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Ground Game: 8 Best Camping Mattresses & Sleeping Pads

by Carissa Stanz

best camping mattresses
Photo: Exped Expedition Equipment

Pampering isn’t the first word that comes to mind when sleeping outdoors. That is, until you invest in a camping mattress.

As a creature of comfort, you might find it hard to trade in your pillowtop mattress at home for a night on the hard, uneven ground. But just because you’re camping doesn’t mean you have to ditch all the comforts of home.

Across the board, outdoor gear manufacturers have heard our pleas and are now pumping out some insanely comfortable camping mattresses. So you can say good riddance to the unpleasant ground feel and hello to quality rest even when you’re nestled inside your tent.

While the best camping mattresses may not come cheap, it’s well worth the expense to get in some quality zzz’s.

Before You Buy

Before you jump into bed, there are a couple things to consider when shopping for the best camping mattresses. Here’s a quick rundown of the most important features.

Mattress Types

When choosing a camping mattress, you’ll encounter three mattress types: foam pads, self-inflating mats, and air mats. Here’s what you need to know about each:

Foam Pads

Foam pads are typically made with closed-cell foam. The beauty here is these pads require no inflation and are super lightweight, durable, packable, and inexpensive. This makes them an excellent choice for backpacking.

The major downside to foam pads is they’re the least comfortable option. For this reason, and the fact you can afford more luxuries when car camping, we didn’t include any on our list.

However, if you would like to consider a foam pad for backpacking, check out the Nemo Switchback and the Therm-a-Rest Z Lite Sol.

Self-Inflating Mats

Utilizing a combination of open-cell foam and air, self-inflating pads include a valve that puffs them up upon opening. From there, you can typically blow in a few additional breaths to maximize the firmness.

These mats tend to be the most comfortable and insulated, but with comfort comes a heavier weight and bulkier size.

Air Mattresses

Precisely like it sounds, air mattresses are filled with air. This means they require some sort of hand pump, battery-operated pump, or manual human breath for inflation. This puts them at the greatest risk for popping and means they’re not well insulated.

What you get with an air mattress that you don’t with the other options is they’re fully compressible and can be packed down tight when transporting. They also can have their own advantages when it comes to comfort due to their size and thickness.

The behemoth airbeds can reach the same size as your bed at home, meaning you can fully sprawl out. They also elevate you higher above the ground so you stoop down less when climbing in and out of bed.

R-Value

Summer or winter, the ground temperature can cause you to lose more body heat than you might realize. For this reason, you’ll want to pay special attention to the R-value of a camping mattress.

R-value refers to how well your camping mattress is insulated on a scale of 1 to 11. An R-value of 3 to 4 will typically be all you need for summer camping. However, the higher the number, the better the insulation. If you run cold, you may want to invest in a higher R-value mattress.

Editor’s Choice: Therm-a-Rest MondoKing 3D

Therm-a-Rest introduced the first self-inflating sleeping pad in 1971. Since then, outdoor companies have utilized this innovative technology to make the world of camping a more comfortable one.

With the self-inflating Therm-a-Rest MondoKing 3D, you’ll be sleeping in pure luxury.

The Therm-a-Rest MondoKing 3D tips the scale of comfort and warmth. The compressible open-cell foam core offers supreme cushion, while the surface of the mat is soft to the touch. At four-inches thick, the Therm-a-Rest MondoKing 3D has plenty of loft to lift you above the cold hard ground.

While we love the thickness, what the Therm-a-Rest MondoKing 3D really has going for it is beyond-exceptional insulation. The Therm-a-Rest MondoKing 3D maxes out at an R-value of 11.4 that blows the competition out of the water.

The one drawback to the Therm-a-Rest MondoKing 3D is this mattress runs on the narrow side. With sleep this cozy, though, it’s worth it.

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Runner Up: Alps Mountaineering Outback

If you like what the Therm-a-Rest MondoKing 3D has to offer but want more space, take a look at the Alps Mountaineering Outback. For a one-person mattress, this thing is a beast.

At 27″ x 78″ x 4″, the Alps Mountaineering Outback offers a whole two-inches more mattress space both on the width and length, and the XL size offers even heftier dimensions.

The thick vertically-cored foam is designed to be easily rolled-up when packing while also offering you extreme comfort when getting in those zzz’s. This self-inflating mattress also has an impressive R-value of 9 so insulation won’t be an issue.

With 30D elastic fabric on the top and 150D elastic fabric on the bottom, the Alps Mountaineering Outback is both soft where you want it and durable where you need it.

Keep in mind, the Alps Mountaineering Outback is heavier and more bulkier than the Therm-a-Rest MondoKing 3D. Granted you’re going a short distance from the car to camp, this likely won’t be an issue.

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Best Value: Lightspeed Outdoors Two-Person

The Lightspeed Outdoors Two-Person air mattress is a viable option for campers on a budget. This inflatable airbed can comfortably sleep two at a fraction of the cost of most of the top products that we’ve discussed.

