The Best New Sleeping Pads Reviewed
There were three simple backcountry pad choices: Strong, lightweight, hard-to-compress closed-cell foam pads were cheaper options. The deluxe pads were mostly open cell self-inflating pads made with polyurethane foam enclosed in an airtight nylon...

There were three simple backcountry pad choices: Strong, lightweight, hard-to-compress closed-cell foam pads were cheaper options. The deluxe pads were mostly open cell self-inflating pads made with polyurethane foam enclosed in an airtight nylon shell and inflated through a valve. The self-inflating pads were light, compressible, and softer than closed cell foam, and still are.

Inner tube pads were once only used for summer car camping. They were inexpensive, comfortable, heavy, bulky, and offered little insulation in cold weather. Now, premium inner-wall inner tube pads offer the lightness, compactness and comfort of air pads in pads warm enough for winter use. A new category is an inner tube cushion filled with polyester down or sill for additional insulation. Inner tube pads are a leap forward in sleeping mattress design, for lightness, comfort and warmth.

Inflatable pump bags are standard equipment with air chamber pads. They facilitate the inflation of the bag and prevent condensation inside.

It is best to determine what type of camping you will be doing primarily before deciding what type of cushion you should buy. For light travel, nothing beats the inner tube pads. For car camping, especially in hot weather, heavier models will suffice. In situations where it will be difficult to inflate a cushion or you cannot easily protect it from punctures caused by crampons, rocks or dogs, closed cell foam models are always a good choice. Winter campers also sometimes use a closed cell foam pad between the floor and their pad.

How much cushion warmth you need will also determine the type of cushion you purchase. The recently adopted R-Value System (AKA ASTM FF3340) tests allow you to compare the pads with the most insulation.

We rate each pad on a scale of one to five.

Nemo Tensor

Type: Air chamber
Size: 183 x 51 cm
Weight: 475g
Thickness: 8 cm
Packed size: 20x 8cm
R-Value: 4.8
Price: CAD $ 209

Our rating: five out of five

The tensor is a top pad that shows the distance traveled by the inner tube pads. Super light and compact, its interior compartmentalized construction keeps it warm, stable and quiet. The Tensor can be inflated by blowing into it if needed, but the included Vortex Pump Bag makes it much easier. It attaches to the one-way valve and with just a few light breaths the bag fills and then rolls up to fill the bag. When both plugs are removed, most of the air immediately leaves the bag. Very comfortable 3 inch thickness ensures comfortable sleep. The reflective surface of the interior of the cushion decreases radiant heat loss. The R factor places this cushion in the winter category. Includes Storage Bag, Vortex Pump Bag, Velcro Trap, and Repair Kit. A great choice for winter camping and mountaineering or any light mission.

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Thermarest Neoair Xtherm

Type: Air chamber
Size: 51 x 183 cm
Weight: 430g
Thickness: 6.4 cm
Packed size: 23cm x 10cm
R-Value: 6.9
Price: CAD $ 275

Our rating: five out of five

Thermarest was the pioneer of the self-inflating cushion and continues to provide excellent pads in the self-inflating and inner tube categories. The Thermarest Neoair XTherm is a winter cushion with a high R factor, although it is a bit thinner than most comparable pads and is also lighter than some models. The cushion can be inflated directly, but it is best to do so using the included pump bag. Make sure the bag is the right way round before pumping, otherwise the pump bag may come loose. Winglock valve opens easily for quick air emptying when packing. It is a comfortable, light and thick cushion for all seasons, which has a very high R-value. Recommended for any use in the winter backcountry.

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Thermarest Neo Air Topo Luxe

Weight: 650 g
Type: Air chamber
Size: 51 x 183 cm
Thickness: 10 cm
Packed size: 14x 24cm
R-value: 3.7
Price: $ 195 CAD

Our rating: four out of five

This is Thermarest's thickest backcountry pillow, standing 10cm high to smooth out bumps and give you a plush sleep. The interior triangular horizontal channels on the cushion maintain fairly even pressure throughout this rectangular cushion. This pad is not the warmest available, although the R-value of 3.7 and the reflective surface inside the pad will take you comfortably in less severe winter conditions. The dual valve system allows a dedicated one-way inlet valve and an outlet valve that allows you to deflate the cushion quickly. The included pump bag works well, but you need to know the pressure to use so that it does not come out of the valve. The top of the block has a cool topographic graphic. In terms of weight, this pad offers much more comfort for just a few extra grams than regular pads. Recommended for three season use where extra comfort is desired.

