Making sure that you have enough sleep while camping can be a complicated ordeal. Thick and soft sleeping pads are ideal for a great night’s sleep. However, these are too heavy and bulky, especially for solo campers.
Fortunately, numerous sleeping gears in the market are specially created for outdoor activities. Folding mats and pads come in different varieties, price tags, and functionalities. The most common ones are inflatable pads and closed-cell mats.
Choosing the best sleeping gear for your next trip can take a long time due to a wide range of options available. Worry not! We have tested different gears to give you the best folding sleeping pads and mats. Also, do not miss out on our quick buying guide.
Best Closed-Cell Sleeping Mats
First, let’s explore the most popular options for lightweight sleeping gears. Closed-cell foams are typically used in folding sleep mats or rolling sleeping pads. These are perfect for solo hikers who do not want to carry extra weight in their packs.
Here are our top picks for the closed-cell sleeping mats:
|NEMO Switchback||Folding||14.5 oz. (0.411 kg)||20" x 5.5" x 5" (50.8 x 13.97 x 12.7 cm)||$$||4.5||Shop at Amazon|
|Therm-A-Rest Z Lite Sol||Folding||14 oz. (0.397 kg)||20" x 5.5" x 5" (50.8 x 13.97 x 12.7 cm)||$$||4.5||Shop at Amazon|
|Big Agnes Third Degree||Rolling||12 oz. (0.340 kg)||6" x 20" (15.24 x 50.8 cm)||$$||4.5||Shop at Amazon|
|Therm-a-Rest RidgeRest SOLite||Rolling||14 oz. (0.397 kg)||8" x 20" (20.32 x 50.8 cm)||$$||4||Shop at Amazon|
|Redcamp Foam Sleeping Pad||Folding||12.8 oz. (0.363 kg)||22” x 5” x 5.5" (55.88 x 13.97 x 12.7 cm)||$||4||Shop at Amazon|
Now, let’s have a look at them individually:
Nemo Equipment is known for its innovative tent designed. And, they developed the NEMO Switchback using the same technology and standards. The sleeping pad aims to provide comfort and protection while camping.
The sleeping mattress is about 0.9-inch thick. It is made of Axiotomic Dual-Density foam that provides the perfect balance of packability and plushness. It is one of the thickest options on this list, which ensures protection from the ground.
It uses a metalized thermal film layer that reflects the heat back to you. The Switchback performs well down to 20 degrees Fahrenheit (around -6.6 degrees Celsius). The tall nodes provide more insulation and trap more heat effectively.
At only 14.5 oz. (411.1 grams), it is perfect for anyone who budgets the total weight of their backpack. It is also easy to fit into a tight space, which allows more room for other camping gears. Its Short model is even lighter at only 10.5 oz. (297.7 grams).
The Therm-A-Rest Z Lite Sol is a popular sleeping mattress, especially for those looking for a no-frills option. Additionally, it is quite affordable, which makes it a great option. Its pack size and weight is a great addition to any camping kit.
It can be easily added to backpacks with its accordion-style design. In fact, many experienced hikers use it as back panel support in ultralight backpacks. With only 14 oz. (0.397 kg) in weight, it is a perfect companion, especially on long treks.
Additionally, it is one of the most versatile and durable pads out there. The foam does deteriorate over time. However, the overall construction of the mattress ensures that you can still use it even with tears. That means you won’t be left sleepless in case of rips or similar damages.
The foam pad is only about a quarter of an inch thick. It is made of industry-standard foam material. However, it is not thick enough to protect your body’s pressure points from debris on the ground.
The Big Agnes Third Degree takes a slightly different approach in providing warmth and comfort during hiking trips. Ideally, it is one of the lightest mats in the market. But, do not underestimate its ability to provide protection and warmth.
Instead of adapting the accordion folding style, it rolls up into a compact roll. It can be carried on the bottom or top of the pack without catching branches that can damage the product. Additionally, it will fit well inside a pack cover.
It is made of two layers of durable foam. The top layer has die-cut sections that trap heat in. On the other hand, the bottom layer has a cushioned tread pattern, which keeps the mat from moving while you’re sleeping. It also provides extra comfort, especially when the ground is rough.
