There are several different types of sleeping pads, all of which share the goal of providing a barrier between you and the ground and adding comfort in a camping or camping-like situation. Self-inflating sleeping pads are just one type of sleeping pad that does this.

Quick Look at Our Top 5 Picks

Unlike a regular sleeping pad, a self-inflating pad borrows the concept of an air mattress to add comfort without bulk. As a result, the best way to describe a self-inflating sleeping pad is to imagine a sponge on top of an air pocket with a fabric covering. It works when the sponge (aka a thin foam mattress) sucks in air, inflating the air pocket, and it can be compressed by simply squeezing the air out of the sponge. Since there is no need for air pumps or electricity, a self-inflating sleeping pad is perfect for camping or backpacking trips.

Self-Inflating Sleeping Pads— What to Consider

Valve Type: In order for a self-inflating sleeping pad to inflate and deflate, there needs to be a controlled way for air to get in and out—this is the job of the valve. Generally, self-inflating sleeping pads have either one valve that inflates and deflates the pad or two valves, one for inflating and one for deflating. Valves usually work by twisting a mechanism that allows air to flow, but many of them also allow for manual inflation. So, if the pad doesn’t fully inflate on its own, you can add a few puffs of air to help it expand completely. Usually you will find the valves located on a corner, or corners, of the sleeping pad.

Durability: Since sleeping pads will often be placed on rough terrain, durability is a major factor to consider if you want to be able to use your sleeping pad multiple times. Even when placing it on the tent floor, there is a high potential for punctures or rips that could ruin the pad. Because of this, you will want to find a sleeping pad with a durable outer shell. A term that outdoor enthusiasts use for this is denier, which refers to the thickness of fabric. As you can imagine, the higher the denier, the thicker and more durable the fabric will be, but this could also mean more weight. The goal is to find a balance between durability and weight that meets your needs. But, if you are using your sleeping pad on a cot or surface other than the ground, durability and denier may not be as important to you.

Insulation & Thickness: Part of a sleeping pad’s job is to provide a barrier between you and the surface you are sleeping on, which could be the cold, hard ground. Because of this, you will want a sleeping pad that is thick enough and insulated well enough to keep the cold from the ground away from you while you sleep.

The overall thickness of a self-inflating sleeping pad depends on the height of the foam pad plus the amount of air used to inflate it. You will find that most of these pads are 3 inches thick or less when fully inflated. If you are looking for a lighter pad, you could find one with less foam and more space for air, while a heavyweight pad would be made up of more foam than air.

Since self-inflating sleeping pads need to be able to draw air in on their own, they are insulated with open cell foam, which closely resembles, and works like, a sponge. Luckily, open cell foam is a better insulator than closed cell foam (i.e. a memory foam mattress), so it will do a better job blocking cool air from the ground. An easy way to tell how well the pad insulates is to look at its R-value; the higher the R-value, the warmer you will be. Usually an R-value of 3 is for general purposes, but you should look for an R-value of 5 or higher for particularly cold temperatures.  

Size & Shape: Self-inflating sleeping pads are usually either rectangular or mummy-shaped, which is basically a narrower rectangle with rounded corners. But, they do come in many different lengths and widths. Be sure to find a sleeping pad that, first, accommodates your body, and second, matches up with the sleeping bag, cot, or tent you will be using with it. If your sleeping pad is too short or narrow for you, it won’t be able to provide enough comfort or insulation. Another point you may want to consider is how much weight the sleeping pad can hold without losing air. Similarly, a sleeping pad that is a bad fit for the rest of your equipment won’t be able to meet your needs.

Comfort: Comfort is one of the main reasons campers purchase sleeping pads. Not only do sleeping pads add comfort by keeping you warmer, but they are also able to mask the painful imperfections of the terrain you are sleeping on. Some self-inflating sleeping pads have specialized cell designs to address individual preferences, while others provide more comfort by using thicker foam pads inside. Additionally, you can control the amount of air your sleeping pad takes in, which allows you to customize the comfort level. Some campers have found that sleeping on your back while on an inflated pad can help distribute your weight, which also adds comfort. In the end, comfort is a matter of your personal taste.

