No need to sleep poorly while you camp. We've spent the last 8 years testing the best women's sleeping pads, presenting this season's top 11 models available on the market today. We put these pads to the metaphorical grindstone, thru-hiking the entire PCT and the Grand Canyon Rim-to-Rim trail, section-hiking the John Muir Trail and Sierra High Route, and on climbing expeditions in Alaska. We slept, lounged, read, and even did yoga on these mats, testing their warmth and comfort. We inflated and repacked them dozens of times and used them on unforgiving surfaces. Whether you're shopping for an annual camping trip or gearing up for a big thru-hike, we've got you covered.
The Best Sleeping Pads For Women
Best Overall Women's Sleeping Pad
Sea to Summit Ether Light XT Insulated - Women's
Sea to Summit has released a comprehensive line of women's sleeping pads. The Ether Light XT is our favorite of the bunch, and we fell in love with it this season. It surprised us so much with its comfort and features that it knocked our long-standing award winner, the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLight, off its pedestal, taking our Editors' Choice award. The women's specific shape of the Ether is wider at the hips and tapers at the shoulders; this, along with its cushy four inches and quiet materials, make it stand out from its competitors. This mat is also slightly warmer than the NeoAir.
The Ether Light weighs 15 ounces; while it's not the lightest of the bunch, we slept so well on it that we think it's worth the extra effort to carry. Your tent-mate will thank you too because it won't sound like you're sleeping on a bag of Sun Chips. The Ether has an expensive price tag, but we think its performance makes it worth it.
Read review: Sea to Summit Ether Light XT Insulated Women's
Best Bang for the Buck
REI Co-op AirRail Plus - Women's
REI has updated the AirRail to the new Plus version, and we think it's an even better value than before. The AirRail Plus Women's now has a higher and warmer R-value of 5.2, the warmest of the products we tested. It remains a very comfortable pad as well, especially if you are a back sleeper. The unique "rails" make this model more spacious than most, not to mention that the shape is wider to accommodate womanly hips. These rails will hold your arms in place, providing a cradling effect, which we found comforting. The rails act as bumpers and will help prevent you from rolling off your pad at night.
The AirRail has trimmed down in its packed size and is no longer as difficult to get into its stuff sack. It also has a new one-way valve for easy inflation and can open up completely to easily deflate. We like the new upgrades to this product, and although it's not the cheapest product, it is priced at a low price point, and provides an excellent value.
Read review: REI Co-op AirRail Plus - Women's
Best for 4-Season Use
Sea to Summit Comfort Plus Insulated Short
As we scoured the internet for new products for this women's specific review, we were pleased to see that this product comes in a size that is appropriate for women campers. The Sea to Summit Comfort Plus Insulated comes in a women's specific size of 66" and wins a Top Pick Award for the best 4-season sleeping pad for women. The Comfort Plus has a high R-Value of 5 and is the warmest model we've tested. It's dual inflatable chambers have many unique advantages. The first is that if a puncture does occur half of the pad will remain inflated, keeping a margin of safety and comfort if you're camping in cold environments. The second advantage is that you can fully inflate the bottom of the pad for support and then tailor the pressure of the top of the pad to your comfort preference!
An R-Value of 5 is not the highest you can go in a sleeping pad, but it is the highest of the bunch we've tested and think it would be an excellent choice for year-round camping, especially when paired with a good closed cell foam pad for extra insulation. It is the second heaviest pad of the bunch, however, and we would reach for something lighter if we had to go a long distance.
Read review: Sea to Summit Comfort Plus Insulated
Best for Light Weight
Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite - Women's
If you're looking for the lightest product on the market that's made for a woman, look no further. The Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite - Women's has been our choice for extended backpacking trips over the years and remains our choice when we want the lightest and smallest gear possible. The NeoAir packs down super small and will keep you warm in most conditions, with a 3.9 R-value. This takes our Top Pick Award for lightweight because it is just that.
The NeoAir has been knocked off the top of the podium by the Sea to Summit Ether Light LX this time around because it is not as comfortable or quiet as the Ether. However, with 2.5 inches of padding below you, that may be good enough for you to save an extra 3+ ounces of weight on your back. We love this product for fast and light adventures and will continue to reach for it when performance is our top priority.
Read review: Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite - Women's
Why You Should Trust Us
This review was crafted by outdoor educator and guide Jessica Haist. Jessica holds a Master's Degree in Adventure Education from Prescott College in Arizona. Originally from Canada, Jessica moved to the U.S. from her native Toronto and now resides in Mammoth Lakes, CA, where she avidly engages in a number of outdoor pursuits, including climbing, backpacking, mountain biking, and skiing.
