Spend an enjoyable night sleeping under the stars with a comfy base. Whether you’re looking to save ounces hiking into the backcountry, save a few bucks, or find the most comfortable camping mattress out there, there’s a sleeping pad for you.

As avid campers ourselves, we’ve spent hundreds of nights sleeping outside. From backpacking in the Desolation Wilderness to Overlanding in Apalachicola to camping out across the Rocky Mountains, we’ve logged a lot of hours testing camping pads.

Our primary considerations while testing was weight, packed size, comfort, warmth, and ease of use. Secondarily, we looked at durability, value, and noise. And while there isn’t a single camping pad that will suit everyone out there, we’ve broken them up into categories to help you find the right camp pad for you.

You can jump straight to the sections for car camping, backpacking, or our buyer’s guide for tips on how to choose a sleeping pad. Or scroll down to continue reading the full 2020 camp sleeping pad review.

Best Car Camping Mattresses & Sleeping Pads

Car camping offers a lot of benefits. Not only do you get to enjoy being outside, but you don’t have to be as concerned with limiting weight or gear. In terms of a sleeping pad, this means you can get something more comfortable. From an ultra-cushioned double sleeping pad to our top pick for budget savings, these are the best car camping mattresses and pads.

1. REI Co-op Camp Bed Self-Inflating Sleeping Pad – Best Overall Camping Pad

This self-inflating sleep mat gets high marks for durability and reliability. Year after year, night after night, it keeps inflating and providing plenty of warmth and cushion. With an R-value of 6.8, it will keep even cold sleepers warm all summer long. And for most, it’s even enough insulation for winter camping. In addition to warmth, the open-cell foam provides a boost of comfort.

REI Camp Bed

To inflate, simply unroll, open the valves, sit back, and relax. The foam will expand, and the pad will partially inflate. From here, you can top it off with a few breaths to reach your desired firmness. For the easiest inflation, we recommend fully inflating your pad before your first camping trip. This will allow it to expand and prepare it for self-inflation.

Deflating the pad goes quickly thanks to the high-flow valves, but it can take a couple tries to get it rolled up tightly enough for packing. The polyester upper has a soft and comfortable fabric feel. We happily laid directly on the sleeping pad and appreciated its furniture quality. And with a 150-denier bottom, we didn’t worry about sticks or rocks when lying down. This pad is plenty strong.

At more than 3 pounds, it’s best used for car camping or short hikes into camp. But if you want something that could offer similar comfort in a smaller package for the occasional backpacking trip, take a look at the REI Trekker. If weight isn’t a concern, though, the Camp Bed is more comfortable due to its width and larger size.

And while there are thicker pads on this list, we found the Camp Bed to be a top pick thanks to its affordable price, ability to last through years of heavy use, comfort, and soft hand.

Weight: 3 lbs. 10 oz.
R-Value: 6.8
Thickness: 2.5″
Pros: Nearly indestructible, good value, warm, easy to use
Cons: Not as thick as other car camping mattresses

2. NEMO Roamer – Runner-Up Best Overall

Anyone who’s ever called their car home will appreciate the NEMO Roamer. This is the ultimate adventuremobile mattress. It’s thick, it’s warm, and it’s seriously comfortable. With 4 inches of open-cell foam, you can sleep soundly wherever home happens to be.

NEMO Roamer Sleeping Pad

As with most self-inflating pads, you’ll need to top it off for maximum comfort. But the micro-adjust valve makes it easy to add a bit of air without worry about losing any. And we liked how the one-way valves make quick work of deflating the pad fully when it’s time to pack up camp.

Traditional air mattresses are thin and likely to pop. But with the foam construction and a 75-denier polyester bottom, this pad is truly built to withstand camping outside. And the toggles on the side allow you to connect two Roamers to create a queen-size mattress.

While it’s not ultralight by any means, for the added comfort it offers, this packs down fairly small (about the size of a winter sleeping bag, or 9 x 13 inches).

This one is great for truck camping, van life, and luxurious tent sleeping all year round.

Weight: 3 lbs. 15 oz.
Temp rating: -30 degrees F
Thickness: 4″
Pros: Comfortable, durable, connects to another Roamer pad to create a queen-size mattress
Cons: Expensive

3. Exped MegaMat Duo 10 – Best Double Sleeping Pad

When comfort is your main concern, the MegaMat is your answer. What it lacks in packed size and price it more than makes up for in size and comfort. The open-cell polyurethane foam insulates and cushions. And while some double sleeping pads perpetually send one partner popping when the other moves, the MegaMat Duo is stable and quiet.

