Backpacking through the great outdoors is best enjoyed well rested. One of the biggest challenges of loading up all your gear for long treks is packing lightweight and portable sleeping arrangements that won’t sacrifice comfort when it’s time to hit the hay. How effectively and comfortably you both carry your gear and sleep are in my opinion the two most important factors of backpacking.
Set yourself up for success with a sleeping pad that packs light and that you look forward to collapsing onto. We’ve found some great, top reviewed options that are both affordable and pleasant to sleep on so you can find what kind of sleeping pad will suit you best.
1. Therm-A-Rest NeoAir XTherm Mattress
Therm-A-Rest is absolutely one of the go-to outfitters for quality sleeping pads. This two and a half inch thick inflatable camp mattress is one of the top reviewed sleeping pads for both comfort and insulation. You inflate this unit by scooping air into the nylon sack attached to the mattress and simply pushing it in — it sounds a bit odd but it’s an effective and reliable system that is less problematic than an oral inflator. This mattress has a baffled internal structure for some really solid support but it’s free of bulky insulating materials so it stays lightweight (one and a half pounds). Reflective ThermaCapture technology is excellent at trapping radiant heat, so this is a great cold weather pad. This pad is 77 inches long and 25 inches wide, so it’s suitable for larger backpackers. It packs to the size of a one liter bottle which is quite impressive considering the thickness and comfort this pad provides. It’s a bit on the pricy end, but the portability and comfort of this pad make it no wonder it’s a crowd favorite.
Price: $159.95 — $239.99 & Free Shipping (up to 20 percent off MSRP)
- Thick (2.5 inches), highly comfortable pad
- Packs very well (5 x 5 x 10 inches) and is quite lightweight
- Nylon bag inflator is effective and practical — less likely to malfunction than other style pumps
- The support and space provided by this pad are great for larger sized backpackers
- This pad is a bit noisy to move around on if that bothers you
2.ALPS Mountaineering Ultra-Light Series Air Pad
Here’s a great self inflating pad by Alps Mountaineering. This lightweight (one and a half pounds) and compact pad is great for three season camping. It does not have the added insulation of some winter camping pads in order to keep it as lightweight as possible, so it won’t generate as much warmth as some other options. The open cell jet stream foam and tapered shape of this pad combine to save weight and space. I’m often wary of self inflating pads because the air valves can be problematic and malfunction, but Alps is a trusted and top performing outfitter. Furthermore, this pad has a higher quality brass valve and is highly reviewed by backpackers for its effectiveness. This pad rolls up and slides into a stuff sack, so it will pack as a thin, long cylinder. A stuff sack is included as well as a repair kit in case you puncture the pad. For the price, this is a great backpacking pad that will definitely see some long term use with the proper care.
Price: $55.28 — $62.71 & Free Shipping (up to 22 percent off MSRP)
- Quite lightweight and reasonably compact
- Self inflating valve is brass and higher quality than most competitors
- Despite its reliance on air inflation for support, backpackers insist this is a good pad for providing back support
- This is a tapered shape that matches the shape of a mummy-style sleeping bag — there’s not a ton of space to roll around on this one
3. Therm-a-Rest RidgeRest Classic
Here’s a classic camp pad that you’ve probably seen around or owned yourself. This Therm-A-Rest model has been popular as long as it’s existed. It’s a simple design that is both highly affordable and versatile. I like how you can fold this pad in half and use it as a seat or backrest around the campsite — there’s nothing that will hurt it! The material of this thin and portable pad is virtually indestructible, so you’ll own this one for years. The idea of the design is to have a surface with supportive peaks and valleys that trap heat — making this pad both practical to sleep on and capable of retaining your body heat. There’s three sizes available, the small being particularly short so be mindful of that when buying. As far as value goes, this pad cannot be beat if you don’t mind sleeping on a firm surface.
