This article gives a detailed review of all the best sleeping pads and air mattresses.
It is based on 17 years’ experience and has been used by tens of thousands of people.
There is a detailed buyer’s guide, a series of comparison tables and further reading for the enthusiastic. However, if you’re in a hurry, go straight to the Top 6.
The first version of this article was published in 2014 and has been regularly updated since then. I have completely overhauled it over the last month and have thus reposted it at the top of my blog today.
Best camping mats | Buyer’s guide | Comparison tables | Further reading
Updated February 2020
BEST CAMPING MATS 2020
Top 6 camping mats
1. Thermarest NeoAir
If you’re in a hurry then buy a Thermarest NeoAir and you won’t be disappointed.
Well insulated, comfortable and absurdly light.
- X Lite: lighter weight
- X Therm: better insulated
- SV: ‘speed valve’, easy inflation
- Short and regular lengths available
2. Exped DownMat HL Winter
Warmest camping mat
If you want warmth then you want an Exped DownMat.
The warmest available is the DownMat XP9. However, the DownMat HL Winter (previously: DownMat WinterLite) has almost the same insulation but at a fraction of the weight. In fact, the WinterLite has the best warmth-to-weight ratio of any camping mat.
Plus, it’s cheaper.
- DownMat 7: Exped’s standard down mat
- DownMat Lite 5: cheaper, lighter, cooler
- WinterLite: best warmth-to-weight ratio
- DownMat XP 9: warmest mat available
3. Thermarest Prolite
If you don’t like the idea of an inflatable air mattress then get a Thermarest Prolite.
The ProLite range is the industry standard for self-inflating sleeping pads.
They are lighter than the competition and, unlike the cheaper alternatives, will last for years. (Mine is five years and counting).
- ProLite Plus: thicker, warmer, heavier version
- Men and women’s
- Full length and 3/4
4. Thermarest Z-Lite & RidgeRest
Best foam camping mats
Foam pads are pretty much all the same. The exceptions are the Thermarest Z-Lite and RidgeRest. They use clever patterns to increase their warmth and comfort without adding weight.
They are almost identical other than their packed shape: the RidgeRest rolls into a cylinder, the Z-Lite folds into a block.
They cost more but they are better than any other foam mat.
- Ridgerest SOLite: rolls like other foam mats
- Z-Lite SOL: folds into a sqare shape
5. Exped SynMat HyperLite
Exped’s SynMat range uses a synthetic filling instead of goose/duck down. They are not quite as warm but the advantage is that it doesn’t matter if they get damp.
The HyperLite (sometimes called the Exped SynMat HL HyperLite) is slightly thicker, warmer and lighter than the excellent Thermarest NeoAir. Its only down-side is that it requires a little more effort to inflate.
- SynMat 7: standard Exped SynMat
- SynMat Lite 5: cheaper, lighter, less insulated
- SynMat HyperLite: ultralight option
- SynMat WinterLite: very light but still warm
6. Therm-a-Rest EvoLite
Best of both worlds
The Thermarest EvoLite is a new type of camping mat: half air mattress, half self-inflating.
It has the solid, firmness of a self-inflating mat and will self-inflate, if left long enough.
It takes a lot more air than other self-inflating mats though so is much thicker and more comfortable.
The disadvantages are that it’s bulkier pack size and not as insulated.
What to look for
The thicker the mat, the more comfortable.
Inflatable air mattresses tend to be thickest and softest. Foam roll mats the thinnest and firmest.
Sleeping pad insulation is measured with an R-Value. The higher the better.
The warmest mat has an R-value of 8.0, the thinnest mats are closer to 1.0. Most are around 3 or 4.
If you have to carry it then you will want it to be light.
You can easily get a warm, thick, comfortable mat that weighs less than a pound (450g).
There is no point having an ultralight mat with no insulation or a super-warm one that weighs a ton.
I have performed my own calculation of insulation per pound. Look out for the ‘T’ value.
Types of camping mat
a) Foam pads, b) Self-inflating mats, c) Inflatable air mattresses
a. Foam pads
Foam pads, often called ‘roll mats’, are just large rectangular pieces of closed-cell foam (CCF). You unfurl them to sleep on and roll them up to carry. They are cheap, tough and reliable bits of camping equipment. It’s hard to go wrong with a roll mat.
