Best Sleeping Pads for Backpacking in 2020

Sleeping on a leaky half-way 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’s a lot of factors that go into finding the best sleeping pad for backpacking – price, insulation, weight, size, and more. In this blog post, we help you narrow it down by sharing a list of the most popular sleeping pads that are lightweight, warm, and durable enough to stand up to a multiday trek. At the end of this post, we also share advice for how to choose a sleeping pad based on your personal needs

Ready to get out there? Here are the best sleeping pads for backpacking in 2020.


Best Sleeping Pads for Backpacking in 2020

Here are the best lightweight backpacking sleeping pads to pack for a night under the stars. All of the pads below are lightweight and compact with an adequate R-value for three-season camping. All of the specs listed are for the “regular” sized version of each sleeping pad unless otherwise noted. If you need a longer, wider, or shorter pad, the R-value and thickness will stay the same but the packed size, weight, and price will be different from what is listed here. Some of the sleeping pads below come in women’s specific versions as well in which case that’s noted.

Pro-tip: The prices listed below are standard but we’ve seen many of these sleeping pads go on sale, particularly when retailers get rid of old stock to make way for the newest versions, so use the links below to shop around.

Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite Sleeping Pad

Best overall: 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 in 2020. Their Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite will keep you warm and comfortable in the backcountry, and it’s the lightest inflatable sleeping pad that we stand behind (it happens to be the backpacking sleeping pad of choice of our Director of Operations).

  • Weight: 12 oz
  • R-Value: 4.2
  • Thickness: 2.5 inches
  • Packed Size: 4 x 9 inches
  • MSRP: $185

Check Price: Backcountry / REI

Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Xtherm Sleeping Pad

Best for winter: This is one of the priciest sleeping pads on this list, but the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Xtherm Sleeping Pad is also the warmest by far, and one of the lightest. 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.

  • Weight: 15 oz
  • R-Value: 6.9
  • Thickness: 2.5 inches
  • Packed Size: 4 x 9 inches
  • MSRP: $215

Check Price: Backcountry / REI

NEMO Tensor Insulated Sleeping Pad

A personal favorite of mine, the NEMO Tensor Insulated Sleeping Pad, is a lightweight, insulated sleeping pad that’s easy to store and pack while you’re backpacking. It’s got insulated layers to fend off cold but it’ll do you well to bring along extra padding if you’re camping during the winter. It packs down very small and the valve makes it quick to inflate and deflate.

  • Weight: 15 oz
  • R-Value: 3.5
  • Thickness: 3 inches
  • Packed Size: 3 x 8 inches
  • MSRP: $159.95
NEMO Tensor Insulated Sleeping Pad // One of the best sleeping pads for backpacking in 2020

Check Price: REI

Klymit Insulated Static V Ultralite Pad

Klymit’s Insulated Static V Ultralight Sleeping Pad is one of the best sleeping pads for 2020 because of its rectangular shape, plus, a strategic v-chamber designed to trap heat and minimize back pain and pressure. Coming in just shy of a pound, this sleeping pad is ultralight but still has enough insulation to last through 3 out of 4 seasons.

  • Weight: 15.9 oz
  • R-Value: 4.4
  • Thickness: 2.5 inches
  • Packed Size: 4.5 x 7in
  • MSRP: $119
Klymit Static V Sleeping Pad // One of the best sleeping pads for backpacking in 2020

Check Price: Klymit / Backcountry

Sea to Summit Ultralight Insulated Sleeping Pad

Best value: The Sea to Summit Ultralight Insulated Sleeping Pad is one of the best and most well-reviewed sleeping pads for 2020. It’s a lightweight and durable pad that’s easy to transport in and out of the carry bag. There’s a built-in air pump that’s integrated into the bottom of the stuff sack, meaning way less time (and let’s be honest, frustration) when inflating your pad. As a bonus, the pad has an anti-microbial coating that keeps any nastiness from building up over time. This sleeping pad comes in a women’s version too.

