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Sleeping pads can mean the difference between a comfortable, restorative night of sleep or hours of tossing and turning when you’re camping. But did you know that not all sleeping pads are made equally? Even some of the best pads on the market might not be right for you depending on how you sleep. We evaluated a number of different camping sleeping pads and came up with a list of the ones we think are best for side sleepers.
Let’s take a look at what makes for a good sleeping pad when you like to sleep on your side.
All sleepers want to have a cushion beneath them – it’s why they invest in sleeping pads when camping – but side sleepers can use a bit of extra thickness because of the how their spine is affected by how they sleep. It’s also better for your hips and elbows when laying on your side to have a bit more cushioning. More cushioning provides greater support for your body, so your weight remains evenly distributed throughout the night.
Though it might seem as if your body is wider when laying on your stomach or back, side sleepers tend to pull their knees up toward their chest, making their body’s width bigger than it would normally be. This is why it’s important to look for a sleeping bag that’s a bit wider, so you’re able to accommodate the just of your knees, backside, and neck, depending on how you arrange your body.
Sleeping pads come with baffles. In most cases, side sleepers will want to look for pads that feature horizontal baffles that are larger and running down the side of the mat. This tends to make for a more comfortable pad and ensures your body stays center, so you don’t roll off the pad throughout the night.
Another feature to prevent you from rolling off the pad is a non-slip surface. Most sleeping pads tend to be silky on the outside, which means if you are sleeping on a slippery surface, you’ll be sliding all over the place. This is especially true if your mat is positioned on a non-flat surface, which is almost always the case if you’re sleeping on the ground. Look for a mat with a stickier surface that will help to hold you in place while you sleep.
Some sleeping pads are noisier than others. Though this might not seem that important, it can make a huge difference when your ear is up against a pad that is making cracking, breathing, or crinkling noises all night or whenever you change positions. Side sleepers are even more prone to disturbance from a noisy sleeping mat because their ear is up against the surface.
Sleeping mats come in two different versions: inflatable or foam. Inflatable pads are filled with air and foam pads, as you might have guessed, are filled with foam. Though side sleepers can use either type, we’ve found that most prefer inflatable pads. If you choose a foam mat, make sure it’s the densest thickness you can find – at least a few inches thick. This means it’s going to be heavy, so it’s not the best option if you’re hiking to your camping destination. Side sleepers who are hiking will absolutely want to opt for inflatable sleeping pads.
They’ll also want to opt for self-inflatable pads in most cases, so they aren’t using their lungs to fill up the pads. These can be auto-filled or filled by using a pump.
Our Picks for Best Side Sleeping Pads
Now that you have some idea what to look for in a sleeping pad for side sleepers, here’s our list of favorite pads:
This sleeping pad is extra light and is suitable for three-season use. It’s on the pricier side but is a high-quality sleeping pad, so it’s worth the extra expenses for most side sleepers. We think it’s one of the most comfortable pads on our list. It offers stability, it’s quiet, and it only weighs about 1 lb. and is very compact. It also features ThermaCapture, which helps to keep you warm on colder nights.
This is one of the best options for colder weather camping. It’s larger and has a sturdy shell, making it quite puncture resistant. Its V-shaped baffle system tracks your body for optimum comfort, even if you’re moving around throughout the night. It offers plenty of widths and is durable and thick, even though it’s lightweight.
This is another sleeping pad suitable for winter camping. It’s self-inflatable and deflates quickly, so it makes for easy set-up and breakdown. But like many of the best sleeping pads, it tends to be heavy – it’s 11 lbs. and big, which means you aren’t going to want to use it if you’re hiking to your camping destination. This pad comes in regular, plus, and wide sizes so you can get exactly the size you need to suit your body and your movement throughout the night.
It inflates up to four inches, which is great, but in order to reach full inflation, you’ll need to add a little lung power to the self-inflation. The deflation process takes about three minutes – not bad considering you don’t need to do any of the work!
This is the second Therm-a-Rest pad on our list and one of the few foam pads for side sleepers that is actually comfortable. It has a high R-value, so it’s suitable for colder temperatures and winter camping. Of course, this makes it heavy, so it’s not great if you want to hike to your camping destination.
The pad is one of the most comfortable we’ve found and reduces pressure on points of the body that come into contact with the ground when you’re sleeping on your side. This means a good night of rest, even when you are not in the most optimal sleeping conditions.