Exped Megamat Duo Double Sleeping Pad

As with all self-inflating pads, expect to top it off. But instead of having to blow into it, you can use the included mini pump. It also includes a repair kit should you ever get a tear (though we’ve found it impressively durable).

One of our favorite things about this pad is how level it is. Some camping mattresses pop up in the middle when filled, but thanks to 3D construction, this bad boy stays flat even when fully inflated and being slept on.

At 77.6 inches tall and 52 inches wide, it’s large enough to snugly fit two adults or spaciously sleep one. For reference, a double-size fitted sheet fits it great.

The durable sidewalls provide not only support but, as our tester noted, “The vertical sidewalls increase the usable sleeping surface. This small addition compared to other sleeping pads is instantly noticeable. The walls help keep you dry in really bad weather.

“During one stretch, Mother Nature pounded us with rain for 3 days straight. The bottoms of the tents were soaked. The height and larger surface kept me dry and warm even over wet ground.”

Durable, comfortable, and stable: This is the ultimate double sleeping pad.

Weight: 9 lbs. 14 oz.
R-value: 9.5
Thickness: 3.9″
Pros: Supremely comfortable, durable
Cons: Expensive, large packed size, heavy

4. REI Kingdom Insulated Sleep System 40 – Best Air Mattress for Camping

This queen-size sleep system is camp luxury at its finest. The set includes a 6-inch-thick air mattress, a quilted mattress cover, sheets, a comforter, and a large pump. And it all packs into a large duffel-style bag.


Inflation was quick and easy with the included floor pump. You could probably use some sort of battery-powered pump, but we found the hand pump worked well. And it was nice not to worry about plugging in a pump.

The quilted mattress cover gives a nice “real bed” feel to the setup and increases the warmth rating. We also appreciated how both the sheet and comforter wrap around the bottom of the mattress. This keeps toes toasty and prevents lost blankets in the night.

This setup is rated to 40 degrees F, but depending on how warm you sleep, most will prefer it only down to about 50 degrees. After that, you’ll want an extra camp blanket for added insulation.

Overall, this setup is comfortable, easy to use, and durable. It doesn’t pack down small, but if comfort is what you’re after, the REI Kingdom delivers.

Weight: 15 lbs. 9 oz.
R-value: 3.6
Thickness: 6″
Pros: Sleep system includes integrated sheets and blanket, comfortable, easy to inflate
Cons: Large packed size, heavy

5. Lightspeed Outdoors Queen-Size Air Mattress – Runner-Up Best Air Mattress for Camping

This is a great choice if you’re looking for a traditional, inflatable air mattress. The included battery-operated pump makes quick work of inflation, and the wide opening makes deflation just as easy. At 80 inches tall and 55 inches wide, it’s nearly the same size as a queen-size bed, making it a great choice for couples or family camping.

LIghtspeed Outdoors Queen Air Mattress for Camping

Instead of the standard PVC, this inflatable mattress is made from TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane). This makes it light, durable, and less prone to stretching. Plus, it’s free from the health concerns related to PVC and phthalates.

At 7 inches thick, it provides a good amount of cushion and is also conveniently higher off the ground, which is great for people with knee issues or mobility concerns. It’s not as stable with two people as the Exped MegaMat nor as warm as the NEMO Roamer. But for a good value in a comfortable air mattress, this is a strong option.

Weight: 5 lbs. 6 oz.
R-value: Unavailable
Thickness: 7″
Pros: Thick, PVC-free
Cons: Not insulated, long-term durability

6. Exped MegaMat Max 15 – Warmest Camping Sleeping Pad

If you can never get warm enough while camping, it’s time you tried the MegaMat Max 15. With an R-value of 10.6, it’s at the top of the heap for warmth. It will keep you toasty all summer long and happy in the winter.

Exped Megamat Max 15 - warmest sleeping pad

Vertical sidewalls create a flat sleeping surface, and we especially like that this pad can be soft inflated. Instead of having to choose between poorly inflated or a maxed-out, hard-as-a-rock bed, you can customize a perfectly comfortable sleep scenario.

And with 75-denier walls and bottom, this mat is plenty durable. The flat valves make fast work of inflation and deflation. The included mini-pump can be used to fine-tune the inflation level.

This mat doesn’t pack down super small, comes with a hefty price tag, and is heavy at 7 pounds 10 ounces, but it offers unrivaled warmth and comfort. If you camp regularly, hate being cold, and are looking for a durable camping pad, you should consider the MegaMat Max 15.

