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    We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.


    Shopping Guide for Best Camping Sleeping Pads

    Camping is a lovely way to commune with nature, but for many people, it’s tough to get a good night’s rest when you’re trying to sleep on the ground. Even if you’re in a nice tent, the ground can feel lumpy and hard – and it can get pretty cold, too.

    That’s why a camping sleeping pad is such an important piece of gear to pack when you’re headed into the woods. With a sleeping pad, you get extra cushioning and insulation, so you can sleep almost as comfortably as you would at home in bed.

    Some camping pads are far better than others, however, and it’s important to know exactly what to look for as you shop. At BestReviews, our goal is to help you find products that are just right for you. We buy the items we test, so we’re able to maintain complete objectivity with our recommendations. Our experts take it a step further, providing deeper insight into the products we’re considering to help us identify the top options on the market.

    If you’re ready to purchase a camping sleeping pad, take a look at the matrix above for our top recommendations. If you want general tips on choosing a sleeping pad, continue reading this shopping guide.

    You can use a sleeping pad in a tent or camping hammock for increased insulation.

    Types of Sleeping Pads

    A sleeping pad is essentially a large cushion that makes sleeping in a tent more comfortable. It also provides insulation so you don’t lose heat as you lie near the cold ground. In most cases, you’ll place your sleeping pad beneath a traditional sleeping bag. Additional blankets may be added to the setup for extra warmth.

    When shopping for a camping sleeping pad, you’ll undoubtedly encounter three broad categories of the product: air pads, self-inflating pads, and closed-cell foam pads. Here’s a look at the pros and cons of each type.

    Variations

    Air Pads

    Air pads are an extremely lightweight type of sleeping pad that’s ideal for hiking or backpacking trips. They’re often inflated using breath, but some have built-in pumps for quicker, easier inflation.

    Air Pad Pros:

    • Comfortable

    • Lightweight and easy to carry

    • You customize firmness


    Air Pad Cons:

    • Easily be ripped or punctured; difficult to repair

    • May lose air due to temperature fluctuations

    • A bit noisy, especially for restless sleepers

    Are you a side sleeper? Air pads tend to be the best option for campers who prefer sleeping on their side.

    Variations

    Self-Inflating Pads

    Self-inflating pads combine air with foam insulation to provide cushioning. When the pad valve is open, air automatically fills its compartments. Some self-inflating pads fold easily for storage in a backpack while hiking.

    Self-Inflating Pad Pros:

    • Comfortable

    • Outstanding insulation

    • Customizable firmness

    • More durable than air pads

    • Don’t tend to lose air
       

    Self-Inflating Pad Cons:

    • Heavier than air pads

    • Fairly expensive

    • Prone to rips/tears, though easier to repair than air pads

    Self-inflating camping sleeping pads are the best option for children because they tend to be more durable than other pads.

    Variations

    Closed-Cell Foam Pads

    Closed-cell foam sleeping pads feature dense foam that creates small, closed air cells. These pads can be rolled or folded up for easy portability.

    Closed-Cell Foam Pad Pros:

    • Lightweight/easy to carry

    • Inexpensive

    • Not likely to rip or tear

    • Durable

    • Also serves as a sitting pad
       

    Closed-Cell Foam Pad Cons:

    • Can be fairly stiff, uncomfortable

    • May be bulky and difficult to pack

    DID YOU KNOW?

    Some sleeping pads can make quite a bit of noise when you move around on them. The noises tend to die down with regular use, though.

    Choosing the Right Sleeping Pad Size and Thickness

    Considerations

    Length

    For a comfortable night’s rest on a camping sleeping pad, your shoulders and hips need to be on the pad. For many people, a “short” pad (three-quarters the length of a regular pad) that measures 47 or 48 inches in length should suffice. However, if you want extra insulation and cushioning for your legs and feet, opt for a regular or extra-long sleeping pad that measures somewhere between 72 and 78 inches in length.

    Considerations

    Width

    Most standard pads are 20 inches wide. However, for larger people or anyone who tends to toss and turn, an extra-wide pad that measures 25 to 30 inches may be more comfortable. In most cases, longer sleeping pads also provide extra width.

    Considerations

    Thickness

    To provide adequate cushioning, a camping sleeping pad needs to be thick enough to offer the appropriate support. In most cases, a pad that’s approximately two inches thick delivers enough cushioning to be comfortable.

    Keep in mind that the larger or thicker a sleeping pad is, the harder it may be to pack for your trip.

