Best Camping Mattresses and Sleeping Pads
Thicker camping pads offer increased warmth and comfort; (photo/Matt Granger)

The Best Camping Mattresses and Sleeping Pads of 2022

From packable pads to comfortable air beds, we found the best camping mattresses and sleeping pads to fit every adventure and budget.

Car camping offers a lot of benefits. Not only do you get to enjoy being outside, but you also don’t have to be as concerned with limiting weight or gear. In terms of a sleeping pad, this means you can get something more comfortable. From an ultra-cushioned double sleeping pad to our top pick for budget savings, these are the best car camping mattresses and pads.

We all have different needs when it comes to sleeping pads, so while there isn’t a single camping pad that will suit everyone out there, we’ve broken them up into categories to help you find the right camp pad for you.

For this particular roundup, we focused specifically on pads made for car camping and similar applications. We did not test pads or mattresses designed to fit into a backpacking pack. If you’re looking for a backpacking pad, check out our favorite products here.

Scroll through to see all of our recommended buys or jump to the category you’re looking for. We’ve also included a product spec table for easy comparison.

The Best Camping Mattresses & Sleeping Pads of 2022

Best Overall: Therm-a-Rest MondoKing 3D

Therm-a-rest MondoKing 3D Sleeping Pad

When you first lie down on this pad ($230-260), you realize what you’ve been missing. There’s room to spread out, all the warmth you could need, and tons of foam padding. The vertical sidewalls enhance the sleeping space by 20%, which means you can roll around without falling off.

The dual valves make inflation easier. And we like the way it completely opens up for a faster deflation. It will take a couple of times rolling it up tightly to fit in the carrying bag, but it is possible.

On top of comfort and warmth, what really made this pad stand out is its long-term durability. We’ve used it for more than 200 nights, and it’s still going strong.

It’s withstood a rowdy, jumping toddler, lying directly on gravel and other variable surfaces, and constant adult weight-bearing through the night. Through it all, it’s maintained perfect inflation and comfort.

At $230 for the large, this pad falls in between the Camp Dreamer and NEMO Roamer in price, matches them in comfort, and beats them in warmth and longevity. So, you’ll have to decide which factor is most important to you. If you go with the MondoKing 3D, rest easy knowing you’ll be ultra cozy all night long, and can bank on comfort for future trips you’ve yet to imagine.

Available in large and XXL sizes.

Specs:
  • Weight: 5 lbs., 8 oz.
  • R-value: 7
  • Thickness: 4 in.
Pros:
  • Warm
  • Thick
  • Comfortable
  • Durable
Cons:
  • Not as easy to inflate initially as other comparable pads

Check Price at REICheck Price at Amazon

Runner-Up: NEMO Roamer XL Wide

NEMO Roamer

Anyone who’s ever called their car home will appreciate the NEMO Roamer ($250). This is the ultimate adventure mobile mattress. It’s thick, warm, and it’s seriously comfortable. With 4 inches of open-cell foam, you can sleep soundly wherever home happens to be.

As with most self-inflating pads, you’ll need to top it off for maximum comfort. But the microadjust valve makes it easy to add air without worrying about losing any. And we liked how the one-way valves make quick work of deflating the pad fully when it’s time to pack up camp.

Traditional air mattresses are thin and more susceptible to tears, but with the foam construction and a 75-denier polyester bottom, the Roamer is truly built to withstand camping outside. As an additional perk, the toggles on the side allow you to connect two Roamers to create a two-person mattress.

While it’s not ultralight by any means, it packs down fairly small for the added comfort it offers (about the size of a winter sleeping bag, or 10 x 16 inches).

We put this pad through extensive use, and after more than 150 nights it finally stopped holding air. The valves developed a slow leak that left us needing to top it off every night. For a permanent van or car dweller, it may not be ideal. But, for someone who car camps when exploring, we’d highly recommend it.

The Roamer also comes as a double ($400).

Read our full review on the NEMO Roamer here.

