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The Best Backpacking Sleeping Pads of 2023

Our trail-loving experts found the best backpacking sleeping pads for every use and budget. From side-sleeping comfort to ultralight packability, we’ve got you covered.

A good pad can be a camp comfort game changer; (photo/Chris Carter)
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The biggest concern with backpacking sleeping pads is finding the right balance between comfort and weight. And this balance depends largely on the individual. Ounce-counters may prefer the lightest pad possible, even if it means forgoing some comfort.

However, other backpackers may prefer to give up weight in other areas so they can happily carry a larger, more comfortable sleeping pad.

There are benefits to both approaches, but it’s worth knowing what matters most to you before continuing. We’ve broken down the best backpacking sleeping pads into categories to help you find the right sleeping pad for you.

Scroll through to see all of our recommended buys or jump to the category you’re looking for. At the end of our list, be sure to check out our comprehensive buyer’s guide and use our comparison chart or FAQ section to help finalize your decision.

The Best Backpacking Sleeping Pads of 2023

Best Overall Backpacking Sleeping Pad

Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite NXT


  • Weight 13 oz.
  • R-value 4.5
  • Thickness 3″
  • Material 30D rip HT Nylon
The Best Backpacking Sleeping Pads of 2023


  • Super light for its high R-value
  • Comfortable and sturdy
  • Durable enough for 2,000+ mile thru-hikes
  • Update is 6 times quieter than previous model


  • Update adds 1 oz. (but is thicker and warmer)
Best Budget Sleeping Pad

Klymit Static V


  • Weight 18.6 oz.
  • R-value 1.3
  • Thickness 2.5″
  • Material Polyester
The Best Backpacking Sleeping Pads of 2023


  • Packs small
  • Affordable


  • Not insulated
  • Long-term durability concerns
Warmest Sleeping Pad

Exped Ultra 7R


  • Weight 22.9
  • R-value 7.1
  • Thickness 3.5″
  • Material 20 D recycled ripstop polyester; Oeko-Tex 100 certified
The Best Backpacking Sleeping Pads of 2023


  • Super high R-value at a pretty low weight
  • Down layer adds superior insulation
  • Durable fabric protects against punctures


  • On the bulky side
Most Comfortable Sleeping Pad

NEMO Tensor


  • Weight 13.8-15 oz.
  • R-value 4.2 (insulated), 2.5 (uninsulated)
  • Thickness 3"
  • Material 100% PCR PU polyester, bluesign certified
The Best Backpacking Sleeping Pads of 2023


  • Very comfortable
  • Remains quiet when rolling around
  • Stable yet plush


  • Not the warmest
Best Ultralight Backpacking Sleeping Pad

Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Uberlite


  • Weight 8.8 oz.
  • R-value 2
  • Thickness 2.5″
  • Material 15D Nylon
The Best Backpacking Sleeping Pads of 2023


  • Extremely light
  • Packs down to the size of a soda can


  • Not as warm as insulated pads
Most Indestructible

NEMO Switchback


  • Weight 14.5 oz.
  • R-value 2.0
  • Thickness 0.9″
  • Material PE Foam
The Best Backpacking Sleeping Pads of 2023


  • Dual-density foam offers plush comfort while still being supportive
  • Taller nodes and smaller pack size than other models
  • Indestructible


  • Not as comfortable as inflatable pads
  • Bulky pack size
Best Sleeping Pad for Side Sleepers

Big Agnes Boundary Deluxe


  • Weight 1 lb. 9 oz.
  • R-value 4.3
  • Thickness 4.25″
  • Material Soft-touch nylon with stretchy TPU lamination; recycled nylon ripstop bottom
The Best Backpacking Sleeping Pads of 2023


  • Warm
  • Super thick
  • Extremely comfortable


  • Not the lightest available
  • Not super packable
Best of the Rest

Sea to Summit Comfort Plus Insulated


  • Weight 1 lb. 13.8 oz.
  • R-value 4
  • Thickness 2.5″
  • Material 30D/40D nylon with anti-microbial TPU lamination
The Best Backpacking Sleeping Pads of 2023


  • Dual air chambers provide redundancy and allow for custom firmness
  • Packs down small


