Experienced hikers and backpackers know that a sleeping pad is an absolute must if you’re going on a multi-day hike. A sleeping bag will keep you warm, but a sleeping pad will provide comfort and extra insulation to ensure you’re ready for action on the next day.

As a backpacker, you’re already trying to carry as little as you can on your back, so when choosing a sleeping pad, you will want to get the lightest model available without sacrificing any comfort. This isn’t an easy task.

Some models claim to be lightweight but once you start hiking, you’re bogged down by their weight. Others are actually lightweight but provide almost no comfort.

image showing a landscape and three tents

There are a number of different styles of sleeping pads out there, depending on your preference. 

There are air sleeping pads, which you can fold up and inflate once you get to your final resting place. These are not preferred as you have to carry a small air pump and also, they can easily deflate, rendering them useless.

Some do come with air pumps, but keep in mind that they are really best used only in warm climates, even if they have additional insulation.

Self-inflating pads have a combination of closed-cell foam and air pockets. These are easy to use; when you open the valve the pad automatically opens.

blue done tent during daytime

However, these pads can be somewhat bulky, and they are usually the most expensive option that you can purchase.

The best model for backpackers who are looking for an affordable, lightweight yet extremely comfortable option is the closed-cell foam pads.

To help you decide, we’ve narrowed down your selection to the top two lightweight sleeping pads on the market today. We’ll walk you through the most important features to help you decide which one is better for you.

Therm-a-Rest Z Lite Sol Ultra Lightweight Foam Backpacking Mattress

Incredibly lightweight but extremely durable and comfortable, Therm-a-Rest’s Z Lite SOL is a favorite of backpackers everywhere. It easily folds accordion style to fit in your backpack.

Given the fact that this sleeping pad weighs less than a pound, you’ll be amazed at just how comfortable it is. 

For those facing cold nights on the mountains or in the desert after a long hike, you’ll appreciate the Z Lite’s ThermaCapture technology that is guaranteed to keep you 20% warmer while you sleep. The patented coating and heat-trapping divots capture heat from your body and hold it close to you.

The sleeping pad is specifically created to be much softer on top to meld to your body, while the bottom is much firmer to provide better support, more insulation and gives you space between any insects that might be burrowing in the ground.

Features:

  • Reflective ThermaCapture coating and heat-trapping dimples increase the temperature by 20% during the night
  • Pad is softer on top for comfort but dense on the bottom for more support
  • 72 x 20 inches; 20 x 5 x 5.5 inches folded
  • Weighs 14 ounces

Between the two options we’re examining today, the Z-lite model is slightly more expensive, but it is also a bit more versatile. Because of the special ThermaCapture technology, this sleeping pad can be used during all seasons, even in the dead of winter.

If you’re planning on hiking either in the mountains or desert where it gets very cold at night, or if you’re backpacking through areas that are very cold, it would be wise to spend a bit more money to spring for this model. 

Therm-A-Rest RidgeRest Classic Sleeping Pad

The Therm-a-Rest RidgeRest Classic Foam Sleeping Pad is one of the most popular sleeping pads amongst campers, hikers and backpacking enthusiast. Therm-a-Rest is known for its high-quality products and this is no exception.

Since it is available in three sizes, you can choose which one best suits your body and not have to carry around excess weight or bulk. For example, if you’re a petite woman, you can choose the small size and save yourself from carrying around an additional 10 ounces of weight.

Regardless of what size you choose, these sleeping pads are extremely lightweight. Even the largest size weighs only slightly more than a pound.

They’re easy to roll up and slide into your backpack and are so lightweight, you won’t even realize you’re carrying them!

The basic closed-cell foam design is not only lightweight but extremely comfortable. It won’t feel like you’re sleeping outdoors, even in the roughest conditions!

The pad has supportive peaks that make it more comfortable and also adapt to whatever bumpy, smooth or even wet surface where you put it. It is also nearly indestructible.

You don’t have to worry about a rock, root or sharp object accidentally ripping through this mat. Plus, you can use this sleeping pad for years and you’ll see very little wear and tear on it.

This sleeping mat is ideal for those who are hiking or backpacking in the summer, fall or spring months. It has an R-value (insulation rating) of 2.6 which means it will use the radiant heat of your body to keep you warm in cooler months and will help keep you cool in the hot summer months.

When paired with a hefty sleeping back, this sleeping pad is also great for use during the winter or in colder locales.

Features:

  • Available in three sizes: small (47 x 20 inches; weighs 9 oz), regular (72 x 20 inches; weighs 14 oz), large (77 x 25 inches; weighs 19 ounces)
  • Made from cross-linked polyethylene that provides a thick barrier between the ground and your body
  • R-value of 2.6 
  • Lightweight, durable and inexpensive
  • Rolls into a compact size to fit into your backpack

If you’re looking for an inexpensive, durable closed foam sleeping pad, you cannot go wrong with the Therm-a-Rest RidgeRest sleeping pad. The specialized ridges on this pad will mold to your body to provide utmost comfort, while the study foam structure will provide support for a good night’s sleep and can even make a rocky piece of ground the perfect place to sleep.

This sleeping pad is best for backpackers who are looking for a lightweight sleeping pad that they can use in warmer months, like spring, summer and fall.