What Are the Top Five Self-Inflating Sleeping Pads?

Here is a summary of the top five self-inflating sleeping pads, each offering a unique combination of desirable features. All of these products are highly rated, and sleep tested.

TNH Outdoors Self Inflating Sleeping Pad

View On Amazon

The TNH Outdoors Self Inflating Sleeping Pad has a mummy shape and is 1.5 inches thick to mask any bumps in the terrain you’ll be sleeping on. It comes equipped with a 500 series pneumatic valve that twists to open and close, or allows you to inflate the pad manually, and a 75D polyester out shell that is resistant to punctures and tearing. This sleeping pad rolls up into its compact carrying sack for easy transport on camping trips. TNH Outdoors offers a 100% satisfaction guarantee, as well as discounts when purchasing 2 or more of their products together.

Pros:

  • Great value for the price
  • Easy to roll back into its carrying sack
  • Lightweight
  • Easy to inflate

Cons:

  • May have to help it fully expand with manual inflation

Freeland Camping Sleeping Pad

View On Amazon

The Freeland Camping Sleeping Pad is self-inflating and comes with an attached pillow, compression straps, and a carrying sack. It has a rectangular design that measures 76” x 24.8”, and it is available in four colors. This sleeping pad is 1.5 inches thick when inflated, and it is made from open-cell foam and 190T polyester pongee fabric. It is equipped with dual no-leak valves, and it is designed to attach to other mats for group camping. The purchase of this sleeping pad comes with one patch kit and a 100% satisfaction guarantee.

Pros:

  • Lightweight and small for carrying
  • Comfortable and supportive
  • Includes an attached pillow

Cons:

  • May have to help it fully expand with manual inflation

Lightspeed Outdoor XL Super Plush FlexForm Premium Self-Inflating Sleep and Camp Pad

View On Amazon

The Lightspeed pad has a rectangular shape that measures 77” x 30” and it is 3” thick. It has an R-value of 9.66, which will stay warm in extremely cold temperatures. This pad is built with 4-way stretch polyester and soft foam that hugs your body, plus it has an integrated pillow. It is equipped with dual valves for inflation and deflation and comes with a carrying sack and compression bands. Finally, it is available in teal and dark blue.

Pros:

  • Very comfortable and supportive
  • Includes an integrated pillow
  • Made with quality materials

Cons:

  • May be too big/heavy for backpacking

ALPS Moutaineering Lightweight Series Self-Inflating Air Pad

View On Amazon

The ALPS Mountaineering self-inflating pad is lightweight and rectangular. Unlike the other self-inflating pads on this list, it is available in your choice of sizes, which vary in length, width, thickness, and weight. Each size is intended to fit the user as well as the type of camping he or she will be doing. It is equipped with dual brass inflate and deflate valves, and it is built with jet stream foam for quick filling and durable ripstop polyester fabric. This pad comes with a repair kit, compression straps, and a carrying sack. ALPS Mountaineering offers a limited lifetime warranty with the purchase of this product.

Pros:

  • Very comfortable
  • Lightweight
  • Durable and long-lasting

Cons:

  • May deflate slowly over night
  • May be too big for backpacking

Coleman Self-Inflating Camping Pad

View On Amazon

The Coleman Self-Inflating Camping pad has a rectangular design with an attached, inflatable pillow. It is made with a water-resistant polyester shell, and it has a free-flow valve that inflates and deflates the pad. This sleeping pad weighs 5.4 pounds, measures 76 inches by 27 inches, and gets up to 2 inches thick when inflated. Lastly, it has compression straps for easy transport.

Pros:

  • Very comfortable and supportive
  • Includes an integrated pillow
  • Made with quality materials
  • Inflates easily and quickly

Cons:

  • Does not come with a carrying sack
  • May be too big/heavy for backpacking

What Else Should You Consider When Using and Purchasing Self-Inflating Sleeping Pads?

Even though there are several factors to take into account when purchasing and using self-inflating sleeping pads, paying attention to detail could help you find the perfect one for you on the first attempt. First, consider the price. The sleeping pads listed above range in price from $30 to $85, but if you are looking for one that is more professional grade, you could spend several hundred dollars. With all of the equipment that goes into a successful camping expedition, it is important to think about where you want to spend the majority of your budget, and it may or may not be on a self-inflating sleeping pad. Luckily, there are options at every price point.

