While we all know how important it is to have a sleeping bag or camping blanket in our gear, a camping pad is essential for every trip. It’s what keeps you from laying on the cold, hard ground, especially if you’re out in the rough backcountry.
Sleeping pads for camping are often used by hikers and general campers, but they’re very popular with mountaineers who travel high in the Alps where temperatures can get extremely cold.
Most ground pads come with thermal heating, which is a huge advantage for keeping you extra warm at night. One of the best things about them is they can be so compact.
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You’re able to roll them up nice and tightly so they fit seamlessly into your backpack. So not only do they provide comfy padding, but also insulation so you don’t feel the biting cold at night.
If your mattress pad doesn’t have a thermal rating, you can place it inside your sleeping bag to take up more space and trap your body heat. Camping doesn’t have to be uncomfortable, our guide can help you sift through the best camping pads on the market so you can find the correct one for you.
Each one is different in terms of style and features, so you’re sure to find one that will compliment your needs.
What is R-Value in a Camping Pad?
Just so you are not confused during the reviews, the R-value you will see mentioned is related to its insulation score. The higher the score, the better it will insulate heat, thus keeping you warmer. The scale is from 0-6, 6 being the best insulated and 0, well, not so much.
10 Best Outdoor Sleeping Pads for Camping and Backpacking
1. Klymit Static V Luxe Sleeping Pad
Starting off with this thick 3.5” mat, it has a unique design that we think simulates a normal mattress. It has V-shaped ridges across its whole body which create support for your back while you’re off the ground. The side rails are a smart touch as they keep you from slipping off if you’re using it under your sleeping bag.
You can choose from insulated or non-insulated depending on where you’re travelling – somewhere with very hot weather won’t necessarily need the extra warmth. The 30D polyester is tough and patent welded for longevity in tough conditions. It’s the type of material that prevents tears and holes.
For inflation and deflation, there is a user-friendly air valve. It weighs just 21 ounces which makes it perfect for backpacking, hiking, or mountain climbing. For even more saved space, it tapers down at the foot area, so you can have more room for other gear.
- 30” wide
- Sleeping Bag Reservoirs
- Available in Red, Teal & Coyote Sand
2. Lightspeed Outdoors Super Plush Flexform Camp Pad
The unique design of this mat means you don’t have to bring a heavy air pump on your next trip. It’s self-inflating, so basically it expands automatically once it’s rolled out. Although it inflates by itself, you can still personalise the thickness through adding some breaths of air into the dual oversize valves.
Like memory foam, the non-slip structure will hug your body to give you a comfortable sleep with 3” of plush padding.
It has a maximum R-Value of a huge 9.66 which creates exceptional warmth. The integrated pillow is a thoughtful element that we love because you don’t need to bring a separate one with you. It measures 30” wide so you won’t be falling off the sides.
Weighing just 6 lbs it’s effortless to transport around on camping trips or to a friend’s house for sleepovers. For truly uninterrupted sleep, the FlexForm 4-way stretch fabric has TPU lamination which eliminates potential loud crinkling plastic noises at night.
- Non-PVC Materials
- Oversized Carry Bag (no hassle)
- Teal & Dark Blue Available
3. WELLAX UltraThick FlexFoam Sleeping Pad
This thermal pad is ideal for exceptionally cold conditions. It has an R-Value rating of 9.6 which will keep you incredibly warm, as well as a thick layer of fabric on the bottom.
This best seller is made from high-quality foam that adds to the comfort and can be compressed tightly once rolled for storage. For easier compression, you receive two straps that wrap around it and keep it from unfolding.
For waterproofing, there is a laminated 20D nylon and TPU layer that is also tear-resistant. This is handy if you’re storing this mattress with your other supplies where it may be susceptible to damage. Also, it’s perfect for sleeping in the back of your truck where the surface can be hard and rough – you don’t even need a sleeping bag underneath.
Weighing just 7 lbs when deflated, you can carry it with you and barely feel it. Due to its plushness, we think this is a versatile pad and you could also use it indoors, like for a house guest or kids play mat. If you forget your camping pillow on the road, it has a built-in headrest at the top, so this makes for even fewer supplies to put in your gear.
- Thick TPU Inner Layer
- 77″ x 28″ x 3″
- Carry Bag Included
4. Lightspeed Outdoors Ultralight Cradle Air Mat
This has a very interesting construction that is specially engineered to hug your body for a snug and comforting sleep. While the patented side rails keep you off the floor, the consistent ridges make you feel like you’re on your normal mattress at home.
