The best sleeping pads of 2018 outdoorgearlab gas prices going up in michigan


The scores represent each model’s performance relative to the other contenders reviewed. Below, we dissect the methods used to evaluate each metric and highlight the winners and losers in each category. The scoring metrics used are comfort, weight and packed size, warmth, ease of inflation, and durability. As with most recreational gear, we recommend you focus on the metrics that are important for your outdoor needs when finding the best product for you. If you do lots of car camping or are a very finicky sleeper, ere on the side of comfort, selecting a pad that will help you sleep well and enjoy your waking hours more. For multiday climbing missions with long approaches, we’re willing to sacrifice comfort for weight savings, choosing a foam pad for its light weight and durability. Winter camping on snow or cold surfaces is more comfortable on a pad with a high R-value. Our Editors’ Choice, the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm, possesses the best balance of all the metrics, but don’t hesitate to check out a pad with strengths most inline with your needs.

The most comfortable pad will depend on your preferences. Side sleepers usually prefer thick air construction pads while back sleepers sometimes prefer self-inflating pads. Our comfort scores come from over 50 reviewers who each used one or more of these contenders. Many were first-time campers on guided trips (they typically gave a lower comfort score) and many were seasoned backpackers (they ranked pads higher). Keep in mind that our ratings are relative. A score of 9/10 means that the pad was among the most comfortable competitors, not that it’s going to offer the same level of comfort as your Tempur-Pedic.

Hands down the most comfortable pad we snoozed on was the Top Pick for Comfort award-winning Sea to Summit Comfort Plus Insulated that earned a 10/10 for comfort. Our testers preferred sleeping on it over the Best Buy winning Therm-a-Rest Venture, Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Camper, and NEMO Tensor Insulated, which all received high comfort ratings. Our reviewers loved the rectangular shapes of these pads, but the Comfort Plus Insulated took things to a whole other level, thanks to its dual chamber design that lets you fine-tune comfort level. The new REI Co-Op Flash All-Season Insulated scored 8/10 thanks to its supportive quilt-like baffles that reduce bounciness. This is the lightest pad to get such a high comfort rating and also is less noisy than the most of its competition. The Therm-a-Rest NeoAir All-Season SV sounds like hundreds of plastic bags rustling in the wind whenever you roll on it. It’s annoying for you, and much more annoying for your tent mate. The noise is dampened somewhat by a sleeping bag, but in warm weather when you’re outside your bag or using a quilt, it’ll be a noisy night.

One way to add comfort to any pad, especially a firm foam pad, is to add a 1/2 inch layer of soft foam as shown below. A 20" x 36" piece only weighs 4 oz, adds a lot of comfort, and can be used to line a backpack back panel for extra support.

Within the pad itself, you will lose heat through convection when air moves around inside the pad. The most critical variables for a pad are its thickness (thicker is warmer), insulation, and air circulation (more circulation means less warmth). Sleeping pads are usually given a warmth number, called an R-value, that relates to its resistance to heat loss. Although home insulation uses the same R-value system, there is no outdoor industry standard for measuring R-values in sleeping mats, since there are many more variations in these pads compared to home insulation. Our warmth variable reflects our experience while testing pads, which was generally on par with the differences between the R-Values. In our comparison table above and each review, we report the R-value advertised by the manufacturer. Without diving into complicated engineering jargon, when comparing R-values, know that the measurement is linear: a pad with an R-value of 5.0 is five times warmer than a pad with an R-value of 1.0. Thus, the warmest pad we tested (the Exped DownMat 9) has a stated R-value of 8 and is subsequently about 8 times toastier than the Sea to Summit UltraLight with an R-Value of about 1.

The NeoAir All-Season SV takes advantage of the same physics involved in flight to push more air into the pad at a faster rate… but most of our testers felt it wasn’t fast enough to warrant the extra weight and preferred the old Therm-a-Rest pads.

In this review, we’ve included ease of inflation in our metrics. With the difficulty of inflation being one of the main drawbacks of air construction mats, manufacturers have come up with an array of valve styles to help alleviate this issue. The Therm-a-Rest XLite Max SV has the most innovative valve system, using physics to maximize your breath for rapid inflation. That said, we are not big fans of the SV system as it adds weight, cost, and doesn’t inflate THAT much faster than other brands. We also had trouble keeping SV pads inflated (we detail this in the individual reviews). The one-way valves on the Sea to Summit pads, Outdoorsmanlab Ultralight, REI Flash All-Season Insulated Air, and Big Agnes insulated AXL Air are easy to use and make the chore of inflation easier than the traditional twist valves found on pads like the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Xtherm or Nemo Tensor. One caveat: the flutter on all these one-way valves are more prone to accidental leakage than traditional twist pads.

The down-filled Exped DownMat 9 features a built-in pump to inflate the pad since vapor from your breath can hinder the insulation properties of the down. The pump uses expanding foam to fill an air chamber and then you can press down on the foam to push the air into the rest of the pad. The result is a heavy yet effective way of inflating the pad with blowing. Therm-a-Rest now includes a stuff sack with a small hole that fits over the twist valve on the NeoAir Xtherm. You can inflate the pad by opening the stuff sack so it fills with air and then fold it closed and push the trapped air through the valve and into the pad. The upside, other than speeding inflation is that no moisture from your breathe enters that pad. While moisture accumulation in pads is not a major deal, it is something to keep an eye on. After a trip, you should follow these steps on storing your pad to get any moisture out.

Advances in textile development make lightweight inflatable pads, such as the NeoAir XTherm, or Sea to Summit Comfort Plus, durable. We were impressed by the amount of abuse our inflatable pads handled without tearing or delaminating. We have used inflatable pads for 40-day backpacking trips without any durability issues. Take care of your pad, and it will take care of you. That said, we always recommend traveling with a mini repair kit, such as the Therm-a-Rest Repair Kit or Gear Aid Seam Grip Field Repair Kit in case of punctures. Even the most durable pads can be punctured with a sharp thorn, a rock, or are a shard of glass. It only takes a tiny hole to render a pad completely useless, and this can be a potentially dangerous scenario in colder temperatures. A small repair kit weighs a few ounces at most and most repairs are pretty easy in the field. If you want to add even more durability to your pad, you can use Tyvek as an inexpensive ground cloth. Few other materials add as much protection for their weight.