How to Choose the Right Size and Shape Camping Mattress

Sleep. Just uttering the word can induce a yawn and have you eagerly anticipating those blissful hours when you get to lie down and drift off into a dream. Everybody loves sleep. Plus, those hours when your consciousness is temporarily suspended and your brain rests is also vital for your health. So it’s no wonder why we’re so dang particular about how we sleep.

Truth be told, everybody has a certain preference when it comes to how you sleep, and that’s exactly why we’ve created different sizes and shapes for our mattresses. After all, we understand that sleep is the unsung hero of great days in the outdoors.

So when you choose your next camping mattress, there are a few crucial considerations to make.

The Shape

The NeoAir Xtherm comes in both mummy (or tapered) and rectangular shapes.

There was a time when we made all our mattresses the same rectangular shape. However, in 2003, we took a cue from sleeping bags and introduced the mummy-style cut (which tapers toward the feet) in our mattresses. Honestly, the initial reason for this new shape was simply because it looked cool. But by 2009, we realized we could also shave off a few ounces with our mummy-style pads.

These days, if you’re a Fast & Light ounce counter, a mummy style mattress is probably your weapon of choice. Beyond the obvious fact that they weigh less, these pads also pack down smaller, saving valuable room in your camping kit.

However, though less equals more space in your pack, it also means less sleeping area at the end of the day. For those that hate feeling restricted during slumber, a traditional, rectangular pad may be the optimal choice. You may gain roughly five ounces or more of weight going traditional, but you’ll also have more room to spread out at night.

Another factor to consider when choosing the shape of your pad is the weather you’ll be camping in. Diehard, dead of winter campers often prefer a traditional shaped pad. Why? Because these pads are wider, which means you have more room to move and spread out before reaching the edge of the pad where the insulation ends and the cold begins. Check out the NeoAir XTherm Max for a prime example.

The Size

All sizes of the NeoAir XLite Mattress: Large, Regular, Women's Regular and Small.
All sizes of the NeoAir XLite Mattress: Large, Regular, Women’s Regular and Small.

There are two elements to contemplate when sizing up your pad: length and width. When choosing your pad’s length, it’s not always about how tall (or short) you are. Sure, that’s the basic rule of thumb. If you’re tall, consider a size large, which in our case means a pad that measures about 6 feet 5 inches in length. Our size Regular, for reference, is 6 feet. Both of these are considered “full length” mattresses. However, some campers actually prefer a size small, which measures about 3 feet. Why? Because they would rather save weight and room in their pack and rest their body length (usually lower legs and feet) on their backpack. Once again, the length of your mattress is all about preference … and of course your height.

Then there’s the width. Most of our mattresses are 20 inches wide in size Regular, and 25 inches wide in size Large. But here’s the cool part. Recently we also introduced the size Regular-Wide. Yep, this is a 6-foot long mattress that’s 25 inches wide for those who dig more sleep surface. So once again, we’ve done our best to give you a host of choices so you can fine-tune your sleep system.

But we’re not done yet. There’s one more choice to chew over …

The Women’s Mattress

The ProLite Plus Women’s and Regular mattresses. Notice the difference in the die cut patterns.

We created our women’s mattress with two things in mind: length and warmth. Because women are, on average, shorter than men, our women’s specific pads come in shorter lengths. That way, if you’re a 5’4” female, you don’t have to buy a 6-foot pad. You can purchase the 5’6” pad instead and save unwanted weight and bulk. But these pads aren’t just shorter, they’re warmer too. Because body mass is basically the main deciding factor to how warm you sleep, smaller people (men or women alike) can use a little added warmth. So our women’s specific mattresses have a few special tweaks to make them warmer.

In foam versions we make fewer die-cuts in areas where more warmth is needed—the hips, foot and torso areas of the mattress. Anatomically, the added hip foam also happens to provide extra support for side sleepers.

In the women’s specific NeoAir Xlite, an extra layer of ThermaCapture—our reflective barrier technology that traps radiant body heat—provides the extra warmth.

If you’re next question is: But what if I’m a dude, can I still rock a women’s mattress? The answer is yes. If you’re looking for extra warmth in a shorter length mattress, by all mean’s eschew the “women’s specific” label. Rocking a women’s NeoAir Xlite, for example, is an efficient way to carry less, yet sleep with a robust R-Value of 3.9.

So now that you’re well versed in the sizes and shapes of camping mattresses, you’ll be able to navigate the plethora of choices with ease and find the perfect fitting pad for your camping adventures.

