Well-versed campers are comfort experts, and one item they don’t compromise on is a sleeping mattress. Unlike backpacking where weight and packed size are limitations, car camping mats put a premium on plush cushioning and support with thick foam and soft-touch materials.
Below are the best camping mattresses and pads of 2020, ranging from versatile self-inflating mats and air pads to luxurious airbeds and cots. For background information, see our comparison table and buying advice. And to complete your camping kit, we’ve also tested and written about camping tents and sleeping bags.
1. Alps Mountaineering Apex Series – Best Budget Camping Mattress
Type: Self-inflating mat
Dimensions: 72 x 20 x 3 in. (Regular)
Weight: 4 lbs. 14 oz.
What we like: Great value and decent comfort.
What we don’t: Value-oriented “regular” size is only 20 inches wide.
It’s tough to find a decent self-inflating sleeping pad for under $75, but the Alps Mountaineering Apex Series accomplishes just that. Blending foam, air, and a tough polyester shell, the Apex provides good warmth and sufficient comfort for camping.
A unique feature at this price point is the suede upper fabric, which is a big step up from the plasticky materials we’re used to seeing on a budget model (including Coleman’s Self-Inflating below). Not only is it enjoyable to lay on directly, but the grippy material helps keep you from sliding off the Apex during the night.
For the price, the Alps’ self-inflating technology works well and the pad is durable enough to last for many seasons. Unfortunately, it’s a bit narrow at 20 inches wide for the regular size stepping up to the “long” gets you 25 inches of width but a slight jump in price to $80.
And despite being a little thinner, we give the overall advantage in comfort to the higher-quality REI Camp Bed below. But for the occasional camper, budget seeker, and/or back sleeper, this is all you’ll likely need for a good night’s sleep under the stars.
2. SoundAsleep Camping Series – Best Camping Air Bed
Dimensions: 78 x 60 x 9 in. (Queen)
Weight: 14 lbs.
What we like: Airbed convenience along with a durable build.
What we don’t: Takes up a lot of space in your tent.
Most of the mattresses on this list are designed for a single camper, but springing for a full-on airbed is great for couples, families, or those who just like the extra space. Our favorite outdoor-ready design is from SoundAsleep: their Camping Series airbed has proven to be durable, easy to inflate with a rechargeable pump, and impressively comfortable and supportive for the price.
The fabric is strong enough to stand up to rough use, and the 9-inch height of the Camping Series is great for getting you off the ground without interfering with most camping tent walls. Additionally, it’s a solid value at under $100 for the queen version.
What are the downsides of the SoundAsleep Camping Series? For one, we think overall comfort falls a little short of a pad with built-in foam like the Camp Dreamer XL above (adding a foam mattress topper can help resolve this).
And if you do happen to get a puncture, it can be a real pain trying to locate and fix a leak. The Camping Series is offered in both a twin or queen size we suggest springing for queen if you have the space as it’s only $10 more.
3. Nemo Cosmo 3D Insulated – Best Light and Packable Air Mat
Type: Air mat
Dimensions: 76 x 25 x 3.5 in. (LW)
Weight: 2 lbs. 10 oz.
What we like: Nice touches like a built-in pump and pillow; packs down reasonably small.
What we don’t: Step down in durability and comfort compared with self-inflating options.
Nemo’s Cosmo 3D Insulated is a pure air mat there’s no foam to be found in its construction. And while it can’t quite match their comfort despite a new curved baffle shape for last summer the Cosmo wins out in weight and packed size.
Camping gear can get rather bulky and out of hand quickly, and those limited on space in their vehicle or gear closet will appreciate the compressibility. In addition, we really like the Nemo’s built-in foot pump, which makes the cavernous, 3.5-inch thick design surprisingly easy to inflate.
Another unique feature of the Cosmo 3D is that the head end of the pad is raised, creating a pillow (a helpful feature if you forget yours at home). Opting for the insulated version gets you PrimaLoft synthetic fill bonded to the interior, which gives the Nemo mat a 3-season-friendly R-value of 3.3. And a final bonus: with its fairly reasonable weight and packed size, the Cosmo 3D does the trick as a luxury backpacking sleeping pad.
