The Best Sleeping Pads for Side Sleepers in 2023

If you’re in a rush and want to find out what the best camping air mattress is, we recommend Wellax’s Flex Foam Sleeping Pad.

Spending time in nature is called “roughing it” for a reason. Mainly because it can be…well…rough. This goes for your sleeping arrangements too, and even if you find a nice flat spot that’s free of rocks to pitch your tent, the ground can be hard and unforgiving. Chances are you’ll wake up with a few kinks that will be more than a little irritating as you carry on with the next day’s activities. That’s why I’ll be laying out some of the best air mattresses for camping below, so you won’t need several cups of coffee and a few Advil in the morning.

In this article, we’ll be reviewing the following camping air mattresses:

Air Mattress vs Folding Sleeping Pad

You might hear some people using the terms “air mattress” and “sleeping pad” interchangeably. While they can share some similar qualities, they shouldn’t be confused with each other, since they’re different enough where it counts. 

Air mattresses are probably pretty easy for you to imagine. They’re the giant inflatable beds that blow up to the size of your normal mattress and keep you a good two feet off the ground. These are optimal during the summer months, and ideal for hanging around a campground for a few days, if you like having a more comfortable place to catch a few winks. 

Sleeping pads, on the other hand, are usually not as big or tall as an air mattress. Some of them roll out, while others need to be inflated for use, but they rarely exceed a couple inches in height. They aren’t very wide either (usually the width of your sleeping bag, if not a tad bigger), so they’re a popular choice among backpackers who need something small and light.

In the end, both of them provide tent padding that will make your night more comfortable. The only question you need to ask yourself is, “How much weight am I willing to carry for the amount of comfort I desire?”

Types of Sleeping Pads

As far as sleeping pads go, there are a few different types that you might want to look into. Some are definitely better than others, in my opinion, but it really comes down to what you’ll be using it for. Tent padding is a given, but how much padding you get is typically determined by how much weight you’re willing to put on your back.

sleeping bag looking out the tent

Closed Cell Foam

This is the type of pad that I usually go with while camping. It’s not actually inflatable, but that’s part of why I tend to prefer it. If you camp when it gets pretty chilly at night, as I like to do, many inflatable pads will be cold as well. We’ll talk about this more when we get to R value, but long story short, I find that closed cell foam pads are my favorite option for backpacking when I need a folding sleep pad. They’re the cheapest option as well, which makes sense considering it’s nothing more that foam with a protective covering. Needless to say, you won’t get much tent padding out of this one.

Self Inflating Pads

The most common of all the options, self inflating pads are pretty simple to use. Unroll your pad, open the valve, and watch the foam magically absorb the air and expand. They’re incredibly light, even lighter than the closed cell foam pads, so they’re great for ultralight backpackers, and provide a decent amount of tent padding.

Inflatable Pads

These are for the people who have big lungs (or an air pump) and don’t mind some extra weight. Some of you might like this type of pad because of the extra comfort they provide by shoving more air inside. They do tend to get a little heavy, but for those of you looking for a folding sleeping pad that gets the job done, this is a nice option for car campers looking for the most amount of tent padding and overall comfort.

R Value

young boy lying on a bed of leaves

R value is a finicky little number. I say finicky because it’s a number based off the average young adult body type, so it’s obviously not going to be 100 percent relevant for everyone. However, regardless of how old you are or what weight you are, R value is still a good ballpark estimate to tell you how insulated your pad or mattress will be. 

R value can be summed up as a number range usually between 1 and 5, though it can go higher. The bigger the number, the more insulated the item is, and the warmer you’ll stay during the night. 

As a rule of thumb, you’ll want something to sleep on that has an R value of 5 or higher during the winter. If it’s summer time, you can get away with a 1 or 2, while spring and fall are around 3 to 4. It’s up to you what you want to go with, but I always figure it’s better to go with a higher number. I’d rather be over-insulated than freezing during the night!

Packability and Weight

When making your decision, consider how easy it will be to pack and carry your mattress or pad. Air mattresses are heavy and bulky, so they obviously aren’t suited for backpacking of any kind. Closed cell foam pads don’t roll up very well, which is why I always keep mine strapped to the outside of my pack. As a folding sleeping pad, the self-inflating style stores well and they’re light, whereas the manually inflatable pads can be clunky and heavy. Figure out what kind of trip you want to take outdoors, and plan your purchase accordingly. 

Best Air Mattress Reviews

Sleepingo Camping Sleeping Mat

Sleepingo’s sleeping mat is light as air, coming in at just under a pound. Not only that, but it packs away as small as a water bottle, so you can shove it anywhere and forget about it. 

At 2 inches thick, it does require some lung power to inflate (about 15 breaths, give or take a few), but once it’s blown up, you won’t feel anything other than a cloud underneath you. The material is also high quality rip-stop nylon, so it can take a beating. In addition to being a great sleeping pad, it can be used as a comfortable place to sit or lie down by the lake, in your yard, or really anywhere that you might find yourself. 

On the off chance that something does tear, Sleepingo offers a lifetime warranty and replacement. If you don’t like it for any reason, you can return it for a full refund, no questions asked.


– Weighs almost nothing
– Packs down very small
– Free lifetime replacement
– Ripstop nylon material


– Low level of insulation
– Manual inflation

Wild Fun 2 Person Sleeping Pad

Ever want to have a good night sleep with your significant other, but can’t find a pad big enough to fit both of you? Or perhaps you’ve just been tethering a couple pads together, but are tired of feeling the gap in the middle. Whatever the case, Wild Fun’s 2 person sleeping pad was designed for all your needs. 

