood out over other pads, and its weight was a major drawback for us.

This pad feels slightly wider in the shoulder area than the Therm-a-Rest XTherm and XLite, so for someone who finds those pads too narrow, this is a great option. Its R-value of 4.2 is also more than adequate for most three-season backpacking and even mild winter excursions.

We also loved the valves. They’re simple, intuitive, and quick to inflate or deflate. The 40D fabric is a noticeable step up from our top picks for inflatable pads when it comes to durability, too.

The “waffle-style” pad has its pros and cons. One of the benefits is being much easier to inflate than other styles. The Sea to Summit pad took an average of 12.5 breaths to inflate fully, while our top picks took nearly twice that.

The Comfort Light's waffle pattern is quick to inflate.

The Comfort Light’s waffle pattern is quick to inflate.

But the waffle is not as thick, and it may not be as comfortable for some sleepers. While this pad felt lofty and plush for back sleepers, it didn’t take much for our elbows and hips to start feeling the ground while sleeping on our sides.

This was also the heaviest pad we tested, and one of the more expensive.

Overall, the Sea to Summit Comfort Light is a quality product that’s comfortable and durable. It’s on the heavy side, and doesn’t offer much in the way of improved comfort or warmth to justify the added weight. If you don’t mind a few extra ounces, though, it’s a solid choice.

Product Specs

  • Weight: 21.8 oz
  • Length Tested: 72″
  • Available Lengths: 66″, 72″, 79″
  • R-Value: 4.2

Klymit Static V2

Klymit Static V2The Klymit Static V2 is a budget-friendly sleeping pad with a lightweight design.

Its unique V-shaped baffles were surprisingly comfortable for both back sleepers and side sleepers. It didn’t take much for pressure points to feel the ground, though.

The Klymit almost took our Best Value award, but we found the Outdoorsman Lab pad a little more comfortable and versatile. This pad has the lowest R-value in our test, and we’d be hesitant to take it out in anything but warm summer weather.

Still, the Klymit is a quality pad from a reliable brand. If you’re on a budget and don’t mind the low R-value, this is a top backpacking sleeping pad that we enjoyed spending summer nights on.

Product Specs

  • Weight: 16.6 oz
  • Length Tested: 72″
  • Available Lengths: 72″
  • R-Value: 1.3

Big Agnes Q-Core SLX

Big Agnes Q-Core SLXThe Big Agnes Q-Core SLX doesn’t mess around when it comes to comfort. With 4.5″ of thickness, this feels more like sleeping on a plush inflatable mattress at base camp than a lightweight backpacking sleeping pad.

Like our Top Pick, the Q-Core uses a square-baffle style to create a stable and cozy platform. This is one of the most comfortable sleeping pads we’ve ever slept on. It felt pretty luxurious for only 16 oz.

We didn’t love the material, though. The slick nylon reminded us slightly of a pool float. When sleeping directly on the pad with a backpacking quilt, this was our least favorite material.

In our deflation test, it also was the only pad that lost a noticeable amount of air over the course of 48 hours. It took two breaths to fully re-inflate it.

We’re not sure if that was because the larger volume of air responded more dramatically to temperature changes, but we never had issues with deflation on the trail.

The Q-Core is slightly bulkier and heavier than other pads in our test, but it’s still a compact and lightweight pad for the amount of comfort that you get.

If comfort is your top priority and you don’t mind a little bulk, then the Big Agnes Q-Core SLX is pretty near perfect.

Product Specs

  • Weight: 16 oz
  • Length Tested: 72″
  • Available Lengths: 66″, 72″, 77″
  • Temp Rating: 32°F

Therm-a-Rest ProLite

Therm-a-Rest ProLiteThe Therm-a-Rest ProLite is a good option for backpackers who want to balance comfort and durability.

While the ProLite doesn’t offer anywhere near the comfort of an air pad, it’s still a major step up over foam pads. With 50D fabric on the top and bottom, this thing is nearly puncture-proof while still weighing in at only 18 oz.

It took only seven breaths to inflate the ProLite right out of the bag. When we left it unrolled to self-inflate for about 15 minutes, we only had to top it up with one breath.

If you dread huffing and puffing to get your camping pad inflated every night, the self-inflating ability alone is worth the extra weight.

For backpackers who prioritize durability and reliability but want a little more comfort than foam pads, the ProLite is an excellent choice that will stand the test of time.

Product Specs

  • Weight: 18 oz
  • Length Tested: 72″
  • Available Lengths: 47″, 72″, 77″
  • R-Value: 2.4

Therm-a-Rest Z Lite Sol

Therm-a-Rest Z-Lite Sol

The Therm-a-Rest Z Lite Sol has been a classic for years, and for good reason. Although it was barely edged out by the Nemo Switchback, it’s still a durable pad that performs well.

At only 14oz, it’s also one of the lightest sleeping pads out there. If you’re on a tight budget, the Therm-a-Rest Z Lite Sol delivers a lot of warmth for your money.

Like any closed-cell foam pad, it lacks in the comfort department. The design is a huge step up from the flat foam pads, though. Although we felt that the Switchback’s foam was just slightly softer, the difference was barely perceptible.

The Z Lite Sol is not compact and noticeably bulkier than the Switchback. Since we typically strap foam pads to the outside of our packs, that wasn’t a huge deal for us.

If you want a foam pad, you won’t go wrong with a Therm-a-Rest Z Lite Sol. But in our minds it’s no longer the best CCF pad on the market.

The Therm-a-Rest Z-Lite Sol folded up.

Long-Term Testing Notes

99Boulders owner and editor Alex Beale has been using the Z Lite Sol as his camping and backpacking sleeping pad for two years. Its main benefit, he says, is how ultralight it is. (For the hardcore ultralight backpackers out there he even suggests considering cutting off some panels to convert it into a lighter torso-length pad.)