Next, consider any accessories you may need that aren’t included with the pad itself. Although many of the sleeping pads listed above come with their own compression bands and carrying sack, some don’t, so if those items would be helpful to you, be sure to opt for a sleeping pad that comes with its own extras. Aside from compression bands and carrying sacks, an important accessory that may prove to be necessary is a repair kit. Some of the pads on the list include a repair kit, but if your choice doesn’t, a repair kit is an inexpensive way to avoid sleeping on a flat pad.

In addition, be aware of the fact that, like air mattresses, self-inflating sleeping pads may make some noise when you change positions at night. If this is something that could bother you (or your partner), you may want to find a pad that is more foam than air, or simply not inflate it to max capacity. By the same token, you want a sleeping pad that only loses air when you want it to. Some self-inflating pads may leak and gradually flatten throughout the night. A quality valve and durable materials could remedy that.

Self-Inflating Sleeping Pads— Final Thoughts

Self-inflating sleeping pads are a sleeping pad and hassle-free air mattress all in one. Although there are many factors to consider when purchasing one, keep in mind that all of it comes down to comfort level, which is different for everyone. So, the best self-inflating sleeping pad is the one that meets all of your needs and checks off all of your criteria.

About Marissa Gvozdenovich Marissa is an English teacher and writer. She enjoys the Florida beach life with her husband and puppy.

Sleeping bags just aren’t enough sometimes when it comes to camping outdoors, especially in cold weather. From pebbles, sticks, pinecones, tree roots, and surfaces that are jagged and uneven, you need some cushion beneath you.

Luckily, camping and backpacking companies have come up with a solution to this problem.

Light, durable, and inflatable sleeping pads work just like your mattress at home. Except, you can roll it up and carry it with you wherever you go.

Quick Look at Our Top 5 Picks

Unlike a sleeping bag, pads aren’t meant to be large or bulky, most fit into small compression sacks that aren’t much bigger than a water bottle.

What is the R-Value?

Most sleeping pads come with an R-value, which is just a measurement of the quality of insulation, or the ability to hold heat.

If you’re going out into real wilderness, make sure your sleeping pad has an R-value that will keep your warm through the night; 9.5 is the highest rating on the insulation scale.

For summer nights, go with an R-value between 2.0 and 4.0 so you don’t get too hot.

While a high R-value is great for cold weather, you shouldn’t depend on the sleeping pad alone to keep you warm. Always bring extra clothing and blankets if you plan to sleep in extreme temperatures.

Sleeping Pad for Camping – Our Top Picks

TNH Outdoors Premium Self Inflating Sleeping Pad

View On Amazon

TNH Outdoors has designed the perfect sleeping pad that works well for both men and women.

At 1.5 inches thick, you can lie down and feel like you’re on your mattress from home, rather than on top of rocks, dirt mounds, and other uneven surfaces.

This sleeping pad includes a 500 series valve for easy inflation and is narrow like a mummy bag. Just give it a couple of good blows and you’re all set up for sleeping.

The 75D Polyester skin will keep you dry, and it’s water resistant so it won’t soak up any rainwater or moisture.

This pad even works for people who are over 5’9, so if you’re a bit taller than the average person the TNH Outdoors sleeping pad will be your best friend.

Pros:

  • Small and compressible enough to carry on a hiking trip
  • Can also be used for hammocks and outdoor patio areas
  • Long lasting and durable material ensures you can use this pad for years

 Cons:

  • Design issues, cells sometimes swell or create bubbles
  • Only inflates to about one inch rather than the 1.5 that is advertised
  • Is not self-inflating, has to be blown up manually which can be inconvenient and time consuming depending on the individual.

Unroll this sleeping pad completely and allow it to lie flat before you try blowing it up. This way, you won’t risk over-inflating it or making holes. Some of the problems people have had with cells bursting could be related to improper inflation. If you’re uncertain of how to correctly inflate your pad, it luckily comes with both written and photo instructions to further assist you. Inflatable pads aren’t for everyone as they are a bit softer, if you’d rather have a firmer sleeping pad that you don’t have to inflate, try a foam pad instead.

