best sleeping mats for side sleepers

Best Sleeping Pad for Side Sleeper

Sleeping outside is less comfortable than sleeping inside. However, if you're backpacking or bike packing and want to stay safe, warm, and comfortable, you'll need a backpacking pad to protect you from the ground.

A good night's rest on a backpacking trip was rare, but today's sleeping pads are far superior to their forefathers.

Below we break down the top sleeping pads for side sleepers in 2022, including leading air, self-inflating, and foam models.

With any inflatable pad, you choose, ensure proper care to avoid holes. In this guide, we will show you different sleeping pads and how to look out for the best backpacking sleeping pad.

Best Sleeping Mats for Side Sleepers

Sleeping Mats For Side Sleepers

The most common issue with side sleeper sleeping pads is their thickness; if you sleep on your side, you'll need something extra thick.

When you sleep on your side, your hip, knee, arm, shoulder, and neck will contact the floor via your sleeping pad. Feeling the hard ground on your body will cause much pain and discomfort.

Look for something that can do everything. Although you want it to be thick and durable, you also want it to be lightweight and easy to carry, which is why such a specific solution is required.

Finally, you may want your sleeping pad to be versatile enough to accommodate a variety of sleeping arrangements.

Big Agnes Insulated Q-Core Deluxe

Big Agnes is an excellent choice for campers and casual backpackers who require a little more isolation from the ground.

Big Agnes' Insulated Q-Core Deluxe Sleeping Mats are thicker than standard, which improves comfort. They are also fairly warm, with raised side rail baffles to keep you comfortably on your mat.

The top fabric is soft to the touch, and the bottom fabric is a tough double rip-stop nylon.

Features of these closed-cell foam pads include a 3.5" thick pad combined with the 4.25" larger outer chambers, which keep you comfortably cradled in the center of the pad.

A quilted top, a lightweight sleeping pad, and stretchy nylon-spandex fabric provide a soft-touch, cushioned, pillowy sleeping surface.

High-volume valves with micro-adjustments allow for quick inflation and deflation and easy fine-tuning to your preferred firmness.

Antimicrobial treatment inside the pad prevents microorganism growth. Quieter materials than other pads on the market.

A protective stuff sack, a replacement valve seal, and 3M repair patches are included. Individually inflated and tested at our factory to ensure 100% performance quality.

Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Xlite

The inflatable sleeping pads Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite are the perennial favorite of backpackers, thru-hikers, and bikepackers alike, and no list of best sleeping pads for backpacking would be complete without it.

This bright yellow beauty is lightweight, weighing 12 ounces for the Regular air pads, and packs down to about the size of a Nalgene.

The XLite, at 2.5 inches thick, is ideal for back and stomach sleepers, and while the horizontal baffles may make nesting in difficult for side sleepers, reviews indicate that most side sleepers do not "bottom out."

Even after thousands of miles and dozens of nights hiking on this pad, our own side-sleeping testers have not experienced bottoming out.

With an R-value of 4.2--or 5.4 for the Women's version, because females sleep colder—most XLites are good to about 20F, according to the manufacturer. On dozens of occasions, our testers took it into the teens.

Furthermore, the XLite packs down small and takes up very little space in your pack, despite being made of durable, 30-denier fabric. This pad is the best budget sleeping pad

KAMUI Self-Inflating Sleeping Pad Exped MegaMat Lite 12

To ensure comfort and cushioning, this KAMUI ultralight sleeping pad with open-cell foam and air core support is the best lightweight sleeping pad for side sleepers. This self-inflating camping mattress is a recommended pad for side sleepers.

As a side sleeper, you may prefer a thick enough sleeping pad because you do not want your hips or shoulders to press against the hard ground.

Stack two sleeping pads together for a thicker sleep system; you can adjust the firmness of your pad by not inflating it too much.

The sleeping air pad weighs 3.5 pounds, has a thick R 5.7 value, and is made inside with durable foam to keep you in place.

These features allow you to transport a sleeping pad from one location to another without adding too much weight to your pack. The R 5.7 value indicates that your sleeping pad is thicker, which is ideal for comfort and warmth.

Durable foam on the inside adds to the comfort of your sleeping situation. Furthermore, they are simple to stack and can sometimes fit side by side for a larger sleeping platform.

This closed-cell foam pad has everything you need for a fantastic outdoor night.

TETON Sports Adventurer Camp Pad – Made for Car Camping

This is a camp pad designed to make camping more comfortable. The TETON Sports Camp Pads have been thoughtfully designed to make you feel as if you've brought home comforts to the campsite.

Each camp pad is made of open-cell foam that recovers with each use. You can finally unwind knowing that a good night's sleep is on the way.

