Restful sleep in the great outdoors is difficult to obtain, even when you’re exhausted. The ground is cold, hard, and uneven; you can spend more of the night trying to preserve warmth and find comfort than actually falling into slumber. The best sleeping pad helps you get the sleep you need even when you’re in rough terrain.
A sleeping pad is a portable camping mattress. It cushions you from the cold beneath you and provides insulation to keep you warm. This extra layer of padding is crucial when camping—without it, you lack the proper sleep, warmth, and comfort you need to enjoy your camping trip.
- BEST OVERALL: KLYMIT INSULATED STATIC V Sleeping Pad
- RUNNER UP: AirExpect Camping Sleeping Pad
- BEST FOR SIDE SLEEPERS: ZOOOBELIVES Extra Thickness Inflatable Sleeping Pad
- BEST FOR COMFORT: WELLAX FlexFoam Sleeping Pad
- MOST PORTABLE: Sleepingo Camping Sleeping Pad
- BEST OVERSIZED: Hikenture Double Camping Pad
- BEST SELF INFLATING: Coleman Self-Inflating Camping Pad with Pillow
- BEST CLOSED CELL: REDCAMP Closed Cell Foam Camping Sleeping Pad
- BEST AIR PAD: POPCHOSE Camping Sleeping Pad with Air Pillow
Types of Sleeping Pads
The type of sleeping pad you choose depends on the kind of adventures you expect to have. Some users require a virtually indestructible sleeping pad. Others prefer lighter weight for portability. For some, comfort and ease of setup are primary features. There are three main types of sleeping pads: self-inflating, closed-cell, and air pad.
As the name suggests, this type of sleeping pad inflates itself. Self-inflating pads are the middle ground between closed-cell and air pads; they have a layer of foam inside an airtight fabric shell. The user only needs to open the air valve and the interior foam expands as air fills the spaces in the foam. Campers can adjust the firmness of the pad by blowing more air into it or releasing some air from the pad. Self-inflating pads come in a range of sizes and insulation, giving you comfort while you camp throughout most of the year.
Self-inflating pads are typically larger and heavier than air pads, but they are more durable and easy to repair if they get punctured. Self-inflating air pads are suitable choices for car camping, backpacking, or if you need a comfortable pad that’s also strong.
Closed-cell sleeping pads are foam-filled pads with tiny air pockets. These inexpensive sleeping pads do not require inflation, making them more resilient than air pads or self-inflating pads, which can puncture or leak. This type of pad doesn’t absorb moisture, so it keeps you warmer through the night. Closed-cell pads don’t compress, but instead, they roll or fold up like an accordion. These pads are super lightweight and are the only sleep pad that you can carry safely outside of your pack without risking damage. The foam is relatively dense but offers consistent insulation in all weather conditions, and the bulk of the folded pad doubles as a place to sit in camp. Some closed-cell sleeping pads also offer a metallic, heat-reflective layer to provide extra warmth during sleep.
If you are using two sleeping pads, a closed-cell pad is a terrific base layer as it prevents puncture and contributes to the overall R-value of your sleep system. Closed-cell pads are great for backpackers, thru-hikers, and other campers.
Air pads use sealed chambers of air for sleep support. The even weight distribution gives campers a comfortable surface when they lie down. Air pads condense down to a very small, lightweight, and easy-to-pack size. These types of pads require you to fill them manually with your breath or bring along an air pump, and some might have a pump built into the sleeping pad for ease of use. For optimum sleep, you can add or release air for the desired pad firmness. Air pads come in a variety of styles and thicknesses for a range of seasons or adventures. They might contain additional insulation or reflective materials to boost warmth in the tent. Since they are filled with air, they can puncture, but they are easy to repair as long as you have a patch kit with you.
These types of sleeping pads generally have less insulation than closed-cell or self-inflating pads, so they are not ideal for cold weather, but they are a practical addition to summertime camping. These are a handy choice for car campers, backpackers, and ultralight packers.
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Sleeping Pad
The best sleeping pad is reliable and offers you comfort, warmth, and a size that fits your adventures when the pad is unfolded or packed up. The right sleeping pad suits your style of camping whether it’s thru-hiking or glamping. Here are some features to consider when selecting the best sleeping pad.
