Updated: Feb 17, 2020
So many camping mattresses and only one you! While you could definitely order all kinds of sleeping pads from the internet -- that wouldn't really be affordable.
So...for the sake of this article, we are only going to write about inflatable insulated sleeping pads
This is because anything other than an inflatable insulated sleeping pad is going to give you grief while out on the trail. Assuming you are reading this post because you are registered for your ASCEND Hiking Tour, you are going to want something that is both comfortable, lightweight and compact.
I cannot stress that last point enough. Compact backpacking gear is so critical to making a multi-day backpacking trip a fun experience. So whether you purchase one of the recommended pads below, or if you decide to head out to an outlet store such as Valhalla Pure or Atmosphere, just know that you ought to be asking for an inflatable insulated sleeping pad.
Full disclosure here, I do not have any kind of affiliation with any major outlets. The products you will find there are going to range from top of the line to equipment that will get by. My best advice for people just beginning to get into backpacking or camping is to be aware that the most expensive gear does not inherently make you the most prepared version of yourself. So remember, yes, the $400 sleeping pad will without a doubt be high quality, durable and have an R rating to withstand winter alpine temperatures.
Ask yourself (and answer honestly): "how many times am I going to go hiking this year?" or "do I plan on doing any below freezing temperatures?"
There is no shame in having a product that is reliable and affordable. I would definitely recommend making reasonable investments in this endeavour as opposed to ones that might be financially over the top.
The best backpacking equipment for beginners is equipment that you can rely on and that you do not attach a guilt to, or some kind of pressure.
As a beginner it is important to enjoy the entire process. The point is to not put pressure on ourselves, and the more money we spend does not mean the better we are at anything. So shop around, find what makes sense for you, and for the love of everything that is good -- purchase something that compacts nicely!
What Backpacking Sleeping Pads Should I Take Hiking?:
The Hybern8 series is wonderful. First off, its so compact. This thing reduces down to nothing...well, okay, not "nothing", but its about the size of a Nalgene bottle once deflated and packed up. I think this is the best bang for your buck that you're going to get as a beginner backpacker. Heck, even as someone who heads into the bush a ton, there is also the Hybern8 model built for zero temperature, all four seasons certified, the insulated model is a great choice. So really, its up to you what you want to choose with regards to these two great designs.
Also! It never hurts that you get to choose between three different colours!
You know its good when its also sold through REI! This camping sleeping pad is perfect in the minimal amount of space it takes. A feature that I really value with this product is the limited Lifetime Warranty, meaning. Any backpacking equipment that comes with this kind of certification typically makes me feel confident heading into the bush because you know that the company trusts their product. The Klymit Insulated Static V weighs in at only 18.6 ounce sleeping mat, comes with a compress sack and patch kit.
These are the only two sleeping mats available through Amazon that I feel confident putting my recommendation behind.
I decided to recommend these two items because they meet all the expectations a person could have for a sleeping pad and they are also affordable. If you're not worried about the cost or you're absolutely certain you will be transforming from a beginner backpacker into a regular back country woods-person, then maybe you might want to consider some other brands with a great reputations. I honestly feel like the Therm-A-Rest NeoAir Xtherm (Shop Valhalla Pure Outfitters is one of the best products on the market right now. Therm-A-Rest is the "big-dog" when it comes to R-Rating (insulation and heat loss) and this particular Ther-A-Rest sleep pad is some state of the art reflective heat technology.
If you're not ready to pull the proverbial trigger on one of these mats then you might find it best to head down to a local outdoor store. You'll be able to chat with a sales specialist and they will help you make sure your mat length is matched with your tent length (something to think about!).
No need to rush any decision making. These are what you'll be sleeping and resting on, so it is definitely worth it taking your time and make a choice that you're happy with.