9 Best Sleeping Pads for Backpacking in 2023
Check out the best lightweight sleeping pads for backpacking that are warm, comfortable, and durable enough for a multi-day trek.
Sleeping on a leaky halfway-deflated sleeping pad on a backpacking trip may leave you never wanting to go backpacking again. That’s why a quality sleeping pad is a crucial piece of gear that can truly make or break your trip.
There are a lot of factors that go into finding the best backpacking sleeping pad including price, insulation, weight, size, and even personal sleeping habits.
Here at Bearfoot Theory, we’ve tried and tested a number of different sleeping pads – some better than others – and in this blog post, we help you narrow it down by sharing our favorites.
No matter what your budget is or your priorities, this list highlights the most popular sleeping pads for every outdoor enthusiast from super lightweight options to warm four-season ones and more.
At the end of this post, we also break down the important factors when choosing a sleeping pad so you can get the right one for your adventures.
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Best Backpacking Sleeping Pads at a Glance
- Bearfoot Theory team favorite: Therm-a-Rest ProLite Plus
- Lightest sleeping pad: Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite
- Easiest to inflate: Sea to Summit Ultralight Insulated
- Comfiest backpacking pad: Sea To Summit Ether Lite XT
- Best for side sleepers: Big Agnes Rapide SL Insulated
- Best 2-person pad: Exped Ultra 3R Duo
- Best 4-season pad: Exped Ultra 7R
- Best foam pad: NEMO Switchback Foam
- Best budget option: REI Co-op Trailmade
Backpacking Sleeping Pad Comparison Table
See the comparison table below for a quick summary of each of the top sleeping pads for backpacking. You can click on the columns to sort by what’s most important to you.
|Name||Weight||Category||R Value||Thickness||Packed Size||Price|
|https://bit.ly/3lm6BnC||Therm-a-Rest ProLite Plus||23 oz||Self-inflating Air||3.2||1.5"||6.8 x 11"||$125|
|https://bit.ly/3GhMR06||Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite||13 oz||Air||4.3||3"||4.1 x 9"||$210|
|https://bit.ly/41duMbT||Big Agnes Rapide SL||19 oz||Air||4.2||3.5"||4.5 x 8"||$150|
|https://bit.ly/3pzmlFv||Sea to Summit Ultralight||16.9 oz||Air||3.1||2"||4 x 9"||$159|
|https://bit.ly/3MjIs0z||Exped Utlra 3R Duo||29 oz||Air||3.9||3"||5.5 x 9.8"||$300|
|https://bit.ly/3nVK2Md||Exped Ultra 7R||22 oz||Air||7.1||3.5"||5.5 x 11"||$240|
|https://bit.ly/38Q5UyD||Sea to Summit Ether Lite||17.5||Air||3.5||4"||11 x 4.5"||$200|
|https://bit.ly/3eLuGD9||NEMO Switchback Foam||14.5 oz||Foam||2||0.9"||20 x 5.5 x 5"||$55|
|https://bit.ly/3nFsB21||REI Co-op Trailmade||39 oz||Self-inflating air||5.5||1.5"||7 x 22.4"||$80|
1. Therm-a-Rest ProLite Plus
Bearfoot Theory Team Favorite
- Great for: 3-season backpacking, back sleepers
- What we like: Great value for price, durable fabric, easy to inflate
- What we don’t like: Heavier and bulkier than other sleeping pads, not great for side sleepers
The Therm-a-Rest ProLite Plus is designed with comfort in mind, and it’s my personal sleeping pad of choice.
While it’s not the lightest sleeping pad available, I like that it’s one flat piece of padding without baffles.
At 1.5″ thick, it’s enough padding that you can’t feel the ground or little rocks that you might have set your tent up on top of. However, it’s not so thick that if you roll around at night, you feel like you might fall off.