Your form of camping might differ from someone else’s—there are sleeping pads for all types of campers. Some things you might consider are the length of the trip, the weather/climate, and the type of camping you do. Choose your sleeping pad based on the style of camping you enjoy to get the greatest benefit from the pad:
- Car campers and glampers don’t have the size or weight limitations of other types of campers and can choose a comfortable sleeping pad.
- Backpackers and overnight adventurers might want something lighter weight, with durability and a greater insulation value.
- Minimalist backpackers require an ultralight option or might elect a shorter pad to cut down on weight and space in their bag.
- Thru-hikers should obtain a pad that’s durable for longer-term use and is low in weight.
- Winter campers need a pad intended for colder temperatures. R-values are important; look for a pad that has more insulation when planning to camp on snow.
Comfort is one of the key factors for getting a good sleep out in nature. Sleeping pads come in a variety of thicknesses, from as little as 0.6 inches to more than 4 inches. Thicker pads generally offer more cushion but can be heavier and bulkier than other options. Depending on your adventure, you might need to compromise some comfort for lighter weight or a more durable sleeping pad—you might even require an additional sleeping pad for colder conditions.
Another comfort consideration is the type of sleeper you are. If you sleep on your back, you have many more sleeping pad options. Side sleepers should choose pads that are at least 1.5 inches thick to cushion the body properly. If you tend to roll around at night, pick a sleeping pad with a textured surface, which can help keep you and your sleeping bag from sliding onto the ground.
Weight and Size
Choosing a suitable weight and size of a sleeping pad makes packing for a trip easier and contributes to nighttime comfort. The regular length of a sleeping pad is about 72 inches, and long sleeping pads run about 78 inches. On average, the standard width of a sleeping pad is 20 inches, but many do come in wider sizes if needed. There are also double-size pads that work for families or when backpacking with a partner; they can save some packing weight and space over packing two single pads.
For campers looking for a lightweight option, ultralight pads are available but tend to cost a bit more. There are some ways to save space, such as choosing a tapered, mummy-shaped pad that packs down smaller and lighter than a rectangular pad. Some campers elect shorter sleeping pads that support their hips and shoulders and use their pack to support their legs and feet.
Warmth and R-Value
A warm camper is a happy camper. Temperatures dip at night, and the ground can be quite chilly; it’s where a lot of body heat escapes. Sleeping pads are constructed to prevent heat loss. The warmth from a sleeping pad works hand in hand with a sleeping bag to create a camping sleep system. Make sure you choose a seasonally appropriate sleeping pad and bag for warmth all night.
The R-value of a sleeping pad indicates the pad’s resistance (R) to heat loss, which measures the insulation of the pad. This value is on a scale of 1 to 10; the higher the number, the better the insulation. As a general guideline, these are the types of conditions suited to each R-value:
- R-values less than 3 are best for warm or hot weather.
- R-values between 3 and 4 work for three-season use.
- R-values greater than 4.5 are best for winter conditions.
The most durable type of sleeping pad is a closed-cell pad. Since it’s filled with foam, punctures do not affect the pad’s performance. Self-inflated or air pads might puncture; always keep a patch kit handy while you’re camping.
Some fabrics, such as ripstop nylon or thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU), enhance the durability of a sleep pad.
- Ripstop nylon is made of thick, reinforced threads woven into a square pattern. At certain increments within the weave, there are extra threads of synthetic fiber. These fibers stop a rip or tear from continuing beyond one square.
- TPU is a waterproof material that repels water from a sleeping pad. This material also has properties such as elasticity, transparency, and abrasion resistance.
Proper storage of your sleeping pad helps it perform its best. Keep self-inflating mats inflated with the valve left open to retain the foam’s memory and make it easier for them to fully inflate on the next trip. Air mats should be stored loosely rolled after cleaning and drying them.
Our Top Picks
Based on the factors outlined above, this list of the best sleeping pads for camping can help you choose. The top picks consider pad type, comfort, durability, and other features to meet individual preferences and camping styles.