Specs:
  • Weight: 5 lbs., 8 oz.
  • R-value: 6
  • Thickness: 4 in.
Pros:
  • Comfortable
  • Durable
  • Connects to another Roamer pad to create a queen-size mattress
Cons:
  • Expensive
  • Valve leaks over time

Check Price at REICheck Price at Amazon

Best Budget: REI Camp Dreamer XL

REI Camp Dreamer XL Sleeping Pad

Do you like a good memory foam mattress? Let us introduce you to Camp Dreamer XL ($179). Four inches of air and engineered foam provide plenty of cushioning for a good night’s sleep. And with an R-value of 6.6, it will keep you warm on chilly summer nights (and into the shoulder seasons with the proper sleeping bag).

The horizontal core foam is designed to pack up easily and (as you can see in the above image) gives a bit of baffling to the mattress. We learned the hard way one night that these foam baffles make for a lumpy, uncomfortable surface if not fully inflated. When topped off, however, this pad rivals any hotel bed for comfort.

This pad includes a foam pump that doubles as a pillow, and while there is much debate over its comfort as a pillow, the pump makes inflating the Camp Dreamer XL a breeze. The reversible high-flow valve is simple, and deflating the pad at the end of a trip is quite simple. If you want something that rivals the comfort of the Exped MegaMat but clocks in for a few dollars less, this is the pad for you.

Specs:
  • Weight: 6 lbs., 6 oz.
  • R-value: 6.6
  • Thickness: 4 in.
Pros:
  • Comfortable
  • Reversible valves make inflating and deflating simple
Cons:
  • Large packed size

Check Price at REI

Best Double Sleeping Pad: Exped MegaMat Duo 10

Exped MegaMat Duo 10

When comfort is your main concern, the MegaMat ($330-450) is your answer. What it lacks in packed size and affordability, it more than makes up for in size and comfort.

The open-cell polyurethane foam insulates and cushions. And while some double sleeping pads perpetually send one partner for a ride when the other moves, the MegaMat Duo is stable and quiet.

As with all self-inflating pads, expect to top it off after heavy use. But instead of having to blow into it, you can use the included mini pump, which simplifies inflation and minimizes effort. It also includes a repair kit should you ever get a tear (although we’ve found it impressively durable).

One of our favorite things about this pad is how level it is. Some camping mattresses pop up in the middle when filled, but thanks to the 3D construction, this bad boy stays flat even when fully inflated and being slept on.

At 77.6 inches tall and 52 inches wide, the MegaMat is large enough to snugly fit two adults or spaciously sleep one. For reference, a double-size fitted sheet fits almost perfectly.

The durable sidewalls provide support, and as our tester noted, “The vertical sidewalls increase the usable sleeping surface. This small addition compared to other sleeping pads is instantly noticeable.” Apart from adding comfort and space, these impressive sidewalls also help keep you dry in really bad weather.

“During one stretch, Mother Nature pounded us with rain for 3 days straight. The bottoms of the tents were soaked. The height and larger surface kept me dry and warm even over wet ground.”

Durable, comfortable, and stable — this is the ultimate sleeping pad for two people. It’s also available as a single.

Check our full review on the Exped MegaMat.

Specs:
  • Weight: 9 lbs., 14 oz.
  • R-value: 9.5
  • Thickness: 3.9 in.
Pros:
  • Supremely comfortable
  • Durable
Cons:
  • Expensive
  • Large packed size
  • Heavy

Check Price at REICheck Price at Amazon

Mega Size, Warmth, & Comfort: Exped 'MegaMat'
Mega Size, Warmth, & Comfort: Exped 'MegaMat'
Designed for car campers, Exped made a sleeping pad you will dream about while fast asleep on it. Read more…

Best Air Mattress: Sierra Designs Air Bed

The Sierra Designs Air Bed is a great budget camping mattress

This two-person air bed ($60) from Sierra Designs is a quality camp mattress at an affordable price. It’s not as packable as a sleeping pad like the MegaMat Duo, but we still found it quite comfortable, portable, and easy to set up. It’s sized to fit standard queen-size sheets and comfortably sleeps two.

The included battery-operated pump does a surprisingly good job inflating the mattress, but it does take some time to fully inflate. This air bed has proven durable over several months of use, even withstanding being placed directly on the ground.

