The best sleeping pads for 2019

Rough it in absolute comfort with the best sleeping pads available

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One of the best sleeping pads for your backcountry adventure is the Therm-a-Rest Neoair XLite, which impressed us with its warmth and comfort while still weighing less than a pound. It can be noisy when you shift positions, though, so not everyone will get a good night’s rest with the Neoair XLite.

This is why we’ve spent more than 400 hours testing the best sleeping pads, not just from Therm-a-Rest, but from a variety of the top manufacturers. We’ve slept with them on the ground, rested with them on a bunk, and curled up with them in a hammock before making our recommendations. If Neoair XLite isn’t your cup of tea, there are plenty of other sleeping pads on our list that rival our top pick.

At a glance

Product Category
Therm-a-Rest Neoair XLite Best overall
Nemo Tensor Best inflatable air pad
Therm-a-Rest ProLite Apex Best self-inflating pad
Nemo Switchback Best closed-cell foam pad
Therm-a-Rest Neoair UberLite Best ultralight pad
Klymit Hammock V Best hammock pad
Big Agnes Q-Core SLX Most comfortable

Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite

The best overall

Why you should buy this: The NeoAir XLite is not only comfortable and warm for sleeping, but it’s also lightweight, delivering one of the best warmth-to-weight ratios on the market.

Who it’s for: Weekend backpackers who don’t mind paying a little extra for a three-season sleeping pad that’s comfortable, warm, and packs down to fit in a backpack.

R-value: 3.2

Weight: 12 ounces

Why we picked the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite:

The Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite is an inflatable air mattress sleeping pad with a sleek, tapered mummy design. It’s popular among backpackers and for a good reason — the pad isn’t only warm and comfortable for sleeping, but it’s also lightweight, adding less than a pound to your base weight.

The NeoAir XLite delivers lightweight warmth in three seasons thanks to the company’s innovative Therm-a-capture reflective layer that traps heat without using bulky down or synthetic fills. It’s incredibly warm for 3-season use — this pad has an R-Value of 3.2, providing protection from the cold down to about 25-degrees Fahrenheit.

Because Therm-a-Rest doesn’t use insulating materials to provide warmth, the NeoAir XLite is exceptionally light and compact, weighing a mere 12 ounces. It also packs down tightly to the size of a water bottle, allowing you to store it easily inside your backpack. On the comfort scale, the NeoAir XLite hits the middle ground with 2.5 inches of cushioning to protect you from the hard surface of the ground or shelter.

The most significant criticism we have with the XLite is the noise it makes when you move around. The crinkly sound can be bothersome while trying to fall asleep. Because it’s an inflatable, the sleeping pad also remains susceptible to developing a leak, especially on demanding thru-hikes where the pad repeatedly sees a variety of surfaces. Thankfully, field repair is easy.

Nemo Tensor Insulated

The best inflatable air sleeping pad

NEMO Tensor

Why you should buy this: The Nemo Tensor is lightweight, warm, and packs down to a small size. It’s one of the quietest pads on the market.

Who it’s for: Weekend backpackers who want a three-season sleeping pad that hits the mark for warmth, comfort, and pack size.

R-value: Not reported. Manufacturer recommended 10 to 20F.

Weight: 1 pound, 1 ounce

Why we picked the Nemo Tensor:

The Tensor offers an impressive mixture of warmth and comfort while remaining free of extra bulk. New to 2019 is an easy-to-use valve for inflation that sits flush with the sleeping pad. Using a combination of stratofiber and aluminized film, this ultra-warm pad’s thermal mirror reflects radiant heat and its layer of insulating PrimaLoft will keep you snug and cozy all night long.

Comfort and convenience are also at the forefront with the Nemo Tensor. The “spaceframe” baffles are basically die-cut trusses of low-stretch fabric that create a firm and stable sleep surface, allowing you to roll over or read comfortably on your stomach without sinking into the pad.  Back, side or stomach sleepers will find this 3-inch pad very comfortable for sleeping. The heat reflecting metal layer is suspended in the center of the pad so it doesn’t crinkle, making the tensor one of the quietest pads on the market.

Our only gripe is the pad’s 20D nylon bottom, which saves on weight but is thin for a piece of gear that rests on the ground. You need to treat this pad with some extra care. Thankfully, its bottom surface is compatible with pressure-sensitive adhesive patches so you can do quick and easy field repairs.