  • Weight: 1 pound
  • R-Value: 3.3
  • Thickness: 2 inches
  • Packed Size: 4 x 9 inches
  • MSRP: $139.95
Sea to Summit Ultralight Sleeping Pad // One of the best sleeping pads for backpacking in 2020

Check Price: Backcountry / Moosejaw / REI

Sea to Summit Ether Light XT Insulated Air Sleeping Pad

Best for sensitive sleepers: If you want something with extra cushioning that’s still lightweight, check out the Sea to Summit Ether Light XT Insulated Sleeping Pad. At 4 inches thick, it’s one of the thickest inflatable backpacking sleeping pads out there making it great for side sleepers and anyone who may have back or joint sensitivity. It’s made to be quieter than Sea to Summit’s other sleeping pads and has a pillow lock system to prevent your inflatable pillow (not included) from slipping off (trust us, it does happen!) making for an all around better night’s sleep. This sleeping pad comes in a women’s version as well.

  • Weight: 1 lb, 1.3 oz
  • R-Value: 3.2
  • Thickness: 4 inches
  • Packed Size: 4.5 x 9.5 inches
  • MSRP: $189.95
Sea to Summit Ether Light XT Insulated Sleeping Pad // One of the best sleeping pads for backpacking in 2020

Check Price: Backcountry / Moosejaw / REI

Therm-a-Rest ProLite Sleeping Pad

Best budget option: Although there have been many advances in sleeping pad technology since this model originally came out, the Therm-a-Rest ProLite Sleeping Pad still holds up as one of the best sleeping pads for backpacking in 2020. My choice and go-to sleeping pad for multi-day hikes, I like that it has a smooth texture with no bumps or baffles. It’s a little on the bulky side when in the stuff sack but packs down well enough to come along for the ride. It’s also not the warmest sleeping pad out there, but it’s a lightweight, durable, and affordable choice for your next outdoor adventure. If you want to bump up to a slightly warmer, thicker sleeping pad and don’t mind carrying a couple extra ounces, check out the ProLite Plus (also comes in a women’s version). 

  • Weight: 1 lb, 2 oz
  • R-Value: 2.4
  • Thickness: 1 inch
  • Packed Size: 5.8 x 11 inches
  • MSRP: $94.95

Check Price: Backcountry / REI

Big Agnes Insulated Air Core Ultra Sleeping Pad

This is another budget-friendly sleeping pad for backpacking that comes in at just under $100 for a regular size. The Big Agnes Insulated Air Core Ultra Sleeping Pad has a synthetic insulation for warmth and is relatively thick at 3.5 inches. It gets you plenty of bang for your buck with a tear-proof, anti-microbial coating and fast, easy inflation.

  • Weight: 1 lb, 5 oz
  • Thickness: 3.5 inches
  • Packed Size: 4 x 8 inches
  • MSRP: $99.95
Big Agnes Insulated Air Core Ultra Sleeping Pad // One of the best sleeping pads for backpacking in 2020

Check Price: Backcountry / Moosejaw / REI

Sea to Summit Comfort Light Insulated Sleeping Pad

Great for cooler temps, the Sea to Summit Comfort Lite Insulated Sleeping Pad will keep you warm and comfy through the night with a double layer of air sprung cells to provide extra insulation in the torso area. This sleeping pad also has all the technological features you could want, like durable ripstop nylon, an antimicrobial treatment, a multi-function valve, and a pump integrated into the stuff sack. This sleeping pad comes in a women’s version as well.

