If, like most people, you sleep on your side, you’re going to need a decent sleeping pad. I learned this the hard way when I set off on a three-month camping adventure with a pad that was too thin. By day two, my hips were sore and bruised, and two years later my back still hasn’t quite forgiven me!
So, if you don’t want to end up with so many bruises on your legs that they start joining together, make sure you get a decent sleeping pad!
This article will give you 15 brilliant suggestions to choose from, so you don’t have to worry about making the painful mistake I did.
So without further ado, here's my review of the best sleeping pads for side sleepers!
In a Hurry? Here's My Top 5 Picks
Best Sleeping Pad for Side Sleepers - My Top 5 Picks
I’ve put together a detailed review of my five favorite sleeping pads on the market right now. One of these is sure to be right for you, but if you’re not convinced, you can always read on for even more suggestions.
Read also: Best Sleeping Pads for Stomach Sleepers
Wellax UltraThick FlexFoam Sleeping Pad
If you’re looking for the perfect balance between comfort and portability, I highly recommend the Wellax FlexFoam Sleeping Pad.
This sleeping pad is 3 inches thick, so you’ll be able to sleep comfortably on your side, and the insulation is brilliant, with an R-Value of 9.5.
This means it will stop your body heat from seeping away into the ground. You really shouldn’t underestimate how important an insulated matt is in the colder months!
I made the mistake of camping without an insulated mat in Scotland one spring and I got so cold that my body went into shock. No matter how efficient your sleeping bag is, it will not be able to keep you safe if you get an inadequate sleeping pad. You’ve been warned!
At 6 feet and 5 inches long, this is a great choice for taller people. You won’t have to curl into the fetal position to get comfy, and there’s a built-in pillow, so no more waking up with a crick in your neck!
As with so much camping equipment, this falsely claims to be suitable for backpacking. I mean, seriously, do these people think our backpacks are the size of a studio apartment? So, don’t try to hit the trail with this thing, but it’s perfect for year-round car camping trips.
Why do I recommend this pad?
I think this sleeping pad is the best choice for side sleepers on the market right now. This is because it’s thick and comfy, well-insulated, reasonably priced, and packs down nice and compact for a car camping trip.
The user reviews are outstandingly positive and the pad has been designed to minimize noise. If you’ve ever tried to sleep on a squeaky sleeping pad, you’ll know just how important this is!
- Thick and comfortable
- Waterproof (easy to clean)
- Self-inflating (will get even better at this after a couple of uses)
- Great for taller people
- R-Value of 9.5
- Not really suitable for backpacking (misleading product description)
ECOTEK Hybern8 Ultralight Sleeping Pad
The sleeping pad I just mentioned is an excellent value for the money. But if you’re working on a tighter budget, you could check out the ECOTEK Hybern8 Ultralight Sleeping Pad.
It’s not the absolute cheapest sleeping pad on the market, but the bottom-budget pads will not be comfortable for a side sleeper. You’d have to double up on the cheapest roll pads to sleep well on your side, at which point you may as well just go ahead and purchase a decent pad.
The Ecotek isn’t self-inflating, but you can blow it up manually really quickly. It takes only about 10 breaths to inflate it, so you don’t have to worry about getting a massive head rush like you would with some of the less efficient pads.
The honeycomb design maximizes comfort, so you’ll be able to sleep on your side without any worries.
The thickness is around 2.5 inches, but it packs down smaller than the size of a 1-liter water bottle!
Because it’s so compact, you can take this sleeping pad on hiking adventures in the mountains without being dragged down by it.
Why do I recommend this pad?
This is a really well-priced pad that has been designed to maximize comfort without weighing you down.
I love the honeycomb design, which will support your body and keep you in place. You’ll notice that you slide straight off smoother designs, which is annoying.
It’s always good to support a small business, and Ecotek is a family-run outfit that works with the National Forest to plant trees using some of the profits from their gear.
- Small, family business that plants trees with your purchase
- Quick and easy to inflate
- Super compact
- Supportive honeycomb design
- Deflates in seconds
- R-Value of 2.2 (not the best for cold weather camping)
Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Xlite
Therm-a-Rest is one of the best-known and most trusted sleeping pad brands in the world. And with good reason!