Outdoorsman Lab Ultra Light Sleeping Pad

View On Amazon

Outdoorsman Lab has provided us with a 2 inch thick sleeping pad that comes in green, orange, and blue!

The compact pad has a grid pattern designed to keep cells from splitting up and becoming one giant lump, and sizes down to 8 inches by 3 inches by 3 inches when rolled up.

Each cell has limited airflow to keep your from losing warmth, and to prevent leakage, while still being light and easy to carry.

Made with weatherproof, 20D woven nylon rip-stop material you can sleep through the stormiest of nights without dealing with a soggy sleeping pad in the morning.

The lifetime warranty ensures that no matter how long you own this pad, you can get a new one if anything is wrong with your current one!

Although it is a blow-up item, you can easily compare the comfort of the Outdoorsman Lab pad to that of a foam design, without the added weight.

Pros:

  • Includes a lifetime warranty to protect against defective products
  • Fits inside a tent without issue and includes a sack
  • Can be used if you sleep on your side

Cons:

  • Doesn’t provide very much insulation, use with a thick sleeping bag
  • Takes about 10-15 breaths to blow up which can be a bit much if you are a person of smaller stature

If you get your Outdoorsman Lab sleeping pad and it feels a little stiff at first, it might just be that it needs to stretch.

Give this product a test run and blow it up over night before you head out on your trip to the wilderness.

Don’t forget to use the awesome packing bag that comes with it, you can easily shrink this pad down to a water bottle size and carry it with you anywhere!

Klymit Static V Lightweight Sleeping Pad

View On Amazon

The V-shaped Klymit Static was created to keep your “mattress” pad from moving around beneath you while you shift positions in your sleep.

From red, orange, blue, green, and other hammock styles, the Klymit brand has a sleeping pad for everyone!

The stuff sack that comes included will ensure that this product can be tightly placed in a bag without taking up extra space and getting in your way.

The 75D polyester is incredibly strong and won’t give in to pressure or puncture when placed against rocks or jagged edges.

In the event that it does, you can use the patch kit that comes with this sleeping pad for an extra tight seal.

Pros:

  • Includes a lifetime warranty to protect customers from defective items
  • Includes a patch kit in case a hole does happen to occur
  • Antimicrobial laminate keeps your sleeping pad from becoming moldy

Cons:

  • If you have a wide build your arms may hang off the sides, narrow
  • Some people have received defective items that don’t hold air

 Since there isn’t a weight limit, this product can be used by just about anyone.

At about 300 pounds, you might see some uneven distribution. Nonetheless, it’ll still work perfectly fine for those of a larger stature.

Make sure that you tighten the air valve completely, and consider adding extra coverage or patching around it to prevent air leakage.

If you do happen to receive a defective one don’t throw it away, take advantage of the lifetime warranty and send it back to the company for a brand new one.

EcoTek Outdoors HyberN8 Ultra Light Inflatable Sleeping Pad

View On Amazon

Much like the Outdoorsman Lab sleeping pad, the EcoTek Outdoors HyberN8 has a hexagonal grid pattern for better insulation and air-locking to prevent leaks.

The 70D polyester prevents tearing and holes from sticks and stones that might be lurking around.

It also happens to be quieter, and more comfortable to sleep on than other material.

EcotTek is a very unique company, they’ve made a commitment to donate some of their profits to National Forest Foundation. In addition to light weight, well designed sleeping bag, you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing you helping the planet!

Pros:

  • Lifetime warranty guaranteed, you’ll always be able to exchange it
  • Multi-use, can be placed in a hammock, chair, or used with a futon
  • For every sleeping pad purchased, they’ll plant a tree!

Cons:

  • A bit smaller and thinner than some had hoped, looks larger in advertising photo
  • On the expensive side, some felt the price was not comparable to the quality

You can even place this pad inside of your sleeping bag if you want to keep it clean, the only downside is that it probably won’t fit inside a mummy bag.