Therm-a-Rest ProLite Apex

The best self-inflating sleeping pad

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Why you should buy this: The Therm-a-Rest ProLite Apex is warm, comfortable, and durable.

Who it’s for: Backpackers who want a four-season sleeping pad that hits the mark for warmth, comfort, and durability.

R-value: 4.0

Weight: 1 pound, 6 ounces

Why we picked the Therm-a-Rest ProLite Apex:

Self-inflating pads may not be the most compact sleeping pads on the market, but what they lack in compactness, they make up for it with durability. They are more comfortable than the minimal closed-foam pads and can withstand rough conditions that would cause and air-inflatable to pop.

These pads use thermal foam for warmth and a design that inflates without any effort. Just open the valve when you get to camp and the pad will inflate while you cook dinner. If you want a hassle-free pad that delivers a comfortable night’s sleep, then the new-for-2019 ProLite Apex should be at the top of your list.

Nemo Switchback

The best closed-cell foam sleeping pad

Why you should buy this: The Nemo Switchback is an affordable sleeping pad that stands up to the rigors of the backcountry.

Who it’s for: Backpackers who don’t mind sacrificing a bit of comfort in exchange for a no-nonsense sleeping pad that won’t fail in the backcountry.

R-value: Not reported. Manufacturer recommended 20 to 35F.

Weight: 14.5 ounces

Why we picked the Nemo Switchback:

Closed-cell foam sleeping pads are not known for their comfort, but that is about to change thanks to Nemo’s new Switchback sleeping pad. With a thickness of almost one inch, the Nemo Switchback is the most comfortable closed-cell foam on the market. Nemo uses two different types of foam in the Switchback: A denser foam that provides durability and a softer foam that you lie on.

Because it uses a closed-cell foam matrix and not air, the Switchback won’t develop an annoying leak at the wrong place and time. Besides durability, the Switchback is versatile and can be used as a seat pad for extended lunch breaks. It’s featherlight weight and outstanding reliability make it a top choice for long-distance hikes.

Nemo developed the Switchback to be warm as well as durable. It features heat-trapping hexagonal nodes and a metallic thermal reflective film coating that collects your body’s radiant heat. The result is a pad that keeps you warm even when the temperatures drop into the low 40s. If you backpack in the winter, you can pair the Switchback with an inflatable mattress for colder conditions.

Because it uses a solid foam, the Switchback cannot be compressed down like its air mattress competitors — it’s big enough that it won’t fit inside most backpacks. While some foam pads can be rolled up, the Switchback is meant to be folded into a large rectangle that can be attached to a pack using straps. The pad is designed so its hexagonal nodes will fit inside each other allowing the Switchback to fold smaller than competing closed-cell foam mattresses. Even in its folded state, the Switchback doesn’t fit easily inside your pack and is usually attached to the outside.

Therm-a-Rest NeoAir UberLite

The best ultralight sleeping pad

best sleeping pads therm a rest neoair uberlite

Why you should buy this: The Therm-a-Rest NeoAir UberLite is one of the lightest sleeping pads on the market.

Who it’s for: Backpackers who are counting ounces and want the lightest pad possible.

R-value: 2.0

Weight: 8.8 ounces

Why we picked the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir UberLite:

The Therm-a-Rest NeoAir UberLite hits all the checkmarks when it comes to a sleeping pad. At 8.8 ounces, the UberLite is crazy light making it one of the lightest sleeping pads available today. It also offers a relatively plush 2.5 inches of thickness that side-sleepers will appreciate. It has an R-value that’s perfect for the summer and warm-weather backpacking. Best of all, the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir UberLite is not crinkly like Therm-a-Rest NeoAir models.

Klymit Hammock V

The best hammock sleeping pad

Why you should buy this: The Hammock V sleeping pad from Klymit is designed to fit securely in your hammock and won’t slip out like a traditional sleeping pad.

Who it’s for: The Klymit Hammock is a must-have for hammock campers looking to add a layer of insulation to a hammock.

R-value: 1.6

Weight: 27.3 ounces

Why we picked the Klymit Hammock V:

Hammocks are incredibly comfortable for sleeping, but they suffer from a fatal flaw: When you snuggle up in your sleeping bag and lay down in your hammock, all your weight shifts to your back. This compresses the sleeping bag in the area, preventing it from trapping the warm air necessary to keep you warm. As a result, hammock campers feel an annoying draft. The best way to remedy this situation is with a thin sleeping pad that provides a layer of insulation.