It’s also insulated enough to camp in cold temperatures, but if you camp in the winter, you might want to add a foam pad underneath. There is a women’s version available of the Plus which is a little shorter and 1 ounce lighter than the men’s Regular size.
Compared to the other lightweight sleeping pads on this list, the Thermarest ProLite Plus is a little on the bulky side when in the stuff sack, but it still packs down well enough to come along for the ride.
One other advantage is that it partially self-inflates. You just twist open the valve, and the pad slowly starts to inflate on its own, then you finish inflating it with your own breath.
If you want to shave off an extra 5oz, check out the ProLite regular version.
2. Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite NXT
Best Lightweight Sleeping Pad for Backpacking
- Great for: Ultralight backpacking, 3-season backpacking
- What we like: Most lightweight sleeping pad on the list, super compact
- What we don’t like: Runs narrow, noisy when you roll over
Overall, Therm-a-Rest seems to have the market cornered when it comes to warmth and lightness, making them one of the best brands of sleeping pads for backpacking.
Their Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite NXT will keep you warm and comfortable in the backcountry, and it’s the lightest inflatable sleeping pad that we stand behind.
This is also the backpacking sleeping pad of choice of BFT team member Linda who has used this sleeping pad on over a dozen backpacking trips.
The NeoAir XLite NXT does tend to run narrow, so if you toss and turn, we recommend getting the wide version.
It can also be noisy when you roll over so if you are a light sleeper keep that in mind, but we think for the weight and warmth, this sleeping pad is worth it.
Read next: Looking to go ultra-lightweight? Read our tips and gear recommendations for ultralight backpacking.
3. Sea to Summit Ultralight Insulated Sleeping Pad
Easiest Sleeping Pad to Inflate
- Great for: back or stomach sleepers, 3-season backpacking
- What we like: Durable valve, easiest to inflate, compresses down super small
- What we don’t like: not great for side sleepers
The Sea to Summit Ultralight Insulated Sleeping Pad is one of the best and most well-reviewed sleeping pads. It’s a lightweight and durable pad that’s easy to transport in and out of the carry bag.
One of the best features of this sleeping pad is that you can use the stuff sack to blow up the pad. You hook the stuff sack up to the valve, then you scoop up some air into the stuff sack, roll down the top, and it forces air into the sleeping pad. It takes less than a minute to fill up, and all your friends will be jealous as they huff and puff to blow their pads up. Using the stuff sack also reduces the amount of condensation build up inside the pad.
The valve on this sleeping pad is also one of the most durable valves on the market which is pretty huge considering valves are where common leakage happens.
As a bonus, the Sea to Summit Ultralight has an anti-microbial coating that keeps any nastiness from building up over time.
This sleeping pad also comes in a women’s version. If you want a little more padding, the Sea to Summit Comfort Light Insulated Sleeping Pad (pictured below) is a great option.
4. Sea To Summit Ether Lite XT Women’s
Comfiest Backpacking Sleeping Pad
- Great for: People who toss & turn at night, side sleepers, 3-season backpacking
- What we like: Thickest sleeping pad on our list, extremely comfortable, good width for not rolling off, pretty quiet
- What we don’t like: Doesn’t pack down as small as other options, takes longer to inflate with the stuff sack
The Sea to Summit Ether Lite XT Insulated Sleeping Pad is the ideal sleeping pad for anyone seeking maximum comfort and who doesn’t mind carrying a little extra weight and bulk. The extra thick (XT) construction provides deep cushioning, perfect for side sleepers.
Becky, our behind-the-scenes assistant, uses this pad for her bikepacking adventures because it’s extremely comfortable and while it doesn’t pack down quite as small as other pads on this list, it’s still really lightweight at just over a pound. She’s a side sleeper and doesn’t feel the ground at all while shifting from side to side on this 4″ pad. The women’s version also has a slightly warmer R-value at 3.5.
