How to Find the Best Camping Mattress: 3 Essential Factors for a Good Night's Sleep

Date Posted:24 September 2019 

You need a good mattress for a good night’s sleep. Find out how to pick out the best outdoor bed for your needs.

You can’t take your comfy bed with you into the wilderness. That doesn’t mean your sleep quality has to suffer.

Do you need a lightweight option that fits into your pack? Or would you prefer a luxury mattress that’s just as good as the one in your home?

Whatever you need, there’s probably a mattress for it. Take a look at these important factors to consider when picking out the best camping mattress for your next trip.


1. Mattress Types 

Does one mattress type fit all?

If you engage in different types of outdoor activities, it’s not uncommon to have different types of mattresses. However, you don’t need to buy multiple mattresses as your first purchase.

Take a look at the three main types to choose from.



You may remember using light blue foam pads during childhood camping trips. Those mattresses are still around today. They’re called closed-foam mattress pads.

This economical mattress option is dense foam filled with closed air cells. Closed-foam mattresses are generally very lightweight and work great on smooth terrain.

Some designs vary in thickness and may even come with an insulation layer. Also, they come in different colours now. So, you don’t need to choose the original light blue unless you want to for old-time’s sake.



Air Mattress

Let’s face it. Air mattresses are more comfortable than a closed-foam mattress pad. They’re also a little more expensive. If your budget allows for it, you may want to opt for an air mattress over a foam one.

These types are also very lightweight and pack down small. These two factors make it the best lightweight camping mattress for backpackers.

You can use most air mattresses for three-season use. The best air mattress for camping may also come with a reflective or insulation layer for winter camping.

Air mattresses are also a good option for campers who need a thicker mattress option than a foam pad. Mattress thickness varies depending on the model and manufacturer. So, you can find the perfect depth for a restful sleep.

You may wonder how the mattress inflates. The answer to that depends on you.

Some of the best air mattress options include a built-in air bed pump. You may also find ones you can inflate by mouth. However, mattresses blown up by breath can lead to moisture trapped inside it.

If your air mattress doesn’t come with a built-in pump, don’t despair. You’re not doomed to blow up your bed each night. 

You can purchase hand pumps separately if needed. Some even do double-duty as pillows.

Just make sure that the pump is actually compatible with your mattress if you plan on buying it separately.



If you’re looking for sleep options, you want the best. Self-inflating camping mattress options give you the best of both worlds.

It combines the durability of a foam mattress with the comfort of an air mattress. They also fall in the mid-price range between the economical foam and pricier air options.

They come in a variety of sizes and thicknesses so that you can personalise the mattress comfort level. Firmness is also adjustable by adding or releasing air just like an air mattress.

You can find a variety of designs for different uses. 

If you need one for backpacking, opt for a design that folds lengthwise and rolls up. However, if compactness isn’t an issue, you can use rolled-up versions that don’t need folding.

This option provides the most options for warmth and size. They’re also reasonably durable and make a great choice for trips with children.


2. Usage 

The best sleeping mattress for camping depends on the type of camping you plan on doing. 

Are you a car camper that takes the family to established campgrounds?

Do you like to adventure into the wilderness and backpack to a campsite?

What about camping in snow-capped mountains? Do you prefer the crisp air of winter camping?

You may want to get a good night’s sleep after a full day outside. Your mattress does you no good, though, if you can’t get it to your campsite.

How you plan on camping makes a difference if you want the best camping mattress pad for your needs. 


Car Camping

Car campers have a little more leeway when it comes to the type of gear to bring. You don’t really need to worry about size and weight. Just pack as much as you can into your car and go.

Since you’re not constrained by size and weight restrictions, you can pick the comfiest options on the market. Check out self-inflating or air mattress options for the best night’s sleep.

If your budget is a little tighter, you can easily slip a few rolled foam mattress pads into your car with minimal fuss.


Winter Camping

You can use most mattress options up to three seasons. If a little snow or rain doesn’t’ stop you, you need a special mattress – one that can take colder winter temperatures.

Look for mattress options that offer good insulation. You can usually find great insulation in an air mattress or a self-inflating variety. It’s crucial that your mattress can take the lower temperatures you plan on camping in.

If given a choice between down and synthetic insulation, go with down for warmth. For damper climates, though, a synthetic one may perform better.