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Exped Downmat Lite 5

Type: Inner tube / 650 duck down
Size: 53cm x183cm
Weight: 620g
Thickness: 5 cm
Packed size: 13 x 26 cm
R-value: 3.8
Price: CAD $ 235

Our rating: four out of five

Exped is renowned for its sleeping bags and has contributed some of its expertise to its sleeping pad program. The Exped's straight air channels are filled with duck down to increase insulating power. It inflates in minutes with an included pump that can be used with the hands or feet (it's more difficult to do the latter in a tent). The 2 inches of padding helps keep most bumps from ruining a good night's sleep. Larger diameter channels on either side of the cushion help you stay on top all night. It comes with storage bag, repair kit and pump bag. An excellent lightweight and compact pad for three season backcountry use.

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Big Agnes Two Track

Type: self-inflating foam core
Size: 63 by 198 cm
Weight: 680g
Thickness: 5 cm
Packed size: 55 x 11 cm
R-value: 3.8
Price: 105 $ CAD

Our rating: three out of five

Foam core models typically roll in larger packages than their inner tube counterparts. Big Agnes solved this problem by using vertical and horizontal channels in the moss. The cushion offers the firmness of a foam cushion but is about as light as the inner tube models. The two-way valve is familiar to users of foam pads and offers less ease and versatility for inflation by blowing directly into it, but it is a reliable function. A traditional three-season compressible foam core cushion at a great price.

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Big Agnes Isolated Axl Trail Boss

Type: Air chamber

Size: five sizes, mid-range cushion: 78 x 198 cm
Weight: mid-range, 1.2 kg
Thickness: 8.25 in the center and 9.52 cm on the sides
Packed size: 14 x 32 cm
R-Value: 4.4
Price: $ 290 CAD

Our rating: four out of five

If you are looking for a very functional, thick and comfortable cushion, this could be this one. While it's heavier than many rugs, it's perfect for anyone who is tough on their camping gear, camps with dogs, or just wants a rug that will last a long time. It's also a very comfortable cushion with a whopping 8.25 thick. The inside of the cushion also has a reflective surface to make it even warmer. This is a four season pad with a high R value. The dual valve system allows the included pump bag to lock securely for inflation and for a quick emptying of air when packing. Note that this thick cushion takes a little extra effort to inflate. It comes with two repair kits (one for each color on the pad) the pump bag and a storage bag. This is the cushion for anyone who wants a durable and comfortable cushion when weight is not a top priority.

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Sea to Summit Comfort Plus SI

Type: self-inflating
Size: Five sizes, regular size: 183 x 51cm
Weight: 970 g
Thickness: 8 cm
Packed size: 17 x 28 cm
R-value: 4.1
Price: $ 200 CAD

Our rating: four out of five

While it's advertised as a self-inflating cushion, the secret to its extreme thickness is on Sea to Summit's Deltacore system which features D-shaped channels in the open cell foam. The horizontal channels fill up to 8cm with plush and are a bit firmer than in air channel sleeping pads. This is, however, a self-inflating mat and it will slowly fill up, unless you blow into it, and there is plenty of room to blow into this cushion. Fortunately, a torsion valve prevents it from re-inflating when you roll it up, a typical headache with self-inflating pads. The top of the cushion is embossed to prevent you from slipping. The two larger sizes come in rectangular shapes. This versatile pad will work well throughout the seasons, and as long as you don't want an ultra-compact pad, it's a solid choice for any type of camping.

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Exped Synmat 7LW

Type: Inner tube, insulated with Texpedloft, polyester padding

Size: 65x 197 cm
Weight 1.06 kg
Thickness: 7 cm
Packed size: 27 x 15 cm
R-Value: 4.8
Price: $ 195 CAD

Our rating: four out of five

The Synmat is Exped's most versatile pad. It's tough like most shipping stamps, with a 75 denier polyester shell. The infill is Exped's Texpedloft. The vertical air channels are inflated with a unique integrated pump chamber system that eliminates the need for you to bring a pump bag. A diagram on the pump chamber shows you how to place your hands on the pump, and although it does take a bit of practice to ensure that one hand blocks the inner tube when you press down, it is easy to learn. The cushion is rated at 4.8 R-Value and its 7cm thick makes it warm enough for camping all year round. A storage bag, repair kit and cleat to hold the Sea to Summit Aero pillow in place are included. Exped makes strong pads, and this one is good all year round, although not the lightest pad available.

