Written by 12:30 am Hiking, Material

My Best Sleeping Pads in 2021 (Comparison & Buying guide)

Les + / Les - :
Durable with an excellent insulation to weight ratio
Therm-a-Rest Ridge Rest SOLite
  • WEIGHT: 400 g
  • R-VALUE: 2.8
  • OVERALL DIMENSIONS: 51 × 20 cm
  • Lightweight
  • Comfortable
  • Durable
  • Affordable price
  • Can be bulky
Sleeping pad with good performance
Therm-a-Rest Z Lite Sol
  • WEIGHT: 410 g
  • R-VALUE: 2.6
  • DIMENSIONS: 51 × 13 × 14 cm
  • More warmth thanks to the addition of a layer
  • Durable
  • Comfortable
  • Can be expensive for some
versatile and quality self-inflating pad
Nemo Zor 20 (small)
  • WEIGHT: 285 g
  • R-VALUE: N / A
  • Quality
  • Versatility
  • Expensive
Best self-inflating pad for cold conditions
Therm-a-Rest ProLite Plus (small)
  • WEIGHT: 450 g
  • R-VALUE: 3.4
  • OVERALL DIMENSIONS: 28 × 10 cm
  • Comfortable
  • Quality
  • Not bulky
A dedicated comfortable self-inflating mat for women, with good insulation
Therm-a-Rest Women’s Trail Lite
  • WEIGHT: 710 g
  • R-VALUE: 4.9
  • OVERALL DIMENSIONS: 28 × 15 cm
  • Space-saving
  • Interesting insulation power 
  • Comfortable
  • A little heavy
  • Expensive
My best if you are looking for comfort
Sea to Summit UltraLight Mat
  • WEIGHT: 395 g
  • R-VALUE: 0.7
  • OVERALL DIMENSIONS: 17 × 7.5 cm
  • Lightweight
  • Very comfortable
  • Not bulky
  • Weak insulation
A self-inflating mat with a very good compromise between different criterias
Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Trekker (large)
  • WEIGHT: 670 g
  • R-VALUE: 3
  • OVERALL DIMENSIONS: 28 × 12 cm
  • Comfortable
  • Quality
  • Good insulation
  • This type is prone to a valve defect


If you think that a sleeping pad or mat only serves to provide us with comfort during the night, you are wrong… The sleeping pad is the second piece of equipment in our sleeping system because like a sleeping bag, it serves to insulate us from the outside temperature, which rises from the ground.

Hello and welcome to this new article, where we will see how to choose the right hiking pad for you.

As with the article “My Best Sleeping Bag for Backpacking”, we’ll start by answering the various questions to determine your specific needs.

Secondly, we will see the different types of sleeping pads.

In the third step, we will study and compare the different characteristics of the choices that are offered.

And finally, we’ll learn how to try hiking sleeping pads, either in a store or after an Internet purchase.



The questions to answer to know your needs are   :

  • Do you prefer the comfort over the lightness of the product or the opposite?
  • What is the minimum temperature of the floor on which you will place your sleeping pad?
  • For you, weight is more important than price?
  • Can you wear your hiking mattress on the outside of your backpack, or does it have to be inside of the backpack?
  • In your hikes, do you consider that a defective sleeping mat will only affect your comfort, or on the contrary, do you consider this equipment to be vital?
  • Can you save up to $150 for a sleeping mat without any problem?
  • Do you or your partner have problems with the noises of each of you moving during the night?

Now that you have a clear idea of ​​your needs, let’s take a look and study the different types of hiking mattresses to choose the one that will suit your needs.




See on: Amazon.com

Inflatable sleeping mats are similar to swimming pool mats. They inflate using a hand pump to give you an ideal thickness of air between you and the ground.

The technology of inflatable mats is growing. For example, for little more weight or extra bulk, they are equipped with a reflective layer to return your body heat to you, following the principle of a survival blanket.

More than that, some even use a down or synthetic fiber filling on the inside for extra insulation.

Advantages :

  • Lightweight: On the weight side, inflatable mats (without padding) are very interesting for hikers looking for ultra-light. 
  • Comfortable: Most hikers find inflatable mats to be the most comfortable.
  • Compact: for the versions without upholstery, there is nothing that can make them bulky. In some cases, they may only take the place of a simple bottle of water.
  • Insulation: depending on the model chosen.


  • Fragile: This type is likely to tear or puncture.
  • Required accessories: as a repair kit
  • More expensive: not all models on the market, but models with upholstery are more expensive.
  • Can absorb moisture from your breath: which results from mold in summer or frost in winter.
  • Requires time and effort to inflate: If you are tired, the last thing you want to do before bed is spent 2-3 minutes inflating your mat, which can further cause dizziness.
  • Low insulation: in the event of a mattress without any filling, or without a reflective layer.
  • Noisy: depending on the fabric used, it can be noisy.
  • Deflates a little: if the temperature varies and fluctuates a lot during the night, this type of mat can deflate a little.
  • Bouncing: depending on how it is made, it can turn out to be bouncy.
  • Unpleasant to the touch: depending on the model chosen.

See on: Amazon.com

Although this type of hiking mattress may seem like a recent technology, it was actually invented as early as 1972 by the American manufacturer Therm-a-Rest.

To inflate it, just open the valve and wait a few minutes for the foam inside to take its final shape.

The name of this type of mattress is a bit misleading because even with a new product, these mattresses require additional manual inflation to achieve the desired firmness.


