For getting a good night's sleep on a camping trip, reviews say that a good sleeping pad makes even more difference than the sleeping bag. The colder the temperature, the more important it is to have a sleeping pad that provides good insulation from the cold ground. Thick cushioning can also make a big difference, not only in sleeping comfort but in aches the next day. Hikers reviewing sleeping pads confirm that a pad with enough cushioning in the right places can protect shoulders and hips from aches, stiffness and numbness.
Backpacker Magazine's annual Gear Guide issue compares more new sleeping pads – and in more detail – than the corresponding gear guide at Outside Magazine. Both publications examine new sleeping pads in extensive field tests, but neither magazine covers heavier sleeping pads for car camping or ultralight sleeping pads for the lightest pack weight. Ultralight pads are well tested at Backpacking Light, while Camping Life magazine reviews thicker sleeping pads for car camping.
To get a bigger picture of all the sleeping pads currently available requires looking at owner-written reviews. We found the most useful owner-written reviews of sleeping pads at camping retail sites such as REI.com and Cabelas.com. Reviews here cover far more models, including sleeping pads that have been well tested over many years. Owners also provide more details about the comfort, convenience and durability of each sleeping pad.