Best Sleeping Pads for Side Sleepers 2019

A good night’s sleep is essential in the backcountry to remain fit and active throughout the day. It is a necessary requirement for you to enjoy your outdoor experience at the full. This makes sleeping pads a must-have item when it comes to packing for a hike.

Sleeping pads work fine for most of the people. But most pads just don’t work very well when it comes to side sleepers. They are often found complaining about their sleeping pads being uncomfortable. And so, best sleeping pads for side sleepers is one of the most asked questions among hikers.

The reason this happens is that the weight distribution of a person sleeping on his side and a person sleeping on his back or chest is different. The weight of a person sleeping on his back is evenly distributed over a wide surface area.

But the weight of a side sleeper is concentrated on a narrow surface area pressing more firmly against the ground. The pressure is more intensely felt at the shoulder and hip joints. This result in a night of disturbed sleep and pain in these joints. Intense pressure against the ground also means less insulation and you also feet every pointy thing, rocks, and twigs, beneath you.

Well, here are the top picks for you if you like to sleep on your side.

1. Big Agnes Q Core SLX

Material: Ripstop Nylon, TPU Laminate
R-Value: Rated to 32°F
Dimensions: 20 x 72 in
Thickness: 4.25 in
Weight: 1 lb

The Big Agnes Q Core SLX is an improvement over the popular Q Core and the Q Core SL. The pad loses 4.5-ounces over the Q Core SL and 9.5-ounces over the Q Core making it super lightweight at 16-ounces and ideal for all kinds of hiking aside from thru-hiking.

The one-way valve system on the Q Core SLX makes it very easy to inflate or deflate the pad. The button on the valve eases the fine-tuning the pad. The pad can be inflated to 3-inches which helps prevents rocks and pines, on the ground, from making pressure points. This feature makes it a great choice for side sleepers.

The Q Core SLX is a good choice for all seasons and can be used in temperatures below freezing points. The pad has a quilt-like baffle system which along with the thickness of the pad makes it very comfortable.

Big Agnes claims the SLX is 25% more durable than its predecessors. However, it may get small punctures if you use it directly on the ground. If you avoid aggressive inflation though, the Q Core SLX will last you years.

Pros: The pad is very thick. At 4.25″ off the ground, you get plenty of cushioning. It doesn’t sound like a potato chip bag. This pad will inspire envy in all of your tentmates.

Cons: Not ideal for cold weather. The material is not very durable.

See the Big Agnes Q Core SLX

2. Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Xlite

Material: 30D Rip HT Nylon
R-Value: 3.2
Dimensions: 20 x 72 in
Thickness: 2.5 in
Weight: 12 oz

The Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Xlite is one of the lightest pads in the market weighing just 12-ounces making it great for ultralight backpacking. The small version weighs just 8 ounces. The pad packs down to the size of a 1-liter water bottle.

The pad has horizontal baffles which are very stable making it comfortable. Therm-a-Rest has also updated the material as there were complains in the previous models about a “crackling” sound.

The NeoAir Xlite 30 denier nylon is not as durable as others on the market. But it still holds decently and there people who have been using it for years. The pad has an R-value of 3.2 and so requires a foam pad when used in very cold environments.

There are only two problems with the NeoAir Xlite. First, this is a very expensive pick. Second, the mummy shape lacks the width and many people go for a large size instead of a regular. However, when it comes to long-distance ultralight backpacking, NeoAir Xlite is a great choice.

Innovative technologies, ultralight fabrics and a really smart construction make the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Xlite a great option for those ultralight backpackers, thru-hikers or just campers who convenience comfort coming in at a super small pack size.

Pros: Lightweight, packs downs super small with no sacrifice of comfort, easy to inflate, and remains perfectly inflated throughout the night.

Cons: It is a little noisy and a bit slick.

See the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Xlite

3. Big Agnes Insulated Air Core Ultra

Material: Ripstop Nylon, TPU Laminate
R-Value: Rated to 32°F
Dimensions: 20 x 72 in
Thickness: 3.25 in
Weight: 1 lb 5 oz

The Big Agnes Air Core series took the market by storm. It came as an alternative to the self-inflating thin pads and with a competitive price. The rectangular shape provides a good length and width to compensate even large body types. The pad weighs 22-ounces, which isn’t heavy but isn’t lightweight either.

