There are a few items that you should never skimp on when outfitting yourself for backpacking, and a good backpacking sleeping pad is one of them. If you're going to expect a full day of backpacking out of your body after all, then you need to give it every opportunity to recharge, and that happens at night, while you're asleep. But if you're tossing and turning all night, uncomfortable, you will have a hard time giving 100% the next day on the trail. Which is why a good backpacking sleeping pad is essential.
Backpacking Sleeping PadWhat you need to look for when you are buying a new backpacking sleeping pad.
- Foam or Inflate - There are two main choices when it comes to the kind of padding you want from a sleeping pad, and those are foam and inflatable. Inflatable pads tend to be a bit more comfy, or at least less hard than foam, but also heavier and more prone to breaking. It's rather difficult to break a foam sleeping pad.
- Rectangular or Mummy - Sleeping pads also come in a few different shapes. A mummy shaped sleeping pad, where the pad is widest at your shoulders and hips, and then tapered elsewhere, saves on weight, but if you like to toss and turn at night you might be better served by the extra room a rectangular sleeping pad provides.
- R-Value - R-value is a measurement of how warm a sleeping pad is, or how much heat will be reflected back at your while you sleep. What you need to know is that a higher R-value means a warmer sleeping pad, though you can read more about R-values over at the Sleeping Pad R-Values page.
Best Backpacking Sleeping PadA few of the very best sleeping pads for backpacking that you will find on the market.
- Therm-A-Rest Z Lite - If you prefer foam over inflatable, then the Z Lite is an ideal choice. It uses an egg crate design to both increase comfort and cut down on weight, which is just 14.5 ounces, or 410 grams. It's also .75 inches thick, and packs up accordion style, so that you can easily attach it with a few exterior straps to just about anywhere on your backpack.
- Exped Downmat - If you plan to be backpacking when the temperature is low you will need a backpacking sleeping pad with a high R-value, and with an R-value of 8, this is one of the warmest sleeping pads on market. It's inflatable, with a full 3.5 inches of air between you and the ground when fully pumped up, and it weighs just 2.24 pounds, or 1.02 kilograms, which is very lightweight considering how warm it is. It actually achieves that high R-value with a layer of down built in to the top of it.
- Therm-A-Rest NeoAir - For summer camping with an inflatable sleeping pad, you wont do much better than the NeoAir. It won the 2009 Backpacker Magazine Editor's Choice award, and with good reason. It's rectangular, with 2.5 inches of height when fully inflated, yet it weighs just 14.5 ounces, or 410 grams. The R-value of 2.5 makes it well suited to three season camping, when staying warm isn't a chief concern.