Weight: 7 lbs. 10 oz.
R-value: 10.6
Thickness: 6″
Pros: Extremely warm, thick, comfortable
Cons: Heavy, expensive

7. Coleman Self-Inflating Camping Pad with Pillow – Best Budget Sleeping Pad

For the casual camper, it’s hard to beat $35 for a camping sleeping pad and pillow. This number from Coleman isn’t the fanciest on the list, but if you only plan to sleep outside a few nights each year or want to test the camping waters without breaking the bank, this is a solid option.

Coleman Self-Inflating Camping Pad with Pillow

Expect to have to add a few breaths to the pad to top it off. And you’ll need to blow up the attached pillow to your desired firmness. At a little over 3 pounds, it’s not outrageously heavy or bulky for car camping. And at 76 inches long, it’s a good option for tall people.

But although the quality of the pad itself is acceptable, the attached straps are strangely fragile and prone to breaking off at the rivet. If you don’t particularly care about using the straps, this is a good budget pick.

Weight: 3 lbs. 4 oz.
R-value: Unavailable
Thickness: 2.5″
Pros: Affordable, good for tall campers
Cons: Long-term durability concerns, less comfortable than other mattresses

8. REI Camp Dreamer XL – Best of the Rest

Do you like a good memory foam mattress? Then let me introduce you to the Camp Dreamer. Four inches of air and engineered foam provide plenty of cushioning for a good night’s sleep. And with an R-value of 5.5, it will keep you warm on chilly summer nights.

REI Camp Dreamer XL Sleeping Pad

The horizontal core foam is designed to pack up easily and (as you can see in the above image) gives a bit of baffling to the mattress. We learned the hard way one night that these foam baffles make for a lumpy, uncomfortable bed if not fully inflated. But when topped off, it will rival any hotel bed.

We aren’t sold on the utility of the pillow that doubles as a pad pump, but we love the reversible high-flow valves. If you want something that rivals the comfort of the NEMO Roamer but clocks in a few dollars less, this is the pad for you.

Weight: 6 lbs. 6 oz.
R-value: 6.6
Thickness: 4″
Pros: Comfortable, reversible valves make inflating and deflating simple
Cons: Large packed size, not as warm as the MondoKing 3D

9. Therm-a-Rest MondoKing 3D

When you first lay down on this pad, you realize what you’ve been missing. There’s room to spread out, all the warmth you could need, and tons of foam padding. The vertical sidewalls enhance the sleeping space by 20%, which means you can roll around without falling off.

Therm-a-rest MondoKing Sleeping Pad

The dual valves make inflation a bit speedier than a single valve but not as easy as the Camp Dreamer or NEMO Roamer. At $210, it falls in between the two in price, matches them in comfort, and beats them in warmth. So you’ll have to decide which factor is most important to you. If you go with the MondoKing 3D, rest easy knowing you’ll be ultracozy all night long.

Weight: 5 lbs. 8 oz.
R-value: 8
Thickness: 4″
Pros: Warm, thick, comfortable
Cons: Not as easy to inflate initially as other comparable pads

10. Kelty Tru.Comfort

This is a comfortable sleeping pad, but we wanted more from it for the price. Let’s start with the good. At 4.75 inches thick, it provides plenty of cushioning and even keeps side sleepers off the ground all night long. The stuff sack doubles as an inflation bag, and it really worked. It’s a sturdy and basic air mattress.

Kelty TruComfort Camp Bed

But for the price, we wish there was more foam insulation. This would make it not only warmer but also more comfortable. Kelty makes some great gear (like one of our favorite budget tents), but for the price, we’d rather sleep on the REI Camp Bed or spend $60 more for the Camp Dreamer XL.

Weight: 4 lbs. 10 oz.
R-value: Unavailable
Thickness: 4.75″
Pros: Stuff sack works great as an inflation bag, thick
Cons: Not as warm or comfortable as other camping mattresses

Best Backpacking Sleeping Pads

The biggest concern with backpacking sleeping pads is finding the right balance between comfort and weight. And this balance depends largely on the individual. Ounce-counters may prefer the lightest pad possible, even if it means forgoing some comfort. But other backpackers may prefer to give up weight in other areas so they can happily carry a larger, more comfortable sleep pad.

There’s no right or wrong, but it’s worth knowing what matters most to you before continuing. We’ve broken the best backpacking sleeping pads into categories to help you find the right sleeping pad for you.