4. REI Co-op Camp Bed – Best of the Rest
Type: Self-inflating mat
Dimensions: 72 x 25 x 2.5 in. (Regular)
Weight: 3 lbs. 10 oz.
What we like: Good all-around value.
What we don’t: A step down in comfort from the Camp Dreamer XL.
A favorite camping mattress of ours for a number of years, the Camp Bed from REI wins you over with heaps of foam and a great price. While it’s a step down from the truly luxurious Camp Dreamer XL above, with 2.5 inches of thick padding and a high-efficiency valve that expedites the self-inflating and deflating processes, it’s no slouch.
Soft-touch, stretchy fabric both holds you well and is comfortable enough to lie on directly if you’re camping in a hot environment. And an R-value of 7.6 makes the Camp Bed warm enough for cold-weather use.
REI updated the Camp Bed last year, and we’re sad to see the old 3.5-inch model is no longer available. That said, the mat still is a value leader at $100 for the regular size (stepping up to the 78 x 25 in. XL brings the price up to $119), and all but the most discerning car campers will find it pretty comfortable.
REI offers another budget-friendly design in their Trailbreak self-inflating pad, which has a lower R-value of 5.1, is thinner at 1.75 inches, and costs $70 for the regular size. As a final alternative and for a moderate boost in cushioning, Sea to Summit’s Comfort Plus SI below is 3 inches thick, albeit for $60 more and with a smaller sleeping platform.
Type: Self-inflating mat
Dimensions: 77 x 25 x 4.25 in. (L)
Weight: 4 lbs. 6 oz.
What we like: Pure camping luxury.
What we don’t: The REI Camp Dreamer XL above is a better value.
The formula isn’t revolutionary a self-inflating mat with a soft foam core but the result is camping luxury. Most notably, the MondoKing 3D is a substantial 4.25 inches thick, and the vertical sidewalls allow you to enjoy every part of the cushy 77- by 25-inch platform.
The foam is plush and supportive, and the strong fabrics are soft to the touch and highly tear resistant. Therm-a-Rest tweaked the MondoKing for 2020, including new valves with dedicated inflate/deflate functions to shorten set up and take down, along with an offsetting foam design that trimmed about a pound of weight and makes it easier to compress and pack.
Until recently, the MondoKing was our top-rated camping mattress but dropped a few spots with this latest update. The reason: a $30 jump in price, making it noticeably more expensive than the $179 REI Camp Dreamer above.
In comparing the two, the Therm-a-Rest is a tad thicker and insulates slightly better, but even the 30-inch XXL version of the MondoKing can’t match the REI’s 32-inch platform. As a result, the similarly plush Camp Dreamer XL has overtaken it on our list, but we have little to complain about with the MondoKing from a comfort or build quality perspective.
6. REI Kingdom Insulated Sleep System 40
Dimensions: 79 x 56 x 6 in.
Weight: 15 lbs. 9 oz.
What we like: A true home-in-the-woods experience.
What we don’t: Very expensive; slow hand pump.
If the Exped MegaMat Max 15 Duo above is like bringing your pillow top mattress on the road, the Kingdom Insulated Sleep System is like throwing in the box spring and bedding. A truly unique set-up, the Kingdom System starts as a quality 6-inch-tall queen-sized airbed and tacks on a mattress pad, top sheet, and insulated quilt. The R-value of 3.6 translates to insulating you down to roughly 40 degrees, but it can go a bit lower if you layer up or bring along a separate sleeping bag.
The biggest drawback of the system is its price, and we’re not convinced the whole set-up justifies the $299 sticker. On the other hand, everything is nicely integrated and fits well.
Our only other complaint is that the airbed includes a manual hand pump, which takes a good amount of effort to get fully inflated. It’s definitely not for everyone, but the Kingdom Insulated Sleep System is a great execution of a novel idea, and one of the top airbeds of 2020.
Type: Air mat
Dimensions: 76 x 30 x 3 in.
Weight: 1 lb. 11.2 oz.
What we like: Fantastic value for a lightweight and comfy pad.
What we don’t: Minimal insulation.
