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The Ultimate Guide to the Best Camping Mattress

Things can go wrong with camping especially trying to sleep at night. But, this does not have to be the case. With the plethora of camping mattress options, you can rest comfortably in all types of camping situations. Camping mattresses come in a variety of forms and size with several different features, too. There are so many options available, and there should be something that works for your sleeping style, camping preferences, and budget. Our ultimate camping mattress guide will help you make the right decision.

There are two types of camping mattresses, inflatable, and foam. Within those types, there are different options.

Comparison Table

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Inflatable Mattresses

The most popular type of mattress for camping is the inflatable style, and these come in a wide variety of options. They can be broken down into several different features, but when it comes to inflation, some require the use of an exterior pump and others have a self-inflating device.

Inflatable mattresses come in different profiles. Some are quite tall and look like a mattress that you would put atop box springs. The other is lower in profile and have baffling (separated air chambers) that give them that typical air-mattress look. Both can offer significant support and comfort, but they do serve different purposes. The lower profile options are useful for people who need to carry their mattress a longer distance, while the taller, raised beds are useful for people who drive to their campsites. These taller mattresses are also good choices for people who want to use them for guest bedrooms and some people like to use them as their permanent mattress at home.

The air bed: The biggest choice for comfort and support


The tallest mattresses are often called air beds and found in twin, queen, or full size. They can be as tall as 20” when inflated, making them somewhat firm mattresses. If you are looking for the most comfortable and supportive mattress for camping, a dense air bed is a good choice. But, you will not want to carry it a long distance to your campsite. They do come in lightweight versions that work for hikes. These often have built-in pumps that function with electricity or a battery pack. You just flip a switch, and they inflate or deflate in a few minutes. Since air beds are large, they can be overwhelming to increase without a pump.

One of the most popular choices for air beds is from the Sound Asleep Cloud Nine series. This mattress has a built-in pump that quickly inflates and deflates the mattress in just a few minutes. The mattress also has coils on the inside that provide plenty of support for one or two people. The Sound Asleep series also has a top designed to keep sheets in place and a bottom that is designed not to slide around inside of a tent made of puncture-resistant material.

Lower Profile Air Mattresses

If you do not want something as large as an air bed, then the next option is a lower-profile mattress. These do not have the same built-in inflation technology and comes inflatable with a hand or foot pump. They are usually about 8-10 inches tall and do not have coils or articulated baffles. Like the air bed, they often have textiles on the top and bottom that keep sheets from moving around and keeps the mattress from sliding around on the tent floor, too. These are usually much less expensive than an air bed, which makes them great choices for budget-minded campers.

Intex makes one of the best low-profile mattresses. The Intex Downy Classic mattress has to flock on the top to keep sheets from moving around, and the top is waterproof. It does not have baffles, so it is a better choice for one person to sleep on rather than two. It is about 8” tall when fully inflated, and with a hand pump. This mattress is easy to clean.

Self-Inflating Air Mattresses

If you prefer something that is even easier to inflate, then the self-inflating air mattress is a good choice. These are very low in profile and are a few inches tall when filled. Some come with attached pillows and others have a cushioned mat on the inside, but still need to be inflated for the most support and comfort. They are usually water-resistant and made of a textile that is puncture resistant. In most cases, you open up a valve, and the mattress fills with air. When you are ready to pack up, you open the lid and roll up the mattress which empties air from it.

Coleman makes an affordable and durable self-inflating mattress. The Self-Inflating Camping Pad with Pillow has a tufted design that provides a soft layer between your sleeping bag and the ground. It has a durable polyester shell that is easy to clean. This mattress is suitable for one person and with the built-in pillow, you do not need to pack a separate one. After unrolling the mattress, you open the valve, and it fills with air. This mattress comes with compression straps to help speed up the deflation process.

Specialty Air Mattresses

Along with the typical air mattresses that lay on the ground, there are also some special designs. These take air mattresses to the next level by giving them unexpected characteristics.

Air mattress cots


One unique option is the air mattress cot. The air mattresses built for portability and on top of a folding cot. These come in a twin, full, and queen and a variety of different price points. This type of air mattress is not ideal for backpacking, but are better suited to campers to drive to their site. They are also useful for people who want air mattresses for overnight guest

The Coleman Queen Airbed Folding Cot is a good choice. Not only does it have strong legs that provide support for up to 600 pounds, but it also has little side shelves for added convenience. This air bed fits into a rolling bag, so it is easy to move to a campsite. This mattress does have coils so two people can sleep comfortably on it and it inflates quickly with an air pump that takes four-D batteries.