11. Sea to Summit Comfort Plus Insulated – Best Overall Backpacking Sleeping Pad

Our editors have been testing this sleeping pad since it came out in 2015, and as of 2020, it’s still going strong having never sprung a leak!

Sea to Summit Comfort Plus Backpacking Sleeping Pad

One of our favorite things about this is the double air chambers. We normally worry about popping lightweight sleeping pads and being left on the cold ground. But this has a built-in redundancy that saves us from stress. If one side pops (which it hasn’t in many, many camping trips), the other is still good.

These double chambers also allow you to create a custom firmness. You can inflate it by blowing, which is very easy to do and doesn’t take many breaths to fill. Or you can use the pump bag that comes integrated into the stuff sack. Either way, it’s fast and easy to fill this pad.

The pad is on the heavy side for backpacking, but we’re willing to carry a little extra weight when temps drop low at night. The redundancy alone is worth a few extra ounces, and the pad works great for car camping too.

It comes with a repair kit, and even though the 40-denier fabric isn’t the toughest possible, we’ve found it plenty strong on top of being warm, packable, and comfortable. All in all, it’s a great backpacking and car camping sleeping pad.

Weight: 1 lb. 11 oz.
R-value: 5
Thickness: 2.5″
Pros: Dual air chambers provide redundancy and allow for custom firmness, packs down small
Cons: Expensive, not as light as other pads

12. NEMO Cosmo 3D LW Insulated – Best for Side Sleepers

If you hate sleeping on thin pads or despise feeling winded after blowing up your sleeping pad, this is the pad for you.

First off, the integrated foot pump is efficient, effective, and fun to use. Instead of blowing it up, you simply open the valves and step on it until inflated. Then, close the valves and voila, you’re ready for bed. It didn’t need a refill during our test and was comfortable enough for side sleeping.

NEMO Cosmo3D Backpacking Sleeping Pad

This pad is a little heavy and large for the backpack, but it crosses well between car camping and backpacking.

The 75-denier fabric is laminated for extra strength. It felt durable enough that we laid directly on the ground without much concern. It’s great if you like a soft bed, but you’ll find it’s not completely silent. If you fill it up firm, though, it doesn’t make much noise.

It’s available in regular, long wide, and XL wide versions. It also comes in an uninsulated version that retails for about $20 less. But we wouldn’t recommend it unless you only camp in hot weather. Camp for any amount of time, and you’ll likely end up sleeping out on a night where temps dip into the 20s, in which case you’ll be grateful for the insulation.

Weight: 2 lbs. 9 oz.
Temperature rating: 15-25 degrees F
Thickness: 3.5″
Pros: Integrated foot pump makes inflation easy, thick, great for side sleepers
Cons: Heavier than other pads

13. Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Uberlite – Best Ultralight Backpacking Sleeping Pad

The most impressive thing about this pad is the weight — or lack thereof. It won’t weigh you down at just 8.8 ounces. And because it packs down to the size of a soda can, you’ll have more room in your pack for other gear and snacks.

Thermarest NeoAir Uberlite Sleeping Pad

But what really won us over is its comfort level. We were pleasantly surprised to find it felt great and wasn’t noisy.

As one tester noted, “It was just as comfortable as other air mattresses of the same thickness. I could sleep on my side at my preferred air pressure without shoulder or hip pain.

“I flipped sides while sleeping, and the UberLite was worlds quieter than the XLite, something tentmates and campsite neighbors will appreciate. (I’ve had neighboring campers get up and move in the middle of the night because of the crackling of my XLite.)”

New for 2020, Therm-a-Rest backpacking sleeping pads feature the WingLock Valve. The wings toggle for one-way inflation, making it far easier to blow up. It’s the same easy-to-use Therm-a-Rest valves we’ve reliably used for years, except greatly improved.

It’s also available in a large version, which retails for $225 and weighs in at 12 ounces.

Weight: 8.8 oz.
R-value: 2
Thickness: 2.5″
Pros: Extremely light, packs down to the size of a soda can
Cons: Not as warm as insulated pads

14. Big Agnes SLX Tent Floor – Best Double Backpacking Sleeping Pad

Backcountry snugglers rejoice! Here’s a double sleeping pad that is comfortable, packable, and light enough to take on the trail.

As our editor noted in the full review, “The pad isn’t super light at 2 pounds 6 ounces, but it’s insulated and plenty thick. To inflate the 3.5-inch-thick double pad, there’s an inflate valve that you blow into. With that alone, it would take some time and energy to fully inflate it.”

