The Best Sleeping Pads for Backpacking and Car Camping

The Best Sleeping Pads for Backpacking and Car Camping

Comfort, obviously, is highly subjective, so we recruited more than 20 outdoor-loving friends in a range of body types and sleeping styles to help us evaluate our pads and form a consensus about which pads were the most comfortable to the most people. We also asked our campers to note the ease of inflating and deflating each pad, as well as to evaluate how easy they were to roll, stuff, and lug. Our top picks excel at each task.

Our pick

Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite

Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite

The best sleeping pad for backpackers

This has been the top choice of weight-conscious backpackers for years. No other pad is as light, warm, and comfortable as this dependable air mattress.

Buying Options

$145* from Backcountry
$170 from Amazon

*At the time of publishing, the price was $144.

Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite Women’s

Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite Women’s

The best sleeping pad for backpackers

If you are smaller in size or sleep cold, the women’s version of the XLite has slightly smaller dimensions and a higher R value for more insulation from the ground.

Buying Options

Buy from REI

May be out of stock

*At the time of publishing, the price was $175.

We tested this 2½-inch-thick inflatable pad side by side with its closest competitors in deserts, on mountains, and in snow, and we found that no other pad can beat its balance of weight, warmth, and comfort. The surface of the NeoAir XLite (which comes in men’s and women’s versions) is both cushiony and grippy. It packs down to the size of a 1-liter Nalgene bottle. And its R-value of 3.2 means you can’t find a lighter-weight pad that’s as warm.

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Runner-up

Exped SynMat HL

Exped SynMat HL

More comfortable for side-sleepers

A firmer surface, vertical baffles, and a valve that allows for faster blowup and smush-down distinguish the Exped SynMat HL from its rival, the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite.

Buying Options

$170 from Backcountry
$170 from Amazon

Citing the Exped SynMat HL’s ultrafirm surface and vertical baffling, side-sleepers judged this backpacking pad to be more comfortable than any other. The SynMat HL is just as warm as our top pick, the NeoAir XLite, and merely 0.3 ounce heavier. Still, that tiny weight difference might matter to serious backpackers, and the SynMat HL, which Exped introduced in 2014, is not as time-tested as the NeoAir XLite.

Our pick

Therm-a-Rest LuxuryMap

Therm-a-Rest LuxuryMap

The best sleeping pad for car camping

The 3-inch-thick, notably warm Therm-a-Rest LuxuryMap is as comfortable as any similar pad—and it’s easier to inflate, deflate, roll, and store.

Buying Options

$125* from Thermarest
Buy from Amazon

*At the time of publishing, the price was $110.

We took nine popular car-camping pads on two group camping trips and determined that the self-inflating Therm-a-Rest LuxuryMap was the best of the bunch. This 3-inch-thick pad has extra foam where your body exerts more pressure, which ups comfort and helps prevent the common problem of bottoming out on a thin pad. With an R-value of 6.8, it’s more than twice as warm as top-end backpacking pads. In our tests it seemed to reject lint and dirt better than rival pads, thanks to its durable fabric, and its carry bag was refreshingly easy to stuff and carry.

Budget pick

Therm-a-Rest Z Lite Sol

Therm-a-Rest Z Lite Sol

A cheap, warm, close-to-indestructible pad

Basic but absolutely reliable, our budget pick works for backpackers, car campers, and kids.

Buying Options

$26* from Amazon
$35 from Backcountry

*At the time of publishing, the price was $44.

If cost or durability is a top concern for you, the Therm-a-Rest Z Lite Sol is the standout choice. This lightweight, ¾-inch-thick pad is warm, durable, and inexpensive. It’s no surprise that this pick is not nearly as comfortable as any of our other choices. But if you ever decide to upgrade, the Z Lite Sol becomes a go-to backup or loaner pad that you can expect to pack for decades to come.

Everything we recommend

Our pick

Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite

Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite

The best sleeping pad for backpackers

This has been the top choice of weight-conscious backpackers for years. No other pad is as light, warm, and comfortable as this dependable air mattress.

Buying Options

$145* from Backcountry
$170 from Amazon

*At the time of publishing, the price was $144.

Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite Women’s

Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite Women’s

The best sleeping pad for backpackers

If you are smaller in size or sleep cold, the women’s version of the XLite has slightly smaller dimensions and a higher R value for more insulation from the ground.

Buying Options

Buy from REI

May be out of stock

*At the time of publishing, the price was $175.

Runner-up

Exped SynMat HL

Exped SynMat HL

More comfortable for side-sleepers

A firmer surface, vertical baffles, and a valve that allows for faster blowup and smush-down distinguish the Exped SynMat HL from its rival, the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite.

Buying Options

$170 from Backcountry
$170 from Amazon

Our pick

Therm-a-Rest LuxuryMap

Therm-a-Rest LuxuryMap

The best sleeping pad for car camping

The 3-inch-thick, notably warm Therm-a-Rest LuxuryMap is as comfortable as any similar pad—and it’s easier to inflate, deflate, roll, and store.

Buying Options

$125* from Thermarest
Buy from Amazon

*At the time of publishing, the price was $110.

Budget pick

Therm-a-Rest Z Lite Sol

Therm-a-Rest Z Lite Sol

A cheap, warm, close-to-indestructible pad

Basic but absolutely reliable, our budget pick works for backpackers, car campers, and kids.

Buying Options

$26* from Amazon
$35 from Backcountry

*At the time of publishing, the price was $44.

Source: NY Times – Wirecutter

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