KLYMIT’s Insulated Static V Sleeping Pad is a smart option for campers who need a sleeping pad that’s easy to bring on adventures in all seasons. It packs down to 5 inches by 8 inches and weighs only 24 ounces, so it is a helpful and comfortable sleeping pad for backpackers needing to minimize weight and space. When you’re setting up camp, this sleeping pad inflates in 10 to 15 breaths and expands to 72 inches by 23 inches, with a 2.5-inch thickness.
V-shaped chambers through the middle of the pad support key pressure points, giving support, comfort, and warmth for a number of sleeping positions. The edges of the sleeping pad keep slumbering campers centered to minimize rolling off the pad during the night. This pad’s synthetic insulation limits air movement and heat loss, giving it an R-value of 4.4 to keep sleepers warm on cold nights.
The AirExpect Camping Sleeping Pad gives you the function and features required in a pad without an enormous price tag. Made of nylon and thermoplastic polyurethane, this pad is waterproof, puncture-proof, and tear-resistant for hiking, backpacking, or camping adventures. Unfolded, it measures 77 inches by 22 inches with a 2.5-inch thickness, providing comfortable sleep support that can hold up to 660 pounds.
For simple inflation, press the pump, and the sleeping pad self-inflates in mere moments. Campers can sleep soundly on the hexagon-shaped air cells that distribute pressure evenly and keep sleepers warm by insulating them from the cold ground. An integrated pillow supports the neck and saves having to pack a pillow along. You can attach two of these pads with the built-in side buttons to turn two single pads into a double. When it’s time to head home, remove the deflation plug, and the pad packs down to the size of a water bottle.
The ZOOOBELIVES Extra Thickness Inflatable Sleeping Pad is a self-inflating sleeping pad that gives comfort in tough conditions and for side sleepers. Thin sleep pads can be uncomfortable for side sleepers, primarily in the hips. This sleeping pad is 3.94 inches thick, giving extra space between the hips and the ground, and measures 74.8 inches long by 24.41 inches wide. Made from woven polyester fabric and polyvinyl chloride (PVC), this sleeping pad is waterproof and warm, even in wet or extreme conditions. An approximate R-value of 4 makes it a useful pad for three seasons.
To inflate the pad, use the built-in air pump. The pump has a double-decked design; one valve is for inflating or slow release of the air for desired firmness, and the second valve is for quick deflation. The pad packs up into 6 inches by 6 inches by 14 inches. It’s a handy choice for car camping by a lake since it can also be used as a floating mattress in the summertime.
For campers who need a bit of luxury on their adventures or are prone to back pain, the WELLAX Ultra-thick LexFoam self-inflating sleeping pad levels up the camping experience. Made of laminated ripstop nylon, memory foam, and thermoplastic polyurethane, this sleeping pad is a healthy combination of durability and comfort. The material makes it waterproof, tear-resistant, and virtually silent for sound-free movement through the night. The pad has an R-value of 9.5, giving enough insulation to make it usable all year, including for winter camping trips.
Measuring 77 inches by 30 inches, it’s longer and wider than many other sleep pads. The 3-inch thickness offers cozy sleeping in a variety of positions. When you pack the pad, it condenses down to 31 inches by 8 inches—simply deflate, roll it up, fasten the compression straps, and slide it into the carry bag. This sleeping pad weighs 7 pounds, which some campers are happy to carry since they’re able to get a more peaceful sleep.
The Camping Sleeping Pad from Sleepingo is a portable camping mat that doesn’t add much weight or space to a pack. Weighing only 14 ounces and condensing down to 9.5 inches by 2.5 inches, this sleeping mat meets the needs of backpackers and minimalist adventurers. When unfolded, the pad is 75 inches by 25 inches and offers 2.2-inch-thick sleep support. Though it is lightweight, this is a quality camping mat that stays comfortable and sturdy enough to support campers of various sizes. Users weighing more than 350 pounds can add a couple of extra breaths while inflating the pad to get the support they need.
Constructed from heavy-duty ripstop tear-resistant nylon and treated with abrasion-resistant TPU, this sleeping pad is waterproof, flexible, and noise-free. An R value of 2.1 gives enough insulation for warmer months and summer adventures and can be paired with another sleeping pad for additional comfort in other seasons.