Klymit broke into the sleeping pad scene with their wild looking Inertia pads that appealed to minimalist trekkers, but, more impressively, they really hit a cord with the mainstream camper and backpacker with the Static V series.
These are pure air mats, with no foam in the construction. A benefit is a much smaller packed size, but it does lose some of the inherent structure and support when inflated. Klymit addresses this with a wide build with the “Luxe” model and side rails that keep you securely in place. The V-shaped air channels are quite comfortable, but we still give the edge to the foam options above.
What really pushes the Static V Luxe up our list is the price. At $100 for the Luxe model, it’s longer, wider, and a lot cheaper than Nemo’s Cosmo above, and it even undercuts the Kelty Tru.Comfort below. If you don’t need much insulation from the ground, it’s a fantastic deal. For the same design but with a higher R-value, check out the Insulated Static V Luxe.
8. Exped DeepSleep Mat 7.5
Type: Self-inflating mat
Dimensions: 72 x 25.6 x 3 in.
Weight: 4 lbs. 8.3 oz.
What we like: Fantastic comfort and warmth in a relatively small package.
What we don’t: Shorter, narrower, and thinner than the REI Camp Dreamer XL above.
Exped is a leader in the camping mat market, and their new-for-2020 DeepSleep line hits a nice balance of warmth, packability, and price. Like the REI Camp Dreamer, Exped’s own MegaMat, and Therm-a-Rest MondoKing above, the DeepSleep features a thick foam build (measuring 3 in.), self-inflating design with dedicated valves for inflating and deflating, and a stretchy and plush polyester fabric covering the top.
Plus, you get a large and flat surface for sleeping and vertical sidewalls that maximize space. And a final bonus is value: the DeepSleep comes in at a reasonable $169, which undercuts the aforementioned Camp Dreamer by $10.
Where the DeepSleep stands out from the competition is its combination of warmth and packability. Stacked up against the similarly priced Camp Dreamer above, the Exped compresses much smaller (26.5 x 8 in. for the DeepSleep vs. 30 x 11 in. for the REI).
This can make a significant difference for hauling in the back of a vehicle, especially for families and groups needing to bring along multiple mats and other bulky gear (tent, stove, chairs, cooler, etc.).
We have the REI ranked higher because of its proven track record and more generous dimensions (it’s longer, wider, and thicker), but the Exped is a great alternative for less. And for couples or those who prefer a double-wide model, the DeepSleep is also available in a Duo version for $279.
Type: Self-inflating mat
Dimensions: 72 x 25 x 1.5 in.
Weight: 2 lbs. 13 oz.
What we like: Affordable and proven self-inflating design.
What we don’t: Too thin for side sleepers.
REI’s Groundbreaker collection targets the entry-level end of the market and includes everything from rain and fleece jackets to a tent and sleeping bag. One of the newer products in the line is the Groundbreaker Pad, which checks in at a very reasonable $60.
In terms of design, you get a simple and relatively thin 1.5-inch self-inflating build, durable fabrics along the top and bottom, and camping-friendly width of 25 inches. The pad is unquestionably basic, but it’ll get the job done for those who sleep on their back and aren’t too finicky about comfort.
The biggest red flag with the Groundbreaker is its 1.5-inch thickness. Simply put, it lacks the cushioning to be a suitable option for side sleepers or those who value plush and supportive padding. For the same price, we prefer the Alps Mountaineering Apex above, which is double the thickness at 3 inches. That said, the Groundbreaker gets the advantage in width, so the decision between the two should come down to your priorities.
10. Sea to Summit Comfort Plus SI
Type: Self-inflating mat
Dimensions: 78 x 25 x 3 in. (L)
Weight: 2 lbs. 8 oz.
What we like: A comfortable and versatile pad at a good price.
What we don’t: Caught in between camping and backpacking categories
A few years ago, Sea to Summit shook up the backpacking market with their innovative pad designs, and they recently expanded into the camping world. For 2020, we like the Comfort Plus SI, which foregoes the air-sprung construction of the old Comfort Deluxe for a more practical camping-oriented design.
With a 25-inch width and 3 inches of cushion, this mat is narrower and less plush than the REI Camp Dreamer above, but offers ample space and comfort for many people. And at $160, we appreciate the cost savings compared to pricier options from Exped, Therm-a-Rest, and others.
