10 Best Camping Pads | March 2017

We spent 30 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top choices for this wiki. Whether you need your rest so you are ready for a hike or to ensure you don’t snap at everyone around you, you’re going to want a camping pad for getting the best night’s sleep possible when in the great outdoors. The models on this list vary in style, from self-inflating to foam, and in R-value, which indicates suitability for cold weather (the higher the rating, the more insulating the pad). Skip to the best camping pad on Amazon.
10 Best Camping Pads | March 2017

Overall Rank: 3
Best Mid-Range
Overall Rank: 6
Best High-End
Overall Rank: 9
Best Inexpensive
If you won’t be camping alone, you might need the KingCamp Deluxe Double for you and your partner (or pet). Although it’s heavy, at just over 11 pounds, it’s sturdy and comfortable enough for both tent and RV use. It includes double valves to make self-inflation quicker.
Unless you’re an ascetic, you’re probably not going to rate the Therm-a-Rest RidgeRest Classic as luxurious. However, if you’re under big budget constraints and don’t really want to sleep on the cold, hard ground, this could be just the right choice.
The Big Agnes Air Core Ultra features an I-beam construction, so this inflatable can provide consistent stability without any bulk. For longevity, it’s subjected to an interior antimicrobial treatment, which keeps microorganisms at bay.
The OutdoorsmanLab Ultralight compresses to smaller than the size of a travel umbrella, yet it’s still comfortable thanks to isolated air channels that limit annoying unevenness. With its large air valve, it inflates in about 10 to 15 breaths and deflates quickly, too.
  • less expensive than comparable items
  • comes with patch kit
  • low r-value so not for extreme cold
Brand OutdoorsmanLab
Model pending
Weight 9.6 ounces
Low-bulk materials and reflective ThermaCapture technology make the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite the choice of three-season backpackers who need to save room but also stay warm. The outer fabric is soft, too, so you won’t have to contort to keep your skin away from it.
  • packs smaller than a liter bottle
  • tapered design saves floor space
  • tends to be noisy when moving on it
Brand Therm-a-Rest
Model 06073
Weight 16 ounces
With an R-value of between 3 and 4 as well as a 1.5-inch thickness, the TNH Outdoors Self-Inflating will help you get the slumber you need on uneven or wintry ground. It’s wide at the shoulder and narrow toward the feet, saving you room but keeping you snug.
  • fits in its stuff-sack easily
  • environmentally conscious company
  • durable outer shell
Brand TNH Outdoors
Model pending
Weight 2.2 pounds
Lateral baffles help all iterations of the Nemo Astro Air provide a no-curl sleeping experience, while the large pillow baffle keeps your head raised and comfy the whole night through. Inflate less if you'd like a squishier surface, more for a firmer one.
  • regular and long options
  • insulated version available
  • some find it too bouncy
Brand Nemo
Model pending
Weight 2 pounds
The Klymit Static V Luxe is ergonomically designed to distribute your body weight for maximum support, regardless of whether you snooze on your side, back, or stomach. And even though this is a luxury model, it still stows compactly and weighs only 26.5 ounces.
  • abrasion-resistant material
  • inflates in about 25 breaths
  • side rails keep you centered
Brand Klymit
Model Klymit
Weight 1.8 pounds
The Therm-a-Rest ProLite Plus is the ideal choice for cold weather sleeping, whether you are camping for one night or spending days in the wild. Its unique, diagonal-cut interior pattern provides efficient insulation, while its Atmos foam makes it ultra-compact.
  • appropriate for four-season use
  • small size works well for children
  • trusted brand in mattresses
Brand Therm-A-Rest
Model 06089
Weight 1.4 pounds
Cold weather, hard surfaces, annoyingly bumpy ground — the Lightspeed Outdoors XL Super Plush FlexForm is designed to take it all on. It’s got an R-value of 9.66 and a thickness of 3 inches, making it great for outdoor excursions or overnight guests.
  • nonslip and quiet materials
  • dual oversized air valves
  • compression straps included
Brand Lightspeed Outdoors
Model pending
Weight 7.9 pounds

The Camper and the Pea

Remember The Princess and the Pea? It's that old story about a young princess who's found outside the city during a rainstorm, and is tricked into supporting her claim to royalty by having to sleep on a stack of mattresses with a pea underneath them.

It's a biting commentary about class and sensitivity, and it ought to insult over-sensitive campers to be associated with it.

Pads for sleeping in the open elements have evolved swiftly in the past half century or so, as advancements in materials have increased tensile strength and decreased both size and weight of available mats.

We've certainly come a long way since the 77,000 year old sleeping mats they found in South Africa a few years ago. These were basically the branches of different evergreens laid on the floor of the cave that acted as a kind of mosquito repellent, among other things. Don't let the bedbugs bite, right?

At first glance, it may seem like the purpose of these modern camping pads is to increase the sleeper's comfort against hard surfaces, from the rockiest natural ground to the hardest sheet of ice to the smallest of peas. In truth, sleeping comfort is an oft-cited criticism of a variety of these products, but their reason d'etre is more thermal regulation than imperial comfort.

That said, some of the options above imply that the regulation of a camper's spinal alignment and next-day soreness are becoming as important in the marketplace as not dying of hypothermia.

I guess the reality is that if you're camping in comfortable areas, or even RVing, it isn't likely that you're putting yourself in a position to freeze. So, sure, other comforts might come into question.

This, That, or the Other?

There are certainly as many types of sleeping pads as there are types of campers, and choosing what's right for you will require that you ask yourself some questions.

How do you sleep? Are you a light sleeper, awoken by the subtlest change in temperature or softness beneath you? Maybe you need something rated for superior thermal control, something thicker and cushier.

How much ground are you covering? Planning to hike 30 miles today? You're probably going to want to prioritize packing size and weight over comfort. Let's face it: at the end of a day like that, you'll be able to sleep comfortably standing up, hanging upside down, or even underwater!

Where are you? Headed to Mt. Doom? Or are you RVing to the park down the street? If you know you're going to have ready access to civilization, and your camping style is more for the backyard than the badlands, you might be able to get away with spending a little less on your setup.

A Few Words About R-Rating

No, I'm not invoking the Motion Picture Association of America here. I don't think there's a sleeping pad on the market that's recommended for campers 17 years of age or older unless accompanied by a parent or guardian. I'm talking about insulation, that sweet, fiberglass cotton candy that some of us were shocked to discover as children was neither sweet nor cotton candy, but definitely fiberglass.

The R-rating, or R-value, is a way to measure the effectiveness of a material's insulating properties. That's how well it maintains the temperature difference on either side of the material.

Imagine you're all comfy and cozy in your sleeping bag, with all that body heat melting away the frost from your bones, when–all of a sudden–every bit of that heat dissipates into the cold ground. You see, that old second law in thermodynamics can make cold weather camping all kinds of crummy, as the energy from the hotter areas (a.k.a. where you're desperately trying to sleep) transfers toward the colder areas (a.k.a. all that ridiculous nature out there).

This is where insulation comes in, and the manufacturers of camping pads are always competing for advantages in R-value.

Now, some manufacturers might not be too keen on letting you know what their R-rating is, especially if it doesn't measure up to the competition. Thankfully, that information has been consolidated here, so you don't have to go hunting.

Of course, if you're a camper who only seeks the wild during the more comfortable months of the year, you're probably going to be more concerned with size, weight, and comfort than insulation, but it's good information to have if it tips the scales toward one pad or another.

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Last updated: 03/28/2017 | Authorship Information