If you’ve ever woken up with an aching back after a night out car camping, you know how important a quality sleeping pad is for a decent night’s sleep.

As with pretty much everything when it comes to camping, it really pays to do your research on sleeping pads before you’re out in the middle of the woods, trying to get a decent night’s sleep.

Here’s everything you need to know about the best sleeping pads out there today.

Image: happy couple sits beside a campfireWhat to Look for in a Sleeping Pad

When you’re out camping, and it comes to sleeping gear, there are two big factors you’re going to want to take into account: space and performance.

Just get these two figured out, and you’ll be good to go!

Your Pad Should Be Small and Light

Obviously, everything you take with you out on the trail should be as lightweight and compressible as possible.

The less space your supplies take up, the more supplies you’ll be able to take – and the better and experience you’ll be in for.

The best sleeping pads can be compressed down to space a fraction of their max volume, and most of the products we’ll be talking about here are inflatable.

Additionally, if your pad is too heavy, it doesn’t matter how good a rest it gives you once you’re lying down – you’ll be stuck with a sore back just from the weight of your pack alone!

Your Camper Pad Should Be Rugged

You’re also going to need a pad that can actually withstand the harshness of mother nature.

A good sleeping pad should be prepared to get crammed as tight as it can possibly fit into a jam-packed backpack.

It should be able to tear on any random supplies around your tent, and if you’re planning on camping with a dog, it should be able to hold up against a couple of bites and scratches.

Your Camper Pad Should Keep You Warm

Quality sleeping pads also provide solid levels of insulation.

Just how important this is going to be will vary a lot based on when and where you’re camping, but cold nights often hit when you least suspect it.

You want a pad that will trap your body heat nice and close, or you’ll be a popsicle come morning!

Your Camper Pad Should Be Comfortable

Lastly, sleeping pads should, of course, be comfortable.

Although no camping pad will be able to rival the feel of a quality mattress, you still want something that can properly support your weight and minimize the possibility of pressure points.

Because of this, you’ll often want a decent degree of height to your sleeping pad, or you’ll list sinking down to the ground.

Don’t underestimate the difference between an actually comfortable sleeping pad and whatever hunk of junk you can pick up.

Aches and pains are bound to happen in the outdoors anyway, so a backbreaking sleeping pad is really the last thing you need.

Image: hiker in the mountainsAir, Self-Inflating & Closed-Cell Foam

There are three main types of sleeping pads: air pads, self-inflating pads, and closed-cell foam pads.

Each of these comes with a unique mix of benefits and drawbacks.

Air Pads

Air pads are often your best bet.

Those products are inflated either with your breath or a small pump – and because of this, they take up a minimal amount of space and weight.

Air pads also tend to be pretty comfortable, although you want to be sure you fill them up all the way since the night’s cooler temperatures can make them shrink.

You want to be sure an air pad is rugged (or you risk popping it and losing its function altogether), and it can also be kind of noisy when you move around if you don’t invest in the right one.

The big downside to an air pad is that it tends to be on the pricier side of things.

Self-Inflating Pads

Self-inflating pads, meanwhile, are fairly similar to air pads, only they tend to be a bit thicker and bulkier.

This, however, allows them to provide better insulation than many of their counterparts.

You’re also saved the trouble of blowing them up all by yourself – all you have to do is twist the cap, and the pad itself takes care of the rest.

Closed-Cell Foam Pads

Finally, closed-cell foam pads are the heaviest and bulkiest of the bunch.

Although these things do compress some, they’re not inflatable and they can only scrunch down so far.

There are two main advantages to these kinds of pad: insulation and price.

These are typically the least expensive of all pads out there.

Additionally, their closed-cell foam is ideal for trapping in body heat!

The Best Sleeping Pads

And now, here they are…

The best sleeping pads of 2021!

Outdoorsman Ultralite Venture 4th Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Paria Recharge Sleepingo
Inflated Dimensions 73″ x 21.6″ x 2.2″ 73.6″ x 21.6″ x 2″ Comes in 3 sizes: small, regular, large 72″ x 20″ x 2.5″ 75″ x 23″ x 2″
Compressed Dimensions 8″ x 3″ 10.2″ x 3.1″ 9″ x 4″ 7″ x 4″ 8″ x 3.5″
Notes Amazon’s top choice Built with rugged 40D nylon Maximized comfort Includes synthetic microfiber insulation Virtually no negative reviews
Avg Rating 4.3 4.3 4.1 4.3 4.8
Price Out of stock! Out of stock! Out of stock! $74.99 Out of stock!

