Best Backpacking Sleeping Pad 2018 - Expert Review and Buyers Guide

Best Backpacking Sleeping Pad 2018 – Expert Review and Buyers Guide

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This guide will quickly point you in the right direction to find the best backpacking sleeping pad for your next adventure.

Using a series of assessment criteria, such as comfort, weight and, most importantly, warmth, we will help you match the right sleeping pad for various environments and conditions.

We recommend using the table below to easily compare and contrast the best sleeping pads by category.

Important Note: The R-Value
Throughout this guide you will see us referring to a technical term called the R-Value An estimated 40% of your body touches the ground when you sleep, so the ‘R-value’ – a rating indicating how warm the pad will feel set by manufacturers – is helpful. The rule of thumb with R-values is the higher the number, the warmer the pad.

Best Backpacking Sleeping Pads

Trekking Poles

Rating

Weight

Comfort

R-Value

Price

Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Xtherm

(Best Overall Sleeping Pad)

590g

Very Good

5.7 - All seasons

425g

Good

3.7 - Three seasons

Exped MegaMat 10

(Best Winter Sleeping Pad)

2.57kg

Excellent

9.5 - Winter

Klymit Static V

(Best Budget Sleeping Pad)

514g

Average

1.3 - Summer / Spring

Therm-a-Rest Z-Lite SOL

(Best Lightweight Sleeping Pad)

410g

Poor

2.6 - Summer / Spring

Best Overall Sleeping Pad

Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Xtherm

therm-a-rest-neoair-xtherm

The Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Xtherm scored the highest on our assessment and therefore took first place as the Best Overall Backpacking Sleeping Pad.

The NeoAir provides the perfect combination in terms of weight (590g), comfort (at 12.7cm the pad is super comfy!), and warmth (R-value of 5.7 makes it versatile enough to use in even cold winter temperatures).

The pad’s warmth comes from four layers of reflective material and air pockets that reduce connective heat loss. With the added more durable layer of fabric on the bottom side of the sleeping pad, the pad is less susceptible to punctures than other pads we tested.

If you are looking for a reliable, comfortable, warm and durable sleeping pad, then look no further than the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Xtherm.

Main Features
  • All-weather suitability
  • Durable under-layer fabric
  • Packs up into a one litre water bottle
What we like
  • Excellent weight-to-warmth ratio
  • One of the most comfortable pads we tested
What we dislike
  • Requires a little more effort to blow up
Key Takeaway

If you’re after a life-long sleeping pad for a reasonable price, this is the sleeping pad for you. It gives the best sleeping pads on this list a run for their money, that’s for sure.

Editor's Pick

REI Co-op Flash Insulated Pad

rei-co-op-flash-insulated-pad

REI’s Co-op Flash Insulated Pad is our Editor’s Pick!

Despite being one of the lightest sleeping pads we tested (425g), this pad is still very comfy and warm (ideal for 3-seasons, but would not be great in the winter unless it is paired with a warm sleeping bag). At full insulation the pad is 5cm in height, yet it still manages to garner an R-value of 3.7, which is really impressive. The warmth is due to dual-fibre insulation that REI use in this pad, as well as a reflective layer that aids heat insulation, and adds to the comfort of the pad.

REI have used a rip-stop polyester on this pad, which is slightly more robust than standard under-layers, but the thin nature of the fabric means it is still susceptible to tears and rips, so this pad needs looking after properly. For the price though, you can’t really complain – it is good value for money.

Main Features
  • Air spring cells add to the comfort
  • Rip-stop polyester under-layer
  • Dual-fibre insulation
  • plus
    The pad packs well due to its tapered mummy shape
What we like
  • The lightweight nature of this sleeping pad is fantastic – and so is the price
  • Great 3-season pad
What we dislike
  • The only real issue with the Co-op Flash is the durability. It won’t last you a lifetime
Key Takeaway

This sleeping pad is ideal for backpackers on a budget who intend to use it frequently on their travels. We don’t recommend it for harsh and extreme climates, but when paired with a warm sleeping bag you will definitely be toasty in this pad!

Best Winter Sleeping Pad

Exped MegaMat 10

exped-megamat-10

The Exped MegaMat 10 is the absolute daddy when it comes to warmth, and is therefore our pick for the best winter sleeping pad.

It’s 6.5ft long, 2.57kg in weight and 10cm thick with a brushed soft fleece surface. You get a lot for your money with the MegaMat and while it will certainly keep you warm with an R-value of 9.5, its only downfall is the issue of practicality and weight.

It is likely that if you’re in need of a pad like the MegaMat, you’re doing some serious outdoor winter adventuring. Nobody fancies carrying 2.57kg on their back for a sleeping pad, but, if you are planning a serious winter excursion and afford the additional weight, then this is a great pad.

