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Are you ready to take your thru-hiking adventure to the next level? If you’re looking for the best sleeping pads for thru-hiking, you’ve come to the right place.
I’ve rounded up all of the best sleeping pads available today, so you can be prepared for whatever situation you experience.
Best Ultralight Sleeping Pad
NeoAir XLite NXT
Exceptional warmth-to-weight ratio
Excellent Warranty Coverage
Runner-Up Sleeping Pad
Incredibly Quiet Versus the Xlite Insulation
Quick Inflation and Deflation
Various Shapes & Sizes
Best Budget Sleeping Pad
Insulated Air Core Ultra
Amazingly inexpensive for a high R-Value
Impressive warmth & comfort
Easy Inflation/Deflation Valve
The Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite NXT is our top pick for ultralight backpacking, with a lightweight of sixteen ounces and an R-value of 4.2 or over 5 for a womens version.
It’s previous versions have always been a classic choice for thru-hikers, and many other backcountry adventurers who need ultralight simplicity and durability; plus, its price makes it an attractive option.
The Big Agnes Insulated Air Core Ultra is one of the best budget inflatable sleeping pads for thru-hiking, offering superior comfort and quality in a lightweight package.
The warmth, comfort, ease of inflation, and packability were all on point with this pad, which is 3.5″ thick and an R-Value of 4.5 its a very good deal.
At a competitive price and weighing in at 20oz, this is an excellent choice for those looking to take their backpacking setup to the next level.
The NEMO Tensor Insulated ($190-220) is an excellent option for thru-hiking, as it is wide, supportive, quiet, and relatively warm.
Its unique waffle design adds comfort and insulation, and the 14.5 oz weight makes it an excellent choice for those concerned about their pack weight.
It’s also one of the best 3-season pads on the market with a strong company who back their products!
4. Therm-a-Rest ProLite Plus or (on Amazon)
The fourth sleeping pad on the list is the Therm-a-Rest ProLite Plus, a tried-and-true self-inflating pad perfect for backpacking, car camping, and floor-surfing.
This high-quality all-purpose pad is more comfortable and warmer than the Therm-a-Rest ProLite and Nemo, making it an excellent choice for thru-hikers or backcountry adventurers who need ultralight simplicity in a durable package.
The ProLite Plus packs amazingly small, is worth every penny, and offers outstanding all-season warmth with the convenience of self-inflation.
The Big Agnes Rapide SL Insulated is an ideal three-season sleeping pad for thru-hikers.
It’s light, tough, and packable yet it provides superior comfort and warmth for a good night’s sleep.
PrimaLoft® Silver Insulation helps to keep the pad warm, and its R-Value of 4 makes it suitable for use through all three seasons.
It’s thick enough for side sleeping yet remains light and easy to inflate or deflate. It’s a great addition to any backpackers gear and the perfect companion for long treks.
The Sea to Summit Ether Light XT Insulated is an excellent option for thru-hikers looking for a lightweight and comfortable sleeping pad.
It’s made with an insulated core that helps retain heat, so you stay warm even on cold nights.
It uses diamond-shaped baffles provide support and cushioning, ensuring you get the best night’s sleep possible.
The Ether Light XT is also lightweight and packs down small, making it easy to carry on long hikes.
With all these features and more, it’s no surprise that the Sea to Summit Ether Light XT Insulated is one of the best sleeping pads available for thru-hiking.
The Therm-a-Rest NeoAir UberLite is an ultralight option, at only 8.8 ounces, making it the lightest pad on my list.
It provides plenty of cushion and comfort while being incredibly packable and durable enough to stand up to thru-hiking.
It features a unique two-part construction that allows it to be rolled tightly for packing, and its design includes a folded baffle system that helps to keep you comfortable in any sleeping position.
The Therm-a-Rest NeoAir UberLite is an ideal choice for thru-hikers who need the lightest pad available without compromising comfort.
The NEMO Switchback took the classic and popular closed-cell foam (CCF) sleeping pad and made improvements.
A cleverly designed pad, the Switchback offers excellent cushioning, support, and durability.
It is a great option for ultralight backpacking and is exceptionally well suited for cold sleepers, thanks to its excellent insulation.
The pad’s lightweight construction makes it easy to transport and set up, while its clever design ensures lasting comfort throughout your thru-hiking adventure.
The Sea to Summit Ultralight Insulated pad is a lightweight and no-frills option that offers an outstanding balance between being lightweight and delivering a comfortable night’s sleep.
It weighs only sixteen ounces but still provides an impressive R-value of 4.2, which is suitable for most three-season thru-hiking and backpacking trips.
It is an excellent choice for those looking for an ultralight backpacking sleeping pad that won’t break the bank.
The Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Xtherm NXT takes all the lightweight insulative properties of the NeoAir XLite and ratchets it up a notch.
Fitted with the dependable and rugged WingLock valve, this sleeping pad is designed with winter backpacking in mind.
It provides superior comfort and insulation at a fraction of the weight, making it one of the best options for thru-hikers who want to stay warm and comfortable while on the trail.
Sleeping Pad Buyers Guide
Are you looking for a better night’s sleep while on the trail? A comfortable and adequately rated sleeping pad can make all the difference.
This guide will help you with all the information you need to choose the perfect sleeping pad for your next thru-hiking or backpacking adventure.
Read on to learn more about how to find the best sleeping pad for your needs!
Types of Sleeping Pads
When selecting a sleeping pad, there are three main types of construction to consider.
Air pads are the lightest and most compact option, while self-inflating pads provide more comfort and insulation.
Closed-cell foam pads are the most durable and puncture-resistant option, making them an excellent choice for those looking for a more rugged sleeping pad.
Each type of sleeping pad has its benefits and drawbacks, so it’s essential to consider your needs when choosing.
With this helpful sleeping pad buying guide, you can find the perfect sleeping pad for your adventures!
Inflatable Sleeping Pads
Users must do most of the work regarding inflatable sleeping pads. After opening the valve, they must manually inflate the sleeping pad.
Inflatable pads usually have an R-value of 2-5, and while they may be comfortable and lightweight, they can also be more prone to punctures and leaks.
That’s why many air mats come with a patch kit, just in case you need to locate a hole and repair it in the field.
If you’re looking for a lightweight option with excellent insulation, an inflatable pad could be just what you need.
Self-Inflating Sleeping Pads
Self-inflating sleeping pads are an outstanding balance between the comfort of air and foam pads and ease of use.
They are filled with open-cell foam, which absorbs air when you open the valve. This makes them self-inflating, meaning you don’t have to spend time blowing them up like air pads.
The foam is also pressure-molded into ridges and channels, allowing for extra cushioning and support.
They are heavier than air mats but not as bulky as foam mats, making them great for backpacking trips.
If you want a comfortable sleep with minimal effort, then self-inflating sleeping pads are an excellent choice!
Closed Cell Foam Sleeping Pads
Closed-cell foam pads have been around for a long time and are a reliable, durable sleeping mat for thru-hiking.
They don’t inflate and so will never pop, making them a good option for those who want to ensure they get a good night’s rest.
If you’re looking for an exceptionally reliable pad, the NEMO Switchback is one of the best on the market.
It’s thicker than other closed-cell foam pads and packs down substantially smaller than others in its class.
Insulation & R-Value
Insulation & R-Value is crucial when buying a sleeping pad, as it measures their capacity to resist heat flow. Knowing the R-value of a sleeping pad is essential for finding the right one for you and your needs. Generally, sleeping pads for camping and backpacking have R-values ranging from 1 to 7, with higher values providing better insulation. An R-value of 5 or higher for winter backpacking and camping is recommended; however, the degree of warmth a sleeping pad has will depend on its R-value rating. It’s important to note that the higher the R-value, the more thermally resistant the material or structure is and the better it will insulate you from the cold ground. As a rule of thumb, use R-value 0 – 2 sleeping pads for two seasons and warm weather, while R-values ranging from 3.5 to 5.5+ are recommended for colder climates. Investing in a quality sleeping pad with a good R-value rating can make all the difference in your comfort!
Definition of R-Value
The R-value is an important factor to consider when buying a sleeping pad. It measures the thermal resistance of an object, with higher R-values providing greater insulation from the cold ground. Everything from the insulation of a sleeping pad to the insulation of a home can be measured with an R-value, giving you a good indication of how well it protects you against heat loss. Selecting a sleeping pad with the right R-value for your needs is essential, as this will determine how warm and comfortable you are while camping or backpacking.
How insulation affects R-Value
The insulation of a sleeping pad affects its R-value, a measure of thermal resistance. The higher the R-value, the more thermally resistant the material or structure is, and the better it will keep you warm during cold weather. A sleeping pad with an R-value of 1-2 is suitable for summer camping, while a pad with an R-value of 5 or higher is recommended for winter backpacking and camping. The best sleeping pads are designed with insulation in mind and feature features such as air chambers, foam fillers, and synthetic fibers that help keep you warm and comfortable all night long.
Choosing the Right Size & Width
When choosing the right size and width for your sleeping pad, consider the length from your knees to your shoulders to get an idea of what size you need. The standard size for sleeping pads is 20 x 72 inches, but if you’re taller than 6 feet, you may want to invest in a larger size. Additionally, your preferred width depends on how much you move around in your sleep and the size of your tent or car. Most pads offer a standard width of 20 inches, but if you’re a larger person or tend to roll around a lot, you may opt for an extra-wide sleeping pad.