Even when rolled up, it occupies the majority of the back seat space in my vehicle. When this air pad is used on the floor or ground, it provides only marginal comfort at 2 1/2 inches thick.

The outer shell appears to be made of strong material.

Thick, comfortable camping air pad that feels like your bed at home; Open-cell foam pad; With this sleeping pad, you'll have the most comfortable camping trip yet.

This camping air pad adds another layer of insulation to your sleeping bag, providing an extra layer of comfort and warmth so you will have no issues sleeping with your side.

TETON sports camp pads are lightweight and easy to transport to the campsite; Roll-up straps with compression buckles make storing your pad quick, compact, and simple.

They can be used as a ground pad or with a cot; the Camping pad fits perfectly on the TETON Sports Adventurer Cot; the Canvas shell easily removes for cleaning.

Nemo Tensor Insulated Sleeping Pad For Side Sleepers

Nemo is best known for their backpacking sleeping pad, but they also have a good selection of sleeping pads.

Nemo Tensor Insulated Sleeping Pad is a prime example, combining a lightweight and packable design with a comfortable sleeping platform and generous 3 inches of cushioning that effectively isolates you from the ground.

Because of its thickness and quietness, the Nemo Tensor Insulated is one of the most comfortable air pads of all the mattresses in this review.

This makes it ideal for side sleepers. The Nemo Tensor Insulated is a lightweight backpacking sleeping pad weighing 14oz / 410g, but the best feature of this mattress is how quiet it is when rolling over.

Paria Outdoor Products Recharge XL Sleeping Pad

You've just finished a long day of hiking, discovered the ideal campsite with an incredible view, and are ready to retire for the night. Nothing beats cinching your sleeping bag or quilt on a nice comfortable sleeping pad.

ReCharge sleeping pads were created with comfort in mind. Narrower vertical baffles that run across the body create a smooth sleeping surface, while the diamond ripstop finish prevents you from sliding off the pad.

The ReCharge XL is the king of comfort, with a 76 x 23-inch sleeping surface and a 4-inch thickness that rivals your home mattress.

This sleeping pad is stuffed with high-loft synthetic microfiber insulation, resulting in a true 3-season pad with an R-value of 4.3. Those early spring and late-season trips will keep you warm. No need to compromise on pack size and weight.

The cropped pad weighs only 13.4 oz. And folds down to 5.5 x 3.5 inches in the included stuff sack.

Its high-strength 40D diamond ripstop nylon and TPU lamination technology provide maximum durability and toughness to withstand countless adventures. There is also a repair kit included.

What to Look for in a Decent Sleeping Pad

What to Look for in a Decent Sleeping Pad

When looking for a decent sleeping pad, consider your needs just as you would when choosing the best backpacking sleeping pads.

Regardless of their intended use, a good quality sleeping pad or mat should be on everyone's camping checklist.

Numerous factors, ranging from your budget to your intended activity and environment, will influence how you choose the best backpacking sleeping pads.

While it may appear to be a simple piece of camping equipment to go in your tent with your sleeping bag, hundreds of sleeping mats are now available in a bewildering array of shapes, sizes, designs, and constructions, making selecting the best sleeping pad difficult.

In general, when choosing the best sleeping mat for your needs, keep the following points in mind.

Form and Comfortable pad

While some mats have a standard rectangular profile, others are contoured in a mummy shape to reduce weight and pack size without sacrificing overall sleeping comfort.

Many mats are available in large and/or wide sizes for larger users or those looking for a little extra luxury in their large tent.

Similarly, in their one-person tents, many mats are available in small or three-quarter sizes for petite users or ultralight campers.

Some brands create women's sizes that are contoured to fit the female frame. They are also slightly warmer in some cases, with a higher R-value.


You don't have to spend much money to get a good pad, but many backpackers are willing to splurge a little for a high-quality pad that will get a lot of use.

It's worth spending a little more on a high-quality mat because it makes a huge difference in how comfortable you are while camping and, thus, how much you enjoy your time in the great outdoors.

If money is an issue, entry-level mats can still provide good overall performance and, in some cases, with only a minor increase in weight and bulk.


A sleeping pad's R-value indicates how well it will insulate you from the cold floor. The warmer the pad, the higher the R-value.

Sleeping pads with R-values of 0-2 are ideal for warm-weather trips. R-values of 2-4 are adequate for most three-season backpacking conditions.

R-values of 4-6 is adequate in temperatures near or below freezing. Sleeping pads with an R-value of 5 or higher (or a foam pad under your air pad) are ideal for cold sleepers or those sleeping on snow.

Body heat is also transferred from the top side of the mat to the colder bottom side via the radiation process.

Insulated mats reduce convection by slowing internal air movement within the mat, typically by using smaller air chambers filled with compressible insulation.