Main Features
  • Extremely durable because of its brushed fleece surface
  • Incredibly warm with a 10cm thickness and 9.5 R-value
  • 3D construction with vertical sidewalls for added comfort
What we like
  • The comfort and warmth of the MegaMat cannot be met elsewhere
What we dislike
  • Sadly, the MegaMat is mega heavy and sometimes impractical
Key Takeaway

We recommend this sleeping pad for the avid adventurer who is in extreme environments and wishes to invest in a quality long-term pad.

Best Budget Sleeping Pad

Klymit Static V

klymit-static-v

If you are looking for a great budget option, then the Klymit Static V offers great value for money.

The Static V is lightweight (514g) and relatively comfortable due to its thickness of 6.5cm when inflated. It is also pretty durable as it is built with a thicker fabric than most lightweight pads.

It Achilles heel though is it’s low R-value (1.3). If you are planning to camp outdoors in the Summer or Spring, the Klymit will perform just fine, but in colder temperatures you will be sorely disappointed.

We would only recommend buying this sleeping pad if you are not heading into any form of harsh or extreme environment. It is perfect for casual use or frequent use on a relatively flat terrain.

Main Features
  • Packs up well and neatly, so takes up minimal space
  • It is thicker than most lightweight sleeping pads – and also three inches wider on average
  • A V-chamber design with side rails limit movement and so retains otherwise lost heat
What we like
  • It is convenient, cheap and it’s one of those purchases where you get your money’s worth out of it
What we dislike
  • Low R-value means poor performance in cold temperatures
Key Takeaway

This sleeping pad is one we’d recommend for casual overnight camping on trails and in camps during easy weather periods and is great for those on a tight budget.

Best Lightweight and Durable Sleeping Pad

Therm-a-Rest Z-Lite SOL

therm-a-rest-z-lite

The Therm-a-Rest Z-Lite SOL is the lightest pad we tested (410g). It is also the most durable! For this reason we scored the Z-Lite as our pick for the best lightweight and durable seeping pad.

Therm-a-Rest have used a closed foam weather-proof material in the Z-Lite, which makes it amazingly robust. The pad is literally indestructible. It is also packs up into a tiny bundle that can be easily stored inside a daypack or attached to the outside of the backpack.

And despite a relatively low R-value (2.6), it certainly feels warmer than the figure suggests. Still, we wouldn’t recommend you take this pad to a location with a cold, harsh climate, as it won’t keep you nice and snug in low temperatures.

The only downside is that it is very thin (2cm), which means comfort is not great! This sleeping pad is definitely best for the summer and spring months, and for adventurers who are a little hardier than most.

Main Features
  • Sturdy enough to attach to the outside of your backpack due to its closed foam and weatherproof material
  • Lightweight!
  • It’s super durable, to the point where we’d say it’s practically indestructible
What we like
  • Durability – the Z-Lite is fantastic if you want a sleeping pad that will last you a long timeAmazingly lightweight
What we dislike
  • Warmth and comfort – the Z-Lite should be teamed with a thick sleeping bag as it won’t keep you toasty
  • Don’t expect great comfort!
Key Takeaway

The Z-Lite is great for warmer climates and for backpackers on a budget who don’t mind roughing it at night. Hardier adventurers will love this pad as it is super light and very durable.

Other Backpacking Sleeping Pads

Nemo Tensor Insulated

nemo-tensor-air-pad

With a 7.6cm thickness, the Nemo Tensor is thick and puts you at just the right distance from the ground. Although there is no official R-value for the Nemo Tensor, the thickness of the pad is enough to guarantee its warmth, as is the extra film layer built in to the pad in order to reflect heat.

In terms of value for money, the Nemo Tensor will comes in at just under $150, so is well placed as a middle-range sleeping pad. Combined with the fact that the pad is built with some of the thinnest fabrics used on sleeping pads, you’re getting good value for money with this product. Be aware, though, that due to the thin fabrics used in the design of the pad, it is more susceptible to punctures and rips than other pads we tested.

Main Features
  • Lightweight and easy to pack and carry because of the deliberately light materials used construction
  • Metalised film layer which provides further insulation to keep in the heat
  • Repair kit for any emergency punctures or rips
What we like
  • Comfort is the best thing about this sleeping pad – and it’s always a good idea to invest in your sleep
  • Relatively warm - would suffice in harsh, cold climates!
What we dislike
  • Durability is not great with this one. If you’re going to spend $150 on a sleeping pad, you want to make sure it won’t tear easily and, unfortunately, this cannot be guaranteed with the Nemo Tensor.
Key Takeaway

The Nemo Tensor is good for those seeking the ‘middle ground’ of sleeping pads as it’s not too pricey and not so cheap you’ll regret it when you’re trying to sleep. It does its job and, if protected, should do it for a considerable length of time.

Sea to Summit Comfort Plus Insulated Mat

sea-to-summit-comfort-plus

The Sea to Summit Comfort Plus is one of the heavier pads we tested (1kg in weight), but most of this can be attributed to its Unique Selling Point – the pad rises to a hefty 31cm – hence the ‘Plus’ part of the product name and is seriously comfy.