In my opinion, the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Xlite is by far the best sleeping pad for backpackers right now. It isn’t as cheap as my budget pick or as thick as my best choice, but it is absolutely the right choice for hitting the trails.
This ridiculously lightweight pad weighs only half a pound, so you’ll be flying ahead of your buddies on the trail. Just don’t mention how light your kit is and they will be seriously impressed.
The R-Value of 4.2 will keep you warm in most conditions, while the 2.5-inch thickness means that you can sleep comfortably in any position. (Well, I’m sure you could find an uncomfortable position if you really tried. But why bother?)
Why do I recommend this pad?
Some sleeping pads are a real chore to blow up, especially if you’re doing it without a pump. The NeoAir Xlite uses a cutting-edge valve system, so you can blow it up three times faster than a regular pad. It is ridiculously lightweight, and users say that it lasts them a lifetime.
It may be a little pricier than some of the alternatives, but at least you don’t have to keep replacing it every time it breaks!
- Super lightweight
- Compact (smaller than a 1-liter water bottle)
- Quick to blow up
- Thick and comfortable
- Trustworthy brand
- Some users found it a bit slippery
- Noisier than the other pads I’ve recommended (could be annoying if you’re sensitive to noise)
Better Habitat Memory Foam Mattress
Despite what some people might tell you, camping is not a competition about who can rough it the most. (It’s supposed to be fun, honestly!)
So, if you’re new to camping or just really appreciate your home comforts, you should go for the Better Habitat Memory Foam Mattress.
One of my close friends has epilepsy, and he can get seizures if he is overly tired. I recommended that he get this mattress because it offers the closest thing to a real bed than anything else you can get for camping.
This thing is way too big for backpacking; it’s probably bigger than your entire pack! But if you’re heading off in your car and truck, there’s no reason why you can’t bring this memory foam camping mattress along for the ride.
Users absolutely love this memory foam pad. Some of them even said it’s more comfortable than their real beds!
With that in mind, you could also use this pad as an extra bed around the holiday season, when friends and family are spending the night.
Why do I recommend this pad?
This mattress is far more comfortable than your average pad. That means that it’s bigger, too, but it’s totally worth it for people who rely on a good night’s sleep.
The straps make it super easy to roll back up and secure in place, and the price is more than reasonable considering that you can use it for guests or children’s slumber parties too!
- Super comfy memory foam
- Carry straps for portability
- Kids’ size also available
- No need to blow it up; just roll out, and you’re good to go
- Hygienic - comes with a waterproof and sweatproof cover
- Larger and bulkier than the other pads I’ve mentioned
- Pad itself is not waterproof
Hikenture Ultralight Double Sleeping Pad
A double sleeping pad can be much more comfortable if you’re camping with someone whom you’d like to cuddle up with. The Hikenture Double Ultralight Sleeping Pad is a great option.
No more falling into the gap between your single sleeping pads, plus you’ll be able to turn over in the night without sliding off the edge. This is also an excellent option for a single person who likes to spread out when they sleep.
I would say that, at 2 inches thick, this is the lower limit for side sleepers. However, the price, weight, and durability all make it stand out as a brilliant choice for a double sleeping pad.
Why do I recommend this pad?
Double sleeping pads inevitably handle more weight than a single pad. This Hikenture model is durable and tear-resistant, so you don’t have to worry about it letting you down. (Pun intended … sorry.)
It’s super quick to set up, and it’s nice and quiet, so you won’t be kept awake by your partner tossing and turning in the night.
- Great for tall people
- Durable and tear-resistant
- Affordable (especially when you consider that it’s for two people!)
- Waterproof - easy to clean
- Comes with a pump sack (a lightweight alternative to a pump)
- Perfect for a couple
- Not the best for cold weather
10 More Camping Pads Worth Considering for Side Sleepers
One of the five suggestions that I made above will be the right pad for most people. However, if you’re not totally convinced that you’ve found the best one for you, here are 10 more suggestions.
