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 2021, ranging from versatile self-inflating mats and air pads to luxurious air beds 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.
Our Team's Camping Mattress Picks
- Best Overall Camping Mattress: Therm-a-Rest MondoKing 3D
- Most Comfortable Camping Mat for Two: Exped MegaMat Duo 10
- Best Budget Camping Mattress: REI Co-op Trailbreak
- Best Camping Air Bed: REI Co-op Kingdom Insulated Air Bed
- Best Light and Packable Air Mat: Nemo Quasar 3D
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: Around $30 pricier and narrower than REI’s Camp Dreamer below.
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 last year, 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.
The MondoKing recently dethroned REI’s Camp Dreamer below as our top pick for 2021. What prompted the change? Despite a $31 price penalty and notably narrower platform (25 in. vs. the REI’s generous 32-in. width), the Therm-a-Rest is thicker (by 0.25 in.), insulates slightly better (7 vs. 6.6 R-values), and has plusher cushioning. But the real clincher for us was durability: the Camp Dreamer has been plagued by reports of premature leaks and faulty valves, while the MondoKing’s components and build are decidedly premium and confidence-inspiring. For comfort-focused campers who get out regularly and want a pad that will last, we think the Therm-a-Rest is the most well-rounded design currently on the market.
See the Therm-a-Rest MondoKing 3D
Most Comfortable Camping Mattress for Two
Type: Self-inflating mat
Dimensions: 77.6 x 52 x 3.9 in. (Double)
Weight: 9 lbs. 14.7 oz.
What we like: Extremely comfy and fits two sleepers.
What we don’t: Very expensive and not as versatile as a one-person mat.
Exped’s MegaMat Duo 10 combines the dimensions of a full-size air bed with the luxurious comfort of a foam self-inflating pad. The net result is an excellent night’s sleep for two campers: the 3.9-inch-thick cushioning and vertical sidewalls rival the Therm-a-Rest MondoKing above, but the one-person MondoKing can’t touch the Duo’s 52-inch width. With fairly easy inflation/deflation via two large valves and a durable construction, the MegaMat checks off all the boxes for a pair of comfort-oriented campers (we’ve also found it useful as a backup bed for guests at home).
The biggest downside of the Exped MegaMat Duo 10 is price. At a whopping $349, it’s one of the most expensive pads to make our list (just behind the luxurious Hest Sleep System below). It makes more sense if you factor in purchasing two separate premium pads like the $210 MondoKing, but owning a double like the Duo can be overkill when camping by yourself (although too much room isn’t necessarily a bad thing). And a much smaller gripe: the included foot pump is inefficient and only helpful for topping the mat off (it’s best to wait for it to self-inflate). Regardless, the comfort and quality are tough to beat. And for the ultimate in camping luxury, Exped makes a Max 15 variation that increases thickness from 3.9 inches to a whopping 5.9 inches. Bulk and cost also go up, with the Long Wide Double size coming in at $429... Read in-depth review
See the Exped MegaMat Duo 10
Best Budget Camping Mattress
Type: Self-inflating mat
Dimensions: 72 x 20 x 1.75 in.
Weight: 2 lbs. 8 oz.
What we like: Affordable and proven self-inflating design.
What we don’t: Too thin for side sleepers.
REI’s Trailbreak collection targets the entry-level end of the market and includes everything from trekking poles and packs to a pillow and sleeping bags. The Trailbreak pad is the brand’s most affordable camping mat with a $70 MSRP, but it doesn’t sacrifice much in the way of quality. In terms of design, you get a simple and relatively thin 1.75-inch self-inflating build, durable fabrics along the top and bottom, and separate, color-coded inflation and deflation valves. 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 Trailbreak is its 1.75-inch thickness, which is the second-thinnest on our list (the Sea to Summit Camp SI below is 1.5 in.). Simply put, the REI lacks the cushioning to be a suitable option for side sleepers or those who value plush and supportive padding. For $30 more, their Camp Bed below is 0.75 inches thicker, a considerable 5 inches wider, and has a higher R-value (7.6 vs. the Trailbreak’s 5.1). But the Trailbreak still is an excellent value for occasional campers, budget seekers, and/or back sleepers, and especially if you can pick one up on sale or use your yearly REI dividend.
See the REI Co-op Trailbreak See the Women's REI Trailbreak
Best Camping Air Bed
Type: Air bed
Dimensions: 79 x 56 x 6 in. (Queen)
Weight: 5 lbs. 13 oz. (without pump)
What we like: Comfortable, well-built, and affordably priced.
