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5 best sleeping pads for side sleepers

Rest At Ease: 5 Best Sleeping Pads for Side Sleepers

Successful outdoor adventures often hinge on a good night’s sleep. For the side sleepers among us, this starts with the perfect sleeping pad. In this article we dig into the needs of those who prefer sleeping on their side under the stars and share five of the best sleeping pads for side sleepers.

This guide not only reveals our top picks, carefully chosen for their balance of comfort, support, and durability, but also shares tips to maintain and extend your pad’s life. We also provide first-hand advice for side sleepers on how to get a great night of sleep while camping.

Let’s get started!

Table of Contents

How Does Side Sleeping Affect Sleep Quality?

When camping, choosing the right sleeping position and appropriate gear is crucial for a good night’s rest. Side sleepers, in particular, face unique challenges.

Unlike back or front sleepers who can often get by with thinner pads due to even weight distribution, side sleepers require additional cushioning to avoid pressure points at the hips and shoulders. Many also prefer a wider pad for movement throughout the night, more common among side sleepers.

Side sleeping also has its benefits, such as promoting better spinal alignment and potentially reducing snoring while sleeping, but these advantages can only be fully enjoyed with the right pad that provides both comfort and support.

Best Sleeping Pads for Side Sleepers

Sleeping Pad Considerations

Here are a few things side sleepers should look for in a sleeping pad to meet the needs of their sleep style:

  1. Thickness: Essential for cushioning hips and shoulders. A thicker pad prevents discomfort from pressure points, crucial for side sleepers.
  2. Width: Important to accommodate movement. A wider pad reduces the risk of rolling off, providing a stable sleeping area.
  3. Firmness Adjustability: Inflatable pads with adjustable firmness allow side sleepers to tailor the pad’s support and comfort, ensuring an even weight distribution.
  4. Insulation: Adequate insulation is vital to prevent cold spots, especially at the hips and shoulders, where the sleeping bag may compress more.
  5. Durability and Material: High-quality, puncture-resistant materials ensure longevity and maintain pad shape and support over time.

5 Best Sleeping Pad Options for Side Sleepers

Here are five of the best sleeping pads for side sleepers available, based on the factors above. We tried to pick a range of different options depending on your priorities (comfort, budget, versatility, etc.).

NOTE: As an affiliate, we earn a small commission if you purchase an item  below using our links, at no cost to you. This helps support our content and web hosting. Thank you!

1. Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite:

best sleeping pads for side sleepers

Its combination of lightweight design and good insulation makes it an excellent choice for backpackers who need to save weight but also require comfort and warmth.


  • Extremely lightweight, perfect for backpacking.
  • Excellent insulation, suitable for cold temperatures.
  • Compact and easy to pack.


  • Less durable than some heavier options.
  • Can be noisy when shifting positions.
  • Less comfortable for wider shoulders and hips due to narrow design.


Compare Prices: REI Co-op | Backcountry | Amazon

2. NEMO Tensor Extreme Conditions Sleeping Pad:

This pad strikes a balance between cushioning, insulation, and weight, making it a versatile choice for various conditions and preferences.


  • Good balance of comfort, warmth, and weight.
  • Quiet compared to other air pads.
  • Suitable for a range of temperatures and conditions.


  • Higher price point.
  • Might require more breaths to inflate.
  • Can be slippery if not on a level surface.


Compare Prices: REI-Co-op | Amazon

3. Sea to Summit Ether Light XT Insulated Pad:

best sleeping pads for side sleepers

The thicker design is particularly beneficial for side sleepers who need extra cushioning to avoid pressure points.


  • Extra thickness provides superior comfort for side sleepers.
  • Durable construction.
  • Good insulation for colder nights.


  • Heavier and bulkier, less ideal for long treks.
  • Inflation and deflation can be time-consuming.
  • Price may be high for budget-conscious campers.

Compare Prices: REI Co-op | Backcountry | Amazon | Seat to Summit

4. Big Agnes Q-Core Deluxe Sleeping Pad:

best sleeping pads for side sleepers

The quilted top and extra thickness make it one of the most comfortable options for side sleepers, especially those who prioritize comfort over weight.


  • Very comfortable with quilted top.
  • Durable and supportive.
  • Good for colder conditions due to high R-value.


  • Heavier and bulkier, not optimal for ultralight backpacking.
  • Higher cost.
  • Slower to inflate and deflate.

Compare Prices: REI Co-op | Amazon

5. Exped MegaMat 10 Self-Inflating Sleeping Pad:

best sleeping pads for side sleepers

Luxury option for side sleepers who prioritize comfort above all else. This self-inflating pad boasts an impressive 10 cm of thickness, providing an almost mattress-like sleeping experience that is ideal for side sleepers.


  • Extremely comfortable with mattress-like feel.
  • Self-inflating feature adds convenience.
  • Excellent insulation and warmth.


  • Very heavy and bulky, not suitable for backpacking.
  • Expensive.
  • Long inflation time, may need additional air for firmness.


Compare Prices: REI Co-op | Amazon

BONUS: Exped MegaMat Duo 10 Sleeping Pad:

best sleeping pads for side sleepers

This version of the MegaMat 10 Self-Inflating Pad is just as thick and comfortable but is wide enough to fit two people comfortably side-by-side. Great for camping couples and families.

