Model: RidgeRest (Small)
This category-blurring pad is plus-size in every direction—it’s five inches wider and four inches longer than standard, and has a whopping three inches of cushion. “The Cosmo is so thick it let me camp in places I couldn’t have with a thinner pad,” said our tester after a night atop clumps of desert scrub in Colorado National Monument. But even though it’s as deluxe as many car-camping mattresses, it weighs well under two pounds—pair it with a light and compressible bag, like the Rab, and you have an ultracomfortable, lightweight system.
Horizontal air baffles enhance performance by evenly distributing pressure points and eliminating the bouncy “pool raft” feel that’s common among air-chamber pads. (Like other air-only models, it’s best for temps above 30°F; campers who regularly see the 20s might want more insulation.) Despite the Cosmo’s plumpness, inflating it is quick—about two minutes with the built-in foot pump.
Bonus: For over-the-top comfort when basecamping, slip on the Cosmo Pillowtop ($70, 2 lbs. 3 oz.), which adds an inch of soft, insulating foam. Bummer: Even without the Pillowtop, the Cosmo is a tad bulky (about 13”x5” when rolled), so be prepared to strap it to the outside of smaller packs. And that extra width could infringe on your partner’s pad space in a compact tent. $90; 1 lb. 12 oz.; 25”x76”x3”; nemoequipment.com
It’s designated a women’s mat, but anyone under 5’8” can carry less with Pacific Outdoor’s Equipment’s Peak Oyl Mtn Women’s Petite. Side-sleeping testers like the self-inflator because zoned cushioning puts more padding under the hips. Eco-bonus: It’s made with 100-percent recycled PET material. $120; 1 lb. 6 oz.; 20”x66”x1.5”; pacoutdoor.com
The original Therm-a-Rest deluxe foam pad is a great minimalist pad for 3-season use that offers years of worry-free comfort. It also offers a solid boost in comfort, warmth and durability for extreme conditions when used in conjunction with another mattress.