Sleeping pads serve two functions, the provide a little added comfort and the create a barrier between the ground creating a vapor barrier and adding insulation value. Currently on the market there are several types of pads available.
The three main types of pads are as follows:
- Air Pad
- Self Inflating Pad
- Closed Cell foam Pad
Each of the types of pads listed above have several pros and cons that you will want to Consider. For the most complete information and discussion I recommend checking out REI’s Expert Advice link at the bottom of the page below. It will give you the most comprehensive explanation of each type and their pros and cons.
When selecting a pad there are many factors to consider including sleeping area, packed size, weight, durability, comfort, insulation and price. The following outlines in general where each of these types fall into each of these categories.
- Air Pad
- Smallest packed size
- Lowest weight
- Not as durable depending on model, caution may need to be exercised for extreme lightweight backpacking versions.
- Most comfortable type of pad I have used other than very thick heavy self inflating pads
- Insulation values – Air pads in general were designed for warmer camping months and most do not offer the warmth of the other types of pads. That being said Thermarest makes a version for use in cold weather the NEO Air Xtherm but the ability to use in cold temperatures comes at a hefty price.
- Generally higher priced, especially for better insulating values
- Self inflating Pad
- Packed size will come in between that of Air Pads and Closed cell foam pads. It will depend on the model selected. Most will not fit inside a pack.
- More than likely will be significantly heaver than Air pads or Closed cell foam pads.
- These pads tend to be very durable as they utilize heaver face materials than the air pads.
- Very comfortable depending on thickness chosen.
- Insulation values will vary based on model. This group offers some of the warmest options.
- Price will generally fall between that of closed cell foam and Air pads.
- Closed-cell foam pads
- Not packable unless using a partial length pad
- Generally very light
- Most durable. Nothing to puncture.
- Not very comfortable. Most are very firm and offer little to no padding between you and ground.
- Can be extremely cheep compared to other options.
- Air Pads:
- Thermarest Neoair Xtherm.
- Thermarest Neoair (Several Versions Xtherm listed above is warmest)
- Big Agnes Q-Core SLX Insulated
- Seat to Summit Comfort Plus Insulated
- Other Options found at Outdoor Gear Lab
- Self Inflating Pads
- Therm-a-rest Prolite or Prolite Plus Sleeping Pad
- REI Trekker
- Closed Cell foam pads:
- Thermarest Ridge Rest SOLite Sleeping Pad
- Thermarest Z-lite SOL Sleeping Pad
Additional Literature on Sleeping pads check out one of the following links:
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