The Ether Lite XT comes with an Airstream Pump stuff sack, which allows you to inflate the pad without blowing into it. The sack is fully integrated into the sleeping pad bag, making it really easy to use (and impossible to forget or leave behind). The valve is durable and allows for easy inflation, quick deflation, and a button for fine-tuning the firmness when your pad is blown up without losing air.
This pad also comes with 4 “Pillow Lock” patches which secure any Sea to Summit backpacking pillow to the pad so it doesn’t slide off during the night — a common problem with most backpacking pillows. We personally love the Sea to Summit Aeros Pillow.
If you’re a side sleeper, tend to move around a lot, or are someone who wants to ensure a really good night’s sleep in the backcountry, this sleeping pad is definitely worth the money.
5. Big Agnes Rapide SL Insulated Sleeping Pad
Best Sleeping Pad for Side Sleepers
- Great for: Side sleepers, lightweight backpacking, 3-season backpacking
- What we like: Lightweight and compact, one of the thickest pads on our list, comes in a wide version, not noisy when you roll over
- What we don’t like: A bit heavy
If you’re a side sleeper, the Big Agnes Rapide SL Insulated Sleeping Pad is a great option.
It’s lightweight and has insulated layers to fend off cold and with a thickness of 3.5 inches, your hips and shoulders will be happy all night light.
The Big Agnes Rapide packs down small and the high-volume valve makes it quick to inflate and deflate. Alternatively, you can use the inflation sack to inflate the pad when you’re at high altitudes and the air is thin.
I also love that this pad comes in a range of sizes from petite to wide to accommodate all body sizes.
6. Exped Ultra 3R Duo Sleeping Pad
Best 2-Person Backpacking Sleeping Pad
- Great for: Couples, backpacking with your dog, short backpacking trips, summer backpacking
- What we like: Each side fills separately, larger outer chambers help prevent you from rolling off, easy to inflate
- What we don’t like: Not as insulated as other 3-season pads
Are you looking for a way to cuddle with your partner on backpacking trips? Look no further than the Exped Ultra 3R Duo Sleeping Pad.
This sleeping pad fits perfectly in two-person backpacking tents and is a great option for those looking to avoid uncomfortably pushing together 2 one-person pads.
You’d think that inflating a double sleeping pad would be more difficult than a single, but this sleeping pad is quick to inflate and deflate using a similar stuff sack mechanism as the Sea to Summit sleeping pad mentioned above.
The downside of this sleeping pad is its bulkiness and weight, but if you could split the weight into 2, it would be the same weight and size as some of the other sleeping pads we recommend on this list of the best sleeping pads for backpacking.
If you want a lighter-weight option with a lower R-value for summer camping, the Exped also comes in a 1R version.
Read next: Be sure to check out our guide to the best double sleeping bags to pair with your 2-person sleeping pad!
7. Exped Ultra 7R Sleeping Pad
Best 4-Season Sleeping Pad
- Great for: Winter camping, 4-season backpacking, side sleepers
- What we like: Warmest sleeping pad on our list, very lightweight for how warm it is
- What we don’t like: Most expensive sleeping pad on our list, noisy when you roll over, easy to slide off the slippery material if you move around a lot
This is one of the priciest sleeping pads on this list, but the Exped Ultra 7R Sleeping Pad is also the warmest by far with an R-value of 7.1.
It’s made for mountaineering, winter camping, and backpacking so if that’s the kind of thing you’ll be doing, then investing in an ultra-warm, comfortable, lightweight sleeping pad like this will be worth it in the long run.
This pad is insulated with a layer of 700-fill down to keep you nice and warm even as the temperatures drop outside your tent. While we don’t love the use of down feathers here at Bearfoot Theory, we do appreciate Exped’s adherence to the Resonsible Down Standard.
The downsides of this sleeping pad are it’s an expensive investment and the slippery material is noisy and easy to slide off of if you move around in your sleep.