The OutdoorsmanLab Ultralight Sleeping Pad

First up, we have the Outdoorsman Lab Ultralite Sleeping Pad.

This is Amazon’s top choice of sleeping pads available today, and when you look at the specs on this thing, it’s not hard to see why.

This is an air pad, so you’ll have to use your own lung power to fill it all the way up, but once you get it nice and filled you’ll be in for an extremely comfortable night’s sleep.

The Outdoorsman is made up of pockets of interconnected air cells, each of which can adjust to the dips and curves of your body to provide a heightened level of support.

It’s easy to inflate and deflates in mere seconds while also allowing for a good bit of insulation on those cold nights.

Not only that, but the Outdoorsman is amazingly compressible – fitting in a mere 8″ x3″ x3″ space is just perfect for shoving into a crammed backpack. Basically, it means that this car camping pad resembles the size of a water bottle after rolling it up! Therefore, backpackers who need to pack light and compact will certainly appreciate it. It is a stress-free product for people aiming for serious adventures – you don’t have to worry about it being heavy and bulky. It is not only convenient to carry, but also easy to manage, so you won’t have either back pain carrying it or a headache setting it up.

The Venture 4th Sleeping Pad

Another handy option is the Venture 4th Ultralight Inflatable Sleeping Pad.

This is actually highly similar to the Outdoorsman in a lot of regards, including both the shape and construction.

These multipurpose sleeping pads have only a single air cell layer, which results in a small-packed and outstandingly light mat that doesn’t allow for any compromises when it comes to comfort. Keep in mind that the lighter your backpack, the more enjoyable your hiking trips can be.

It weighs around 1 pound only, so it is perfect for backpacking, camping, hiking, mountaineering, lounging, long car rides, fishing, pool parties, open-air events, and more.

It’s got a similar pocketed build that allows for localized support on the necessary parts of your body and requires a similar amount of air to inflate and deflate.

The Venture 4th comes with two more color options than the outdoorsman – four choices against the Outdoorsman’s two – but it is slightly bulkier than its counterpart.

It’s 10.3″ long when fully compressed, compared to the Outdoorsman’s 8″.

However, it is 40D Nylon compared to the Outdoorsman’s 20D, so it is a bit more rugged. It is resistant to moisture, water, and tearing, so you can freely use it by the lake or river, and also not worry that your dog may destroy it.

This pad is amazingly comfortable to handle – it will be ready to use just after 10-12 breaths, so it won’t be too exhausting for you to prepare it for sleeping. When you’re already preparing to finish your car camping trip, just give it a few seconds to deflate, and you can conveniently store it in its carrying bag.

It is very modern, supportive, and resilient, so it will likely provide complete satisfaction. Its manufacturer is so sure you’re going to love it that they sell with a risk-free satisfaction guarantee. It means that if it doesn’t stand up to your requirements, you will get your money back. But we’re convinced there is no way this could be the case!

Image: mountain man with neoair xliteThe Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Xlite

For an even higher-quality camping sleeping option, meanwhile, consider the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Xlite Backpacking Air Mattress.

This is slightly thicker when inflated than either of the two products we’ve talked about so far – 2.5″ compared to the Venture 4th and Outdoorsman’s 2″.

It’s a little bulkier than either of them – 11″ x4.5″ – but its Triangular Core Matrix baffled construction is designed to minimize heat loss, while Reflective Thermal Capture technology is designed to trap heat.

The NeoAir is substantially more expensive than the other pads on this list, make no mistake.

But you get what you pay for.

This sleeping pad is designed for maximum comfort, and you may especially want to consider this if you suffer from any kind of back pain or tend to have trouble sleeping on surfaces that aren’t your own mattress.

It’s lightweight and ultra-comfy, designed for real relaxation even as you’re out roughing it.

What is more, this Therm-a-Rest product has a sturdy and dependable WingLock valve, making it extremely fast to inflate and deflate it. According to Amazon, you can inflate it 3 times faster than a standard model!

Another important feature of the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Xlite is its R-value counting as much as 4.2, meaning that it won’t let you get cold even in the most difficult conditions. It may be the best choice for those campers who have huge problems with bearing too much cold!

Apart from the Therm-a-Rest sleeping pad itself, you will receive a stuff sack, a repair kit, and a pump sack in the set. And it’s all made in the US!