QOTOMOP Ultra Thick Camping Mattress
The QOTOMOP Ultra Thick Camping Mattress is an impressive 4 inches thick. Side sleepers do not need to worry about getting a good night’s sleep on this pad, and the R-Value of 9.5 means that you can use it for year-round camping adventures.
This sleeping pad is large when packed down, so it would be suitable only for car camping trips. But if you’ve got a family member who has been resisting camping with you, just get them this pad, and it will convert them to outdoor life.
- Super thick and comfy
- Comes with a pump bag
- Waterproof (easy to clean)
- Good quality carry bag
- Noise minimizing
- Nontoxic materials - no weird smell that you can get with cheap gear!
- Large and bulky
Trekology Self Inflating Pad
If you’re looking for something a bit smaller than the QOTOMOP model I suggested above, the Trekology Self Inflating Pad is a nice, compact alternative.
It’s 3 inches thick, you’ve still got a nice, comfy mattress, but you’ll be able to fit enough for the whole family in the car. (No more fighting about who gets the decent bed!)
As it’s self-inflating, you can just open up the valves and leave the pad to set itself up. This will help you set up your camp in a flash so you can get on with the fun stuff!
With almost all self-inflating pads, it’s recommended that you blow into the valve a few times after it’s inflated to make sure it’s nice and comfy. Don’t over-inflate them, though, or they won’t last as long.
- Thick and comfortable
- Soft-touch materials
- Durable and tear-resistant
- R-Value not specified - users do report using the pad successfully in cooler weather
Gold Star Gel Mattress
My next suggestion isn’t typically used for camping trips. But it should be!
The Gold Star Gel Mattress is a cooling gel mattress commonly used as an emergency guest bed.
It folds up into three pieces so you can easily fit it in your car, and the cooling gel layer will prevent you from overheating in the summer.
Camping in the hot months can be so uncomfortable, especially as heat tends to accumulate in your tent throughout the day.
If you want to give yourself a chance at a comfortable night’s sleep in the summer, you should definitely check out this pad.
Read also: The 20 Best Tents for Hot Weather
- Comfortable and supportive mattress
- Designed to cool you down
- Pressure point relief - perfect for side sleepers
- Washable cover
- Folds up for transportation
- No carry case
Klymit Insulated Static V
If you’re planning a cold-weather camping trip, you’d be much better off with the Klymit Insulated Static V.
It has an R-Value of 4.4, which means you’ll be more than prepared for the cooler months. Some pads have an R-Value of 9 or more, but this is overkill for most people’s needs.
As well as the decent R-Value, this sleeping pad is designed with v-shaped chambers to trap as much of your body heat as possible. The v shape also provides extra comfort, so side sleepers will be well supported.
Users absolutely love this pad, reporting that it lasts for years.
Read also: Best Tents for Winter Camping
- V-Chamber design to trap body heat
- Good for cold weather
- Packs down nice and small for backpacking
- Lasts for years!
- Not the best choice for heavier people - you may feel your hips touching the ground
KingCamp 3D Self Inflating Double Pad
The KingCamp 3D is a high-quality double sleeping pad with a fantastic R-Value of 6.1.
This means that you can use it in the colder months without any worries, and you’ll be able to steal some of your partner's body heat, too!
Double sleeping pads are great for people who prefer to sleep with blankets rather than a sleeping bag, and you won’t find yourself sliding off the edge during the night.
Each mattress gets a 72-hour leak check before shipping, so you don’t have to worry that you’re receiving a faulty piece of kit.
That being said, I still recommend that you blow it up at home before heading out camping, just to be sure you’re happy with your purchase whilst it can still be sent back.
- Great for a couple
- Can be used in the colder months
- 72-hour leak check before shipping
- Nice and thick
- New to the market - users can’t vouch for durability yet
OutdoorsmanLab Ultralight Sleeping Pad
Going back to something that you can use for backpacking, the OutdoorsmanLab Ultralight Sleeping Pad offers a fantastic value for the money.
Now, this will not be as comfortable as the memory foam mattresses that I’ve recommended for car camping, but we have to be realistic when we’re packing for a trail hike.
This affordable pad is compact, light, and comfortable, packing down to the size of a water bottle.