  • Expensive
  • Not as light as other pads

NEMO Flyer


  • Weight 1 lb. 6 oz.
  • R-value 3.3
  • Thickness 2″
  • Material 100% Recycled PU Polyester, Bluesign Approved
The Best Backpacking Sleeping Pads of 2023


  • Foam durability and padding
  • Plus air pad comfort
  • Self-inflating


  • Heavier/bulkier than some other options
  • Not super thick

Rab Ionosphere 5.5


  • Weight 24.3 oz.
  • R-value 5.5
  • Thickness 3.1"
  • Material 20D Recycled Polyester outer fabric with internal TPU coating
The Best Backpacking Sleeping Pads of 2023


  • Oversized outer chambers keep you centered
  • Solid heat retention
  • Soft outer fabric with grip tape to hold sleeping bag/pillow


  • Valve makes it a bit hard to inflate by mouth

Therm-a-Rest ProLite Plus


  • Weight 1 lb. 7 oz.
  • R-value 3.2
  • Thickness 1.5″
  • Material Polyester & polyurethane
The Best Backpacking Sleeping Pads of 2023


  • Warm
  • Comfortable


  • Not as light as some other pads

Sea to Summit Ether Light XT Insulated


  • Weight 15 oz.
  • R-value 3.8
  • Thickness 4″
  • Material 30D/40 D nylon with liquid-extruded TPU lamination
The Best Backpacking Sleeping Pads of 2023


  • Warm
  • Light
  • Packs small


  • Expensive

Therm-a-Rest Z Lite Sol


  • Weight 14 oz.
  • R-value 2.0
  • Thickness 0.75″
  • Material Polyethylene
The Best Backpacking Sleeping Pads of 2023


  • Super durable
  • Multifunctional
  • Light


  • Not quite as comfortable as inflatable pads
  • Bulky pack size

Backpacking Sleeping Pad Comparison Chart

Sleeping PadPriceWeightR-ValueThicknessMaterial
Therm-a-Rest NeoAir
$200-24013 oz.4.53″30D rip HT nylon
Klymit Static V$6518.6 oz.1.32.5″Polyester
Exped Ultra 7R$24022.9 oz.7.13.5″20 D recycled ripstop polyester;
Oeko-Tex 100 certified 
NEMO Tensor$200-23013.8-15 oz.4.2 (insulated),
2.5 (uninsulated) 
3″100% PCR PU polyester,
Bluesign certified
Therm-a-Rest NeoAir
$230-2608.8 oz.22.5″15D nylon
NEMO Switchback$45-5514.5 oz. 20.9″PE foam
Big Agnes Boundary
$180-2801 lb., 9 oz.4.34.25″Soft-touch nylon with stretchy TPU lamination; recycled nylon ripstop bottom
Sea to Summit Comfort
Plus Insulated
$229-2491 lb., 13.8 oz.42.5″30D/40D nylon with anti-microbial TPU lamination
NEMO Flyer$140-1601 lb., 6 oz. 3.32″100% recycled PU polyester, Bluesign approved 
Rab Ionosphere 5.5$200-23024.3 oz.5.53.1″20D recycled polyester outer fabric with internal TPU coating
Therm-a-Rest ProLite
$115-1451 lb., 7 oz.3.21.5″Polyester & polyurethane
Sea to Summit Ether
Light XT
$189-21915 oz.3.84″30D/40 D nylon with liquid-extruded TPU lamination
Therma-Rest Z
Lite Sol
$48-5814 oz.20.75″Polyethylene
Two backpackers on sleeping pads hanging out in the tent
The quality of your sleeping pad can make or break your backpacking trip; (photo/Eric Phillips)

Why You Should Trust Us

From weekend warriors to fast and light thru-hikers, the GearJunkie team is made up of avid backpackers. We’ve spent hundreds of hours blowing air into sleeping pad nozzles, and we’ve repeatedly experienced the sadness of a mysterious midnight deflation. We tested the pads on this list while backpacking in the Desolation Wilderness, the Appalachian hills, and the Rocky Mountains. Simply put, we’ve logged our fair share of nights on glorified balloons.

Chris Carter, one of the authors of this guide, has significant experience sleeping atop various inflatables, having thru-hiked the Triple Crown of long trails in America: the Pacific Crest Trail, the Continental Divide Trail, and the Appalachian Trail. He knows the importance of a good night’s sleep on trail, and is meticulously choosy about the portable beds he picks for the wild. A solid pad can truly make or break a backcountry adventure, and is key to having enough energy to keep pushing day after day.