It’s not as insulated as some other pads on the list, but it’s easily one of the best camping mattresses you can find for the price.

Specs:
  • Weight: 5 lbs., 6 oz.
  • R-value: Unavailable
  • Thickness: 7 in.
Pros:
  • Comfortable
  • PVC-free
Cons:
  • Not as plush as larger air mattresses
  • Not insulated

Check Price at AmazonCheck Price at Sierra Designs

Best Mattress for a Truck Bed: Hest Dually

Hest Dually

The Hest Dually ($549-579) is an incredibly comfortable mattress that sleeps two and folds in half for travel. But its remarkable comfort and durability are matched only by its hefty price tag. Despite the price, the Dually Mattress is an excellent purpose-built truck bed sleep system.

To achieve great comfort at just 3.9 inches thick (open), the mattress uses two layers of high-performance polyfoam. It cradles your body for sleeping while providing effective insulation against the cold truck bed below you. Our tester has enjoyed wonderful nights of sleep on this mattress, and would recommend it for anyone looking for a permanent, portable truck bed mattress.

The bottom and sides of the Dually mattress use heathered nylon woven with a polyurethane backing for durability. It’s a tougher fabric that can handle jostling around in the back of a pickup truck with other gear. We packed lots of gear on top of the mattress when folded, and it showed no signs of wear.

Due to the seamless center-fold design, there’s also no noticeable seam where the mattress folds. Other cool features include phone pockets on each side and handles for easy carrying.

For more information, check out our full review of the Hest Dually.

Specs:
  • Weight: 32 lbs.
  • R-value: Unknown
  • Thickness: 3.9 in.
Pros:
  • Highly durable
  • Ideal for truck bed camping
Cons:
  • Expensive

Check Price at REICheck Price at Hest

Best of the Rest

Sea to Summit Camp Plus SI Sleeping Pad

Sea to Summit Camp Plus SI Sleeping Pad

This pad has a lot to offer. It’s priced under $100 ($90 for the regular version) and provides 3 inches of self-inflating comfort. We’ve only been testing it for a few months now, but overall we’re highly impressed.

Although it’s not quite as plush as a thicker pad like the MondoKing, it’s incredibly comfortable. Even the side sleepers among us like it.

The 4.3 R-value means you’ll stay warm and could even use this camp mattress year-round (paired with the right sleeping bag). This upgraded mat is noticeably thicker and more comfortable than the previous models.

The Camp Plus SI also scored top marks for durability. The 75-denier outer fabric is soft to the touch but also built to hold up to hard use. We’ve used this pad directly on the ground and in tents without a ground cloth, and it shows no signs of wear.

We also appreciate Sea to Summit’s flip-over valve system. It creates a one-way flow for inflation, and then you can pull it completely out for quick deflation. At nearly 3 pounds, this pad is better suited to car camping, but you could conceivably use it for short backpacking stints if needed.

And if you have an Aeros Camp Pillow, you’ll appreciate the “Pillow Lock” system. It’s really just a bit of hook and loop on the pad and pillow, but it does help keep your pillow in place.

The Camp Plus SI is available in regular and large versions.

Specs:
  • Weight: 2 lbs., 11 oz.
  • R-value: 4.3
  • Thickness: 3 in.
Pros:
  • Comfortable
  • Reversible valves make inflating and deflating simple
Cons:
  • Heavy
  • Expensive

Check Price at REICheck Price at Amazon

Kelty Mistral SI Sleeping Pad

Kelty Mistral SI Sleeping Pad

The Mistral SI ($45) is an incredible value. A quality pad for less than 50 bucks is a darn good deal. That said, at only 1.5 inches thick, this isn’t the most luxurious pad. We never had any instances of feeling the ground beneath us, but it’s certainly more minimalist than other pads and mattresses on this list.

If you’re looking to maximize comfort, go with a plusher mat. However, if you’re looking for a well-made, solid sleeping pad that won’t empty your wallet, this is it.

The Mistral inflates and deflates quite easily. There’s nothing fancy to it, but it serves its purpose with no major downsides. Despite how thin it is, the insulation kept us warm even when temps dipped into the 20s (with a good sleeping bag, of course). This pad is only available in a regular length, so if you’re extra tall, it may not be the best choice.

