Best camping mat 2023: inflatable and foam sleeping pads ranked

We select the best camping mats for every occasion, from self-inflating pads to cheap and cheerful roll mats

Best camping mat 2023: Quick links

Campers using Thermarest sleeping pads

(Image credit: Thermarest)

00. Top 3↴
01. Best overall: Thermarest NeoAir XLite
02. Best 3-season: Rab Ionosphere 5
03. Best budget: Alpkit Cloud Base
04. Best for cold weather: S-T-S Ether Light XT Extreme
05. Best ultralight: Exped SynMat UL
06. Best mid-range: Alpkit Whisper
07. Best for comfort: Trekology UL80
08. Best for car camping: Robens Polarshield 120
09. Best for mountaineering: Thermarest Z-Lite Sol

What's the best camping mat for you depends on what outdoor adventures you get up to and what time of year you tend to hit the trails. There are many pads and mats on the market, ranging from massive mattresses for car campers who prioritise comfort to featherlight creations for fastpackers, minimalist backpackers and bikepackers.

When choosing a camping mat, the key things to consider are type, R-value, weight and pack size. How heavy and bulky your mat is when packed is a critical factor if you're planning on carrying the mat around. You'll want something you can fit in your backpack or have strapped to the front. (To that end, if you're backpacking, you might want to invest in one of the best lightweight sleeping bags to go with your mat.)

On the other hand, if you're camping with a car, you have the luxury of not carrying around all your gear so that you can have a more spacious tent (see also: best tents) and maybe even the best camping bed among your camping gear. Not sure what's the difference between camping mats and beds? Check out our handy guide here: airbed vs camp bed vs sleep mat.

Matt Kollat T3
Matt Kollat

The cold weather is upon us, people, so it's time to think about three or even four-season gear. The best cold-weather camping mats can help you stay warm even in the harshest conditions as long as you wrap yourself in an insulated sleeping bag in a weather-proof tent. You'll find plenty of these below!

The Top 3

Best camping mat to buy right now

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Best overall

Thermarest NeoAir XLite camping mat on some grassT3 Best Buy badge

(Image credit: Sian Lewis / T3)
Best camping mat overall

Specifications

Weight: 12.5oz / 360g (regular)
Size (in use): 183 x 51 x 6.4cm / 72 x 20 x 2.5" (regular - other sizes available)
Size (packed): 23 x 10cm / 9 x 4.1"
R value: 4.2

Reasons to buy

+
Feather-light weight
+
Packs to a size of a water bottle
+
Range of sizes

Reasons to avoid

-
Does rustle and creak

For all-around performance in all seasons, look no further than the Thermarest NeoAir XLite camping pad. It's incredibly lightweight, packs down tiny, and is very well-made. The sleep surface is firm yet supportive and will keep you safely elevated from the bumpy ground, even if you like to sleep on your side. We found this mat provides excellent insulation even in cold weather, but if you tend to get very cold, consider the warmer, heavier Thermarest NeoAir XThem further down the list. The XLite comes in a range of sizes available to suit taller, shorter, and wider campers.

Read our full Thermarest NeoAir XLite review.

Best 3-season

Rab Ionosphere 5 review

(Image credit: Matthew Jones)
Best 3-season camping mat

Specifications

Weight: 19.4 oz/ 550g (regular)
Size (in use): 183 x 51 cm/ 72 x 20in (regular, other sizes available)
Size (packed): 23cm x 11cm/ 9 x 4.3in (regular)
R value: 4.8

Reasons to buy

+
Standard version offers excellent warmth to weight
+
Plush and comfortable
+
Inflates quickly and easily

Reasons to avoid

-
Tapered mummy shape may not suit restless sleepers

There’s lots to like about Rab's impressive new entrant to the insulated air mat market. Firstly, Ionosphere 5 Sleeping Mat is very comfortable, even if you’re a side sleeper. It’s also lightweight and packable, which makes this a good choice for weight-conscious backpackers and mountaineers – though dedicated ultralighters could look at even lighter rivals, such as the Thermarest NeoAir XLite Sleeping Pad listed above.

It’s warm enough for full three-season use and even winter camps, provided overnight temperatures don’t fall too far below freezing. It also gets good marks for sustainability since it is made from recycled materials and uses a water-repellent treatment free from environmentally harmful PFCs. We’d recommend going for the standard version over the long and wide version, though, since in our view, the latter’s heftier weight and packed size (as well as the increased cost) aren’t worth the slight increase in comfort.

Read our full Rab Ionosphere 5 Sleeping Mat review.

Best budget

Alpkit Cloud Base camping mat on some grassT3 Approved badge

(Image credit: Sian Lewis / T3)
Best budget camping mat

Specifications

Weight: 14.8 oz/ 420g
Size (in use): 189 x 56 x 5cm
Size (packed): 8 x 28cm
R value: 1.4

Reasons to buy

+
Impressively packable and compact
+
Easy to inflate and pack away
+
Great value

Reasons to avoid

-
Not insulated
-
Water can get trapped inside if not carefully dried

Next up in our ranking of the best camping mats is the Alpkit Cloud Base camping mat. Don't be fooled by that impressively grooved design; this mat packs down just as small and light as the best lightweight mats around. It's much cheaper than others on this list but punches well above its price tag in terms of performance and comfort. It's not insulated, so for cold-weather adventures, you'll want something different, but for everything else, it's a great choice.