The pad utilizes a double ripstop nylon face fabric so it maintains the overall lightweight construction of the pad but also does have nice durability and abrasion resistance. The I-beam construction on the vertical baffles gives this pad full thickness of three and a quarter inches.

Air Core has a two-way valve system with a dedicated inflation and deflation opening. The pad can be inflated to 3.25 inches giving great protection from the rocks on the surface. The 70 denier nylon makes it a durable pad.

However, the Air Core Ultra can lack in comfort owing to its deep vertical baffles and a slippery surface. Although the Insulated Air Core provides more insulation than the regular model, the R-value is still low limiting it to summer hikes only. However, it is a great choice for people who can’t afford luxury but still want a comfortable option.

Pros: It is a low volume backpacking sleeping pad that will make you forget you’re sleeping on the ground.

Cons: The pad isn’t silent when you are adjusting your sleeping position, but it surely isn’t loud either.

See the Big Agnes Insulated Air Core Ultra

4. Sea to Summit Comfort Plus Insulated

Material: 40D Ripstop Nylon, Exkin Platinum, Thermolite
R-Value: 5
Dimensions: 21.5 x 72 in
Thickness: 2.5 in
Weight: 1 lb 12 oz

If you are willing to pay a high price for a good night’s sleep in the outdoors, then you should definitely pick the Sea to Summit Comfort Plus insulated. The pad has a dual air chamber design that makes it super comfortable and quiet.

The chamber at the bottom allows for firm inflation while the chamber above allows for a soft one making it a great choice for side sleepers. The pad comes with a dry sack pump for hassle-free inflation.

The dual chamber design also offers durability by making the pad usable even after a puncture. The 40 denier nylon can take a lot of abuse and so the pad can be directly used on the ground. With an R-value of 5, this is a fairly warm pad that can be used in winters without a worry.

The design of the pad is really unique. The air-sprung cells create an extremely stable surface and they adapt the terrain much better than your traditional high volume baffles. You can roll around without getting bucked off your pad and the weight evenly distributes.

However, all this insulation, durability and comfort come at a cost. The Comfort Plus Insulated is heavy on your pocket. But that is not the only place you will feel its weight. It is heavy on your backpack too. The pad weighs more than 25-ounces. But for a comfortable night’s sleep, people are willing to pay much more.

Pros: Dual air chambers are redundant, comfortable, warm, stable, and supportive

Cons: Little heavy for backpacking.

See the Sea to Summit Comfort Plus Insulated

5. Klymit Insulated Static V Lite

Material: 30D Polyester, Synthetic Fibers
R-Value: 4.4
Dimensions: 23 x 72 in
Thickness: 2.5 in
Weight: 1 lb 3.6 oz

Klymit Insulated Static V Lite was a follow up to Klymit X Frame and is a fairly good contender on the market. Hikers mostly complain that the vertical baffles feel bouncy. While horizontal baffles result in collapsed edges. The V-shaped baffles of the Static V Lite solve both of these problems.

The pad has an R-value of 4.4 which is great considering it weighs only 19-ounce. The high R-value makes it great for camping in all seasons for a very reasonable price. However, for more extreme cold environments, a foam pad can be added for a higher R-value.

The problem with the Static V Lite is that makes a squeaking sound whenever you move on it. Furthermore, the 30 denier nylon doesn’t provide enough durability and so you would need your repair kit often. But if you use the Static V Lite with care, you will find that it can keep up with you for years.

An innovative design, lightweight materials, and enough insulation to perform year-round, the Klymit Insulated Static V Lite is an excellent option for your next camping or backpacking trip.

Pros: This pad doesn’t let you slip or roll off, and it’s wider than most of the pads.

Cons: It is difficult to get all the air out and folding and rolling the pad can be challenging.

