NEMO Switchback Sleeping Pad Review

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For years, the Therm-a-Rest Z Lite Sol Sleeping Pad has been the industry leader foam pad with very little competition, but the NEMO Switchback Sleeping Pad brings some long overdue updates to the closed-cell foam pad market. The Switchback features improvements to comfort and packability, and we find it to be superior to other foam pads we’ve tried. We like closed-cell foam pads for adding warmth to air pads in sub-freezing weather and for their affordable durability, but we generally don’t find them comfy enough as standalone sleeping pads. That said, if you don't mind sleeping on firm surfaces, a closed-cell foam pad may be all you really need, and the Switchback is an excellent option.

The Switchback is a great for ultralight backpackers on a budget and has earned itself the distinct honor of being the only non-air pad on our list of the 10 Best Backpacking Sleeping Pads of 2019.

QUICK SPECS

  • MSRP (regular size): $49.95

  • Weight (reg.): 14.5 oz.

  • R Value: NEMO doesn’t list R value, but they estimate this pad to be good down to 20-35 F (That said, we wouldn’t recommend it for use under 32°F by itself)

  • Dimensions (L x W x H, reg.): 72 x 20 x .9 in.

  • Packed size (L x W x H, reg.): 20 x 5.5 x 5 in.

  • Other available sizes: short (also, feel free to trim the regular size to fit your length)

PROS

AFFORDABLE - The Switchback is a great option for backpackers looking to go lightweight on a budget. If you don’t mind sleeping on firm surfaces, a closed-cell foam pad may be all you need for mild temperature backpacking trips. We prefer the comfort of air pads for most trips; our favorite budget air pad is the Klymit Static V2 Sleeping Pad.

DURABLE - One of the biggest advantages to closed-cell foam pads is that they’ll never pop or have valve issues in the field. The silver side of the Switchback is coated with a durable film for added protection from rocks, roots, and sticks. The Switchback is engineered with two layers of proprietary foam (one for comfort and one to absorb compression) that allow it to keep its form after being compressed during the night. After many uses, we haven’t seen the same crushing and wrinkling effect on the nodes as we have seen with other foam pads.

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MULTI-USE - The Switchback is very versatile. It can be used as a standalone sleeping pad, a sit pad, a makeshift frame for a frameless backpack, or an extra layer of insulation under an air pad. We like bringing our Switchback on car camping trips to use as a sit pad for uncomfortable or wet picnic table benches. We also love this pad for adding warmth to our air pads on sub-freezing nights. Insulation values on sleeping pads stack, and we have found the Switchback to be very effective at stretching the R-value of our 3-season air pads. Foam pads can also be cut into different sizes and shapes. For example, we like using one we cut into a thinner shape as a pad for hammock camping.

EASY TO USE - It can be a hassle to blow up an air pad after a long day of hiking. Likewise, rolling the air out and stuffing it into its sack in the morning can be a somewhat tedious task. Closed-cell foam pads eliminate this annoyance with their simple folding accordion design. The Switchback takes seconds to unfold and pack up, allowing for more time to be spent enjoying camp.

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CONS

COMFORT - While we do find the Switchback to be slightly more comfy than other closed-cell foam pads, many people probably won’t find this pad to be super cushy on its own. A good night’s sleep is important, especially out in the backcountry where your body uses rest time to repair tired muscles. We certainly prefer the comfort of air pads, but some backpackers sleep soundly on foam pads, so this one comes down to personal preference.

NOT WARM ENOUGH FOR SUB-FREEZING TEMPS - While NEMO estimates this pad to provide insulation down to 20-35 F, we wouldn’t recommend any foam pad by itself for trips where the temperature will dip below freezing (32°F).

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BULKY - A big downside of closed-cell foam pads is that they’re bulky and can be hard to pack, especially on an ultralight backpack. Loop it in to side compression straps and you lose access to side pockets. Strap it in under your top lid, and you have to remove it every time you want to access your main compartment. This isn’t the biggest deal in the world, but it can be an annoyance.

WEIGHT SAVINGS NOT WORTH THE SACRIFICE IN COMFORT - The Switchback is an ultralight pad (14.5 oz.), but there are much more comfy air pads out there that weigh a lot less (though they also cost a lot more!). Two of our favorite air pads, the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite and NeoAir UberLite (see our full review here), weigh considerably less than the Switchback (12 oz. and 8.8 oz.). The Switchback can be cut shorter or into a mummy shape to save weight, but this will void NEMO’s lifetime warranty.

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BOTTOM LINE

With its superior packability and comfort, the Switchback is easily our favorite foam backpacking pad. We recommend the Switchback for minimalist backpackers, thru-hikers, and backpackers on a budget. This pad does an excellent job of adding warmth to an air pad on chilly trips and has brought some really nice updates to the closed-cell foam sleeping pad market. You can rest easy knowing it won’t pop or deflate overnight and its ease of use lets you maximize your relaxation time in camp. You can find the NEMO Switchback, along with some great air pad options, on our list of the 10 Best Backpacking Sleeping Pads.


MORE INFORMATION

A good night’s sleep is really important in the backcountry, and we hope this review helps you get some rest out there. If you like this review, you’ll probably like this other popular CleverHiker content.

 


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