They provide very little warmth compared with camping-specific pads. Therm-a-Rest has been making self-inflating pads since it invented the category in the early 1970s, and it’s indisputably the Kleenex of sleeping-pad companies. Testers found themselves sliding off the pad when in a sleeping bag, especially when camped on a hill. Sleeping … (A higher R-value generally means more weight, so backpackers are usually looking for the lowest acceptable rating.) Nearly a dozen of our testers were side sleepers, and we found that they preferred the thickest mats, which didn’t “bottom out” when a body’s full weight hit the two points along the hip and shoulder. The 30-denier ripstop nylon material on the top of the pad creates a grippy surface that excels at keeping sleeping bags in place instead of becoming what one tester, describing the rival Nemo-brand pad, called “a slick Slip’N Slide.” Our testers found that the pad felt stable and even throughout the night. Most of the pads we tested come in multiple sizes, and some come in mummy shapes as well as the classic rectangular cut. We tested this 2½-inch-thick inflatable pad side by side with its closest competitors in deserts, on mountains, and in snow, and we found that no other pad can beat its balance of weight, warmth, and comfort. When deflated, it packs down to just 3 x 6 inches, becoming the ideal piece of equipment for those trying to save precious backpack space and weight on a multiday-hike. Granite, for instance, will pull heat from your body faster than snow. Short pads (usually 47 – 48 inches in length) have a smaller packing size and weigh less, but only fit 3/4 of your body, leaving your legs exposed. Side sleepers especially might appreciate the extra width to stretch out. If you buy the Z Lite Sol for a child or as a newbie camper and later decide to upgrade, this pad becomes a valuable backup for cold-weather camping: Simply layer it under your newer, plusher pad to up your R-value. A minimalist sleeping pad design in which all material in excess is removed to leave only a basic frame that provides support at key pressure points. Big Agnes Third Degree. Yes, her tent has often been populated by rambunctious toddlers delighted by their newfound ability to jump. Still, you can take some measures to protect your gear. With this system, an accidental twisting of the valve does not cause the pad to deflate. No … But they are also susceptible to punctures and thus require extra care to ensure their longevity. This is a comparison of foam vs. air sleeping pads or mattresses for backpacking, camping, and sleeping outside on the ground. Then take care to treat the pad well. There are generally two types of sleeping pads: closed-cell foam sleeping pads, which are thinner and more utilitarian in nature, and inflatable sleeping pads… ( Photo: Nemo) Wes Siler The inflation process takes about 10 minutes. They’re bulky. *At the time of publishing, the price was $175. A lightweight 1-pound nylon fabric sleeping pad that provides 2 inches of thick padded support. Therm-a-Rest Z Lite Sol Foam Pad. Some further considerations: While car campers are more likely than backpackers to compare their sleeping pad with their mattress at home, backpackers have the advantage of exhaustion: After miles on the trail, they may be so tired that they have a higher tolerance for cold and discomfort than the average person. Regular cleaning can prevent dirt and dust particles from slowly abrading your pad’s fabric. Even though the Z Lite Sol is relatively thin, its solid foam is an effective insulator that delivers an R-value of 2.6. Stansport Pack-Lite: Sleeping on this thin, firm strip of foam is better than sleeping directly on the ground. When possible, avoid storing your sleeping pad in a hot car or hot tent during the day, as high temperatures can slowly melt away laminates. We chose those competing pads based on 10 hours of online research and examination of the specs and materials of each pad. Do you need a sleeping pad at all? After using 34 sleeping bags in the Western wild, we think the REI Co-op Siesta 30 is the best for basic camping—and we have backpacking and couples’ picks too. R-Value: 1.0. “Go lay down on a concrete floor, or even a wood floor, and then go lay on a carpet,” Skurka suggested. Big Agnes Insulated Air Core: This vertical-baffle air-construction pad felt thick and comfortable, though our testers preferred a self-inflating pad in situations when the packed size and weight were not important. We took nine popular car-camping pads on two group camping trips and determined that the self-inflating Therm-a-Rest LuxuryMap was the best of the bunch. A tent footprint, a groundsheet, and/or a