Are you losing sleep on a tiny backpacking mattress, even though you're only sleeping a few feet from the car? Time to treat yourself to a deluxe car camping mattress so you can get a great night's sleep under the stars and be well rested for the next day's adventure. We've sorted through over 40 models and purchased the 17 best, putting them through their paces of unpacking, inflating, repacking, and most importantly, sleeping on them to find which are the most comfortable. We've put together a selection that ranges from thick air mattresses with motorized pumps to pads that will fit in a suitcase, and even a few double wide mats for couples. If you're on the hunt for a lightweight pad that you can go hiking with, check out our Sleeping Pad Review for backpacking.
Best Camping Mattresses and Pads of 2018
Analysis and Award Winners
Just in time for your summer travel itinerary, we've updated our camping mattress review, adding in the lightweight, double-wide Klymit Insulated Double V, the versatile Therm-a-rest Dreamtime, and the ultra packable Nemo Nomad and a few others to round out our selection. We've determined the most versatile, and the best value, all so you can cut straight to the chase and pick the right mattress for your slumbering needs. Long story short? The Exped MegaMat series remains our Editors' Choice Award winner for a fifth season counting, but it received stiff competition from the comfy Alps Mountaineering Outback and the easy-to-inflate Therm-a-Rest Dreamtime.
Exped MegaMat 7.5
We mixed things up this season by testing the Exped MegaMat 7.5 LWX, the less insulated, thinner, slightly less expensive version of our all-time favorite MegaMat 10. We are happy to report that the less "heavy duty" 7.5 LWX is just as comfortable as the 10, and with an R-value of 6.4, it's plenty warm for all but the harshest environments, not the places you'll be car camping in any way. Thanks to the lower price and slightly reduced weight (about a half pound) over the 10, we recommend this version over the 10 for most folks, unless you have to have the four inches of thickness from the MegaMat 10. Both mats have a very similar feel and comfort level, and both include the foot pump for easy inflation.
Keep in mind that the MegaMat 7.5 and 10 are a bit on the wide side for a single pad (which only adds to their comfort in our opinion), so if you're camping in a small tent, it takes up a lot of space and might crowd out your neighbor. If you're usually camping with a significant other, check out the MegaMat 10 Duo below instead. This mat is on the expensive side, but the quality matches the price. If you car camp for more than a few nights per year, or even want an excellent household mat for overnight guests, this one is worth it, and your body will thank you. A few of our testers felt the MegaMat is more comfortable than the mattresses on their beds at home.
Read review: Exped Megamat 7.5
Best Overall for Couples
Exped MegaMat Duo 10
Want the very best mattress for car camping that money can buy, but don't want to separate at night from your honey (aka your cold weather bed heater)? Luckily for you, Exped makes our favorite overall mat in a double-wide size, the Exped MegaMat Duo 10. This mattress has the same excellent features and construction of the single MegaMat in a 52-inch wide version. This is not quite as wide as two singles pushed together (30 inches each), but it fits perfectly in the back of pickup truck or minivan, and also in most bigger two-person tents. Even when deflated, it's still relatively comfy to sleep on which is good puncture insurance.
Because it is so big, it is a bit unwieldy. Packing it up can be a bit of a pain and it's twice the size of the next smallest mat. However, if you were going to take two mats anyways, then this is no big deal. Same with the price. At $369, it's expensive but still less than buying two of the single MegaMats separately. The Duo is an excellent choice for families with small children as well, or even for a single individual who likes a lot of space. Looking to do some snuggling on your next backpacking trip? Check out the lightweight and packable Klymit Insulated Double V. While nowhere near as comfy as the MegaMat, it's also less than half the price.
Read review: Exped MegaMat Duo 10
Best Overall Value
REI Camp Bed 3.5
Want the best mattress you can afford but don't want to spend $229 to own it? Look no further than the REI Camp Bed 3.5. For $100 less than our Editors' Choice winner, you can have a comfortable, super-wide and long pad underneath you that is guaranteed to induce sweet dreams. While 3.5 inches of padding may not sound like a lot compared to the six to eight inches of support offered by the numerous air beds, there is no way your body will be resting on the ground through this amazing mattress. It was one of the quickest of the self-inflating mattresses to set up and required only a few breaths of air to get it to our desired firmness.
