On any kind of camping trip, the best sleeping pads help to insulate your body from the cold ground, minimising heat loss, keeping you warmer and ensuring you enjoy a better night’s sleep. Once you've tried one, you won't take your tent anywhere without one.
Picking the right option is just as important as selecting the best sleeping bag. However, that’s not as easy as it might sound, because sleeping pads have come a long way since the basic, foam roll mats you might remember from family camping trips. Manufacturers have recognised the need for packable lightweight pads for thru-hikes and expeditions. At the other end of the spectrum, airbeds have become more advanced than ever, meaning you can now sleep in luxurious comfort on car camping trips.
There are hundreds of mats on the market now, and we’ve spent dozens of nights under our tent canvas in a range of conditions – from sultry summer nights under the twinkling heavens to sub-zero winter expeditions – testing a range of options from established and emerging brands.
We’ve picked out the best sleeping pads and mats for adventurers of all breeds. Similarly, we’ve taken a range of needs into account, balancing factors such as comfort, warmth, weight, durability and price.
All of our selected best sleeping mats have been featured on merit, but we particularly like the luxurious yet featherweight qualities of the Nemo Tensor Ultralight, which is perfect for backpacking expeditions, while Exped’s SynMat HL Winter matt is an excellent all-weather performer.
The best sleeping pads for backpacking adventures
The perfect backpacking camping pad, for when you want to travel fast and light but sleep comfortably
RRP (regular insulated): $170 (US) /£170 (UK) / €170 (EU) | Weight: 540g/1lb 3oz | Dimensions: 183 x 51cm/72 x 20in | Variants: Short (122 x 51cm/48 x 20in) / Regular mummy (183 x 51cm/72 x 20in) / Regular (183 x 51cm/72 x 20in) / Regular wide (183 x 64cm/72 x 25in) / Long wide (193 x 64cm/76 x 25in) | Thickness: 7.6cm /3in | Pack size: 24 x 9cm / 9.5 x 3.5in | R-value: : 3.5 | Compatibility: Backpacking and fastpacking
Nemo’s lightest pad still offers luxurious comfort. It comes in ten shapes and sizes, five insulated and five not, including short, mummy, and rectangular, wide, and long. One of our only complaints is that it is hard to pick which shape and size to get, because there are so many options, but all versions of the mat are 3 inches thick and structured with ‘Spaceframe’ baffles, which are both stable and which distribute your weight evenly. Happily, the insulated pads are as silent as the non-insulated while you sleep, because the body-heat reflecting insulation is suspended inside the pad. The zero-profile, multi-functional, micro-adjustable valve doesn’t stand proud of the pad, and it’s placed where it’s easy to let a little air out if the pad feels too hard. The pad comes with Nemo’s Vortex pump sack, which helps minimize moisture from your breath getting inside.
EXPED Synmat UL Unisex
This generously sized but lightweight unisex mat is packable enough to take into the hills
RRP [medium wide]: $170 (US) / £150 (UK) | Style: Unisex insulated air mat | Weight [medium wide]: 565g/20oz | Variants: Medium / Medium Wide / Large Wide / Lite Medium | Dimensions [medium wide]: 183 x 65 cm / 72 x 25.5in | Thickness: 7cm/2.75in | Pack size [medium wide]: 24 x 10cm / 9.5 x 4in | R-value: 2.9 | Compatibility: 3-season
The rectangular Synmat has proven itself to be warm and comfortable many times on test in most seasons, and because its generous size it is ideal for taller campers and anyone who tends to toss and turn at night. We reviewed the Medium Wide version of the mat, which has dimensions that offer more room if you’re a restless sleeper and tend to find yourself falling off smaller designs in the night. There’s no weight compromise for that bigger size, either – as this is an inflatable mat, it weighs just 565g and packs down to the size of a large water bottle.
The Synmat is quick and easy to set up, with the included stuff sack doubling as a pump: the smartly designed Schnozzel Pumpbag means you can inflate the mat while avoiding humidity from your breath affecting the insulation. It has separate inflation and deflation valves, which don’t protrude from the mat, and the GripSkin honeycomb-pattern coating offers good next-to-skin comfort, while helping to keep you from sliding around too much in the night. It packs down easily too, although there is a knack to folding it tightly enough to get it back in its stuff sack.