8. NEMO Switchback Foam Sleeping Pad
Best Foam Sleeping Pad
- Great for: Summer backpacking, lightweight backpacking, using as a sleeping space for your dog
- What we like: Doesn’t require inflation, most durable sleeping pad option, budget-friendly
- What we don’t like: Thinner than inflatable sleeping pads, doesn’t provide warmth in cold weather, bulky to carry
If you don’t like inflatable sleeping pads and prefer something simple that requires no setup time after a long day of hiking, check out the NEMO Switchback Foam Sleeping Pad.
This foam sleeping pad is lightweight and incredibly durable since you don’t have to worry about leaks or valve issues.
It’s pretty barebones and not quite as warm and comfortable as the other options on this list, but if you’re on a budget and want something simple, this is a good option for you.
Many reviewers note pairing this sleeping pad with an inflatable sleeping pad for extra padding and warmth on backpacking trips or using this pad as a sleeping space for their dog.
You can also use this sleeping pad as a sit pad when it’s folded up. The downside of a foam sleeping pad is you typically must carry it on the outside of your pack since it doesn’t compress like an inflatable pad does.
9. REI Co-op Trailmade Self-Inflating Sleeping Pad
Best Budget Sleeping Pad
- Great for: Short backpacking trips, budget hikers, 3-season backpacking
- What we like: Inexpensive for an inflatable pad, budget-friendly
- What we don’t like: Heaviest and bulkiest sleeping pad on our list, hard to inflate/deflate
If you are looking for a high-quality, budget-friendly sleeping pad, look no further than the REI Co-op Trailmade Self-Inflating Sleeping Pad. With an R-Value of 5.5, this is a warm sleeping pad that is great for 3-season trips.
The downside of this sleeping pad is the weight and size – this is ideally a car camping sleeping pad, but it can also be used for short backpacking trips or if your backpacking sleeping bag and/or tent is small.
How to Choose the Best Sleeping Pad for Backpacking
I owned the same old sleeping pad for a long time since I started backpacking more than a decade ago, but a few years back I decided it was time to upgrade. Since my original investment, sleeping pads have come a long way. Now they are lighter, more comfortable, and much more compact than ever before.
In my search for the best backpacking sleeping pad, I became overwhelmed with the number of options. There was a lot to consider like price, R-Value, weight, and size. So I did a bunch of research on how to choose the best sleeping pad for backpacking and wanted to share with you what I learned
So, how do you choose the best sleeping pad for backpacking? Here are the factors to consider when making your purchase:
Foam Sleeping Pads vs Inflatable Sleeping Pads
There are two basic types of sleeping pads. The first is a closed-cell foam pad. These are the cheapest and most durable pads available, but they tend to be less comfortable.
Their stiff shape also means you don’t have the ability to pack them down, and most people end up carrying them on the outside of their pack.
The other option is an inflatable sleeping pad. These can either be self-inflating or manually inflated by blowing air into them.
These provide more cushion than a foam pad but are less durable since they are prone to puncture. This means you have to be very careful when using an inflatable sleeping pad directly on the ground in order to avoid leaks.
Inflatable sleeping pads are significantly more comfortable than foam pads, and in many cases the difference in weight is negligible.
Insulation: The R-Value
The R-value is an indicator of insulation. R values range from 1.0 on the low end to 10 on the high end, and the higher the R-value the more heat the pad is going to retain. Most sleeping pads intended for backpacking have R-values around 2.0-5.0.
The first thing you’ll want to think about is the type of climate you’ll be using your sleeping pad in. If you are a fair-weather backpacker and will be spending most nights in warm summer temperatures, then you can get away with a lower R-value.
On the other hand, if you are doing winter or snow camping, then you will want something with an R-value closer to 5. Pads with R-values higher than 5 are heavier and generally intended for car camping.
Weight is an important factor to consider for all of your gear and sleeping pads are no exception.
Closed-cell foam pads are the lightest and generally weigh in at less than a pound.