And if you think you’ve got the size and shape dialed, but are still questioning other variables (such as air vs. foam) when it comes to choosing the perfect camping mattress, don’t despair. Check out our infographic we created specifically to help you make those crucial decisions and find the camping mattress of your dreams!

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26 comments on “How to Choose the Right Size and Shape Camping Mattress

  1. PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE, start making a 25″ wide, short or 3/4 length pad!! I can use my pack for my thighs down, but I want the extra width without a lot of extra weight that a longer pad gives. Why, why, why won’t you guys do this???? Try it, it will sell!

  2. Hello !
    This is not going to be a very nice mail, I’m sorry about that but I rather tell you the truth than a lie !
    The point is that although I very much enjoy your web side and love looking at it all and reading about your products my personal experiences with your sleeping pads is not good.
    For many years I have used your pads because I assumed that they were the best, expensive, yes but I rather pay more and have a quality product but in real life it worked out differently .
    I must have bought 6 pads through the years and even being very careful with them, checking the area, always putting a tarp underneath and even making covers for them to protect them they still didn’t last very long and trying to fix them also didn’t work , no matter what I used, they stayed flat !
    Very sad because as a very frequent camper I very much depend on a good pad !
    My weight is 160 lb, so it can’t be that ~ when not in use I open the valve and let the pad lie in a cool place out of the sun, I don’t clean it with harsh products and finally, living in HongKong I got to buy cheap Chinese pads that lasted longer than my beloved therm -a rest !
    So, this is not to be nasty just a true tale of my experience, I don’t let others know because everybody’s experience is different, it just doesn’t work for me I’m sad to say .
    Kind greetings from Cornelia.

    1. Wow, this email is the exact opposite of my experience with Thermarest pads.
      I own and operate an adventure resort in Baja California Mexico in a remote location. We use about 40+ Thermarest of all shapes and sizes and our guests love them. Some of our pads are over 10 years old and going strong. Of course from time to time we get a leak from a hole but they are easily repaired. I do know from experience that Thermarest pads outlast most other brands and I’ve tried at least a dozen other brands. Also their customer service is second to none. Have you tried reaching out to their customer service or warranty dept? I bet they would be more then happy to help fix your problem or at the very least helping you find a solution to your problem.

      Thanks, Kevin Trejo

    2. I’ve had the opposite experience with thermorest pads, in fact I have a few I’ve had for over 20 years, and I do a lot of camping in the PNW. The only ones ive ever had fail were because I punctured it not being careful, and two many years ago that I had to close to a camp fire and had a stray ember burn a hole in them. My only guess is maybe the quality has gone down over the years? I couldn’t really say based on my experience as I’ve only had to buy 1 in the last 15 years, I recently purchased a prolite pad to use in my hammock since my trusty old rectangular ones were a little too bulky for hammock camping, but after using it the last 2 seasons dozens of times it doesn’t show any signs of failure.

      I haven’t heard any complaints from any if my hiking buddies, hopefully the quality hasn’t become spotty in recent years.

    3. Cornelia, thanks for posting your experience with the pads. Good to hear all sides and all opinions. Agreed, the expensive of the pads should dictate quality, but not always the case in life. Best of luck,
      Bill in Las Vegas

    4. Not disbarring your experiences yet they highly differ from my own. I spend an average of 40-60 nights a year on the ground. I’ve used the same Neoair all season for the last 2 on snow, in the dessert, the back of a car, beaches, rainforest and recently a large “car camping” self inflating type. Zero problems until I stepped on the selfinflating pad wearing crampons, 3 holes… I was able to repair the pad with the simple repair kit that came with them.
      So if after 6 you’re having that many problems, either A: You’re getting a knock off or B: some user error..

  3. Cornelia, this state of events is our own fault (us, the blind consumers). Everybody is so obsessed with every extra gram (or pound) that the manufacturers must abide. They have to use lighter materials which are not as durable, otherwise they won’t sell because another product is 100 grams lighter than theirs in god knows what review.
    Best wishes from Romania

  4. On the other side of the coin! I have used the Cascade Designs NeoAir Xlite since it first came out and have had excellent success with it. I’m not the careful type. I do occasionally check where I put the pad but I don’t go out of my way to make sure every little stone is moved. I
    have slept on the xlite for about 9 months (not continuous) in the past 3-4 years. I’m really not sure when it first came out and have never had it go flat or even leak. In fact, I actually bought the xLite at a REI Garage sell and the reason for return was that it leaked. Well, it has never gone the least bit flat or leaked. Best deal I have ever had, even if it had been at regular price. I should also say that I bought the xlite as it weighs only 12 oz. and I happen to be an ultralight backpacker. I love the xlite.