tent with a bathtub floor will help protect your pad. If you sleep on your stomach, it is about 50%.” (Nisley’s estimates are based on his own laboratory testing and calculations, as well as on a scientific paper presented in 2001 at the Fourth International Meeting on Thermal Manikins.) All four agreed that you can get away with a pad with an R-value of at least 2.5 for backpacking, but that car campers may as well opt for a higher R-value. If weight doesn’t matter to you, bigger is better (though more pad also costs more). We found that most people could spend a few minutes lying on different mats and quickly determine their favorite type of baffle. Wirecutter is reader-supported. A valve that requires two separate movements to proceed with inflation or deflation. If you are smaller in size or sleep cold, the women’s version of the XLite has slightly smaller dimensions and a higher R value for more insulation from the ground. Some pads have been known to squeak or crunch like a bag of potato chips. Klymit Insulated Static V Lite: If you know you want a warm inflatable pad but aren’t willing to spend more than $100, the Insulated Static V Lite could be an excellent choice. Ultralight air pads typically inflate with 6 to 8 breaths, but some have a built-in hand pump that will save you some oxygen at the end of a long hiking day. If the bag was rated in the US, the dummy, named Simon, was also wearing expedition-weight longjohns and “the thickest socks we could find,” according to Elizabeth McCullough, co-director of the Institute for Environmental Research at Kansas State University, the US facility that conducts EN sleeping-bag testing. Some of the pads use higher-denier fabrics on the bottom for extra protection. BOTTOM LINE: For the ultralight/budget backpacker who’s hard on gear and doesn’t want the possibility of a ruptured air pad, closed cell foam pads are a great option. “If you sleep on your back, then approximately 35% of the [sleeping] bag's warmth is derived by the R-value of the compressed bag insulation plus the mattress,” Richard Nisley informed Backpacking Light readers back in 2007. In fact, if all that fills your mattress is air, 1 inch is the same as 12—or 24—when it comes to warmth. There are three primary styles of lightweight sleeping pads: Closed-cell foam mats. The best pad for backpacking is for anyone who intends to carry all their gear on their back for miles and is best served by a compact, lightweight pad. “It slept the best of the pads in the lineup.” Our testing found that the SynMat HL’s vertical baffles were popular among side sleepers concerned about roll-off, but less comfortable to back sleepers. This is known as conductive heat loss—and you’re the one who loses. A higher R-value means a warmer pad. $44.95 (230) 230 reviews with an average rating of 4.25 out of 5 stars. And the smaller, camping-specific mattress is actually far more likely to be insulated with a layer of down or synthetics (materials that add to the pad’s cost). The Z Lite Sol also features a higher than average R-Value (the measurement used to establish the degree of insulation of different foams) making it one of the warmest ultralight sleeping pads on our list. In addition, Therm-a-Rest offers a much-raved-about winter model, the NeoAir XTherm (R-value of 5.7), and a rectangular-cut option, the NeoAir XLite Max SV (same R-value as the mummy cut). The Therm-a-Rest Z Lite Sol is an ultralight, inexpensive, and … We also asked our campers to note the ease of inflating and deflating each pad, as well as to evaluate how easy they were to roll, stuff, and lug. Therm-a-Rest Z Lite Sol Mattress Review. Klymit V Ultralite SL. Inexpensive. However you slice it, closed-cell foam sleeping pads are a tremendous ultralight backpacking sleeping pad option. Then we hit the trails, bringing the lightweight pads on a 33-mile hike along the California Riding and Hiking Trail that traverses Joshua Tree National Park. Never put a sleeping pad in a washing machine or dryer. Teton Sports ComfortLite: The ComfortLite is another big, cushy self-inflating pad that clearly trailed our favorite, the LuxuryMap, in overall comfort. You won’t have to worry about insulation as this air pad fits neatly inside most sleeping bags, creating a warm and cozy space while keeping you from rolling off during the night. A good sleeping pad helps you get the best night’s sleep possible, and part of a good night’s sleep is feeling comfortable. Comfort, obviously, is highly subjective, so we recruited more than 20 outdoor-loving friends in a range of body types and sleeping styles to help us evaluate our pads and form a consensus about which pads were the most comfortable to the