Your Source for Hiking Inspiration & Resources uses cookies to improve your experience. Read more

How to choose the best Sleeping Pads for your Backpacking/Camping Trip?

January 22, 2021| Camping

Have you ever thought that why is a sleeping bag considered the main component of every camping trip? A good sleeping pad can help you get rid of tossing and turning the whole night of least decent sleep. According to research, it is seen that the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite (which comes in men’s and women’s versions both) is the best sleeping pad for backpackers and the thicker Therm-a-Rest LuxuryMap is the best alternative for car campers. We also have picks in particular for side sleepers and anyone on a little less budget.

Comfort, definitely, is highly independent, so, only that individual who is going to use a sleeping badly can tell which one suits him the best according to his body type and sleeping posture.

Sleeping pads play two very vital roles for getting a solid night’s sleep in the great outdoors that is cushioning and insulation. While it might seem like having a comfortable surface to sleep on is a pad’s most useful function, its capability to keep you warm throughout the night is often more essential.

Here is how to choose a sleeping pad for camping or backpacking Trip

Types of sleeping pads.

Learn about the three basic types of pads and how they work:

  1. Air pads.
  2. self-inflating pads.
  3. closed-cell foam pads.

Intended use.

You need to determine which activity your pad is for:

  1. Backpacking.
  2. car camping.
  3. winter camping.

Warmth (R-value)

A pad’s ability to resist heat loss to the ground is measured as R-value. Higher R-values are warmer than the lower R-value pads.

Sleep system.

Being at ease at a specific temperature depends on many other variables, that includes the temperature rating of your sleeping bag as well. Correctly pairing your pad and bag in your sleep system is key to staying warm.


You will have to decide which other features are most important to you:

  • Weight
  • Cushioning
  • Size
  • Inflation ease and more.

Try the sleeping pads in person.

To make your final decision, try to visit your local REI and test a few different pads. You must lie down in your typical sleeping position and move around as you normally would. Seeing pads in person also allows you to easily evaluate weight and packed size.

Read More: Best Tipi Tents for Camping in 2021: What are the 5 best Teepee Tents

Types of Sleeping Pads

Air Pads

Air pads are available in a broad assortment of styles, from lightweight ones that are best for backpacking up to extra-thick ones that are fantastic for glamping. Most of the air pads now comprise insulation and reflective materials to add warmth. Many air pads feature different inflation techniques so you can save your breath.  

Self-Inflating Pads

Self-inflating pads recommend a mixture of open-cell foam insulation and air. Opening the valve(s) allows the foam to expand and brings in air on its own. Some are specially designed for backpacking and can be folded lengthwise and then rolled up to fit inside your pack. Others are meant for car camping and are rolled up without folding. Self-inflating pads recommend you a broad range of options for warmth, size, and cost.

Closed-Cell Foam Pads

These basic backpacking pads are made of dense foam filled with tiny, closed air cells. They are usually rolled up or folded in a Z formation.

Choosing the Best Sleeping Pad for You

Car camping

When you are not restricted by size and weight, you can choose a thicker, larger mattress for your sleeping comfort. Frequently these are less costly than their lightweight equivalents. Self-inflating pads are often good choices for car camping.

Large inflatable air mattress is another option if you want to use regular sheets and blankets as an alternative of a sleeping bag. Nevertheless, these mattresses are comparatively heavy and bulky and may lack insulation, so check product specifications. A pump is must required for proper inflation.


Those who choose good sleep comfort while backpacking they might choose self-inflating or air pads, which offer a range of thicknesses, durability, insulation value and weight. Possible chair kits let your self-inflating or air pad do double-duty as a comfortable seat, complete with backrest. This can be a lightweight extravagance for backpackers.

Minimalist backpacking

Low weight and a small, packed size outweigh all other factors. An ultralight air pad is probably going to be your best option. Some insulated full-length air pads that are available now weigh even less than a pound. Be sure to look at the packed sizes of your pad options when you are looking in the store and consider that into your decision.

Thru hiking

Here, low weight is vital, but stability for the long haul is also main factor to consider. Closed-cell foam pads are your best options. Many thru hikers pick a “short†or “3/4 length†foam pad to save weight, you can lay your empty pack or extra clothing under your feet for a bit of padding if required.

Winter camping

An insulated, high R-value air pad works well for cold air temperatures. Camping on snow also involves more insulation. Because R-value is additive, consider using a closed-cell foam pad beneath an insulated, moderate, or high R-value air pad or self-inflating pad. The durable closed-cell foam pad includes insulation and helps protect the inflatable pad from holes or other damage. It also serves as a backup if the inflatable pad is damaged and cannot be repaired.

Sleeping Pad Warmth

Insulation and R-Value

A sleeping pad’s insulation is essential to a warm night’s sleep because you lose body heat to the cold floor under you. To neutralize this, pads use a variety of materials and construction methods to avoid heat loss.

A sleeping pad’s R-value measures its capacity to resist heat flow through it (hence the “R”). The higher a pad’s R-value, the better it will insulate you from cold surfaces. Sleeping pad R-values range from less than 2 (minimally insulated) to 5.5 or more (very well insulated).

Companies now have a consistent way to test sleeping pads for R-values, which means you can compare this key spec between any two pads, irrespective of the brand, model or type of pad.