It is a bit of a pain to roll up. Even when we got as much air out of it as possible, we still struggled to get it back into its stuff sack. Once in there, it's on the bulky side, so if you have a smaller car or a limited amount of space in which to pack your camping gear, you may want to look elsewhere. All in all, these are minor complaints compared to the incredible value that you get from the REI Camp Bed 3.5.
Read review: REI Camp Bed 3.5
Best on a Lean Budget
Intex Classic Downy
Need something to camp on just once, or for your unexpected guest to crash on for the weekend? Then the Intex Classic is for you. While it's not going to give you the comfort and style of most of the other mattresses in this review, it'll get the job done on a budget. You can purchase this queen-sized mattress with two inflatable pillows and a small hand pump for less than $30!
While it does have a durable vinyl bottom, there is no insulation on the Classic, so if you're using it in cold conditions, it'll feel like you're sleeping on top of an ice box. This is a warmer weather or indoor option only. But, with the price so low, it's hard to think of a reason why you wouldn't want to have one of these laying around, just in case.
Read review: Intex Classic Downy
Top Pick For Convenience
Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Dream
The Therm-a-Rest Dreamtime is your express ticket to a good night's sleep. Simply unclip the buckles, open the valves, top it off with few breaths and lay down. The thick foam topper makes for a considerable packed size, but also offers incredible comfort comparable to our Editors' Choice award winner, the Exped MegaMat. At the end of your camping trip, the soft cover removes and can be thrown in the wash so you can have a fresh sleep spot for the next trip or for your next overnight guest.
This big bulky pad rolls up easy, but takes up a lot of space, especially if you're trying to outfit the whole family, but you can't beat the removable cover when it comes time to clean up after messy kids or a muddy camping trip.
Read review: Therm-a-rest NeoAir Dream
Best Comfort and Size Combo
Therm-a-Rest MondoKing 3D
Love the Exped MegaMat, but can't fit it into your tent? Try the Therm-a-Rest MondoKing 3D instead. Nearly the MegaMat's equal in comfort and cost, the MondoKing is a full five inches narrower, meaning it's so much easier to fit into that 2-person tent you already have. With the insane comfort and convenient width of the MondoKing, you and your partner can lounge on princess-worthy mattresses when the two of you go camping together. No need to revert to your old uncomfortable sleeping pad just because you've got a tent buddy!
It can be a little tricky to dial in the firmness that you want — once the foam core is filled with air it is challenging to get it out, so don't go crazy when inflating it. Speaking of which, make sure you inflate it once or twice at home first, as the initial inflation process took hours. Other than that, the MondoKing has a lot to offer and is an excellent option for those who need a narrower mat.
Read review: Therm-a-Rest MondoKing 3D
Analysis and Test Results
Car camping mattresses are not your everyday sleeping pads. While sleeping pads for backpacking are designed to be small and lightweight, providing just enough comfort to keep you happy in your tent without being a pain to carry, these mattresses are designed for excess. After all, if you don't have to carry it anywhere, why would you want just the basics? These contenders are the pinnacle of inflatable luxury. This level of comfort is worth its weight in gold if you live in a vehicle, often camp in your car or close to it, or are of advanced years and wisdom, when perfect recovery just doesn't happen if you are lying in the dirt. Additionally, it's much easier to get the reluctant campers in your life to get outside if you can offer comfort similar to their own bed at home.
We tested the XL versions of the leading manufacturers' high-end mattresses, because if we're looking for luxury, why would we choose anything less? Most of them were enormous! The typical dimensions were around 77 inches long by 30 inches wide for a single (6.5 feet by 2.5 feet), and inflated, they ranged from three to eight inches thick. With their giant size also comes a high weight. While the lightest mattress was around three pounds, the heaviest was close to ten. In the rest of this review, we'll discuss the different metrics that we used to test and score the products, and what to look for when purchasing on a budget.