Who should buy the Sea to Summit Comfort Plus SI? It’s a nice option for non-side-sleepers who don’t need the cushiness of a 4-inch mat. It’s also reasonably light at 2.5 pounds and packs down pretty small for a camping model (but the “Long” size here is still too bulky for backpacking).
You do get a bump in thickness compared to the REI Camp Bed above, which offers 2.5 inches of separation from the ground, although that mattress’s rectangular shape is roomier and it costs significantly less $100.
Dimensions: 78 x 60 x 18 in. (Queen)
Weight: 14 lbs. 13 oz.
What we like: Budget-priced airbed.
What we don’t: No pump included; a little less comfortable.
Coleman’s SupportRest Double High is our top value-oriented airbed. Most importantly, in this case opting for a relatively inexpensive design doesn’t make for serious compromises in durability. While no airbed has a perfect track record, the SupportRest has a lot of leak-free nights to its name.
The top fabric of the bed is soft and will hold sheets in place, and the Double High compresses down to a reasonable size for storage or transport. Of note: the SupportRest doesn’t include a pump for inflation or deflation we recommend Coleman’s 4 D Battery Quick Pump for camping use, which adds about $15 to the price.
One of the Coleman’s primary competitors is the SoundAsleep airbed above. The Coleman is the clear favorite for those on a budget even adding the pump undercuts the SoundAsleep in price for either the twin or queen size. And if you prefer the tall, double-high style, the Coleman is more convenient.
But we rank the SoundAsleep above the Coleman for its more supportive design that isn’t as prone to sagging, sturdier construction in general, and practical height that fits better in most camping tents. But if your airbed mostly will be used at home and only taken camping on occasion, the Coleman SupportRest is a proven option.
12. Kelty Tru.Comfort
Type: Air mat
Dimensions: 80 x 30 x 4.75 in.
Weight: 4 lbs. 10 oz.
What we like: A well-rounded design at a reasonable price.
What we don’t: The Nemo Cosmo 3D above is lighter and more packable.
Like REI, Kelty has a major leg up on the competition in value, and their Tru.Comfort is case in point. This air mat has all the features we look for in a quality sleeping pad: a thick (4.75 in.) build that nicely isolates you from the ground, a comfortable sleeping surface with horizontal baffles and vertical sidewalls, good 3-season warmth with 140-gram synthetic insulation (Kelty doesn’t provide an R-value), and a durable 75-denier polyester shell.
What’s more, inflation and deflation are a cinch with Kelty’s Vortex system, which is essentially a large bag that pushes air into the pad. Simply attach the bag to the valve, open it up, roll the top a couple times to seal it closed, and use your weight to press down the whole process takes only a couple minutes.
Why do we have the Kelty Tru.Comfort ranked here? Simply put, this pad is a jack of all trades but master of none. The aforementioned Cosmo 3D weighs a considerable 2 pounds less and packs down smaller. We also prefer the Nemo’s built-in foot pump (it’s slightly easier to use than the Kelty’s inflation system), and the Cosmo comes with an integrated pillow.
But the Tru.Comfort undercuts the Nemo by $40, adds over an inch of thickness, and doesn’t sacrifice much in the way of performance. If you’re looking for a well-rounded build at a reasonable price, the Kelty is a good option to have on your radar.
13. Exped DownMat XP 9
Type: Air mat
Dimensions: 77 x 25 x 3.5 in. (LW)
Weight: 2 lbs. 9.3 oz.
What we like: Extremely warm but still packs down small.
What we don’t: Overkill for most 3-season camping trips.
Exped’s DownMat XP 9 fills a unique niche with its winter-ready air pad construction. The DownMat is packable and highly insulated (Exped rates it at -36°F) thanks to the 700-fill goose down that is bonded to the interior. And it’s also been built to withstand the rigors of cold-weather use with a tough 75-denier polyester shell that’s reinforced with a TPU laminate.
For situations where warmth and packed size are priorities such as setting up base camp on a mountaineering or ski touring trip the DownMat is hard to beat.