Big Agnes notes its R-Value at 1.5 which means it can be used on its own during warm and mild weather conditions. It was surprisingly useful in colder temperatures down to 20 degrees Fahrenheit (-6.6 degrees Celsius). It is an excellent go-to sleeping mat that can handle freezing conditions.
If you value durability, versatility, and price above all else, then the Therm-a-Rest RidgeRest SOLite is perfect for you. The sleeping pad is a popular choice among outdoor enthusiasts, especially during their month-long trips and thru-hikes. While not the most comfortable product around, it is a great supplementary sleeping gear along with an inflatable mattress.
At only 0.6 inches, it is not the best stand-alone sleeping gear. However, it does a decent job at protecting you from the bare ground when you need a quick nap. You can get a decent sleep on it if your campground is relatively free from debris.
What it lacks in comfort, it makes up on versatility and durability. You can use it when spending a night in your car or on a bench. Also, it can be used on a hammock for a better sleeping experience. Other campers even use it as a lining inside their backpack.
It has an R-Value of 2.8, which means it works well for three seasons. But, experienced hikers combine this mat with an inflatable pad for their winter trips. It provides significant warmth while protecting the mattress from damages.
The Redcamp Foam Sleeping Pad is an excellent product for casual hikers. It is great for weekenders and casual camping trips. Additionally, it is one of the most affordable options in the market.
It is a folding mattress that you can easily strap to your backpack. It only weighs 12.8 oz. (0.363 kg) and packs down to 22” x 5” x 5.5″ (55.88 x 13.97 x 12.7 cm) size. Furthermore, it can also be used as a lining in ultra-lightweight backpacks.
The sleeping pad features an egg-shaped design that traps heat when it’s cold outside. Its reflective surface also allows you to keep warm for a long time. It is made of IXPE foam, which makes it durable and strong.
Best Inflatable Sleeping Pads
For ultimate outdoor comfort, you can not go wrong with an inflatable sleeping mattress. Manufacturers continue to develop clever designs and technology that bring the overall weight and pack size of these camping gears. They are also getting better at keeping campers warm.
Here are our picks for the top sleeping pads:
|NEMO Tensor Insulated Sleeping Pad||3.5||15 oz. (0.43 kg)||around 8” x 3” (20 x 7.6 cm)||$$$||4.5||Shop at Amazon|
|Sea to Summit Ether Light XT||3.2||1 lb. 1.3 oz.(0.49 kg)||4.5” x 9.5” (11 x 24 cm||$$$||4.5||Shop at Amazon|
|Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite||4.2||12 oz. (0.34 kg)||9” x 3.5” (23 x 9 cm)||$$$$||4.5||Shop at Amazon|
|Exped DownMat XP 9||7.8||1 lb. 15.6 oz (0.9 kg)||11” x 6” (27 x 16 cm)||$$$$||4||Shop at Amazon|
|Big Agnes Insulated SLX||3.2||2 lbs. 11 oz. (1.22 kg)||6” x 11” (16 x 4.3 cm)||$$$$||4||Shop at Amazon|
The NEMO Tensor Insulated Sleeping Pad comes in different sizes and shapes. It is available in mummy, wide, and regular variants. Additionally, it comes in different lengths and widths from Short, about 48″ x 20″ (122 x 51 cm), to Long Wide (76″ x 25″ (193 x 64 cm). That means you can have the right-sized sleeping mattress whether you are a short or tall individual.
It comes with the Vortex pump sack, which is considered one of the best in the market. It saves you from huffing and puffing while inflating the bed. Additionally, it minimizes moisture inside the pad.
Furthermore, it provides up to three inches (7.62 cm) of the cushioned loft. The Spaceframe baffles will also support your body weight and offer excellent stability. That means it can handle the pressure points of the body for better sleep.
Surprisingly, it is a quiet sleeping pad and does not exhibit the crinkly noise that other similar products have. It reduces the noise through its suspended film construction. The premium 20D fabrics also provide a luxurious feel.
Side sleepers often have trouble sleeping outdoors as many pads and mats are not exactly designed for them. Fortunately, the Sea to Summit Ether Light XT provides support and comfort with its 4-inch thick loft.
