Air mattresses make all the difference in the world when camping in tents or sleeping on ground surfaces. In this article we will help to give you a good idea of which is the best camping air mattress for your needs.
What Is The Best Camping Air Mat, Pad or Mattress?
Quick Answer: The 5 Best Camping Air Mats, Pads and Mattresses – 
- Therm-a-Rest ProLite Plus Mattress
- Klymit Static V Lightweight Sleeping Pad
- Lightspeed Outdoors 2 Person
- ALPS Mountaineering Outback Inflatable Mat
- Sea to Summit Ultralight Insulated Mat
Best Camping Air Mattresses
Best Camping Air Mattress Reviews
Them-a-Rest is an insanely popular maker of camping pads. They’re owned by parent company Cascade Designs which, if you’re familiar, also makes the Platypus and MSR brands. They’re an outstanding company with fantastic products like the ProLite.
Features of the Therm-a-Rest ProLite Plus Mattress
- Available in 3 sizes
- New lightweight foam core
- Great customer service
With an R value of 3.4 it’s a solid 3-season pad that will keep you warm up to the cold days of autumn. Some warm sleepers will even find it good enough for winter camping as well!
I’ve had personal experience with the Therm-a-Rest customer care team and I can say for sure they’ll take care of you. If anything goes wrong in the future, just give them a ring. They’ll do you a solid!
Best for all purpose camping with an easy to use and reliable self inflating pad.
Klymit is a name that’s newer to the scene than Therm-a-Rest but that hasn’t stopped them from winning hearts and minds. Their pads are innovative and unique and they always seem to be pushing the technology in new ways! There are even a few technical additions to this lightweight pad.
Features of the Klymit Static V Lightweight Sleeping Pad
- Bi-directional ribs for stability
- Thick 2.5” padding
- Lightweight 18.6 ounces
This pad is an inflatable pad, meaning you need to blow it up yourself. For some this may be a deal breaker. I’ve used an inflatable pad for years though and love it so don’t be afraid to try something new! They usually only take 10-20 breaths to fill up anyways so it’s not as inconvenient as you may think.
You will notice that there’s a huge drop in R value with this pad compared to the ProLite. Because this pad lacks internal foam the R value is just 1.3 instead of the much warmer 3.4 of the ProLite. This is plenty warm for warm spring and fall hiking and all summer hiking though.
This one is available only in a single size so make sure it’s big enough for you before buying! Best for those who toss and turn or want a thick 2.5” cushion at night for 3-season hiking.
Also: See this demonstration with Klymit’s Product Manager at Outdoor Retailer Convention.
How many times have you gone camping with a partner and wished you could sleep closer? It’s always annoying with two seperate air mattresses because one or both of you will always roll off! This large camping mattress solves the problem!
Features of the Lightspeed Outdoors 2 Person PVC-Free Air Bed Mattress
- 6 pound weight
- Battery operated air pump
- 1 year warranty
While I’m not a fan of battery operated air pumps (they waste expensive batteries) it’s sometimes the only way when you don’t have a plug nearby. This pump runs off of 4 D batteries so it’s going to be heavy!
There is a 2” integrated pillow on this mattress which just looks like a slight rise on one end of the pad. Honestly I would have preferred that they keep the pad flat and let users bring their own pillows.
I think that with an already high headrest on the pad and the addition of a pillow it will make most sleepers kink their neck at too high an angle. However, only a few users actually complain about this.
Best for car and RV camping where you can carry the larger, heavier pad to your campsite.
Another beefy, thick, comfy air mattress for car camping and road trips this time from the reputable ALPS Mountaineering folks. Quite frankly, despite the higher cost of this pad compared to other similar pads I really trust their quality and reliability.
Features of the ALPS Mountaineering Outback Inflatable Mat
- Included stuff sack and repair kit
- 4 pound weight
- 4” thick pad
Plus, because of its size, when you go to roll it up you’ll be able to get all the air out of it much quicker and easier!
That said, the thick size and beefy foam make the pad a very heavy 7+ pounds! This is definitely a car camping luxury. For people with tiny homes, car camping needs, or maybe you’re sleeping in the bed of your truck – this is an awesome option!
Honestly if I was doing a lot of car camping I would have this pad at the top of my list of choices!
I do like that they made the bottom of the pad with 150D nylon which is pretty robust and durable. Since it’s already large and heavy and meant for car camping, I would honestly have been happy to see them make the pad bottom even stronger though.
Best for car camping and glamping luxury for those who need a comfy base camp on a trip!
Sea to Summit is one of the brands I always credit with being an unsung hero. I use their stuff all the time and I’ve yet to be disappointed! This generous camping mattress is lightweight, unique, and small enough to easily take backpacking.
Features of the Sea to Summit Ultralight Insulated Mat
- 5 R value
- Low profile valve design
- 6+- ounces (depending on size chosen)
The pad is designed around spot welds which create a dotted air cell pattern across the pad. These keep the pad lightweight while maintaining warmth, thickness, and comfort. While they’re not the only ones doing something similar to this, they did manage to execute this pad nearly perfectly for backpackers.
This is an inflatable pad that you will have to blow up yourself. Fortunately they do sell a pump that works with this pad if you really want. For car and RV campers this might make sense – hikers, you’ll want to inflate it by mouth.
I like that the pad is offered in 4 sizes from torso length to large. For ultralight hikers the X-small makes an insanely lightweight and comfortable option!