Most sleeping pads are designed to be used on the ground and don’t fit well in a hammock. The Klymit Hammock V gets rid of this issue with no-slip zones that grip and a unique shape designed to fit perfectly in any standard single or double hammock. The pad not only fits underneath you but it also has wings that wrap around, keeping you warm on the side.

To prevent a cold draft on your back, the Hammock V has deep welds which allow the sleeping bag to loft beneath you. It’s also compact, measuring 4 inches by 8 inches and weighing 27 ounces when packed. Best of all, its streamlined shape takes only 15 to 20 breaths to inflate, making it quick and easy to set up at camp.

Big Agnes Q-Core SLX

The most comfortable sleeping pad

Why you should buy this: The Big Agnes Q-Core SLX air pad is as close to a real mattress as you can get for backcountry sleeping.

Who it’s for: The Big Agnes Q-Core SLX air pad is for backpackers who want a comfortable night’s sleep no matter where they break for camp.

R-value: Not reported. Manufacturer rated down to 32°F

Weight: 16 ounces

Why we picked the Big Agnes Q-Core SLX:

With most air mattresses, you have to choose between comfort and weight, but that is not the case with the Big Agnes Q-Core SLX sleeping pad. Not only does the mattress offer a whopping 4.25 inches of air-inflated comfort, but it also weighs in at a very respectable 16 ounces (regular size). If you are looking for a good all around three-season performer, you can’t beat the combination of comfort and weight found in the Big Agnes Q-Core SLX.

The Q-Core SLX also ships with a handful of smaller, but useful features that you don’t realize how vital they are until you use them. The pad has a soft outer layer much like a sheet and large outer baffles that help keep you cradled in the center of the pad when you are sleeping. There’s also a high volume valve for easy inflation and super fast deflation and an antimicrobial layer on the inside of the pad to prevent bacterial growth that results when you use your moisture-filled breath to inflate the pad.

Helpful advice and key terms

What type of sleeping pad should I buy?

Sleeping pads are essential for a good night’s sleep, providing both warmth and comfort in the backcountry. Before you start shopping, you should decide what type of sleeping pad you need for your next outdoor adventure. Unlike other categories of gear which have a myriad of choices, there are only three major types of sleeping pad styles on the market — self-inflatable, air inflatable, and closed-cell foam. Each style is very different and has features that make them suitable for specific backpacking situations.

Self-inflatable

Self-inflatable pads use an open-cell foam insulation and combine it with air. These pads are a scaled-down version of an air mattress and work like a sponge, decreasing in size when compacted and expanding when the valve opens. The pads deliver exceptional warmth like closed cell foam but tend to be more comfortable than their closed-cell counterparts because of inflation. They can also be rolled or folded to make them compact enough to fit inside or on the outside of a backpack. They are perfect for use in the backcountry when you need warmth and want extra comfort.

Closed-cell foam

Closed-cell foam is a popular choice for sleeping because it’s affordable and durable. These foam pads cost as little as $15 and won’t develop a leak because they use a solid foam — as opposed to air chambers — in their construction. Because they don’t require inflation, you can use them immediately without any additional steps. They’re also very effective at insulating your body from the cold. So what’s the problem? They tend to be very thin and provide almost no cushioning from the ground. Because they’re made from solid foam, they also don’t compress down very quickly and must be rolled or folded for transport. Despite the extra bulk, backpackers love closed-cell foam pads for their reliability — since they won’t leak, they’re easy to rely on.

Inflatable air

Inflatable air sleeping pads work just as the name implies: They utilize a layer of thin material that’s inflatable using air, providing a very comfortable platform for sleeping. They typically offer minimal protection from the cold, but some models are lined with insulation to provide additional warmth when sleeping on the ground. The best part about the inflatable pads is their pack size, which is extremely small and lightweight. Because they offer lightweight warmth, these inflatable air sleeping pads tend to be on the expensive side.

What is an R-value and why does it matter?

The R-value is a measurement of a sleeping pad’s ability to resist the transfer of heat. A sleeping pad with a higher R-value protects you better from cold, allowing you to sleep more comfortably during cold conditions. For example, a sleeping pad with an R-value of 3.5 to 4.0 provides warmth down to 15-degrees Fahrenheit, while a pad with a 2.0 to 2.5 value is warm down to roughly 30-degrees. You should select a pad with an R-value that matches the conditions in which you backpack. Winter campers should look for a high-value sleeping pad, while summer-only hikers can shave weight by choosing a pad with less insulation and a lower R-value.

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