Find Your Best Camping Mattress (Air Mattresses & More)
Whenever you are camping, you need a decent surface to get a good night’s sleep. Obviously, you can’t just sleep right on the ground. Therefore, you need to find a comfortable surface that supports your body, so you can rest and be ready for your next big day of camping. Luckily, there are many top camping mattresses to choose from nowadays.
It is a necessity to have a quality mattress like a camping air mattress or an air bed to be comfortable enough to enjoy a good night’s sleep while out in the wilderness. Camping mattresses are different from traditional mattresses as a durable, portable surface for sleeping.
This guide is all about understanding how the various camping mattresses can work for you. If you don’t know how to choose a camping mattress, read on. Here are some of the important things to look for in a sturdy, comfortable camping mattress.
- Why Bother with a Camping Mattress?
- Camping Mattress Buyer’s Guide
- Top Picks:
- Ways to Preserve Inflatable Airbeds
- Final Thoughts & Wrap Up
Why Bother with a Camping Mattress?
A sleeping mattress is often better for your camping needs than a traditional sleeping bag. Although such a bag can be comfortable, you have to be cautious when using it. Sleeping bags can be tight and tough to move inside. You might also struggle with getting a comfortable base to sleep on when using a sleeping bag.
The top camping mattresses are different in that they provide a dry, thick surface to sleep on when outdoors. This creates a flat space on the ground. You can add any blankets you have, although you could place a sleeping bag on top of the mattress if you want. In fact, using a sleeping bag on top of a portable mattress is much better than just using a bag on its own.
A camping mattress provides a surface that can take in the heat naturally produced by your body to keep you warm. Sleeping directly on the ground is cold, damp and uncomfortable, so you need a portable camping mattress. Keep reading to learn how to choose from the top camping mattresses.
Camping Mattress Buyer’s Guide
Camping mattresses come with various features. Make note of the features you will need, depending on when and where you camp.
Here are some key things to look for in an outdoor mattress, including construction, weight, pumps and much more.
1. Choose Based on Your Activity
Consider the kind of activity you will take part in when looking at the top camping mattresses. Different types of conditions and activities require different kinds of outdoor mattresses. Here are some factors to think about to help make choosing your outdoor mattress easier:
Thicker Mattresses: Useful if you are going car camping. It’s heavier, not great for hikes.
LIghter Mattresses: Great for backpacking. A slim air pad will be good enough in this case.
Closed Cell Foam Pads: Great on short-term hikes. They are bulkier, but faster to set up and use.
Thicker Air Paids/Self Inflaters: Appropriate for winter camping or a hunting trip.
Light Self Inflating Pads: Perfect for hiking on trails, or for when you plan to carry it extensively.
You’ll want to think about how you plan to use the mattress and how long/far you will have to carry it. Consider how quickly you’ll need to set it up and break it down, too. And most importantly, choose a camping mattress that will keep you warm and safe from the harsh elements.
2. Sleeping Pad Construction
There are three types of construction options in the top camping mattresses: closed cell, self-inflating and air supported. Here’s what you need to know about each:
Closed Cell Foam Camping Mattresses:
Closed cell foam mattresses use a sturdy piece of foam with a series of small air pockets. These pockets hold in warm air. This keeps you from being subjected to the ground’s natural convective powers.
A closed cell foam mattress is often inexpensive and is quite durable. But they can be difficult to store as the bulky body of such a foam sheet can be a challenge to roll up. A closed cell foam mattress is typically around half an inch thick. It can be hard to brush off snow and dirt from one of these mattresses, too.
The foam can last for a while and will not require any outside air from a pump. Therefore, it closed cell foam mattresses set up fast. Just be sure to test well the surface of the mattress feels as you sleep on it.
Self-Inflating Air Mattresses:
Self-inflating air mattresses use a small valve that links up to an air pump. The valve helps to inflate the mattress in a short time. You can use a hand pump, although a battery-powered model could work, too.