See the Klymit Insulated Static V Lite

6. Klymit Static V

Material: 75D Polyester
R-Value: 1.3
Dimensions: 23 x 72 in
Thickness: 2.5 in
Weight: 1 lb 2.1 oz

The Klymit Static V Lightweight is an excellent backpacking option that effectively balances weight, packed size, and comfort. At first glance, there might not be any stand out features to the Static V other than its compact size. It has the same V-shaped air chambers that limit air movement and heat loss. It also has the same raised side rails that keep you centered. The only difference is the R-value. The V-shaped baffling makes it stand out from many of the inflatable pads that are available.

The Static V Lightweight weighs only around 17-ounces compared to 19-ounces of Static V Lite. It also has the same low price that is a bang for the buck.

And yet it also has the same problems that the Static V Lite has. The squeaks it makes when you move. And it also has the same durability issues. The Static V Lightweight is almost identical to Static V Lite in every aspect except for the R-Value. So ultralight weight backpackers can rejoice!

Pros: The V-shaped baffles offer a very comfortable sleeping surface, and the pad is packable and provides adequate cushion and comfort.

Cons: Not enough insulation

See the Klymit Static V

7. ALPS Mountaineering Featherlite Air Pad

Material: 40D Ripstop Nylon
R-Value: 1
Dimensions: 23 x 72 in
Thickness: 3.5 in
Weight: 1 lb 6 oz

The ALPS Mountaineering is a nice choice when it comes to camping or backpacking in the summer. The pad is under 21-ounces and comes with a CPR-like air pump. It can be inflated easily using the pump and can be inflated to 3.5-inches. The pad also packs down to a small size.

The pad is made of ripstop fabric and it is durable and be used directly on the ground. The deflation valves are also brass adding to the durability of the pad. While the horizontal baffles on the pad provide good comfort.

However, with collapsed edges and a 20-inch width, some people find this pad very narrow. The pad has low R-value limiting it to summer season only. Using the pad with a foam pad is not a good idea because it weighs more than many other pads available and they are a better option.

Pros: Lightweight and easy to inflate with a built-in CPR-style pump.

Cons: Warm weather use only due to low R-value.

See the ALPS Mountaineering Featherlite Air Pad

8. Exped SynMat 7

Material: 75D Polyester, TPU Polyether Film Laminate
R-Value: 4.9
Dimensions: 20.5 x 72 in
Thickness: 2.8 in
Weight: 1 lb 14.2 oz

SynMat 7 provides outstanding comfort. The vertical baffles on the pad are more comfortable and feel less bouncy compared to the other sleeping pads with the same design. It also has raised edges to keep you centered. The design feels wider than the rest of the competition.

SynMat 7 has an R-value of 4.9 making it usable for all seasons. The SynMat also comes with a built-in pump so it makes it easier to inflate. The pad is made of the most durable materials that an air pad can be made of and if used with care, can outlast any other pad on the market.

The one and the only problem with the SynMat 7 is its weight. The pad weighs a hefty 30 ounces. That is equal to the weight of a summer pad and a foam pad combined. It also takes up about four liters of space when packed. So it is by far the heaviest and the bulkiest among any other pad on the market.

Offering sprawling comfort and warm synthetic insulation with vertical sidewalls for a wider effective sleeping space, the Exped SynMat 7 is a great pad to take camping, backpacking or trekking.

Pros: Comfortable, easy to inflate/deflate, provides good insulation from the ground

Cons: Bulky

See the Exped SynMat 7

9. Outdoorsman Lab Ultralight Pad

Material: 20D Ripstop Woven Nylon
R-Value: 2.2
Dimensions: 21.6 x 73 in
Thickness: 2.2 in
Weight: 1 lb

The Outdoorsmanlab Ultralight, as the name suggests, is ultralight. The pad weighs around 17-ounces. It inflates easily and packs small for easy carriage taking up less space. The diamond shape cell design eliminates the edges collapsing. The fabric of the pad is soft and very easy to inflate. The one-way valve prevents air loss while inflating and the pad deflates when you press on it.

The pad is thin which makes it flexible. However, this thin design makes for cold spot and doesn’t give much protection against the ground. The fabric is made of 30 denier nylon that doesn’t make it much durable against sharp objects. However, it holds decently but having a repair kit with you is a good idea.

