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Sleeping Mats: How to Choose

Your sleeping mat is equally important – maybe even more important – to your overall comfort as your sleeping bag.  

When selecting a sleeping pad, consider the following:

1. R-value 

For summer backpacking in the Rockies an R-value around 3.0 should be sufficient but you may want a higher R-value if you spend more nights at higher elevations or if you extend your backpacking season into spring and fall - particularly if there is snow or frost on the ground. 

When it’s very cold overnight (early spring, late fall and winter – or anytime on a glacier), use a closed cell foam pad, such as a Nemo Switchback, underneath your inflatable pad to provide a higher overall R-value.

2. Weight 

Lighter weight is desirable – but you generally pay more for lighter weight sleeping pads. 

Equally important as weight is packed size, particularly if you’re trying to overnight with a pack that is less than approximately 50 litres.

3. Thickness 

Thicker sleeping pads are generally more comfortable but are usually heavier. Thicker pads generally accommodate uneven ground more successfully and hide roots and rocks better. 

If you are a side sleeper you should consider a thicker sleeping pad to accommodate your hips and shoulders. 

4. Size 

Be sure to select the right size mat for your body shape and height. Some opt for a shorter mat and let their feet dangle off the end to save weight, but you end up losing body heat plus sacrifice comfort. 

If you are a restless sleeper consider a wider matt (or a duo).

5. Style 

There are a number of styles to choose from. Mummy cuts are generally lighter but easier to slip off during the night, rectangular cuts waste space and are generally heavier, but a tapered design is a good compromise. If there will be two people sharing the mat, consider a duo mat as it avoids the middle split. Plus when you select a duo, there is often a small advantage in overall weight and price. 

If you use decide to use two sleeping mats, use a coupling kit or make your own from fabric store elastic banding.

A Comparison

Following is a chart outlining the different sleeping mats that we carry at the Norseman and how they rate on the above factors:

Model Description Size Weight Dimensions Thickness R-Value Packed
Exped Ultra 5 R M Mummy  Medium 445 g 183 cm x 52 cm 7 cm 4.8 2.5 L
Exped Ultra 5 R MW Mummy Medium Wide 535 g 183 cm x 65 cm 7 cm 4.8 3.0 L
Exped Ultra 5 R LW Mummy Long Wide 540 g 197 cm x 65 cm 7 cm 4.8 3.2 L
Exped Ultra 3 R M Mummy

Medium

365 g 183 cm x 52 cm 7 cm 2.9 1.5 L

Exped Ultra 3 R

MW Mummy Medium Wide 440 g

183 cm x 65 cm

7 cm 2.9 1.7 L
Exped Ultra 3 R MW Rectangular Medium Wide 530 g 183 cm x 65 cm 7 cm 2.9 2.5 L
Exped Ultra 3 R LW Rectangular Long Wide 560 g 197 cm x 65 cm 7 cm 2.9 2.7 L
Exped Ultra 3 R M Duo Tapered Medium 830 g 183 cm x 105 cm 7 cm 2.9 3.3 L
Exped Ultra 3 R LW Duo Tapered Long Wide 1155 g 197 cm x 130 cm 7 cm 2.9 3.5 L
Exped Synmat HL M Mummy Medium 365 g 183 cm x 52 cm 7 cm 2.9 1.5 L
Exped Synmat HL MW Mummy Medium Wide 440 g 183 cm x 65 cm 7 cm 2.9 1.7 L
Exped Synmat HL M Duo Tapered Medium 830 g 183 cm x 105 cm 7 cm 2.9 3.3 L
Exped Synmat HL LW Duo Tapered Long Wide 1155 g 197 cm x 130 cm 7 cm 2.9 3.5 L
Nemo Switchback Rectangular Regular 415 g 183 cm x 51 cm 2.3 cm 2.0 9.3 L
Nemo Tensor Regular Mummy Regular 365 g 183 cm x 51 cm 8 cm 2.5 1.0 L
Nemo Insulated Tensor Regular Mummy Regular 410 g 183 cm x 51 cm 8 cm 3.5 1.0 L
Nemo Insulated Tensor RW Rectangular Regular Wide 540 g 183 cm x 64 cm 8 cm 4.2 1.5 L
Nemo Insulated Tensor LW Rectangular Long Wide 595 g 193 cm x 64 cm 8 cm 4.2 1.7 L
Nemo Flyer Regular Tapered Regular 640 g 183 cm x 51 cm 5 cm 3.3 4.2 L
Nemo Flyer RW Tapered Regular Wide 780 g 183 cm x 64 cm 5 cm 3.3 6.0 L
Nemo Flyer LW Tapered Long Wide 860 g 193 cm x 64 cm 5 cm 3.3 6.2 L
Sea to Summit Etherlight XT WR Tapered Women's Regular 495 g 168 cm x 55 cm 10 cm 3.5 2.0 L
Sea to Summit Etherlight XT WL Tapered Women's Long 600 g 183 cm x 64 cm 10 cm 3.5 3.2 L
Sea to Summit Etherlight XT R Tapered Men's Regular 490 g 183 cm x 55 cm 10 cm 3.2 2.9 L
Sea to Summit Etherlight XT L Tapered Men's Long 625 g 198 cm x 64 cm 10 cm 3.2 3.2 L
Sea to Summit Etherlight XT RW Rectangular Rectangular Wide 630 g 183 cm x 64 cm 10 cm 3.2 3.3 L
Big Agnes Insulated AXL Air RL Rectangular Regular Long 397 g 183 cm x 51 cm 8 cm 3.0 1.0 L
Big Agnes Insulated AXL Air WXL Rectangular Wide - Extra Long 510 g 198 cm x 64 cm 8 cm 3.0 1.4 L