It uses a unique Air Sprung Cells technology that allows the mattress to behave like a spring bed. Each chamber supports body weight independently. That means it conforms to the body shaped regardless of the sleeping position.
The mattress also combines THERMOLITE insulation, Exkin Platinum, and 30/40D Nylon fabric to create a relatively thick mat without the extra weight. It reflects the heat back to the body to ensure a comfortable sleep even during cold conditions. Additionally, the nylon fabric grips the ground and your body well.
It also comes with a multi-function valve, which prevents air from escaping while inflating the bed. Additionally, it is equipped with a rapid air dump deflate port for easy packing. The fine-tune button comes in handy as well.
The Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite is a true all-rounder that you can use in three seasons. It is lightweight, compact, and versatile. However, you should be ready to shell out a bit more to enjoy these features.
Its tapered design and advanced fabrics provide comfort without the weight. At only 12 oz. (0.34 kg), it is the lightest inflatable sleeping mattress in this list. That is why it is a favorite among solo adventurers.
The camping bed provides about 2.5 inches (6.4 cm) of thickness, which is more than adequate. The internal structure is baffled to provide excellent support and stability. The combination of these features alone provides comfortable sleep outdoors.
Aside from the Tensor, it is one of the most packable products of its kind in this article as well. Surprisingly, it is even lighter than the Tensor. It is easy to fit into any backpack as well.
The innovative Triangular Core Matrix provides a great warmth-to-weight ratio. It clocks in at 4.2 R-Value, which means it is a great sleeping gear to take anywhere, anytime. Coupled with a robust sleeping mat, it can be a nice winter trip companion, too.
If you love hiking throughout the year and do not want to have separate sleeping mattresses for different conditions, then check out the Exped DownMat XP 9. It has the best R-Value on this list. Combined with innovative features, it is a sleeping gear that can last even the roughest conditions.
With a 7.8 R-Value, it is evident that the product can withstand extremely cold conditions. The company indicates that it can handle temperatures down to -36.4 degrees Fahrenheit (-38 degrees Celsius). That means you can take it with you if you are planning on camping up on the mountain during winter.
It is made of 700-fill goose down, which protects your body from the freezing ground. Also, it is about 3.5 inches (8.89 cm) thick and quite comfortable.
Furthermore, it comes with a waterproof stuff sack that doubles as a compression bag and pump. Note that you cannot manually inflate the bed as the moisture from your breath will damage the down fill.
A double sleeping mat is great for casual adventurers who love hiking with friends. If you are in the market for one, then consider the Big Agnes Insulated SLX Tent Floor. It provides excellent comfort for two campers with its durable design.
The “Tent Floor” in the name should give you a clue about its size. It is designed to fill out the floor space of most tents. At about 50 inches (127 cm) in the head area, it is excellent even for a couple with a child.
It also has thicker outer chambers at about 4.25 inches (10.8 cm) and 3.5 inches (8.89 cm) for the inner chamber. This clever design ensures that you and your companion are cradled comfortably within the mattress.
Consider These When Buying a Folding Sleeping Pad or Mat
Sleeping gears come in many types and sizes. As such, it can be overwhelming to choose the right one. It is especially daunting if you are on a budget and looking for the perfect sleeping solution. With new innovations and technology, it is now possible to have a great sleep even when you are outdoors.
Types of Sleeping Pads
Even with countless products available, they often fall into these categories:
- Inflatable Pads or Air Pads – Just as the name suggests, these are usually hollow and require air to be inflated. Most new models of air pads contain insulation. It is also common to find them made of reflective materials that help increase heat. Additionally, they have different ways to inflate, from basic ones that use your breath to automotive ones with pumps.
- Closed-Cell Mats or Foam Mats – These are the most basic sleeping gear for hiking and camping. These are often made of dense foam with tiny pockets of air within. Most models can be rolled or folded for better packing.
- Self-Inflating Pads – While not as popular as the first two, it also provides comfort and protection when you are outdoors. It combines air and insulation using open-cell foam. The foam expands and sucks in the air when the valve is opened. However, this type of sleeping mattress is often more expensive and heavier than the first two.
