Home > Gear

The Best New Sleeping Pads Reviewed

There's never been a better time to buy a new sleeping pad. New technology and updated classic models give unparalleled lightness, comfort and warmth

There used to be three simple choices of pads for the backcountry: tough, light, hard to compress closed-cell foam pads were less expensive options. The deluxe pads were mostly self-inflating open cell pads made with polyurethane foam encased in an air-proof nylon envelope and inflated through a valve. Self-inflating pads were light, compressible and softer than closed-cell foam, and they still are.

Air Chamber pads were once used only for summer car camping. They were cheap, comfortable, heavy, bulky and offered little insulation in cold temperatures. Now, high-end air chamber pads with internal walls offer the lightness, compactness and comfort of air pads in pads which are warm enough for winter use.  A new category is an air chamber pad filled with down or polyester sill for extra insulation. Air chamber pads are a quantum leap forward in sleeping pad design, for lightness, comfort and warmth.

Pump sacks to inflate are standard equipment with air chamber pads. They make it much easier to inflate the bag and avoid getting condensation inside.

It’s best to figure out what kind of camping you will mainly be doing before you decide on which type of pad you should buy. For lightweight trips, nothing beats air chamber pads. For car camping, especially in warm weather, heavier models will suffice. In situations where it will be awkward to inflate a pad or you cannot easily protect it from punctures from crampons, rocks or dogs, closed-cell foam models are still a good choice. Winter campers also sometimes use a closed cell foam pad between the ground and their pad.

The warmth of the pad you require will also determine the type of pad you purchase. The recently adopted R-value system tests (AKA ASTM FF3340) allow you to compare which pads offer the most insulation.

Advertisement

We rate each pad on a scale of one to five.

Nemo Tensor Alpine

Type: Air Chamber
Size: 183 x 51 cm
Weight: 475 g
Thickness: 8 cm
Packed Size: 20x 8 cm
R-value: 4.8
Price: $319.99 CAD

Our Rating: Five out of Five

The tensor is an upper-end pad that shows how far air chamber pads have come. Super light and compact, its interior compartmental construction keep it warm, stable and quiet. The Tensor can be inflated by blowing into it if necessary, but the included Vortex pump sack makes it much easier. It attaches to the one-way valve and with just a few light breaths, the bag fills and then rolls up to fill the bag. When both plugs are removed, most of the air leaves the bag immediately. A very comfy 3 inches of thickness make for a comfy sleep. The reflective surface of the inside of the pad decreases radiant heat loss. The R-factor puts this pad in the winter category. Includes the stuff bag, the Vortex pump bag, a velcro trap and a repair kit. A great choice for winter camping and alpinism or any lightweight mission.

Buy Now

Thermarest Neoair Xtherm

Type: Air Chamber
Size: 51 x 183 cm
Weight: 430 g
Thickness: 6.4 cm
Packed Size: 23 cm x 10 cm
R-value: 6.9
Price: $275 CAD

Our Rating: Five out of Five

Thermarest were pioneers of the self-inflating pad and continue to provide excellent pads in both the self-inflating and air chamber categories. The Thermarest Neoair XTherm is a winter pad with a high R-factor, although it’s a little thinner than most comparable pads and it is also lighter than some models. The pad can be inflated directly but this is best done using the included pump sack. Make sure that the bag is right-way up before you pump it or the pump bag may pop off. The Winglock Valve opens easily for a quick air dump when packing up. It’s a comfortable, light, thick pad for any season, that has a very high R-value. Recommended for any winter backcountry use.

Buy Now

Thermarest Neo Air Topo Luxe

Weight: 650 g
Type: Air Chamber
Size: 51 x 183 cm
Thickness: 10 cm
Packed size: 14x 24 cm
R-value: 3.7
Price: $195 CAD

Our Rating: Four out of Five

This is Thermarest’s thickest backcountry-use pad, with a towering 10 cm of height to smooth out bumps and give you a plush sleep. The interior triangular horizontal channels on the pad keep pressure pretty even throughout this rectangular pad. This pad isn’t the warmest available, although the 3.7 R-value and reflective surface on the pad interior will take you into less severe winter conditions comfortably. The double valve system allows for a dedicated one-way in-valve and an out valve that allows you to deflate the pad quickly. The included pump bag works well, but you have to get the knack of how much pressure to use so that it doesn’t pop off the valve. The top of the pad has a cool, topographical graphic. Weight-wise, this pad offers a lot more comfort for only a few extra grams as regular pads. Recommended for three-season use where extra-comfort is desired.

Buy Now

Exped Downmat Lite 5

 

 

Type: Air Chamber/650 fill duck Down
Size: 53 cm x183 cm
Weight: 620 g
Thickness: 5 cm
Packed Size: 13 x 26 cm
R-value: 3.8
Price: $235 CAD

Our Rating: Four out of Five

Exped are famous for sleeping bags and brought some of their know-how to their sleeping pad program. The Exped’s straight air channels are filled with duck down to increase the insulating power. It inflates in a couple of minutes with an included pump that can either be used with the hands or the feet (it’s harder to do the latter in a tent). The 5 cm of padding is to keep most bumps from ruining a good night’s sleep. Larger diameter channels on either side of the pad help you to keep on top of it all night. It comes with a stuff sack, repair kit and pump sack. A great lightweight, compact pad for three season backcountry use.