most people. In all ways but price, however, it’s far inferior to any of the other pads we tested. We tested the 2½-inch-thick Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite(which also comes in a version designed specifically for women—it has a higher R-value) in deserts, on mountains, and in snow, and we found no other compact, lightweight pad that offered as good a balance of comfort, features, and price. However, owner reviews on Amazon were, as of fall 2018, nonexistent, and the pad is no longer available at REI. 28 Reviews. While the closed cell foam pad is the cheapest type of sleeping pads out there, the air sleeping pads are a lot pricier. As with any self-inflating pad, you can adjust this pad’s firmness with your breath. One thing our testers universally praised: the pad’s inflation system, which took the least time and the least number of breaths (and came with a stuff-sack inflation system that is hands down the best inflation method we tested). They are the most expensive of the bunch, too, starting at about $95. The 3-inch-thick, notably warm Therm-a-Rest LuxuryMap is as comfortable as any similar pad—and it’s easier to inflate, deflate, roll, and store. Foam Sleeping Pad Pros. Thorns that puncture the top of the pad can sometimes poke through to the bottom. We took nine popular sleeping pads on two group car-camping trips and also slept on each pad at home in a living room before concluding that the Therm-a-Rest LuxuryMap is the car-camping pad that offers the best balance of comfort, features, and cost for most campers who don’t need to carry their pad long distances. Type: Air Pad. You can strap this kind of pad to the outside of a pack, use it as a seat near the campfire, try to float on it in a river or lake, and otherwise treat it badly without fear of retribution. We compared this pad side by side with a $12 Stansport Pack-Lite closed-cell foam mat we bought at Walmart (aka a “blue pad”), and it was no contest: The Z Lite Sol was far more comfortable. The pad moved out of place in tests at home on a hardwood floor, as well as in the field in a tent. Give your glue plenty of time to dry out without touching other surfaces; depending on the material, this can take three to 24 hours. Of course, when you’re backpacking, weight does matter. Are you contemplating a first-ever backpacking trip, or wondering what type of sleeping pad to buy for a kid looking forward to a first camping trip? But whether you like firm or soft, the LuxuryMap feels even no matter your sleep position due to “pressure mapping”—interior foam that is more dense at the spots where a body is likely to exert more pressure. The three styles of lightweight sleeping pads, which vary in thickness: top—air construction, middle—self-inflating, bottom—closed-cell foam. Most of our testers thought the SynMat HL rivaled or exceeded the NeoAir XLite in comfort, but outside reviews indicate that it may not be as reliable or durable as the time-tested NeoAir XLite, a consideration that nudged Exped’s pad down to runner-up status in our assessment. If you are looking for maximum comfort and minimal packed size, the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir UberLite sleeping pad is a great choice. Richard Nisley, retired engineer, Backpacking Light gear guru, phone interview, May 12, 2016, Andrew Skurka, record-setting long-trail hiker, outdoor guide, and author of National Geographic’s The Ultimate Hiker’s Gear Guide, phone interview, April 8, 2016, Jason Hairston, co-founder of hunting apparel company Sitka and founder of hunting gear and apparel company Kuiu, email interview, April 5, 2016, Elizabeth McCullough, co-director of the Institute for Environmental Research at Kansas State University, phone interview, May 23, 2016, Ryan Linn, long-distance hiker, instructor/guide at National Outdoor Leadership School in Lander, Wyoming, author of Guthook’s hiking apps, phone interview, May 25, 2016, Junaid Dawud, record-setting long-distance hiker, guide at Adventure Travel West, email interview, May 26, 2016, Paul Magnanti, long-distance hiker, instructor/guide with Andrew Skurka, author of, host of the Trail Show podcast, and contributing author to the Colorado Trail guidebook, email and in-person interview. “The next time you’re out hiking on a trail, walk on the trail and get a sense for how that feels,” Skurka said. The Switchback features improvements to comfort and packability, and we find it to be superior to other foam pads … Add Z-Lite Sol Sleeping Pad … This was true especially if the pad was not inflated all the way. We’ve seen people sleep on all sorts of things when camping, including cotton futons, foot-high AeroBeds, foam pads, yoga and