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Big Agnes Third Degree

Type: closed cell foam
Size: 20 x 72 inches (large)
Weight: 340g (large)
Packed size: 15x 51cm
R-value: 1.5
Price: $ 29.96 large

Our rating: three out of five

This is the only closed cell foam cushion in this review. Two layers of foam add to the comfort and warmth of this lightweight cushion. A cut-out layer on top creates more dead air spaces under you and a tire patterned undersurface prevents the pad from slipping. The pad is warm enough for three season use, one third or less the price of inner tube pads and half the weight. In addition, it cannot be punctured. That's a lot of features at the price. Alone for light and quick trips, or as part of a winter sleeping system, this closed cell foam cushion is a versatile addition to your sleep system.

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Rock climbing is everywhere these days. From the Dawn Wall to your Instagram feed to the new gym going up in town, climbing is no longer the fringe sport it once was. Kids are starting to climb almost before they can walk, and now more than ever, there’s no reason for you not to give it a try as well. However, climbing can be one of those intimidating hobbies to begin. Many ask, “How do I get started ? ” citing fear and feeling overwhelmed with gear and safety as huge barriers to entry. We get it, and so what follows is everything you need to know to get out on the rock'n'roll.

The term “rock climbing” encompasses a great number of disciplines, from bouldering to big wall climbing, to mountain climbing and mountaineering. Before you begin, it might be important to first identify what style of climbing you are interested in, or perhaps to ask, “Why do I want to climb ? ” Do you want to summit peaks, boulder at your local gym, or perhaps learn to lead climb at the local crag ? Do you want to make friends, be outdoors, or get in shape ( or all three ) ? Once these questions are answered, you can work out the potential steps you’ll need to take to get there. Below ( in the Sport vs. trad vs. bouldering section ) we attempt to inform this decision by breaking down the various types of climbing; each has its own specific culture, gear, and learning curve.

Climbing is a complex sport : it’s potentially expensive to get into, difficult to find mentors, and can be dangerous if not done correctly. With the evolution of climbing gyms, however, it’s easier than ever to give climbing a try : just grab a friend and head to the nearest gym, rent a pair of shoes and a harness, and jump on the bouldering wall. However, if and when your progression leads you to climbing on ropes and outside, technical skills become essential to safety. Many choose to learn from friends; however, safety is so important that we recommend enrolling in a formal class. The easiest and best way to learn the essential skills, which include belaying and tying proper knots, is by taking an introductory course at your local gym. Or, if you’re interested in climbing outside or even more specifically climbing in the mountains, seek out a class either through your gym or a local guide.

The first indoor climbing gym opened in Seattle in 1987. Now just 30 years later, there are 430 gyms across the nation, with over 50 more in construction at the time of writing. Areas like the Denver metropolis have as many as 10 gyms, all stuffed to capacity each day. Whereas climbers used to be a tiny community of mostly adult men with access to the wilderness, the climbing gym revolution has brought climbing to the masses. It’s safe to say that more people now climb indoors than outdoors. The climbing gym has developed its own culture, and climbing inside - “pulling on plastic, ” as climbers often say - is vastly different from climbing outdoors. It is arguably safer, much more convenient to access, and far more social; for these reasons, the gym is an extra place to begin climbing. Gym passes cost anywhere from $6 to $30/day, with monthly memberships being the best option for those who go regularly. Outdoor climbing takes place on boulders, on cliff bands, and in mountains - anywhere where there is solid rock, climbers can be found. Some of the most popular variétés of rock to climb include granite, sandstone, limestone, basalt, and conglomerate blends. Each of these kinds of rock'n'roll has its own style of climbing, from overhanging jugs much like gym climbs, to technical slabs, to splitter cracks. Climbing outdoors demands a higher level of spécialité than climbing in the gym, as there are more variables and dangers on real rock. Weather can be a factor, as well as rock fall. Climbers will also need to possess a great deal more gear to climb outside, including their own rope and harness, quickdraws or other protection, a personal anchor and locking carabiner, and a helmet. Although many climbers begin in the gym, some learn to climb immediately outside, most commonly with the help of a guide or an instructional course.