What we don’t: Air beds take up a lot of space and don’t insulate very well in cold temps.
Springing for a full-on air bed is great option for couples, families, or those who just like the extra space. Our favorite outdoor-ready design in this category is REI’s Kingdom Insulated Air Bed. The Kingdom gets you further off the ground than the self-inflating models above (6 in. to be exact), which translates to impressive comfort and cushioning. You also get a quality and durable build, separate inflation and deflation valves for ease of use, and welded seams to help prevent leaks. And like the Exped above, the Kingdom can pull double duty as a guest bed at home, which only adds to the all-around value.
What are the downsides of choosing an air bed like the REI Kingdom? For starters, the Kingdom is fairly large and bulky when packed and takes up a good deal of real estate in your vehicle. Second, air beds don’t insulate you as well from the ground as a typical camping mat, and the REI’s R-value of 2.6 means you’ll want to leave it at home if the nighttime temperatures will be especially cold. Finally, if you do happen to get a puncture, it can be a real pain trying to locate and fix a leak. But if comfort and cushioning are top priorities, the Kingdom won’t disappoint. For a cheaper but less versatile option in this category, see the Coleman SupportRest below.
See the REI Co-op Kingdom Insulated Air Bed
Best Light and Packable Air Mat
Type: Air mat
Dimensions: 76 x 25 x 3.5 in. (LW)
Weight: 2 lb. 1 oz.
What we like: Impressively light and packable.
What we don’t: A step down in durability and comfort compared with self-inflating options.
In a departure from our top-rated pads above, Nemo’s Quasar 3D is a pure air mat—there’s no foam to be found in its construction. This means that while it can’t quite match the comfort of self-inflating designs like the Therm-a-Rest MondoKing or Exped MegaMat, the Quasar has a major leg up in weight and packed size. For reference, it’s over 2 pounds lighter than the MondoKing and packs down to a fraction of the size, although you do sacrifice 1.25 inches of thickness and a good amount of insulation (the 3.3 R-value is on the low end for 3-season use). That said, 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.
However, there are some inherent tradeoffs to shaving so much weight and bulk. Most notably, the Quasar has a fairly thin 30-denier shell (most camping mats on this list are 50D or higher), which will require added care to avoid a puncture. In addition, the Quasar isn’t very roomy for a camping mat—for reference, the “Long Wide” model listed here measures only 25 inches wide, which is on par with most brands’ standard versions (the regular Quasar is even narrower at 20 in.). But if you plan to add backpacking to the mix, the Nemo is one of the few viable crossover options for taking on short backcountry trips.
See the Nemo Quasar 3D
Best of the Rest
Type: Self-inflating mat
Dimensions: 78 x 30 x 4 in. (XL Wide)
Weight: 5 lbs. 8 oz.
What we like: Fantastic comfort yet surprisingly packable (for a self-inflating camping mat).
What we don’t: Expensive and slightly less plush-feeling than the MondoKing above.
In stark contrast to their lightweight Quasar air mat, Nemo’s luxe Roamer puts a premium on all-out comfort and plushness. Made in Double and XL Wide versions (we’ve included the latter here), the Roamer goes head-to-head with premium designs like the Therm-a-Rest MondoKing above and REI Camp Dreamer below with a thick foam shape (4 in.), self-inflating build with dedicated valves for inflating and deflating, and a durable yet soft top fabric. Plus, you get a large and flat surface for sleeping, toggles to connect two Roamers together, and the use of recycled, bluesign-approved fabrics. The price is quite high, but at $250 for the XL Wide variation, it’s not too far off from the aforementioned MondoKing ($210).
The Roamer recently saw a jump in our rankings due to its highly comfortable and luxurious feel—we took it out on a chilly fall camping trip in Washington State and were immediately struck by its well-cushioned and durable feel. It’s slightly less plush-feeling than the aforementioned MondoKing and Exped’s MegaMat series, but the difference is very minor. And packed size is truly impressive: at just 10 x 16 inches, the Roamer easily undercuts both the MondoKing (10.3 x 26 in.) and single-person MegaMat 10 (9.8 x 31.3 in. for the regular wide model). 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.). You do pay a sizable premium for the improved compressibility and overall quality, but there’s a reason the Roamer has gained popularity so quickly—it’s that good.
See the Nemo Roamer
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 Therm-a-Rest MondoKing.
