Best Sleeping Pads for Side Sleepers – 2024 Update

If you’re in a rush and want to find out what the best sleeping pad for side sleepers is, we recommend the Exped Dura 3R sleeping pad.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

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.

Sleeping Pads At A Glance

If you’re in a hurry, check out this quick list of our favorite sleeping pads – otherwise, keep on scrolling to get to the full reviews!

Air Mattress vs Folding Sleeping Pad

man in hat and sunglasses lying on a blue 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

man in hat and sunglasses holding a rolled up sleeping pad

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.

Closed Cell Foam

silver sleeping pad on the forest floor

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

gray sleeping pad on the grass

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. That being said, the self-inflation process can take several minutes, so if you’re not interested in waiting, I’d recommend using your lungs a little.

This style of pad is incredibly light, though not as light as a closed cell foam pad. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend bringing a self-inflating pad on a backpacking trip, though I’ll bite the bullet from time to time.

What can I say, my Sea to Summit Camp Plus sleeping pad is just too comfortable to leave at home.

Inflatable Pads

yellow bag inflating a blue sleeping pad

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.

Important Features

R Value

a gray and blue sleeping pad on the grass

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

a sliver, green, and blue sleeping pad on the ground

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. 

Length

man standing with a blue sleeping pad

Every sleeping pad model comes with different length options. For example, my Sea to Summit Camp Plus pad comes in a large size; my Exped Dura has a medium, medium wide, and a long wide version.

As you might expect, as a 6 foot tall man, I always opt for the “large” option when choosing a sleeping pad. My wife, on the other hand, is more likely to go with a “regular.” We both like the extra padding that comes with the “wide” models too, though I recognize some people are willing to sacrifice that comfort for a reduction in space and weight. Ultimately, it’s your choice.

Sleeping Pad Comparison Table

Your Page Title
Sleeping PadsWeight (lbs)ShapeInsulationR-Value
Exped Dura 3R Sleeping Pad1.8RectangularSynthetic2.9
Sleepingo Camping Sleeping Mat0.9RectangularAir2.1
Wild Fun 2 Person Sleeping Pad6DoubleFoamN/A
Wellax Flex Foam Sleeping Pad6RectangularFoam9.5
Exped MegaMat 10 Sleeping Pad4.6RectangularFoam8.1
Sea to Summit Camp Plus Sleeping Pad2RectangularFoam4.3

Top Sleeping Pads for Side Sleepers – Reviewed

Exped Dura 3R Sleeping Pad

  • Shape: Rectangular
  • Insulation Type: Synthetic
  • R-Value: 2.9
  • Weight: 1.8 Pounds

The Exped Dura 3R is the sleeping pad that I use most often. It’s one of the lightest sleeping pads that I’ve ever owned, and the 2.9 R-Value is suitable for most 3-season environments. So, as a backpacker who doesn’t want to give up on comfort, I couldn’t be more pleased.

The baffled design spreads the air out evenly. And since it is an inflatable mattress (there’s no foam on the inside), I can easily customize the firmness of the pad. I like to sleep on a softer mattress, so I tend not to inflate my Dura up all the way.

Speaking of inflation, Exped put together a pretty interesting method to accomplish this task. You’ll find that the Dura comes with a yellow bag, which attaches to the “In” spigot on the pad. All you have to do is capture air inside of the yellow bag, close the opening, and then push the contents into the sleeping pad. It definitely takes some practice to get the motion down, but it’s a lot more effective than using your lungs to inflate it.

While it’s not going to be as comfortable as the Wellex or Sea to Summit pads mentioned below, it’s not like the Dura is uncomfortable either. And at 2 pounds, it’s certainly light enough to shove in a backpack to take with you on your next adventure.