Compare Prices: REI Co-op | Backcountry | Amazon

Taking Care of Your Sleeping Pad

Maintaining and storing your sleeping pad with a bit of intention can extend its life significantly and save you unnecessary spending on replacements. Take care of your sleeping pad before, during, and after use with these best practices:

  • After each trip, gently clean your sleeping pad. Use a damp cloth and a mild soap to wipe down the surface. Avoid using harsh chemicals or abrasive brushes that can damage the material. Dry before storing.
  • Keep the pad out of direct sunlight. UV rays can degrade the materials over time, reducing the pad’s durability and effectiveness.
  • If space allows, store your sleeping pad unrolled and with a slight inflation. This helps to prevent the foam from becoming permanently compressed.
  • If you must store your pad rolled up due to space constraints, use a large storage sack rather than the compact carrying sack it came in. This gives the pad a bit more room and reduces stress on the materials.
  • Regularly check your sleeping pad for signs of wear and tear, such as small tears or holes, and repair them promptly to prevent further damage.

Side Sleeping While Camping: 5 Tips

Getting one of the best sleeping pads for side sleepers isn’t the only way to get better sleep. Here are five more tips for side sleeping while camping to get a full night’s shuteye.

  1. Choose the Right Sleeping Bag: Side sleepers should look for a sleeping bag with ample room to move around. A mummy bag might feel restrictive, so consider a rectangular or semi-rectangular design for more freedom of movement.
  2. Use a Pillow: Bringing a pillow or using a makeshift one (like a stuffed sack with clothes) can make a huge difference. It helps to align the neck and spine, reducing strain and increasing comfort. There are also specially designed camping pillows that are lightweight and compact.
  3. Layering Beneath the Pad: In colder conditions, insulation beneath the sleeping pad is crucial. Placing a foam pad under the inflatable one can provide extra insulation from the cold ground.
  4. Pad Placement: Where you place your pad in the tent matters. Try to find the flattest, smoothest area to set up your sleeping pad. Uneven ground can cause discomfort and disrupt sleep.
  5. Knee Support: Placing a small pillow or rolled-up item of clothing between the knees can alleviate pressure on the hips and lower back, which is especially beneficial for side sleepers.

If you’re a side sleeper, share your tips and advice for getting good sleep while camping or outdoors below! We’d love to hear what works for you.

best sleeping pad for side sleepers cartoon

In Conclusion: The Best Sleeping Pads for Side Sleepers

In conclusion, selecting the right sleeping pad is a game-changer for side sleepers venturing into the great outdoors. Our top five picks cater to the unique demands of side sleeping, ensuring your outdoor escapades are complemented by nights of restful, uninterrupted sleep.

Remember, the key lies in balancing thickness for pressure relief, width for ample space, and durability for long-term use. By choosing wisely, you can turn even the most rugged camping spot into a comfortable resting place, allowing you to fully embrace the rejuvenating power of nature and wake up ready for the day’s adventures.

Even with with one of the best sleeping pads for side sleepers, you still need to maintain and store it properly to ensure it lasts a lifetime. Remember our side sleeper camping tip too for a good night of sleep on your next outdoor adventure.

Frequently Asked Questions

If you don’t see your question answered below, leave it in a comment and we will get back to you with more information as soon as we can.

Q: How do you sleep on your side while camping?

A: To sleep comfortably on your side while camping, choose a thick, supportive sleeping pad that cushions your hips and shoulders. Consider using a pillow or bundled clothing for neck support, and a pad with a higher R-value for insulation if camping in cooler conditions. Adjusting the firmness of an inflatable pad can also enhance comfort.

A: The comfiest sleeping mat varies based on individual needs, but generally, it should offer adequate thickness for cushioning, firmness adjustability, and insulation for warmth. For side sleepers, a wider mat can also add to comfort by providing more room to move.

A: To make a sleeping pad more comfortable, ensure it is properly inflated to your preference – not too hard nor too soft. You can also add a foam topper for extra cushioning, use a soft cover for a smoother surface, and place the pad on an even, debris-free surface to avoid discomfort.

A: The R-value on sleeping pads measures their thermal resistance or ability to insulate you from the cold ground. A higher R-value indicates better insulation, making the pad more suitable for colder conditions. R-values typically range from 1 (minimal insulation) to 5 or more (high insulation for cold weather).

A: The most comfortable sleep when camping is achieved by using gear that suits your sleeping style and the environment. This includes a sleeping pad with the right thickness, width, and R-value, a suitable sleeping bag for the temperature, and perhaps additional accessories like pillows or liners for extra comfort. Comfort also depends on selecting a smooth, level spot for your tent and adapting to the outdoor conditions you’ll be facing.

Additional Resources

If you have any other good sources of info, or you want to share your opinion regarding the best sleeping pads for side sleepers, leave a comment below for the rest of our readers.

Here are some additional websites and resources with more information related to side sleeper sleeping pads, sleeping bags, and camping tips for side sleepers. 

Alex Derr, Founder of The Next Summit

Alex Derr is an Eagle Scout, climber, and environmental policy expert located in Denver, Colorado. He created The Next Summit to help others stay safe exploring the mountains and advocate to preserve the peaks for the future. Follow him on Linkedin or Twitter or click here to contact him.

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