A featherlight micro mat for minimalists, fastpackers and adventure racers
RRP: $180 (US)/£140 (UK) | Style: Insulated air mat | Weight: 250g/8.8oz | Variants: Small/regular/large | Dimensions (regular): 83 x 51cm/72 x 20in | Thickness: 6.4cm/2.5in | Pack size: 15 x 9cm/6 x 3.5in | R-value: 2.3 | Compatibility: 2-season
Therm-a-Rest originated the concept of the self-inflating camping mattress, way back in the early 1970s. The NeoAir UberLite is one of the most recent additions to the range and claims to be the lightest insulated air mat available, anywhere. In terms of weight and pack size, it is both remarkably light and impressively compact. It rolls away to about the size of a beer can and tips the scales at a mere 250g. Those figures have been achieved through a combination of clever design, the use of lightweight 15-denier fabrics and a determination to save weight wherever possible, which has meant eliminating the internal reflective layer found in other NeoAir models.
As a result this mat is not quite as warm as some others, reflecting its intended use for warm-weather trips. It is comfortable though, even for side sleepers, and the transverse chamber design is fairly stable, though it does have a slight tendency to collapse at the very edges. You also need to watch that thin face fabric – we wouldn’t risk packing this mat without also remembering to take the (included) repair kit. And though there’s nothing wrong with Therm-a-Rest’s valve design, compared to other mats it isn’t as easy to inflate or deflate, especially using a pump sack. However, if you’re a dedicated ultralighter – the sort of adventurer who likes to head to the hills for a stealthy overnighter with nothing more than a daypack on your back – this is the mat for you. It’s the ideal pairing for a backpacking quilt or minimalist down bag if you’re looking to create a superlight but very comfortable two-season sleeping system.
A supremely robust and practical smart foam mat that will provide a level of comfort wherever you lay your head
RRP: $45 (US)/£46 (UK) | Style: Closed-cell foam mat | Weight: 410g/14.5oz | Variants: Small/regular | Dimensions (regular): 183 x 51cm/72 x 20in | Thickness: 2cm/0.8in | Pack size: 51 x 13 x 14cm/20 x 5.1 x 5.5in | R-value: 2 | Compatibility: 2-season
When it comes to tried and tested outdoor kit, few products compare to Thermarest’s renowned Z-lite mats. They’ve been used and abused all across the globe and are loved by outdoor adventurers of every ilk. That’s primarily because they’re super durable – as a closed-cell foam mat, even if they get ripped or punctured, they’ll still work. As a result, you don’t have to be so careful with campsite selection, and if your options are very limited – like a climbers’ bivvy, for example – it’s one of the few genuinely practical mats available, and one that’ll still prove more comfortable than lying on bare rock. The Z Lite is therefore supremely versatile as well as being very lightweight, if slightly bulky. Of course, sleeping on 2cm of foam padding will never be as comfortable as sleeping on 8cm of lofty air. But the Z-lite SOL does the best it can with what it’s got, thanks to a dual-density foam that is softer on top for extra comfort and denser on the bottom for extra durability. The design also incorporates unique dimples that are designed to trap more heat, while the SOL’s shiny ThermaCapture coating also helps to reflect body heat, which according to the brand can increase overall warmth by nearly 15%. The mat folds up concertina-style, so it can easily be strapped to the outside of a trekking pack or slotted down the side of a large rucksack. With an R-value of 2.0, it works well for two-season camps. It can also be used as a secondary layer underneath a self-inflating or air mat to boost the warmth of your sleep system.
Best sleeping pads designed for women
A more affordable foam mat with a warm insulated torso – a great all-rounder that works across three seasons
RRP: $75 (US)/£85 (UK) | Style: Self-inflating foam | Weight: 670g /23.6oz | Dimensions: 168cm x 51cm / 66 x 20in | Thickness: 3.8cm/1.5in ** | Pack size: 27 x 16cm / 10.6 x 6.3in | R-value: 3.6 | Compatibility: 3-season
The female version of Mountain Equipment’s Helium is a hard-working foam mat that weighs in at a relatively svelte 670g/23.6oz – not the lightest mat we’ve tested, but is still easy enough to take away on backpacking forays or wild camping trips. The main difference between the female-specific mat and the unisex version of the Helium is the wider area around the torso (the unisex version is a plain rectangle shape), plus a shorter length and slightly lighter weight. On test, we liked the wide insulated chest area on the women’s specific mat, but the narrower bottom of the Helium may not suit those who tend to toss and turn in the night (they’ll get on better with a mat that is wider overall).