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 Therm-a-Rest MondoKing 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 a couple years ago, 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. As we mentioned, REI offers another budget-friendly design in their Trailbreak self-inflating pad above, 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, Sea to Summit’s Camp SI below is another excellent value at $70 and has an impressively low weight and small packed size, but it’s the thinnest design on our list at 1.5 inches thick.
See the REI Co-op Camp Bed
Type: Self-inflating mat
Dimensions: 78 x 25 x 7 in.
Weight: 26 lbs.
What we like: Fully featured, durable, and the highest R-value on our list.
What we don’t: The heaviest and most expensive option here.
Mixing premium materials and an innovative multi-layer design, Hest’s Sleep System is a far cry from the traditional self-inflating options above. Starting with the foam portion of the mat, you get essentially two pads in one: the top layer is open-cell foam that nicely conforms to your body, while the bottom layer is a denser blend for added support and cushioning from the ground (or a truck bed). Below this is an inflatable yet very durable base that provides a solid structure and additional height. The net result is impressive comfort and warmth—in fact, this is among the most heavily cushioned and insulated design on our list at 7 inches thick and with an R-value of 11.8.
Unfortunately, however, there are a couple glaring downsides to this lavish setup. At $399 and a whopping 26 pounds, the Hest Sleep System is incredibly pricey and will be a pain to store and lug from car to campsite, even if you’re sleeping close to your vehicle. Hest does include a functional storage bag with handy compression straps, but the packed size still is very large and bulky. If you don’t need the winter-ready warmth, REI’s Kingdom Insulated Sleep System below will save you a considerable $100 and over 10 pounds, and even Exped’s MegaMat Duo 10 above is cheaper at $349 (and can fit an additional camper). But if you get out frequently and plan to utilize the warmth and features, the Hest won’t disappoint.
See the Hest Sleep System Sleeping Pad
Type: Air bed
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 Duo 10 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 concept, the Kingdom System starts with our favorite air bed, REI’s Kingdom Insulated Air Bed, 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 setup justifies the $299 sticker. Like the standard air bed above, it also only includes a manual hand pump, which takes a good amount of effort to get fully inflated. But on the bright side, everything is nicely integrated and fits well. It’s definitely not for everyone, but the Kingdom Insulated Sleep System is a great execution of a novel idea, and especially for those who want the convenience of buying an all-in-one setup.
See the REI Kingdom Insulated Sleep System
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 below.
Exped is a leader in the camping mat market, and their DeepSleep line hits a nice balance of warmth, packability, and price. Like many of our other favorite self-inflating designs including Exped’s own MegaMat, Nemo’s Roamer, and Therm-a-Rest’s MondoKing above, the DeepSleep is comfortable with a thick foam build and vertical sidewalls, convenient with a self-inflating design and easily accessible inflate and deflate valves, and plush with a stretchy top fabric that’s both soft and fairly tough. And in terms of value, the DeepSleep comes in at a reasonable $169, which undercuts the aforementioned options by a considerable $40-$80.
However, the DeepSleep truly sets itself apart with its combination of warmth and packability. Stacked up against the similarly priced REI Camp Dreamer XL below, the Exped compresses much smaller (26.5 x 8 in. for the DeepSleep vs. 30 x 11 in. for the REI) while keeping you warmer in the process (it has an 8.5 R-value vs. 6.6 for the Camp Dreamer). The REI does have more generous dimensions—it’s longer, wider, and thicker—but the Exped has a better track record in terms of durability and costs $10 less. For couples or those who prefer a double-wide model, the DeepSleep is also available in a Duo version for $279. And if you need more warmth (or a taller design) for the ultimate in camping luxury, check out Exped’s 6-inch-thick MegaMat Max 15 (R-value: 10.6).
See the Exped DeepSleep Mat 7.5
Type: Self-inflating mat
Dimensions: 78 x 32 x 4 in.
Weight: 6 lbs. 6 oz.
What we like: Spacious, comfortable, and reasonably priced for what you get.
What we don’t: Wide and bulky; valve is leak-prone.
Car camping really allows you to step up your sleeping comfort, and the REI Camp Dreamer XL is case in point. This mattress is very spacious at a healthy 32 inches wide, super comfortable with 4 inches of cushioning off the ground, and warm enough for most 3-season conditions with an R-Value of 6.6. And at $179, the REI is a significant $31 cheaper than the Therm-a-Rest MondoKing 3D above and 7 inches wider to boot. For those who want camping luxury that can rival sleeping at home, the REI Camp Dreamer XL is an excellent choice.