They are not quite as warm as the alternatives but it’s their pack size that really lets them down. They typically need to be strapped to the outside of a rucksack.
Foam roll mats
- Weight: Low-Medium
- Pack Size: Very Large
- Warmth: Low – Medium
- Comfort: Low
- Cost: Low
- Very cheap
- Can protect inflatable mats
- Massive pack size
- Limited warmth
- Not the most comfortable
Best foam mats
- Thermarest RidgeRest
- Thermarest Z-Rest
b. Self-inflating mats
The most common alternative to foam mats are self-inflating mats. These have a tough nylon outer with a thin layer of open-cell foam inside. Thiscan be inflated with a couple of breaths of air. If you leave the unfurled with the valve open for a few minutes, they should partially “self-inflate”.
They are generally warmer and more comfortable than foam mats. They are much smaller to carry too. They run the risk of puncture, however, and cost significantly more than foam mats.
The more expensive, thinner and 3/4 length models can be really light. If you buy a super thick, comfortable version then they can, of course, weigh a lot more (and I’d generally recommended getting an inflatable mat instead, see below).
- Weight: Low – Medium
- Pack Size: Small
- Warmth: Medium
- Comfort: Medium
- Cost: Medium – High
- Small pack size
- Low weight
- Good warmth
- Expensive (cheap ones don’t last)
- Can puncture
Best self-inflating mats
- Thermarest ProLite
- Thermarest EvoLite
c. Inflatable air mattresses
Inflatable camping mats, often called ‘air mattresses’, are like airbeds or lilos: large baffled mattresses that you inflate.
They are much thicker than foam or self-inflating pads. They are by far the most comfortable type of camping mat. They are usually filled with down or or a synthetic equivalent so tend to be very warm too.
The downsides of these mats are their susceptibility to puncture and the effort required to inflate them. When punctured, they are useless: no padding and little insulation. In contrast, self-inflating mats still offer some warmth and comfort, even when punctured. Inflating an air mattress takes a bit more time and effort than a self-inflating pad (as the name implies).
- Weight: Low – Medium
- Pack Size: Small – Medium
- Warmth: Medium – High
- Comfort: High
- Cost: Medium – High
- Thickest / most comfortable
- Small pack size
- Big puncture risk
- Take time/effort to inflate
Best inflatable mattresses
- Exped SynMats
- Exped DownMats
- Thermarest NeoAir
a) Foam pads, b) Self-inflating mats, c) Inflatable air mattresses
The tables below are all sortable (e.g. by price, weight or warmth).
Click the arrows in the headers (may not work on phones).
‘R’ and ‘T’
R value is a measure of insulation (higher = warmer).
T is my own measure of warmth-to-weight (higher = more insulation per ounce).
Inches / ounces?
For Imperial measurements, click the ‘source spreadsheet’ links.
You’ll be sent to a detailed spreadsheet with more data.
Want to buy one?
Please consider using the links below. At no cost to you, I get a small percentage.
Click the price (£50 or $80) or ‘Check price’ before buying.
