Our Guide to Sleeping Pads

Sleeping pad (regular)

Our mission is to get people outdoors. Since most people aren't enthusiasts who venture outside regularly, you can buy or rent sleeping pads. Specifically, about our sleeping pad rentals:

  • We rent sleeping pads that are higher end than those rented elsewhere, but still offer competitive pricing
  • We offer a rent-to-buy program so you don't have to worry about losing money from renting
  • Our self-service allows you to hire sleeping pads whenever is convenient for you

Core function: People routinely under-estimate the need for a sleeping pad, thinking that the ground is soft. False! The ground is VERY hard, especially for most people accustomed to sleeping on modern beds! Try sleeping on a carpeted surface overnight (or even for a nap)... if you wake with aches & sores, then that will be just like the experience of sleeping outside on the hard ground or even grass! Moreover, sleeping without a second barrier between you and the ground will cause you to lose warmth, even with a sleeping bag! (It may be also helpful to understand how insulation works)

Do you really need it?

Yes, some kind of sleep surface is one of the 3 key essentials for any trip. If you're transitioning from day hiking trips to camping or backpacking, we absolute recommend renting sleeping pads first to help you figure out what pads work for your sleeping preferences, which can be a trial-and-error process (just like finding the best bedding at home!) .

For more info, read our 'what you really need' protip

What we carry

Type or style Air only Air + foam mix Foam only
Blow-up by mouth (usually <1 min) Blow-up by mouth or partially self-inflate (unroll & open valve, foam slowly takes in air over a few hours) Unroll or unfold
Model Thermarest XTherm sleeping pad Thermarest UberLite sleeping pad Thermarest XLite sleeping pad REI Stratus sleeping pad Thermarest ProLite Plus sleeping pad Thermarest Z-Lite Sol sleeping pad
Thermarest XTherm Thermarest UberLight Thermarest XLite REI Stratus Thermarest ProLite Plus Thermarest Z-Lite Sol

Buy

MSRP with tax

$217 $195 $217 $110
value
$130 (regular)
$152 (extra long & wide)
$50
Rent $15+ $10+
Online rental Catalog name Sleeping pad (backpacking) Sleeping pad (regular)
Thickness 2.5in
6.4cm
1.5in
3.8cm
0.75in
2.0cm
Warmth
R-value
5.7 2.0 3.2 2.9 3.4 2.6
Weight
Standard 6ft (1.8m) length
15oz
430g
9oz
250g
12oz
340g
21oz
595g
23oz
650g
14oz
410g
Carry size & notes A super super burrito A burrito A super burrito A super super burrito The smallest ultralight sleeping bag A larger yoga mat
General Notes
  • We choose what we carry based on extensive research on what's the best value to our customers (e.g., price given performance & durability features) across all the top brands. We specifically do not carry every brand & model; for details on why we do/don't carry certain items in the following What To Use & How To Choose section
  • Buy prices a grayed out box indicates we don't sell it (we may only rent sleeping pads of this model)
  • Rent prices are the starting prices; enter trip dates on our Catalog to get exact prices (based on total trip length, not per day!). We also don't charge sales tax, an automatic savings of almost 10%!

When you hire sleeping pads online, you can select from available options or we'll pick out something for you. You can also write-in any preferences on the last page of checkout. This section describes the majority of our models & options, but sometimes we carry others.

Sex-specific

It is still a general convention in the industry that if not specified, an item is either unisex or designed for a male fit. But in our experience, personal preference & body type can often be much more important than generalized differences across sexes. Whenever considering sex-specific gear, compare carefully, including trying to rent sleeping pads of different types for various trips to find the best value for you (be mindful that women-specific items may be more expensive).

For this item, we do carry women-specific inventory. When renting sleeping pads online, please write-in on the last page of our online order form if you prefer a women-specific model, available in the air-only, backpacking models, & are 5.5ft (1.7m) long.


What to use & how to choose

Sometimes it's easy to get lost in all the hype of something new (over-spending often happens on features). Our guide focuses on the fundamental factors you should always keep in mind (thus, this short list is similar across all items). Then only at the end do we have some questions to get you thinking about other minor features. Also take advantage of renting sleeping pads to try out what works for you!

We highly recommend reviewing Type or Style first, where we review what you can use to address the Core function--a regular item you have at home may work! The other factors are secondary & depend strongly on the Type or Style you've picked; in fact, for other factors data charts are generally only for a specific Type or Style that we carry (e.g., as a gear shop, would be outdoor-specific products).

We've organized the most commonly used items people use to address the Core function below, with example images, characteristics, features, etc.