Reasons For

Lightweight

Packs down small

Good insulation

Comfortable

Affordable

Easy to inflate and deflate

Reasons Against

Takes some practice to get the hang of the inflation method

Sleepingo Camping Sleeping Mat

Sleepingo Ultralight 2-Inch Thick Portable Camping Air Mattress, 1-Pack, 74" X 22"
  • Shape: Semi-Rectangular
  • Insulation Type: Air
  • R-Value: 2.1
  • Weight: 0.9 Pounds


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 ripstop 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.

Reasons For

Weighs almost nothing

Packs down very small

Free lifetime replacement

Ripstop nylon material

Reasons Against

Low level of insulation

Manual inflation

Wild Fun 2 Person Sleeping Pad

WILD FUN Double Camping Sleeping Pad 1.5" Thick Memory Foam Self Inflating Sleeping Pad for Camping Hiking Sleeping Pad Air Mattress Inflatable Camping Mat 2 Person with Pillow(Olive Green)
  • Shape: Rectangular
  • Insulation Type: Foam
  • R-Value: N/A
  • Weight: 6 Pounds

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. 

Reasons For

No dips or gaps

Big enough for two and a half

Good customer service

Self-inflating

Reasons Against

Not much insulation in cold temperatures

INVOKER Sleeping Pad

INVOKER Camping Sleeping Pad 3.1'' Ultra Thick Self-Inflating Camping Mat with Pillow Fast Inflating in 25s for Backpacking Car Camping 4-Season Lightweight Camping Mattress
  • Shape: Rectangular
  • Insulation Type: Foam
  • R-Value: 9.5
  • Weight: 6 Pounds


I’m not going to lie, I was really excited when I discovered INVOKER’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.

Reasons For

9.5 R value

Self-inflating

3 inch thickness for comfort

Waterproof and durable material

Perfect for tall people

Reasons Against

Price is a little expensive

Exped MegaMat 10 Sleeping Pad

  • Shape: Rectangular
  • Insulation Type: Foam
  • R-Value: 8.1
  • Weight: 4.6 Pounds

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.

Reasons For

Incredibly comfortable

Very insulative

Self-inflating

Durable

Great width

Reasons Against

Doesn’t fold down very small

Sea to Summit Camp Plus Sleeping Pad

  • Shape: Rectangular
  • Insulation Type: Foam
  • R-Value: 4.3
  • Weight: 2 Pounds

The Sea to Summit Camp Plus sleeping pad is one of my personal favorite, self-inflating pads. Well, technically it’s my wife’s, but she’s kind enough to let me use it from time to time…

At any rate, it’s a well-cushioned pad with a good amount of insulation. With 3 inches of padding, I never feel the ground beneath me when I’m lying on it. The 4.3 R-Value also means it’s warm enough to take out in all seasons – even winter, if you’re feeling like a risk taker.

While it is a self-inflating pad, I often find my patience lacking when it comes to the amount of time it takes to fill up. A few quick breaths into the valve puffs it up quickly enough, though I do get a little lightheaded, if I’m not careful.

Deflation is much easier: just reverse the valve and roll the pad up. Air will exit the pad, but it won’t be allowed to re-enter, making it incredibly simple to pack up and put away. Just make sure you remember to store the Camp Plus in its inflated state, otherwise you run the risk of damaging the foam over time.

Reasons For

Easy to use

Very insulative

Comfortable

Nice amount of width

Fast inflation and deflation

Reasons Against

It takes some time to inflate, if you’re just using the self-inflation method

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 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 decent R value, a good level of comfort, and a nice amount of versatility. With all these things in mind, the Exped Dura 3R sleeping pad stole the show for me.

With an R value of 2.9, it has just enough insulative power to keep you cozy during the warmer months. I like the 3 inch thick pad as well, and the inflatable style allows for good customization of firmness. Not to mention, it only weighs 2 pounds – perfect for backpackers like me, or car campers who value weight reduction and portability.

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

Meet the Author!

By the age of 20, Spencer had already tackled some of the most famed mountain ranges in Europe, Asia, and North America. His mission is to help others accomplish their own outdoor-related goals, even within the time constraints of a 9-5 job and a busy life schedule.

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