pilates mats, canvas cots, pool floats, life jackets, and folded blankets. The Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite was one of the first air-construction pads available. The 3/4-inch foam pad is insufficient to absorb most ground debris and demands that you spend time searching for … Lined up against much more expensive self-inflating pads and air-construction mattresses, the Z Lite Sol, at just ¾ inch thick, is clearly less comfortable. The Therm-a-Rest Z Lite Sol is a closed-cell foam sleeping pad that can be compressed into a lightweight and compact shape. Therm-a-Rest has an excellent reputation for customer service, too; its pads, which are manufactured in the state of Washington, come with a limited lifetime warranty. She is a longtime hiker and camper who made the transition from backpacking to car camping when her first son was born six years ago. Want to learn more about a technical term? These are simple, low-tech design decisions that make for a drastically improved overall user experience. Sleeping pads can cost as little as $20 and go up into the hundreds for more technologically advanced models. It might not be the fastest to inflate or deflate, but it is easy enough to use in a dark tent, even after a long drive or an exhausting all-day hike. While self-inflating pads offer smooth, flat surfaces, closed-cell foam pads and air mattresses come in an array of different—and occasionally strange—textures. With a weight of only 8.8 ounces, the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir UberLite sleeping pad is the lightest in our selection, and while this feature comes at a cost, it is an investment worth considering if you plan to carry all your gear on your back for multiple days. “If I have a pad with an R-value of 2 and I take another pad and put it on top of it that has an R-value of 1, I have a sleeping pad that has an R-value of 3,” Nisley explained. Before we even brought the pads camping, we were able to determine that a self-inflating pad would be the best choice for most car campers who are not too concerned about weight or bulk. A warmer pad can help them. Therm-a-Rest BaseCamp: This popular, moderately priced option in Therm-a-Rest’s line is comfortable—but not as comfortable as our top car-camping pick, the LuxuryMap. In our tests it seemed to reject lint and dirt better than rival pads, thanks to its durable fabric, and its carry bag was refreshingly easy to stuff and carry. We tested the 20-by-72-inch regular pad, and none of our testers complained about it being too small. The Best Foam Sleeping Pad: Therm-a-Rest Z Lite Sol. Sea to Summit UltraLight Insulated Mat: This pad’s innovative and proprietary design—a “dot-weld” pattern that increases the surface area of the pad compared with typical baffling techniques—inspired both devotees and haters among our testers. These pads are filled with a couch-cushion-like foam that decompresses when you unroll the pad and open up the air valve. We’ll check with manufacturers this summer about design updates, but in the meantime we think you’ll be happy with the choices here. by Kit Dillon, Liz Thomas, and Kalee Thompson. He said that you can take the ratings on Therm-a-Rest pads “to the bank”—“I’ve tested this stuff in my lab, and they’re spot on,” he told us—but that the same isn’t true of all companies. It provides a very minimal, basic level of … The self-inflating process will take about 10 minutes, so be patient before you hit the sack. While comfort, warmth, and price are the primary criteria most people use to choose a sleeping pad, we also took factors such as valve quality, inflation method, and surface texture into account. And since it really can’t be damaged, you’ll be happy to loan it out to friends. If you already own an AeroBed-like air mattress and find it comfortable, sure, bring it car camping. Luckily, all inflatable air-construction-design mattresses come with repair kits, as do some self-inflating car-camping pads. Whether you are setting out to tackle a multi-day rocky trail or to spend a week camping at a music festival, there is nothing your body will be more thankful for than a solid night’s sleep. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Closed-cell foam pads. At 12 ounces, the NeoAir XLite is the lightest pad we tested. They’re now among the most popular options for car campers and other people who are not particularly concerned about weight and mass. Best Self-Inflating Sleeping Pads of 2020, Egg-Carton Closed-Cell Foam Pattern For Increased Softness. When you’re ready to sleep, sitting around waiting for a pad to inflate can be torture. Also serves as a sitting pad . While self-inflating sleeping pads are generally bulky and inconvenient to carry in a backpack, the 3-season Therm-a-Rest ProLite is designed with the alpine climber in mind. Our top picks excel at each task. They are easily punctured. Instead, hand-wash and air-dry your pad, preferably in a place that is not too hot and does not get direct sunlight. This website uses cookies to improve your experience. It packs down to the size of a 1-liter Nalgene bottle. But even without kids in the picture, we think these beds are simply not rugged enough or functional enough for car camping. Some of our backpacking-pad testers felt that their body parts would get trapped in nonflat surfaces of the pads, such as baffles that were too deep. To further increase weight savings, some backpackers will cut the weight of their pad by opting for a torso-length or small-length size. And though it isn’t particularly compact, you don’t have to worry about damaging it by simply bungeeing it to the outside of a pack. Compared to air pads, this self-inflating mattress is much sturdier and likely to last longer. In order to inflate the mattress is it necessary to twist the valve to the right, then pull it up to allow the air to flow in. This 3-inch-thick pad has extra foam where your body exerts more pressure, which ups comfort and helps prevent the common problem of bottoming out on a thin pad. Launched in spring 2014, the Exped SynMat HL is a relatively new pad from a company known for making bigger, heavier models. (Our review of great items for small apartments recommends one such bed.) Pad Thickness: 2.5 in. If your repair attempts fail, it’s good to know that your pad is backed by a reliable warranty. The pads are manufactured in Washington state and come with a limited lifetime warranty. There’s a lot of love for the NeoAir XLite in the pro outdoor community. But until an ideal-for-camping model comes to our attention—we welcome suggestions in the comments below, by the way—we don’t recommend buying this type of air mattress specifically for outdoor use. As with the walls of your home, you can’t tell just from looking at a sleeping pad what’s inside of it, and how warm it will keep you. At 2 inches high, this pad was the thinnest we tested, but it was surprisingly comfortable since its many small supporting pockets of air (Sea to Summit calls the design Air Sprung Cells, as the shape of the air cells mimics springs in a mattress) effectively transferred weight—even that of our 235-pound tester—evenly across the surface. Self-inflating pads tend to be sturdier and more durable than air pads. On top of being durable, this sleeping pad unfolds instantly, so you can get ready for bed in a matter of minutes (or even seconds). Sleeping-bag nylon is of course slipperier than the cotton bedding you might use at home. Nisley favors a universally accepted system like the EN sleeping-bag rating standards that would assign a temperature measurement to sleeping pads’ warmth. *At the time of publishing, the price was $110. We spent too many hours researching AeroBed-style full-size air mattresses before determining that we would not include this category of air mattress in this review. A firmer surface, vertical baffles, and a valve that allows for faster blowup and smush-down distinguish the Exped SynMat HL from its rival, the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite. Despite its supposed 3-inch height, the edges of the Tensor seemed to collapse easily when testers applied pressure, so in effect the pad had less surface area than the other sleeping pads we tried. We talked with Richard Nisley, a retired Apollo-mission engineer and a lifelong outdoorsman who has dedicated his retirement years to investigating physics queries for the Backpacking Light community (as well as to satiate his own curiosity). Regular and long pads typically measure 72 and 78 inches, respectively, and are more suitable to winter hikes as they will insulate your entire body. Backpackers who plan to spend more time with their packs off their backs or who are base-camping—hiking in a few miles, leaving their camping gear, and then taking day trips from the base—may prefer a comfier (but heavier) pad. The SynMat HL is just as warm as our top pick, the NeoAir XLite, and merely 0.3 ounce heavier. It has an excellent track record of manufacturing durable products that last for years, if not decades. Polyurethane is a plastic material commonly used to build insulation panels in houses. Unlike the closed cell foam pads, the air pads are completely filled with air, which … Some people can sleep soundly on the hard ground, but they are the rare (odd) birds. Choose a spot sheltered from the wind—not only will you be more comfortable, but