If you're in the market for a dedicated camping mattress, it's probably because you've decided that you want something more comfortable than a lightweight backpacking pad or a blow-up air mattress. If you're already invested in making this purchase, the next question is how much are you willing to spend? Our Editors' Choice winner, the Exped MegaMat 7.5 LWX, retails for $200 and is a fantastic product. If that doesn't quite fit into your budget, check out our Price vs. Performance chart below. This can help you find high-performing models that don't cost an arm and a leg. Those that lie to the right (higher performance score) but towards the bottom (lower retail price) are the best value. The Big Agnes Sleeping Giant Memory Foam ($120), and our Best Buy winner, the REI Co-op Camp Bed 3.5 ($130), are both great options and will save you a lot of money compared to the MegaMat.
If a mattress isn't comfortable, why would you even consider it? With this question in mind, we rated comfort as the most important metric in our tests, and it accounted for 40 percent of the overall score. Comfort is a subjective thing; some people like a very firm sleeping surface, while others want a fluffy down pillow top to rest on. We made sure that it was possible to adjust the firmness of every mattress, and it was, although a couple of them were difficult to inflate full enough that they felt very firm. Besides simply sleeping on them for a night and then deciding whether it felt comfortable or not, we also thought about whether each mattress felt good lying on the back and the sides. We evaluated whether they held their air all night or deflated a bit with time and whether there was ever any chance of pressuring through to the ground (there wasn't).
To test for comfort, we used each product while car camping, either in the back of a van, truck, or in a tent, and also loaned them out to as many different testers as we could find. We also had house guests sleep on them inside on the floor of the living room, to get more opinions on which mattress the most comfortable. Lastly, we lined all of the models up side-by-side and spent an afternoon rolling around from pad to pad, carefully comparing the merits and detractions of each to make sure we got the decisions correct.
Ease of Use
We considered ease of use to be the second most important metric behind comfort and weighted it 20 percent of the products' final score. Who wants to wrestle with deflating and packing up a huge mattress when all you want to do is get out of camp and have fun? Likewise, nobody wants to spend an hour blowing up a giant mattress with the power of their lungs.
Thus, ease of use is meant to rate how easy it is to set up the mat, get it inflated, and then deflate it and stow it away again in the morning. To test this metric, we used each of these mattresses sometimes in different situations, and then again set them all up at the same time, one after the other, to better analyze the nuances between each one.
It was quickly apparent which mattresses were a breeze to inflate and deflate, and which other ones we literally (at times) spent 10 minutes or more wrestling with. The Therm-a-Rest Dreamtime was very simple to roll out, inflate, and then deflate and roll up again. Likewise, the Lightspeed 2-person air bed and the Soundasleep Camping Series, with their battery operated inflation pumps, were straightforward to set up and take down, but the loud whine of their motorized pumps will surely detract from your wilderness experience and that of those around you.
On the opposite end of the spectrum were the two Exped MegaMat models. They didn't self-inflate quickly - you have to wait more than 10 minutes for the self-inflating feature to fully do its job. The manual mini-pump included required a bit of time to inflate these behemoth pads. The Nemo Nomad is six inches thick and includes an integrated foam pump for inflation. This is handy since you'll never lose this essential pump, but if you're packing away and re-inflating the pad every night, all the pumping can be a chore. We were also impressed with the Klymit Insulated Double V's inflation system, which employs the stuff sack as a pump, inflating quickly and easily.
The term "self-inflating" is a bit of a misnomer. Or, at the very least, it sets unrealistic expectations. Most self-inflating models have foam inside that once your pad is unrolled, slowly expands and draws air in. However, this process never fully inflates the pad. At best, it gets the pad 60-80% inflated, and you then have to do the rest. Also, this process takes at least 10 minutes. Therefore, when you get to your camp spot, we recommend immediately unrolling your pad and starting the self-inflating process. Depending on your pad, it might also help to prop open the inflation valve with the handle of a utensil or other blunt object.
With a goose down or synthetic insulated sleeping bag around you, warmth should not be any concern. But what about underneath you, where your body weight crushes out the heat-trapping loft needed to keep you snuggly warm? Although often overlooked, the thermal properties of your sleeping pad play a large part in how warm, or cold, you will be sleeping out in the wilderness. Not convinced? Try sleeping outside with eight inches of un-insulated 40-degree air under your body and see how it feels. For this review, we did, and it was cold.