Price: $11.19 — $29.95 & Free Shipping
- Lightweight and rolls and packs nicely
- This pad is virtually indestructible so you can beat on it all you want and not worry about compromising its quality
- Super affordable
- Works great as a make-shift camping seat or backrest
- Doesn’t provide much cushion for those backpackers who want their pad to have some soft padding
4. Klymit Static V Lightweight Sleeping Pad
Here’s a unique and very highly reviewed unit by Klymit. This orally inflated backpacking pad is both ultra lightweight and quite comfortable. The V design of the pad helps to trap air for some added warmth and also provides some pretty rigid support while remaining comfortable. It’s a tough and durable pad that is designed to handle direct contact with the ground. This pad is only 18 ounces and takes a mere 10 to 15 breaths to inflate. The added air gives you a bit of extra support and gets you off the ground. The side rails on this model help to keep you centered while sleeping so you don’t wake up halfway off your pad. I think Klymit is really on to something with this one — at just $40 this is a great value backpacking pad.
Price: $41.36 & Free Shipping (25 percent off MSRP)
- Super light weight at just 18 ounces
- Tough enough to be placed directly on the ground making this a far more versatile pad than fragile, puncture prone competitors
- Side rails help to keep you on the pad while sleeping
- Oral inflating pads are prone to valve issues — but this pad has some solid reviews insisting the valve is adequate
5. Outdoorsman Lab Ultralight Sleeping Pad
Now here’s a seriously compact backpacking pad for the minimalist hiker with very limited space. This unit by Outdoorsman Lab is impressively portable. At less than 15 ounces this is one of the best lightweight backpacking options. Despite its size and weight, this pad inflates up to two inches thick and has a pretty neat interconnected air cell system for creating some solid support. This pad is surprisingly effective at forming to your body shape. The material used is ultralight ripstop 20D nylon fabric with extruded TPU lamination — it’s tough and both waterproof and abrasion resistant. A pad that packs this light is hard to come by, and the price on this unit is more than reasonable. I find this to be one of the top quality and best valued oral inflating pads out there.
Price: $42.95 & Free Shipping (39 percent off MSRP)
- Impressively lightweight and compact
- This pad has some serious padding at two inches for how compact it is
- Not a great pad for insulation — make sure you’re using a warm sleeping bag if cold weather camping with this pad
6. Kelty Recluse Insulated Air Channel Sleeping Pad
Here’s a bit of a heavier camp pad from Kelty. This three inch pad puts comfort over portability. It’s two pounds ten ounces, so you’re going to add a bit of weight to your pack with this one. Good news is it packs pretty small — it’s just twelve by seven inches rolled up. This pad is quite warm, so its a good item to own for cold weather camping or backpacking. The design of the lengthwise air channels on the face of the pad provide adequate sleeping support and also trap air effectively for some added warmth. The design of the air channels also helps to keep you on the pad while sleeping. This thick and long (78 inches) mattress is ideal for the larger sized backpacker or for those who are willing to sacrifice weight for comfort.
- Thick at three inches and quite comfortable
- Air channel design is both exceptionally warm and helps keep you on the pad
- Repair kit and stuff sack included
- Packs pretty small despite its weight and thickness
- This is a pretty heavy pad at two pounds ten ounces
7. Teton Sports Altos Sleeping Pad
Here’s a sleeping pad by Teton Sports that is quite comparable in design and price to the previous pad listed. Teton Sports is always a great outfitter to buy from due to their solid reputation for quality gear and the limited lifetime warranty they offer on their products. This is another vertically oriented air channel sleeping pad that is meant to keep you both well insulated and secure while sleeping. Teton Sports offers two different options for this pad — one insulated for colder weather camping and the other without the added insulation. The pad with the added insulation (green) is only one pound six ounces and the model for warmer weather camping (blue) is one pound three ounces. That’s a whole lot lighter than the comparable pad by Kelty. These pads fit nicely into a mesh stuff sack with a drawstring closure and packs quite easily. For both a comfortable and portable backpacking pad, this unit by Teton Sports is no doubt an excellent value.