Name Camping cot Air mattress Sleeping pad
Example qualities & features Padding material If available, usually foam Air only Air only Air + foam mix Foam only
Example images Camping cot Air mattress Air sleeping pad Air + foam sleeping pad Foam sleeping pad
Do you sleep off the ground?
This ventilation may be important for some
Is the surface slippery?
May be a problem for people who really toss & turn heavily
Depends on model
Firmness Depends on the padding, if cot is padded You can blow it up to how you like it Like a yoga mat
Usage & durability over time Depends on frame, generally durable if well-made You can use as long as it doesn't puncture (over time, you will likely have to patch up holes) Between air & foam pads No risk of puncturing, but as the foam compresses, it may feel less supportive
Material is very weak, we've done extensive research & not come up with a "high end" air mattress. <10 uses Durable technical fabric. Quality pads can go 100+ uses
How do you set it up? Unroll or unfold Use a pump (manual or electric) Blow-up by mouth Blow-up by mouth or self-inflate (unroll & open valve, foam slowly takes in air over a few hours) Unroll or unfold
Effect on other factors Price** $30-100 $10-50 $60-250 $50-150 $20-50
Warmth
Given thickness
R-value not measured R-value 2-5
2-4in (5-10cm) thick
R-value 2-3
1-2in (2.5-5cm) thick
R-value 1-2
<1in (2.5cm) thick
Some cots don't have padding, so people will add a pad on top 9-18in (22-45 cm) thick
Capacity Generally for single individuals Twin to king size
Twin = twice the size of a single individual, i.e., it's a double
Generally for single individuals
Weight** 10-20lbs
(5-9kg)
Lightweight models do exist (down to 3lbs, 1.4kg), but generally people who care about weight savings would just get a pad!
3-10lbs
(1.4-4.5kg)
More luxuriously padded models can get to 30+lbs (14+kg)
0.5-1.9lb
(0.2-0.9kg)
1.2+lb
(0.5+kg)
Can get to 3lbs (1.4kg) if it imitates an air mattress with more padding
0.8-0.9lb
(0.3-4kg)
Foam is actually very light
Size
When folded down
Depends on how it folds, may be able to be slung over-the-shoulder or require a car, like a folding table Depends on capacity; when air is fully removed, may be able to fit in a large backpack See size analogies in Weight & Size section
Rationale While not very technical, there are more materials (e.g., it has a metal frame) Only lower end versions exist More air-based = less matter & more trapped dead air More foam-based = more matter & less trapped dead air

Why we do/don't carry it

= we rent
= we sell
Not as versatile for multiple use cases; as noted above, people may still need to get a pad for it Too many issues with durability

Standard for most outdoor uses

Standard for most outdoor uses

On our Catalog, this is indicated with '(regular)'


Already at a low price

If you don't go very often, of course you're going to want to spend less money, but this often means real trade-offs in terms of the experience that you will have with the gear. Even if you do go often & are ready to invest in quality gear, having the upfront funds can be hard!

Now, it may seem like this price & quality trade-off is disappearing, because you can find a cheap version of almost anything for tens of dollars that still has good reviews (assuming the reviews are real). So you might be thinking: I'll just buy something cheap, and because the price is so low it doesn't matter if it's less featured or heavier or whatever compared to something higher end. When that breaks, I'll buy something cheap again, and so on. Just remember:

  • What's better than cheap? FREE! And we have a gear library of items you can borrow for free!
  • Many reviews are written after only a trial use or first use: We've seen entire review videos of gear done at home, which is very different than actually being outdoors! And reviews after the first use don't tell you about dudrability at all
  • You're headed outdoors to relax and enjoy life! Saving money only to have a trip ruined due to quality issues will feel terrible. Our program to rent sleeping pads is designed to help you avoid this trade-off: you get to rent high end, quality sleeping pads for around the same price as buying cheap ones (sometimes even for less!)

For this item specifically, the price vs. quality trade-off issues center around performance & durability.

  • The sleeping pad was bigger or heavier: When you're doing long distances, every ounce or gram really can matter (thru-hikers can get very zealous with this). Not to mention a cheap pad that's, for example, only foam doesn't compress down very well, you might need to spend more on a big enough backpack to carry it
  • The sleeping pad popped easily: A cheap air-based sleeping pad is basically an air mattress, and as we've discussed, we wouldn't recommend it because the risk of puncture can be so high. This is especially important because most people are very unaccustomed to sleeping on the hard ground & really need the padding
Methodology notes on prices shown on this page

How many people fit on a sleeping pad

Most sleeping pads are designed for single, individual sleepers. That said, there are double sleeping pads. Here's how a double pad affects the other factors:

  • Weight & size: more material = greater weight & size
  • Price: unfortunately no special deals here, most double sleeping pads are priced like 2 individual sleeping pads

Since it's less versatile & around the same price as 2 individual sleeping pads, most people don't get a double pad. For that reason, we don't have detailed data, nor do we carry this item.