He cautions readers about the trade-off with comfort, though. On hard ground the Z Lite is uncomfortable, he says. He’s a side sleeper and, on multiple occasions, has woken up after a night of sleeping on the Z Lite with bruises on his sides where the foam dug in.

Overall, he thinks it’s a solid ultralight pad which is best used for warm weather backpacking on soft ground. He’s read about many backpackers who get a great night sleep with the Z Lite, but as a side sleeper he’s been unable to do so. He admits that he plans to buy a more comfortable sleeping pad soon.

Backpacking with the Therm-a-Rest ZLite Sol sleeping pad

99Boulders owner and editor Alex Beale’s Z Lite Sol has accompanied him on his camping and backpacking trips for two years.

Product Specs

  • Weight: 14 oz
  • Length Tested: 72″
  • Available Lengths: 51″, 72″
  • R-Value: 2.6

Summary

Here are the best backpacking sleeping pads:

  • Nemo Tensor Insulated
  • Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm
  • Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite
  • Sea to Summit Comfort Light Insulated
  • Klymit Static V2
  • Big Agnes Q-Core SLX
  • Therm-a-Rest ProLite
  • Outdoorsman Lab Ultralight Sleeping Pad
  • Nemo Switchback
  • Therm-a-Rest Z Lite Sol

How to Choose the Best Backpacking Sleeping Pad for Your Needs

Types of Backpacking Sleeping Pads

The ten pads all packed up.

Closed-cell foam pads like the Z Lite Sol (top left) are lightweight and durable, but tend to be thinner, bulkier, and not as warm as inflatable pads.

Inflatable (Air) Pads are the sleeping pad of choice for most backpackers. They are by far the most comfortable, and they can pack down to the size of a Nalgene or smaller. Top inflatable pads can weigh less than a pound while still offering enough insulation for cold weather camping. Air pads also can be pricey, though, reaching up into the hundreds of dollars. Durability can be an issue, as a single puncture can render them useless. There are repair kits that you can use to patch holes, however.

Closed-Cell Foam (CCF) Pads do not need to be inflated. They are as durable as it gets and tend to be substantially cheaper than any other type. They are bulky to carry, though, and they don’t offer much in the way of comfort. They’re best for warm weather trips where you’ll be sleeping on soft ground. Some backpackers also use closed-cell foam pads under an air pad for extra durability or warmth on winter trips.

Self-Inflating Pads sit right between air pads and foam pads. Sometimes called open-cell foam pads, these offer a slight upgrade in comfort over CCF pads while still retaining durability and reliability. They typically need to be stored inflated in order to keep their self-inflating ability.

R-Value/Temperature Rating

The R-value of a sleeping pad tells you how well that pad insulates you from the ground. Based on our experience we recommend the following:

R-values from 0-2 are good for summer trips in warm weather.

R-values from 2-4 are plenty for three-season backpacking.

R-values over 4 are best for sleeping on snow or in below-freezing temperatures.

Keep in mind that these are based on our experiences, and you may want a higher R-value if you are a cold sleeper. Also know that R-value isn’t currently a standardized measurement, so take a brand’s reported numbers with a grain of salt.

Some manufacturers choose to give a temperature rating for their sleeping pads instead of an R-value. Like with sleeping bags, we’ve found that the temperature rating is usually optimistic.

Dimensions & Shape

Sleeping pads come in a huge range of sizes, from ultralight torso-length pads to plush rectangular pads.

Mummy-shaped pads are generally the standard. Their tapered shape fits under a mummy sleeping bag without any excess material to weigh you down.

Rectangular pads can offer a substantial upgrade in comfort for only a little extra weight and size. They’re often a much more comfortable option for side sleepers, broad-shouldererd backpackers, or anyone who tends to move around in their sleep.

20″ is the standard width for most sleeping pads. This can be on the narrow side. If you’re taller or have broad shoulders, many manufacturers have wide pads with an extra 5″ or more for you to stretch out.

The relative thickness of the ten pads we tested.

Denier

You’ll often see specs mentioning the denier of the fabric of a sleeping pad. Denier refers to the thickness of individual fibers in the material. The higher the denier, the more durable the pad.

20D is the minimum that we’ve seen. While that’s fairly delicate for a sleeping pad, it’s strong enough for those who are careful with their gear. For backpackers who abuse their gear, we recommend a pad with at least 30D on the bottom.

How We Tested

Field Testing

We brought these pads on our backpacking and camping trips for nearly three months. We tested them in a variety of temperatures, from summer heat to snowy nights.

Tucked in on our Top Pick, the Nemo Tensor Insulated.

Tucked in on our Top Pick, the Nemo Tensor Insulated.

Comfort

We first rated the overall comfort of each pad lying on our back. We also wanted to know how well each pad kept our pressure points off of the ground, so we tested whether we could feel the ground with elbows, hips, or other body parts while lying or sitting in various positions.

Ease of Inflation

How many breaths does it take to get these pads ready for the night? We counted the number of breaths to fully inflate each pad.

Note: We did not include the Nemo Switchback and Therm-a-Rest Z Lite Sol in this test because they are closed-cell foam sleeping pads and thus do not inflate or deflate.

Deflation

We inflated each pad as fully as we could, then we let them sit for 48 hours. After 48 hours, we measured how much the pad had deflated by how many breaths it took to re-inflate it.

For most pads, it took <1 breath, which means it had not deflated noticeably. Only the Big Agnes Q-Core was noticeably deflated, requiring 2 full breaths to fully re-inflate.

Note: We did not include the Nemo Switchback and Therm-a-Rest Z Lite Sol in this test because they are closed-cell foam sleeping pads and thus do not inflate or deflate.