Many users compare it to the much more expensive Therm-A-Rest brand, saying that it is almost as comfortable, at just a fraction of the price.
- No chemical smell
- Easy to inflate and deflate
- At 2.2 inches thick, this won’t be the best mattress for heavier people
Hazli Kids Memory Foam Mattress
There’s no point in wasting car space on a full-size mattress for a child. The Hazli Kids Memory Foam Mattress is super comfortable, but it’s much more compact than the adult version.
The mattress is covered in a durable waterproof layer, so you don’t have to worry about muddy feet or spills ruining it. You can use it on the floor of your tent or on a cot frame, depending on how much kit you feel like bringing along.
Some smaller adults (like me) choose to buy the kids’ version rather than the full-size model. You can save a load of space and money that way, so if you’re 5 foot 1 inch or shorter, why not get the version meant for children?
- Super comfortable
- More compact than the adult version
- Waterproof top layer
- High-density foam to support back
- Easy to roll up and transport
- Kids could grow out of it in the long run
Powerlix Ultralight Inflatable Sleeping Pad
The Powerlix Ultralight Inflatable Sleeping Pad is an excellent choice for backpacking. By now, you might be thinking that all these sleeping pads look the same, but some subtle differences are worth considering.
For example, this model has a hexagon design that will support your pressure points and prevent sore hips. Some pads have V-shaped chambers that are better at heat retention, or a smooth surface that creates the sensation of sleeping on a normal bed but that is also quite slippery, so you may keep rolling off.
I really like the hexagon design because it offers the right balance between comfort and portability. This pad also comes with a patch kit so you don’t have to worry about accidental punctures on rocky ground.
- Hexagonal design to support pressure points
- Lightweight and compact
- Comes with inflation bag
- Not the thickest - I recommend testing at home before using on the trail
Powerlix Self Inflating Foam Pad
The Powerlix Self Inflating Foam Pad is from the same company that makes the backpacking pad that I mentioned above.
This model is not very suitable for backpacking, though, and it is thicker (and more comfortable) than an ultralight sleeping pad.
To be fair, the Powerlix Foam Pad is much more compact than the luxury glamping pads mentioned in this article. It would be okay for a short hike to a camping spot, but it’s not going to be appropriate for a thru-hike.
With an R-Value of 9.5, a built-in pillow, and a 3-inch thickness, this pad will keep you cozy and warm year-round. It’s made of durable, waterproof materials, so you don’t have to worry about it getting wrecked on your camping adventures.
For its size, it’s just about as comfortable as you can get.
- Comfortable 3-inch pad
- Compact for thickness (but not right for backpacking)
- Claims to be a self-inflating mattress but realistically, you have to blow it up to get the desired thickness
YSXHW Self Inflating Camping Pad
The last camping pad worth mentioning in this article is the YSXHW Self Inflating Camping Pad.
Some of the pads I recommended aren’t the best for heavier people, so I wanted to make sure I suggested something for everyone. This pad has a weight limit of 700 pounds, so it should be suitable for most people!
The pad comes with a built-in foot pump, so no more messing around with those pump airbags. You should get it up in a flash, and you can even use it as an inflatable in the water.
(You might think this is silly now, but just wait to see the look on your buddy’s face when you get to take a nap in the campsite swimming pool on a hot day!)
Comfortable and portable, this pad also comes with a couple of patches in case you experience any punctures on your adventures.
- Great for heavier people
- Built-in foot pump
- Comes with repair patches
- Can be used in the pool (get the beers out!)
- Not as durable as the other pads I’ve recommended - more likely to break
What to Look for in a Decent Sleeping Pad
The product descriptions of camping gear can feel like another language. I’ve broken down everything you need to know into this simple guide, so you don’t have to worry about making any silly mistakes with your purchase.
Type of Sleeping Pad
When it comes to a sleeping pad, you can get a foam pad, an inflatable pad, or a combination of both.
Some inflatable pads are self-inflating, whereas others have to be blown up with your mouth or a pump. Most self-inflating pads include a foam layer, whereas the ones that you blow up are just air mattresses. And then there’s good old-fashioned foam, which doesn't need to be inflated at all.
