It may not be as appealing as a backpack, a tent, or sleeping bag; however, a humble backpacking sleeping pad is just as critical as the much-touted Big Three. The warmest possible sleeping bag in the world will surely not do much good if you are lying on hard cold ground without a mattress. Being sleepy is the fastest way to ruin the trip of a lifetime, and this is why you should opt for one of the best backpacking sleeping pads for your next hike.
Therm-A-Rest NeoAir XLite Sleeping Pad
This model is perfect for three-season thru-hiking with an R-value of 4.2 in the men’s version. It comes in three variations, 47”, 72”, or 77”. The 66” women’s version is even warmer with a score of 5.4 while maintaining the same 12-ounce even better for smaller people too. It inflates to a root-smothering 2.5-inches-thick and packs tiny to roughly the same size as a Nalgene. It also comes in various lengths for a perfect fit, and an updated value, and the included pump sack make this sleeping pad the perfect choice for many.
Pros: It has an easy-to-use one-way valve, and it offers an excellent warmth-to-weight ratio. Cons: Price on the narrow side, and it makes a lot of noise.
This sleeping pad is extremely well suited for thru-hiking. Its insulation factors mean that it can be used functionally even on chilly nights, yet many people didn’t have any issues with it being too warm during the summer months. It held up pretty well for most of the PCT where they have used it. As mentioned above, even on the slightly taller side of the spectrum, the pad has plenty of beds to get cozy on.
Pros: It’s warm, durable, and there are two options available – mummy and rectangular Cons: It gets dirty pretty quickly, and it’s not as warm as other pads at a similar price/weight point.
Therm-A-Rest Neoair XTherm
This model is the best warmth-to-weight ratio of any pad on the market. The R-Value of this pad is 6,9. It weighs just 15 ounces, and the full-length dimensions are comparable to most pads out there. There is no question that this model deserves top marks in the inter camping department.
Pros: Perfect warmth-to-weight ratio, one-way valve simplifies inflation, it’s well-built for durability and comfort. Cons: crackling noise, price.
Big Agnes Insulated Q-Core SLX
This model is rather beefy, with its 3.5-inch thickness of the Q-Core. This makes it eminently comfortable and not floppy like other pads. You could easily sleep right on top of the seriously gnarly roots and not even begin to feel them.
Pros: plenty of cushions, rectangular cut, and vertical baffles that are perfect for side sleepers, it comes in multiple lengths and width; relatively quiet. Cons: It’s prone to leakage along with baffles, longer time to inflate, not that much warmth for the weight and height. It’s also rather heavy.
Therm-a-Rest Prolite Apex
A good night’s sleep is a priority for most people. Though it’s a bit on the heavy side, this sleeping pad is perfect for every trip. Many hikers find warmer sleeping pads the better choice than a sleeping bag. The sturdy construction of this one makes it extremely resilient, even when sleeping on uneven ground.
Pros: It’s comfortable, it has a great R-value, and it’s convenient because it’s self-inflating. Cons: The self-inflation process is a bit slow.
Sea to Summit UltraLight Insulated Air
This one is middle-of-the-road when it comes to weight, price, and R-value, but there are a few areas where it shines compared to its competitors. It earns it a spot among the best backpacking sleeping pads of 2021.
Pros: It’s not too thick. It’s quick to inflate and it offers excellent durability. Cons: Warmth, weight, cost.
Gossamer Gear Thinlight
This sleeping pad is too minimalist to work as a standalone one. However, that’s not the point of this item. Instead, these pads are meant to supplement your existing sleep system. The R-values are additive, so stacking this pad underneath another one can surely boost the insulation factor.
Pros: Great warmth-to-weight ratio. Cons: Not a huge boost in warmth.