It weighs a reasonable 2 pounds, 12 ounces, and packs down relatively small. We’ve used it for short hike-in camping, but wouldn’t recommend it for backpacking, as it takes up considerable room in your pack.

Anyone dipping their toes into camping or looking for a great deal will appreciate this sleeping pad.

Specs:
  • Weight: 2 lbs., 12 oz.
  • R-value: 4.7
  • Thickness: 1.5 in.
Pros:
  • Affordable
  • Packable
Cons:
  • Less comfortable than other mattresses

Check Price at REICheck Price at Amazon

REI Co-op Camp Bed Self-Inflating Sleeping Pad

REI Co-op Camp Bed Self-Inflating Sleeping Pad

This self-inflating sleep mat ($125-139) gets high marks for durability and reliability. Year after year, night after night, it keeps inflating and providing plenty of warmth and cushion.

With an R-value of 6.8, it will keep even cold sleepers warm all summer long. And for most, it’s even enough insulation for winter camping. In addition to warmth, the open-cell foam provides a boost of comfort.

To inflate, simply unroll, open the valves, sit back, and relax. The foam will expand, and the pad will partially inflate. From here, you can top it off with a few breaths to reach your desired firmness.

For the easiest inflation, we recommend fully inflating your pad before your first camping trip. This will allow it to expand and prepare it for self-inflation.

Deflation is rather quick thanks to the high-flow valves, but it can take a couple of tries to get it rolled up tightly enough for packing. The polyester upper has a soft and comfortable fabric feel.

Once deployed, we comfortably laid directly on the sleeping pad and appreciated its furniture quality. With a 150-denier bottom, this pad has ample durability, and we didn’t worry about sticks or rocks when lying down.

At more than 3 pounds, it’s not ideal for backpacking, and is best used for car camping or short hikes into camp.

While there are thicker pads on this list, we found the Camp Bed to be a top pick thanks to its affordable price, ability to last through years of heavy use, comfort, and softness.

Specs:
  • Weight: 3 lbs., 10 oz.
  • R-value: 6.8
  • Thickness: 2.5 in.
Pros:
  • Nearly indestructible
  • Good value
  • Warm
  • Easy to use
Cons:
  • Not as thick as other car camping mattresses

Check Price at REI

HEST Sleep System

HEST Sleep System

Let’s start with the obvious — this pad is heavy. Like, 26 pounds heavy.

That said, if you’re creating a van life oasis or building out your truck bed, the weight isn’t an issue. And quite frankly, the incredible comfort is worth it. We’ve heard many rave reviews that it’s “better than my expensive mattress at home.”

Essentially two pads in one, the HEST Sleep System ($449) includes an inflatable base and foam mattress. The base incredibly easy to inflate thanks to the large pump, and we love that it can be inflated to high pressure for maximum comfort.

With a combined 7 inches of padding, you don’t have to worry about pebbles keeping you up at night. It’s also incredibly warm. With an R-value of 11.8, it’s the warmest camp mattress on this list.

The mattress packs up well into the included duffel bag and has a well-thought-out design. At $449, it’s a big investment, but if comfort is your top concern, the price and weight won’t matter.

If you’re looking for a double camp pad that’s more easily maneuverable for car camping, check out the Hest Dually.

Specs:
  • Weight: 26 lbs.
  • R-value: 11.8
  • Thickness: 7 in.
Pros:
  • Comfortable
  • Warm
  • Durable
Cons:
  • Heavy
  • Expensive

Check Price at REICheck Price at Hest

REI Co-Op Trailbreak Self-Inflating Sleeping Pad

REI Co-Op Trailbreak Self-Inflating Sleeping Pad

Similar to the Classic REI Camp Bed, this pad ($75) offers up reliable, durable, no-frills comfort. The 1.75-inch thickness is enough to keep you padded, but it’s not nearly as comfortable as other mattresses on this list.

With extra foam placed in the torso (known as Body Mapping), we found it kept us adequately warm in 34-degree lows. Inflation and deflation are easy with the color-coded valves, and the stretch-top surface is pleasant to the touch.