Are you carrying your gear on your back?

If you are, you need mattress options that are lightweight and compact. Ideally, you want to look for the best rated air mattress for camping. They fold down small and take up virtually no weight in your backpack.

Air mattresses are the optimal choice for backpacking and outside adventures. This is a pricey option, though.

For a more economical option, you may find self-inflating mattresses that are lightweight as well. Take careful note of folding dimensions to make sure that it fits the size and weight restrictions of your pack.


3. Features 

Now that you know the main mattress types and pinpointed usage, it’s time for the next step. 

Mattresses come in a variety of features. Maybe too many features.

Having so many features can get confusing. So, here’s a look at the basic feature factors so you can pick out the best camping mattress for your needs.


Insulation and R-Value

What is R-value and why is it important?

The R-value measures a sleeping pad’s ability to resist heat flow. The higher the number, the better insulated you are against the cold.

Keep in mind that you lose heat when you sleep on the ground. So, even when you’re camping in the summer months, you need some measure of insulation. This is why you’ll see many air and self-inflating mattresses have a layer of insulation.

How much is enough insulation?

Manufacturers either give you a temperature range or R-value to give you an idea about its insulation. Remember, higher R-values give you more insulation. So, a value of 3 or higher may be enough for the summer months.

Also, keep in mind that high R-value and insulation numbers won’t necessarily lead to overheating, just heavier. 


Length and Width

Mattress length and width are also important to ensure quality sleep. Generally, the standard width for most pads is 20 inches and the length is 72 inches. You do need a pad that fits your shoulders, hips, legs, and feet.

If needed, you can look into longer length mattress pads that go up to 78 inches or shorter ones that are around 48 inches. You can also choose a wider width pad if your body is large or you move around in your sleep.

Wider pads may not always be the solution. Check your tent size first to make sure that you can fit the wider pads side by side.

Occasionally, longer width pads are also automatically wider. So, once again, check your measurements first before going this route.


Construction and Shape

You may also find mattresses in different shapes and sizes. Sometimes the differences are for saving space, weight, or both.

Along with different shapes and sizes, you’ll also find differing baffle constructions. Some have vertical baffles or “rails” that keep you on the pad. These are perfect for restless sleepers or children.

Other times you may find pillow baffles to cushion your head while you sleep. 

There’s no “right” construction, shape, or baffle construction.

The best sleeping mattress for camping really depends on your own personal preferences in this regard.


Inflating and Deflating

The last thing you want to do after hiking for hours is wrestling with a mattress pump. That’s why the best inflatable mattress for camping have well-designed pumps. Make sure it’s easy to set up and use with one arm.

Furthermore, you also want a mattress that’s simple to deflate. Rolling and unrolling your camping bed to allow air to escape eats up valuable time. So, check out the reviews and make sure that it deflates just as quickly as it inflates.


Explore Your Options for the Best Camping Mattress

Understanding your options is key to finding the right camping mattress for you. There are three main types of camp mattresses but some may be better than others for your needs.

The best mattress for tent camping, for example, depends on your budget and usage. If you’re car camping, you can choose any of the three types because you don’t have size or weight restrictions. However, if you’re backpacking you may want to choose the lightweight and compact air mattress option.

Features such as insulation, size, and shape are equally important. Make sure you have sufficient insulation for your temperature needs and you fit on the mattress.  

Are you ready to check out your options?

Take a look at the beds and mattress page of our online shop to find options for the best camping mattress. Keep the essential factors in mind to help narrow down your choices and find the best one for you.

Comments (1)

Air mattress like sleeping on a bed of ice

By: on 21 June 2021
I was surprised to read this comment: "You can usually find great insulation in an air mattress..." Recent experience suggests otherwise. We slept on a borrowed mattress on a freezing cold night (got down to 0° overnight). I think it was the Coleman Queen Double High, but not certain. Anyway, the cold seeped up into our bones all night. It was more than uncomfortable; it was painful - especially in our hips. We put our thick jackets underneath us, which helped provide a bit of insulation. Next morning, we drove into town and bought a good quality 'space blanket' (not the cheap one) and put that on top of mattress and below our bedding. Made a huge difference. Not warm to sleep on, but no longer cold. Everyone I've related the story to replies "Ah, air mattress. No wonder! They don't insulate at all."

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