sea to the summit
Ah, the great outdoors – the fresh scent of pine trees, majestic mountain views, flowing rivers and meandering dirt roads through lush forests. Endless adventures await around every corner. However, as soon as it gets dark, a restless to and fro at night can really spoil the mood. If you love camping but dread sleeping in camp, the right quality camping mattress can make a world of difference.
What types of camping mattresses are there?
Camping mattresses fall into three categories: foam pads, air-inflating pads, and self-inflating pads. Foam pads are the most basic. These are your classic thin, single layer closed cell foams. Air inflatable pads tend to be the lightest and most packable, but they are also the least durable. Self-inflating mats are the most popular among campers and offer the most comfort and warmth. These have a compressed foam layer inside that automatically expands when the valve is opened.
How to choose your mattress
To choose one, “start with the intended use,” suggests Jeff Moberg, product line manager at Therm-a-Rest. “The most important factors to consider are warmth, weight, comfort and packability.” Are you camping close to your car and have the luxury of making it big? Or are you backpacking and need something small to fit in your backpack? It’s worth noting that warmth is measured in the R-value, an insulation scale that ranges from less than 2 (barely insulated) to 5.5 or more (heavily insulated). The R refers to resistance to heat loss.
“It’s also important to know what shape and size you need,” he adds. “The width and thickness of the mattresses should take into account your sleeping style. A side sleeper may want a thicker and wider pad, especially if they turn on their side throughout the night. This provides more padding and surface area and prevents the camper from pushing into the center of the mattress where the layers of insulation normally live.”
No matter which way you face your sleep, a quality camping mattress will make your nights more restful, your days more energetic and your whole adventure more enjoyable – not to mention safety. So, ditch that outdated, musty smelling mattress and upgrade to one of these. You will not regret it.
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REI Camp Bed Self-Inflating Sleeping Pad
You will hardly find a better value for money car camping mattress. This self-inflating pad features plush 2.5-inch open-cell foam for a cozy place to rest your head. The soft, stretchy polyester face fabric feels comfortable against the skin, making it easy to sleep with a sleeping bag directly on top. The pad is 90 percent self-inflating and only takes a few hits to reach desired firmness. Suitable for the darkest and coldest winter nights, the impressive R-value of 7.6 keeps you insulated from the ground. The pad is available in regular and extra large sizes, but we recommend going up a size. Nobody ever wishes for less sleeping space.
R value: 7.6
Size: 72″ x 25″ (typical); 78″ x 30″ (XL)
pack size: 5.5″ x 26″ (typical); 8.5″ x 30″ (XL)
Best upgrade mattress
Hest sleep system
This two-piece sleep system features a two-layer top pad that includes memory foam with a durable, inflatable, drop-stitch base (used in standup paddleboards) that is waterproof. It’s 7 inches tall and has a whopping R-value of 11.7. Set up and take down is just as easy, if not easier, than most air mattresses. It might be heavy, bulky, and expensive, but there’s a pretty good chance it’s more comfortable than your bed at home. This is hands down the most convenient portable bedding you can buy. Pair it with Hest’s super comfy packable camping pillow ($79) and sleep like royalty in the backcountry.
R value: 11.8
Size: 78″ x 25″
pack size: 16″ x 28″
Best budget mattress
Sea to Summit Camp Plus Self-Inflating Sleeping Pad
The problem with most budget inflatable mattresses is their questionable durability, as a small leak can ruin your camping trip. Luckily, this 3-season self-inflating pad is the perfect blend of value and performance. Sea to Summit’s horizontal delta core process removes more than 40 percent of the foam in delta-shaped cores without sacrificing comfort and quality. Need a little more space? Wide versions of the regular and large mattresses are also available. And rest assured (literally) you won’t wake up with an empty pillow flat on the floor.
R value: 4.3
Size: 72″ x 20″ (Regular); 78″ x 25″ (large)
pack size: 8″ x 10.2″ (typical); 8.5″ x 13″ (large)
Best mattress for sleeping in the car
Luno air mattress 2.0
If you cringe at the thought of pitching a tent but aren’t part of the van lifestyle, Luno could be your new favorite brand. Designed to fit over 1,800 different vehicle models, this 4-inch dual bolster features two independent air mattresses connected by a top layer of fabric. This means that every sleeper can adjust the degree of firmness to their preferred preference. It includes base extensions that fill in the footwells of your rear seat, allowing the main mattress to rest on top for extra length.