a. Foam pads
|Make||Model||Weight||Length||Thick||R||T||Notes||Cost||Check price online|
|Thermarest||Z-Lite Sol||410g||183cm||2cm||2.6||19||Best, warmest and thickest foam pads||£31||Amazon - REI -|
|Thermarest||RidgeRest SOLite||400g||183cm||2cm||2.8||20||Best, warmest and thickest foam pads||£18||Amazon - REI - UK shops|
|Multimat||Superlite 8||190g||180cm||0.8cm||2.3||34||Lightest foam pads in the UK||£14||Amazon - UK shops|
|Multimat||Superlite XS||100g||116cm||0.8cm||2.3||34||Lightest foam pads in the UK||£14||Amazon - UK shops|
|Gossamer||Gear ThinLight||068g||150cm||0.3cm||-||-||Thinnest/lightest foam pad available||-|
|Generic||Standard roll mat||210g||190cm||1-2cm||1.4||19||Cheap, prolific and perfectly good||£4||Amazon - REI -|
View the foam pads source spreadsheet ➜
b. Self-inflating mats
Self-inflating mat buyer’s guide
|Make||Model||Weight||Length||Thick||R||T||Notes||Cost||Check price online|
|Thermarest||ProLite (small)||310g||119cm||2.5cm||2.4||15||Lightest Thermarest, excellent quality.||£68||Amazon - REI - UK shops|
|Thermarest||ProLite (reg)||460g||183cm||2.5cm||2.4||15||Lightest Thermarest, excellent quality.||£76||Amazon - REI - UK shops|
|Thermarest||ProLite Plus (small)||430g||119cm||3.8cm||3.4||15||Thicker version of ProLite.||£77||Amazon - REI - UK shops|
|Thermarest||ProLite Plus (reg)||620g||183cm||3.8cm||3.4||15||Thicker version of ProLite.||£85||Amazon - REI - UK shops|
|Thermarest||EvoLite (small)||344g||119cm||5.0cm||2.1||12||Half self-inflating, half air mattress.||£77||Amazon - REI - UK shops|
|Thermarest||EvoLite (reg)||528g||183cm||5.0cm||2.1||12||Half self-inflating, half air mattress.||£94||Amazon - REI - UK shops|
|Mountain Equipment||Helium 3.8||750g||183cm||3.8cm||3.2||12||Cheaper and heavier than Thermarest.||£50||Amazon - UK shops|
|Mountain Equipment||Helium 2.5||685g||183cm||2.5cm||2.2||09||Cheaper and heavier than Thermarest.||£45||Amazon - UK shops|
|Alpkit||Airo 120||399g||120cm||2.5cm||2.2||10||Good stats but don't last as long.||£39||UK shops|
|Alpkit||Airo 180||582g||180cm||2.5cm||2.2||10||Good stats but don't last as long.||£49||UK shops|
|Quechua||A100 Ultralight||380g||117cm||2cm||Excellent stats for the price.||£10||UK shops|
|Vango||Trek 3 Short||650g||122cm||3cm||Cheap but heavy.||£30||Amazon - UK shops|
|Vango||Aero Compact||663g||168cm||3cm||£50||Amazon - UK shops|
|REI||REI AirRail 1.5||740g||183cm||3.8cm||4.2||16||Lightest REI own-brand.||£50||REI -|
View the self-inflating mat source spreadsheet ➜
c. Inflatable air mattress
Inflatable air mattres buyer’s guide
|Make||Model||Weight||Length||Thick||R||T||Notes||Cost||Check price online|
|Thermarest||NeoAir X Lite S||230g||119cm||6cm||3.2||27||Lightest Thermarest||£119||Amzn - REI - UK shops|
|Thermarest||NeoAir X Lite R||350g||183cm||6cm||3.2||27||Lightest Thermarest||£143||Amzn - REI - UK shops|
|Thermarest||NeoAir X Lite SV||425g||183cm||6cm||3.0||18||Speed Valve for easy inflation||£160||Amzn - REI - UK shops|
|Thermarest||NeoAir XTherm||430g||183cm||6cm||5.7||38||Warmest Thermarest||£183||Amzn - REI - UK shops|
|Exped||DownMat 7||860g||183cm||7cm||5.9||20||Down filling (warmer, lighter, more fragile)||£163||Amzn - REI - UK shops|
|Exped||DownMat Lite 5 S||540g||164cm||5cm||4.1||20||Lighter, cooler Exped||£90||Amzn - REI - UK shops|
|Exped||DownMat Lite 5 M||610g||183cm||5cm||4.1||20||Lighter, cooler Exped||£104||Amzn - REI - UK shops|
|Exped||DownMat HL Winter (Lite)||476g||183cm||9cm||7.0||41||Warmer, lighter, more expensive||£170||Amzn - REI - UK shops|
|Exped||DownMat XP 9||884g||183cm||9cm||8.0||26||Warmest mattress available||£178||Amzn - REI - UK shops|
|Exped||SynMat 7||860g||183cm||7cm||4.9||16||Synthetic (cooler, tougher, cheaper)||£119||Amzn - REI - UK shops|