The outer material is 30D stretchy FlexForm polyester with a TPU coating that is long-lasting, so you can take it on all your adventures.
It only needs 5-10 bags of air to fully inflate using their special Pump It Up sack. This eliminates the need for chargers, batteries, or wires, which can all take up valuable space in your gear. This also doubles as a carry purse and packs down to a small 4.7″ x 9.8″.
Pumping with this method is great because there is no risk of moisture build-up or humidity inside the pad, which can happen if you’re blowing up its entirety using your breath. This could cause it to become damaged and collapse, so it’s a smart way to blow air.
- Weighs Less Than 3 lbs
- Self Inflating
5. Better Habitat Roll Up Camping Pad
A versatile camping and home sleeping mattress, this is made from 100% super comfy memory foam. This kind of pad moulds to the shape of your body for a customised sleeping experience. Even though it’s a rather thick foam, it still rolls up in seconds and fits inside a compact carry sack with compression straps and a nylon handle.
You could take it on a car camping trip, but it’s not suitable for backpacking due to its large size. Even so, it has many uses that go beyond camping, like as a bed for guests, a yoga mat, and even a crash pad for stunts.
The advantage of a foam pad is that you don’t have to wait for it to inflate, which is great if you’re in a rush. There’s also no risk of possible deflation like airbeds may have.
A non-slip bottom allows you to set it up anywhere, and it’s also water-resistant. It comes with a moisture-resistant terry cotton sheet that is fitted to its exact size, so you don’t have to purchase one additionally.
- Available in King, Twin, Single and Kids sizes
- 3” Thick Comfortable
- Can Roll Up and Carry in Bag
6. Royexe Heavy Duty Double Camping Mat
This inflatable pad is the size of a double mattress for couples on camping trips. Bringing one bed instead of two means fewer things to carry, so your backpack can stay lighter. It deflates and rolls into a very small carry drawstring pouch.
The 2” of padded support is paired with a unique traditional mattress structure that we think feels extra cushiony. This can reduce back and shoulder blade pain as you won’t be feeling the bumpy ground underneath you.
Due to its flexibility, it can slide straight into a sleeping bag hassle-free. The length seems especially long which makes it suitable for tall people – no one wants their feet hanging off the edge and getting cold at night.
You could use it as a seat as well by folding it on top of itself and creating a balanced, super thick ground chair. The material is specially designed to hold your body heat and emit it back, so you stay cosy all night long.
- Lightweight at 3 lbs
- Waterproof & Tear Resistant
- Perfect for Couples and Kids
7. Klymit Double V Sleeping Pad
The distinctive double-V shape of this ground mat makes it twice as wide and very comfortable for sleeping outdoors. It’s a unique design with body mapping technology that we think is great for all types of sleeping positions, like your stomach, back, and side.
This is awesome for couple backpackers who want to keep their gear load as light as possible, as it weighs an astonishing 40.5 ounces when packaged.
75D polyester textile is rugged enough for you to position this mat outside of the tent if you want to watch the stars. It’s hole resistant and prevents abrasions from forming. For great thermal comfort, it’s built with loft pockets.
They allow the heat coming from your sleeping bag to fill these deep weld gaps and warm you up, unique because it still permits breathability and stops condensation. One of the coolest and most convenient parts is the pump-integrated stuff sack that lets you rapidly inflate it without the need for a separate air pump.
- 6 R-Value
- Side Rails to Stop Rolling
- Double Width for 2 People
8. Willpo Certipur-US Memory Foam Camping Mattress
This pad is one of the most versatile we’ve seen. You can use it for camping, as a car mattress, and indoor play mat for kids, a guest bed, and even for dogs. The memory foam is 2.75” thick for superior comfort, and it has a high-density base layer.
It aids with preventing collapsing and allowing front body sleeping. Underneath is waterproof with non-slip points, and the top is a lovely soft cloth. The cover can be removed, and machine washed. It’s completely waterproof and dampproof due to the strong TPU coating. A nice touch is the water-resistant zippers as they further hinder any leakages.
It comes with a sturdy carrier with a long strap so you can place it over your shoulder. If you’re hiking with someone else, it’s portable enough for one person to carry on their back and the other to bear the rest of the gear. The added Velcro fasteners are a neat feature. They enable you to connect other mattresses together to customise and form larger sizes.