It’s touted as a camping/backpacking crossover, but honestly, it seems too bulky for backpacking. Weight notwithstanding, it just takes up too much room in your pack. For car camping or shorter hike-in campsites, however, it’s a very reasonable choice.

All in all, the REI Trailbreak is a solid midprice option. It’s not incredibly light, cushy, expensive, or cheap, so it pretty much falls in the middle for all of the specs we consider. It’s a real jack of all trades and master of none.

Specs:
  • Weight: 2 lbs., 8 oz. (regular size)
  • R-value: 5.1
  • Thickness: 1.75 in.
Pros:
  • Priced well
  • Durable
Cons:
  • Not as thick/comfortable as some camping pads

Check Price at REI

Kelty Tru.Comfort

Kelty TruComfort Camp Bed

The Tru.Comfort ($90) is a comfortable sleeping pad, but we simply wanted a bit more for the price. Let’s start with the positives.

At 4.75 inches thick, it provides plenty of cushioning and enough clearance to keep side sleepers off the ground all night long. The stuff sack doubles as an inflation bag, which minimized effort when pumping to full inflation. Overall, it’s a sturdy, if not basic, air mattress.

For the price, however, we simply wish there was more foam insulation. This would not only make it warmer and more applicable through changing seasons, but also more comfortable.

Kelty makes some great gear, but for a similar price we’d rather sleep on the REI Camp Bed or spend a bit more for the Camp Dreamer XL. Though if availability is an issue, this pad will certainly suffice.

Specs:
  • Weight: 4 lbs., 10 oz.
  • R-value: Unavailable
  • Thickness: 4.75 in.
Pros:
  • Stuff sack works great as an inflation bag
  • Thick
Cons:
  • Not as warm or comfortable as other camping mattresses

Check Price at AmazonCheck Price at Backcountry

Coleman Self-Inflating Camping Pad With Pillow

Coleman Self-Inflating Camping Pad with Pillow

For the casual camper, it’s hard to beat $60 for a two-in-one camping sleeping pad and pillow. This iteration from Coleman isn’t the fanciest on the list, but if you only plan to sleep outside a few nights each year or want to test the camping waters without breaking the bank, this is a solid option.

For inflation, expect to have to add a few breaths to the pad to top it off. You’ll also need to blow up the attached pillow to your desired firmness.

At a little over 3 pounds, it’s not outrageously heavy or bulky for car camping. And at a 76-inch length, it’s a good option for tall people.

Although the quality of the pad itself is acceptable, the attached straps are strangely fragile and prone to breaking off at the rivet. If you don’t particularly care about using the straps, this is a good budget pick.

Specs:
  • Weight: 3 lbs., 4 oz.
  • R-value: Unavailable
  • Thickness: 2.5 in.
Pros:
  • Affordable
  • Good for tall campers
Cons:
  • Long-term durability concerns
  • Less comfortable than other mattresses

Check Price at AmazonCheck Price at Walmart

Camping Pad and Mattress Comparison Table

Camping Mattress / Sleeping Pad Price Weight R-Value Thickness
Therm-a-Rest MondoKing 3D $230 5 lbs., 8 oz. 7 4 in.
NEMO Roamer XL Wide $250 5 lbs., 8 oz. 6 4 in.
REI Camp Dreamer XL $179 6 lbs., 6 oz. 6.6 4 in.
Exped MegaMat Duo 10 $380 9 lbs., 14 oz. 9.5 3.9 in.
Sierra Designs Air Bed $59 5 lbs., 6 oz. N/A 7 in.
Hest Dually $549 32 lbs. N/A 3.9 in.
Sea to Summit Camp Plus SI Sleeping Pad $80 2 lbs., 11 oz. 4.3 3 in.
Kelty Mistral SI Sleeping Pad $45 2 lbs., 12 oz. 4.7 1.5 in.
REI Co-op Camp Bed Self-Inflating Sleeping Pad $125-139 3 lbs., 10 oz. 6.8 2.5 in.
HEST Sleep System $449 26 lbs. 11.8 7 in.
REI Co-Op Trailbreak Self-Inflating Sleeping Pad $75 2 lbs., 8 oz 5.1 1.75 in.
Kelty Tru.Comfort $120 4 lbs., 10 oz. N/A 4.75 in.
Coleman Self-Inflating Camping Pad With Pillow
$60 3 lbs., 4 oz. N/A 2.5 in.