Some self-inflating units have an open-celled foam material inside a few pieces of fabric. As the valve opens, the foam starts to expand, thus inflating the pad. The foam can trap air and will not deflate easily. It also retains your natural heat to keep you warm for the entire evening.
However, the fabric materials in self-inflating mattresses can be bulky and tough to fold up. The surface is not as durable as what you would get out of a straightforward foam bed, too.
Air-Supported Outdoor Mattresses:
Another choice from the top camping mattresses is the
air-supported model. It has a fully inflatable body where you use air from a pump to expand the outside fabric. The inflated surface produces a sleeping space that air supports. Such a surface can provide around two to three inches of space between your body and the ground. The fabric also offers enough insulation on the inside to keep the air in the mattress from becoming too cold.
It does not take much effort to store an air-supported mattress when you are not using it. You just have to deflate it and roll it up into a proper storage bag. It is nowhere near as thick as a self-inflating unit, but more compact and lighter to transport.
Be advised that it takes longer to inflate an air-supported mattress than it does to handle a self-inflating one. An air mattress is not as durable and could puncture if you are not cautious. The lack of foam on the inside also makes the surface somewhat bouncy, thus requiring you to get enough air in to keep the surface from sinking down.
Now that you understand the basic types of camping mattresses out there, here are a few points for selecting a quality model. Look at how well your camping mattress functions choosing one for hiking or camping.
3. Why Weight, Storage & R-Value Matters
You’ll want to check the weight capacity, and storage ability of your mattress before you pick one to brave the wilderness. A typical camping mattress can weigh around five pounds, but even that extra weight can be a challenge to tote around. It is easy to get something too heavy or difficult to carry around, so choose your outdoor mattress by considering whatever else you are taking with you.
The weight capacity of your mattress is important, too. Most top camping mattresses can handle at least 250 pounds of weight (specific to air mattresses). This can pose a challenge if you carry some extra weight. The capacity will vary based on the size and materials of your mattress. For example, thicker polyester or vinyl materials often support more weight. Avoid adding more weight than what the mattress can handle. Adding too much weight can cause the mattress to break apart and to leak out air.
Look at how easy it is to fold up and secure your camping mattress to use later. The problem with many camping mattresses is that they are thick, so it is hard to fold and store them. You will need a proper storage bag to carry your mattress, too. The storage bag should keep your mattress secure, dry and clean. Also, the storage bag should not add little to no extra weight for you to carry.
The R-value of your mattress refers to how well a mattress can resist heat flow. That is, it is a measurement of how it can insulate you against cold or wet conditions. This is to keep you from being too cold while outdoors. A higher R-value means that the mattress can keep threatening conditions from developing. When the R-value is high, you will know you have one of the top camping mattresses that will keep you warm and dry.
But do watch for how large your camping mattress is with a high R-value. While a higher R-value is ideal, it will also make your outdoor mattress thicker and heavier. This could be a challenge to carry around, especially if you are hiking in tough terrain.
You could wear plenty of thick cold weather clothing while sleeping. You have the option to place your camping mattress inside your tent as well. But the mattress must still support your weight while keeping you comfortable as you sleep.
4. Camping Mattress Sizes
You will want to consider the overall size of the top camping mattresses. Most mattresses should be at least six feet in length. This should be enough to support most people who need it. In many cases, a mattress could be a little larger than a traditional sleeping bag.
In terms of width, your mattress only needs to be around two feet wide. Such a width is enough to offer a comfortable space for sleeping without putting you at risk of falling off your mattress at any time.
Most air mattresses you will find are twin size models. Some queen models are available, but they are not as easy to carry and store as other top camping mattresses.
5. Camping Mattress Pumps
Some mattresses link up to an outside air pump. It should provide enough air for inflating your mattress in as little time as possible. Such an outside pump could be rather heavy and can take up a bit of space in your bag or backpack, though. Most air pumps use an outside battery to make it work, too.