- Weighs 9.8 lbs
- Compression Straps for Carrying and Roll-Up
- Available in Small Single, Single & Twin
9. ZOOOBELIVES Inflatable Sleeping Pad
Enjoy ultimate ease-of-use with the built-in foot pump for speedy inflation and deflation. No batteries or charging needed. 4” of thickness creates a relaxing sleeping experience, and the 4 R-Value for 3-4 season use all year round. We think this is one of the most durable ones on the current market as it’s made from 75D polyester pongee material and high-quality PVC lamination.
It’s also waterproof so you won’t get any dampness seeping through to your sleeping bag.
If you want to create a bigger size, you can snap these pads together using the special connectors. It’s adaptable to be used for more than camping, like backpacking and hiking, couch surfing, at the beach, picnics, and road trips. As well as the hard-wearing storage pouch, you get a strap that ensures it stays rolled and doesn’t become lose while you’re travelling.
- Carry Pouch
- 4 R-Value
- Built-In Foot Pump
10. Wise Owl Outfitters Camping Pad
Choose from 4 neutral colours with this uniquely cushioned mat. The top-quality nylon material has strengthened grip to prevent slipping and withstands against general wear-and-tear. At 73” long, your toes shouldn’t hang off the edge, and it packs up to just 9” x 3” for easy portability.
To inflate, it comes with a rapid-fill carrier that is so handy as it eliminates the need for a pump. The valve is patented to assist with super seamless inflation. Due to the special cushioning design, you can sleep on your side without your shoulder digging into the ground.
This is an ingenious structure because it doesn’t need to be super thick and bulky in order to be comfortable. While they are still testing the R-Value, we think this would be great for fishing and kayaking trips as it does provide warmth and it’s suitable to sleep with on rocky terrain.
- Weighs 15 ounces
- 40D Insulated Nylon Material
- Slightly Tapered
How to Choose a Camping Pad
Air vs Foam vs Self-Inflating
First, it’s important to learn all the kinds that are out there. This will help you determine which one you’ll love based on its materials, weight, and ease-of-use.
These are probably the most well-known. They are inflated through either breathing in air yourself, or pumping using a pump or special bag. While these aren’t known for their thermal properties, most for sale today have a lining, usually made of reflective materials, that help insulate warmth while you sleep. They are the best option for backpacking or hiking as they generally weigh the least when compared to other materials.
- Typically, the most basic ones are quite affordable
- Ultra-lightweight structure
- Extremely compact
- You can customise the firmness
- Usually quite delicate and susceptible to abrasion (depending on the outer material quality)
- They can range to be expensive the more compact and lightweight they are
- May make squeaking or crumpling sounds due to the outer fabric
Memory foam is very popular for ultimate comfort. It adjusts to the shape and form of your body so you can sleep on your side, your back, and your front without feeling the ground beneath you.
- Great for car camping trips and even backpacking if it is designed to be lightweight
- No risks of air leakage
- Easier to set up and pack away
- High levels of thermal heat
- Some are slightly thinner than air and self-inflating pads
- Can be more expensive due to high-quality memory foam
This may seem like foam due to its texture, but they are more so a combination of air and foam. As suggested in their name, they inflate themselves when you take them out of the packaging and open the valve.
- Very warm and comfortable
- You can find some that are very wide instead of only small single sizes
- Adjust the firmness to your liking
- Stronger than regular air mats
- Can be higher in price than simple foam or air versions
- Punctures are possible, but you’re able to repair most rips due to the softer fabric
Thermal Heating is a Big Deal
Feeling warm at night isn’t just for winter camping, it’s also important for summer as it can get quite cold in some locations even when the sun goes down. You also lose body heat when you are closer to the ground. That’s why it’s ideal to have some sort of insulation within your pad.
We’re sure you’ve seen us refer to “R-Value” throughout this guide. If you don’t know what it means, it’s basically a rating system for how insulated a pad is. It’s not measured as a true or accurate ranking of temperature, as you must take into consideration your individual body temperature, sleep style, metabolism rate, clothes, and the weather.