Why You Should Trust Us

As avid campers ourselves, we’ve spent hundreds of nights sleeping outside. From backpacking in the Desolation Wilderness, overlanding in Apalachicola, to camping out across the Rocky Mountains, we’ve logged a lot of hours testing camping pads.

During our testing process for this roundup, we focussed specifically on camping pads and mattresses that aren’t strictly designed for backpacking. Backpacking pads tend to be ultra-light and packable, so certain sacrifices are made related to comfort and durability. Because this list mostly includes pads that are campground / car-camping friendly, our testing primarily occurred in truck beds, family-size tents, and directly under the stars.

Our primary considerations while testing were packed size, comfort, warmth, and ease of use. Secondarily, we looked at durability and value. These mattresses were carefully inspected and repeatedly slept on. We took many of these pads on our annual GearJunkie Camp Test — a full week completely devoted to thoroughly field-testing camping gear.

camping sleeping pad
A good pad can be a camp comfort game changer; (photo/Eric Phillips)

Buyer’s Guide: How to Choose a Sleeping Pad

Before reading our buyer’s guide, take a few moments to think about how you plan to camp and sleep.

Will you be driving up to a camp spot, sleeping in your vehicle, hiking a mile or so in, or heading out on a weeklong backpacking trip? Do you sleep on your back, side, or stomach? Is extra cushioning important, or do you care more about saving weight?

Understanding your sleep preferences will help determine the best pad. Read on for the most important factors in choosing a camping pad.

Pads vs. Mattresses

The difference between a sleeping pad and an air mattress is a gray area. On this list, we refer to products that are thicker, cushier, and less portable as air mattresses. At 7 inches thick and 26 pounds, the HEST Sleep System is definitely in the “mattress” category.

Sleeping pads are relatively thin, light, and portable. Though this list mostly focuses on car camping products, certain sleeping pads are portable enough to bring along on river trips and short backpacking missions. The Sea to Summit Camp Plus SI Sleeping Pad is a prime example of a versatile sleeping pad.

Weight & Packed Size

If you’re mainly car camping, you can maximize comfort by going with a more padded, inflatable option like the NEMO Roamer or a deluxe air mattress like the Hest Sleep System. The tradeoff is that these don’t pack down as small and are too heavy for backpacking.

If you plan on hiking into the backcountry, a pad that packs down small and weighs less is ideal. Just how small and light you want to go is up to you. The Therm-a-Rest NeoAir UberLite packs down to the size of a soda can and weighs just 8.8 ounces.

REI Sleeping Pads on ground
Many camp pads combine the comfort and convenience of foam and self-inflation; (photo/Mallory Paige)

Comfort

In general, the thicker the pad, the more comfortable it is. Additionally, having a bit of foam or extra insulation increases the comfort factor and decreases the noise (see below).

If you’re a side sleeper, you understand the need for plenty of cushioning under your hips and shoulders. For a better night’s sleep, you’ll want to consider a thicker sleeping pad.

Durability & Denier

Denier is a unit of measurement used to describe textile strength. The higher the denier, the thicker and stronger the fabric. For a sleeping pad, this is mainly important for puncture resistance.

On one end, the ultralight, backpacking-friendly Therm-a-Rest NeoAir UberLite is made with 15-denier nylon. On the other end, consider that the NEMO Roamer is made with 75-denier polyester. As you can imagine, there’s often a tradeoff between durability and weight.

Price

We love a good value. But even more than that, we appreciate gear that performs well and lasts through several seasons of use.

If you only plan to sleep outside a weekend or two a year, a cheaper pad may get the job done just fine. But if camping is a regular occurrence, it’s worth investing more in a pad.

