The Best Sleeping Pads of 2022

Therm-a-Rest’s exceptionally comfortable MondoKing 3D earned our top pick.

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Best Sleeping Pads of 2022

Amazon

Good sleeping pads provide cushion against the rocks or tree roots you may accidentally pitch your tent on. They also keep you insulated, which is crucial when temperatures drop at night. On my first camping trip with the Sussex University Mountaineering Club, we arrived at Peak District National Park so late that I only had enough energy to set up a borrowed tent and climb inside my sleeping bag before passing out. In the morning, I couldn’t feel or move the entire right side of my body, which had frozen to the rocky tent floor overnight. It took me several hours of limping along a trail before the right side of my body warmed up enough to understand the importance of a sleeping pad in preventing conductive heat loss.

But how do you find a good sleeping pad for your trip? If you are car camping and don’t mind size and weight, then choose a thick air pad, inflatable air-construction mattress, or self-inflating open-cell foam pad, like my favorite sleeping pad, the Therm-a-Rest MondoKing™ 3D. If you are backpacking, then weight and how quickly you can set up your pad become vital. Look at ultra-light air pads or light-weight self-inflating pads. If you don’t want to mess with inflating a pad, then stick to a closed-cell foam pad. 

These are the best sleeping pads for your next outdoor adventure:

Best Overall: Therm-a-Rest MondoKing 3D Self-Inflating Camping Sleeping Pad

Air mattress

Therm-a-Rest

Why We Love It: It’s well worth the weight and size for camping and is even great for at-home use as a guest mattress.  

What to Consider: This pad self-inflates but not all the way—the pump sack method is a chore, so you’ll definitely want a rechargeable air pump.

Nearly two decades ago, the first splurge I ever made on camping gear was a Therm-a-Rest sleeping pad, a predecessor of the MondoKing 3D that promised comfort and support. It delivered these two criteria so well that everyone in the family fought over this pad, so eventually I bought another one (a MondoKing). In comparing the three side-by-side, the latest MondoKing 3D is about a quarter the size of the predecessor and half the size of the earlier MondoKing 3D. 

Therm-a-Rest invested a lot of technology into making their most comfortable pad lightweight and compressible. It still boasts a 4.2-inch thickness when inflated and can compress down to 26 x 10.3 inches (31 x 10.3 inches in the earlier version of the MondoKing) because of the StrataCore construction. The stretch-knit fabric feels like satin against your skin, and Therm-a-Rest’s TwinLock system offers a dedicated one-way inflation valve marked clearly “in,” and a dedicated deflation valve marked “out.” The MondoKing 3D comes in two sizes, large and XX large.

Packed dimensions: 10.3 x 26 inches (large) | Dimensions: 77 x 25 x 4.2 inches (large) | Weight: 4.4 pounds (large) | Insulation type: Open-cell foam | R-value: 7

Best Double: Nemo Equipment Roamer Sleeping Pad

Nemo Equipment Roamer Sleeping Pad

Amazon

Why We Love It: There's a matching sleeping bag available for this sleeping pad, and they can be locked together for an extra-stable night.

What to Consider: It takes some time to deflate this pad and wrestle it back into its stuff sack.

Designed to pair with the Jazz Dou sleeping bag, Nemo Equipment’s Roamer is a self-inflatable open-cell foam sleeping pad. It can inflate up to 4 inches in height. Nemo Equipment sped up inflation and deflation with their innovative proprietary internal air channels. The Jazz Double sleeping bag comes with a pocket designed to fit the Roamer. Once they're attached, you won’t feel the rocks and uneven landscape beneath your tent—no matter how much you goof off. When you’re ready to pack up, just deflate the pad without removing it from the sleeve, roll up everything at once, and stuff it into the Jazz duffel bag.

Packed dimensions: 11 x 26 inches | Dimensions: 78 x 52 x 4 inches | Weight: 7.5 pounds | Insulation type: Open-cell foam | R-value: 6

Best Budget: Big Agnes Twister Cane Biofoam Pad

Big Agnes Twister Cane Biofoam Pad

Amazon

Why We Love It: It’s durable and easy to use, and there’s no inflation required.

What to Consider: It’s not as comfortable as inflated open-cell foam pads.

The first sleeping pad I owned was a closed-cell foam model I bought in 1995. It’s still one of my favorite pads to camp with when I’m too lazy to inflate my more expensive open-cell foam or air sleeping pads. Because closed-cell foam pads are waterproof and quick to utilize, I also like to toss one on the ground after a river crossing and sit on it while I make a fire or change out of my wet clothes. Made of more than 60 percent sustainably grown sugarcane resin, Big Agnes’ Twister Cane Biofoam Pad is a great choice if you want to go the closed-cell route. The lightweight pad has a smooth top side and a tire-tread pattern bottom to generate warmth, and its production process actually helps remove carbon from the environment.

Packed dimensions: 7 x 20 inches | Dimensions: 7 x 20 inches | Weight: .8 pounds | Insulation type: Closed-cell foam | R-value: 1.7

Best for Cold Weather: Helinox Lite Camp Cot

Helinox Lite Camp Cot

Amazon

Why We Love it: This cot not only packs as small and light as most sleeping pads on the market, it also keeps you off the ground.

What to Consider: The tension lock handles require a steep learning curve.

In the winter, doubling up on sleeping pads will keep you warm. A closed-cell foam pad beneath an air mattress or self-inflatable pad works well. Alternatively, if there’s snow on the ground, you might consider a cot. The Helinox Lite Camp is about 5 inches off the ground. Since 2009, I haven’t been able to find another brand that can challenge Helinox’s claim to designing the world’s lightest, strongest, and most comfortable portable furniture. Because of a proprietary aluminum alloy, which offers maximum strength with minimum weight, it takes just about the same amount of time to set up a Helinox cot as an inflatable pad. It also packs up nearly the same size and weight as a sleeping pad.