Big Agnes AXL Tent Floor Double Backpacking Sleeping Pad

“We opted for the extra Pumphouse Ultra bag that you connect to the inflate valve, blow a mouthful of air into, then roll the top and squeeze the full bag of air into the pad. The contraption is extremely handy, weighs next to nothing (2.9 ounces), and significantly speeds up the process of inflating the pad.”

Weight: 2 lbs. 10 oz.
R-value: Unavailable
Thickness: 3.5″
Pros: Backcountry snuggling, thick
Cons: Heavy, larger packed size

15. Exped Downmat XP 9 – Warmest Backpacking Sleeping Pad

If you love to camp all year round (even when the mercury drops) or just can’t get warm at night, this extra-warm sleeping pad is for you. The combination of 3.5 inches of air and 700-fill goose down makes this one of the warmest backpacking pads out there.

Exped DownMat Insulated Backpacking Sleeping Pad

At 1 pound 15 ounces, it’s not the lightest option, but it’s a reasonable weight in the pack for the warmth. You can inflate the pad by mouth, but that’s a rather slow process. Instead, we recommend you use the included Schnozzel Pump Bag, which also doubles as a dry sack.

If you only camp in warmer weather, it’s not worth the price or weight. But if you love winter backpacking, this pad can’t be beat.

Weight: 1 lb. 15 oz.
R-value: 8
Thickness: 3.5″
Pros: Warm, thick, comfortable
Cons: Not as light as other pads, unnecessarily warm for summer camping

16. Therm-a-Rest Z Lite Sol – Best Budget Pick

There’s a reason closed-cell foam pads are a cult classic. It’s light, it’s warm, and it’s virtually indestructible. No wonder you regularly see it listed among thru-hikers’ favorite pieces of gear.

z lite sol

The aluminized surface (the silver side) reflects heat back at your body and provides extra warmth at night. And the egg-carton pattern increases comfort and insulation.

Even if you don’t plan to use this as your sole sleeping pad, it’s a great addition to whatever else you choose. It provides unmatched durability and extra insulation needed for a good night’s rest.

Weight: 14 oz.
R-value: 2.6
Thickness: 0.75″
Pros: Indestructible, multifunctional, light
Cons: Not as comfortable as other sleeping pads

17. Therm-a-Rest Prolite Plus – Best of the Rest

New for 2020, Therm-a-Rest backpacking sleeping pads feature the WingLock Valve. The wings toggle for one-way inflation, making it far easier to blow up. It’s the same easy to use Therm-a-Rest valves we’ve reliably used for years, but greatly improved.

Therm-a-Rest Prolite Plus Sleeping Pad

This Therm-a-Rest sleeping pad is comfortable and warm without sacrificing much in the realm of price and packed size. Made from a mix of foam and air baffles, it offers an excellent warmth-to-weight ratio.

We gave it a couple of breaths to top it off and were immediately pleased with the comfort and insulation. It packs down smaller than a roll of paper towels and weighs a little over a pound. Depending on your sleep warmth, this could be a year-round sleeping pad with an R-value of 3.2, but most will prefer something more insulated in winter.

Weight: 1 lb. 7 oz.
R-value: 3.2
Thickness: 1.5″
Pros: Warm, comfortable
Cons: Not as light as some pads

18. Sea to Summit Ether Light XT Insulated

This insulated sleeping pad packs down small and has some extra features that make it stand out.

First off, we liked the integrated pump bag that’s built into the stuff sack (called the Airstream pump). Basically, you just lightly blow into the bag and then squeeze the air into the pad. It seems weird at first, but it’s much less energy-intensive than directly blowing up the pad.

Sea to Summit Ehter Light XT

This pad also has “pillow lock” that helps certain Sea to Summit pillows stay in place. Its sticky felt that grabs onto the pillow to keep it from moving around while you sleep. If you already have an Aeros Pillow, this could be great. If not, it might not do you any good.

These features aside, this pad provides extra insulation for cold nights and is light enough to easily take backpacking. It’s not the cheapest out there, but this is an excellent choice if extra insulation and less weight are important to you.

Weight: 15 oz.
R-value: 3.8
Thickness: 4″
Pros: Warm, light, packs small
Cons: Expensive

How to Choose a Sleeping Pad: A Buyer’s Guide

Before reading our buyer’s guide, take a few moments to think about how you plan to camp and sleep.

Will you be driving up to a camp spot, hiking a mile or so in, or heading out on a weeklong backpacking trip? Do you sleep on your back, side, or stomach? Is extra cushioning important, or do you care more about saving on weight?

