I have friends that tell me, “I’d love to go camping but I hate sleeping on the ground.” If you feel the same, don’t worry. Sleeping outside doesn’t have to be uncomfortable. The single best way to ensure a good nights rest is to pack the best sleeping pad you can.
You might go into an outdoor shop expecting something like this to be a simple buying choice. But there’s actually a fairly wide range of options. For example, what type of sleeping pad do you want – foam, air, or self-inflating? Do you need it an insulated and non-insulated pad? Is weight a concern for you?
Weight vs. Comfort
These days, the weight of individual pieces of gear is an important factor in all buying decisions. Weigh the cost-benefit carefully though and consider how long you’ll be out during your average trip. Most of the pads featured in this buyers guide are reasonably light. However, there are a few beasts for ultra-comfort. If you’re not backpacking long-distances, or if you have a back injury, carrying one of the heavier sleeping pads for the added comfort may be a worthwhile trade-off. I can generally make myself comfortable anywhere, so the Therm-a-Rest RidgeRest SOLite Sleeping Pad is sufficient for all my backpacking and camping adventures.
Self-Inflating or Not?
For short or mid-distance backpacking trips, an inflatable or self-inflating sleeping pad could work perfectly. Air pads require you to inflate them, which means you need to huff and puff and blow them up. After a long day on the trail many people would rather not hyperventilate inflating their pad, hence the popularity of self-inflating pads. Both of types of air pads provide more comfort (generally speaking) than a foam pad. Unfortunately, they’re also prone to punctures and leaks.
If you’re doing long-distance trails, like a major thru-hike, it might be a better idea to go with a foam pad like the RidgeRest because you don’t have to worry about it springing a leak and becoming dead weight. But again, it comes down to personal preference and comfort issues. Personally, I’d rather not deal with the possibility of an air leak regardless of the distance I’m traveling.
Things to Consider
- What size do I need?
- Does weight matter?
- How many nights will I use it?
- Do I need an insulated pad?
- What’s my budget?
Sleeping Pad Guide
Prices: $ = Under $50, $$ = Over $50
|Therm-a-Rest RidgeRest SOLite||20" x 77" x 0.625" (Large)||19 (Large)||$|
|ALPS Mountaineering Comfort Series Air Pad||30" x 77" x 4"||128||$$|
|Fox Outfitters Lightweight Series Self-Inflating Pad||25" x 77" x 1.5" (Long)||N/A||$|
|Big Agnes Air Core Mummy Pad||20" x 78" x 2.5" (Long)||22||$$|
|Therm-a-Rest ProLite Plus||25" x 77" x 1.5" (Long)||30||$$|
|Klymit Inertia XL||25" x 78" x 1.5"||16.8||$$|
|Big Agnes Q-Core SL Insulated Pad||25" x 78" x 3.5"||17||$$|
|ALPS Mountaineering Ultra-Light Series||20" x 72" x 1.5"||24||$$|
|Nemo Equipment Cosmo Air||25" x 76" x 4"||29||$$|
|Therm-a-Rest LuxuryMap Mattress||25" x 77" x 3"||55||$$|
I hope you’ve found something useful. If you have any questions please leave a comment and I’ll do my best to help you.