However, you can still keep it in your tent and place it underneath you.

Currently, the HyberN8 is going through an evaluation to determine the R-value of this sleeping pad; as of right now it is estimated to be somewhere between 1.8 and 2.3.

Check back on the website every few weeks or so to see updates!

Stoik’d Brand Self Inflating Sleeping Pad for Camping

View On Amazon

Unlike the pads listed above, Stoik’d has created a pad that is both inflatable and includes a thick foam padding.

This is perfect for anyone who wakes up with sore muscles and a stiff back after sleeping on a blow up mattress.

This sleeping pad is completely flat, there are no grid patterns or uneven areas that move while you’re sleeping or cause discomfort when lying on your side.

The added survival blanket will provide you with extra warmth, in case you forget yours at home or just need a second one for the evening.

Pros:

  • Lifetime warranty included
  • Package includes a free survival blanket and carrying case
  • Satisfactory R-value of 4.0

Cons:

  • Does not fold up very easily due to foam padding
  • Material is very slick, can slide off pad

This sleeping pad is built for emergency situations, so if you think there’s any chance you might find yourself in a pickle while roaming outdoors, bring it with you.

The Stoik’d company is all about customer satisfaction; not only can you exchange this sleeping pad, you can return it for a full refund. Not that you won’t enjoy using it, but the best products are usually backed by excellent return policies.

Moon Lence Sleeping Pad for Camping and Backpacking

View On Amazon

Available in blue, green, and orange, the Moon Lence sleeping pad is different from most because of its two-way valve.

The light rip-stop 20D nylon material is extremely light and has an R-value of 1.3. It has rip-stop capabilities and is designed to be leak proof and waterproof.

This sleeping pad takes about 10 breaths, about 5 less than the average to fully inflate which is a plus if you’re someone with a smaller set of lungs.

Pros:

  • Lifetime warranty and 30 day money back guarantee
  • Great for taller people who need more leg room

Cons:

  • Won’t work very well in cold weather, more useful for the summertime
  • Not very firm, somewhat flimsy

The Moon Lence is overall easy to inflate, light, small, and easy to carry with you.

If you find something wrong or defective with this sleeping pad, return it for your money back within 30 days or exchange it for a new one at any time.

The Lifetime warranty will ensure that you get full use out of this product, and never have to buy another one.

Freeland Camping Self Inflated Sleeping Pad with Pillow Attached

View On Amazon

Freeland not only offers this sleeping pad in navy, light blue, and teal, but this pad in particular comes with its own built in pillow!

The 190T polyester pongee fabric will keep your body insulated and holds up against wear and tear from transporting and frequent use.

If you’re the kind of person who can’t sleep on the grid patterned pads, you’ll be very happy to know that this one is completely flat.

The best part is this pad can be conjoined with others if you’re camping with your significant other or your kids; when sleeping in the cold, extra body heat is always helpful.

The Freeland sleeping pad also goes through 72 hours of testing before being sold to customers, this prevents defective items from hitting the shelves.

Pros:

  • A patch kit is included in case punctures do occur along with carrying case
  • 100% satisfaction guarantee against defective products

Cons:

  • Some people have compared this pad to a yoga mat because it’s so thin
  • Too much effort required to blow up this “self-inflating” pad

To avoid air leakage and holes, lie the pad flat the first time you use it and allow it to completely self-inflate before attempting to blow it up the rest of the way.

Most self-inflating sleeping pads will need a test run for the first use. You don’t want to get it out into the woods before finding out it doesn’t work or before learning how to use it properly.

If you have a bad back and need extra cushion, this sleeping pad may not be right for you, due to how thin it is. Otherwise, it’s lightweight and easy to pack up and carry with you on your journey.

LULULION Self Inflating Sleeping Pad with Pillow

View On Amazon

This thick, durable pad is perfect for camping with your buddies and family thanks to the snap buttons on the sides. You can easily connect this sleeping pad to another for a bigger mat and more room to lie down.

Made from 190T polyester material, the Luluion is waterproof, mold, and mildew resistant.

The valves on this camping mattress allow it to blow up on its own completely, you should never have to assist expansion with your own breath unlike the others.

