Best Camping Mattresses and Pads of 2021

Last Updated: April 2021

Quick Recommendations

Best Overall: REI Co-op Camp Bed Self-Inflating Sleeping Pad

Most Comfortable: Therm-a-rest MondoKing 3D

Best Budget-friendly: Alps Mountaineering Apex

Best for Couples: Exped MegaMat Max

Best for Backpacking: Therm-a-rest Z Lite

Best for a Bad Back: NEMO Roamer

Best for Heavy Person: Sea to Summit Comfort Deluxe Insulated Sleeping Mat

Everyone sleeps differently, and everyone has their expectations of a "good night's" sleep when sleeping outdoors.

The best camping mattresses will be a little different for every camper, and that's why we chose seven categories to rate the best camping mattresses & pads of 2021. 

There will be a sleeping pad on our list that will fit your needs, from the budget camper to the ultra-light backpacker.

If you are still hard-pressed to find the perfect pick for you on our list, check out our camping mattress buying guide at the end of the article.

Best Overall Camping Mattress

REI Camping pad

While a camping mattress often won't check all of our boxes, the REI Camp Self-Inflating Sleeping Pad comes quite close. 

It is by far the best when it comes to durability, affordability, and reliability. It is easy to use and makes for an ideal car-camping companion. 

It weighs around 3-5 lbs depending on the size you choose. So, while it may not be the best for lengthy treks, if you only take short backpacking treks, this will be a versatile camping companion. 

The only downside is that it isn't the thickest or the most comfortable on our list.

Both the XL and the R size are a 2.5" thick pad, which provides ample insulation and warmth, but it may not be as thick as some campers desire for an optimal comfort level. 

Despite that, if you are looking for a camping pad that has numerous applications from car camping to short backpacking treks, is affordable, and is proven to last for years, then the REI Co-op Camp Bed is a great choice.

Key Features:

  • Type: Self-inflating
  • Dimensions: XL: 78 x 30 x 2.5 inches / Regular: 72 x 25 x 2.5 inches
  • R-Value: 7.6

What we like: 

  • Easy to inflate/deflate
  • Affordable for quality
  • Very durable 

What we don't like:

  • A bit bulky for backpacking
  • Not as thick as some other pad options

Most Comfortable Camping Mattress

If you are looking for a packable car camping pad that is easy to set up but still provides the best outdoor sleep you've ever had, the Therm-a-Rest MondoKing 3D is what you want. 

Therm-a-rest offers a wide variety of camping pad options, but the MondoKing 3D is their most comfortable model. 

The two sizes are both relatively large, so it is also an excellent pick for taller campers or those that love to sprawl a bit in their sleep.

Their updated version has a dual valve system that also makes inflating and deflating even easier than before.

While it was challenging to find a downside to this camping mattress, the main one is the size. The XXL can be hard to fit in some standard one-person or two-person tents, and you may be hard-pressed to fit two pads into one tent.

On top of that, either size is a bit large for extended backpacking ventures. This is pad best suited for car camping expeditions.

Key Features:

  • Type: Self-inflating 
  • Dimensions: Large: 77 x 25 x 4 inches  / XX Large: 80 x 30 x 4 inches
  • R-Value: 7.0

What we like:

  • Warm enough for all-season comfort
  • Stuff sack and pump included 
  • High level of packable comfort 

What we don't like:

  • XXL is a bit too big to fit two in average tents
  • Large pack size 

Most Affordable Camping Mattress

Although many foam campaign pads are cheaper than this self-inflating mattress, the Alps Mountaineering Apex is a great budget pick for campers that want the comfort of an inflatable pad. 

It comes in three different sizes, which makes it great for almost anyone to use.

The top fabric on this Alps pad feels suede-like, making it comfortable no matter the type of sleeping bag you use.

If you camp with a cot, the Alps Mountaineering Apex's shape fits nicely and will stay secure.

Since it is more of a "budget" buy, it isn't the most durable pad on our list, and we recommend it more for car camping than backpacking.

