Tech Tip – Choosing a Sleeping Pad

Have you ever woken up on a camping or backpacking trip only to find that you’re sleeping on the ground because your pad is leaking air? Or you realize that your old stand-by sleeping pad has lost its cushion of foam and your hips were driving into the ground all night? If either of these are the case (or you’re just thinking it’s time for an upgrade), you’re in luck – there are a lot of great options of sleeping pads to choose from! We know it can be a bit overwhelming, so here’s an overview:

Fully Inflatable

By far the most squishy (comfortable), but also the most fragile, these pads pack down the smallest and pump up the thickest, meaning they take up very little space in your pack, and you don’t have to make sure your tent platform is perfectly flat. Some come with additional insulation to keep you warmer on cold nights, and if you get out of breath easily, look for one that comes with an inflation bag!

Are there any drawbacks to fully inflatable pads? When they leak… Be sure to carry an on-the-go patch kit in case yours starts to lose air on a trip. They also tend to be the most expensive type of pads on the market.

Our favorites: Therm-a-rest NeoAir XTherm, Big Agnes Insulated Air Core Ultra


A great all-around sleeping pad style, these combine open-cell foam insulation with air to cushion you throughout the night. They come in various sizes (smaller/thinner ones for backpacking, and larger/thicker ones for car camping or rafting), so you can buy the one that fits your lifestyle best. They are more durable than fully inflatable pads, and if they do spring a leak, you can always rely on the open-cell foam cushioning until patched.

Our favorites: Therm-a-rest ProLite Plus, Alps Mountaineering Apex Air Pad

Closed-Cell Foam

The original sleeping pad style, these pads are simple and durable, relying on closed-cell foam insulation (and nothing else). They’re bulky and offer less padding than the other options, but they’ll NEVER spring a leak, and have many other uses outside of just being a sleeping pad (they make a great backcountry splint!). These pads are essential on Alaska mountaineering or winter camping trips – combined with another pad they provide much-needed insulation from the snow!

Our favorites: Therm-a-rest Z Lite SOL, Big Agnes Third Degree Foam Pad

So whether you’re sticking with your current sleeping pad or trying to upgrade, be sure get outside and enjoy a peaceful night’s sleep in the outdoors! Keep on adventuring!

Like what you see? Check out our other Tech Tips!

Skip to content