There are a few mattresses that come with built-in hand pumps. They generate enough air after when you press a button or other unit attached to the pump. It does not require any electricity or battery power. A hand-powered pump will not add loads of weight and should be easy to use. But hand pumps take more time to inflate a mattress. There is more physical effort involved with using a hand pump, as well.
You may also want to store your air pump separately from your mattress to avoid puncturing it. Some mattresses come with pumps that attach to their bodies. It is important to read the manual and manufacturer recommendations that come with your air pump and mattress.
6. Ease of Cleaning
In most cases, you only need to use soap and water to clean off your mattress. You can also spot clean most models with ease. Just rub a bit of soap and water onto the spot, preferably after you have fully deflated, and wipe dry.
Avoid using a washing machine to clean your camping mattress. The intense heat and pressure inside such a machine could wear out your mattress and cause tears. Some camping mattresses have covers that you can put in the washer, though. Since outdoor mattress materials vary, be sure to follow the manufacturer’s directions for cleaning.
With so many choices, it helps to look at a few of the top camping mattresses available today.
Each of the following models come with its own features and designs. Read on to find out what they offer and which one will meet your outdoor recreation needs the best.
1. OutdoorsmanLab Ultralight Sleeping Pad
Another choice on this list of the top camping mattresses is the OutdoorsmanLab Ultralight Sleeping Pad. Although it is just two inches thick, it uses air cells in its foam body to get an R-value of 1.3. It is only about 14.5 ounces in weight and is flexible enough to roll up and store in its own convenient storage bag.
The Ultralight sleeping pad has small air port that requires you to breathe into the bag to inflate it. It takes about 10 to 20 breaths to inflate it to about 2.2 inches. You have the option to inflate the bag with an outside pump, too.
On a related note, OutdoorsmanLab says that it will plant a tree for every one of these sleeping pads the company sells. The 20D nylon surface itself is environmentally-friendly because they made them from recycled materials.
2. Intex Classic Downy Air Bed
Intex Classic Downy Airbed Set with 2 Pillows and Double…
- Inflatable queen airbed with…
- Waterproof flocked top with…
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- Standard queen size works well…
- Dimensions: 60 x 8.75 x 80 (W…
Intex offers a queen size outdoor mattress that is approximately five feet long and handles up to 600 pounds at a time. The heavy-duty vinyl body has a series of beams on the inside to keep the body of the mattress intact. The flocked top is easy to clean and waterproof. The body is similar to a high-end vinyl sleeping mattress.
Two inflatable pillows come with this bed. It also has a manual hand pump to get everything set up quickly. A wide opening on the valve enables air to flow in and out of quickly and without problems. This inflated mattress will bring you up about 8.75 inches off of the surface, so you will stay well above the ground as you sleep.
3. Kamui Self-Inflating Sleeping Pad
KAMUI Self Inflating Sleeping Pad – 2 Inch Thick Camping Pad…
- DESIGNED FOR TENT AND FAMILY…
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This two-inch model from Kamui has an R-value of 5.0 and uses a long foam body to keep you comfortable while sleeping. The 190T polyester fabric on the body of the pad prevents the mattress from wearing out, too. At 25.6 inches wide and 75.6 inches long, this camping mattress offers enough room for anyone to sleep restfully. A series of fasteners are on the ends of the pad to link another Kamui sleeping pad with your first one.
This is ideal for when you have multiple people camping. You can add as many of these pads as you want, although just two or three is best, depending on the tent size. The Kamui pad weighs a little less than four pounds yet it can support up to 275 pounds. This durable mattress will not wear out too fast, either.
4. Coleman SupportRest Airbed
One of the top camping mattresses comes from Coleman. They manufacture tons of fantastic outdoor gear, including camping chairs. They used a heavy-duty PVC material with a plush sleeping surface. There is a double lock valve that keeps the air inside the mattress. The first seal stops air from getting out after you remove the pump. The second seal locks in the air while you are sleeping on the mattress.