  • Excellent insulation: this type of mattress is one of the warmest. 
  • Comfortable: but not at the same level as inflatable mattresses with thickness. 
  • Space-saving: close to inflatable mattresses.
  • Stronger: Compared to inflatable mattresses, the fabrics used in this type are more resistant to punctures than many other existing inflatable mattresses.


  • Heavier: due to the filling inside. 
  • More expensive: generally this is the most expensive model. 
  • Fragile: even with careful use, the glue that holds the valve and the two outer layers remains very susceptible to defects. 
  • Not very durable: than the following type of mattress for example.
  • Less balanced: when they begin to lose their ability to hold air at night.
foldable sleeping pads

See on: Amazon.com

Foam sleeping pads are generally used by yoga practitioners. They are made of dense foam, filled with small, closed air cells, to insulate perfectly.

They often have a reflective metallic layer to reflect heat from your body back to you.

They are foldable sleeping pads, so storing is easy.


  • Lightweight: but not as much as air mattresses.
  • Relatively inexpensive
  • Reliable: there is no glue or valve that can fail. This type of pad can even withstand dog bites.
  • Extremely durable: can be used for years.
  • Versatile: Folded in “Z” form, they can be used as a small chair around your camp.
  • Useful in short walking breaks: they do not require time or effort to inflate or deflate.


  • Not very comfortable: due to their small thickness.
  • Less insulating: for this, hikers in very cold weather combine two mattresses of this type.
  • Bulky: Due to their bulk, most hikers put them outside of their backpacks.


These are the three types of sleeping pads and mats that you may encounter. With your needs already determined, you can already get an idea of ​​which type may be the ideal choice for you.

If this is not the case, or if you are still hesitating between two models, the characteristics below can help you decide which to choose.




R-value is the most important thing to understand to properly differentiate between models. The R-value is the value of the thermal insulation level of each model, it goes from 0 to 6 or more. The higher the number, the greater the insulation.

In general, sleeping pads/mats with an R-value of 0 to 2 will be used for excursions in warm weather.

Mattresses with an R-value between 2 and 4 will be chosen for 3-season use.

For winter, choose a mattress with an R-value greater than 4.

For people who are cautious (often women), I recommend having an R-Value of 4 minimum, even during the summer.

Here, the equation is linear, i.e. a mattress with an R-value of 5 will insulate 5 times better than a mattress with an R-value of 1.

So for the winter, if you are looking for a mattress with an R-value of 6, and you already have one of R-value 2, just buy a mattress of R-value 4 only and combine the two.

Since there is not much standardization in the industry, this value remains approximate, as it may be that an R-value of 2 for example, is colder or hotter than an R-value of 2 from a different manufacturer. To do this, use this value as a guide while researching the opinions of users.

Aside from R-value, some manufacturers, like Big Agnes or NEMO, use a temperature range to help users assess the insulation of their products.

If there is no R-value or temperature range, generally the thicker mats/pads is the most insulating.

Now that you understand what R-value is and which value to choose, let’s move on to the next point, which is the price.



When you compare the prices of different mattresses, be sure to take into account the price of additional accessories to buy, such as a repair kit.

Note: a more expensive product does not necessarily guarantee more comfort, nor longer durability.



Since the hiking mattress is one of the four heaviest pieces of equipment on your back (backpack, tent, sleeping bag, and sleeping pad), it is important to look for the product that will have the best comfort/weight ratio.



The noises your mattress makes when you move around can be annoying to you or your partner. 

To minimize this problem, look for sleeping mats with a quieter fabric.

There are sleeping mats that are quiet, but none will be completely silent, so don’t look for a quiet one.



For foam mats, there are closed-cell models and open-cell ones, which are often used in the basic models. I do not recommend this type of cell because it is weak and absorbs water. Rather, look for a sleeping mat that is strong and waterproof.

For inflatable mattresses (without filling), there is a very big difference between very partitioned mattresses and others, little partitioned.

To keep things simple, more partitioning means more air chambers.

The more partitioned the inflatable mattress, the more insulating it is, as this limits air circulation. If you want to know more, you can type in Google: “thermal insulation convection”.



If you can have a sleeping pad with a surface that is not smooth (like in the photo), it will be better, as these spaces trap air for more insulation, without the added weight.



best sleeping pad for hammock

Hiking sleeping pads/mats are available in a wide variety of shapes: rectangular, mummy (my preferred as the best sleeping pad for hammock), extra-large, special for women, etc, but the most used shape is still the rectangular shape.

Some hikers, who seek ultra-light, sometimes cut their rectangular mummy-shaped mattress to gain weight, especially if they sleep on their side. This is something you want to do if you are experienced and already know your personal preferences. But this remains an operation that I do not recommend in most cases because the risk becomes very large compared to the gain.

If you sleep on your back, a rectangular mattress becomes a necessity so that you can move your legs properly.



If you are looking at the thickness, only compare mattresses in the same category. The comfort of a 2 cm foam mattress will be different from an inflatable mattress of the same thickness.



sleeping mat

sleeping mat

The size of the hiking mattress when packed is often indicated in cm, but some manufacturers use the liter, like with backpacks.


The most important points to analyze when trying on pads, or mats, in case you buy it on the Internet, are:

  • Is it comfortable for you? (thickness, density, and size)
  • Once packed, does it remain bulky?
  • For inflatable mattresses, how long does it take to be inflated?
  • For the fabric :
    • Does he slip?
    • Does he make a noise?

That’s all! Thank you for your interest. If you have any questions or suggestions, please send them to me in the comments below, I am responding to comments.

Updated on January 23, 2021 by Ben

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