Despite a long track record and plenty of happy customers (us included), the DownMat ends up near the bottom of our list because of its narrow appeal.
We leave it behind on 3-season camping adventures, and at 2 pounds 9.3 ounces, it’s not the lightest option available for mixing in the occasional backpacking trip. Exped does make a lighter version of the DownMat, the HL Winter, but that pad seriously compromises in durability with a 20-denier shell.
Type: Self-inflating mat
Dimensions: 77 x 25 x 2 (L)
Weight: 3 lbs. 6 oz.
What we like: Therm-a-Rest quality for $100.
What we don’t: You can get similar comfort for cheaper.
The BaseCamp from Therm-a-Rest is a solid mid-range camping mat. Most appealing is the price: for $100 in the large size, you get Therm-a-Rest build quality and proven, self-inflating technology. The design was lightly updated for 2020 with a new valve for faster inflation/deflation and a small bump in R-value to a winter-ready 6.
Overall, its 2-inch thickness can’t compete with a truly luxurious option like Therm-a-Rest’s own MondoKing or the Exped MegaMat above, but the BaseCamp’s durable, soft lining and easy-to-use twist valve get the job done for most camping adventures.
Within the Therm-a-Rest lineup, the BaseCamp is a decent value, but we think there are better options on the market. The Alps Mountaineering Apex Series above has a thicker, 3-inch self-inflating construction in the regular size and feels nearly as comfortable for about two-thirds the price.
Therm-a-Rest usually separates itself from the pack in fit and finish, but we’ve generally been impressed with the Alps Mountaineering mat, which is why it’s overtaken the BaseCamp on our list.
Type: Self-inflating mat
Dimensions: 76 x 26 x 2.5 in.
Weight: 4 lbs. 8 oz.
What we like: Cheap, decently comfortable, and durable.
What we don’t: Slippery top fabric, less comfortable than the pads above.
For casual campers that sleep outside once or twice a summer, the Coleman Camp Pad is a durable and very affordable option. At $37, you get self-inflating construction, foam padding, and even a built-in pillow.
We didn’t find the pillow very comfortable, but it is nice to have in case you leave yours at home. The 76- by 26-inch sleeping space equals that of the long-size pads above and is plenty roomy for spreading out.
Overall comfort is where the Coleman falls short of even the budget-oriented Alps Mountaineering above. In particular, the Camp Pad shell’s plasticky finish makes it slippery and prone to trapping sweat on hot summer nights.
As a result, we’d lean toward spending up for the Alps Mountaineering Apex in most cases, but the Coleman is the clear cost leader and still far plusher than your old 0.5-inch foam pad.
16. Therm-a-Rest RidgeRest SOLite
Type: Foam pad
Dimensions: 72 x 20 x 0.62 in. (Regular)
Weight: 14 oz
What we like: Cheap, lightweight, and it can’t deflate on you.
What we don’t: It’s the least comfortable option on our list.
Therm-a-Rest’s RidgeRest SOLite is a classic choice for a first backpacking or camping pad. It was (and still is) cheap, reliable, and as simple to set up as laying it on the ground. Unfortunately, the RidgeRest also is kind of bulky and rather uncomfortable.
This foam pad is just over a half-inch thick 0.62 inches to be exact which makes it incapable of disguising a rock, stick, or even large bumps on the ground that you may find yourself sleeping on top of. As such, the RidgeRest’s biggest upsides are simplicity and inability to deflate it’s a foolproof way to keep yourself protected from the cold ground on a camping trip.
If you’re like most campers, we suggest opting for one of the air mats above rather than the RidgeRest. It’s true that it’s hard to beat the value of this pad, but even spending up for the Coleman Camp Pad above which is often on sale for less than $40 will be worth the investment from a comfort perspective. But if you’re looking for something super simple and something that a dog or child can’t put a hole in the RidgeRest remains a viable option.
Camping Mattress Buying Advice
Therm-a-Rest released the first self-inflating mattress in the early 1970s, and the same basic design has soldiered on for years. The interior of these mattresses is filled with an open-cell foam that expands and fills with air when you open the valve
. In comparison to pure air mattresses, a self-inflating mat has a cushier feel thanks to the foam, although it doesn’t compress as small and is heavier.
