How To Choose Your Sleeping Pad

Sleeping pads for backpacking come in many shapes, sizes, and weights. How you choose your sleeping pad is very important for a comfortable night sleep while in the great outdoors.

I have slept many nights outdoors on different pads, and without pads as well – But when Nicky and I started looking for a sleep system that would work together, we took a step back to review pads and decide what was important to us.

Identifying what you need in a pad is the very first thing you need to do. Do you need to be on a pad where it feels very much like your mattress at home? Then an air chamber pad is probably for you. Do you need one that is as light weight as possibly? Then getting a shorter pad that covers torso down to knees is probably the best choice. Do you want one that insulates you from cold ground? Then there are definitely plenty of low temperature pads out there.

For us, being a couple that camps together, we decided that our most important factor is to have pads that work together. We didn’t want them to taper off, leaving ground space between our legs. This meant we needed an air mattress that was rectangle in shape.

Next was the comfort factor, as well as ease of use. Self inflating attracted us since it meant less work to blow our bed up – although it definitely seems like we need to blow it up more to get the most out of our pads. It definitely still beats the amount of air to fill an air chamber mattress!

Next choice was a 72″ or a 66″, as most come in these two sizes. This was an easy choice, we wanted comfort from our beds and not for my feet to hang over… We went with the 72″. This is all personal preference.

We weren’t concerned much with weight, but we did keep this in mind. Also, size was not too much of a matter to us – although again, we also kept this in mind. Simple matter of fact is you won’t find a quality backpacking sleeping pad manufacturer that won’t have weight and pack down size in mind.

Finally was price and temperature rating. Both were fairly important to us, and we wanted a very low temperature rating for a decent price.

These deductions, as well as gathering data from many different sleeping pads (seen in the table below) lead us to pick the Big Agnes Two Track self inflating pad. And we are extremely pleased with our choice!

So! Here is our gift to you, our readers and fellow backpackers – If you are looking for a new pad, determine what your most important features are in a pad, and use the below table to determine what will fit you best. The next move would be to purchase, and enjoy!

Brand  Model  Type Width (in) Thickness (in) Weight 66″ (oz) Weight 72″ (oz) Price 66″ Price 72″ Temp Rating (F)
Big Agnes Air Core Air Chamber 20 2.5 19 22 $58 $60 35
Big Agnes Clearview Air Chamber 20 2.5 14 15 $48 $50 35
Big Agnes Insulated Q-Core Air Chamber 20 3.5 25 27 $120 $140 15
Big Agnes Dual Core Air Chamber 20 2.5 26 30 $110 $120 0
Big Agnes Insulated Air Core Air Chamber 20 2.5 22 24 $85 $90 15
Big Agnes Two Track Self Inflating 20 1.5   34   $85 0
Big Agnes Hinman Self Inflating 20 1.5   42   $70 -5
Exped SynMat  7 Self Inflating 20 2.8 30 30 $119 $129  
Exped SynMat Basic 7.5   Air Chamber 20 3 22 25 $85 $89 12
Exped ComfortFoam Mat   Self Inflating 20 2.8 46 46 $109 $129 1
Exped AirMat Basic UL 7.5   Air Chamber 19 3 19 19 $79 $89 50
Therm-a-rest NeoAir Xlite Air Chamber 20 2.5 11 12 $160 $160  
Therm-a-rest 40th Anniversary Edition Self Inflating 20 2 23 24 $130 $130  
Therm-a-rest ProLite Plus Self Inflating 20 1.5 21 22 $110 $110  
Therm-a-rest ProLite Self Inflating 20 1 16 16 $100 $100  
Therm-a-rest NeoAir All Season Air Chamber 20 2.5 18 19 $140 $150  
Therm-a-rest NeoAir Trekker Air Chamber 20 2.5 20 20 $120 $120  
Therm-a-rest TrailPro Self Inflating 20 2 32 32 $90 $85  
Therm-a-rest Trail Lite Self Inflating 20 1.5 28 28 $65 $70  
REI Trekker 1.75 Self Inflating 20 1.75 32 40 $70 $75  
REI Stratus Insulated Air Pad Air Chamber 20 2.5   20   $75  
REI Lite-Core 1.5 Self Inflating 20 1.5 25 27 $90 $90