Reviewing women's sleeping pads began with understanding what was available, and more specifically, what was worth testing. We combed through many products during the selection of the top 11 that are discussed here. We then thought about what was most important in a women's sleeping pad, and made sure to focus on these things during testing - aspects like warmth and comfort, weight, durability, and packed size were key, we decided. We then tested the pads in on a variety of trips, including climbing trips in Alaska, along the Pacific Crest Trail, the Grand Canyon rim-to-rim, and many trips in the Sierra, including the JMT and the Sierra High Route. The result is a comprehensive review that will set you off on the right foot in your search for a women's sleeping pad.
Related: How We Tested Sleeping Pad for Women
Analysis and Test Results
Women have different anatomy than men (surprise!) and very often have different sleeping requirements than their male counterparts. It has been scientifically proven that typically, women sleep colder than men. Manufacturers of women's pads have realized this, and have created models that are generally warmer with more insulation added in areas that count, like the torso and foot areas. Women are typically shorter and have narrower shoulders than men, and so pads designed for them have been trimmed down to their size — thus reducing the potential bulk and weight from a larger men's specific mattress. If done right, the shape of the pad will increase comfort for a woman or someone with wider hips as well.
At OutdoorGearLab, you'll often find we've awarded a product our Editors' Choice, which is the best overall no matter the cost, as well as a few Top Picks for niche specialties. With so many different features to consider and a range of price points, it can be a mind-boggling task to sort through which women's specific sleeping pad is right for you. In order to illustrate the relative value of each pad in our test, we considered the important features in each contender (such as warmth, comfort, weight, durability, and packed size) relative to its price.
Not Just for Women Anymore
Men are starting to clue into the fact that women's sleeping pads provide a better bang for the buck regarding weight-to-warmth ratios. All of the women's pads we tested have higher R-values than the equivalent men's versions. They are usually the same weight as the men's version but come in a smaller, more compact packed size. We have spoken to some men who prefer to buy the women's version — especially if they're under 5'6 — because of the higher weight-to-warmth ratio. Some tall men are buying women's pads too, and just putting their backpacks or other gear under their feet for insulation. This is a remarkable example of products that have been designed specifically with women in mind, and in turn, have become better products.
All that said, this time around we've searched for more options for us ladies, and smaller people in general. We sifted through all sleeping bag manufacturers' sites to see who makes pads in smaller sizes, specifically in the 66-inch length that is a great size for a woman around 5'5" or 5'6". That way we can still get the great products that are in the men's/unisex models but carry fewer materials (and weight) around consequently. We've now evaluated all the products that will fit us regardless if they're supposed to be "women's specific" or not. We have noticed this time around that manufacturers are making pads of different shapes than their unisex models and so are more tailored to a typical (if there is such a thing) woman's shape — wider at the hips and narrower at the shoulders.
The women's pads we tested are available in two types of construction. Most of the pads we tested were a self-inflating foam and air construction, where open cell foam is glued to the top and bottom of the pad's interior. These pads are comfortable and hold their shape well, but are not the most compact.
Several newer pads use a thin layer of synthetic insulation that is lighter and more compact for a higher warmth ratio than the open cell foam. These are the Sea to Summit Ether Light and UltraLight Insulated as well as the Big Agnes Q-Core SLX Insulated. We suspect that this compressible, light synthetic insulation is the way of the future. The one exception that does not use foam or synthetic insulation is the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite - Women's that uses a structurally insulated air core construction, which is a lot less bulky than foam, but can be very noisy. It is designed with internal baffles that provide structure and warmth and then compresses very small.
The women's pads we tested have R-Values ranging from 3 Therm-a-Rest Prolite - Women's to 5.2 (Sea to Summit Comfort Plus SI Women's and the AirRail) and are designed for use primarily in three season conditions — but some can be used in winter temperatures as well.
R-value ratings are based on how well a material insulates. R values were originally used by the construction industry to rate home insulation. In the realm of sleeping pads, the R-value scale measures how well a pad insulates the sleeper from the cold ground temperature and conserves the convective heat from the sleeper's body warmth. A pad's thickness and the amount of air circulation within affects its R-value. Generally, the thicker the pad, the warmer, and the less air circulation, the better.
It was tough to objectively compare the warmth of the pad from Big Agnes because it does not have an assigned R-Value and instead gave a rating in degrees Fahrenheit. So, we had to go based off of our own experiences sleeping on this pad and how warm it seemed compared to the models that we know what the R-value is and based on what the temperature was when we tested it.
We evaluated the comfort of these pads on how well we slept on various ground surfaces, including rock-solid granite slabs and lumpy sand. In our testers' opinions, the most comfortable pads we tested were the REI AirRail Plus Women's, the Sea to Summit Ether Light LX and the Sea to Summit Comfort Plus SI. Not surprisingly, these were three of the thickest mattresses we tested, making them cushy to lie on, especially for side sleepers. We also liked the generous shapes of these mattresses, which were all slightly wider than the others and mostly rectangular. We especially loved the REI AirRail's "air rails", tubes on each side that made the mattress wider and gave it a cradling effect for back-sleepers. The Big Agnes Q-Core also has bigger outer tubes that have a similar cradling effect, but it felt slightly less stable and more "boaty" than the AirRail.