What are the shortcomings of the Camp Dreamer? For starters, it is a large mat that takes up a healthy amount of space, even when packed down, and a heavy one too at over 6 pounds. In addition, some might find that the generous size is too much—many camping mats on this list are around 25 inches in width, which should be sufficient unless you frequently toss and turn. Last but not least, there have been a good number of leak- and durability-related complaints, which make the REI less of a standout than the MondoKing and DeepSleep above. To be clear, we think the Camp Dreamer is a good value for what you get, but committed campers and those who are hard on their gear will likely want to spend up for the Therm-a-Rest or Exped.
See the REI Co-op Camp Dreamer XL
Dimensions: 80 x 30 x 15 in.
Weight: 19 lbs. 8 oz.
What we like: Comfortable and high off the ground.
What we don’t: Extremely bulky and heavy.
Choosing a cot over a sleeping pad or air bed has its upsides, including no risk of deflation and a sturdy metal structure that gets you off the ground. For camping, our favorite cot is the Coleman ComfortSmart Deluxe: it’s generously sized for one person at 80 inches long and 30 inches wide (the pad itself is slightly smaller), easy to set up, and the coil construction does a fairly decent impression of your bed at home. Taking into account the strong steel frame and squishy foam pad, the ComfortSmart’s all-in price of around $100 (on Amazon at the time of publishing) is excellent.
There are a few important considerations when selecting a cot like the ComfortSmart Deluxe for camping. First are the folded dimensions, which measure a trunk-filling 40 x 30 x 5.5 inches. If space is at a premium in your vehicle, a cot pretty much is off the table. The other is the interior dimensions of your tent. Because the cot sits pretty far off the ground (total height is 15 inches), you may hit the sloping walls of a dome-style tent. But for large and vertical camping tents, it’s hard to beat the level of comfort for the price, not to mention the cot can double as a couch. For a step up in build quality and features, check out Helinox’s premium Cot Max Convertible and REI’s Levitate Sleeping Platform.
See the Coleman ComfortSmart Deluxe Cot
Type: Self-inflating mat
Dimensions: 72 x 20 x 1.5 in.
Weight: 1 lb. 11 oz.
What we like: Light, compressible, and affordably priced.
What we don’t: It’s the thinnest pad on our list.
Like REI’s Trailbreak above, Sea to Summit’s Camp SI Sleeping Mat is a basic but very affordably priced self-inflating design. For just $70 (the same price as the Trailbreak), you get a durable construction with thick fabrics, a 3-season-ready R-value of 4.2, and a simple but functional one-way valve for quick and easy inflation and deflation. At 1 pound 11 ounces and 6.5 x 13 inches when packed, the Camp is also exceptionally lightweight and packable (for a car camping design), even beating out Nemo’s Quasar 3D air mat above by a few ounces. If you plan to add any backpacking to the mix, the low heft and good compressibility make the Camp a nice crossover option.
That said, the Sea to Summit Camp comes up a little short in some key metrics compared to the aforementioned Trailbreak. The 1.5-inch thickness is the thinnest on our list and pushing our comfort level for camping (the Trailbreak is 1.75 in.), and the Camp is also tapered at the foot end (the REI has a symmetrical shape). Sea to Summit does make an upgraded Camp Plus SI model that’s 3 inches thick and rectangular, but it’s pricier at $90 for the regular wide version. All in all, unless you plan to use your mat for both camping and backpacking, we think the REI is the more well-rounded design at this price point. And for those on even tighter budgets, Kelty’s Mistral SI and Coleman’s Self-Inflating Camp Pad below cost around $40 but compromise considerably on comfort.
See the Sea to Summit Camp SI
Type: Air bed
Dimensions: 78 x 60 x 18 in. (Queen)
Weight: 14 lbs. 13 oz.
What we like: Budget-priced air bed.
What we don’t: No pump included; a little less comfortable.
Coleman’s SupportRest Double High is our top value-oriented air bed. Opting for a relatively inexpensive design like this one usually results in serious compromises in durability, but that’s not the case with the Coleman. While no air bed 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 4D Battery QuickPump for camping use, which adds about $20 to the price.
Stacked up against the REI Kingdom air beds above, the Coleman is the clear favorite for those on a budget—even adding the pump undercuts the standard Kingdom in price by around $60 at the time of publishing. And if you prefer the tall, double-high style, the Coleman is more convenient. We rank the Kingdom 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 the majority of camping tents. But if your air bed mostly will be used at home and only taken camping on occasion, the Coleman SupportRest is a solid option at a considerable discount.