Our primary considerations while testing are packed size, comfort, warmth, and ease of use. When backpacking, the ratio between weight and comfort is all-important, so we paid extra attention when examining these two specs. Secondarily, we looked at durability and value. These pads were carefully inspected and repeatedly slept on inside tents and directly under the stars.

A solid, reliable sleeping pad is essential for maximizing comfort while sleeping, or just hanging around camp; (photo/Honey McNaughton)

Buyer’s Guide: The Best Backpacking Sleeping Pads

A restful night’s sleep sets you up for success on a full day of backpacking adventures. In the past, people rightfully assumed sleeping on a pad on the ground could simply never match the comfort of a real bed.

However, in recent years, sleeping pads have improved significantly. Now, with advancements in cell design and baffling, many high-quality sleeping pads offer exceptional warmth and comfort.

While comfort standards have increased, packed size and weight have also dropped, and the resulting pads are light, easy to use, and wonderful to sleep on.

Because there are so many great pads on the market, it can be difficult to make a selection. In this guide, we break down some of the most important considerations for purchasing the perfect sleeping pad.

From weight and thickness to durability and price, we hope to answer all of your sleeping pad-related questions in this buyer’s guide.

Types of Sleeping Pads: Foam, Self-Inflating, and Air Pads

Air pads that you inflate with your mouth or a pump sack are usually on the lighter, more packable end of the spectrum, but can be more prone to punctures; (photo/Chris Carter)

There are three types of backpacking sleeping pads: air pads, foam pads, and self-inflating pads. Each category has its own list of pros and cons, and it’s important to understand the differences between them.

Air Pads

Air pads are the lightest and most compact type of sleeping pad. When not in use, these pads are deflated and able to pack down into a small stuff sack about the size of a water bottle. Because most of their insulation comes trapped in air, they can become quite thick without excess weight or bulk.

Compared to other categories, air pads are the most vulnerable to punctures and air valve issues. Usually, punctures are fixable with the proper supplies, but some people stay away from air pads due to the puncture risk.

Air pads tend to be the lighter and more packable of the three types of backpacking pads; (photo/Honey McNaughton)

Most pads come with their own repair kits for punctures or tears, but our testers have had good luck with trusty Tenacious Tape in a pinch, or even super glue for fixing issues around the valve.

Self-Inflating Pads

Self-Inflating pads have been around for many decades. Most pads in this category combine inflation with open-cell foam to decrease puncture risk and increase durability.

However, self-inflating pads do not pack down as small as air pads, and they tend to be a bit heavier. If these pads do puncture or deflate, you’ll still have some padding between you and the ground, but it won’t be a super comfortable night’s sleep.

Foam Pads

Foam pads such as NEMO’s Switchback are nearly indestructible and can be deployed in seconds; (photo/Honey McNaughton)

Closed-cell foam pads are the original backpacking sleep system technology. Although these tend to be the least comfortable pad style, they are extremely reliable and can last for decades if treated with care.

On a foam pad, you can sleep soundly without worrying about punctures. Usually, foam pads fold or roll to pack away, but they take up far more space in your pack than other types of pads and often have to be strapped to the outside.


For backpacking, the goal is always to minimize the total weight of your pack, particularly when hiking with ultralight backpacks. These days, thick and comfortable pads that are also lightweight offer an ideal solution for backpackers.

Some single-person pads can be as light as half a pound, while heftier options may weigh 2 full pounds. For a good balance between weight and durability, consider a pad that weighs around 14-18 ounces.

Truly ultralight fiends will often carry a torso-length pad, and use their backpack or foam back panel as the insulation for their legs. This greatly cuts base weight but can be a gamble in chilly conditions. Figure out your threshold of comfort, and dial in on a comfort-to-weight ratio that allows you to cruise the miles with ease while getting a full night’s rest when the sun goes down.


Comparing Sleeping Pads
Backpacking pad thickness directly relates to the overall comfort and warmth; (photo/Eric Phillips)

On uneven or rocky ground, a thin pad will feel only slightly better than lying on the bare earth. As a general rule, thicker pads are more comfortable. However, thickness does add weight and bulk, so we suggest you aim to find a happy medium.