|Exped||SynMat Lite 5||650g||183cm||7cm||2.5||11||Cheaper, lighter, cooler SynMat||£73||Amzn - REI - UK shops|
|Exped||SynMat HL Winter (Lite)||405g||183cm||9cm||4.9||35||Warmer, lighter, more expensive||£149||Amzn - REI - UK shops|
|Exped||SynMat HL HyperLite||348g||180cm||7cm||3.3||28||Lightest Exped||£149||Amzn - REI - UK shops|
|Exped||SynMat UL Lite||400g||163cm||7cm||3.1||19||Cheapest Exped||70||Amzn - REI - UK shops|
|Exped||SynMat UL Lite||450g||183cm||7cm||3.1||19||Cheapest Exped||£75||Amzn - REI - UK shops|
|Klymit||Inertia X Lite||172g||107cm||4cm||-||-||Skeletal design, need to lie on back||£58||Amzn - REI - UK shops|
|Klymit||Inertia X Frame||258g||180cm||4cm||-||-||Skeletal design, need to lie on back||£75||Amzn - REI - UK shops|
|Klymit||Static V||514g||183cm||7cm||1.3||07||£55||Amzn - REI - UK shops|
|MultiMat||Adventure Air||430g||183cm||7cm||1.7||11||No filling (hence low warmth)||£35||Amzn - UK shops|
|Alpkit||Numo||375g||180cm||8cm||3.5||27||Good budget option||£39||UK shops|
|Sea to Summit||Ultralight||325g||168cm||5cm||0.7||06||Light but no filling (low warmth)||£92||Amzn - REI - UK shops|
|Sea to Summit||Ultralight||355g||183cm||5cm||0.7||06||Light but no filling (low warmth)||£94||Amzn - REI - UK shops|
|Sea to Summit||Comfort Light Insulated||580g||184cm||6cm||4.2||21||Thicker, warmer, heavier||£97||Amzn - REI - UK shops|
|Sea to Summit||Comfort Plus Insulated||725g||184cm||6cm||5.0||20||Even warmer, heavier||£178||Amzn - REI - UK shops|
|Vaude||Performance 7 M||410g||183cm||7cm||2.7||19||Light but low insulation||90||Amzn - UK shops|
|Vaude||Performance Winter 7 M||560g||183cm||7cm||4.6||23||More insulated||150||Amzn - UK shops|
View the inflatable air mattress source spreadsheet ➜
There is a bewildering array of sleeping pads and camping mats out there, and it can be hard to know where to start. I wrote this article to help explain the options and make the decision as easy as possible. I am also a massive nerd who likes camping mats and spreadsheets so secretly enjoyed compiling the big comparison tables above.
I’ve used a huge range of different sleeping pads over the last 18 years: ski touring in the high arctic, bivouacing on unclimbed Kyrgyz mountains, trekking in the Arabian desert, cycling around the world. And I have spent an inordinate amount of time researching the various types of camping mats.
This article has been used by thousands and thousands of people since I published it in 2013 and I do my best to update it regularly. If you find it useful, please do tell a friend, click the Facebook ‘Like’ button at the bottom or share it on Twitter. Also, if you actually buy a camping mat then please do consider clicking one of the links before you do. It won’t cost you any extra but I will get a small percentage.
The T-Value is my own calculation: Tim’s Thermal Rating. It measures insulation per ounce.
It is calculated by dividing the R-Value by the weight in ounces, then multiplying by 100 to give a nicer number.
For comparative purposes, I’ve given the same ratio for full length and 3/4 length mats. Otherwise, you could just cut your mat in half and the T-value would double.
What is the lightest sleeping pad?
Lightest foam sleeping pad
- Gossamer Gear ThinLight: 68g/2.4oz Regular. Check Price USA ➜
- Multimat Superlite XS: 100g/3.5oz Short. Check Price UK ➜
Lightest self-inflating sleeping pad
- Therm-a-Rest Prolite: 310g/11oz and 460g/16oz (Small and Regular). Check Price UK ➜ / USA ➜
Lightest inflatable mats
- Klymit Inertia X Lite: 172g/6oz and 258g/9oz (Small and Regular). Check Price UK ➜ / USA ➜
- Thermarest X Lite NeoAir: 230g/8oz and 350g/12oz (Small and Regular). Check Price UK ➜ / USA ➜
- Exped SynMat HyperLite: 348g/12oz (Regular). Check Price UK ➜ / USA ➜
What is the best sleeping pad?