The Coleman airbed valve does support most mattress pumps, but check the specifics of whatever air pump you want to use. The Comfort Strong coil system creates a soft surface for sleeping. It uses a reinforced body that keeps the cells intact and prevents the bed from collapsing or wearing out quickly.
The Coleman Double High is available in twin and queen sizes. You can also get a pump to go with the bed, although most versions of the Coleman bed requires you to get a pump separately.
5. Freeland Camping Self Inflating Pad
FreeLand Camping Sleeping Pad Self Inflating with Attached…
- Lightweight & Compact:…
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The FreeLand is of 190T polyester fabric, which is soft yet does not tear easily.The open-cell foam interior is about 1.5 inches thick and has a firm, thick body that is comfortable for sleeping.
You have two separate free-flow valves for hand-pumping, so it does not require an outside air pump.The FreeLand only weighs 3.3 pounds and you can quickly roll it up into its own storage bag. It also comes with a repair kit for fixing up any holes or leaks that might develop.
This is a great self-inflating pad for people on a budget, and the fact that it’s lightweight makes it a great companion for anyone that needs to carry their pads on longer hikes. It also comes with a pillow at the end which is an added bonus – you won’t need to pick one up separately and carry more gear to an already heavy load.
Q: How large should the mattress be?
A: It should be large enough to keep you comfortable.
Q: How should you store your mattress when it is not in use?
A: You can inflate and deflate some camping mattresses or even roll them up.
Q: Is the sleeping surface for most pads actually comfortable?
A: Various grooves and textures are often featured on the surface on a mattress or pad.
Q: How thick should the mattress be?
A: It needs to be thick enough to keep you off of the ground.
Q: How heavy should the mattress be?
A: Some models might be a challenge to carry around due to how thick or large they are.
Q: Are camping pads durable?
A: Some mattresses could be at risk of tearing apart or wearing out after a while, but most are durable.
Q: Does it do well with managing heat?
A: You need a mattress that can take in warm air and keep you comfortable even when sleeping in the coldest conditions.
Q: What surface is best to put the mattress down on?
A: Your mattress must a be able to keep a good shape no matter what type of surface you place it on. While you want to put it on a flat surface, and that should be your first choice, ground surfaces can become uneven, and you’ll want to plan on managing that.
Q: Do I need an inflatable pillow?
A: Camping pillows aren’t necessary, but they can be a helpful addition to any outdoor enthusiast’s accessory arsenal. We’d recommend getting a camping specific pillow if you plan to hike quite a bit and need to condense space.
Ways to Preserve Inflatable Airbeds
Since most of our suggestions on this list are inflatable and forms of airbeds in some way, we have some good tips that will help preserve them. Most of these are applicable to all mattresses, though. Dive into how to preserve the things that help you get great sleep!
Do Not Inflate and Deflate Constantly
Constantly inflating and deflating the air mattress puts a tension on the seams that is not good in the long term. Let’s say you need to blow up the air mattress on a trip that is a week long. The smartest thing to do would be to blow it up on the first night and keep it blown up until the last night. If you need, add little bits of air in it every night to keep it at a good level, as it will likely deflate a bit at night!
Deflate When Storage
Rolling your inflatable mattress up prematurely is a big no-no. The mattress seams can stretch and burst in the rolling process. Air mattresses inflate quickly, but the process of deflation is a much longer one. Though it can be tempting to cut corners, you will want to make sure to let out every last bit of air out the right way and make sure it is completely deflated before storing. Check and see if your air mattress has a speed deflation setting which allows the air to escape quickly and thoroughly. A good way to check if there is still air or not is by placing your ear by the valve to see if there is a faint hissing. If there is, the mattress still needs time to deflate.