If you are a back sleeper, your weight will be a bit more evenly distributed and you may be able to get by with a thinner pad. Side sleepers tend to prefer thicker pads, such as the Big Agnes Boundary Deluxe.

Any inflatable pad over 3.5 inches thick will be on the more plush side, whereas most foam pads are less than 1 inch thick.


Generally, pads made for backpacking will be less plush than pads made for car-based camping. Because backpackers aim to minimize weight, pure comfort is not the priority.

Still, many modern pads offer a generous combination of insulation, padding, and sleeping area all in a lightweight package. For some backpackers, a bit of extra weight is a small price to pay for added comfort.

R-Value Explained

The higher R-value a pad is the warmer it will be for chilly, windy nights under the stars; (photo/Honey McNaughton)

The R-value of a pad describes the amount of insulation between the user and the ground. Insulation prevents your body heat from escaping into the earth below. Without a well-insulated pad, sleeping on the ground is very chilly, even when the air temperature is reasonably warm.

In warmer conditions, a sleeping pad with an R-value of less than 3 should be sufficient. However, if you plan to backpack in the shoulder seasons, you’ll be better off with a higher rating (between 3 and 5). For winter camping or mountaineering, an R-value of at least 5, (like the Xped Ultra 7R) is the way to go.

Sleeping Pad Dimensions

Sleeping pads typically come in various sizes, and users can choose the option that best suits their body and preferences. Common sizes include regular, which is usually around 6 feet long, and large, which tends to be closer to 80 inches. Pad width also varies, but anywhere between 18 and 26 inches is fairly standard.

Most backpacking pads are semi-rectangular in shape, and some taper down and become more narrow toward the feet. Two-person sleeping pads are also available, but they’re quite cumbersome and generally not ideal for backpacking. Make sure whatever pad you chose fits comfortably inside your backpacking tent.

You want to make sure that the pad you use is big enough for your comfort, but also packs down small enough for a lightweight backpacking trip; (photo/Honey McNaughton)

Packed Size

A pad’s packed size depends on construction, materials, and the amount of insulation. Air pads with minimal additional built-in insulation tend to pack down smaller than all other types of pads. Most air pads fit easily into a backpacking pack — some are no larger than a football.

Packed size can be an issue for foam and self-inflating pads. Once fully rolled, these pads can be quite cumbersome, and they often have to be carried on the outside of your backpacking backpack.

Foam pads, while simple and lightweight, don’t pack down quite as small as inflatable pads and usually have to be strapped to the outside of your pack while hiking; (photo/Honey McNaughton)

Inflation and Deflation

While foam pads do not require inflation to use, all other pad types are built with an integrated air valve. Historically, valves have been the weak point of sleeping pads, and they can be difficult to replace once broken.

But now, high-quality backpacking pads come with reliable valves that are airtight and offer quick and easy inflation and deflation.

Most air pads have flat valves, which include an internal flap that prevents air from escaping in between inflation breaths. These valves are simple and durable, and most pads with flat valves can be inflated with somewhere between 10 and 25 breaths.

Self-inflating pads are designed to fill up on their own once the valve is open, but they usually need some regular inflation breaths to fully pump up and become firm.

Its innovative WingLock valve makes inflating and deflating the XLite a breeze; (photo/Honey McNaughton)


With proper maintenance, a good backpacking pad can last for many years with regular use. Foam pads can take lots of abuse and last forever, but inflatable pads are fragile and must be handled with care.

Punctures are the main threat to air pads. As with all outdoor gear, abrasion resistance, and fabric thickness are measured with a denier rating. Thick fabric is more resistant to punctures. Air pad denier ratings vary widely, from around 15-denier to 80-denier.

As a rule, always clear away any potentially sharp objects from underneath your sleeping surface before setting up your tent. When sleeping on your pad, the use of a tent footprint creates an extra barrier between your pad and the ground. It’s also wise to keep your pad away from fires that may spit sparks and bits of hot ash.

As the standard has moved toward lightweight backpacking pads, many companies are using thin and potentially vulnerable materials. As with all ultralight gear, durability is not the priority. The lifespan of a lightweight pad will depend on how well it is cared for.