This is the foundation of your sleep, and getting enough rest at night will make spending all day outside that much more enjoyable. In general, forking over a few extra bucks will get you some combination of increased comfort, durability, and warmth.

sleeping pads stacked inside tent
Camping pad thickness directly relates to the overall comfort and warmth; (photo/Eric Phillips)

Warmth & R-Value

In addition to comfortable cushioning, a good camping pad should provide some insulation from the ground. The higher the R-value, the warmer and more insulating the sleeping pad will be. The MegaMat clocks in with a whopping 9.5 R-value, making it cozy for year-round car camping.

The R-value you need depends a bit on if you tend to be a warm or cool sleeper. In general, you’ll want a sleeping pad with a value greater than 5 for comfortable winter camping. For summer, something in the 2 to 4 range should work for warmer nights.

If waking up with a cold back is a common complaint, consider choosing a warmer sleeping pad or add a foam pad like the Z-Lite under your normal pad for additional insulation.

Length & Width

Most camping sleeping pads come in regular and long versions. Some also come in short, wide, and extra-long varieties. The length and width you need depend not only on your dimensions but also on your camping goals.

We know tall thru-hikers who happily cut their Z-Lite pad in half to shave a few ounces off their pack weight. And we know some tiny testers who prefer a wide sleeping pad because they like the ability to roll around in their sleep.

The main thing to remember is an increase in length and width almost always corresponds to an increase in price and packed size.

Sleeping Pad Valve

Valves & Inflation

Up until recent years, almost all sleeping pads utilized a twisting plastic valve. Turn one direction to open it for inflation, and (quickly!) turn the other to close and trap air inside.

While this system works, it’s not the easiest to inflate. Because air can freely move back and forth, you need to either create constant pressure while blowing it up or skillfully use your tongue to stop air from exiting the pad while inhaling. It can be done, but we prefer the new inflation technology when tired on the trail.

Luckily, many pads now use flat valves with dedicated inflation and deflation settings. Best of all, a flap keeps air from escaping during inflation.

While many pads feature separate valves for inflation and deflation, the REI Camp Bed Dreamer XL has a valve that flips from one mode to the next. This makes achieving the perfect firmness a breeze.

In addition to valves, many pads now come with inflation bags. The Kelty Tru.Comfort Camp Bed comes with an inflation bag integrated into the stuff sack. The Big Agnes Pumphouse Ultra ($35) is sold separately and works as both a dry bag and an inflation bag.

Noise

The most common complaint about lightweight backpacking sleeping pads is the loud, crinkly noise. While packing less is great, sleeping on a pad as noisy as a potato chip bag is less than ideal. And having your tentmate toss and turn all night is even worse.

Fortunately, brands are taking note and making quieter sleeping pads. On this list, the ExPed MegaMat is noticeably crinkle-free.

camping sleeping pad photo
Waking up after a pleasant night on a top-notch sleeping pad; (photo/Eric Phillips)

FAQ

What Is the Most Comfortable Sleeping Pad?

If price and weight are no concern, the HEST Sleep System is a unique inflatable and foam combo that provides top-tier comfort. For a more packable camp mattress, the Therm-a-Rest MondoKing is a winner.

How Thick Should a Sleeping Pad Be?

This depends entirely on your individual comfort level. Generally, we’d recommend 1.5 inches as the minimum.

And if price and space are not a concern, go with something in the range of 4+ inches. This not only offers increased padding, but also greater warmth and protection from the ground.

How Do You Choose a Sleeping Pad for Camping?

Finding the right sleeping pad can make or break your camp trip. First consider, where, when, and how often you plan to camp.

Are you camping in the hot, humid South? Or do you camp a lot in the winter? And are you spending a lot of time outside or just getting started with a night or two camped out?

If you’re camping when it’s cold, you’ll want to prioritize a higher insulation (R-value) level. And if you’re just testing it out or on a tighter budget, go with something like the sub-$50 Kelty Mistral.

What Is the Best Mattress for Car Camping?

The best thing about car camping is that you don’t need to obsess over the weight or packed size. As long as it reasonably fits in your car, you can focus more on comfort.

After more than a year of testing, we found the Therm-a-Rest MondoKing topped the charts for durability, comfort, and ease of use. If you’re looking for an air mattress, the Hest Sleep System delivers traditional inflatable comfort along with a convenient (and cozy) sheet and comforter setup.


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