What is the best sleeping pad for side sleeper camping?

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Why Do You Need a Sleeping Pad?

A sleeping pad serves two functions in your backcountry sleeping system: it keeps you warm and it helps you sleep more comfortably.

The earth may not seem to be chilly, but it is. Even in the summer, sleeping directly on the ground can swiftly wick heat away from your body. Even the best sleeping bag won’t do much to insulate you against the ground since the insulation is compressed beneath you.

8 Best Sleeping Pads for Side Sleepers

However, the air or foam inside your sleeping pad acts as a strong insulating layer to prevent heat from being sucked out of your body and into the ground. Staying warm in a tent requires the proper sleeping mat.

Of course, sleeping well requires more than simply being warm enough. Sleeping pads also give you a soft surface to lie down on so you don’t end up with severe pressure points or pain in your neck when you wake up.

How to Choose a Sleeping Pad for Side Sleeping

The main things I consider when choosing a sleeping pad are its R-value and weight. I’ll explain why they are important and how to choose the best sleeping pad for your next adventure.


Temperature ratings are to sleeping bags what R-values are to sleeping pads. They indicate how insulated a sleeping pad is and what types of conditions it’s suitable for.

Sleeping pads with an R-value of 1-3 are inadequately insulated and should only be used for summer camping. If you plan to backpack or climb in the early spring or late fall, look for a pad with an R-value of at least 4.

Camping in the snow or during the colder months when the ground is frozen necessitates a much more insulated sleeping pad. During cold weather, look for pads with an R-value of at least 6. Anything less will cause your body to lose heat to the ground during the night.


While your sleeping pad may not be the heaviest item in your sleeping bag, every ounce matters. Several lightweight sleeping mats weigh 0.75 pound (12 ounces) or less. I like them over thicker cushions, although you do sacrifice some sleep quality and durability.

Thicker cushions that are more comfortable for side sleeping often weigh roughly 1 pound (16 oz). If you have trouble sleeping in the backcountry, the extra few ounces can be worthwhile for the added comfort they provide.

Tips for Comfortable Side Sleeping in the Backcountry

Getting a good night’s sleep on even the thickest pad can be a challenge for side sleepers. Here are some tips to help you become comfortable in your tent.

1. Pick the right ground

You get to choose where you set your tent, and the ground you sleep on may make or break your comfort.

I like soft soil or mossy ground that is more tolerant of a tiny sleeping mat. Snow is also an option, and you may compress it down to shape it to your body. But, keep in mind that sleeping on snow necessitates the use of an insulated pad.

Also keep Leave No Trace principles in mind. If you’re in a popular region, choose a previously camped-on location.

2. Use your extra clothes

If you have spare garments, you may use them to cushion your sleeping mat. Place them under your body or beneath your pad, around your hips and shoulders. This relieves pressure areas and eliminates the need to turn over many times throughout the night.

3. Bring a pillow

A hiking pillow may help all types of sleepers. I carry one with me on every trip. They’re terrific for providing neck support and ensuring spinal alignment throughout the night. Plus, you can inflate them to the exact firmness you like.

If you don’t have an inflated cushion, a stuff bag stuffed with clothing can suffice.


Having the correct sleeping pad is essential for getting a good night’s sleep in the wilderness. I recommend the Sea to Summit Ether Light XT Insulated for side sleepers because of its 4-inch thickness and relatively light weight.

The Big Agnes Insulated Q-Core Deluxe is slightly heavier, but it features a quilted surface and is more insulated for shoulder season camping trips. The Therm-a-Rest NeoAir UberLite is the perfect option for hikers and climbers who wish to travel light.

Related Questions

  • How thick should a sleeping pad be for side sleepers?

    3.5 inches thick

    How thick should a side sleeper’s sleeping pad be? A sleeping mat at least 3.5 inches thick will be most comfortable for side sleepers. Unfortunately, these pads are much heavier than 2.5-inch thick pads. Side sleepers looking to balance weight and comfort may choose a 2.5-inch thickness.

  • What kind of sleeping pad for side sleepers?

    The Best Option of Sleeping Pad for Side Sleepers
    Closed-cell foam pads are often thin, bulkier when rolled or folded up, heavier to carry, and do not benefit side sleepers. Side sleepers and those wishing to increase overall comfort should opt for self-inflating or air mattress sleeping pads.

  • What is the best thing to sleep on in a tent?

    Adults, on the other hand, often choose air mattresses and camp cots. Children, on the other hand, seem to be fine with foam pads and little camping beds. If the temps are high enough, youngsters may sleep on yoga mats, foam floor squares, or even folded up blankets in a hurry.

  • What’s best for sleeping camping?

    Our Team’s Camping Mattress Picks

    1. Therm-a-Rest MondoKing 3D is the best overall camping mattress.
    2. Exped MegaMat Duo 10 is the most comfortable camping mat for two people.
    3. Sea to Summit Camp SI Mat is the best budget camping mattress.
    4. REI Co-op Kingdom Insulated Air Bed is the best camping air bed.
    5. Best Light and Packable Air Mat: Nemo Quasar 3D.

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