There isn’t any real answer to this question. Different mats will work for different situations. However, here are my personal rules of thumb:
Best basic camping pad
- Generic foam roll mats: Cost a few quid and are bombproof. Check Price UK ➜ / USA ➜
Best cheap camping pads
- Generic foam roll mats: As above, cheap and though. Check Price UK ➜ / USA ➜
- REI AirRail 1.5: cheapest self-inflating at REI. Check Price USA ➜
Best ultralight camping mats
- Thermarest XLite NeoAir: A few grams more than Klymit Inertias but more substantial. Check Price UK ➜ / USA ➜
- Exped HyperLite: stats are almost identical to the NeoAir. Check Price UK ➜ / USA ➜
Best cycle touring camping mats
Combine a lightweight inflatable (e.g. NeoAir or Exped HyperLite/Basic UL) with an ultralight foam pad underneath for protection (e.g. Gossamer Gear or Multi Mat SuperLite).
Best warmth-to-weight ratios
- Exped DownMat WinterLite: Ratio 41 (R-value 7, weight 17oz). Check Price UK ➜ / USA ➜
- Therm-a-Rest NeoAir X-Therm: Ratio 38 (R-value 5.7, weight 15oz). Check Price UK ➜ / USA ➜
- MultiMat SuperLite 8: Ratio 34 (R-value 2.3, weight 6.7oz). Best ratio for a foam mat. Check Price UK ➜
Best all-round camping pad
- Thermarest ProLite: Tiny, really light, still warm/comfortable and very reliable. Check Price UK ➜ / USA ➜
- Thermarest XLite NeoAir: A bit more fragile than the ProLite but much more comfortable. Check Price UK ➜ / USA ➜
Want some advice? Got a question? Add your comment below.
You might like my other comparison articles too including Bivvy Bags, Base Layer Materials, Multi Fuel Stoves, Gas Canister Camping Stoves and Lightweight Sleeping Bags. Browse all comparison articles…
This is an impresive collection of mats but what is your favorite mat?
Hi Poul. Thermarest ProLite is the safest all-rounder. The NeoAir Xlite looks like a potential replacement but needs a bit more long-term testing. Otherwise, the Exped SynMats are far warmer and more comfortable than the competition and still really light.
A very useful round-up indeed. Thank you!
Worth mentioning that if you don’t sleep on your back and/or you’re not 5’11” tall, the Klymit Inertia is probably not for you. Or so I’ve heard. (I sleep on my side, hence didn’t buy one.)
Thanks for that Tom. I remember reading that about the Inertia on your review of the NeoAir. Makes a lot of sense.
The Inertia looks like it’s good for very specific, ultra light weight activities where every gram counts. The NeoAir looks more like just a good all-round mattress (that happens to be really light).
In case you haven’t decided yet, I cycled around the world with the Exped Synmat 7 (non UL version) a couple of years ago, and absolutely love it. Really comfy (I sleep on my side, so have always had difficulties finding something comfortable), compact, lightweight enough and really robust. I also like the fact that you don’t breathe into it to inflate, which somehow in my mind meant it was less likely to have warm moist air causing mould growth! Especially good for sub-zero temperatures as well. The CPR-like method of inflation gets a bit tiresome though, to be fair…
We’ve actually been given two SynMat ULs by Exped so that’s really reassuring to hear. We’ve got two super thin GoodNight foam mats to go underneath and protect them too.
I’ve used the “CPR” inflation method before and agree it can be a little tiring. The new ones you either inflate by mouth (with the risk of moisture getting inside – not as bad as it would be for the down version) or with an inflation bag. As well as a normal one, there’s one that doubles as a pillow and another one is a waterproof compression sack.
Hey nice article. can you suggest some ortho sleeping bags. i have cervical problem
Hey Niky, do you mean orthotic camping mats rather than sleeping bags?
I don’t know anything about them specifically but I would generally recommend the more solid options for anyone with back issues. That means foam roll mats and self-inflating mats but not inflatable air mattresses.
Thermarest Z-Rest and Ridgerest are the best foam pads.
Thermarest Prolite are probably the best bet for self-inflating.
