A trail pack is always too small for all the stuff you have to carry. This is why you might want to check this collection of the best compact sleeping pads for backpacking, all ultralight and reliable.
As you know, there are three main items in the pack (or attached to the pack) that take most of the space or volume. Sleeping pads are one of them, the other two are sleeping bags and tents. So reducing their size and weight is essential.
Technology is improving and this has an effect on these three items. But with a reduced size and weight, you can usually see that this also means the absence of features or a very thin fabric is used. So this is usually a sort of a trade-off. It is therefore important to find a fine line between features and performance. The bottom line is that you cannot compromise protection, no matter the weight and the size of these essential outdoor items.
What we define as ‘compact sleeping pads.’
To be specific, we put the upper limit of the packed volume to 1.9 liters. There is only one particular reason why this number and not some other: this allows you to include a few insulated sleeping pads. There are pads with quite good R-values that pack incredibly small as you will see below.
Our list of best compact backpacking sleeping pads
This list is ordered by the packed volume from larger to smaller. There are some of them that are available in multiple sizes, and in this case, we take the regular or medium size as their representatives.
As mentioned above, you have some insulated, and some uninsulated pads here. All of them are inflatable. You’ll see that these are top products in this industry, and you have the best-known brands behind them.
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1. Exped SynMat UL Sleeping Pad
This pad is built in 4 different sizes. So we focus on its medium size that packs to (L x D) 9.4 x 3.9 inches (24 x 10 cm). This means the packed volume is below 1.9 liters. But this is an insulated sleeping pad, and the word SynMat tells you that this is synthetic insulation.
They use what they call Texpedloft Microfibre that is Bluesign certified, and there is 60 g/m² of it. The inner design is clever, so the fibers are laminated to the top and to the bottom.
When you inflate the pad, the insulation pops out evenly, it expands and traps the air so the convective motion of air in the pad is reduced and this increases insulation. The R-value of this pad is 3.3 and this makes it suitable for any weather in a 3-season use. The corresponding temperature rating is – 4 °C (25 °F).
The pad is inflatable and it comes with the Schnozzel pump bag that doubles as a waterproof stuff sack. It is shown in the picture above. The pad’s fabric is a 20D polyester with a TPU polyether film laminate, hydrolysis resistant, Honeycomb Gripskin coated, and it is also Oeko-Tex 100 certified.
The letters UL are about its ultralight weight. So the mentioned medium size weighs 16.8 oz (475 g). The dimensions of the medium size are 72.1 x 20.5 x 2.8 inches (183 x 52 x 7 cm). As you realize it is quite thick.
The pad is with advanced Exped’s FlatValve technology, there are no stiff edges, and the valves are low profile, and very durable. You have two separate valves for inflation and deflation. Note also that they give a 2-year warranty with this pad
- Great valves.
- Great packed size.
- Ultralight pad.
- Several sizes to choose from.
- The price.
2. Klymit Insulated V Ultralite SL Inflatable Sleeping Pad
Here you have a pad with the packed size 7 x 4.5 inches (17.8 x 11.4 cm). This implies a volume of 1.82 liters only. If this looks like a lot, bear in mind the fact that this is an insulated pad. So indeed, inside you have Klymit synthetic insulation designed to trap the body heat and keep you comfortable. See also its impressive R-value of 4.4, so such a compact sleeping pad you can use in all seasons, who would say?
The pad follows the usual design of this brand, which makes them world-famous. It includes its iconic V-shaped baffles with what they call the body mapping system. This means more support in the areas where this is necessary. Klymit has many sleeping pads with this design, and the pad presented here is currently the lightest they have, it weighs only 15.9 ounces (451 g). This explains the Ultralite SL in the name.
The pad is inflatable, and the dimensions when inflated are 72 x 20 inches (183 x 51 cm). The pad is built in one size only, and the shape is more or less rectangular but also slightly tapered. So the width in the foot area is only 17 inches.
The fabric is what you would expect from a pad that packs so great, this is a thin 20D polyester. But this is a durable pad, tried and tested by many, and you will want to know that it comes with Klymit’s lifetime warranty.
- Great price.
- Great R-value.
- Body mapping technology for optimal support.
- Not very large.
- Thin fabric.
3. Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Xtherm Sleeping Pad
This Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm Ultralight Backpacking Air Mattress is built in two sizes, so the regular version packs into (L x D) 9 x 4 inches (23 x 10 cm). This gives 1.8 liters of pack volume.
But see what else this pad offers. You have a remarkable R-value of 6.9. So this pad can be used even in very severe winter conditions. We couldn’t miss adding it to the list: with something like this underneath your sleeping bag, you will be fully protected from the ground.
The regular size measures 72 x 20 inches (183 x 51 cm), and its weight is only 15 ounces (425 g). The top fabric is a 30D ripstop nylon, and on the bottom, you have a 70D nylon, so these are reasonably durable materials in view of its weight and packed size. The pad is 2.5 inches (6.4 cm) thick.
In fact, the warmth-to-weight ratio of this pad is hard to match. This all is based on their proprietary reflective ThermaCapture technology that traps radiant heat within the pad, and on a Triangular Core Matrix that minimizes heat loss during sleep. This is what they give in information, there is no way to know exactly what this is unless you destroy the pad. As they write, there are two layers of triangle baffles that create hundreds of individual cells to retain warmth and protect from the cold.