Pros:

  • Full money back guarantee, can be replaced or returned for a full refund
  • Includes a carrying sack for easy travel and a free air pump

Cons:

  • At 2.5 pounds, might be a bit bulky for hiking and trekking

The Lululion is a high quality sleeping pad made for families and friends who love travelling together! Pillow attachments are common on sleeping bags, but a rare find on the pads, so the Lululion is definitely a bonus.

Koolsen Ultralight Sleeping Pad

View On Amazon

In contrast to the name, the Koolsen is actually very warm and has an R-value of 4, so you can use it during the fall and the earlier part of the winter season.

The 75D polyester fabric has TPU lamination and it is both water proof and tear proof.

This pad is multi-use, you can use it for backyard camping in the bed of trucks, put it in your hammock, or keep it on your futon so your guests can have a warm, comfortable evening.

You’ll also be happy to know that the brand strives to be environmentally friendly and participates in a “plant a tree” program! So you know you’ll be doing a good deed by purchasing this sleeping pad.

Pros:

  • For each sleeping pad sold, a tree is planted
  • Comes with a repair kit for holes and emergency fix-ups
  • Includes a bag for storage

Cons:

  • Weight and size are a bit smaller and lighter than what is advertised by the company
  • Doesn’t inflate as easily as described by company

The Koolsen brand offers returns and exchanges if you are at all unsatisfied with your purchase; however I think you’ll enjoy this sleeping pad.

With an R-value of 4 you’ll have a nice, warm evening around the campfire. Since it is smaller than what most have expected, the upside is that you know for sure you’ll be able to carry it easily.

Bivaro Ultra Light Sleeping Pad for Travel and Hiking

View On Amazon

Last but not least, the Bivaro sleeping pad is one of a kind. While it does have a grid pattern, the Bivaro lies completely flat and provides plenty of support for your back and hips.

The bright orange color works well in situations where you find yourself lost or in need of assistance, you’ll be easy to find among a lush green forest or a white blanket of snow.

It does include a pillow, but as opposed to the other items listed, it’s not attached so that you can remove it if you find it to be uncomfortable or would rather use your own.

The Bivaro is light, and compacts all the way down to a water bottle size! If you aren’t sure how to roll it up, just check out the instructional booklet included with your purchase, it’ll tell you everything you need to know on how to use this sleeping pad properly.

Pros:

  • Can be used for side, back, and stomach sleepers
  • Includes a carrying bag for easy storage
  • Waterproof material keeps you dry

 Cons:

  • Could be considered both a pro and a con, this sleeping pad is quite large, so it’s good for taller people. However, it may not fit inside a tent.

Open this sleeping pad completely before you blow it up to maximize empty space and to prevent it from popping or leaking air.

The Bivaro has an R-value of 1.3, so it is best to use it during summer weather and should not be relied upon for warmth in the winter.

There are 2 patch kits included with this sleeping pad, so bring them with you whenever you go for a hike or overnight trip, it’ll save you from sleeping on the ground in the event that your pad is punctured or begins to leak.

Final Thoughts

If you’re feeling a little overwhelmed, not to worry! Looking for a sleeping pad shouldn’t be a stressful situation; the idea is simply to keep you more comfortable while you’re out on the road.

No matter what season it is, look for the pad with the highest R-value possible.

The products listed above generally have an R-value of 4 or below, they’re meant for fall and early winter in an average climate.

For climbing mountains, and extreme cold, you’ll definitely need to look for a pad with a value of 7 or more.

Although they can be incredibly helpful, you should not rely on any sleeping pad for warmth. Make sure that you have a thick, insulated sleeping bag, preferably one that has room to place your pad inside and zip it up with you while you sleep.

No matter how great your sleeping pad is, no matter how long it has lasted, always bring a patch kit with you just in case.

Accidents are bound to happen, and they usually occur when you aren’t prepared for them. So if your pad doesn’t include a kit, make sure you get one and keep it with you at all times while you’re camping!

About Dabora Dabora is Chief editor at Sleeping Culture. She is a proud mother of two, passionate about sleep and finding ways to live a healthier and stress-free lifestyle.