Best for hikers and backpackers who want a quality, lightweight pad that pushes the limits of what’s possible.
How to Choose the Best Camping Air Mattress
Whether you want to call them camping sleeping pads, air mattresses, or mats there’s no arguing they make your life better on the trail. Sleeping pads are a must-have for both backpacking and camping. But how can you know what is the best camping sleeping pad when there are so many out there?
I’ve been guiding trips on trails around the US for years and today I’m going to help you figure out how to pick out the best air mattress for camping. Each sleeper has their own needs and preferences so I’ll try to present the pros and cons of many popular pads and styles.
By the end of this article you should have a good idea of which camping pads jive the best with you. Don’t worry I’ve also reviewed the 5 top-rated and most popular sleeping pads on the market. That way you can easily start to narrow down the choices that are out there and make a decision about your purchase!
- Types of Camping Air Mattresses
- Understanding R-Value and Heat Loss
- Packability and Weight
Types of Camping Air Mattresses
Before we jump to conclusions, let’s make sure you understand what’s available to you. There are tons of options out there and the only way to narrow down your choices is to look at them objectively.
Among the options available to you today are:
- Closed cell foam pads
- Self inflating pads
- Inflatable pads
Closed cell foam is usually the least expensive. These pads are readily available and will usually set you back less than $30. They lack the ability to fold up well, however, and even the smallest of them take up tons of room. Thus they’re usually strapped to the outside of packs. They have relatively high insulation value for their size and weight though.
Self inflating pads are very common on the trail. They’re made with open cell foam sandwiched inside an airtight shell with a valve. Open the valve and the pads expand on their own. Close the valve and the pads stays inflated while you sleep. These pads usually have high insulation value but can be relatively heavy and bulky. These pads commonly run up to $125+.
Inflatable pads must be filled with air by mouth or an air pump. They can be extremely lightweight and the most compact of all pads. However, the effort of inflation is annoying to many users. These pads also tend to struggle to maintain good insulation value compared to other pads.
Understanding R-Value and Heat Loss
R value according to physics is, “An insulating material’s resistance to conductive heat flow…” (source). Essentially, the higher the R value, the better your pad is going to do at keeping you warm.
Now, remember, sleeping pads only keep you warm from the heat that would otherwise be taken from your body by the ground. That means your sleeping system’s R value is only as good as the worse of either your pad or your bag.
When it comes to R value most sleeping pads are only concerned with protecting against conductive heat loss. That’s heat which is lost by direct physical contact with a colder object. Like having bare feet on cold stones.
Some pads, especially inflatable pads, need to be concerned with convective heat loss. That’s heat which is lost due to circulating air in this care. Inside an inflating pad without any foam there is open space. They air near your body warms up and as it cools it falls to the bottom of the pad where it trades place with the cold air that was down there.
This circulating current of warming and cooling air is partially responsible for the phenomenon we know as wind! It’s also a good way to get cold at night. That’s why many inflatable pads have chambers to help stop the circulation of air at night! This is one reason inflatable pads struggle to keep high R values.
Finally heat loss by radiation is the last type of heat loss that can cool us off on a cold night. Some pads try to solve this with thin layers of reflective material like space blankets. These layers of reflective materials are why the Neoair X-Lite sounds like a plastic bag. Fortunately the reflective material does a decent job at reflecting some radiation heat back at the sleeper and thereby increasing the pad’s overall R value.
Packability and Weight
When it comes to camping, hiking, and backpacking we’re always worried about weight and size. We only have enough room in the backpack or car trunk for so many things!
While I alluded to the size and weight of some of the various types of pads earlier, I’m going to take you a little deeper now.
For camping air mattresses to be effective they need to fit in our packs, trunks, and bags. For car camping and RV camping it’s a relatively easy thing to find room for sleeping pads. Of course full size mattresses and cots are sometimes a different story.
For backpackers and hikers these mats and pads need to be able to fit into small backpacks. These bags range in capacity from 30L to 90L but regardless, your sleeping pad is but one of many important items in there that will take up space.
So regardless of how you choose to enjoy camping, you’ll need an air mattress that can fit! If you’re car camping or RV camping weight might not matter much, but for hikers it certainly does.
- Closed cell foam pads vary in weight greatly depending on their thickness. They can be among the lightest pads available but rarely tip the scales on the heavy side. They are, without a doubt, the most bulky type of pad.
- Self inflating pads are usually the heaviest. Their robust construction and inner foam add a lot of weight to their also bulky packed size.
- Inflatable mattresses are usually the lightest and smallest form of camping pad. That’s why I choose them. Don’t forget they come with a few drawbacks though (we covered these earlier).
No matter what your needs are, we’ve tried to make sure there’s something here for you. Remember to read through the “how to choose” section to brush up on your knowledge before you just pick the first pad you can find.
Of course, for the die hard hikers and gearheads out there you’ll want to look even deeper into the technical specs of each pad. Most hikers will find that a basic level of knowledge, however, is all that’s needed to make a great choice and come away with the best camping air mattress for your next trip.
Just don’t forget that picking the right pad for what you want to do is critical. Hikers won’t be happy with a bulky pad and car campers can get away with a heavier, luxurious mattress. Once you know what to expect, you can pick out the perfect sleeping pad for your next trip!
Thanks for reading The 5 Best Camping Air Mattresses. We hope this article has helped you to discover the best air mattress, mat or pad for your next camping excursion.
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