R value: N / A
Size: Fits anyone up to 6ft 2in tall depending on your vehicle
pack size: 16.5″ x 29″ (including storage bag)
The most comfortable mattress
Therm-a-Rest MondoKing 3D sleeping pad
Alongside the expensive and bulky Hest Sleep System, the MondoKing will most likely turn any tent into a cozy sleeping den. The brand’s plushest pad comes in two sizes and is suitable for all four seasons. It features Therm-a-Rest’s StrataCore technology, which uses a continuous layer of thermal foam sandwiched between alternating air and foam ribs. Conclusion: No more sleepless camp nights with this thick, cozy mattress.
R value: 7
Size: 77″ x 25″ (large); 80″ x 30″ (XL)
pack size: 10.3″ x 26″ (large); 10.3″ x 31″ (XL)
Best Oversized Mattress
Sea to Summit Comfort Deluxe self-inflating sleeping pad
Go ahead, stretch those limbs out, and know they’ll never hang over the edge. Measuring over 4 feet wide and 6 feet, 7 inches long, this mat is large enough for all but the tallest of basketball players. This oversized version of Sea to Summit’s most comfortable car camping mattress features 4 inches of plush foam wrapped with 30D stretch knit fabric on the top. They say money can’t buy happiness, but you can buy a good night’s sleep with this rather expensive self-inflating mattress.
R value: 6.5
Size: 80″ x 51″
pack size: N / A
Best mattress for short backpacking trips
Therm-a Rest Trail Pro sleeping pad
If shorter weekend backpacking trips mean you need a little more room in your pack, fill that space with this ultra-snuggly self-inflating pad. When folded it weighs less than two pounds and is about the size of a paper towel roll – the perfect blend of size and overnight convenience. The 3″ thick pad with a stretch-knit top and extra-thick, integrated foam is far superior to any ultra-light, air-inflating backpacking pad.
R value: 4.4
Size: 72″ x 25″ x 2.5″ (regular); 72″ x 30″ x 2.5″ (large)
pack size: 5.5″ x 26″ (typical); 8.5″ x 30″ (large)
Best mattress for ultra light backpacking
NeoAir XLite sleeping pad
When pack weight is counted in ounces, not pounds, the Therma-Rest NeoAir XLite sleeping pad is sure to lighten the load. Similar in size to a 32-ounce Nalgene water bottle when boxed, the small and regular pads both come in under a pound. At 2.5 inches, it is one of the thickest and most comfortable ultralight backpacking pads. Patent-pending ThermaCapture™ reflective technology gives this pad an impressive R-value of 4.2, making it suitable for all but arctic conditions.
R value: 4.2
Size: 72″ x 20″ (Regular); 77″ x 25″ (large)
pack size: 9″ x 4.1″ (typical); 11″ x 4.6″ (large)
Best closed cell foam pad
Nemo Switchback sleeping pad
If you prefer a more intimate, ground-level sleeping experience, the Nemo Switchback sleeping pad is for you. This single-layer, closed-cell foam option is just under an inch thick and features heat-reflective sheeting for an R-value of 2. It might not be as comfortable as its air-filled counterparts — and yes, it defies what this guide’s title says — but for die-hard old-school monolayer foams, it’s one of the best.
R value: 2
Size: 72″ x 20″
pack size: 20″x5.5″x5″
Best mattress for couples
REI Kingdom Insulated Airbed – Queen
For those who love snuggling up with their partner, this bed is the ticket. The 6 inch thick mattress comes with a manual air pump with a simple 1-way inflation valve to prevent air from escaping during setup and a soft surface to sleep on. For such a large bed, it folds down fairly well to the size of a packed 2 or 3 person tent. Caveat: Although labeled as a queen, it is 4 inches narrower in width and 1 inch narrower than a true queen-size mattress.
R value: 2.6
Size: 79″ x 56″
pack size: 10″ x 20″
Best mattress for kids
REI children’s camp sleeping pad – children
Instead of spending the money on an adult-sized mattress, make sure your kids get the same quality mattress as you. REI’s child-specific mattress has the same construction and quality as the adult mattress, only smaller. At 1.5 inches thick and 1.50m long, it’s still big enough for kids, tweens and some teens.
R value: 4.5
Size: 60″ x 20″
pack size: 5″ x 12″
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