Backpacking is an enjoyable pastime. You get to be out in nature with the animals, fresh air, and solitude. Walking trails days in and days out like the Appalachian Trail or the Pacific Crest Trail can fill you with contentment. At the end of the day though you still need to rest. While hiking the trails can bring peace laying on the hard ground can spoil all of the relaxation time you had during the day. That is why having a comfortable sleeping pad is so important. However, can you really have a comfortable good night sleeping with a lightweight camp sleeping pad? The answer is yes. You don’t need to dream about that pillow-top at home if you pack along with one of these three lightweight camp sleeping pads on your next trip. Not only are these comfortable but they won’t add a terrible amount of weight or take up gobs of space.
Our list is provided in no particular order as each of these three mats would be a fantastic option for differing levels of experience and desire to backpack.
3. Therm-a-rest NeoAir UberLite Sleeping Pad
The NeoAir is lightweight, user-inflating, and quite comfortable.
The first of our lightweight camp sleeping pads is the Therm-a-rest NeoAir Uberlite. This comes in on our list at this spot because it is only 8.8 ounces and it is quite comfy for the weight. Not to mention that it is very small when it is deflated. In fact, it will be smaller than that Nalgene bottle that you may be carrying! If you are shorter this pad also has a smaller version which drops nearly three additional ounces! Saving ounces anywhere you can, may be beneficial on a long trail hike. Aside from weight though the pad offers excellent insulation and comfort, even for side sleepers.
However, all of this greatness does have a few drawbacks. The first is that the material is quite thin and you may end up with punctures. So, you will want to make sure to pick and prepare the best camp area. You do not want a wayward stick or pointy rock to deflate your bed in the middle of the night. Additionally, the pad is quite expensive* as you will see in the summary below. The comfort, size, and weight reduction are certainly worth the cost. However, for someone just starting out, it may be a little steep for a good night’s rest!
Therm-a-rest NeoAir UberLite
Material: Nylon, Plastic
Thickness: 2.5 in.
Weight: 8.8 oz or 6 oz
Sleep Seasons: Three Season
Pros: Lightweight / Small Pack Size / Supportive / Size Options / Quick inflation (2min)
Cons: Three Season Use / Expensive / Nylon Material
Our Take: This is likely one of the best lightweight camp sleeping pads on the market today. It offers up support and comfort while keeping weight so small you likely will forget you have it packed. That is until nighttime when you pull it out and drift off to sleep. The pad is very comfortable even for those who sleep on their sides. It is easy to inflate and can be done in under two minutes. However, it is necessary to ensure your campsite is properly prepared to account for the thin material. This will help to reduce the chances of punctures. This is an expensive option so we recommend this pad to someone who plans on doing extensive backpacking and not for the new backpacker.
2. Nemo Tensor Insulated Sleeping Pad
The Nemo Tensor is lightweight and highly insulated!
The next one of our lightweight camp sleeping pads is the Nemo Tensor Insulated pad. This is another fantastic pad that will provide you with a wonderful night’s sleep after a long day of hiking. This pad is still fairly expensive as you will see below in the summary. However, with that expense comes a thickness of three inches to sleep on. Imagine sleeping on that three-inch cloud! Having three inches also lends itself to being more insulated than our number three option with an average R-Value of 3.5. Not to mention that the material feels soft and plush.
Aside from comfort you likely do not want to be huffing and puffing at the end of the day to fill the sleeping pad. The Nemo Tensor has a unique pump sack that requires low effort to fill. Simply attach it onto the valve, gently blow and roll down to push air into the pad. The air will fill into the square baffles to provide stable support throughout the night. This design does come with a weight drawback, however. While still under a pound you will likely feel this one in your pack!
Nemo Tensor Insulated Sleeping Pad
Material: 20D Polyester Fabrics / Insulated model comes with Thermal Mirror (TM) metalized film
Thickness: 3.0 in.
Weight: 15 oz
Sleep Seasons: Three Season
Pros: Less than one pound / Pump Design / Supportive / Insulation Technology / Quick inflation (2min) / Quiet Material
Cons: Three Season Use / Thin Material / Narrow
Our Take: If you are looking for a comfortable and moderately priced sleeping pad then this is the one for you. It is important to note that you will likely be giving up something else in your pack to carry this though. Weighing in at just under one pound, while light, still may cause you to sacrifice something else. The material is quiet during use and inflating is quick and easy. You won’t have to worry about rolling onto your side with this pad either as the square baffle design and three inch thickness will provide support. There are a few different options similar to the Nemo Tensor which provide different levels of insulation. So picking the one that is right for your trip may be necessary. If you are looking for three-season then you should use the insulated model that weighs in at 15oz. Overall, this pad would be good for those both experienced and new to the lightweight backpacking experience. The Nemo Tensor has a wonderful blend of support, features, and moderate price.
1. Outdoorsman Lab Ultralight Sleeping Pad
The least expensive on our least but not the least comfortable.
The Outdoorsman Lab Ultralight Sleeping Pad is the most budget-friendly pad that we have on the list as you will see in the summary. This low cost does not mean that you will be giving up on comfort or features though. This is one of those times that we like to show that backpacking doesn’t have to be expensive! User reviews have consistently shown that this pad holds up well in differing situations that more expensive pads also are used in. However, we will mention that if you are a side sleeper it is likely that this pad will not work well for you. This is because of the cell design which allows parts of you to reach the ground without full support.
That being said, with the low cost you do receive a pad that is less than one pound in weight. The pad also offers a moderate R-value which you will likely use in a three-season setting. Filling the pad is easy once you get the hang of it but the valve can be a little tricky to operate. The pad collapses into a small sack for easy storage in your pack. The best part is that the company has a fantastic warranty and guarantee and stands behind its product. So the pad is a low-risk way of breaking into the backpacking lifestyle.
Outdoorsman Lab Ultralight Sleeping Pad
Material: 20D Nylon
Thickness: 2.2 in.
Weight: 14.5 oz
Sleep Seasons: Three Season – Late Spring to Early Fall
Pros: Less than one pound / Supportive / Small Pack Size / Price / Warranty
Cons: Three Season Use / Thin Material / Not for side sleepers / Valve / Support Issues
Our Take: This relatively inexpensive pack provides the comfort and insulation that some of the more expensive pads include. It does so with some drawbacks including limited support to some sleepers. The cell technology does allow for pressure points and portions of the body to touch the ground. So why include this on the list? Well for the price you are getting a durable well-tested product. It packs up small and is less than a pound. Though again you may need to sacrifice something else in your pack as this nears a full pound. While it may not be the Rolls Royce of sleeping pads it will provide you with a great starting point for your first ever backpacking trip. We recommend this sleeping pad for those who are looking to try backpacking out for the first time as it has a low entry for cost while providing adequate comfort and support.
Final Thoughts on Lightweight Camp Sleeping Pads
There are many options out there for getting a good nights sleep on the trail. The three presented here are sure to provide you with the support you need. We have provided options for both experienced and new backpackers in a hope that some planning can be done to mitigate cost. Remember that as you determine what your sleep requirements are you may need to change your mat over time. Finding one with adequate R-value and thickness will ensure your comfort and sleep throughout the night. So wear yourself out on the trail during the day because using any one of these three lightweight camp sleeping pads will ensure that you have a restful night of sleep that prepares you for the next day!
*Prices shown are at the time of writing to be used for reference only. The manufacturers reserve the right to adjust the price as they see fit.