Ease of Use

Sleeping pads should be simple to deflate so that you can pack up quickly the next morning. As a result, ease of use is an important aspect of the performance of a sleeping mat or pad.

You can simply unroll or unfold a closed-cell foam mat and fall asleep. However, with a self-inflating or air mat, the ease of use often depends on the valve design.

Many now have a double valve that allows you to inflate them while quickly deflating them.


Depending on your intended use, weight and pack size may be critical or almost irrelevant factors when deciding how to choose a sleeping pad.

Regarding backpack packing, a lightweight sleeping mat with a small pack size is easier to stash and transport.

Most sleeping pads come with a stuff sack, and air mats usually include a pump sack to help you inflate them quickly and easily.

As one of the heaviest items in your pack, your sleeping pad is an excellent place to cut weight. The lighter your backpack, the more comfortable hiking will be.

Are you looking for more information? Our in-depth guides on How To Choose A Sleeping Pad will help you pick your right one. Check it out!

Tips To Improve Your Sleep As A Side Sleeper

Tips To Improve Your Sleep As A Side Sleeper

Side sleepers sleep on either the left or right side of their bodies. These people will frequently tuck a pillow between their shoulders and head. Many side sleepers will also hug a pillow.

Looking at your bedhead when you wake up is easy to tell if you sleep on your side. If you have flattened hair on one side, you're probably one of these people.

The best way to improve your sleep as a side sleeper is to ensure your pillow gives your neck proper support.

Side sleepers prefer a pillow that bridges the gap. By gap, we mean the space between your neck and the mattress.

If your pillow isn't the right height (too soft or too firm), you'll likely wake up with a strained neck.

A foam pillow can help in this situation. It's ideal for side sleepers because it conforms to the contours of your neck and fills in any gaps.

Side sleepers tend to sleep in the fetal position. However, sleeping all balled up can harm your confidence levels in the morning.

Research suggests waking up and stretching your arms as wide as possible to ensure you start the day feeling your best.

While sleeping, side sleepers should also remember to keep their spine in a neutral position. Regardless of pillows or mattresses, a neutral spine will help reduce morning back pain.

Relax while lying on your side to neutralize your spine, but make sure your body is not twisted in any way.

Your head should be between your shoulders (as it would be while walking). You'll most likely move throughout the night, but starting in this position can help get the night started right.

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Sleeping is a personal experience, and only you know how much comfort you require to sleep soundly. Consider the terrain on which you will be sleeping.

Choose a thicker sleeping pad if you plan to lay it on rough ground or if you know you can't sleep without some cushion under your back. Choose lighter weight and packability if you can sleep like a rock in any condition.

Side sleepers frequently find that inflatable sleeping pads do not provide enough padding for a restful night's sleep in the backcountry.

The Sea to Summit Ultralight Insulated Air's pocketed design makes most air pads more comfortable for side sleepers.

We hope this guide helps you find the perfect gear for your needs.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you inflate a sleeping pad?

Remove your pad from the carry bag and roll it out. To open the valve on your pad, turn it counterclockwise.

Your pad will begin to inflate on its own. Simply blow in more air to achieve the desired level of inflation. When finished, turn your valve clockwise to close and keep the air inside your pad.

How do you fix a sleeping pad puncture?

Your self-inflating pads come with a repair kit in case it is punctured in the field. Determine the source of the air leak. You can do this with soap and water.

Look for bubbles as you rub the soap water on the pad's surface. Remember to flip the inflatable pads over and inspect the other side. Simply clean and completely dry the punctured area.

Then apply the extra pad material over the punctured area with the included glue. For 1 minute, press firmly on the attached material.

Allow your pad to adhere to the pad for 30 minutes before using it again.

What does R-value mean for sleeping pads?

When used in the context of measuring Sleeping Mats, the Sleeping Pad R-Value refers to the ability of the mattress to prevent heat or cold transfer through the pad. Simply put, it refers to warmth.

In cold weather, a sleeping pad with a high R-Value will help to keep the cold temperatures from the snow or frozen ground from transferring to the person sleeping on the pad.

This is especially important when camping in the winter or during the year's colder months.

Can I increase the R-Value of my sleeping pad?

Yes, you can increase the R-value of your sleeping pad. To increase the R-value of your sleeping pad, place a layer of mylar material beneath it to reflect your heat back to you.

The material can be as thin as a mylar blanket or as thick as a fabric. This will keep you warm by insulating your sleeping pad and increasing the R-value.

Unfold the mylar blanket, place it on the underside of your inflatable pads, and then tape it down.

The additional insulation will keep you warm on cold ground without needing a new sleeping pad.

Ryan S. Mills
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