This may be a relatively thin mat, but its foam stuffing does a good job of protecting you from the ground even if you sleep on your side, and its R value of 3.6 makes the Helium work well for camping trips from spring through to fall (depending on where you are, and at what altitude – and your own personal comfort levels). The Helium is quick to inflate, and packs down small enough to be backpack-friendly for hiking trips.
Sea to Summit Women’s Comfort Light
A comfy night’s sleep is guaranteed on this luxuriously quilted mat, designed to match the female form
RRP: $170 (US) / £165 (UK) | Style: Insulated air mat designed specifically for women | Weight: 555g/19.5oz | Variants: Regular / Large | Dimensions [regular]: 168 x 55cm / 66 x 21.7in | Thickness: 6.3cm/2½in | Pack size: 13 x 24cm / 5 x 9.5in | R-value: 3.9 | Compatibility: 3.5-season
‘Comfort Light’ is an obvious but appropriate name for Sea to Summit’s high-performance women’s specific mat – just looking at this quilted mat gives you an inkling of how comfortable it is to kip on. No less than 324 air pockets create a springy but solid surface and keep you warm and well away from cold ground.
Designed and constructed for women backpackers and outdoor adventurers, this mat is wider at the hip and narrower at the shoulder to match the female body shape, and there’s a tighter pattern of air pockets around the torso to further trap in heat. This three-season mat has an R rating of 3.9 and should see you through most camping conditions besides the coldest winter camps.
If you hate losing your pillow in the night when camping, you may want to grab one of Sea to Summit’s pillows to go with the Comfort Light mat – these can be ‘locked’ in place to the top of their mats. The Comfort Light comes with a stuff sack, pump and repair kit. Packed down and weighing 555g (regular), this mat is small enough to qualify for backpacking trips, making it a nice all-rounder to take from campsite to mountainside. There is also a large version of this mat ($190/£180), which is 6ft long (183cm).
Best sleeping pads for winter adventures
Klymit Insulated Static V-Lite
A winter-ready, high-performance sleeping pad with an accommodating cut that delivers on all fronts
RRP: $94.95 (US)/£89.99 (UK) | Style: Insulated air mat | Weight: 567g /1lb 4oz | Variants: O/S | Dimensions (regular): 183 x 58cm /72 x 23in | Thickness: 6cm/2.5in | Pack size: 8 x 20cm/3 x 8in | R-value: 4.4 | Compatibility: 4-season
US outdoor brand Klymit is known for its innovative mats, and the Insulated Static V-lite is typically unusual. This mat utilises V-shaped central baffles, while the pad has raised edges, intended to offer superior comfort and stability. The rectangular profile is certainly accommodating, and the mat has a generous inflated thickness too. Despite the slightly odd sensation compared to smoother-faced pads, which admittedly takes a little getting used to. (We slept soundly on test – the odd squeak notwithstanding.) In addition, we were impressed by the mat’s real-world warmth, which corresponds with its R-value of 4.4. That makes it suitable for use in sub-zero conditions. It’s a genuine all-season pad that is priced far more attractively than premium options from rival brands.
Best sleeping pad for two people
Big Agnes SLX
Sweet dreams for two happy campers
RRP: $300 (US) / £265 (UK) | Style: Double air mat | Weight: 1220g/43oz | Dimensions: 127–101 x 198cm/ 50–40 x 78in | Thickness: 9cm / 3.5in | Pack size [medium wide]: 15 x 28cm / 6 x 11in | R-value: 3.2 | Compatibility: 3-season
At the end of a hard day on the trail, sleeping on hard, uneven ground with an unnoticed rock pestering your back, is far from a dream-like experience, and rolling off a skinny mat is a common complaint from disgruntled campers. The generously thick SLX tent floor pad cradles both you and your partner in cushioned comfort. Even if you sleep spread out like a starfish, there’s still room for two, so you don’t have to be on particularly intimate terms with your camping buddy.
The tapered design (wider at the shoulder and narrower at the feet), fits a standard 2-person tent, and the weight is comparable to the combined weight of two high-end single backpacking sleeping mats. The quilted top offers a comfortable surface for sleeping if you decide to leave your favorite pillow at home. An upcycled stuff/pump sack, and a repair kit are both included, which makes inflation easy and gives you peace of mind in regards to punctures. The valve arrangement allows you to customize firmness with a few micro adjustments for personal preference. An antimicrobial treatment on the pad’s internal surfaces prevents growth of nasty microorganisms.