Patch Kits & Repairing Air Mats
Once you have chosen the perfect sleeping pad, you’ll want to ensure it stays in good condition.
Investing in a patch or repair kit is a great way to ensure that your sleeping pad stays airtight and comfortable for many years.
With a patch kit, you can quickly locate and repair any tiny holes or punctures that might occur in the field.
Many brands provide a patch kit with the purchase of a sleeping pad, and you can also find patch kits or patch material at most outdoor stores.
Most sleeping pads come with a small repair kit and instructions. It’s always a good idea to review the specific instructions given by your sleeping pad manufacturer before attempting any repairs yourself.
Follow the instructions carefully, and allow the adhesive and patches to cure appropriately – usually 4 hours – before using your sleeping pad again.
What to Look for When Buying a Sleeping Pad
When it comes to purchasing a sleeping pad, there are a few factors to consider.
First, the pad’s warmth should align with your sleeping bag’s warmth. If you skimp on your pad’s warmth, you should use a warmer sleeping bag and vice versa.
Second, we have found that pads with R-values between 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, are best for keeping you comfortable and warm during cool nights.
Additionally, comfort is at the top of the list when it comes to sleeping pads; the extra padding can go a long way in relieving pressure points from sleeping on hard ground.
Lastly, if you are an active or side sleeper, consider purchasing a wider pad so you don’t roll off during the night.
Features of the Best Sleeping Pads & Mats
The best sleeping pads and mats are designed to provide the ultimate sleeping experience.
They offer superior insulation with R-value ratings of 3.0 to 5.0+ and come in different sizes and shapes to suit your needs.
Soft contours hug your body and keep you centered on the pad, while elevated edges prevent you from slipping off during the night.
Durable closed-cell foam pads are all but indestructible, while ultralight inflatable mats offer exceptional comfort for backpackers.
When shopping for a sleeping pad, consider the insulation properties, size and width, durability, patch kits, and repair options for air mats.
Investing in a quality sleeping pad can make all the difference for a good night’s sleep outdoors.
Tips for Active Sleepers & Side Sleepers
Active and side sleepers need to be extra mindful when choosing a sleeping pad, as their position can cause discomfort and pressure on the hips.
To cushion the hips and alleviate discomfort, we recommend a sleeping pad with at least 3 inches of thickness.
Unfortunately, standard sleeping pads are designed for back sleepers and aren’t very comfortable if you sleep on your side.
Suitable for the back, stomach, and side sleepers, what we love about the NEMO Switchback is that it packs down better than any other foam sleeping pad.
If you’re not getting a good night’s sleep due to discomfort, it may be worth investing in a quality sleeping pad to help you rest better.
Choosing the Right Length & Width
Choosing the right length and width of a sleeping pad is essential for comfortable sleep.
If you’re taller than 6 feet, consider a large-size pad. Most pads have a standard width of 20 inches, but if you’re a large person or tend to roll around a lot, you may want to look for an extra-wide pad.
Measure the distance from your knees to your shoulders to determine the right length of pad for you.
Regarding width, think about your sleeping tendencies and the size of your tent or car – some air mattresses are even wider.
Investing in a quality sleeping pad with the right size and width will ensure you get the best night’s sleep possible.
Tips for Keeping Your Sleeping Pad Warm
Keeping your sleeping pad warm is essential for a comfortable night of sleep.
To ensure your pad lasts, it is crucial to care for it properly. You can do this by using a tent footprint or ground sheet, folding and storing your sleeping pad correctly, and using a patch kit to repair any air leaks.
Additionally, investing in an insulated sleeping pad with an R-value appropriate to your needs will help keep your sleeping pad warm and comfortable.
A thicker sleeping pad is recommended for side and active sleepers to provide additional cushioning and insulation.
Lastly, ensure you are using the correct width of the sleeping pad that fits your body size, as this can also affect the warmth of your sleeping pad.
The Benefits of Investing in a Quality Sleeping Pad
Investing in a quality sleeping pad will provide you with numerous benefits.
They are more comfortable and offer better insulation and durability, making them an excellent investment for car campers and backpackers.
They can also be adjusted for firmness, making them a great choice for side and active sleepers who need a bit more support.
And with the right patch kit, you can even repair air mats in the field if needed. With all these benefits, investing in a quality sleeping pad can make all the difference in getting a good night’s sleep.
If you loved the detailed guide on choosing your sleeping pads, then I think you will love my other gear-related guides below:
And Remember to HYOH as long as it doesn’t impact others and to always LNT!