The lightest inflatable sleeping pads are relatively comparable in weight to the foam pads. The Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite is one of the lightest options available at 12.5 ounces.
Depending on how plush you want to go, a reasonable weight range for an inflatable air pad is 10 ounces up to 2 pounds. And while not always the case, there tends to be a tradeoff between weight and durability with inflatable sleeping pads.
If you choose one of the ultralight inflatable options, you need to treat it with caution and avoid using it directly on the ground.
Inflatable sleeping pads vary anywhere from one to four inches thick and a thicker pad is going to offer additional comfort if you are a side sleeper.
The downside of a thicker pad is that they take longer to inflate by mouth. If you are a back sleeper and tend to stay put throughout the night, then you might be ok with a thinner pad.
Closed-cell foam pads tend to be thinner, usually running at less than 1 inch thick.
Length and Width
In order to cut down on weight, sleeping pads are getting smaller and smaller. In fact, some sleeping pads now come in 3/4 length meaning the bottom of your legs and feet will be hanging off.
Many also have a tapered or mummy-shaped design where the head and foot are narrower than the rest of the pad.
While it varies across brands, a regular-sized sleeping pad is approximately 72 inches long by 20 inches wide, and most brands make their sleeping pads in multiple sizes to accommodate those who are shorter, taller, or have broad shoulders.
If you move around a lot while you sleep, you may want to buy a wide sleeping pad.
Women’s Backpacking Sleeping Pads
Some backpacking sleeping pads come in a women’s specific version. These tend to be shorter and are sometimes a little wider to accommodate various body shapes and larger hips.
Women’s sleeping pads are also made to be warmer, with a higher R-value since women often sleep colder than men.
This is one area where sleeping pads have made some serious advancements. Some sleeping pads these days are smaller than a Nalgene bottle when packed down, meaning they take up way less space in your bag than they used to.
For backpacking, you’ll want something that packs down to about 4-5.5 inches by 8-11 inches.
Of course, you can use something larger, but we’d only recommend that for shorter trips or if you’re splitting up gear between your partner or campmate.
One-way valves: Many of the newest sleeping pads, like the Sea to Summit UltraLight Insulated Sleeping Pad, have one-way valves. That means when you are blowing them up, the air can’t come back out of the valve, making it easier to blow up. Then when you want to deflate it, there is a separate valve that you open where the air escapes from.
Self-inflating: There are a few pads on the market that are self-inflating. My Therm-a-Rest ProLite Plus is one of them. If you choose to buy a self-inflating pad, you should be prepared that after some use, the pad might not self-inflate like it used to. At that point, you will end up blowing it up with your mouth just like the rest, but the self-inflation is a nice feature while it lasts.
Integrated pump: Many newer sleeping pads come with a pump integrated into the stuff sack. You basically fill the pump sack with air and push or roll that air into the sleeping pad for easier filling. This does add a few ounces, but normally this isn’t too much of an issue.
Looking to upgrade your gear closet? Check out our other backpacking gear round-ups:
What is the best sleeping pad for backpacking that you’ve found? Do you have a favorite? Leave a comment below and let us know!
I wish I could remember the brand, but I came across a hiker who inserted his inflatable sleeping pad directly into his sleeping bag. I thought that was truly innovative! I recall the brand consisted of large “cup” holes throughout. Would love to know if there is a brand that is meant to go into your bag as I often find my sleeping bag slipping off.
I suppose any sleeping pad can slip inside a bag if it fits. I’m not aware of any brands that make specifically make sleeping pads to fit inside sleeping bags, though.
Based on the description of the large “cupholes” design, my guess is you are talking about the Klymit Inertia Ozone pad. I haven’t used that particular model, but I do use their Static V and insulted Static V pads and find them super comfortable.
My Big Agnes bag has a built in sleeve on the bottom of the bag for the air mattress to go in. I love it! I don’t backpack with that sleeping bag – I car camp with it.
I just switched to the NeoAir Xtherm and I LOVE it!