One of the most important parts of camping outdoors is getting plenty of sleep each night so you’re fully rested and have lots of energy (this is especially true when backpacking). Unless you want to be tossing and turning all night trying to find a spot that doesn’t involve a rock in your back, you’ll want to get high quality camping sleeping pads for you and your family.
There are two basic kinds of sleeping pads for camping you can choose from: foam pads or air pads. While foam pads can be very comfortable and are super cushy if you get a good one, they are very cumbersome and take up a lot of space. By far the best backpacking sleeping pads are air mattresses, since you can take the air out and fold them up really small. However, the best camping sleeping pads are those that combine both foam and air for maximum comfort.
The 5 Best Camping Sleeping Pads
#1 – Thermarest Luxury Map Air Mattress
These camping sleeping pads are a real winner. It’s a bit higher priced, but as with most things in life, you get what you pay for. This pad is self-inflating and comes with a stuff sack to roll it up in and carry it around, making it very convenient to pack and transport. It’s got innovative, die-cut foam that supports the body where you need it most and decreases foam density in high-pressure areas. It’s 3 inches thick, has an R value (insulation value) of 6.8, and has a tough, non-slip surface so you don’t slide around in your sleep.
Complaints: None – this sleeping pad has a solid 5-star rating and no complaints which is crazy. I would not use this for a backpacking sleeping pad however, it may be a little too big for that. Great for camping though.
#2 – Alps Mountaineering Comfort Series Air Pad
More great self-inflating sleeping pads for camping, these have special “JetStream” foam that allows them to inflate and deflate very quickly. They feature anti-slip “pvc dot” bottom fabric to keep them in place and a non-corrosive brass valve is used for maximum durability. A free stuff sack and repair kit are included with every pad, something many other companies make you pay extra for. This pad is smaller than the above pad and would make a better backpacking sleeping pad, but not as good as it’s lightweight counterpart below.
Complaints: Even with it’s “JetStream” foam there have been complaints of this pad not inflating fully, especially in colder weather. Other than that Alps has many satisfied customers that love their camping sleeping pads.
#3 – Alps Mountaineering Lightweight Series Self-Inflating Air Pad
More great camping sleeping pads by Alps, this is their lighter weight model. It features the same great support and self-inflating from the “JetStream” foam and many customers report not even feeling the ground despite this pad only being 1.5″ thick. The standard sized pad is rolls up to be 21″ long and only weights 2 lb. 5 oz. making this one of the best backpacking sleeping pads. This pad is equipped with non-corrosive nylon valves and comes with a stuff sack, compression straps and a repair kit.
Complaints: The complaints about this pad were in line with the other sleeping pad by Alps, trouble getting it to inflate all the way, and as a result, not great support for sleeping. There was also one report of this pad leaking and deflating during the night.
#4 – Exped SynMat 9 Pump Sleeping Pad
Only #4 because of the lower number of reviews (which tends to happen with higher quality, higher priced camping sleeping pads), this pad is touted by one customer as the “best mat money can buy.” This sleeping pad has an integrated pump which means it will inflate every time without your help. It also features Exped’s flat valve technology which does away with the traditional valve malfunction issues that so many sleeping pads have issues with.
This Exped pad boasts an R value of 6 and is 3.5″ thick, making it ideal for camping when the nights are cold. It comes with a stuff sack and a field repair kit. If you’re looking for a high quality, durable pad that will last for years, the Exped SynMat 9 should be your choice.
Complaints: The only complaint I could find about the Exped SynMat 9 is the pump is a little slow. It works, but you have to pump it which can get tiresome after a long day of fun. Other than that, these camping sleeping pads are a real winner.
#5 – Big Agnes Insulated Q-Core Sleeping Pad
This Big Agnes pad is one of the best backpacking sleeping pads you can get ahold of. It is extremely light weight at only 24 oz. for the medium. It is insulated and rated down to 15 degrees F, which is helpful, but not quite as good as the others on this list with the high R values. However, if you’re backpacking and the nights don’t get too cold this is a great choice.
It must be inflated with your lungs, no pump or self-inflating in this one. This is one of the things that makes it lighter and smaller though. This pad has an innovative mouthpiece and a brass valve that won’t break on you. It’s constructed to be sturdy and last a long time, making it my top choice of backpacking sleeping pads.
Complaints: With many great reviews, the complaints I found were of a slow leak here and there. Also this sleeping pad is a little slippery, which may be a pain if you’re not on a level surface. It’s also quite narrow at 20″ wide, but size matters when you’re backpacking. If you’re not backpacking, picking up one these camping sleeping pads in a bigger size may be a good idea.
What To Look For When Buying Sleeping Pads For Camping
Remember, getting a good night’s sleep is one of those camping essentials that you shouldn’t be afraid to invest in. While you can go buy a set of camping sleeping pads for $10 at your local store, they won’t be very comfortable and you’ll end up getting more tired every day you’re camping because of the lack of sleep you’ll be experiencing at night. Don’t just read boxes or product features, read the reviews of other campers so you can make a more educated decision.