For camping when comfort is more important than weight and packed size, self-inflating mattresses are our favorites. It’s no coincidence the plush REI Co-op Camp Dreamer XL tops our list.
As the name implies, an air mattress is filled almost entirely with air. Inflating these mats requires you to either blow air through a valve or use a pump. What you gain is weight savings: at a given thickness, an air mat might weigh half or even less than a comparable self-inflating mattress.
Moreover, air mattresses are the most compressible pad option. Even insulated models with synthetic or down-fill bonded to the interior can be rolled into a compact size, which makes storage and transport very easy.
This is great for backpacking, but overall comfort does fall short compared with a self-inflating pad. Air mats lack the squishy and supportive feel that you get with foam.
Your classic sleeping mat is made of closed-cell foam. These pads don’t require any inflating to set up just unroll it and you’re done. The big upside is there’s no risk of getting a puncture, but the closed-cell foam is by far and away from the least comfortable mattress type. They are very thin (less than 1 inch vs. 2 inches or more for a self-inflating or air mat) so they can’t disguise bumps in the ground beneath you.
But if you’re the type that can comfortably crash on a friend’s floor and we mean directly on the floor save yourself some coin and get the Therm-a-Rest RidgeRest.
This pad will set you back $30 and offer all the comfort your steel body requires. If you’re like the rest of us, one of the other pads from our list above will suit you much better.
Sleeping Mats vs. Airbeds
With plenty of sleeping space in your camping tent, you may have the luxury to decide between a traditional sleeping mattress or a full-on blow-up airbed. So which one should you choose?
The main benefit of an airbed is it gets you further off the ground for easier in and out (a cot can do the same). Further, the large size is great for couples, families, or if you just like to spread out.
And if you’re trying to save some dough, airbeds are friendlier for use at home for guests, especially if you choose a two-person queen-sized airbed. In terms of comfort, however, we give the standard sleeping mat the upside, particularly those that have foam in the construction.
One exception is the all-in-one REI Kingdom Sleep System. The combination of an airbed, mattress pad, and quilt is pretty hard to beat.
Mattress Comfort and Thickness
In the same way, buying your mattress at home is a personal decision, not everyone will agree on which camping mattress type is best. The good news is that most quality mattresses are quite comfortable.
We give the edge to self-inflating pads for the cushy but supportive foam that makes them a little more comfortable to us, but back sleepers, side sleepers, and even stomach sleepers should be happy with most of the models that made out a list.
For some general guidelines regarding pad thickness, side sleeping puts a higher percentage of weight around the hips and shoulders, so a pad or airbed that’s 3 inches thick or more is advisable.
Back sleepers depending on personal preferences can get away with a thinner pad like the 2-inch thick Therm-a-Rest BaseCamp. And if you’re a finicky sleeper, it’s not a bad idea to upgrade to a premium pad like the 4.25-inch thick Therm-a-Rest MondoKing. Tolerant sleepers can indeed deal with less, but if you camp out a lot, it’s often worth the investment.
Sizing: Width and Length
In the spirit of comfort, camping pads and mattresses have a much larger footprint than their backpacking cousins. Some are offered in the smaller 72-inch length, but many starts at approximately 77 inches, and extend to 80 to 85 inches (the XXL version of the Therm-a-Rest MondoKing 3D is 80 x 30 inches).
The longer length is great for taller folks, but just about everyone can appreciate the extra width. 20-inch pads are standard fare for backpacking and usually mean at least one arm is sliding off the pad during the night.
The 25 or 30-inch widths you get with a camping pad (extending as wide as 60-inches for a queen-size airbed) are a welcome relief and can make a real difference in nighttime comfort. Active sleepers that roll around in their sleeping bag will also appreciate the additional space.
Mattress Insulation: R-Value
A camping mattress’ ability to insulate you from the cold ground is measured in R-value, and a higher number indicates better protection. Not all manufacturers provide the spec, but it’s a helpful tool when available. In the heat of summer, you can get away with almost no insulation in most cases.