In terms of material, you’re in luck here as well because the Comfort Plus has a dual layer of Thermolite insulation, meaning if one layer takes a blow, you still have 50% of the comfort and heat of the sleeping pad left.

We’re fans of the durability of the Comfort Plus too as the double layer means it won’t die on you mid-adventure. As well as this, technology preventing mould growth is included – a bonus as a common issue of blowing air into nozzles is the creation of water vapour which causes the spread of bacteria.

Main Features
  • Dual layers of material mean that if one layer receives a puncture, you still have 50% of the pad’s heat and comfort
  • The thickness of the pad gives it an R-value of five, which is solid and good enough to last you through a cold night, or a freezing one with a thick sleeping bag
  • The two cell layers are good at distributing your body weight, increasing comfort
What we like
  • The comfort of the sleeping pad is its greatest asset, both in terms of the materials used and the R-value of five
What we dislike
  • It is on the pricier side of things, especially when you consider the weight and possible impracticality of carrying the pad around with you. You could substitute the weight and some of the cost for the standard Sea to Summit pad
Key Takeaway

A strong addition to an adventurer’s gear list, especially if comfort is a priority, but ultimately you can get other quality sleeping pads which do a similar job for less money and less weight.

Big Agnes Q-Core SLX Insulated

big-agnes-q-core-sleeping-pad

A 5ft 5in (all others in this list are at least 6ft) long, the Q-Core SLX is a little short and reaches a 10cm height, so for the tall among you, it’s best to give this one a miss. There is no official R-value, but we would say it provides average warmth and with a decent sleeping bag, you’ll be fine on a cold night, but avoid freezing ones.

The lightweight material used in the Big Agnes Q-Core SLX Insulated seriously lets the sleeping pad down on the durability front. It easily tears, so it’s handy a repair kit comes with the pad.

It is an average sleeping pad, with no extras to ensure added comfort, and won’t last as long as most of the other pads on our list, so value for money with the Q-Core SLX is limited.

Main Features
  • Lightweight material is used to make the pad, although it does weigh 875g in total
  • The Q-Core SLX is a gem when it comes to packing and is quite compact and small
  • Large outer chambers keep you cradled in the centre of the pad, which is useful for those who have had issues with their arms hanging out of sleeping pads beforehand
What we like
  • The pad packs away really well and so is good for long outdoor adventures
What we dislike
  • We do think that this sleeping pad is overpriced and wouldn’t recommend paying its high price tag, especially considering its naff durability
Key Takeaway

Good for backpackers who are not on a budget and are not heading into extreme environments. Although, we wouldn’t actually recommend this purchase due to the fact you can do a lot better than the Q-Core SLX.

Alps Mountaineering Lightweight Series Air Pad

alps-mountaineering-lightweight-series

Like the Therm-a-Rest Z-Lite, the Alps Mountaineering Lightweight Series is also a good budget option. But unlike the Z-Lite, this pad is pretty heavy, weighing in at 1kg. Its durability, though, saves the day.

The rip-stop fabric used in this pad is thick and sturdy, and consists of material with Jet Stream foam. You could attach the Alps Mountaineering Air Pad to the back of your rucksack and not worry about it getting destroyed, which is great considering the price.

It rises to 3.8cm and while this seems a meagre amount, it will keep you warm on a mild night and comfortable on most surfaces.

Main Features
  • Durability is good as the fabric is definitely robust and truly rip-stop
  • This pad inflates and deflates quickly and easily and can either be packed or attached to a backpack
  • It adds that extra bit of comfort and support to a night’s sleep in a different, but not severe, environment
What we like
  • The durability and surprising comfort of this sleeping pad is its greatest merit and makes the price a bargain, really
What we dislike
  • It could definitely be warmer as it is only 3.8cm thick and there is no special insulation technology making it suitable for winter treks
  • It’s also heavy!
Key Takeaway

This is a great price for a good sleeping pad. It does the job and is a handy piece of outdoor gear for those who are partial to some light trekking. But given the choice we would go with the Therm-a-Rest Z-Lite instead!

Backpacking Sleeping Pads Buyers Guide

Weight

The weight of a sleeping pad is vital because you don’t want to be left carrying unnecessarily heavy gear on a long trek. So, take note of weight to make your trekking life much easier.

Comfort

At the end of the day, you want to get some sleep. Choose a sleeping pad that has a reasonable thickness (we suggest 4cm and above ideally) so that you don’t end up awake all night.

Warmth

One of the main reasons for sleeping pads is warmth. You need to make sure your pad suits your circumstances, so get a warmer one if the environment is harsh, or vice versa.

Price

In order to sleep at night, you need to know you’ve got value for money. Don’t get ripped off for an average pad and instead look carefully at descriptions and reviews of alternatives to the big names.

Durability

If your pad doesn’t last for your whole trip, you’re in trouble, so get one that will reward your purchase with loyalty and durability. Choose good materials and ensure the description suits the environment you’re using the pad in.

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