Understanding your sleep preferences will help determine the best pad. Read on for the most important factors in choosing a camping pad.

Weight & Packed Size

If you’re mainly car camping, you can maximize comfort by going with a more padded, inflatable option like the NEMO Roamer or a deluxe air mattress like the REI Kingdom Sleep System. The trade-off is that these don’t pack down as small and are too heavy for backpacking.

If you plan to hike into the backcountry, a pad that packs down small and weighs less is ideal. Just how small and light you want to go is up to you. The Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Uberlite packs down to the size of a soda can and weighs just 8.8 ounces. A pad like the NEMO Cosmo 3D weighs in at 2 pounds but offers extra thickness and cushioning for side sleepers.


In general, the thicker the pad the more comfortable it is. Additionally, having a bit of foam or extra insulation increases the comfort factor and decreases the noise (see below).

If you’re a side sleeper, you understand the need for plenty of cushioning under your hips and shoulders. For a better night’s sleep, you would do well to get a thicker sleeping pad. Something like the NEMO Cosmo 3D or Exped MegaMat will keep you comfy all night long.

Durability & Denier

Denier is a unit of measure used to describe textile strength. The higher the denier, the thicker and stronger the fabric. For a sleeping pad, this is mainly important for puncture resistance.

On one end, the ultralight Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Uberlite is made with 15-denier nylon. On the other, the NEMO Roamer is made with 75-denier polyester. There’s often a trade-off between durability and weight.


We love a good value. But even more than that, we appreciate gear that performs well and lasts through several seasons of use. If you only plan to sleep outside a weekend or two a year, a cheaper pad may get the job done just fine. But if camping is a regular occurrence, it’s worth investing more in a pad.

This is the foundation of your sleep, and getting enough rest at night will make spending all day outside that much more enjoyable. In general, forking over a few extra bucks will get you some combination of increased comfort, durability, and warmth.

Warmth & R-Value

In addition to comfortable cushioning, a good camping pad should provide some insulation from the ground. The higher the R-value, the more insulating and warmer the sleeping pad will be.

The MegaMat Max 15 clocks in with a whopping 10.6 R-value, making it cozy for year-round car camping. For backpacking, the Exped Downmat has an R-value of 8 while still weighing a reasonable 1 pound 15 ounces.

The R-value you need depends a bit on if you tend to be a warm or cool sleeper. In general, you’ll want a sleeping pad with a value greater than 5 for comfortable winter camping. For summer, something in the 2 to 4 range should work for warmer nights.

If waking up with a cold back is a common complaint, consider choosing a warmer sleeping pad or add a foam pad like the Z Lite under your normal pad for additional insulation.

Length & Width

Most camping sleeping pads come in regular and long versions. And some also come in short, wide, and extra-long varieties. The length and width you need depend not only on your dimensions but also on your camping goals.

We know tall thru-hikers who happily cut their Z Lite pad in half to shave a few ounces off their pack weight. And we know some tiny testers who prefer a wide sleeping pad because they like the ability to roll around in their sleep.

The main thing to remember is that an increase in length and width almost always corresponds to an increase in price and packed size.

Valves & Inflation

Up until recent years, almost all sleeping pads utilized a twisting plastic valve. Turn one direction to open it for inflation, and (quickly!) turn the other to close and trap air inside.

While this works, it’s not the easiest to inflate. Because air can freely move back and forth, you need to either create constant pressure while blowing up or skillfully use your tongue to stop air from exiting the pad while inhaling. It can be done, but we prefer the new inflation technology when tired on the trail.

Luckily, many pads now use flat valves with dedicated inflation and deflation settings. Best of all, a flap keeps air from escaping during inflation. While many pads feature separate valves for inflation and deflation, the REI Camp Bed Dreamer XL has a valve that flips from one mode to the next. This makes achieving the perfect firmness a cinch.

In addition to valves, many pads now come with inflation bags. The Sea to Summit Ether Light XT comes with an inflation bag integrated into the stuff sack, as does the Kelty Tru. Comfort Camp Bed. The Big Agnes Pumphouse Ultra is sold separately and works as both a dry bag and an inflation bag.


The most common complaint about lightweight backpacking sleeping pads is the loud, crinkly noise. While packing less is great, sleeping on a pad as noisy as a potato chip bag is less than ideal. And having your tentmate toss and turn all night is even worse.

Luckily, brands are taking note and making quieter sleeping pads. We were impressed with the Therm-a-Rest ProLite Plus Pad‘s ability to combine warmth, packability, and quietness.


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