Rock climbing is generally broken down into three categories : sport climbing, traditional ( trad ) climbing, and bouldering. Climbers tend to specialize in or prefer one discipline over the others, though many climbers participate in all three. Sport climbing is a style of climbing where the leader attaches quickdraws to pre-existing bolts, looping the rope through the quickdraws for protection while ascending the cliff. Sport climbs are often one-pitch climbs where the leader then comes back to the ground after fixing the rope to the anchor, though in some cases these climbs might continue up larger faces for multiple pitches. As a discipline, sport climbing focuses on difficult movement, endurance, learning to face fears, and risking a fall ( and being caught by the rope, of course ! ). Trad climbing is the most rootsy and historical form of climbing, in which the leader climbs weaknesses in the rock ( generally, cracks ) and places gear in these weaknesses that will hold the rope in the case of a fall. Although trad climbs can be single-pitch routes like the majority of sport climbs, they often ascend features that are more than one rope length and end at a summit ( these are called “multi-pitch climbs” ). Trad climbers generally love long and adventurous days of climbing in wilderness areas, focusing on movement, logistics, technical rope and gear skills, and partnership. Bouldering is perhaps the most modern form of climbing, and certainly the fastest-growing. Boulderers ascend boulders or bermuda cliffs ( generally 20 feet and under ), using pads and spotters at the base for protection instead of ropes. Bouldering is a form of climbing that focuses on difficult movement and problem solving, and is more social than the other techniques. We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention a few other forms of climbing : aid climbing, alpine rock'n'roll climbing, speed climbing, and deep water soloing. Pick your poison ( or shall we say passion ) : each has its own set of joys and challenges !

One of the first things you’ll learn when starting to climb is how to choose a route that suits your ability level. In the gym, climbs generally are labeled with a difficulty rating; outside, climbers use guidebooks and often a phone application called Mountain Project to identify the difficulty of climbs. In the U. S., climbs are rated using the Yosemite Decimal System; in short, 5. 3 is a very beginner climb, and 5. 15 is an expert-level route. These ratings do not denote danger, only difficulty. As a beginner, you’ll most likely be choosing routes 5. sept and under, and often routes that can be top-roped. Top-roping means that the climber establishes an anchor from the top of the climb so that the rope is already in place, rather than leading the route from the bottom. Many routes in the gym are set up with top ropes; outside, climbers can often hike to the top of the cliff or feature to drop a rope down over the climb.

Each discipline of climbing necessitates a different set of gear. For all genres of climbing, however, a beginner will need a pair of climbing shoes. For just starting out in the sport, we recommend finding a comfortable pair of climbing shoes ( don’t be persuaded by the salesperson at your local gear site to purchase painfully tight shoes ). Delicate footwork will come later in your climbing career; for now you will just be developing an ability to stand on your feet and trust the rubber of your new shoes. All climbers will generally want to carry a chalk bag and chalk as well, which they will either wear around their waist or keep on the ground ( sometimes the case while bouldering ). Climbers dip their hands into chalk to dry off sweat and keep them from slipping off the rock'n'roll. Boulderers will need the above two pieces of gear, in addition to a bouldering pad ( and friends with bouldering pads ! ). Bouldering pads are placed in the fall zone of a boulder problem, and the more the merrier ( and safer ! ). to climb on ropes both in a gym or outside, climbers will need a climbing harness. Climbing harnesses come in a range of weights and specifications - some for sport climbing in particular, some with larger gear loops or more padding for trad climbing. Harnesses need to be replaced every few years for safety reasons, so we again recommend purchasing an affordable harness and replacing it when you have a better understanding of your needs. Along with a climbing harness, it is essential to own a belay device and locking carabiner. This equipment will enable you to belay your partner in the gym or outside, and rappel if needed. If climbing outside, a helmet is extremely important in case of rock'n'roll fall. The above-mentioned gear provides the basics for personal gear needed for a day of climbing or bouldering, either in the gym or with an experienced and well-equipped partner. If you are looking to buy gear so that you can be fully self-sufficient ( and not need a partner or a group with shared gear ) you’ll want to also purchase a climbing-specific rope ( 60-70 meters, 9-10mm in diameter, dynamic ), a personal anchor ( PAC ) or daisy chain, extra locking carabiners, cams, nuts, quickdraws, and slings. It is extremely important to buy new gear or to know the history and age of the gear if acquiring used. Both soft materials and metals degrade over time and with wear and should be carefully assessed before using.

We wholeheartedly recommend taking a course taught by professionals before attempting to climb or belay on your own. Climbing is inherently dangerous, though when done correctly can be very safe. After all of the proper skills have been learned, it is still incredibly important to stay on top of safety at every moment. Before leaving the ground, or transitioning from climbing to lowering/rappelling, there are a number of safety checks that must be completed.


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