Packed dimensions: 5 x 5 x 21 inches | Dimensions: 73 x 23.5 x 5 inches | Weight: 2.8 pounds | Insulation type: None | R-value: N/A

Best for Kids: Therm-a-Rest RidgeRest Classic

Therm-a-Rest RidgeRest Classic

Amazon

Why We Love it: The high degree of friction will keep kids from sliding off.

What to Consider: It may not be as soft as an air mattress or self-inflatable pad.

Even after a long day of camping, some kids can be so active at bedtime that their sleeping setup ends up woefully askew. To keep them from sliding off their sleeping pads, use closed-cell foam pads that have a lot of texture, thus creating a great deal of friction and making it harder for your child to slip off. Therm-a-Rest’s RidgeRest Classic is a great option. The durable crosslink foam is covered in ridges that help trap heat in addition to keeping sleeping bags in place. It’s also on the more affordable side when it comes to sleeping pads and comes with a lifetime warranty.

Packed dimensions: 6.5 x 20 inches | Dimensions: 20 x 72 x .6 inches | Weight: .9 pounds | Insulation type: Closed-cell foam | R-value: 2

Best for Vehicle-supported Camping: REI Trailgate Vehicle Sleeping Platform

REI Trailgate Vehicle Sleeping Platform

REI

Why We Love it: You can swap the legs and adjust to fit a wide range of vehicles.

What to Consider: It’s too heavy for many people to carry on their own, and the pad is not very comfortable.

In July 2022, REI launched their Trailgate Vehicle collection in response to the increased number of people outfitting their mid-sized vehicles for camping. The Sleeping Platform can be partially set up to a 25-inch width to preserve trunk and backseat space, or you can expand it to 40 inches for more sleeping room. It has three sets of adjustable legs to create a level surface and accommodate a range of vehicles. The front legs adjust between 20 and 27 inches,, while the rear legs can be set between 7 and 10 inches. To make the pad more comfortable, consider adding REI’s Camp Dreamer XL Self-inflating Deluxe Bed (also available in double size), which comes with an incredibly cozy camping pillow that also doubles as a pump.

Packed dimensions: 7 x 20 inches | Dimensions: 7 x 20 inches | Weight: .9 pounds | Insulation type: Closed-cell foam | R-value: 1.7

Tips for Buying a Sleeping Pad

Make sure a sleeping pad is the right move for you

Before shopping for a sleeping pad, decide whether you want to sleep on or off the ground. Nowadays, companies like Helinox make cots that are sometimes even lighter than sleeping pads. If some space between you and the ground is more important to you than, say, a plush sleeping surface, consider opting for a lightweight cot instead of a sleeping pad. If you have the packing space for it, combining the two is a great way to have the best of both worlds.

Consider what climates you’ll encounter and your sleep style

John Junke Jr, a Program Specialist at REI, recommends that you begin your sleeping pad search by evaluating “what type of ground you’ll be sleeping on in most cases. For example, if you’re sleeping on snow at any point, you’ll want pads with high R-values. You’ll also want to understand if you’re typically a hot sleeper or if you run cool at night—that will determine which R-value you’d want to get. The higher the R-value, the more heat will be retained.”

Frequently Asked Questions
  • What is R-value?

    "R-value" stands for thermal resistance, the ability to resist transferring heat. The higher the R-value, the more resistance the sleeping pad has to heat flow, and the warmer it is while you’re resting up. The R-value you should aim for in a sleeping pad depends on how you camp and what time of the year you will be out in the wilderness.

     

    R1 = Best in summer or around 50 degrees Fahrenheit

    R2 = Works for summer, spring, and fall or around 30 degrees Fahrenheit

    R3 = Performs best at around 20 degrees Fahrenheit

    R4 = Best in winter or around 10 degrees Fahrenheit

    R5 = Best for extreme cold or around -30 degrees Fahrenheit

  • How big of a sleeping pad should I get?

    Standard sleeping pads are 72 inches long and 20 inches wide. Long pads are 78 inches. If you are backpacking and weight is a concern, then select a short pad that is three-fourths the length of a normal product. Double-wide sleeping pads are 40 inches and work a lot better than piecing two sleeping pads together. (Note: If one person is a hot sleeper, and the other is a cold sleeper, you might be better off with two separate sleeping pads.)

     

    You’ll also want to consider which sleeping pad shape will work the best for you. Brandon Bowers, Product Manager at Therm-a-Rest, says, "When you choose a sleeping pad, there are a few considerations to make, like the pad shape and size. We have rectangle and mummy pads. The mummy pads shave a little weight and are smaller in size, therefore more packable for backpacking. The pad size should also be based on your height. In terms of width, most of our mattresses are 20 inches wide, but we also offer wide pads that are 25 and 30 inches wide for increased sleep area.”

Why Trust Travel + Leisure

Leslie Hsu Oh, a veteran gear tester for Backpacker Magazine, Outside Magazine, Popular Mechanics, REI, Runner’s World, Sierra Magazine, and Travel+Leisure, believes that having a great experience outdoors depends on the quality and technical innovation of your gear. Known for the extremes with which she tests products in adventures, she’s lost and miraculously recovered an iPhone sealed inside of a Sea-to-Summit waterproof case for more than 36 hours beneath a powerful underground waterfall deep inside of the Devil’s Cave in Brazil, canyoneered kits in Jordan’s Wadi Mujib during flash flood season, and fished in Puerto Rico’s bioluminescent waters while pedaling Old Town and Ocean Kayak kayaks through mangroves. 

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