Price: $74.99 — $89.99 & Free Shipping
- Both a comfortable and reasonably lightweight and compact pad
- The vertical air pillars are great insulators and keep you centered on the pad
- Teton Sports offers this pad in both insulated and non insulated options
- Includes a limited lifetime warranty
- Orientation of the air valve seems prone to damage
8. ALPS Mountaineering Foldable Foam Mat
What you see is what you get with this one. This accordion folding style backpacking pad by Alps Mountaineering is straight forward but effective. It’s a lightweight design that is surprisingly effective at insulting in cold weather and packs pretty well. This pad is 71 inches long, so if you’re much over six feet then this pad might be a bit short for you. The closed cell foam is a great design for insulating and provides better support than it does comfort. You’re not going to get a very cushioned nights sleep with this unit — but it will support your back and body better than a lot of other more expensive and padded options. At $30 I think this is a great buy that will serve any backpacker well for years if you can tolerate the thinness of its design. This pad will also make a great base layer for another, more cushioned pad — so you can add it to your car camping gear as well. Furthermore, the design allows you to use this unit as a back support or seat as well. For an inexpensive and fairly versatile sleeping option, consider going foldable foam with Alps.
Price: $28.94 & Free Shipping (17 percent off MSRP)
- Very lightweight at just ten ounces
- Can be used around the campsite as a seat or backrest
- Supports and insulates quite well
- Solid affordable option that you can use alone or pair with another pad for extra insulation/padding
- Not very cushioned — make sure you clear the ground underneath this pad so you don’t feel any debris while laying down
9. Sea to Summit Comfort Plus Insulated Mat
Here’s a higher end option from Sea to Summit. The Comfort Plus has a very cool design that makes it superior in comfort to most other backpacking pads. There’s 548 air sprung cells that form to your body remarkably for an unparalleled night’s sleep in the back country. The idea here is a design that behaves like the individual coils in an actual mattress. Furthermore, the underside of this pad inflates separately from the surface layer — it’s an innovative feature that allows you to inflate each section according to the terrain you’re sleeping on top of.
The valve has been very mindfully built to adjust to the perfect air content for your weight and form. The Thermolite with Exkin Platinum material is what gives this pad such serious insulation. The R-value of this pad is 5.0 — very impressive for a unit that’s only about a pound in a half. Rolling up to about the size of a mason jar, this pad truly is the full package. If you can afford to spend the extra cash on a unit like this, you’ll no doubt be impressed with how this pad performs
Price: $199.95 – $219.95
- Innovative design allows for super accurate air adjustments to find the perfect amount of padding for your form
- Very warm backpacking pad — this has some serious insulation power for cold weather camping
- Impressively lightweight and portable
- The applied TPU lamination with antimicrobial treatment keeps this pad from delaminating and halts internal bacterial growth
- A good bit more expensive than competitor pads — but you get what you pay for with this one
10. REDCAMP Self Inflating Backpacking Pad
I like this self inflating pad by REDCAMP as a backpacking option when you can afford some added weight. This one and a half inch thick air mattress is a little over two and a half pounds, but it packs pretty tight at 11 x 7 x 7 inches. The brass valve draws in air as soon as you unscrew it and the pad inflates to the desired thickness. It’s a pretty well built valve that allows for precise air adjustments to the pad. It’s 71 inches in length, so maybe not ideal for particularly tall backpackers. This pad is just slightly tapered in shape so there’s still some nice width down at your feet. Be careful with this pad, although it’s designed to withstand heavy duty use this material can be punctured if you’re not careful. There’s a wide range of color options for this unit, so you can choose one that best suits you and the rest of your backpacking gear.
Price: $44.99 & Free Shipping (40 percent off MSRP)
- Valve is effective at making precise air adjustments
- This pad is quite compact considering its width and weight
- Although this is an effective insulator and fairly well cushioned, it’s almost entirely reliant on air to remain comfortable so be careful not to puncture it
- This is a fairly heavy pad at two and a half pounds
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