It does provide ample heat, is easy to pack, and easy to inflate/deflate, but it is also easy to puncture.

There is a repair kit included, but if you often camp in areas with sharp debris on the ground (i.e., the desert), then a more durable pad is needed.

Key Features:

  • Type: Self-inflating
  • Dimensions: Regular 20" x 72" x 3" / Long 25" x 77" x 3" / XL 30" x 77" x 3"
  • R-Value: 6.9

What we like:

  • Stuff sack and repair kit included
  • Affordable quality
  • Easy to inflate and deflate
  • Available in multiple sizes

What we don't like:

  • Not the longest lasting pad
  • Very firm (could be a pro)

Best Camping Mattress for Couples

While a standard air mattress could suffice for a car camping trip, if you and your partner are frequent campers, you may want something more durable and comfortable.

The Exped MegaMat Max is an excellent option for couples who want to enjoy weekend camping without worrying about missing out on a good night's sleep.

Like the other self-inflating pads on our list, the Exped MegaMat still needs some extra air at the end, but they make it easy by including a small hand pump.

For a size reference, this pad fits a standard double fitted sheet. So, it is big enough for two, or even for one person, to sprawl a bit more when camping alone.

The pad's vertical sides make for an even sleeping surface, and unlike a regular air mattress, when one person gets up, the pad stays flat, and you won't sink.

Key Features:

  • Type: Self-inflating
  • Dimensions: 77.6" x 52" x 6"
  • R-Value:10.6

What we like: 

  • Amazingly comfortable
  • Doesn't pop when your partner moves
  • More elevated off the ground
  • Durable design 

What we don't like:

  • Large and heavy 

Best Camping Mattress for Backpacking

Not all backpackers will agree on this matter, but it is hard to disagree with the classic closed-cell foam pad if you are a thru-hiker.

It is lightweight, and you never have to worry about patching up a hole or inflating it through the night. Plus, it takes seconds to pack!

All you have to do is pick it up and fold it.

Most backpacking packs have an exterior attachment point to make packing this type of sleeping pad even easier.

Another plus-side to a Z Lite foam pad is that it can double as something to sit on around camp without worrying about accidentally setting it on a stick or a rock that could poke a hole.

The only downside to this type of sleeping pad is that it won't be as comfortable as an inflatable option. The primary purpose is to help you retain heat as you sleep, not necessarily give you the most comfortable night in the backcountry.

Still, there is a reason why so many avid backpackers swear by the Z Lite as their backpacking pad of choice.

Key Features:

  • Type: Foam
  • Dimensions: 72 x 20 x 0.75 inches
  • R-Value: 2.6

What we like:

  • Basically indestructible and won't puncture
  • Very affordable
  • Lightweight 
  • Retains heat well 

What we don't like:

  • Not the most comfortable 

Best Camping Mattress for a Bad Back

The NEMO Roamer pad is ideal for folks that have a bad back and need a little extra comfort when car camping. It is also one of the warmest pads on the list and can be used for winter camping.

It is rated to be used in temperatures as low as -30 degrees Fahrenheit.

This pad combines the warmth and durability of a foam pad with the comfort of a self-inflating pad.

With a reinforced bottom, it easily beats out traditional air mattresses in the realm of durability, and there isn't too much of a worry that this pad will puncture.

One unique feature of this NEMO pad is that you can connect another NEMO Roamer to it to make it a queen-sized mattress. This is perfect for couples who enjoy camping together and apart.

Key Features:

  • Type: Self-inflating 
  • Dimensions: 18 x 11 x 11 inches
  • R-Value: 6

What we like:

  • Thick and comfortable pad
  • Can connect to another NEMO pad
  • Warmest pad on the list
  • Durable 75-denier polyester bottom

What we don't like:

  • Heavy, not easily packable

Best Camping Mattress for a Heavy Person

When you are a heavy or tall person, it can be hard to find a camping mattress that works for your body size.