Air hammocks


If you are looking for an air mattress that is easy to take anywhere and extremely quick to inflate, you might want to consider the air chair, also known as an inflatable hammock. These air mattresses resemble big canoes, but not designed for the water (although they're in swimming pools as big lounge chairs). These are inflated by swinging them through the air a few times. Once you have enough air in them, you close them off by rolling up the open end. These are made of parachute nylon to make them lightweight - usually under three pounds. Staked to the ground air hammocks come with convenient pockets for cell phones or flashlights. They are easy to pack into backpacks. While they are incredibly comfortable for an afternoon in the sun, several consecutive nights of sleep is not permitted.

If you do want an air hammock mattress, the Air Nest is a good choice. These come in several colors and they are built to last. These are fun options for kids to sleep in a while camping. Its square design provides support where other “banana-shaped” mattresses do not. It has a durable fabric and comes with a lifetime warranty.

Special features


When it comes to air mattresses, there are a few features to consider. These features are available on mattresses of all price points, so you do not have to buy the most expensive one to get all of these features.

R-Value


If you are camping in extreme temperatures, you will want to consider the R-value of the mattress. R-Value is the amount of heat the mattress will hold while you are sleeping. The lower the number, the less heat it will keep. The higher the number, the warmer you will be while sleeping. If a mattress has an R-value over three, then you can rest assured that you will be warm while sleeping. If the value is under 1.5, then you will be chilly. However, if you are sleeping in heat, you will want a mattress that has a low r-value so that you can stay comfortable. There are also mattresses and pads that have R-values of eight or nine, too. If you are sleeping in a self-inflating mattress or a low-profile mattress, you might want to consider the r-value. With an air bed, this should not be an issue.

Non-slip tops and bottoms


Non-slip grips are another feature that good mattresses will have. Materials used prevalently include polyethylene, PVC, or a similar type of textile. Tents are made of nylon or polyester. Air mattresses placed on nylon can slip and slide around on the inside of a tent. No one wants to slip and slide in a tent while they are trying to sleep. So, good mattresses will have a non-slip grip so you can sleep without worrying about your mattress moving when you roll over. And, since bed sheets will also slide around on a polyethylene surface, many air mattresses will also have flocked tops with non-slip features to keep sheets from sliding off, too.

The Intex Raised Downy Airbed with Built-In Pump has a non-slip bottom, so it stays in one place. The bed also has a flocked top to keep sheets from sliding around. The bed is 22-inches when inflated, and it even has indented sides so sheets of varying depth will stay in place. This affordable bed also has several chambers on the inside to provide a lot of support, especially if two people are sleeping on it. It has a carrying case for easy travel and storage, too.

TPU or PVC


Air mattresses come in a few different materials. The most common are PVC and TPU. PVC is the most common and they are entirely waterproof. Air mattresses made of PVC are very durable, too. TPU is a hybrid made of plastic and silicon; the initials are short for thermoplastic polyurethane. Some PVCs come with phthalates, so TPU has become a popular choice for people who prefer to avoid phthalates.

Foam Mattresses for Camping

lightweight option for backpackers


Foam mattresses are convenient for people who like to go backpacking because the mats roll up tightly and they do not need inflation. They are the least expensive option for camping mattresses, but they do not offer the same level of comfort and support that air mattresses provide. But, they are easy to use, but not the lightest options, but they do provide some comfort for backpackers who like to have some padding while they sleep. Closed-cell foam is specific to foam mattresses, but it is often pressed into different patterns while providing different levels of comfort and weight.

The Therm-a-Rest Ridgerest SoLite Mattress is an excellent choice for backpackers who want an affordable foam pad that is comfortable. This mattress is specifically designed to keep campers warm while sleeping. It is made of polyethylene and pressed into a form designed to let air circulate. It weighs slightly more than one pound, so it will not weigh down a pack.

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About the Author

Peekaboo! Barbara speaking. I'm currently the Chief Editor at Sleep Titan and my job is to make sure that the i's are dotted and the t's are crossed on all of our amazing content! The lovely people here at Sleep Titan often tell me that my Friendly Superpowers come out after a glass of wine, but personally, I prefer a strong IPA. The sort of strength that screams alpha all the way! Maybe that's the reason why everyone wants me to have a drink around here. Right?!

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