How big the sleeping pad is

There are 2 strategies that people follow:

  • For most situations: get a pad that's sized to at least your size
  • For maximizing weight & size savings: get a pad that's smaller (usually this means shorter) than you & let your feet or legs dangle off (to prioritize keeping your torso warm). Is this trade-off worth it? You can always rent a shorter sleeping pad to try out!
Length
Labeled length
Height of person it will accomodate
4.5ft
(1.4m)
5ft
(1.5m)
5.5ft
(1.7m)
6ft
(1.8m)
6.5ft
(2.0m)
. . . . . . . . . .
Name to look for
Some models have a sex-based size difference, some don't. For when there is a sex-based size difference, we've indicated what it's likely to be
Adult 3/4 length or short Adult standard (aka adult regular) Adult long
Women's standard (aka women's regular) Women's long
Men's standard (aka men's regular) Men's long
Effect on other factors Price Subtract up to $20 below standard Standard Add up to $20 over standard
Girth
See below for more info
Generally no change compared with standard Standard May only come in extra-wide girth
Weight Subtract up to 10oz (283g) below standard Standard Add up to 10oz (283g) over standard
Rationale Size of sleeping pad just affects amount of materials used, very straightforward. This is the only table where we compare data to the standard versus a standalone range, because generally pads not standard length are a derivative of a standard model

Why we do/don't carry it

= we rent
= we sell
Not as versatile for multiple use cases

For rent only in the ultralight weight class for people who want to sacrifice length for weight savings


Standard for most outdoor uses


For rent only in the superlight weight class since people who want ultralight would likely sacrifice length for weight; extremely limited availability, please write-in a special request when you reserve

Width

We can have the same table as above for the width dimension. However, width is pretty standardized, ~20in (~55 cm) per person. There are extra-wide sizes (25in [60cm]), sometimes these are also only available in "Adult long", and this may incrementally increase price & weight over the standard size by up to $20 & 5oz (142g). We do carry extra-wide pads for rent for people who need the extra space; extremely limited availability, please write-in a special request when you reserve. Based on standard widths, the number of sleeping pads that will fit in a given tent correlates with the tent's prescribed person count. In other words, if you want extra-wide sleeping pads, get a larger tent.

If you're thru-hiking 20+ miles (32+km) per day, every advantage counts! In this case, size refers to compactness. You can carry more gear in the same size backpack if all of it is very compact, or for more weight savings, you can get a smaller size pack.

To reduce more weight & increase compactability, manufacturers reduce the amount of material used (e.g., fewer features, thinner fabrics, etc.) and, where possible, use more technical materials to prevent performance loss. For example, ultralight fabric has to still be waterproof. These strategies create 2 general consequences

  • Lightweight gear tends to be less durable: Sometimes, light-weight gear is just thinner & so more prone to damage (even a more technical material may not fully offset the loss in durability)
  • Lightweight gear tends to be more expensive: While less materials = lower cost, the more dominating effect is often that thinner materials = more technical = greater cost

For these reasons, the lighter the gear, the more you should treat it as an investment! Is the price difference worth the weight or size savings? This depends on you & your trip! Given our mission we're the only shop that rents a sleeping pad that's ultralight, so feel free to try it out, and see how different the weight feels!

NOTE: Foam-only pads are excluded from the comparision below because foam is already very light, the industry doesn't have regular vs ultralight foam. And yet, because it is so light, some people do prefer a foam pad as their ultralight option. Just keep in mind that foam isn't compressible, so you have a size trade-off. A foam pad will almost always have to be strapped to the outside of a backpack

Sleeping pad
Single person Size (Capacity)
Regular Superlight Ultralight
Air or air + foam mix
Style
Air
Style
Weight 1.6-2.6+lbs
(0.7-1.2+kg)
1.3-1.6lb
(0.6-0.7kg)
0.5-1.3lb
(0.2-0.6kg)
Size
At its smallest...
Like a larger yoga mat Like the smallest ultralight sleeping bag Like a super burrito
Effect on other factors Price Lower Higher
Warmth Higher R-value Lower R-value
Rationale While effect on other factors follows above trends (lighter = less but more technical materials = lower R-value but greater price), there is significant product variation. Combined with lack of standardized R-value, we have not teased out "breakpoints"

Why we do/don't carry it

= we rent
= we sell
Not as versatile for multiple use cases

Versatile for most outdoor uses, therefore more worth the money

On our Catalog, this is indicated with '(regular)'

Our mission is to increase access to gear & we are proud to be the only company to rent as well as sell this type

On our Catalog, this is indicated with '(backpacking)'

Measured by an R-value that indicates "Resistance" to heat transfer. The higher the R-value, the more a pad resists heat transfer, the warmer you stay since you lose less body heat to the ground. R-value is not standardized in the industry (some manufacturers don't have it, but use a temperature rating instead).

