Gear

REI Camp Dreamer XL Self-Inflating Sleeping Pad Review

by Mac Misseldine

rei camp dreamer xl review

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The REI Camp Dreamer XL is hands-down the best value for a sleeping pad, and a strong contender for our Editor’s Choice award.

REI-brand gear usually wins the best value award in every category it competes in, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the REI Camp Dreamer XL is the best camping mattress for shoppers on a budget.

What is surprising is how well this full-featured sleeping pad competes against premium alternatives that are twice its cost. We’ll leave the final decision up to you, but in our book, this warm and fluffy sleeping pad has everything it takes to nudge out the top competitors from Big Agnes, Exped, NEMO, and more.

What We Dig

Four inches of loft provides ample space between you and the cold hard ground

An R-value of 5.5 offers more than enough insulation for cold weather camping

Spacious dimensions offer plenty of room to stretch out

Self-inflating functionality makes it a breeze to set up

What We Don’t

Not the best choice for backpacking

Doesn’t come with instructions

Bulky size and weight can be a struggle to pack and store

The Specs

Capacity: One person

Insulation: Synthetic

R-Value: 5.5

Pad Thickness: Four inches

Packed Size: 11 x 30 inches

Dimensions: 78 x 32 x 4 inches

Weight: 6 lb. 6 oz.

The Verdict

This is one of the few instances where you can get the best product on the market for the lowest price. Believe me — that’s unbelievably rare with camping gear.

Unless you’re an ultralight backpacker who values weight and size more than comfort and warmth, this is the sleeping pad for you. Whether you’re sleeping in a tent, car, cabin, or the living room floor, the REI Camp Dreamer XL will keep you comfy and cozy all night long.

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About the REI Camp Dreamer XL

As you’ve already read in the spoiler above, the REI Camp Dreamer XL is a clear winner. But before you add it to your shopping cart, let’s run through all of the nuts and bolts to help you make an informed decision.

Ease of Use

The REI Camp Dreamer XL is a self-inflating pad, so there’s no need to manually pump or blow air into the mattress. Instead, you’ll simply pop open the inflation valve and give it a few minutes to automatically draw in air on its own. That means you can multi-task and continue setting up camp while the Camp Dreamer XL inflates, saving you a bunch of time and effort over old school, manual pumping.

Once the mattress is fully inflated, you can top it off with the manual pump to reach your desired comfort level. Simply attach the pump to the inflation valve, open the intake valve on the pump, and then give it a few pumps with your foot. When you’re done, the pump actually doubles as a compact camping pillow, so you’re not wasting any space bringing the pump along for the adventure.

When you’re ready to break camp and head home, open the deflation valve and manually push the air out. The easiest way to do this is to lay on it for a minute until most of the air escapes, then slowly roll it up to squeeze out every last bit of air.

Comfort

The REI Camp Dreamer XL features a polyester surface that’s soft and silent (as in, no annoying crinkling noises every time you move a muscle). It’s also a non-stick surface, so your skin won’t get stuck to the pad like other budget air mattresses.

Insulation

The REI Camp Dreamer XL employs horizontally cored foam, a synthetic insulation that’s lightweight and compressible without sacrificing warmth. It boasts an R-value of 5.5, which is toasty enough to keep you insulated from the cold ground from early spring to late fall. In the warmer southern states, you could even use this bad boy year-round.

Construction

The REI Camp Dreamer XL is constructed with a polyester exterior and horizontally cored foam interior. The seams are welded for maximum durability, so you won’t need to worry about leaking air overnight.

Size

Inflated, the REI Camp Dreamer XL is 6.5 feet tall by nearly three feet wide. The vertical sidewalls maximize the sleeping area, and the four inches of space between you and the ground provides ample cushioning.

When it’s packed up, the REI Camp Dreamer XL is 11 x 30 inches between the mattress, pump/pillow, and compression sack. It’s a little heavier than normal at 6 lb. 6 oz., but that shouldn’t be an issue when you’re able to park right next to the campsite.

This is the only area where the Camp Dreamer XL underperforms the competition, but that should only be a concern for backpackers. If you’re looking for a sleeping pad for your next backpacking trip, we’d recommend trying one of these ultralight sleeping pads instead.