Let me tell you that I really enjoyed your article. And this is coming from a guy that knows his air mattresses. I spend a great deal of my free time writing on my blog about the camping and outdoor experiences I go through. I love you comparison chart I have actually worked on a similar one but mine involves mattresses from more companies.
Also foam roll mats are a great idea and I recently started using them o lot.
I am thinking of doing a round up and I would be glad if you would like to be featured.
Thanks James. I’m glad you liked the article. I look forward to seeing your comparison chart when it’s ready. If you’d like to reference my article in your post then that would of course be most welcome. All the best, Tim.
Hi Tim. I have created a definitive guide to sleeping pads. This will compliment perfectly your comparison tables above. And together we bring complete information to people who want to make a smart buy. I would definitely want to collaborate one of these days to create more of such resources.
here is the link: http://www.bestairmattressguide.com/air-mattress/definitive-guide-sleeping-pads-2/
and also you will find an expert roundup there. Top camping experts share their opinion on what is the best air mattress. check that out too.
keep in touch,
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Just wanted to throw my 2 pence in, I have had the same exped 7 downmat for 6 years now and has been to the himalaya 4 times, I have always just blown into the down and its still as warm now as when I first used it, sod using the CPR method
Thanks Neil, that’s good to know. I would have been worried about moisture build-up dampening the down and/or getting moldy.
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I really enjoyed your article, I love you comparison chart
Oh, those synmats be comfy, but watch out. 2 year warranty, and many many people having theirs delaminate makes it a no go for me.
Just unrolling my new xtherm, and from what everyone is saying, I am gonna looove it!
Lifetime warranty. Dig that!
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This is one heck of a guide. I’ve used the Thermarest Pro-lite Mattress and its great cause its super light but not all that great if you are a side sleeper. Good thing I learned to become a back sleeper on the trip.
Cheers Frank. I’m a big ProLite fan (despite being a side-sleeper)!
I am 200 lbs and sleep on side on this pad and never have hip bottom out. Great mat and compresses very small.
Yeah, they’re great mats!
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I’ve had the exped Synmat – nice, but after some weeks using a non-repairable hole next to the valve so I got only halfpriceback.
And it’s produced in the far east under working conditions you don’t know…
Now I’ve got thermarest, the thickestin your test with 30 years guaranty – and made in Ireland…
Ah, sorry to hear about your problems with the SynMat Michael but glad you’re now sleeping sound with Therm-a-Rest and guarantee!
Hi Tim, Do you know something about self inflatable matresses from the brand Gelert?
Hi Janny, I don’t know a lot about the Gelert self-inflating mats but from looking at their website, they are very cheap (£7.50+) and very heavy (1kg+). If you just want a cheap mat that you’ll transport in a car then these would be a bargain. If you want one to carry in a backpack then a few extra quid for an Alpkit mat would cut your weight in half and, probably, be slightly better build quality.
Does that help?
Hi, great article and website in general. Some more opinions to help people…
1)Neoair Xtherm is great – my friend has used it countless times on trips the last 2 years. They do rustle but not too bad and I don’t get bothered when he turns over..however, I wouldn’t own one myself as I’d be in control of the sound and that would irritate me…!
2) A lot of air mattresses can be too slippy and I have found myself waking up with my feet pressing into the end of the tent when sleeping on unlevel ground. I’m a side sleeper and very picky. I have found my warm winner though: Klymit Static V Insulated (709g, R-value 4.4). The diagonal baffles keep me in the same place and it is thick, easy to inflate, cheap(ish), easy to roll up, and tough fabric. Seems they are bringing out a lite version in USA and also do a much lighter, non-insulated version.
3) Klymit Inertia Ozone…Massively mixed feelings about this one – If it suits your body type its very comfy, super light, and has a pillow, all for about 350g. BUT NOT WARM! ignore their ‘loft pocket’ marketing…I got cold on a 6’C summer night with a Sub-zero sleeping bag (in a tent!). So, great for superlight warm treks if your profile perfectly fit into the holes, nothing more. (try one out first if you can!).
4) A good combo(touched upon many times in this article) under 500g would be a superlight foam matress with a superlight air matress on top…If you don’t mind the bulk its a double winner: more comfort, more insulation, less chance of puncture and if you do puncture the air matress all is not lost! I don’t do this currently simply because I try very hard to keep everything inside my pack to make me more agile walking through forests etc.