    EXPERT TIP

    Some self-inflating camping sleeping pads are designed expressly for backpacking. These pads can be folded and rolled up to carry inside a pack.


    Staff  | BestReviews

    A Special Note for Hikers

    If you’re hiking or backpacking to your camping destination, the weight of your sleeping pad will impact you in particular. Heavier sleeping pads can weigh you down and take up valuable space in your backpack. For you, choosing the right sleeping pad is a balancing act between how much weight you want to carry and how much comfort you need while sleeping.

    We recommend that hikers and backpackers choose a camping sleeping pad that weighs one pound or less. You can find weight-related information in the product specs. In general, camping sleeping pads made of closed-cell foam weigh the least.

    The Importance of Insulation and R-Value

    To ensure that you stay warm, a camping sleeping pad should have some type of insulation. Air pads and self-inflating pads usually feature an interior synthetic insulation layer to help you sleep comfortably.

    If you’re unsure whether a particular product would offer you enough insulation and warmth in colder weather, pay attention to its R-value. This figure depicts the pad’s degree of resistance to heat flow. A camping sleeping pad with a high R-value provides extremely effective insulation. Consider these figures.

    • A camping sleeping pad with an R-value of 1 indicates minimal insulation.

    • A camping sleeping pad with an R-value of 10 indicates maximal insulation.

    • For summer camping, an R-value of 3 to 4 is usually sufficient.

    • For camping in the colder months, choose a sleeping pad with a higher R-value.

    FOR YOUR SAFETY

    For winter camping, avoid using a sleeping pad with an R-value lower than 4.

    Camping Sleeping Pad Prices

    Camping sleeping pads vary in price depending on the type, size, thickness, and degree of insulation offered. You could spend anywhere from $10 to $300 for one.

    • For a closed-cell foam camping sleeping pad, you’ll usually pay between $10 and $50. Notably, these pads also tend to be the lightest in weight.

    • For an air sleeping pad, you’ll usually pay between $25 and $125.

    • For a self-inflating camping sleeping pad, you could pay between $75 and $300.

    Tips

    • Consider a textured pad. If you have a habit of tossing and turning while you sleep, choose a camping sleeping pad with a textured or brushed fabric surface. The texture makes it more difficult to slide off the pad, and it can help keep your sleeping bag in place, too.

    • Bring a patch kit. If you’re using an air pad or self-inflating sleeping pad, always pack a patch kit with your camping supplies. You’ll be glad to have it should a rip or tear occur.

    • Double up as needed. If you’re camping in a colder climate, you may want to use more than one sleeping pad. One solution would be to place a closed-cell pad beneath a more cushioned air pad or self-inflating pad to provide extra insulation. If you don’t have an extra sleeping pad, you can place folded clothing or other flat gear under your pad to add insulation and increase warmth.

    • Clean your sleeping pad. To clean a sleeping pad, wipe the surface with a soft cloth that’s damp with water and mild soap. Avoid getting any water in the pad valves. Never machine-dry a sleeping pad. Let it dry in the open air before storing it.

    • Take care of your sleeping pad when not in use. After your sleeping pad has been cleaned and aired out, roll it up loosely and store it in a spot where it won’t be exposed to direct sunlight. Never store a sleeping pad while it’s inflated. It’s more likely to sustain damage that way.
    Did you know that when you lie on the ground, you can lose up to 40 times more heat to the soil beneath you than to the air above you? That’s why campers rely on sleeping pads to help them stay warm on camping trips.

    FAQ

    Q. Can you use the same sleeping pad for camping year round?
    A.
    If you choose a sleeping pad with an R-value of 4, 5, or 6, you can use it for all four seasons because it’s designed for cold-weather use. You might be a little warmer in the summertime, but you could always vent your sleeping bag to cool off a bit.

    Q. What type of sleeping pad is best for hiking?
    A.
    If you’re going on a camping trip that involves lots of hiking, choose a lightweight sleeping pad that’s easy to pack and carry. Closed-cell foam camping sleeping pads are the best option because they’re light, thin, and easy to roll up and carry in backpack.

    Q. What type of sleeping pad is best for car camping?
    A.
    When you’re driving to your campsite, the size and weight of a sleeping pad doesn’t matter much, so you can choose comfort over convenience. Self-inflating camping sleeping pads are a good option because they inflate easily and provide plenty of cushioning and insulation. Air pads can also be pretty comfortable for car camping, though they require more time and effort to inflate.

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