Versatility

The Camp Dreamer XL is pretty big, so you’ll want to compare the dimensions against the available space in your tent or vehicle. It’ll be a tight fit in smaller backpacking tents, and the length may be an issue if you’re car camping, but it should be a piece of cake to fit in family-size tents, SUVs, truck beds, and cabin floors.

Community Reviews

Take a peek at the REI Camp Dreamer XL’s reviews and you’ll quickly see that this is a crowd favorite. Even the critical reviews admit that it’s soft, comfortable, and a better value than everything else they evaluated.

If you don’t have the time to peruse the 25+ reviews to see how it comes away with 4.7 stars, here’s a sampling of the most helpful reviews that we discovered.

The Good

“For those of us who are nervous about an air-only mattress deflating on them while out car camping, this bed is da bomb,” reports user AZRN at REI.com. “It felt SO much more stable than an air-only mattress-bed, but not as stiff as 4 inches of memory-foam alone would. The material is really nice, too. Serious comfort for glamping. Buy it.”

“As a side sleeper, this pad conformed to my body a bit better and allowed me to feel as though I was in my bed at home,” says Drew at REI.com. “The R-Value is lower than Exped Megamat 10, but it should still keep you plenty insulated for most 3-season situations.”

“This mattress is perfect,” reports user Shade Seeker at REI.com. “I recently car-camped through California and Oregon. This mattress kept me warm and supremely comfortable. It has the stability and plushness of a memory foam mattress and is completely silent.”

“This is the most comfortable air mattress ever,” says user Nighttrain at REI.com. “Most air mattresses are lumpy and bumpy, but this feels like a real bed. It has an ingenious air valve and I love that the included pillow doubles as a pump. Unlike many products, it actually fits easily into the included bag. Crazy awesome. Love it!”

“I purchased this pad summer of 2019 for 20 days camping in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada and then in the High Rock Desert in Nevada,” reports user HappyCampingArcheologist at REI.com. “In the ‘rugged’ terrain this product held up with no issues!”

The Bad

“It comes with zero instructions and REI doesn’t have a video so you’re left trying to figure it out [on your own],” reports user HHGHOST at REI.com.

“I really wanted this sleeping pad to work out, but it simply couldn’t hold air,” complains user Renren at REI.com. “The patent-pending valve system seemed to be the issue.”

“Great for sleeping, not so great for storing,” says user smashley at REI.com. “I was able to get it compressed down and back in its bag, but the air still found its way back in, to the point where it looks like it’s going to bust out of the bag. I’ve tried to deflate it twice now and the same thing keeps happening.”

Community Consensus

In a nutshell, the only persistent complaint we saw is that the REI Camp Dreamer XL doesn’t come with any instructions. While that’s certainly an oversight on REI’s part, it’s easily remedied with a quick search for tutorials on YouTube.

The packed size and weight definitely appear to make the REI Camp Dreamer XL challenging to carry and store, and a few users mentioned that it was difficult to get all of the air out after use (making it even harder to store). That doesn’t seem to be a universal issue, but it certainly reiterates our point that this air mattress is best for car camping, cabins, and campsites that don’t require hiking in.

On the rosier side of the fence, the positive reviews all rave about how unbelievably comfortable and warm the REI Camp Dreamer XL is. The happy campers report that it’s a breeze to set up, and they appreciate the ability to manually add a few extra pumps of air to reach their optimal comfort level.

Are you a side sleeper? How about a restless sleeper that twists and turns all night? In either case, the REI Camp Dreamer XL is large enough to keep you from falling off, and plush enough to comfortably sleep sideways.

All things considered, the community consensus is crystal clear: the REI Camp Dreamer XL is indisputably a winner.

Our Recommendation: Buy It

The REI Camp Dreamer XL is warm enough to use from early spring to late fall, tall enough to fit 6’6″ campers, and comfortable enough to rival your mattress at home. It’ll appease side-sleepers and restless sleepers alike, and the self-inflating function makes it a breeze to set up at the campsite.

Best of all, it delivers all of these market-leading features for significantly less than the premium sleeping pads from Big Agnes and Exped.

Feel free to test out the competition to see how you like everything before making your final decision, but if you’re ready to plug in your Visa card number and just need one last recommendation to pull the trigger, here’s your sign. The REI Camp Dreamer is a clear winner, so we absolutely recommend buying it.

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