  5. You talk about size and comfort however you do not provide regular length pads in wide widths for people with broad shoulders or short people that just like the extra width.

    Please start selling your pads in regular length wide size!

  6. LOVE the new size selections! I custom ordered the old Tall&Wide as I wake up every time my elbows touched the ground on a slim 18-20in. I kept the length (instead of trimming off) & roll up for a cushy pillow, as our Boy Scout boys suggested! –But I definitely need extra hip padding 🙂

  7. I liked my neoair xlite, and my zlite. Comfy and pretty warm. Both Really good for the weight. Saying that I had issues with the width and length and the options available. I am not overweight but being 6’3″ and built like a wall the 20″ width just isn’t enough. The zlite doesn’t come in a wide width, any chance it will be available in the future? Also any chace of a wide/short in other pads at some point? I’m plenty comfy on a short pad, especially teamed up with a sit pad or zlite sections under my legs to save weight/pack space and increase my system versatility and have options in case of inflatable failure.

  8. “eschew” means avoid, not choose. (in your segment about dudes using women’s mattresses)

    OED online: (eschew |əsˈCHo͞o|verb [ with obj. ]
    deliberately avoid using; abstain from: he appealed to the crowd to eschew violence.

  9. I’m sorry that Cornelia has not had a good experience and I read similar comments from time-to-time on backpacking forums.

    But I have to say that this is not my experience.

    I’ve been using an inflatable Therm-a-Rest pad for backpacking and camping since the 70’s. Starting with the Therm-a-Rest self-inflator at the time, the ProLite 3, and currently the NeoAir XLite (women’s model since I’m short and sleep cold) for backpacking and a CampRest when camping, I’ve been using Therm-a-Rest inflatable pads exclusively.

    I have had to make a couple (2 or 3) field repairs to patch a leak – ironically for the 70’s self-inflator which easily has the heaviest outer material.

    Yes, I’m careful about site selection and preparation and use a ground cloth. But the ground cloth is frequently a polycryo ground sheet these days (very lightweight plastic sheet) and I sleep on everything from duff to granite.

    As always your mileage may vary, but I have never had anything other than a comfortable mattress to sleep on in the back country.

  10. Wow Cornelia! I’d be 80+ Kg, Since around 1984 I’ve had only 3 pads. Used and seriously abused frequently. I lost my most recent one. But the other two are still working perfectly, and used both well above the 0 degree isotherm this year with no complaint from my body.

  11. Every time I had a hole in my pads I used the thermarest repair kit wivh is very good to use and one of my matresses lasted for about 10 years repaired like I said. It lasted in fact untill the moment someone stold it (haha).
    I use also a foam pad under the mat for extra protection. I slept one time on freezen snow with the pad directly put on snow and it lasted. I have 60kg. I used matresses from other companies ( much cheaper) wich leasted less than thermarest. So I decided to stick with thermarest despite the price.

  12. How about a 25″-wide Short NeoAir ?

    I’m an ultra-light hiker (as much as I can), and while I’m happy with my NeoAir Short, I would be happier with a 25″ wide version, even at the cost of a couple of extra ounces. Although I’m not a large person (5’8″ 170lbs male), I find back sleeping difficult in the 20″ wide NeoAir (the arms fall off the side of the mattress), and even side-sleeping isn’t that awesome (when you curl up your knees, either your hind quarters or your knees are off the mattress).

    Why don’t I buy an XL version ? The weight trade-off is too much, and I’m not comfortable doing the DIY shortening procedure that one can find on YouTube.

    A winter version would be even more awesome.

  13. I have camped every month of the year in Northern New England. The last few years I have used Therm-A-Rest pads. Ahhh… Comfort and warmth… Blissful sleep! I have had NO punctures or leaks. Cleaning is easy.
    All your products are well thought out, designed and constructed.
    I trust your products. I trust them enough to place my safety and comfort in them while outdoors.
    Thank you for quality!

  14. My thermarest is literally 15 years old.
    I use it probably about 20-30 nights a year, summer and winter. (Canadian +30ºc summer & -30ºc winter).
    I don’t store it the way I should, its almost always rolled up.
    I am a 250lb man.

    I have never had a problem with it.
    Not a single puncture, no problems at all.

    I got this when I was in highschool, and I’m now 30.

    Therm-a-rest makes GREAT products.

  15. thermarest makes a great product. Just when the original design was getting a little old they laucnched the Neoair which has everything one would want.

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