The best sleeping pad for car camping
Coleman Extra High Queen Airbed
A sumptuous sleeping pad, easy to inflate and fit for a royal night’s sleep
RRP: $75 (US) | Style: Pump inflatable | Weight: 4kg / 9lb 2oz | Dimensions: 198 x 147cm / 78 x 58in | Thickness: 24cm/9.5in | Pack size: 25.5 x 51cm / 10 x 20in | Compatibility: Car camping, festivals and backyard sleepouts
Waking up to a partially sagging bed is super frustrating. Coleman’s Double Lock Valve first seals in air during the inflation process, then locks the air tight for a good night’s sleep uninterrupted by a deflating mattress. Featuring 48 inner coils constructed of durable PVC, and topped with a velvety soft cover, the 9.5in/24cm thick mattress feels as comfortable as your bed at home. A battery powered pump inflates the mattress quickly and the bed’s AirTight system is checked at the factory for leak proof performance. The Double Lock valve lets you set the level of firmness to match your personal sleep style. Well-suited for car camping adventures, bring queen sized sheets if you want a reminder of home.
Best all-rounder sleeping pads
A versatile and practical mat with a brilliant baffle design that adds to comfort levels
RRP: $100 (US) | Style: Insulated air mat | Weight: 570g/1lb 4oz | Variants: One size | Dimensions: 183 x 50.8cm /72 x 20in | Thickness: 7.6cm/3in | Pack size: 25.4 x 10.2cm/10 x 4in | R-value: 2.1 | Compatibility: 3-season
A relatively new sleeping pad from US brand Sierra Designs, the Granby Insulated pad is a sister mat to the company’s lightweight Shadow Mountain, with an additional layer of lightweight synthetic sheet insulation that increases the R-value to 2.1, making it suitable for a wider range of temperatures. It is still not a cold weather mat, but could be paired with a closed-cell foam mat like the Thermarest Z-lite SOL to create an all-season sleep system. What it does bring to the table – sorry, tent – is practicality, convenience and decent levels of comfort. The mat has a great ‘burrito-style’ stuff sack that makes it really easy to pack and unpack. Inflation and deflation are also a cinch.
The design employs an unusual chambered baffle system that proved comfortable whether you sleep on your back or turn on to your side, and when fully inflated the mat is thick enough to avoid ‘bottoming out’ even at common pressure points like the hips and shoulders. We had some minor worries about the valve design – though it works well, the tight fit means it requires a fair amount of pressure to pull it open, which seems to place a lot of stress on the surrounding fabric. The valve also protrudes a little from the mat, and we found it tended to snag on our other bits of sleeping gear. Otherwise, however, the Granby is a well-made pad constructed from high-quality materials. It's pretty lightweight too, and the pack size, while not the most compact option around, is not unreasonable. The rectangular cut is also very accommodating and will appeal to campers who dislike tapered mummy-style pads.
A well-priced and versatile self-inflating mat suitable for multiple adventures
RRP: $60 (US)/£55 (UK) | Style: Self-inflating mat | Weight: 560g/1lb 3.75oz | Variants: One size | Dimensions: 198 x 60cm/78 x 23.6in | Thickness: 2.5cm/1in | Pack size: 30.5 x 20.5cm/12 x 8in | R-value: 4 | Compatibility: 3-season
If you’re looking for a versatile self-inflating sleeping pad that’ll work for anything from car camping to moderate backpacking in all but the coldest seasons, the Kelty Cosmic SI is a solid choice. It’s a 2.5cm-thick mat with a foam core that takes care of most lumps and bumps, plus generous dimensions in terms of both length and width as well as relaxed contouring that should accommodate even the most starfish-style sleepers. The reliable brass valve is easy to operate and shouldn’t leak air or come unscrewed at 2am, and it’s quick to inflate, requiring only a few puffs. As with most self-inflating mats, deflation is slightly more involved, but hardly an arduous task. It stows away neatly into a simple stuff sack too. The high-quality construction and materials – consisting of 20-denier ripstop nylon, promises decent durability. Admittedly, at about an inch thick, it’s not quite as plush as some air mats, and therefore better suits those who tend to sleep on their backs rather than their sides. But it has a competitive R-value, delivering plenty of warmth for three-season adventures. It’s also lightweight, and while the pack size is marginally bulkier than some, it’s still reasonably compact and will sit nicely in the bottom of a trekking pack.