We think the Therm-A-Rest NeoAir XLite is also quite comfortable with its 2.5-inch thickness, but it takes a bit of getting used to because it is bouncier and crinklier than the other pads in this review. Overall we had a comfortable bunch this year!
All of the pads we tested in this review are inflatable, and therefore inherently less durable than closed-cell foam pads that are reviewed in the unisex pad review - because they can be punctured. We evaluated durability mostly on the toughness of the materials of these pads, which ranged from 30-75 Denier strength fabrics. The Trail Lite Women's and the AirRail features the strongest materials and the NeoAir XLite Women's has the most fragile. That said, the NeoAir XLite is surprisingly durable, and some of our testers have owned this model for many years without incident. Luckily all of the pads we tested are relatively quick and easy to patch.
Many of the newer pads on the market have great valve technology that seem more durable and easy to use than older models that twist shut. Sea to Summits valves have burly openings and tabs that allow for the one way valve to be open, or the whole thing to open up for easy deflation. These models also all come with patches and extra valve pieces.
Another durability factor our testers noticed was the color of the top materials. The lighter colored mattresses like the REI Trekker and the Trail Lite Women's showed dirt much easier than darker colored mattresses like the ProLite Plus. For the NeoAir and other, rubber surfaced pads like the Q-Core this is a non-issue because of its smooth, cleanable surface. One tester hiked the entire Pacific Crest Trail with the women's ProLite, and the bright orange turned an ugly brown by the end. It is also interesting to note that during her 2000+ mile hike she never once had to patch her Prolite pad.
For all backpackers, the weight of their gear should be considered. As part of your sleeping system, your pad should be considered part of the big three items (shelter, backpack, and sleeping system) that affects pack weight. Choosing these three items carefully can greatly reduce your pack weight, and therefore boost your hiking enjoyment.
Foam weighs more than air, so all the self-inflating foam mattresses cannot compete with air core constructed mattresses. Knowing that the lightest women's pad that we tested by far was the Therm-A-Rest NeoAir XLite Women's, weighing in at a slim 12 oz. The Big Agnes Q-Core has similar technology and is much thicker but weighs in at 16.6 ounces. Two of the Sea to Summit models that are new this year are nipping at the NeoAir's heels, the Ether Light (15 ounces) and the Ultralight Insulated (14.6 ounces). Ironically, the heaviest was the Sea to Summit Comfort Plus SI at 34.4 oz, which is 22.6 oz heavier than the NeoAir!
Packed size is another important factor to consider when trying to slim down your pack size. Again, foam insulated mattresses cannot compete with air core construction or thin layers of synthetic insulation.
The NeoAir XLite Women's and the Q-Core are tied for the smallest packed size at 8.27 x 3.94 inches, followed by the Ultralight Insulated at 4 x 9 inches. The Ether Light is close and rings in at 11 x 4.5 in inches. The bulky REI Trekker has the largest packed size at 23.62 x 5.12 inches. Many people have difficulty rolling their inflatable pads up to the original size it came in, and are not able to fit it back into its stuff sack.
Inflation Method and Accessories
Although many of our reviewed sleeping pads claim to be "self-inflating" some people are disappointed by the amount the pads inflate on their own. Just so we're all on the same page, even the manufacturers don't claim that their pads can completely inflate on their own. Instead, they claim they will inflate most of the way, and if people prefer a firmer mattress, they can blow a few more breaths in before closing the valve.
For those of us who have chosen to go with a non-self-inflating mattress, like a NeoAir, we may get a bit light headed before our mattresses are full. There are several accessories to aid us in filling our mattresses, like the NeoAir Torrent Pump, which is an electrical pump that will annoy your neighbors while you fill up your mattress. The the NeoAir Pump Sack allows you to fill up your mattress manually without fainting, and also acts as a stuff sack. Sea to Summit has provided stuff sack pumps with all of its non-self inflating products which is definitely a bonus! Sea to Summit also provides attachment points for all their mats for their proprietary pillow systems as well.
Since women sleep colder than men and have a different anatomy, manufacturers have created pads specific to these qualities, sometimes calling a product "women's" and sometimes creating a product that comes in a variety of sizes, one being the most ideal for the average woman. This review is here to help you find the pad that is the most comfortable, light, compact, and/or durable, depending on your specific needs. We want you to have all the info you need to make the right choice for your next trip sleeping out on the ground. Whether it is ice fishing in the Yukon or sleeping on the beach in Baja, you'll find the best option in one of these products we've reviewed.
— Jessica Haist