A sleeping pad is essential for your trip to the Enchantments—after all, nobody wants to sleep directly on hard granite! But sleeping pads are also important to help keep you warm at night. You need something in between you and the cold ground to prevent the loss of body heat. Your sleeping bag by itself won’t do this, because it only works well when it’s fluffed up, not when it’s crushed under your weight.
Sleeping pads have an R-value which indicates how much insulation they provide from the ground. A higher number is warmer. For alpine conditions like what you’ll encounter in the Enchantments during the summer and shoulder season, we recommend a sleeping pad with an R-value of at least 2.
Foam pads are a great budget option. They’re virtually indestructible and super easy to set up. The downside is that they’re bulky (you’ll probably want to carry it strapped to the outside of your pack) and not as comfortable as an inflatable pad.
We recommend either Nemo’s Switchback or Therm-a-Rest’s Z Lite Sol foam pad. Both have an egg-carton–like surface shape which helps them feel more plush than a flat roll-up mat. And both come in two sizes: a regular 72″×20″ and a short 51″×20″.
NEMO Switchback Sleeping Pad
- 14.5 oz
Therm-a-Rest Z Lite Sol Sleeping Pad
- 14 oz
Inflatable pads are pricier than foam pads and you have to be a little careful not to pop them (make sure there isn’t anything sharp underneath it before you lay down!). But most people find them more comfortable than foam pads. They’re also easier to pack, since they deflate and roll up into a smaller package than a foam pad.
For most people, our recommendation is Therm-a-Rest’s NeoAir XLite, which is extremely comfortable and offers the perfect compromise between warmth and weight. It packs down smaller than a Nalgene water bottle and will easily keep you warm in three-season conditions.
Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite
- 12.5 oz
If you’re an especially cold sleeper, or want a pad that’ll let you camp on snow in the middle of winter, then you’ll need more insulation than the XLite offers. In this case, we recommend Therm-a-Rest’s XTherm, which weighs three ounces more than the XLite but provides unmatched insulation against freezing ground.
Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm
- 15 oz
You can layer multiple sleeping pads together for added warmth. Most people do this by putting a foam pad down first and then an inflatable pad on top. The resulting R-value is the sum of the values of the individual pads.
So, if you’re having trouble deciding whether you want a lightweight three-season sleeping pad or an ultra-warm four-season sleeping pad, you may want to consider buying a light three-season inflatable pad (like the XLite) which you can augment with a foam pad for winter adventures. Of course, two sleeping pads is bulkier and heavier than just one, but the trade-off is that in the summer you can just bring one of the pads and leave the unneeded weight at home.