After a long hard day trekking through the woods or along your favorite trail, nothing is more enjoyable than sitting by the fire sipping a hot drink and reminiscing about the day’s events. Exhausted yet satisfied you bid your companions good night roll out your sleeping bag a get some sleep.
Or you would if it wasn’t for the rocks poking your back, or that stick jabbing your ribs or that mound of dirt that feels like a boulder. After an uncomfortable night, you awake more tired than when you went to bed. A familiar story most hikers and campers can relate too.
This is where the sleeping pad comes in, modern sleeping pads are a wonderful mix of comfort, size and weight and are an essential accessory to have during your hike. In the following ideas you will see which one is the best ultralight sleeping pad-mattress.
There are three types of sleeping pad available, these are the air pad, self-inflating pad and closed cell foam pads. The sleeping pad provides the comfort and warmth you require for a good night’s sleep after a hard day in the wilderness.
A sleeping pad’s R-value is very important when choosing as this value represents the level of insulation the pad will provide from the cold ground underneath and at the same time helping retain your body heat and afford protection against the rocks, sticks and clumps you invariably encounter. As mentioned above, there are generally three types of sleeping pad available.
Best Ultralight Sleeping Pad-Mattress
- The air pads provide excellent compactness in size, they can often roll down to the size of a bottle for easy storage, but when inflated provide unmatched thickness. If you decide on an air pad, always bring along a patch kit for those unexpected punctures that may happen.
- The self-inflating sleeping pad combines open cell foam with space for inflation, these pads are less prone to puncture and still provide some padding if deflated. The only down side is the weight and the fact that they do not compress as well as the standard air pad.
- The closed cell sleeping pad is still a popular option seeing as there is no chance of puncturing or deflation. Less comfortable than the air pads, they also do not pack as small but are still a great choice as secondary pads if needed.
Here Are Some Considerations When Selecting The Right Sleeping Pad
Don’t necessarily choose the lightest option, the lighter option can reduce the weight of the pack but making the wrong choice could have consequences, not only on the wallet, look for the right balance of material used against the weight depending on your needs.
The Thickness And Comfort Of The Sleeping Pad
Although sleeping pads cannot compete with the likes of a camping mattress, there are still some very comfortable options available. Sleeping on the ground has its pros and cons and your comfort will come down to position you are comfortable in when sleeping. Depending on whether you sleep on your back or side will help determine the type of pad to choose.
What Type Of R-Value Is Needed?
As stated, the R-value of the sleeping pad informs of the resistance to cold and heat the material is capable of. The higher the number the better the resistance. If you prefer camping in warmer weather than an R-value of three or less is acceptable. Whereas in colder weather it is advisable to have a pad with an R-value of 5 and above.
The Size Of The Sleeping Pad When Packed
The pad type, insulation properties and material thickness play a large part in how compact the sleeping pad will become for storage. Generally, the air pads compress the smallest for easy storage in the backpack. Self-inflating and closed cell pads are a little trickier in this department and in most cases, you will have to strap these pads to the exterior of the backpack.
The Durability Of The Sleeping Pad
The thickness of the material used in the construction of the sleeping pad is measured in Denier. The smaller the number, the thinner the materials thread will be.
A Lower Denier rating means less durability and could lead to damage. Sleeping pads on the market can range from 20 Denier through to 70 Denier. So finding the right balance in your sleeping pad is important for durability where it’s needed most, out on the trail.
A Selection Of Top Rated Sleeping Pads
The Therm-A-Rest NeoAir Xlite Sleeping Pad
Coming in at 12 ounces, the Thermarest NeonAir is a leading pad. The lightest model in their range this pad offers premium insulation and comfort in a low weight package. An R-value of 3.5 is ideal for most weather conditions and the Xlite packs down really small for easy storage. Being an ultralight pad there may be some durability issues, but do not let this deter you as this is still one of the best air pads on the market.
The Therm-A-Rest Z Lite Sol Sleeping Pad/Mattress
A closed cell foam sleeping pad, the Thermarest Z lite weighs in at only 14 ounces. For overall weight and comfort at a budget price, this sleeping pad should be high on any list. Great for most weather conditions, or as a secondary sleeping pad for those colder conditions. Not as comfortable as the inflatable style pads, it’s still a great option at a cheap price.
The REI AirRail 1.5 Sleeping Pad
A little heavier than the others mentioned here the REI AirRail weighs in at 26 ounces. Don’t let the weight fool you as the unique design of this sleeping pads packed size is very impressive. As it is a self-inflating pad it will require some time to inflate.
With an R-Value of 4.2 the AirRail is a great all-rounder although the cushioning is not as good as an air pad. With good design and decent pricing, the AirRail should be considered as a sleeping pad of choice.
There are many different brands on the market utilizing different lightweight, yet durable material technologies in the construction of their Sleeping pads. Choosing the right sleeping pad for the weather and environment you will be using them in will ultimately come down to personal choice and maybe some trial and error.
If you keep in mind some of the points mentioned above and the different types of pads available, you will find yourself enjoying a comfortable and warm night’s sleep on the trail and waking up rested and prepared for the next day’s session. Happy camping. I hope that our review about the best ultralight sleeping pad-mattress helped you with your questions.
Want to learn more about the best sleeping pads for your backpacking trip? Check it out here.
Need a cold weather sleeping bag? Read about our favorite one here.
Are you a side sleeper? Learn about the best one for your sleep style here.