Choosing the best sleeping pad for you
When considering the purchase of a sleeping pad, there are many considerations. Sleeping mats are available in a huge number of different shapes and sizes, and as with all categories of camping gear, different people have different needs according to where, when and how they intend using their kit.
If you are fastpacking with your one-person tent, you will be suited to a light option that packs down small, such as the Thermarest NeoAir UberLite. Winter adventurers will need the warmest sleeping pad or mat available, though this can come at a cost. Many aspects, such as whether you choose an an option that inflates or a foam alternative, are down to personal preference.
Before you buy, consider the following points...
Closed-cell foam mats: very stable, easy to use, extremely durable and cheaper, but slightly bulky and not as comfortable.
Self-inflating mats (SIMs): Often featuring a foam core, these are fairly robust and offer good warmth, but they’re usually thinner than air beds.
Insulated air mats: Offering the best mix of warmth and comfort for minimal weight, the main worry is the risk of puncture (carry a repair kit or repent during a sleepless night).
Non-insulated air mats: extremely lightweight and very compact, good for ultralight enthusiasts, adventure racers and hardy summer campers.
Also consider the following when selecting the best sleeping mat for you:
Though many mats utilise a basic rectangular profile, others are contoured in a mummy shape to reduce weight and pack size without unduly affecting overall sleeping comfort. Taller trekkers should consider mats that offer large and/or wide sizes. Similarly, petite users or ultralight campers can choose mats that come in a small or a three-quarter size. Some brands make specific women’s sizes that are contoured to better suit the female frame. In some cases they are also slightly warmer, with a higher R-value (as women typically sleep colder than men).
2. Design and materials
The design and construction of the mat will affect its comfort levels. A thicker mat that provides plenty of cushioning is generally more comfortable than a thinner mat, but – especially if you’re going for an air mat – make sure it isn’t so squashy that you ‘bottom out’ and hit the floor. Thicker tubes or baffles help to prevent this, but reduce stability. Closed-cell foam mats or self-inflating mats with a foam core are usually very stable and extremely durable, but much thinner, which means compromising on comfort (especially if you’re a side sleeper) and warmth.
Self-inflating mats (SIMs) are usually equipped with a valve and foam core. Once they are unrolled and the valve has been opened, the design draws air in by itself, though they usually require a few ‘top-up’ breaths for full inflation.
Insulated air mats require careful use, as they’re liable to puncturing – they often come with repair kits to enable quick fixes in the field.
Self-inflating mats or insulated air mats are warmer than closed-cell foam mats. All sleeping mats are given an R-value, which measures an insulating material’s thermal resistance. In sleeping mat terms, it basically indicates how warm a mat is. Look for a mat with an R-value of 1.0 to 2.0 for summer use, rising to 3.0 for three-season camping and 4.0 or even 5.0+ for winter camping. Of course, there’s much more to warmth than a sleeping pad’s R-value. Consider it as just part of a sleep system that also includes what you wear to bed – such as a down jacket in winter –, your sleeping bag, tent or other shelter, the ground you’re lying on, overnight temperatures, and of course, your own physiology.
4. Ease of use
The best sleeping mat should be easy to use. With a closed-cell foam mat, you can simply unroll or unfold it and hit the hay. However, they will take up a lot of room and probably won't fit in a standard day pack. It’s a little different with a self-inflating or air mat however, and ease of use often depends on the valve design. Many now have a double valve that helps you to inflate them fast but also expel air quickly for rapid deflation.
5. Weight and pack size
A good three-season sleeping mat should weigh around 600g (or around 20oz). Four-season mats with a higher R-value will typically be heavier, while ultralight mats (some of which aren’t insulated at all) can cut that figure in half.
Pack sizes and volumes also vary widely, but ideally a three-season mat should have a packed volume of no more than 2 liters. Closed-cell foam mats are bulkier, although given their extreme durability most backpackers carry them strapped to the outside of a pack, making their size less of an issue.
Consider this: how much value you attribute to getting a good night’s sleep? In our experience, it’s worth spending a little more on a good quality mat as it makes a huge difference to how comfortable your camping experience is, and therefore how much you enjoy your time in the great outdoors.
If cost is a restricting factor, however, then entry-level mats can still offer good overall performance, and in some cases come with only a small increase in weight and bulk. Expect to pay more for better insulation. As always, shop around – you can almost always pick up the best sleeping mats for far less than the RRP.
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