I prefer foam pads for car camping because you don’t have to worry about them puncturing or leaking air.
However, for hiking, I always take an inflatable pad (the type you blow up yourself, not self-inflating) because these are the lightest and most compact.
If you go for an inflatable pad, try to not overinflate it. You want to be comfortable, but if you force too much air inside it, you’re putting pressure on the valves, which will eventually break down.
If I’m camping in cold weather, I sometimes bring an insulated foam pad to place beneath my inflatable pad, as this helps to prevent heat loss through the floor. If you get a pad with a good R-Value, you shouldn’t need to take this precaution.
If you’re a side sleeper, the thicker the pad, the better. A 3-inch pad is probably ideal for camping, but you might want a slightly thinner pad if you’re going to be thru-hiking.
For backpacking, side sleepers might have to accept a slightly less comfortable night if it means you can take some pressure off your back by keeping your pack light.
There’s no point in bringing a load of bedding to protect your spine if you wreck it on the hike to your camping spot!
There are two things to think about here: the weight of the sleeping pad and the user’s weight.
The heavier the user is, the closer they will get to the ground and the less support they will have around their pressure points.
Generally speaking, the heavier you are, the thicker you want your paid to be in order to sleep comfortably on your side.
If you’re car camping, your pad’s weight doesn’t really matter so long as it can fit in the trunk. But if you’re planning on any backpacking, you’ll have to strike the right balance between lightness and thickness.
Not all pads are the same length. If you are a taller person, make sure you check the item specifications for dimensions before buying.
Shorter people like me could consider getting a child’s pad to save money and keep their packs lighter.
You’re probably better off with a waterproof camping pad, as they are easier to wash. It’s so easy to get your stuff dirty on a camping trip, but you can just give it a hose down at the end of your vacation and it won’t matter.
That said, waterproof pads might not be as comfortable as a pad covered with soft-touch materials.
At the end of the day, it’s up to you as to whether you want to prioritize hygiene or comfort.
R-Value refers to how well a material can act as a barrier to heat loss. The higher the R-Value, the better your sleeping pad can protect you from the cold ground.
If you’re camping in colder weather, I’d recommend an R-Value of at least 4. For snowy weather, you’d want an R-Value of around 6 or more.
How do you inflate a sleeping pad?
It depends on the type of pad. A self-inflating pad can be opened at the valve and left to fill up with air, though you may want to help it along with a few breaths before closing it up. You might also use your mouth, a foot pump, or an airbag pump, depending on the model.
How do you fix a sleeping pad puncture?
To fix a sleeping pad puncture, you’ll need to get your hands on a puncture kit, including strong waterproof glue and patches. Some sleeping pads will come with a puncture kit.
How much does a sleeping pad cost?
If you’re a side sleeper, you’ll probably want to spend at least $45 for something comfortable and reliable. You can get cheaper pads, but you’d likely have to double up on them to get a good night’s sleep.
Can I increase the R-Value of my sleeping pad?
You can place a thin reflective pad underneath your main pad to help prevent heat loss through the ground. But if you’re going to be carrying two pads to keep warm, you may as well invest in a more efficient pad instead.
The most important thing to work out before investing in a sleeping pad is whether you will be car camping or backpacking.
Pads designed for car camping are usually a lot more comfortable than ultralight pads, but that’s something we hikers have to get on board with if we want to immerse ourselves in the great outdoors.
That said, backpacking pads are getting better than ever. The ECOTEK pad is a great lightweight option if you’re working on a budget.
If you’ve got some money to spend, the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite is 100% worthy of its reputation.
The best all-rounder on the market right now is probably the Wellax FlexFoam Sleeping Pad. It’s a great balance between portability and comfort, so there will be plenty of space in the car for everyone to pack one.
I hope you found this article on the best sleeping pads for side sleepers helpful, and I wish you a peaceful night’s sleep in the great outdoors!
Rachel is a freelance adventure writer and founder of Highly Sensitive Nomad. When she isn’t writing, she can be found wild camping in the mountains and swimming in the lakes of Europe.