Read our full Alpkit Cloud Base camping mat review.

Best for cold weather

Sea To Summit Ether Light XT Extreme

(Image credit: Mark Mayne)
Best camping mat for cold weather

Specifications

Weight (regular): 720g / 25.4oz
Size (regular, in use): 72 x 21.6" / 183 x 55 cm
Size (regular, packed): 6.9 x 9.4" / 17.5 x 24cm
R value: 6.2

Reasons to buy

+
Really, really warm
+
Really, really thick and comfortable
+
Pretty lightweight

Reasons to avoid

-
There are lighter summer options

The Sea To Summit Ether Light XT Extreme is an extremely comfortable, insulated camping mat designed for colder adventures in mind. There are lighter, slimmer, more packable camping mats around, but they’re colder and less comfortable, so you take yer' choice, as the old saying goes.

If you’re really gram-counting in summer or autumn conditions, you could save weight with a lighter mat/mattress option, but in winter, there are not many camping beds or mats out there with this much insulation firepower, potentially letting you run a lighter sleeping bag as a result.

Overall, this is dangerously close to the ideal camping bed for all occasions, from car camping with the family to summer hikes and winter overnight adventures to base camp comfort, this only compromises slightly at the very extremes. 

Read our full Sea To Summit Ether Light XT Extreme Sleeping Mat review.

Best ultralight

Exped SynMat UL camping mat on some grassT3 Approved badge

(Image credit: Sian Lewis / T3)
Best ultralight camping mat

Specifications

Weight: 14.8 oz/ 450g
Size (in use): 72" x 20.5" x 2.7"/ 183 x 52 x 7cm
Size (packed): 9.4" x 4"/ 24 x 10cm
R rating: 2.3

Reasons to buy

+
Packs up tiny
+
Thick and comfy to sleep on
+
Quiet sleep surface

Reasons to avoid

-
Fiddly to get into the bag

The compact and lightweight Exped SynMat UL (ultralight) mat is popular for a reason: it stuffs down small, is very lightweight and impressively comfortable. Packing down to around the size of a one-litre water bottle, we haven't come across many mats more compact than this one. Despite the small packed size, it's a chunky 7cm thick when inflated, which will be comfy even for side sleepers.

It's also quiet to kip on – no crinkly fabric here. The 3.3 R rating will keep you warm for three-season use. On the downside, it's a little fiddly to pack up, and although our mat performed well in tests, we found the fabric didn't feel quite as robust as other mats we've tried (a small repair kit does come included). Note also that there are several versions of this mat, so double-check the size and R rating to make sure you're buying the one that matches your needs.

Read our full Exped SynMat UL review.

Best mid-range

Alpkit Whisper Insulated camping mat

(Image credit: Pat Kinsella)
Best mid-range sleeping mat

Specifications

Weight: 820g / 28.9oz
Dimensions (inflated): 183 x 65 x 7cm / 72 x 25.5 x 2.75in
Pack size: 30 x 12cm / 12 x 5in
R-value: 2.5

Reasons to buy

+
Small pack size
+
Wide and comfortable
+
Has a pump sack
+
Made with recycled materials

Reasons to avoid

-
Relatively low R-value for a 3-season mat

The Alpkit Whisper insulated 3-season camping mat can be all things to all campers (well, backpackers, at least): light and packable enough to be taken on all but the most minimalist trips while being sufficiently wide and warm to keep you comfortable in the vast majority of conditions you’re ever likely to face in Britain (and beyond) for nine months of the year.

It does have some limitations (the R-Value isn’t massive, for example, for a 3-season sleeping pad), but – particularly for the price point – it is an excellent mat for most backpackers, bikepackers and overnight adventurers of all persuasions. It comes with a pump sack, which doubles up as a stuff sack and is easy to inflate, deflate and carry on the trails.

Read our full Alpkit Whisper Insulated Camping Mat review.

Best for comfort

Trekology UL80 camping mat in a tentT3 Approved badge

(Image credit: Future)
Best camping mat for comfort

Specifications

Weight: 750g / 26.45oz
Size (in use): 75 x 22.4 x 3.5" / 190 x 57 x 8cm
Size (packed): 7.3' x 4.7'' / 18.5 x 12cm
R value: 1.6

Reasons to buy

+
Nice and thick, but packs up small
+
Comes in longer sizes
+
Shaped to stop you from rolling off

Reasons to avoid

-
Not the most insulated
-
On the heavy side

This sleeping pad is super thick and cushioning when inflated but packs up extremely compact to be slung into a backpack during the day. As well as being thick enough to provide a comfy sleep surface and keep you well away from the bumpy, cold ground, the surface is slightly curved up at the edges to keep you positioned towards the centre and reduce the chance of you rolling off in the night. It's also slightly longer than standard, making it a good choice for taller campers.

