7 Sleeping Pad Options That Will Keep Every Hiker Comfortable in 2021

Young woman using a sleeping pad in the outdoors

It may not be as appealing as a backpack, a tent, or sleeping bag; however, a humble backpacking sleeping pad is just as critical as the much-touted Big Three. The warmest possible sleeping bag in the world will surely not do much good if you are lying on hard cold ground without a mattress. Being sleepy is the fastest way to ruin the trip of a lifetime, and this is why you should opt for one of the best backpacking sleeping pads for your next hike.

Therm-A-Rest NeoAir XLite Sleeping Pad

Therm-A-Rest NeoAir XLite Sleeping Pad This model is perfect for three-season thru-hiking with an R-value of 4.2 in the men’s version. It comes in three variations, 47”, 72”, or 77”. The 66” women’s version is even warmer with a score of 5.4 while maintaining the same 12-ounce even better for smaller people too. It inflates to a root-smothering 2.5-inches-thick and packs tiny to roughly the same size as a Nalgene. It also comes in various lengths for a perfect fit, and an updated value, and the included pump sack make this sleeping pad the perfect choice for many.

Pros: It has an easy-to-use one-way valve, and it offers an excellent warmth-to-weight ratio. Cons: Price on the narrow side, and it makes a lot of noise.

NEMO Tensor

NEMO Tensor sleeping pad This sleeping pad is extremely well suited for thru-hiking. Its insulation factors mean that it can be used functionally even on chilly nights, yet many people didn’t have any issues with it being too warm during the summer months. It held up pretty well for most of the PCT where they have used it. As mentioned above, even on the slightly taller side of the spectrum, the pad has plenty of beds to get cozy on.

Pros: It’s warm, durable, and there are two options available – mummy and rectangular Cons: It gets dirty pretty quickly, and it’s not as warm as other pads at a similar price/weight point.

Therm-A-Rest Neoair XTherm

Therm-A-Rest Neoair XTherm This model is the best warmth-to-weight ratio of any pad on the market. The R-Value of this pad is 6,9. It weighs just 15 ounces, and the full-length dimensions are comparable to most pads out there. There is no question that this model deserves top marks in the inter camping department.

Pros: Perfect warmth-to-weight ratio, one-way valve simplifies inflation, it’s well-built for durability and comfort. Cons: crackling noise, price.

Big Agnes Insulated Q-Core SLX

Big Agnes Insulated Q-Core SLX This model is rather beefy, with its 3.5-inch thickness of the Q-Core. This makes it eminently comfortable and not floppy like other pads. You could easily sleep right on top of the seriously gnarly roots and not even begin to feel them.

Pros: plenty of cushions, rectangular cut, and vertical baffles that are perfect for side sleepers, it comes in multiple lengths and width; relatively quiet. Cons: It’s prone to leakage along with baffles, longer time to inflate, not that much warmth for the weight and height. It’s also rather heavy.

Therm-a-Rest Prolite Apex

Therm-a-Rest Prolite Apex A good night’s sleep is a priority for most people. Though it’s a bit on the heavy side, this sleeping pad is perfect for every trip. Many hikers find warmer sleeping pads the better choice than a sleeping bag. The sturdy construction of this one makes it extremely resilient, even when sleeping on uneven ground.

Pros: It’s comfortable, it has a great R-value, and it’s convenient because it’s self-inflating. Cons: The self-inflation process is a bit slow.

Sea to Summit UltraLight Insulated Air

Sea to Summit UltraLight Insulated Air

This one is middle-of-the-road when it comes to weight, price, and R-value, but there are a few areas where it shines compared to its competitors. It earns it a spot among the best backpacking sleeping pads of 2021.

Pros: It’s not too thick. It’s quick to inflate and it offers excellent durability. Cons: Warmth, weight, cost.

Gossamer Gear Thinlight

Gossamer Gear Thinlight

This sleeping pad is too minimalist to work as a standalone one. However, that’s not the point of this item. Instead, these pads are meant to supplement your existing sleep system. The R-values are additive, so stacking this pad underneath another one can surely boost the insulation factor.

Pros: Great warmth-to-weight ratio. Cons: Not a huge boost in warmth.

Lessons All Backpackers Learn on Their First Trip

Backpacking around the world is a great way to see as much of this planet of ours as possible. When backpacking, learning about different cultures and seeing some of the most incredible sights are par for the course. However, there are some lessons that all backpackers learn after taking their first trip into a foreign land.

Bring Earplugs

One of the first things you’ll realize when staying in a cheap hostel is that you should have brought earplugs. Popping some earplugs in your pack will ensure that you can sleep through the loudest of snoring and passing wind. Sleep is going to be very important on your trip, and you don’t want anything stopping you from getting a good night’s sleep.

Don’t Pack So Much

If you haven’t been traveling before, you may end up packing enough supplies for a small army. You quickly learn that you don’t need so much stuff, and anything you need can be bought pretty easily. You can wash your clothes practically anywhere you stay, and three pairs of shoes are just not required.

Not Everything is Online

The beauty of traveling to a far and distant land is discovering things for yourself. Many of a backpacker’s best stories come from when they got lost and found the perfect little restaurant. Trawling Tripadvisor for a good place to eat might help you avoid the bad places, but you could be missing out on the real gems too.

Free Doesn’t Always Mean Free

If something sounds too good to be true, it usually is. The same applies when you’re backpacking, and those super cheap taxis usually include a detour to some shop you have no interest in visiting. Free walking tours come with the hidden cost of tipping your tour guide, generally after being guilt-tripped into it. When backpacking, it’s important to realize nothing comes for free.

Backpackers, make a note of these important lessons before you set off!