Z Lite Sol Sleeping Pad Backpacking photo
The Z Lite Sol foam sleeping pad is so durable that it can be carried on the outside of your pack without concern; (photo/Eric Phillips)

Caring For and Storing Sleeping Pads

Best practices for storing a pad depend on the type of pad you own. Self-inflating pads should be stored unrolled with the valve open to maintain the loft of the insulation. Air pads can be stored rolled up, but always keep them in a stuff sack and make sure they are fully deflated.

For foam pad storage, avoid leaving heavy items on top of the pad. Also, if you store a foam pad rolled up, it may be difficult to get it to lay flat in the future, though the z-pad design prevents this.

While you are rolling your pad up in the morning, make sure to wipe any leaves, twigs, or dirt off your pad. Storing a tightly rolled pad with debris in it could cause small abrasions in the face fabric, and even holes in extreme cases, as the pad jostles around inside your backpack or car.

Also, using a pump sack to inflate your pad will help prolong its life, by reducing the amount of moisture buildup in the pad from your breath. If you can, try and use the often included pump sack to inflate your pad each night instead of your mouth.

Sleeping Pad Comfort
Properly caring for your pad will allow you to enjoy many years of camp comfort; (photo/Eric Phillips)

Pump Sacks: Do They Work?

Some air pads come with pump sacks that allow you to pump up your pad without breathing into a valve. Pump sacks decrease inflation time and prevent breath moisture from getting inside your pad (which can lead to a variety of problems). It also helps you avoid getting crazy light-headed by having to blow it up with your mouth after a long hot day in the sun. Also, many pump sacks double as stuff sacks, and they shouldn’t add much weight to your setup. Some of our testers like to fill them with spare clothes and use them as makeshift pillows.

However, many backpackers feel pump sacks have solved a problem that didn’t exist in the first place. While some people swear by them, they are not a necessary item in most instances. You can prolong the life of your pad by using a pump sack though, particularly with pads like the Exped Ultra 7R, which has a down filling that could be damaged by excessive moisture buildup.

Several pads, including Exped’s Ultra 7R, come with a pump sack that helps with inflation speed, saves your breath, and keeps moisture out of the interior; (photo/Chris Carter)

Women’s-Specific Sleeping Pads

Some sleeping pads have a women’s version or are designed specifically for women. They often look quite similar to their unisex cousins, but there are some differences that many female adventurers may appreciate.

For starters, they will sometimes be wider and more cushioned at the hips, and will often have a greater R-value overall than the unisex version. Many are also made a little shorter. While these are minor changes, they could provide a significant comfort boost for certain people.


The price of a good sleeping pad varies from less than $50 to well over $200. Foam pads are the cheapest, and lightweight air pads are usually the most expensive.

As you determine your sleeping pad budget, remember your pad is an important piece of gear that will affect your quality of rest after a long day on the trail.

Backpacking Sleeping Pads
Getting ready for a chilly fall night on the Exped Ultra 7R; (photo/Honey McNaughton)


What is the most comfortable backpacking sleeping pad?

Different backpackers have different comfort preferences. The most comfortable pad is the one that allows you to sleep soundly after a full day of hiking. Before you purchase a pad, make sure that it meets your criteria for size, thickness, materials, price, and above all else, comfort.

What is a good weight for a backpacking sleeping pad?

On the low end, lightweight air pads can be as little as 8 ounces. Heavy foam pads may weigh well over a pound. A four-season pad will contain more material and insulation, and a total weight between 12 and 18 ounces is normal.

Foam pads are quick to set up, lightweight, and durable, but don’t offer quite as much comfort as inflatable pads; (photo/Chris Carter)
What is the best sleeping pad for side sleepers?

Side sleepers will want a thicker pad than back sleepers. If you consistently sleep on your side, consider purchasing an air pad that is at least 3 inches thick. The Big Agnes Boundary Deluxe scored high marks from our side sleepers.

What sleeping pad has the highest R-value?

For cold-weather or winter camping, you’ll want a sleeping pad with an R-value of at least 5. The Sea to Summit Comfort Plus Insulated or Exped Ultra 7R pads fit the bill.

Pads like Rab’s Ionosphere 5.5 boast high R-values, making them prime choices for cold-weather camping; (photo/Honey McNaughton)

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