Foam Mats vs. Air Pads
Among the two most popular products, which one is right for your needs? Foam mats or air pads?
Foam mats are known to be lightweight, durable, and affordable. Additionally, you do not need to worry about tears and holes. Some are even usable, even with minor damages. As such, these can be carried outside your backpack.
However, they are not comfortable due to the limited thickness. Furthermore, some are firm and stiff, which are not suitable for rough conditions when used by themselves. Some are also quite bulky.
On the other hand, the air pads are more comfortable. These are also lightweight and can be packed into a more compact form. Additionally, the firmness of most mattresses can be adjusted through the valve. They also come in different R-Values.
But, inflatable pads tend to be more expensive. The prices go up the more compact and lighter they are. While most air pads can withstand various conditions, a small rip or puncture will significantly reduce its comfort. If you do not have a repair kit with you might be in for a rough night.
Speaking of R-Value, one consideration that you need to take note of is the pad’s performance at various temperatures. Most include insulation materials, but not all sleeping gears are suitable for all weather conditions.
The R-Value indicates its ability to resist heat flow. Higher R-Value indicates better insulation against cold surfaces. For example, a sleeping mat that’s 2.0 is only suitable for warm and mild weather. On the other hand, a sleeping pad that’s around 6 in R-Value can withstand near-freezing conditions.
Usage and Condition of Location
Aside from budget, your intended use will be the ultimate deciding point of your purchase. Here are some situations and potential sleeping solutions that you might consider:
- Backpacking – Air pads are great for this type of adventure as they can be lightweight and quite comfortable. They are available in different varieties of durability, insulation, and thickness as well. That means you have a wide range of options depending on your specific situation.
- Thru-Hiking – Closed-cell mats are perfect for this kind of outdoor expedition. You will need a durable product that can withstand rough conditions. Additionally, these can be strapped to your backpack, which saves space inside. Or, they can be used as lining instead.
- Car Camping – This allows you to be a bit lenient on weight as you have a car with you. Choose an air pad that provides the best comfort. Self-inflating pads are also viable if you have the budget.
- Winter camping – For extremely cold temperatures, it is best that you have an air pad and a foam mat. The combination of the R-Value of these two ensures that you will not be freezing at night. Additionally, the durability of the foam mat will protect your air pad from punctures.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do you really need a sleeping mat or pad?
A sleeping mat or sleeping mat is necessary to protect yourself from debris and ground temperature. These also provide cushioning for a comfortable sleep. Ideally, you should use an inflatable mattress and closed-cell pad for better sleep.
What is the best sleeping pad for a side sleeper?
Thick sleeping gears, like an air pad, are best for side sleepers. These provide enough cushion to conform to the contour of the body in different positions. Also, take note that different thickness provides different comfort levels.
How to choose a sleeping pad?
Choosing a sleeping pad depends on your budget, weather condition, sleeping system, and desired features. Solo hikers prefer lighter sleeping products. On the other hand, casual outdoor enthusiasts can go for all-rounders that are slightly heavy with decent R-Value.
What is a closed-cell sleeping pad?
A closed-cell sleeping pad is usually made of durable, high-density foam. It is the most basic style of sleeping gear. Most models usually come in metallic, reflective layers that provide extra heat.
How to use an air pad and a foam mat together?
A foam mat can be used underneath an aid pad for an excellent outdoor sleeping experience. The air pad provides extra comfort with its plushness. On top of that, the foam mat protects the air pad from debris on the ground. The combination of the two improves the insulation of the sleeping system as well.
Sleeping outdoors need not be a rough experience. New types of gears are readily available to make each night a pleasant one, even during cold weather. As such, a closed-cell mat or an inflatable bed is now a necessity. Better yet, a combination of the two.
We think the NEMO Switchback is a great option for a foam pad. It is made of Axiotomic Dual-Density foam, which provides enough comfort even when used on its own. Additionally, it is durable and light enough for solo backpackers.
On the other hand, our pick for the best air pad is another Nemo product, the Tensor Insulated Sleeping Pad. It has the most varieties of shapes and sizes. Additionally, it packs down to a small size without sacrificing the comfort it provides.