Sleeping pads are critical to maintaining warmth & insulating you from the ground, which the sleeping bag doesn't do very well (see our insulation review). Most people get a sleeping bag first, and then get a sleeping pad second, so the R-value of a sleeping pad can "complement" your bag. I.e., if you have a thin bag and are going someplace cold, get a pad with a higher R-value, or vice-versa.

Generally, women tend to be cold-sleepers & men tend to be warm-sleepers (for more info on women-specific sleeping pads, click here), so a woman might want to look for a higher R-value (usually +1). You can also stack pads to increase R-value (which is additive), see Usage section.

Like any decision around insulation & warmth, personal preference can be much more important than statistics & actual conditions. Hiring a sleeping pad is a great way of testing what works best for you!

R-value 1- 2 3 4 5+
. . . . . . . . . .
When you might use it Warm nights Standard For mountaineering & expeditions
Effect on other factors Price Less expensive More expensive
Weight & Size Lighter, thinner, more compact Heavier, thicker, less compact
Rationale While effect on other factors follows above trends (higher R-value = more materials = greater price & weight), there is significant product variation. Combined with lack of standardized R-value, we have not teased out "breakpoints"

Why we do/don't carry it

= we rent
= we sell
Lower R-value means not as versatile for multiple use cases

Standard for most outdoor uses


We sell a 5.7 R-value pad, because the incremental price increase on a pad is lower than a bag, some people will have a thinner sleeping bag but buy a higher R-value pad to compensate. We don't rent this pad because most people would not need something this technical

Here, we give you a list of questions to start thinking about other features. We hope our approach of savings these features for last gets you to more critically think about what you need & not get caught up in the hype of what's cool and over-spend your budget. Remember, we allow you to hire a sleeping pad so feel free to try out various models with different features.

  • Does it crinkle a lot? (Some pads have myler liners inside to add insulation, but then this crinkles when you roll around, and some light sleepers notice the sound)
  • Are the baffles vertical or horizontal, or something else? (Some people find vertical baffles help prevent them from rolling off)
  • Can it integrate with a sleeping bag? (Some sleeping bags have sleeves so you can put a sleeping pad inside, helping stop you from rolling off the pad)
  • Do you have to blow it up or is there a pump, and if so, how does it work?

Usage tips

Slipping & stacking

Given that air pads are more slippery & foam pads are less so, foam pads are better:

  • For people who toss & turn a lot (e.g., kids)
  • For stacking to increase R-value (you could stack a slippery pad on a foam pad though, if you yourself are not concerned about the slipperiness).

Site selection

If you're using an inflatable pad, be sure that there are no sharp objects on the ground where you plan to sleep (these can poke through the tent floor & puncture the pad). Review the notes on site selection for a tent for more info. Using a footprint or ground cloth underneath your tent can provide extra protection, but it is not a substitute for careful site selection. If you are camping without a tent (e.g., cowboy camping or using a tarp tent), it's still best to use a ground cloth to help protect your sleeping pad.


Maintenance tips

Repairing

Delamination: This is where the different air pockets in the sleeping pad merge together, a symptom is a giant bubble! Unfortunately this kind of damage is not reparable.

Leaky pad: Check out our Gear Repair & Cleaning Services page for details on how we find & repair holes. While we're repairing yours, you can rent a sleeping pad at a discount!

Cleaning & Storing

Gear not in use should be cleaned & dried and then stored loose & in a dark environment, check out our entire protip on the topic here.

We have a general protip on how to store & maintain gear that we highly recommend reviewing as well. If you send us video or a good photo series, we may be able to help you evaluate your repair needs.


Other products on the market

A hammock can potentially substitute for your entire essential set of tent, sleeping bag, and sleeping pad! Substitutability depends on the model of hammock, so do your research thoroughly to see if the hammock has rain protection or mesh (to simulate a tent), and any built-in padding or bedding for warmth & comfort. You'll also want to ensure there are plenty of trees where you're going. Finally, you might want to try taking a nap first, hammocks result in back pain for some & back pain relief for others, the last thing you want is to wake up after a long night in pain!


The exact numbers (e.g., weights, dimensions, prices, etc.) used were updated as of September 2019 .