The Paria Recharge Sleeping Pad

Next up, there’s the Paria Outdoor Products Recharge Sleeping Pad.

At 2.5″ inflated, this is another slightly thicker sleeping surface. As these models are enhanced with high-loft synthetic microfiber insulation, they are genuine 3-season sleeping pads, having an estimated R-value of 4.3. Therefore, even if you go camping in spring or late summer, you can be sure that this pad will help you to keep the warmth.

It’s the most compact of any of these products – squishing down to a mere 7″ x4″ in the included stuff sack. Despite being relatively thick, it is also ultralight, so it won’t make it harder for you to hike.

Not only that, but it also comes with a layer of laminated synthetic insulation along the insides to help trap in some extra heat, allowing for the kind of warmth you need when the going gets rough.

And you don’t even have to worry about inflating this thing by yourself – its built-in valve takes care of all that for you. It’s not only a self-inflating model, but also an incredibly fast-working one, so you won’t have to wait long for it to be prepared to use. Furthermore, thanks to a two-way flat valve and a built-in flap, deflation will also be amazingly quick.

Moreover, this model is surprisingly sturdy thanks to the high-strength 40D diamond ripstop nylon and TPU lamination technology being applied. For this reason, you can be sure you’ll be able to use it during multiple camping trips. Nevertheless, it’s always best to be prepared for any circumstances, so the manufacturer adds a repair kit to their product.

All in all, this is a quality camping product sure to provide you with relaxing sleep after a long day in the great outdoors. You can buy it with confidence, as the producer provides a limited lifetime warranty against manufacturing defects.

Image: couple walking with sleepingo sleeping padsThe Sleepingo Camping Sleeping Pad

Finally, there’s the Sleepingo Camping Sleeping Pad.

This car camping product has received the highest reviews of anything on this list by far, clocking in at a whopping 4.8 out of 5 stars!

This pad is made of a tough, durable ripstop nylon that compresses down to a skinny 9.5″ x2.5″, making this thing ideal for camping, and all manner of outdoor activities. It is amazingly strong, tear-resistant, and waterproof. Thanks to its outstanding 20 denier thickness, found only in the most solid camping products, it is designed to last a lifetime, even in the most extreme conditions.

If you are a demanding sleeper who finds it really hard to fall asleep on a hard surface, it would be best for you to choose an as comfortable model as possible. And Sleepingo camping sleeping pad sounds like a great suggestion in this matter. It is because it has 2″ thick sleep support, providing you with amazing convenience. Now you don’t have to worry that you won’t be able to sleep well under the tent or in a camper. It’s fantastic for any sleeping position!

Also, like the Venture 4th and Outdoorsman, the Sleepingo is made with a network interconnected air pockets designed to evenly support every part of your body.

What is more, it is ideal for backpacking sleeping because it weighs only 14.5 ounces and can be crammed to the size of a water bottle. For this reason, you don’t have to worry about the space in your backpack or the weight you will have to carry while hiking. To make it even more convenient to carry it, there is a sleek storage pouch added.

There’s practically no negative feedback on this thing, so it might just be the best pad for your backpacking sleeping. The manufacturer is very proud of this product, as it’s not only practical and economically efficient, but it also comes in an impressive size. Hence, they offer you a lifetime warranty, so if the product lets you down in any way (this is quite unlikely, but still), you can be sure that they will replace it in no time. Moreover, if you are not satisfied with your pads, they can also provide you with a refund without asking any questions.

Conclusion

We really hope that our advice concerning the best sleeping pads for car camping and backpacking sleeping will be useful for you. Your comfort will highly affect your overall experience, so it is really vital to make the right choice. You should look for easily inflatable (or even self-inflating) pads with high R-value that will be durable and comfortable to lie down on. Apart from that, you need to also take into consideration that you will have to put them into your backpack, so they should be able to be easily crammed and fit the limited space you have.

Consider choosing one of the well-known producers such as Therm-a-Rest, Sleepingo, Paria, Outdoorsman Lab, or Venture 4th. They have great reviews and are recommended by experienced camping enthusiasts.

Let us know in the comments below if you have any questions about your sleeping pad.

Happy shopping, and good luck with your camping.

Adventure awaits – get ready for it!


Ted Wilson

Ted Wilson

Founder and Owner

Ted is the founder and owner of Mattress Guides and is an expert in his field. Ted believes that having the right mattress is key to getting a good night’s sleep and feeling well-rested in the morning.

Updated at November 11, 2020