See the Coleman SupportRest Double High Air Bed
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 Quasar 3D above is much 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 Nemo Quasar 3D boasts a similar build with horizontal baffling but weighs over 2 pounds less and packs down noticeably smaller (we also like the raised baffle at the head end to keep your pillow in place). However, the Kelty has a larger sleeping platform (4 in. longer, 5 in. wider, and 1.25 in. thicker), uses more hardwearing fabrics, and costs a considerable $70 less. We rank the Nemo higher because of its added appeal for backcountry outings, but the Kelty nevertheless is a well-rounded build at a reasonable price.
See the Kelty Tru.Comfort
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.
See the Exped DownMat XP 9
Type: Self-inflating mat
Dimensions: 77 x 25 x 3 in. (L)
Weight: 4 lbs. 3 oz.
What we like: Thicker and more feature-rich than the REI Camp Bed above.
What we don’t: Not a strong value.
The LuxuryMap from Therm-a-Rest is another solid self-inflating camping mat. For $60 more than the REI Co-op Camp Bed above, you get a thicker build (by 0.5 in.), separate inflation and deflation valves (the REI only has one), and Therm-a-Rest’s typical build quality and supportive foam cushioning. Overall, its 3-inch thickness can’t compete with a truly luxurious option like Therm-a-Rest’s own MondoKing or the Exped MegaMat above, but the LuxuryMap’s durable, soft lining and easy-to-use twist valves get the job done for most camping adventures.
Within the Therm-a-Rest lineup, the LuxuryMap is a decent value, but we think there are better options on the market. For example, the REI Camp Dreamer XL above beats the LuxuryMap in thickness (by 1 in.), width (by 7 in.), and has a better sleeping platform thanks to its vertical sidewalls. For only $19 extra, it’s pretty easy to justify the upgrade. And the aforementioned $100 REI Camp Bed has a higher R-value (7.6) and makes only small sacrifices in sleeping comfort. It’s worth noting Therm-a-Rest offers a more budget-friendly design in their BaseCamp ($100), but its thinner 2-inch construction and single valve make it the less appealing option, in our opinion.
See the Therm-a-Rest LuxuryMap
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 (it doesn’t have any foam inside and the nylon exterior isn’t soft by any means), 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 REI Trailbreak and Sea to Summit Camp SI above, both of which cost around $30 more. 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 Trailbreak or Camp in most cases, but the Coleman is the clear cost leader and still far plusher than your old 0.5-inch foam pad.
See the Coleman Self-Inflating Camp Pad
|Therm-a-Rest MondoKing 3D||$210||Self-inflating||77 x 25 x 4.25 in.||4 lbs. 6 oz.||10.3 x 26 in.|
|Exped MegaMat Duo 10||$349||Self-inflating||77.6 x 52 x 3.9 in.||9 lbs. 14.7 oz.||11.8 x 27.6 in.|
|REI Co-op Trailbreak||$70||Self-inflating||72 x 20 x 1.75 in.||2 lbs. 8 oz.||6.5 x 20 in.|
|REI Kingdom Insulated Air Bed||$149||Air bed||79 x 56 x 6 in.||5 lbs. 13 oz.||10 x 20 in.|
|Nemo Quasar 3D||$190||Air mat||76 x 25 x 3.5 in.||2 lbs. 1 oz.||9 x 5.5 in.|
|Nemo Roamer||$250||Self-inflating||78 x 30 x 4 in.||5 lbs. 8 oz.||10 x 16 in.|
|REI Co-op Camp Bed||$100||Self-inflating||72 x 25 x 2.5 in.||3 lbs. 10 oz.||5.5 x 26 in.|
|Hest Sleep System Sleeping Pad||$399||Self-inflating||78 x 25 x 7 in.||26 lbs.||14 x 25 in.|
|REI Kingdom Insulated Sleep System||$299||Air bed||79 x 56 x 6 in.||15 lbs. 9 oz.||17 x 21 x 23 in.|
|Exped DeepSleep Mat 7.5||$169||Self-inflating||72 x 25.6 x 3 in.||4 lbs. 8.3 oz.||26.5 x 8 in.|
|REI Co-op Camp Dreamer XL||$179||Self-inflating||78 x 32 x 4 in.||6 lbs. 6 oz.||11 x 30 in.|
|Coleman ComfortSmart Deluxe Cot||$100||Cot||80 x 30 x 15 in.||19 lbs. 8 oz.||40 x 30 x 5.5 in.|
|Sea to Summit Camp SI||$70||Self-inflating||72 x 20 x 1.5 in.||1 lb. 11 oz.||6.5 x 13 in.|
|Coleman SupportRest Double High||$71||Air bed||78 x 60 x 18 in.||14 lbs. 13 oz.||12 x 17 in.|
|Kelty Tru.Comfort||$120||Air mat||80 x 30 x 4.75 in.||4 lbs. 10 oz.||10 x 7 x 18 in.|
|Exped DownMat XP 9||$249||Air mat||77 x 25 x 3.5 in.||2 lbs. 9.3 oz.||6.3 x 10.6 in.|
|Therm-a-Rest LuxuryMap||$160||Self-inflating||77 x 25 x 3 in.||4 lbs. 3 oz.||9.5 x 26 in.|
|Coleman Camp Pad||$37||Self-inflating||76 x 26 x 2.5 in.||4 lbs. 8 oz.||8 x 26 in.|
- Mattress Types
- Sleeping Mats vs. Air beds
- What About a Cot?