P.s. Your whole website is great!
Thanks for the kind words and tips Jon. Sounds like I need to try some of these Klymit mats. You’re dead right about some of the mats being really slippy though. Glad you agree with the thin foam + inflatable mat combo!
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So many to chose from!! Don’t know which one to take now.
Can I help? Let me know what your priorities are e.g. cheap, light, warm.
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The self-inflating pads would go perfectly in my hammock!
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Hi, thanks for such useful information. My partner and i are planning on cycling through Africa for 5 months this year and I am finding it very hard to make a decision on the best sleeping mats for us! Any advise would be appreciated!
Safest best as an all-rounder are self-inflating pads. If you want cheap, go AlpKit. If you want really good, go Thermarest ProLite.
If you prefer guaranteed comfort and don’t mind mending a puncture or two, get an Exped HyperLite or a Thermarest NeoAir. (Or, again, try the AlpKit offering if budget’s important. I’ve not tested it myself).
Does that help?
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About the inflatable ones… Thirdly, they are cold to sleep. Well, most of them are. Something to do with the air inside being a heat sink and heat exchange with the air in the tent.
Thanks Mark. I think that might be true for the inflatable mats without any filling inside. But most of these, if not all, have some kind of filling e.g. down or a synthetic equivalent. Based on their R-values and my own experiences, I’d say that inflatable mats are actually the warmest sleeping pads available.
I use an uninsulated Klymit with a cheap foam mat on top. The Klymit is very cold without the foam. I need the thickness of the Klymit to feel comfortable.
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Great tips. i was wonder which one to pruchase. but thanks to god i browse your website. now i find the answer
Glad it was useful Niky.
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Hello Guys, Please Suggest which sleeping pad is good for me. I have some back pain problem.
The most comfortable are the inflatable Exped mats. However, if your back problem is of the aching nature then you probably want something much firmer. I’d suggest a Thermarest Z-Rest or Ridgerest.
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Hello Guys, Please Suggest which sleeping pad is good for me
I’d recommend one of the mats above.
I used the intex mattress for camping. It was awesome!
btw, thanks for an awesome post !
I’d have two questions:
* What would you say is the best value for money out there in self-inflating pads?
I do love Therm-a-Rest, I really do, but how to you think they compare to ALPS Mountaineering in terms of the “bang for the buck” they offer?
* What are your thoughts on comparing R-values across brands?
I know R-value is a standard, with a precise formula and all, but the way values that go into that formula are measured, company to company, there’s no standard for that. It always gives me pause when people ask me this exact question…I just wanted to hear your take on this.
Thanks for the thoughtful questions. In response…
Therm-a-rest vs ALPS Mountaineering:
Thermarest are excellent on both the stats and on their quality. Cheaper alternatives tend to fall down on one of those things i.e. they’re bigger/heavier or don’t last as long. I’ve not used any ALPS mats so can’t comment on the quality but their stats are decent. So, if their quality’s good then they are probably better bang for your buck. But if they’re more prone to failure like, say, an AlpKit mat, then it’s a decision on whether to invest in long life or risk buying cheap, buying twice.
I’ll add ALPS to my list of companies to contact about reviewing their products.
Comparing R-values across brands:
R values appeal to me as they’re a neat, mathematical way to compare one mat with another. Unfortunately, I’m not sure it’s a very good measure. I report the values in this review because they’re the only metric available for measuring the warmth of a camping mat but I would definitely say they should be taken with a pinch of salt between brands.
With sleeping bag ratings, the better known (and usually more expensive) brands tend to be more conservative with their temperature ratings whereas cheaper, budget alternatives are sometimes a little more gung ho (though there are notable exceptions, like AlpKit who tend to be very honest with their information). I’ve no evidence that mat manufacturers do the same but I think it’s unlikely a big brand like Thermarest, for example, would exaggerate their ratings when they have a long held reputation to keep.
So informative.. i have bought one last year for camping now i will find according your info thanks a lots
Dear Tim. Incredibly helpful comparison chart. Just wondering if you’ve any experience of the new SV thermarests? Looking at one of these and wondering if they are better that the original? Thanks.