The new version of this pad comes with the Winglock valve that is one-way inflation or deflation, and you choose the operation by simply rotating the wings on the side of the valve. In the specifications, they write that this valve allows for 3 times faster inflation and deflation as compared to standard valves of the same size. This is an award-winning sleeping pad, and it comes with the manufacturer’s limited lifetime warranty.
- Incredible weight.
- Very warm.
- Extremely packable.
- Very expensive.
4. Sea to Summit Ether Light XT Mat
This pad is also ultralight and ultra-packable, so in numbers, this means it weighs 0.86 lb (390 g) and its packed size is 8.3 x 3.9 inches (21 x 10 cm). So the packed volume is only 1.65 liters. These numbers are for its R size, but they have it in 3 sizes in total, just to know.
The pad is for warm weather only, its R-value is 0.8. The construction includes an interesting baffle design with dot welds and numerous interconnecting chambers (Air-Sprung Cells). The top and bottom welds are connected inside, so you have a 4 inches (10.2 cm) thick bed, good enough for any type of sleeper. They claim that an anti-microbial treatment is added to the TPU formula to prevent internal mold growth.
The face fabric is moderate, you have 30D and 40D nylon with liquid extruded lamination, which makes it durable and quiet. You have one multi-function, high flow rate, and low profile valve, with a small button inside for fine-tuning.
Note also that the pad’s stuff sack doubles as its pump bag. The R size measures 72 x 21.6 inches (183 x 55 cm). This pad is included also in my list of best Sea to Summit sleeping pads.
- Stability and support.
- The weight.
- The packed size.
- The price.
5. WELLAX Ultralight Air Sleeping Pad
This pad’s packed size is (L x D) 10 x 3.5 inches (25.4 x 8.9 cm). This gives 1.58 liters of the packed volume. To continue with numbers, the weight given on Amazon is 14.5 oz (411 g).
So this is both an ultralight and ultra-compact pad, and its official R-value is 2.1. This makes it suitable for at least two seasons in the warmer part of the year.
The pad is inflatable and you realize from the picture that there are many air-sprung cells for a great support and cushion. These cells make it very stable, and bouncing is reduced. The material is a 20D ripstop nylon with a TPU coating that makes it waterproof. This is one of the pads that are really quiet. There are two valves, separate for inflation and for deflation, both very flat and easy to use.
The pad is surprisingly long, the dimensions are 78 x 24 inches (198 x 61 cm), so this is in the range of L sizes of the other pads here in the list. There is only one size as far as I understand. The pad is moderately thick with its 2.5 inches (6.3 cm).
- Incredible price.
- Extremely packable.
- Great weight.
What I dislike:
- Only one size.
6. Sea to Summit UltraLight Mat
They have decided to enphasize the weight in the name of this pad. So indeed it weighs only 395 g (13.9 oz) for its R size. Note that there are three sizes in total.
But this pad is ridiculously small when packed, so I had to show you this picture below. The packed size is 17 x 7.5 cm (6.5 x 3 inches). This means it is only 0.75 liters of volume, and you realize this from the picture:
You have medium-resolution Air Sprung Cells which result in the lightest and smallest packed-volume mat without compromising comfort.
They use the same technology in several of the sleeping pads of this brand. As you realize, there are no classic baffles. It is constructed using a dot-weld pattern to create a high surface area matrix of interconnected chambers.
The point of this is that these Air Sprung Cells operate independently and the mattress conforms to your body shape. Because of this, the pad is very flexible. The fabric is 40D ripstop nylon. The R-value is 0.7 only, so the pad is for warm weather only. The size of the R version is 183 x 55 cm (72 x 21.5 inches) so this is very good in view of its other parameters.
- Ridiculously compact.
- Extremely light.
- Very comfortable.
- For warm weather only.
How to choose
With our list of the best compact sleeping pads for backpacking, you have enough great options to choose from. But if you are still undecided, here are a few thoughts that might help.
If this is about ounce counting, then it is easy, just go for the lightest option possible. But I would describe all of them as ultralight so the weight may not be so important here.
A sleeping pad is not only for comfort but also for protection. You lose far more body warmth to the ground than to the air. In fact, this is roughly 40-50 times more, dependent on the type of ground.
In view of this, you might want to consider the R-value as well. You do not want to be surprised by bad weather when you are at mercy of Nature. In other words, be ready to make some compromises, insulation means more bulk.
If you follow the links, you will realize that differences in prices can be really huge. But note that this is about pads that have air inside, so they might leak. This is why you need a reliable pad.
Excellent combination of features and price
Product Name: Klymit Insulated V Ultralite SL Inflatable Sleeping Pad
Product Description: This pad is a great value for the money.
You might want to check out our list of best insulated sleeping pads for backpacking where some of these pads are also included. See also these double-wide backpacking sleeping pads for two people. A pad is only one of the elements for outdoor sleeping, so see these best backpacking sleeping quilts, you will need one. In wet conditions on the trail you may need a chair, so check these ultralight and ultra-compact outdoor chairs.