Buy Now

Big Agnes Two Track

Type: Self-inflating foam core
Size: 63 by 198 cm
Weight: 680 g
Thickness: 5 cm
Packed size: 55 x 11 cm
R-Value: 3.8
Price: $105 CAD

Our Rating: Three out of Five

Foam core models typically roll into larger packages than their air chamber counterparts. Big Agnes has addressed this problem by using both vertical and horizontal channels in the foam. The pad offers the firmness of a foam core pad but is about as light as air chamber models. The two-way valve is familiar to foam core pad users and offers less ease and versatility for inflation by blowing directly into it but it ‘s a reliable feature. A compressible traditional three-season foam core pad at a great price.

Big Agnes Insulated Axl Trail Boss

Type: Air Chamber
Size: five sizes, mid-range pad: 78 x 198 cm
Weight: mid-range, 1.2 kg
Thickness: 8.25 in centre and 9.52 cm on sides
Packed Size: 14 x 32 cm
R-Value: 4.4
Price: $290 CAD

Our Rating: Four out of Five

If you are looking for a highly featured, thick, comfortable pad, this could be it. Although it is heavier than many pads, it is perfect for anyone who is hard on their camping gear, camps with dogs or just wants a pad that will last a long time. This is also a very comfortable pad with a whopping 8.25 of thickness. The interior of the pad also has a reflective surface to make it even warmer. This is a four-season pad with a high R-value. The double valve system allows for the included pump bag to securely lock on for inflation and for a quick air dump when packing it up. Take note that this thick pad takes a little extra effort to inflate. It comes with two repair kits (one for each colour on the pad) the pumps sack and a stuff sack. This is the pad for anyone who wants a tough, comfortable, pad for when weight is not an absolute priority.

Buy Now

Sea to Summit Comfort Plus SI

Type: Self-inflating
Size: Five sizes, regular size: 183 x 51 cm
Weight: 970 g
Thickness: 8 cm
Packed Size: 17 x 28 cm
R-Value: 4.1
Price: $200 CAD

Our Rating: Four out of Five

Although this is advertised as a self-inflating pad, the secret to its extreme thickness on Sea to Summit’s Deltacore system which includes D-shaped channels in the open-celled foam. The horizontal channels fill to a plush 8 cm and are a little firmer than in air channel sleeping pads. This is, however, a self-inflating mat and it will fill slowly, unless you blow into it, and there’s a lot of space to blow into in this pad. Luckily, a twisting valve prevents it from reinflating when you are rolling it up, a typical headache with self-inflating pads. The top of the pad is embossed to keep you from sliding off it. The two larger sizes come in rectangular shapes. This versatile pad will work well throughout for seasons, and so long as you don’t want an ultra-compact pad, it’s a solid choice for any kind of camping.

Buy Now

Exped Synmat 7LW

 

Type: Air Chamber, Insulated with Texpedloft, polyester fill
Size: 65x 197 cm
Weight 1.06 kg
Thickness: 7 cm
Packed Size: 27 x 15 cm
R-Value: 4.8
Price: $195 CAD

Our Rating: Four out of Five

The Synmat is Exped’s most versatile pad. It’s tough like most exped pads, with a 75 denier polyester shell. The fill is Exped’s own Texpedloft. The vertical air channels are inflated with a unique integral pump chamber system that saves you from having to bring a pump sack. A diagram on the pump chamber shows you how to place your hands over the pump, and although it takes a little practice to make sure one hand is blocking the air chamber when you press down, it is easily mastered. The pad is rated to 4.8 R-Value and its 7 cm of thickness make it warm enough for year-round camping. A stuff sack, repair kit and a Pillowlock for holding Sea to Summit’s Aero pillow in place are included. Exped make solid pads, and this one is good year-round, although it is not the lightest pad available.

Buy Now

Big Agnes Third Degree

Type: Closed-cell foam
Size: 20 x 72 inches  (large)
Weight: 340g (large)
Packed Size: 15x 51 cm
R-Value: 1.5
Price: $29.96, large

Our Rating: Three out of Five

This is the only closed cell foam pad in this review. Two layers of foam add to the comfort and warmth of this light pad. A die-cut layer on the top creates more dead air spaces beneath you and a tire-tread patterned under-surface keeps the pad from slipping. The pad is warm enough for three season use, a third or less the price of air chamber pads and half the weight. Also, it cannot be punctured. That’s a lot of functionality at the price. On its own for lightweight fast trips, or as part of a winter sleeping system, this closed cell foam pad is a versatile addition to your sleep system.