For 3-season use, we recommend getting a pad with at least an R-value of 3. If you’ll be out in the winter, potentially sleeping on top of the snow, get a mattress with a rating above 5. And for these conditions, it’s often a good idea to combine your inflatable mattress with a foam pad, not only for a boost in insulation but also a level of security should your inflatable pad spring a leak.
Weight and Packed Size
Camping is typically a drive up and unloads kind of activity, so the weight and packed size of your gear isn’t always the number one consideration. And in choosing your camping gear, it’s almost always worth taking the more comfortable and durable route rather than the lightest or most compressible.
That said, if you don’t have a whole lot of extra space in your rig (or home for long-term storage), it’s worth checking the specs before buying a massive camp bed. For example, the Coleman ComfortSmart Cot measures an immense 40 x 30 x 5.5 inches and weighs nearly 20 pounds.
Just a couple of those will fill up a car on their own. On the other extreme is a backpacking-ready design like the Therm-a-Rest RidgeRest SOLite, which measures 20 x 8 inches and clocks in at a scant 14 ounces. The sweet spot for comfort, durability, and practicality is somewhere in between for most campers
With weight out of the equation, most camping mattresses are very durable. Their thick fabrics are far less likely to get a puncture or spring a leak than a backpacking model, which is nice if you plan to sleep outside without a tent or have dogs.
There are, however, still differences between models, which is why we suggest checking the denier ratings. For camping mats, denier ranges from about 50D to 150D, with the higher numbers offering greater tear resistance.
The underside of a pad often gets the most abuse, so we prefer a slightly thicker bottom fabric. That being said, the 75-denier fabric bottom on our MondoKing is plenty durable and we’ve had no hesitations laying it directly on the dirt.
The majority of camping mattresses are self-inflating and utilize a familiar twist valve. Opening the valve allows the pad to work its self-inflating magic and expand the foam. Depending on the model, you may or may not need to blow a few extra breaths to get the mat fully inflated.
We’ve found that the quality of the valves does vary by price, and budget pads like the Coleman Camp Pad have a flimsier plastic than premium options from REI or Therm-a-Rest, which impacts long-term durability.
Also, some of the large self-inflating pads, like the Exped MegaMat or Therm-a-Rest MondoKing, have two valves to shorten inflation and deflation times.
Having to manually inflate a large air pad or airbed can be a time consuming and dizzying experience (or an impossible task in the case of an airbed), so most manufacturers will include some sort of pump.
Nemo’s Cosmo 3D Insulated pads have a built-in pump at the foot-end of the pad that you inflate by pushing down with your feet. And the SoundAsleep Camping Series Airbed comes with a rechargeable pump, which is easy to attach and use.
These pumps aren’t as simple as a self-inflating design, but they fully inflate their respective sleeping mats in only a few minutes.
How to Store Your Camping Mattress
A final camping mattress consideration is how and where you’ll be storing it between trips. To maximize lifespan, it’s best to leave your self-inflating pad unrolled and with the valves open. This can create some challenges with a huge mattress like the Exped MegaMat Max 15 Duo, but one possible location is storing it under a bed.
If you must leave a self-inflating pad rolled up in its bag, try to do your best to occasionally let it self-inflate to avoid long-term damage to the open-cell foam. Air mats are easier: when finished, open the valve, release all the air, and keep it in a storage sack to avoid accidental punctures.
Finally, closed-cell foam pads require the least attention, although you’ll want to be sure not to leave any heavy objects on top of them to compress the material.
Backpacking Sleeping Pads
Sleeping pads designed for backpacking are about keeping weight as low as possible while retaining enough warmth and comfort. The downside of then using your lightweight backpacking pad while camping is that it’s another opportunity for the thin fabrics to spring a leak.
It’s strange to say, but we’ve found that the easygoing camping life can be more damaging to your lightweight gear than being in the backcountry. Whatever the reason, we’ve had backpacking pads that never leaked catch a dog’s nail or another hazard, and deflate on the simplest of camping trips.
We do understand the financial motivation to only purchase a single pad, and there are options that crossover nicely. Of the mattresses that are most comfortable for camping, we recommend the Nemo Cosmo 3D Insulated (but in the narrower 20-inch width). For a full list of our recommendations, see our article on the best backpacking sleeping pads.