Hey Rachel. Thanks for the question. I’ve not yet tried the SV/Speed Valve mattresses but will try to get one from Thermarest ASAP. Same with their Evolite hybrid mats. Will report back soon!
Hey tim, i may be poking an old post here, but how comfy do you find the prolite plus for side sleeping? Or even the prolite? I noticed youre a side sleeper so your opinion is much appreciated. Im just skeptical of 2.5cm of cushion being comfy. Also, how comfy are torso length pads? Many thanks tim.
Hey Monty, I think the Prolite Plus is pretty comfy, even for sleeping on your side, especially if you inflate it fully. Of course, if comfort is the number one priority then an inflatable mattress like a NeoAir or Synmat will be much thicker.
As for torso length mats, as long as you put something underneath your feet like a rolled up waterproof jacket then they’re fine. I use three-quarter length pads more often than full length.
Thanks tim, much apprieciated
Tim! What an incredibly detailed guide. This will make life a lot easier. Cheers
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Such an informative post thanks so much!
I’ve checked your recommended/major air mattress brands! I would love to hear from you which air mattress brand will be best for camping ? Can you please suggest me an air mattress ?
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A lot of useful information on choosing sleeping pads. thanks for sharing, teach me a lot
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Tim, great writeup, especially loving the T-value!
It would be nice to see widths reported in the comparison tables. I ended up buying a Sea to Summit ComfortPlus Insulated purely because it was the widest I could find. I find that mats like the Neo Air are already quite narrow on paper, and then once sleeping on it the edges collapse a little, making the usable width even less.
On a thick inflarable matress in particular I like to be able to lie on my back without my arms falling off the sides.
Thanks Rob. You’re right about the NeoAir being narrow and that’s interesting to hear that the Sea to Summit mats are wider. Exped are wider too. The rectangular ones in particular are really big.
I may add a width column to the tables next time I get the energy – so many variables!
All the best,
I’ve been using an $18 Walmart air mattress on my camping trips until it finally got worn out! I am looking to upgrade to a more compact inflatable mat and would like to test one out before my next camping trip. For taller people (5’11”) who toss and turn and prefer a wider side, what do you recommend? Your guide is thoroughly detailed but with so much choice, I’d like to narrow it down further.
Thanks for the question. For a taller person that wants a wider mat, I would recommend an Exped DownMat 7 or SynMat 7. They are long (I’m 5’11” and they work for me), wider than most alternatives and rectangular (rather than tapered) so give plenty of room for rolling around.
I have heard that Sea to Summit mats are slightly wider too but they’re still tapered (mummy shaped).
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Great article Tim, I found exactly the info I was looking for! The Thermarest Prolite is perfect for me.
Thanks for sharing your experience.
Very detailed article. As you said: It is based on 17 years’ experience, it is very helpful.
Thak you Tim.
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The Travel Gears
Beautifully written article. such great ideas about camping mats here i found here. Informative this one blog really appreciate to all of you guys for this stuff. Thanks for sharing
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Yeah i already bought camping mats of this site have really is this good quality products
I have back pain from the last one I year pls suggest me any comfortable for me
Exped Down- and Syn-Mats are the most comfortable. However, if your back doesn’t respond well to soft and squashy mattresses, you might be better sticking with a Thermarest Ridgerest and/or ProLite.
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When I lastly went to Adirondack Park for Camping, I had a big problem with the mat. I couldn’t sleep the whole night. When I was searching for finding perfect mat for camping , I reached your article. That’s a great content. Thanks for sharing.
Love to read this Excellently written article. such great ideas about camping mats here I found here. Informative this one blog really appreciate to all of you guys for this stuff. Thanks for sharing.
Thank you for this guide, took some time to digest, but now I think I know what I will go for.
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My wife and I got some Vaude mats from our wedding list last year. They’re semi-selfinflating and blown up with a cushion or squeeze bag.
I tought I’d refer to them since I really like the mats; I am quite happy with all my Vaude gear so far – not the cheapest, but they do a good to great job and it seems quite an ‘aware’ brand. I wonder how their options compare :)
Thanks for the heads-up.
I had not come across the Vaude pads before but I have added them to the tables above and contacted them for a review product.
Update: Vaude are sending me a mat this week. Thanks again Maarten!
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