  • Weight: 1 lb, 5.9 oz
  • R-Value: 3.7
  • Thickness: 2.5 inches
  • Packed Size: 4.5 x 9.5 inches
  • MSRP: $179.95
Sea to Summit Comfort Lite Insulated Sleeping Pad // One of the best sleeping pads for backpacking in 2020

Check Price: Backcountry / Moosejaw / REI

Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Topo Luxe Sleeping Pad

Most comfortable: If you’ve tried other sleeping pads and just can’t get a good night’s sleep when you’re out in the backcountry, you might just need to try the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Topo Luxe Sleeping Pad. As the name suggests, this sleeping pad brings luxury comfort to your tent and is one of the thickest sleeping pads you’ll find that still manages to be lightweight. 

  • Weight: 1 lb, 7 oz
  • R-Value: 3.7
  • Thickness: 4 inches
  • Packed Size: 5.5 x 9 inches
  • MSRP: $144.95
Therm-a-Rest Luxe Sleeping Pad // One of the best sleeping pads for backpacking in 2020

Check Price: Backcountry / Moosejaw / REI

Therm-a-Rest Trail Lite Sleeping Pad

If you’re looking for a budget-friendly option and don’t mind carrying a few extra ounces, the Therm-a-Rest Trail Lite Sleeping Pad is a good bet. It’s a little warmer, thicker, and therefore comfier than the ProLite sleeping pad mentioned above although it does weigh 8 oz more. This self-inflating sleeping pad also makes blowing it up extra easy with a helpful one-way valve that prevents air from escaping.

  • Weight: 1 lb, 10 oz
  • R-Value: 3.2
  • Thickness: 1.5 inches
  • Packed Size: 7.8 x 11 inches
  • MSRP: $79.95
Therm-a-Rest Trail Lite Sleeping Pad // One of the best sleeping pads for backpacking in 2020

Check Price: Backcountry / Moosejaw / REI

Therm-a-Rest Z Lite Sol Sleeping Pad

Best foam sleeping pad: If you don’t like inflatable sleeping pads and prefer something simple where you don’t have to worry about leaks and holes, check out the Therm-a-Rest Z Lite Sol Sleeping Pad. This foam sleeping pad is lightweight and durable. 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 basic, this could work for you.

  • Weight: 14 oz
  • R-Value: 2.0
  • Thickness: 0.75 inches
  • Packed Size: 20 x 5.5 x 5 inches
  • MSRP: $44.95
Therm-a-Rest Z Lite Sol // The Best Foam Sleeping Pad

Check Price: Backcountry / Moosejaw / REI


How to Choose the Best Sleeping Pad for Backpacking

I owned the same old Therm-a-Rest ProLite 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

thermarest_z-lite_3_sol

Therm-a-Rest Z Lite Sol

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 the foam pads, and in many cases the difference in weight is negligible.

Sea to Summit Ultralight Sleeping Pad

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

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 comparable in weight to the foam pads. The Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite is pretty much the lightest option available at 12 ounces. Depending on how plush you want to go, a reasonable weight range for an inflatable 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 utlralight inflatable options, you need to treat it with caution and avoid using it directly on the ground.

Read our list of the best sleeping pads for backpacking in 2020 that are lightweight, warm and durable enough to stand up to a multi-day trek.

Thickness

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 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.

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.

Packed Size

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.

Other Features

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 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 stuff sack with air and push or roll that air into the sleeping pad for easier filling.

Read our list of the best sleeping pads for backpacking in 2020 that are lightweight, warm and durable enough to stand up to a multi-day trek.

What’s your favorite sleeping pad for backpacking? Leave a comment below or join the discussion in our Bearfoot Theory Outdoor Adventurers Facebook Group!

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links which means if you make a purchase, we receive a small compensation at no added cost to you. Any purchases you make help keep this blog going and our content free. We truly appreciate your support! If you have any questions about any of the products featured on this site, please email us.

Written by Kristen Bor

Hey there! My name is Kristen, and this is my outdoor blog. I discovered the power of the outdoors in my 20s, at the time I needed it most. Now 15 years later, prioritizing that critical connection with nature continues to improve my life. My goal at Bearfoot Theory is to empower you with the tools and advice you need to responsibly get outside.

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