Foam vs Inflatable Sleeping Pad: the Showdown

foam vs inflatable sleeping pad

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Written by: Derek Vitiello
Fact Checked by: Ashley Vitiello

Updated Apr 28, 2023

Sleeping pads come in all shapes and sizes, but the main types are foam, air inflatable, or self-inflating. Both have their own set of pros and cons, so it can be difficult to decide which one is right for you. In this article, we will take a look at the foam vs inflatable sleeping pad argument and discuss the benefits and drawbacks of each option. Hopefully, after reading this post, you will be able to make an informed decision about which type of sleeping pad is best for you!

What Are the Benefits of a Foam vs Inflatable Sleeping Pad? 

As with everything, when comparing 2 similar things they both have their pros and cons. Let’s talk quickly about the benefits of foam and inflatable sleeping pads.

Benefits of a Foam Sleeping Pad

  • Affordable: This is by far the cheapest option when it comes to sleeping pads.
  • Easy to Use: Foam sleeping pads are very easy to use – simply unroll them and you’re good to go!
  • Durability: Foam sleeping pads are very durable and can last for many years if taken care of properly. Especially compared to an Inflatable pad that can be punctured
  • Consistent: A foam pad is consistent throughout, and doesn’t displace or swell in certain places when you lay on it.
foam vs inflatable sleeping pad

Benefits of an Inflatable Sleeping Pad

  • Thicker: Inflatable sleeping pads tend to be thicker than foam pads, providing more cushioning. This can be especially beneficial for winter camping or backpacking trips.
  • Insulation: Have you ever heard the saying that the best insulator is air? Well, it’s true. Air makes an incredible insulator and that is exactly why an inflatable pad will have better insulation compared to a foam pad
  • Packable: Inflatable sleeping pads are much more packable than foam sleeping pads, making them ideal for backpacking trips.
  • Lightweight: Another advantage of an inflatable sleeping pad is that they are often lighter in weight than foam models, making them easier to carry around.

How Do the Two Types of Pads Differ in Terms of Comfort and Durability?

Two of the main factors that go into deciding on a foam pad or an inflatable pad are comfort and durability. In this section, we will discuss how foam vs inflatable pads compares in terms of these two factors.

Foam Pads: Foam sleeping pads are comfortable because they have a consistent feel across the entire surface area of the pad. This means that when you lay down on it and move around, there won’t be any soft spots or places where more pressure is being applied to your body than elsewhere (which could lead to discomfort). However, foam pads tend to be thinner than inflatable ones which may make them less comfortable for some people who like the extra cushion of a thick pad.

Inflatable Pads: Inflatable sleeping pads are also very comfortable but can sometimes feel uneven throughout certain areas due to the displacement of air when you lay on your pad. One advantage of an inflatable sleeping pad is that the level of firmness can be adjusted if desired, providing more cushioning than a foam model. However, it is because of that displacement and inconsistency some people may find them less comfortable overall.

As for durability, foam pads typically last longer than inflatable ones due to the fact they cannot be punctured or torn. However, inflatable pads can be repaired relatively easily if they are damaged, while foam pads usually cannot. So overall, it really depends on what you prioritize when choosing between a foam or inflated pad!

Which Sleeping Pad is Right for You

When deciding on whether foam or inflatable is best for your needs, it comes down to the specific application and what you value most. If you’re going backpacking and don’t mind carrying around a foam pad that has more weight than an inflatable one then go with that option! However, if packability and weight are important factors in choosing which type of sleeping pad to get then consider looking at some inflatable models instead.

Inflatable pads also tend to be thicker than foam ones so they can provide more comfort while lying down at night time (especially during winter months when insulation becomes increasingly important). So overall, foam vs inflatable – both types have their benefits depending on what your needs are as well as personal preferences!

Based on my personal experience, I tried to use an inflatable pad for the longest time, but the inconsistencies in the padding and displacement of air would pull on my neck and hips, leading to sore muscles in the morning. So even though I have a very nice air pad, I chose to go with a foam pad despite the added bulk and thinner profile. In fact, I used my Nemo Switchback foam pad while backpacking the Four Pass Loop and it was fantastic.

Try both types of pads for yourself to see what you like. Plenty of people love their inflatable pads as well as foam. You can’t go wrong either way.

Foam vs Inflatable Sleeping Pad: The Pros and Cons of Each

Here is a concise and easy to understand list of the pros and cons of inflatable and foam sleeping pads:

Inflatable Sleeping Pads


  • Packable
  • Better Insulated
  • Adjustable Firmness


  • Not as Durable
  • Inconsistent Padding
  • More Expensive

Foam Sleeping Pads


  • Consistent Padding
  • Affordable
  • Extremely Durable


  • Thinner
  • More Bulky
  • Not Repairable


The foam vs inflatable sleeping pad debate is a very common one for campers and backpackers. In this post, we’ve outlined some of the pros and cons with each type so you can decide what’s best for you!

If your priority is to be warm in cold temperatures or better packability and lower weight, then inflatable pads will provide better insulation than a foam model. They tend not to weigh much less than foam ones but they do compress down small when packed away, making them more compact overall!

So there you have it – the pros and cons of each type of sleeping pad! Consider all of these things before making your purchase so you can be sure to get the best product

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Derek, Co-Founder at Know Nothing Nomads

My goal with my writing and Know Nothing Nomads as a whole is to share my passions of hiking, camping, and a love of the outdoors with our readers. Making the difficult and uncertain feel more approachable to people that might not know enough to feel comfortable taking their first steps into the wilderness is a driving factor for me. When I’m not writing you can find me on a trail, in a forest, or next to a river with hiking shoes on my feet and a fly rod somewhere close by.

Ashley is an adventurous soul who loves all things nature, especially warm sunshine, wildflowers, scenic snacking, and mushrooms. She is an avid outdoor enthusiast who has spent years enjoying time outside doing things like hiking, camping, and rock climbing.
Her goal with Know Nothing Nomads is to make these hobbies easily accessible through knowledgeable content and how-to’s based on all the stuff she’s learned on her journey. If she isn’t writing an article, she’s probably in a forest looking at big mountain views and tiny pieces of moss on the side of the trail.

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