Key facts about R-values in sleeping pads:

  • Higher numbers mean more insulation.
  • The scale is straightforward: A pad with an R-value of 2.0 is twice as warm as pad with an R-value of 1.0.
  • To calculate the total insulation for stuffed sleeping pads, simply add their R-values.

Your Sleeping Pad and Bag Work Together

It has always been true that your real-world warmth and comfort can differ from the tested temperature ratings based on many factors, that includes humidity, wind, type of shelter, ground conditions, clothing, and personal preferences.

The central consideration, though, is your sleep system. A sleep system mainly consists of three basic elements:

1) The sleeping bags.

2) The sleeping pads.

3) The sleeper’s clothing.

If you use a less-insulated pad at chillier temps, your sleeping bag might not live up to its temperature rating. It is important to note down that a sleeping bag’s test rating totally based on a person who is wearing long inner garments and socks and is sleeping on an insulated pad with an R-value of approximately 5.5. Keeping those variables consistent across all tested bags is needed to get precise measurements.

REI Co-op’s Magnusson Lab has performed large testing to quantify overall sleep system comfort. Sleeping bags and pads, with variable thermal performance, were measured alone and in different sequences. 

Sleeping Pad Features

Sleeping Pad Weight

Ultralight pads are outstanding for backpacking but are more costly. You can save weight by choosing a mummy or tapered shape that reduces volume and packs smaller.

Closed-cell foam pads in short lengths are also pretty low in weight. If you are travelling with a companion, a two-person lightweight sleeping pad can save ounces.

Sleeping Pad Length

At a minimum, your shoulders and hips need to fit on a pad. Regular pad that is usually 72 inches long and long pad that is usually 78-inch pads will shield your legs and feet, a big plus on chilly fall and winter trips.

A short or 3/4-length pad that is usually 47 or 48 inches, weighs less and packs smaller. You can put folded clothing or your pack under your legs and feet for some protection.

Sleeping Pad Width

Almost every pad proposes a standard width that is 20 inches. If you are a huge person or tend to roll around a lot, you may want a width of 25 or 30 inches but consider the size of your tent to make sure you can fit two wider pads side by side. Often the “long†edition of a pad evades to being wider as well, even though in some styles you can get a wide pad that is still “regular†length.

Some pads have larger side perplexes, often called “rails,†to hold you and help keep you from rolling off as you turn during sleep. These are particularly good for children.

Sleeping Pad Inflation

Some pads have both a high-volume inflation valve and a deflation valve, which can speed air flow in or out. Some of the new pads have larger “neck†openings that allow fast inflation with fewer breaths.

Pads with separate inflation slots or layers can give you peace of mind, if one layer fails, the other will still give you some padding.

Sleeping Pad Surfaces

If you are an impatient sleeper, look for a pad with a textured or brushed-fabric surface. This prevents keep you and your sleeping bag from slipping off during the night. It might also be calmer.

Additional Sleeping Pad Considerations

Pad sleeves:

Some sleeping bags have an open sleeve that can hold a pad. This protects you and your sleeping bag from sliding off in the night. You need to check the sleeve width before you buy a pad.

Hand pumps:

If you do not like using breath after a long day of hiking, look for a pad with an integrated hand pump or purchase a bag-style hand pump that rolls up small and weighs only a couple ounces and is sold separately.

Patch kits:

They are a very good idea for backpacking. You need to see whether they come with the pad or are sold separately. Be sure to comprehend how to patch a puncture before you leave home, in case you have to repair one in the dark.

More recommended reading

15 Backpacking Essentials for a Camping Trip in 2022

Spending a week in the great outdoors can be an amazing adventure or a living nightmare. Usually, a good or bad camping experience comes down to just one factor: what you packed (or didn’t pack)...

Teva Terra Fi 4 vs Terra Fi Lite Sandals: 2022 Comparison

[et_pb_section fb_built=”1″ _builder_version=”4.4.2″ custom_padding=”0px|||||”][et_pb_row _builder_version=”4.4.2″ custom_padding=”0px|||||”][et_pb_column type=”4_4″ _builder_version=”4.4.2″][et_pb_post_title meta=”off” featured_image=”off” _builder_version=”4.4.2″ title_font=”|800||on|||||” title_font_size=”37px” meta_font_size=”19px”][/et_pb_post_title][/et_pb_column][/et_pb_row][et_pb_row _builder_version=”4.4.2″ custom_padding=”0px|||||”][et_pb_column type=”4_4″ _builder_version=”4.4.2″][et_pb_image src=”” _builder_version=”4.4.2″][/et_pb_image][et_pb_text _builder_version=”4.4.2″ inline_fonts=”Georgia”] Jamming your feet into boots every time you go outdoors is not a...

Do I Need Hiking Pants? What to wear while Hiking

Do I need hiking Pants? If you are someone who gets too much excited before beginning any journey or before starting anything new than you must stick to this blog till the end. Backpackers or...

Dextrose: Best Carbohydrate for your Post-Workout Recovery

The workout is always a hefty activity that just drains amounts of energy depending upon your weight loss or any muscle gain program. Let it be a running, training in the gym or a fat-burning...


Join the Hiking Squad!

We want you to love hiking as much as we do.
Our email content is full of value, void of hype, tailored to your interests whenever possible, never pushy, and always free.