The Trekology UL80 is made from 40D nylon with a water-resistant coating, and while it worked perfectly well in our tests, to the touch, it does feel like there might be more robust fabrics if you're willing to spend more. It deflates quickly and packs up easily into the provided carry bag. 

It's not the most insulating on our list, but the 1.6R rating will do the job for warmer weather excursions (Trekology says it's suitable for 35.6F or 2C and above). If you're looking for a compact yet cushioning mat that won't break the bank, this is our top pick.

Read our full Trekology UL80 review.

Best for car-camping

Robens Polarshield 120 camping matT3 Approved badge

(Image credit: Mark Mayne)
Best camping mat for car-camping

Specifications

Weight: 84.6 oz/ 2.4kg
Size (in use): 78.7" x 30" x 4.7"/ 200 x 77 x 12cm
Size (packed): 15.3" x 11"/ 39 x 28cm
R value: 5.0

Reasons to buy

+
Huge and comfortable
+
Good valve design

Reasons to avoid

-
Slow to fully inflate
-
Hard to pack away

Not so much a camping mat as a full-size camping mattress, the Robens Polarshield 120 is a super-comfortable option if you're set on a sound night's sleep when you're out car-camping. It's big and warm with plenty of bounce, and compared to similar options, it's surprisingly small and light.

The Polarshield 120 self-inflates, but you'd be best advised to start it off well in advance of bedtime; we found that it'll get to 3/4 inflated fairly quickly, but that vital final quarter takes a lot longer because of the mat's foam decompressing itself. Another thing to know is that it's an absolute pain to get back in its bag in the morning; you'll need to work its compression straps hard and be ready for a long battle of attrition. Overall, though, it's a great mat that provides a home-from-home sleeping experience

Read our full Robens Polarshield 120 Camping Mat review.

Best for mountaineering

Therm-a-Rest Z-Lite SOL MattressT3 Approved badge

(Image credit: Press)

9. ThermaRest Z-Lite Sol

Best camping mat for mountaineering

Specifications

Size (in use): 72 x 20 x 0.8"/ 51 x 183 x 2cm
Size (packed): 20 x 5 x 5.5"/ 51 x 13 x 14cm
Weight: 14oz / 410g
R value: 2.0

Reasons to buy

+
Super-small pack size
+
Surprisingly comfortable

Reasons to avoid

-
Not as cushioning as an air mat
-
Only warm enough for spring-autumn use

No camping mat list would be complete without the game-changing Therm-a-Rest Z-Lite. The egg-box style dimpled foam not only gives you the maximum comfort, but also folds down smaller than you’d believe. It is also totally and utterly indestructible, short of dedicated chopping up or incineration, thus ideal for rough-and-ready mountaineering. Sure it packs down to something about the size of a house brick (and weighs a reasonable 410g), and might not be feather-bed comfy, but it is keenly priced and deservedly popular. Double it up with a more expensive self inflating camping mat for the ultimate outdoors snooze.

How we test the best camping mats

At T3, we place a high value on the authenticity of the product advice we offer, and each of the camping mats and sleeping pads featured here has been extensively field tested by our outdoor-expert reviewers. The mats have been taken out on camping trips and slept upon in a variety of conditions to assess how easy they are to carry, inflate (where relevant) and pack away. Each has also been tested against a set of criteria, including design, functionality, comfort, warmth, material quality and robustness.

FAQ

What's an R value in camping mats?

The R value you tells you how warm the mat will be to sleep in. The main use for a camping mat is to keep you insulated from the ground – which even in summer is pretty chilly and can conduct heat away from your body. The higher the R-value, more insulating it’ll be. Broadly, an R value below 2.0 is for summer use, 2.0 to 4.0 will suit 3-season use, and if you're heading out in winter, look for 4.0 or above.

Which is better: foam vs inflatable camping mats?

Inflatable or self-inflating mats are the best camping mat choice if you're off on a multi-day trip, as they're typically much more comfortable when inflated and pack down smaller when not in use – you'll be able to pop them inside your hiking backpack rather than strapping them to the outside. There is, however, always a slight risk of puncture (choosing a pricier model is always a good idea here).

Choosing inflatable camping mats can be a complex task, as the various materials and construction make a massive difference to the insulation they dish out – yes, even from two mats that look very similar. As usual, the cheaper the mat, the less insulation you'll probably get, and be sure to check the R-value. 

Simple foam camping mats shouldn't be dismissed entirely, though. They're both cheaper and more robust but less comfortable than their inflated brethren. In fact, they're pretty much indestructible, so they are ideal for festival use or trekking in particularly rugged terrain that would slice an inflatable to shreds. While bulky, they're very lightweight and unbothered by getting wet, too.

Matt Kollat
Section Editor | Active

Matt looks after T3's Active vertical, which incorporates all things fitness, outdoors, wearables and transportation – anything that gets you moving and keeps you fit and healthy will go through his hands. His byline appears in several publications, including Techradar and Fit&Well, and more. Matt also collaborated with other content creators (e.g. Garage Gym Reviews) and judged many awards, such as European Specialist Sports Nutrition Alliance's ESSNawards. When he isn't working out, running or cycling, you'll find him roaming the countryside and trying out new podcasting and content creation equipment.

With contributions from