For families or couples sharing a tent, this double sleeping pad from Hikenture offers the cushion, padding, and size needed for two tired people. It’s designed with wave construction, giving support and comfort. Measuring 78.7 inches by 47.5 inches by 3.75 inches, this pad fits well in many tents or the back of a car or SUV with the seats folded down. When not in use, it packs away to 14 inches by 6 inches by 5 inches for easy transport. Constructed with durable, PVC-free polyester pongee fabric and TPU lamination, the pad gives users a tear-resistant, waterproof, and tough sleep pad that’s convenient to carry and simple to use.
The Hikenture sleeping pad comes with a pump sack for easy inflation; capture air in the bag and roll the pump sack to push the air into the pad. For even faster inflation, this pad works well with an electric pump (not included) that can be stowed in the car.
Coleman’s Self-inflating Sleeping Pad saves campers’ breath after a long day of hiking. When setting up the bed for the night, roll out this sleeping pad and open the free-flow valve and the pad sufficiently fills with air automatically, with no pump or breath required. The integrated pillow gives hikers one less thing to pack along and increases the comfort of the sleeping pad. With extra cushioning, this sleeping pad measures 76 inches by 25 inches by 2.5 inches, giving sleepers plenty of room to snooze in comfort. To deflate quickly, reopen the valve and the pad pushes out air as it’s rolled up. Just squeeze out the remaining air with the compression straps.
The tufted design is made for a pleasant sleep while camping, but it might be a bit bulky for carrying on some backpacking trips. Made with thick and durable weather-resistant polyester, this sleeping pad is tough and suited to a variety of terrains.
This closed-cell foam sleeping pad by REDCAMP is a virtually indestructible pad that suits many hard-core adventurers. Made from water-resistant foam material, this sleeping pad stays dry when there’s moisture in the air and ground. This pad is designed to keep sleepers encased in warmth while providing a soft and comfortable spot. Thanks to an egg-shaped design, warm air gets trapped in the foam, and the aluminum film thermal capture surface reflects radiant heat to the body for an extra heat boost.
At only 17 ounces, this ultralight pad is easy to take along by attaching it to the outside of a pack. Unfold the accordion-style design and the sleeping pad measures 72 inches by 22 inches by 0.75 inches. The groove design of the pad is dual purpose. It makes it simple to fold it back up and increases slip resistance so sleepers don’t slide off it through the night.
The POPCHOSE Camping Sleeping Pad is constructed of military-grade material that is strong but lightweight. With four layers—two inner layers of TPU coating and two external layers of heavy-duty ripstop nylon—the air pad is durable and water-resistant. The pad reaches a comfortable size of 75 inches by 25 inches and is easy to inflate with the built-in foot pump.
The Z-shape air pipes give a sleeper’s body good support and a night of balanced sleep since the design allows a good volume of air to be pumped into the pad. This sleeping pad comes with a built-in W-shaped ergonomic pillow to hug the curves of the neck when lying down, making a pillow one less thing to pack on your travels. The shape of the pad and pillow make it comfortable for side or back sleepers. For some extra fun, this sleeping pad doubles as a water mattress for floating at the lake.
FAQs About Sleeping Pads
Even with the features mentioned above, you might have some remaining questions about what makes the best sleeping pad for camping. Here are some frequently asked questions and their answers to help you learn more about sleeping pads.
Q. What is a good R-value for a sleeping pad?
The ideal R-value depends on the amount of insulation you require for a typical or given trip. An R-value less than 3 is suited for summer, 3 to 4 is a solid choice for three-season use, and 4.5 or above makes it a sleeping pad that works for winter camping.
Q. Does a sleeping pad go inside a sleeping bag?
No. The pads are intended to go underneath a sleeping bag.
Q. How thick should a sleeping pad be?
Thickness depends on the type of pad you’re using and what kind of trip you’re going on. Thicker pads add bulk, which isn’t ideal for minimalist backpackers. If you want more of a glamping experience, a thicker pad can add more cushion.
Q. How do you clean a sleeping pad?
When you get home from camping, wipe down your sleeping pad with a damp cloth and some mild soap. Let it air dry completely before putting it away.