Getting a good night’s rest at the basecamp or on the trail helps you recharge for the next day’s activities. You need a quality camping pad to help you sleep well. Today’s state-of-the art pads feature high tech fabrics, innovative designs and superior construction for more efficient and comfortable outdoor sleeping experiences. The best camping pads should provide a balance of comfort, weight, moisture protection and insulation from the cold ground at higher elevations and crisp autumn nights. We tested five top pads that can provide you with many restful nights sleeping underneath the stars this summer and fall.


Exped SynMat UL 7

Exped SynMat UL 7


(Medium) 72” x 20.4” x 2.75”/16.2 ounces

SynMat UL 7 makes a great pad for backpacking and hiking where weight and space are top of mind. UL stands for ultra-light and 7 stands for seven centimeters of thickness when inflated. The SynMat UL 7 can be inflated conventionally with lung power. But the Exped Pillow Pump ($35) and the Mini Pump ($20) are efficient and prevent moisture from your breath from getting inside the pad; moisture can eventually degrade the materials. Both pumps attach to the flat inflate valve via the Exped-designed Schnozzel and enable easy inflation with either hand or foot pumping action in about a minute. The Pillow Pump also doubles as a pillow. Both pumps pack up very small. When SynMat UL 7 is inflated, the outside baffles are larger and help keep you centered on the pad so you’re not rolling off in the middle of the night. This is useful if you’re sleeping on sloped ground. To pack it, open the deflate valve to quickly expel the air and roll it up to a dimension about the size of a one-liter water bottle.  


Klymit Inertia XL


77” x 25” X 1.5”/16.8 ounces

Minimalist backpackers and rock climbers that travel light on their approaches will love the inflatable Klymit Inertia XL. The first thing you notice about Inertia XL is its totally unconventional appearance. When Klymit designed the mummy-style Inertia XL they plotted the strategic places your body touches a sleeping surface and constructed the pad to provide support on all of those crucial pressure areas while leaving gaps in non-crucial areas. The gaps minimize weight, allow for breathability and enhance warmth since your sleeping bag lofts inside them. It’s genius. It takes four or five strong breaths to inflate Inertia XL, and then you can customize the pressure with a separate hand-held dry air pump that attaches to a special valve and inflates or deflates the pad to your liking. With a mummy-style shape it will also fit inside medium to large sleeping bags. An integrated head cradle pillow adds comfort and alleviates the need for a separate pillow. When you open the valve, the pad totally deflates almost instantaneously. When rolled up and placed in its stuff sack it’s a tiny package that takes up minimal space in your pack.


NEMO COSMO Insulated

NEMO Cosmo Insulated


76” x 25” x 3”/34 ounces 

When you try to wake up in the morning on the Cosmo Insulated you simply won’t want to get up. The rectangular-style Cosmo Insulated inflatable pad is more comfortable than many beds. Inflating Cosmo takes a mere minute or two using the integrated foot pump that draws in air using dual one-way valves, pushes air into the pad then rebounds with each stepping action. The Cosmo’s horizontal I-beam baffles provide a flat, stable sleeping surface so you won’t sink into the middle or fall off the sides. The large baffle at the head makes a comfy pillow so you’ll never need to use a rolled up t-shirt as a pillow again. For an ultra-deluxe night’s sleep wrap the Cosmo in the plush Pillowtop cover. With one-inch of foam and a microfiber cover, the Pillowtop is comfortable, protects the pad and is washable. Cosmo has a large dump valve on the bottom that deflates the pad quickly when you’re packing up. At 34 ounces, weight-conscious backpackers may opt for a more lightweight pad, but Cosmo is a superlative for basecamps, camping on colder nights and car camping.


Mammut SoftSkin

Mammut SoftSkin Mat


(Small) 72” x 20” x 1.5”/32.8 ounces 

Mammut, well-known for its climbing ropes and outdoors clothing, makes darn good camping pads too. The Mammut SoftSkin is simply luxurious. The rectangular SoftSkin self-inflates and is optimal for the basecamp or car camping yet it’s so comfortable and warm that you may wish to tolerate the extra weight for short backpacking trips. Open the valve and let the air fill it then blow a little extra air for more firmness. The wave foam interior makes it bulkier than inflatable systems, so packing it around in the backcountry for many days could be a hindrance. But it’s that same wave foam that makes it glorious to sleep on. The pad’s surface has a velvet-like feel that keeps you cozy throughout the night. Instead of ridges, the SoftSkin has dimples on the sleeping surface that inhibit sliding. It’s well-insulated to help keep you warmer when sleeping on cold ground. SoftSkin comes in a small and large size. 


Therm-a-Rest: Neoair XLite

Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite


(Medium) 20” x 72” x 2.5”/12ounces

Cascade Designs revolutionized camping in 1972 when it produced the first Therm-a-Rest inflatable sleeping pads. Sleeping outside has never been the same since. The NeoAir XLite is one of the company’s latest innovations. XLite is made for traveling lightly and swiftly in the backcountry yet is comfortable enough for the basecamp or casual camping. The pad’s interior has a triangular core matrix with more than 100 individual cells that help provide enhanced support and stability; a reflective layer within the matrix reflects your body heat while the air cells trap warmth for enhanced insulation. XLite inflates conventionally with lung power or with the Therm-a-Rest AirTap Pump ($9.95, sold separately). Inflation is fast using both methods but the AirTap helps prevent moisture from getting inside the pad. XLite’s tapered design enables you to fit it inside a mummy bag. The pad rolls up into a super compact cylinder about the size of a one-liter water bottle for easy transport. XLite also integrates with the Therm-a-Rest Alpine Down Blanket system ($240) to augment warmth and comfort.