Don’t Allow Pets on It (or Kids, if Possible)
If you are taking your pets on the camping trip with you and they’re used to sleeping on your bed, it can be a hard thing to keep them away, but it is vital that you do so. Their sharp claws can easily puncture the air mattress, and the repairs can be hard to make or even impossible. Not only are claws a problem, but animals have no knowledge of what it means to lay still. Jumping, pushing, or walking on the air mattress is a thing animals do, even if they don’t have long nails. The same can be said of children. I once was my three younger siblings all share my mattress on a camping trip and it worked out just fine. I explained to them the rules, and they respected them. But if you are concerned your children will not obey the rules, or are not old enough to fully understand the importance of not causing motions that will stress the seams out, then use a different type of bedding for them.
Don’t Put It around Sharp Objects
It may seem like a no brainer, but keeping your air mattress away from sharp objects is important. The main reason for this is not because holes are unrepairable, but because patching tips or tapes you may use are very temporary and usually end in the mattress needing to be replaced altogether. The sharp objects like pens, safety pins, paper clips, needles, knives, and other blades can destroy your air mattress in an instant. Keep your pockets clear and make sure the floor is clear as well! Since you will likely be putting your air mattress in a tent, be sure to get a good tarp to lay on the ground because rocks and sticks can stab the air mattress as well.
Inspect Your Mattress
Inspect your mattress as soon as you take it out of storage by spreading it on a flat, sharp object free surface. Then look for any tears, holes, or bugs in the folds. Also, look for mold, and smell for mildew. After the inspection, it is safe to inflate!
Inflate to Proper Capacity
Did you know that excess stress is felt on the seams when you fill your air mattress to the max capacity? You may think only overfilling would harm your inflatable mattress, but in reality, only 90 percent capacity is recommended. Each time you fill it all the way, it becomes more and more likely to get a hole in the seams. Wanna know what else is crazy? Under-inflating an air mattress creates the issue of uneven weight which means over time, improper weight distribution will wear on the seams and eventually puncture the mattress. Only pump up as needed. A good way to recognize when it is 90% full is to look for firmness without the loss of creases and wrinkles.
Keep the Mattress Clean
Keeping your mattress clean of dirt, bacteria, dry skin, and all other gross things is always important, but especially when you use it for camping. You can do this by using a cloth and solution of water and dish soap mix. Do really light streaks and keep the whole process light chemical wise. Once done, towel dry your mattress, then deflate and let it air-dry. Be patient with it, as it may take all night to dry. Don’t fold it up still wet!
Use Good Bedding
Using good bedding does so much more than just make your air mattress comfy. It also makes it last longer! These extra layers of padding protect against wear and tear, as well as sharp objects and nails that could accidentally come in contact with the mattress. If your children are sleeping on the air mattress, purchase waterproof protectors to prevent accidents for affecting the mattress.
Store It Correctly
There is no better way to keep your inflatable mattress in top notch condition. Make sure it is completely dry and free of gross things, as well as inspected for any holes before putting it up. Then say it fat, fold it correctly as pictured on the box. After it is folded, place it securely and properly in the box. There are plenty of guides and instructions that come along with the air mattress to follow.
Check on It
Your inflatable mattress may never get used, but you should be checking on it regardless. Inflate it up every now and then regardless of that and see if it still holds air as well as clean it off. If it needs patching up, get to that while it is not being used!
Final Thoughts & Wrap Up
When you are out camping, you need a comfortable surface that is easy to sleep on each night. Get a mattress that is easy to store and set up, while also being comfortable.
Ideally you’ll want to find the best possible surface for your mattress to setup on, that way it’s comfortable and helps you rest for a full night’s sleep. Any of our top 5 picks should help you get a good night’s rest the next time you are out camping under the stars.
My articles appear in Marketing Edge Magazine, on Gizmogrind, and with various Medium publications. But one thing hasn’t changed in all of my life: no matter where I was or what I was doing. I’ve always loved to be outdoors.
A man needs nothing more than a good flannel shirt, a well-worn pair of jeans, and comfortable hiking boots. I don’t go for all the fancy luxury stuff. Suits are uncomfortable and shaving sucks.