The higher the number, the warmer your mat will be. We suggest the following R-Value ratings based on the weather you think you’ll be sleeping in:
- 0-2 is suitable for locations with constant hot weather where it won’t be very cold at night
- 2-3.5 can be used for 3-season camping
- 5-4 is great for cold weather
- 4 and up is suited for below-freezing temperatures
Are You Backpacking or Car Camping?
Where you’ll be bringing your pad is a huge thing to think about when choosing one.
If you’re backpacking or hiking, you want something that is lightweight, compact, and easy to set up and disassemble as it can get dark quickly in some places. It’s also important to have comfort, as you might be sleeping on cold, rocky ground. We recommend self-inflating or air types. They are very light, withstand rough treatment on the ground where cuts can occur, and are easy to set up – just ensure if you’re taking an air one that it can be inflated using a pump sack.
Car camping is easier because you’re not limited by weight and size. Foam is a good option because even though they can be large when rolled up, you can chuck it in your car or truck and not worry about lugging it around on your back. Self-inflating is another suitable choice. Of course, you can bring air pads along as well, but I’d take the chance to bring a super comfy foam one.
Other Features You Should Think About
- Check the length and width before purchasing. You want to make sure your feet won’t be hanging onto the ground as this could make your body cold. 20”-30” is an average range that is perfect for people who roll around as it gives room past your shoulders. Past 30” will provide superior comfort, but it may be harder to pack away.
- Side “rails” are a cool feature that you can find in some. It’s when the sides roll upwards slightly so you feel secure.
- A built-in headrest is also awesome. It saves space in your equipment as you don’t need to pack an extra pillow.
- The surface and bottom materials are something to consider. Brushed or soft tops will stop plastic squeaky sounds while resting and can provide slightly more warmth. Bottoms with grips to stop slipping is important if your tent has plastic flooring.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a Camping Pad?
It is a type of mattress that you can take outdoors to keep you off the ground while sleeping. They can provide warmth, and generally make you feel much more comfortable than just being in a sleeping bag. They can be packed in a very compact way so they’re easy to travel with.
Is a Camping Pad Comfortable?
Depending on the brand and quality, they can be extremely easy and comforting to sleep on. We think memory foam and self-inflating ones feel the best, but there are plenty of air versions out there that give a wonderfully snug experience. Usually, if they have some sort of cushioning-like design they can feel just like your bed at home.
How Do I Use a Camping Pad?
For air types, you’ll need a pump or a sack version of a pump. The latter are easier to carry and typically double as the carrier for transport. There are sometimes specific ways for folding these – check with the manufacturer’s instructions for more information so it will store easily every time.
Self-inflators suck air in through the valve and fill with air themselves. Again, check how to fold these as some of the different directions, like folding towards the valve instead of wrapping it within the material.
Foam versions can be flattened quite well and compress themselves when you store them. Roll it out and let it expand by itself. They usually come with straps that lock around them when rolled up – this ensures they don’t come apart.
You can place a mat under your sleeping bag if it doesn’t fit inside. Putting it in the interior can generate more heat than usual, but you can do it both ways.
How Much is a Camping Pad?
Cheap ones are available for around $30, but they won’t be very comfortable or hold their shape. They also run the risk of losing air (if it’s not a foam kind), getting holes, and just generally not holding-up against common wear-and-tear.
For better quality, you’re looking at spending around $70-$120 or more. These will have much better longevity, increased comfort, and higher thermal levels.
Can 2 People Use a Camping Pad?
There are models available in different bed sizes like twin, double, and even queen sizes. Some brands even produce ones that have clips, fasteners, or Velcro to attach them together and create a larger structure.
Sleeping Pad vs Air Mattress Camping?
The main difference between these two popular choices is portability. When compared to air mattresses, camping pads are generally much more lightweight and way easier to transport with you. While mats come in varieties, like foam that can be slightly heavier to move around, air mattresses are known to be better suited for car trips or having guest’s sleepover.
Ground mats can be more affordable than air beds, but it can range – it’s possible to find cheaper ones as well.
Ease-of-use is another difference that we can compare. Pads can come in inflatable versions, but they also come in foam and self-pumping which are easier to store than foam air mattresses.
Now that you’ve discovered our list of the best camping pads, you can choose which one will suit your upcoming trip. Even if you’re not going camping, a great sleeping mat should be durable enough to be used in different contexts, like for guests at your home or sleepovers.
They should be warm and very comfortable, so you don’t feel the hard ground underneath you. Keep reading to find out how to pick the right one and what you should consider.