It’s self-inflating, which is nice because you’d probably start hyperventilating if you had to blow the whole thing up yourself. It does come with built in pillows that you have to manually blow up, if you want to use them. If you’re not a fan of inflatable pillows, like me, you can keep them deflated and bring your own travel size pillow to sleep on. 

It’s not really a folding sleeping pad, so you might find that it’s too heavy and bulky for backpacking (it’s 7.7 pounds) but I’ll leave that decision up to you, if you think it’s a reasonable weight. 


– No dips or gaps
– Big enough for two and a half
– Good customer service
– Self inflating


– Not much insulation in cold temperatures

Wellax Flex Foam Sleeping Pad

I’m not going to lie, I was really excited when I discovered Wellax’s sleeping pad. I mean, it’s not every day that you discover a pad with an R value of 9.5 (yes, you read that right). Not to mention the dual valve technology for easy self-inflation and deflation, so you won’t have to waste your breath on blowing up your bed.

It is a little more expensive than some of the other options listed in this review, but it’s true that you get what you pay for. It’s quiet and won’t make crinkly noises as you move around on it, and it’s thick enough where you won’t feel any rocks or roots underneath you. The pad itself isn’t super soft or super hard, so if you like that middle ground for mattress firmness, you’ll enjoy how this one feels.

Backpackers, I’m sorry to say this might not be ideal for you. Compared to folding sleep pads, it just doesn’t quite measure up when it comes to convenience. It’s also a bit heavy at 6 pounds, but could still be rolled up and strapped to the outside of your pack if you wanted to take it with you.


– 9.5 R value
– Self inflating
– 3 inch thickness for comfort
– Waterproof and durable material
– Perfect for tall people


– Price is a little expensive

Exped MegaMat 10 Sleeping Pad

Exped has always made quality products, and the MegaMat 10 is no exception. That’s why I feel confident in saying that this is going to be one of the most comfortable and luxurious sleeping pads that you’ll find on the market. In fact, after sleeping on it that first night, you might wonder which is more comfortable – this sleeping pad or your mattress back home!

It’s a self-inflating pad that’s filled with foam, so you won’t have to waste your breath in order to expand it. Unfortunately, the bulk and weight make it fairly unusable for backpacking, unless you have the will and capacity to strap an extra 5 pounds to the outside of your pack. If that doesn’t sound reasonable, no worries. In reality, I’d say this product was designed more for people with bad backs or those who just can’t sleep without a good amount of cushion under them.

If the padding wasn’t enough to convince you, the R-value might be. At a staggering 8.1, it’s one of the most insulated sleeping pads that you’ll find. Hypothetically, you could take this pad into the artic circle and not feel any of the cold seeping up from the ground.


– Incredibly comfortable
– Very insulative
– Self-inflating
– Durable
– Great width


– Doesn’t fold down very small

Aria Queen Inflatable Mattress

If you don’t want to change camping locations very much, and want something to remind you of the comforts of home, Aria’s queen inflatable mattress should do the trick. Coming in at a little under a foot tall, the air mattress is wide enough to comfortably sleep two adults, making this one of the best camping mattresses for couples.

The great thing about this air mattress is the built in pump. I’ve seen too many inflatable mattresses that require a separate pump to fill it up, and the last thing you want when you’re camping is to think about and carry another piece of equipment. Battery operated with a one click design, you’ll be able to fully inflate your sleeping arrangements in about 2 minutes. Deflating it is just as easy, and it comes with a nice travel bag for you to carry it around in.

You may discover a little bit of leakage, especially if the weather gets chilly during the night, but usually not enough to be concerning. If you find that it does deflate easily while you’re sleeping, you can always turn the pump back on to fill it up again.


– Integrated air pump
– Duffel bag for carrying
– Comfortable
– Fast inflation and deflation


– Takes 4 D batteries, which aren’t included
– May tend to leak a little

Why Trust US?

At Untamed Space, we’re passionate about helping you have the best camping experience possible. Our team of experts have experience camping and backpacking all over the world, allowing them to provide insightful and relevant content to guide you in your outdoor pursuits.

All of our reviews are based on a combination of firsthand experience, extensive research, and an analysis of customer feedback. We are an independent website and do not receive payments or incentives from manufacturers to promote their products, and we continuously update our content to provide new information based on product availability. Wherever you are in your journey, whatever gear you’re searching for, you can be sure to find unbiased and up-to-date reviews for all of your needs.

Final Thoughts

While not vital for your outdoor survival, a good air mattress or sleeping pad offers some much desired comfort that you just don’t get from the rocky ground. While there are several things to consider before purchasing one of these, I usually look for something with a high R value, a decent level of comfort, and a good amount of versatility. With all these things in mind, Wellax’s flex foam sleeping pad stole the show for me.

With an R value of 9.5, you won’t ever have to worry about having sufficient insulation (it is almost twice the recommended R value for winter use). The 3 inch thick pad offers the perfect balance of firmness, and keeps the rocks and uneven ground where they belong – somewhere you can’t feel them.

The two valves make it easy to inflate by itself, and it’s virtually noise free when you lie down and move around. Ultimately, if you want a sleeping pad that will last you forever and keep you comfortable in all seasons anywhere in the world, you won’t regret checking out this sleeping pad.

Want to check out other sleeping options that get you off the ground? Explore our review on camping cots!

Spencer Yeomans

Spencer Yeomans

A lover of the outdoors, and especially the mountains, Spencer has always enjoyed pushing people to step outside their comfort zones. His mission is to help others get out of their homes, push their limits, and to have fun staying active in nature.

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