you will also prevent your pad from blowing away into a cactus. Today’s camping-specific sleeping pads are generally one of three types: closed-cell foam pads, “self-inflating” open-cell foam pads, or fully inflatable air-construction mattresses. If you suspect a puncture and are near a bathtub, fill the tub with soapy water, inflate your pad, and then submerge it in the tub (the soap bubbles make any air leakage more obvious). Remember that a sleeping pad creates an insulating layer between you and the ground, preventing heat loss through thermal conductivity. A concern we have about the Exped is that it uses the thinnest material of any of the pads we tested, 20-denier fabric versus the NeoAir XLite’s 30-denier material. Worldwide adventure hiker Cam “Swami” Honan has 20,000 miles and more than 600 nights on the same NeoAir XLite pad, which he has used since 2010, including during 18 months of continuous walking. You can also layer it under other pads to increase comfort and warmth, especially in the winter. Close the valves and then wipe down the surface with warm water and a washcloth. Read honest and unbiased product reviews … We asked a tester to keep looking for durability issues; after using it all last year while backpacking in Joshua Tree and around Monument Valley, he reported having no problems. If you need the best closed cell foam sleeping pad, then you can go with the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir UberLite. Acclimation to discomfort, physical exhaustion level, and metabolism likely all play into this divide. Finally, you should understand that R-values are additive, just like double-pane windows or an extra layer of insulation in your home. Take a Sharpie marker or an oil crayon and circle the area, and then dry the pad thoroughly. (It also now comes with the company’s Schnozzel Pumpbag UL, a stuff sack that also serves as a hand pump; bought separately, it’d cost $40.) “It may be obvious, but don’t store your [inflatable] sleeping pad on the outside of your pack during the day. *At the time of publishing, the price was $144. These pads can be rolled or folded up for easy portability. Most sleeping pads are used under the sleeping bag, but there are models designed to fit inside your bag (like the Klymit Inertia X Frame Recon), allowing for even less heat to escape. Seatopia Self-Inflating Sleeping Pad, Air Camping Mat. Nothing ruins an outdoor adventure like a hole, rip, or tear in a sleeping pad. Though the UltraLight Insulated's R-value of 3.3 isn’t higher than that of the other pads we tested, at 16.9 ounces this pad is heavier than most of the competitors we tried. After six months of testing tents, sleeping bags, and sleeping pads, we’re fed up with stuff sacks that are a struggle to stuff. First off, if you're looking for extreme comfort from a sleeping pad, the Z Lite SOLshouldn't be on your list of potential candidates. Backpackers also found that the Tensor (R-value: 4) was easier to deflate and pack away in the morning than the NeoAir XLite. The best of today’s air pads—many of which include a layer of down and/or synthetic insulation inside—are impressively light and compact, making them the top choice for most backpackers. Self-Inflating Sleeping Pad, … Lightweight, affordable, and easy to customize, they provide tremendous value for the … To keep holey pads from ending up in the landfill (and to save you from dropping more cash on a new pad), all of the companies that make our picks will repair damaged pads for a fee. Without the insulation of a sleeping pad, your body tries to create temperature equilibrium with the earth. Punctures in a pad are most common around the hip and shoulder areas, where your body exerts the most pressure. We loved how firm the SynMat HL became when fully inflated, a feature that led five of our seven overnight testers to judge it more comfortable and less likely to bottom out than the NeoAir XLite. This pad can last for decades, especially if it sees infrequent use. “If you sleep on your side, it is about 18%. We spent a dozen hours sifting through the hundreds of items in this category to determine our testing lineup of six backpacking pads and nine car-camping pads (with some of them also being appropriate for casual or occasional backpackers and base campers). (We tested the “medium” SynMat HL; the pad also comes in “medium wide” and “large wide” sizes.) Our long and narrow testers found the baffles comfortable and said the design prevented them from slipping off the pad during the night. Because of the empty spaces in the mattress, a grid-shaped sleeping pad can be extremely lightweight and compact.

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