The truth is, we didn't realize how essential the insulating properties of our sleeping pad was until two particular early fall nights camping in near-freezing temperatures at high altitudes. The first night we slept on an un-insulated inflatable air bed, and despite being cocooned in 800-fill goose down, we were awake and cold all night long. The next night we shifted beds and chose a mattress with an R-value of 6, and it made a huge difference. We slept like a dream that night and understood by morning the difference that insulation can make. With this experience in mind, we assigned warmth as 20 percent of a product's final score.
To rate for warmth, we started with our anecdotal experiences like the one described above. But memories and feelings weren't quite enough to rate which mattresses were the warmest of all, so we relied on the manufacturers' stated R-values. R-values are described in greater detail in our Buying Advice, but suffice it to say that the larger the number, the greater ability that material has to insulate against both heat and cold. The warmest and most insulated car camping mattresses were the Exped MegaMats and the Alps Mountaineering Outback. The coldest, least insulated mattresses, which did indeed cause us a bit of suffering outside in the mountains, even in summer, were the air beds —the Soundasleep Camping Series, Nemo Nomad, REI Relax Airbed, the Lightspeed 2-person, and the Intex Classic Downy Queen.
Versatility is a metric that takes a lot of different factors into consideration, including some of the other things we rated for. In a nutshell, the most versatile mattresses are the ones that best answer this question: Can I use this pad right now, no matter what the activity or season? The light and packable Nemo Nomad has an integrated foot pump and can even be crammed into air carry-on, making it a great choice for traveling, but not for cold weather camping, plus it can connect with another mat to make a queen. Our Top Pick for Convenience, the Therm-a-Rest DreamTime is also very versatile since you can trim it down by removing the foam topper (unfortunately reducing its comfort level) and easily clean it by just throwing the cover in the washing machine.
From the above description of what a very versatile mattress has, you can imagine what the opposite end of the spectrum looks like. Heavy, bulky, difficult, un-insulated, etc. causing one to carefully consider whether conditions and activities are appropriate for bringing the car camping mattress. And the reality is you only want one mattress, so you don't want to think, "Maybe I can't use it this time." The least versatile car camping mattresses, compared to all the others that we tested, were the trio of air beds, in part because they depended on their various methods of battery, mechanical, or electrical inflation systems. We can't imagine having to blow one of those babies up with our lungs alone. Their total lack of insulation was also a large part of this assessment. Overall, we weighted versatility as 10 percent of a product's final score — a nice boost for those products with extra advantages, but not too punishing for those without.
The last and final metric that we assessed each of these products for is packed size. Even in your car, there is only a limited amount of room for lugging all the camping gear around, especially if you have a family.
While it is reasonable to expect that the pinnacle of luxury is not going to pack down to the size of peanut butter jar, a person has to be practical when considering how large of a camping mattress they can bring with them. For that reason, we lined all the mattresses in their stuff sacks up side-by-side and rated them based on what was the largest (lowest score) and smallest (highest score).
As you can see by the photo below, the Exped MegaMat Duo 10 was far and away the largest packed up mattress, almost so big as to seem preposterous. It is pretty much double the size of the next most substantial packed mattress. The most packable models were the Nemo Nomad and the Klymit Insulated Double V. While both these mats weren't the most comfortable in our review, they pack down small enough to fit in your luggage, and won't take up too much space in the minivan if you need mattresses for the whole family.
Choosing the right car camping mattress for your needs can be challenging, and there are many things to consider. After deciding whether you prefer a single or double mattress, the most difficult decision may revolve around how much you would like to (or are willing to) spend on your bed away from home. Like real mattresses, some of the choices described here can be pricey. But keep in mind: you like to play hard (otherwise you wouldn't be browsing this site), and the most crucial aspect of playing hard is recovery. A decadently comfortable mattress will help you get the best night sleep you can while on the road, and assist in ensuring you wake up refreshed enough to go at it again the next day. With this in mind, isn't a little-added expense worth it? We hope that this review has helped you narrow down the selection to choose what is best for you, and we encourage you to check out our Buying Advice Article for more in-depth information about the buying process or these products in general.
Still not sure? Take a look at our buying advice article for more info.