- Mattress Comfort and Thickness
- Sizing: Width and Length
- Mattress Insulation: R-Value
- Weight and Packed Size
- Durability (Denier)
- Valve Types
- How to Store Your Camping Mattress
- Backpacking Sleeping Pads
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 (hence the name "self-inflating"). In comparison to a 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 Therm-a-Rest MondoKing 3D 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 closed-cell foam is by far and away the least comfortable mattress type (there's a reason that none made our list above). 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 a foam pad like 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, however, one of the other pads from our list above will suit you much better.
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 air bed. So which one should you choose? The main benefit of an air bed 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, air beds are friendlier for use at home for guests, especially if you choose a two-person queen-sized air bed. 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 air bed, mattress pad, and quilt is pretty hard to beat.
A cot may stretch the definition of a sleeping mattress—considering it comes with a metal structure in addition to a sleeping platform—but it’s a viable and quite popular way of sleeping in a tent. We love cots because they get you high off the ground, and they can double as a couch for hanging out during the day. Comfort-wise, they usually fall in the mid-range. The Coleman ComfortSmart Deluxe that we’ve included above is reasonably soft, but it still falls short of a quality self-inflating mat. On the other hand, a cot like the Coleman is a great value at around $100.
The most important consideration is whether you can transport the cot and fit it inside your tent. Most cots only fold in half, so they are extremely large (the ComfortSmart measures 40 x 30 x 5.5 inches when folded). If you’re bringing a few cots, it may be impossible to squeeze everything into your vehicle. And inside your tent, the tall height of the cot may run into the sloped walls. But if you have the space and are willing to haul it around, a cot can be a great choice for camping.
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 in fact 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 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 air bed that’s 3 inches thick or more is advisable. Back sleepers—depending on personal preferences—can get away with a thinner pad. 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. It's true that tolerant sleepers can deal with less, but if you camp out a lot, it's often worth the investment.
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 start 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 air bed) 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.
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—especially at lower elevations—you can get away with almost no insulation in most cases (an R-value in the 1-3 range should suffice). 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 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.
Camping is typically a drive up and unload 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. At the other end of the spectrum are crossover car camping and backpacking options like Nemo's Quasar 3D (2 lbs. 1 oz. with a 9 x 5.5-in. packed size) and Sea to Summit's Camp SI (1 lb. 11 oz. and 13 x 6.5 in.). 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 kids and/or dogs. There are, however, still differences between models, which is why we suggest checking the denier ratings (if available). For camping mats, denier ranges from about 50D to 150D (the Nemo Quasar is one exception with a thin 30D shell), with the higher numbers offering greater tear and puncture resistance. The underside of a pad often gets the most abuse, so it’s a good idea to look into that thickness in particular. And finally, material quality matters, so you can expect a pricier option of a similar denier to provide superior durability.
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. In addition, 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 air bed can be a time-consuming and dizzying experience (or an impossible task in the case of an air bed), so most manufacturers will include some sort of pump. For instance, Kelty’s Tru.Comfort can be inflated easily by opening the stuff sack, connecting it to the mat, and folding the bag over to force air into the pad (no breath required). Overall, we’ve found that air pad pumps aren't as simple as a self-inflating design, but they fully inflate their respective sleeping mats in only a few minutes.
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 Duo 10, but one possible location is storing it under a bed (provided you have the space). 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.
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 actually 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 other 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 cross over nicely. Of the mattresses that are most comfortable for camping, we recommend Nemo’s Quasar collection and Sea to Summit’s Comfort Light designs. For a full list of our recommendations, see our article on the best backpacking sleeping pads.
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