Much like a traditional blow-up bed, the Lightspeed Outdoors Two-Person inflates easily by attaching a battery-operated pump to a free-flowing valve.

However, unlike many air mattress, the Lightspeed Outdoors Two-Person ditches the PVC for TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane). This means the camping mattress is more durable, stabilizes temperature better, and poses less of a health risk than PVC.

Once inflated, the Lightspeed Outdoors Two-Person tent reaches a thickness of 6.5 inches. While this is thicker than many of the other mattress on this list, you should keep in mind it’s all air. Air mattress tend to run colder, so the Lightspeed Outdoors Two-Person is best for warmer weather.

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Best For Tall Campers: REI Co-op Camp Dreamer XL

If you wince at the thought of trading in your soft, plush mattress for a night on the ground, you’ll want to take a look at the REI Co-op Camp Dreamer XL.

At precisely four-inches thick, the REI Co-op Camp Dreamer XL has plenty of cushion to eliminate ground feel. Meaning you won’t be squirming around all night to avoid those rocks and roots poking you in the back.

With an R-value of 5.5, the REI Co-op Camp Dreamer XL will provide you with a wealth of insulation on cold starry nights. You’ll also have plenty of legroom. This mattress stretches out to 78 inches in length, so even taller folks will enjoy ample coverage.

By utilizing a mix of air and lightweight foam you can fine-tune the firmness factor to your liking. Use the pump to quickly top-off the mattress via the hi-flow TPR valve, then tuck the pump under your head to use as a pillow (really — it has enough padding to double as a camping pillow).

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Best For Couples: Exped MegaMat Duo 10

Swiss brand Exped has been in the business of designing expedition gear for over 20 years. While they have many award-winning products in their line-up, it’s their Exped MegaMat Duo 10 that has our full attention.

Sleeping in a tent can be problematic for couples for various reasons. Throw the Exped MegaMat Duo 10 into the equation and you’ll find sleep is not one of them.

With a width of over four feet, the Exped MegaMat Duo 10 is sized to take up the entirety of a two-person tent so you can maximize sleeping area. If your partner happens to be tossing and turning, the 3D construction of the nearly four-inch-thick pad will absorb their movement, letting you rest peacefully.

Packed with comfortable polyurethane foam, the Exped MegaMat Duo 10 has an R-value of 9.5 which is pretty darn toasty. If you’re tired of freezing your butt off in cheap, cold air filled mattress, that right there may be enough reason to invest in the MegaMat Duo 10.

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Best Complete Package: REI Co-op Kingdom Insulated Sleep System

Find sleeping bags restrictive? Feast your eyes on the lavish REI Co-op Kingdom Insulated Sleep System. Bringing the comforts of home to the campsite, the REI Co-op Kingdom Insulated Sleep system comes with the whole package.

This camping mattress is fully stocked with a quilted mattress cover, top sheet, and an insulated top quilt. Meanwhile, the lofty air bed features an R-value of 3.6. This means you should keep warm as long as temperatures don’t dip below 40°F.

Inflated via hand-pump, the REI Co-Op Kingdom Insulated Sleep System blows up to the size of a queen bed. Share it with your partner or bask in the comforts alone in full starfish mode.

If you’re looking to mimic your bed at home, this sleeping system will deliver it in one complete package.

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Best Minimalist Mattress: Klymit Static V Luxe

If you’re the type that likes to pack light, take a look at the Klymit Static V Luxe. Weighing less than two pounds with a 4.5” x 8” pack size, the Klymit Static V Luxe packs down light and takes up virtually no space at all. That is, until you inflate this puppy.

Breathe in about a dozen full breaths and this air mattress will stretch on out to 76” x 30” — which is rather remarkable given its packability. With dimensions like this, the Klymit Static V Luxe is compact enough to take on a backpacking trip and not think twice about it.

However minimal this camping mattress may be, the Klymit Static V Luxe doesn’t skimp on comfort. These unique v-shaped air chambers balance out your body weight while offering ample cushion and limiting heat loss at the same time. Klymit also incorporated side rails to prevent you from slipping off the mat in your sleep.

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Best For Truck Camping: Nemo Roamer

Getting comfy cozy can be an issue when you’re sleeping in your rig, but not with the Nemo Roamer.

The self-inflating Nemo Roamer features plush and cushy open-cell foam with traditional mattress-like comfort. With the help of the micro-adjust valve you can dial in the firmness level without losing air.

The bottom of this camping mattress is outfitted with 75-denier polyester so you can take it from adventure vehicle to tent without worrying about durability. Nemo also incorporated side toggles on the Roamer so you can hook it up to another mattress should you find yourself in the presence of company.

Toss this mattress in the back of your rig and settle in. Supportive and insulated, the Nemo Roamer will have you sleeping like a baby even when temperatures plummet.

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For getting a good night’s rest on your camping trips, take a look at the 7 Best Camping Cots, 12 Best Double Sleeping Bags, and A Guide to Comparing 3-Season VS 4-Season Tents.

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