REI Co-op Camp Dreamer XL Review
Cons: Too big for some single person tents
Manufacturer: REI Co-op
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The REI Dreamer XL is built to compete directly with the highest-end camping mattresses. It gets you four inches off the cold ground just like other mats that are similar in design, and it has a foam inflation pump that works better than many of the other hand pumps. Its carrying sack makes it easy to tote around from the car to the tent. Most importantly, it is incredibly comfortable and at a friendly price, making it our Best Buy winner. You won't be disappointed.
REI seems to have taken many of our favorite features from other mattresses and combined them into a better and less expensive (crazy, we know!) camping mat. The polyester top is soft, silent, and not even the slightest bit sticky against your bare skin.
Like your mattress firm? You can pump this mat up to nearly bursting with the large foam pump pillow and not lose any air due to the one-way reversible hi-flow TPR valve. For a plusher sleeping experience, you can press on the valve to fine-tune the mat to your preferred level of softness. The foam pump doubles as a pillow, should you need one. While car camping, you're probably just going to carry along your pillow of choice from home. However, the pump/pillow is pretty comfortable, and you can adjust the firmness the same way you would the mat. You can also squeeze all the air out of the pillow for more compact storage. When we first laid eyes on the Camp Dreamer, we thought the visible air chambers would feel lumpy. After testing, we can assure you that you won't notice the chambers, no matter how much you over or underinflate the mat.
Ease of Use
The pillow/pump device that comes with the Camp Dreamer is pretty unique among the mattresses in our test. Not only does the pump make a comfortable pillow, but it also inflates the mat easily, drawing air in through a one-way valve and pushing it through another one-way valve into the mat while you pump it with your hands or feet. It takes very little time or effort to get this mattress fully inflated. We still recommend that you give the mattress time to self-inflate, however, to reduce the amount of time you have to spend pumping it to full inflation.
To deflate the mat and the pump, you push the valve in and flip it around so you can squeeze all the air out without any getting back in. The valve feels flimsy, and while we are concerned that it may not stay locked in place and could flip around on its own after a lot of use, we didn't experience this at all during our testing period. The horizontal channels that run across the mat make rolling the pad up quite easy.
An R-value rating measures the level of insulation from the ground and air temperatures. With an R-value of 5.5 in the Camp Dreamer, you'll have plenty of insulation between you and the cold ground for most car-camping style adventures in the lower 48, even in winter. Higher R-values typically means more foam, which adds weight and makes a mattress a bit harder to use. This model has found a sweet spot in usability and warmth. Also, remember that while the mat will keep a nice layer of warm air trapped under you, it won't make you feel any hotter on warm nights than a pad with a lesser R-value.
This puppy is one of the most significant single-person mats we've ever seen, and it's going to take up quite a bit of precious real estate in your tent. It may not even fit in the back of your truck. Though all that real estate to sprawl on may offer unparalleled comfort, it makes this pad less versatile. This is something to take into consideration for those of you that camp with a significant other. Unless you have a huge tent, you will have a tough time getting two of these to fit (and you are going to need two… for sure). This may not be a problem if you camp solo, but even then, measure your tent before you make the investment.
There are better options for folks on the move who are sleeping in places where space is at a premium. If your backcountry mission is mule assisted, however, we wouldn't hesitate to load one of these suckers up and have the most comfortable nights imaginable.
A set of these mats for the family will take up a ton of space in the car, and currently, XL is the only available size. With the pillow/pump, this pad packs away to 11 x 30 inches if you take the time to squeeze out as much air as you can. Otherwise, it's even bulkier when packed away.
The carrying sack is generously sized and stretchy, so if you're in a hurry or just feeling lazy, it's not difficult to fit the pad inside even if there's still a little air in the mat. REI also includes a pair of helpful compression straps, but they aren't attached to the pad, so they're easy to lose. Considering the vast sleeping space provided by this pad, we think it packs away to a respectably compact package, and it doesn't take up that much more space than other pads in this category.
The Camp Dreamer is one of the most comfortable mattresses in our test that is also really easy to use. The retail price gets you the pad, the pump, and the carrying sack; a great deal, and why it is our Best Buy Award Winner.
REI knocks it out of the park with the Camp Dreamer XL, making it our choice for Best Buy. It provides a level of comfort that rivals and sometimes exceeds that of our own beds. For car campers and travelers with enough room in their vehicle, there is no better option for a good night's sleep. We will hands down never go car camping again without this mat. Weight is no concern when you're walking from your car to your tent site or sometimes simply putting the mat down next to your car. With the Dreamer XL, we got great sleep away from home so we could play hard the next day.
— Laurel Hunter & Matt Bento