The pad has an R-value of just 1.3 that makes it unsuitable for cold weather. So if you are a person who usually hikes in the summer, then the low R-value won’t present itself as an issue for you.

Pro: Great bang for your buck, packs down super small, and comfortable

Cons: Not warm enough for cold weather.

See the Outdoorsman Lab Ultralight Pad

10. Fox Outfitters Airlite

Material: Ripstop fabric with internal Polyurethane Coating
R-Value: 1
Dimensions: 20 x 72 in
Thickness: 3.5 in
Weight: 1 lb 8 oz

The Fox Outfitters Airlite is one of the great sleeping pads for the price they offer. The pad comes with an integrated foot pump. It is easily inflatable and inflates more than 3 inches providing good protection against the ground. This is a good option for side sleepers.

The material is made of Diamond Ripstop which is tear resistant. The air flow system also uses double brass valves adding to durability. The horizontal baffles are stable. But of course, that means collapsed edges. But the Airlite is a 24-inch wide pad. So it has good space.

However, the Airlite has an R-value of 1. So this is not a pad that you should be using for camping or backpacking in winter. You can still add a foam pad for insulation. It’s not like the Airlite is too heavy.

Pros: The material is nice and not too slippery, inflation/deflation is easy and fast, the price is very affordable

Cons: Little narrow, if you toss and turn you will not be comfortable as you will constantly have to readjust the mat when you turn.

See the Fox Outfitters Airlite

Best Sleeping Pads for Side Sleepers: Summary

Big Agnes Q Core SLXRipstop NylonRated to 32°F20 x 72 in4.25 in1 lb
Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Xlite30D Rip HT Nylon3.220 x 72 in2.5 in12 oz
Big Agnes Air Core UltraRipstop NylonRated to 32°F20 x 72 in3.25 in1 lb 5 oz
Comfort Plus Insulated40D Ripstop Nylon521.5 x 72 in2.5 in1 lb 12 oz
Klymit Static V Lite30D Polyester4.423 x 72 in2.5 in1 lb 3.6 oz
Klymit Static V75D Polyester1.323 x 72 in2.5 in1 lb 2.1 oz
Featherlite Air Pad40D Ripstop Nylon123 x 72 in3.5 in1 lb 6 oz
Exped SynMat 775D Polyester4.920.5 x 72 in2.8 in1 lb 14.2 oz
Outdoorsman Lab UL20D Ripstop Woven2.221.6 x 73 in2.2 in1 lb
Fox Outfitters AirliteRipstop fabric120 x 72 in3.5 in1 lb 8 oz

Sleeping Pad Considerations for Side Sleepers

Although most sleeping pads will work fine for side sleepers, there are still some things you should consider before buying a sleeping pad that will prevent you from making the wrong choice.


Thickness of a Pad

The most important thing to consider is the thickness of the pad. As mentioned above, the weight is concentrated on a narrow base. This makes the shoulder and the hip joint, a pressure point. Usually, the pads with a thickness of 3 or more inches are recommended for side sleepers so that it provides adequate protection against the ground.


A Durable Pad

Durability for a side sleeper matters a lot. Since your body will be exerting the force on a small surface area, your pad should be able to withstand pointy rocks and twigs on the ground. You wouldn’t want to be using your repair kit every now and then. Choose a pad with a strong fabric.

Weight and Packing Size

Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Xlite

The weight of the pad matters as you wouldn’t want to drag extra weight with you, especially when you are packing ultralight. Similarly, the pad should also pack small and shouldn’t take much space in your backpack for efficient space management.

Shape and Size

Exped Sleeping Pad

Usually, the width of the pad doesn’t matter for a side sleeper. But the length of the pad matters. Make sure to choose the size that compensates your body completely. If you are an active sleeper and tend to roll around in your sleep, then you should have raised edges to keep you centered.

Warmth and Comfort

Warmth and Comfortableness of a Pad

How much insulation your pad should provide depends upon the weather of your outdoor destination. For colder weather, pads with higher R-value should be chosen and vice versa. Your pad should also provide adequate comfort for a good night’s sleep. If you are a light sleeper, then you should keep in mind that your pad shouldn’t make much noise when you move on it.

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