For some heavy people, a tall air mattress will be necessary to help them get in and out of bed.

The Sea to Summit Comfort Deluxe Sleeping Mat is a standard self-inflating camping pad designed with larger people in mind.

This means that it is small enough to be packable but large and durable enough to last for years of camping. 

It is relatively easy to pack, and it doesn't take long to inflate or deflate.

The camping pad's regular and long sizes are also designed to be wider than the average pad, making them ideal for campers with larger body sizes.

The only size that isn't super feasible to bring backpacking is the double. That is intended to be used for car camping endeavors and can be used for couples or one person.

Key Features:

  • Type: Self-inflating
  • Dimensions: Double: 79 x 51 x 4  / Long Wide: 79 x 29 x 4 inches / Regular Wide: 72 x 25 x 4 inches
  • R-Value: 6.5

What we like:

  • Multiple size options
  • 4- season comfort
  • Durable 

What we don't like:

  • Slightly pricey
camping tent mattress orange pad

Camping Mattress Buying Guide

Before you commit to the perfect camping mattress for you, there are few things to think about.

First, what type of camping do you plan to do? Next, what's your budget?

Once you get past those two questions, you will be ready to tackle some research to find which camping pad will be your next purchase. 

camping mattress pad mountain

Types of Camping Mattresses

Self-inflating

Many of the camping pads we listed above are self-inflating.

As the name suggests, they self-inflate when you roll them out. However, all self-inflating pads need to be blown up to top off the pressure and get the desired firmness. 

That's why you may notice that even the self-inflating pads will come with a pump of some kind or have a valve that allows you to blow air into them. 

Self-inflating pads tend to be the most popular because of the ease of use and the comfort level they provide. 

They do also tend to be the most expensive and have the highest likelihood of puncturing.

So, if you get a self-inflating pad, look for one that comes with a repair kit. 

inflatable camping mattress

Air Mattress

A standard air mattress can work for car camping.

Since they tend to be bulky, heavy, and need a lot of air to pump up, they are not suitable for backpacking.

That said, they are a great budget option for people that only camp a few times a year. 

Air mattresses are not designed to be used outdoors in most cases, so they tend to leak or easily get punctured.

It is advised to invest in a patch kit before taking a standard air mattress on your next camping trip. 

Foam Pads

We only feature one foam camping pad on our list, the Therm-a-Rest Z Lite, but there are many options on the market. 

Foam pads are a cult classic for backpacking and camping because they last far longer and are very lightweight. 

Foam pads are an excellent choice for families with small children or people looking for the ideal backpacking pad. 

Unlike their inflatable counterparts, foam pad's primary purpose is to help the person sleeping to retain heat.

They are not very comfortable and are very rarely favored by people that sleep on their sides. Still, they are often the most affordable and longest lasting camping pad you can find. 

camping mattress tent blue

Camping Mattress Buying Considerations

Purpose/Use 

As we've mentioned, knowing the intended use of the camping mattress is imperative.

If you strictly car camp, you can opt for an inflatable mattress of some kind. These are bulkier, harder to pack, and not ideal for backpacking. 

Some self-inflating mattresses do pack down small enough are light enough to function as a backpacking sleeping pad.

If you are looking for a multi-functional option that provides optimal comfort, a self-inflating pad may be a great option. 

If you are strictly looking for a backcountry pad that can last endless days outside, then a foam pad is often the best choice.

That isn't to say that there aren't self-inflating pads that can cut it, and in fact, sometimes you may need to purchase one if you are looking for a cold-weather pad. 

Size

Your body size is what will determine this aspect of your sleeping pad purchase.

When considering the size, we refer to the pad's length and width when it is rolled out.

The next consideration when it comes to size is if you will be the only one using it. If you often camp with your partner, you may want to have a car camping mattress that you can share.

If that's the case, then an inflatable mattress of some kind is recommended. 

 Check out our Guide to the Best Double Sleeping Bags for Couples

Portability

Although this is also an aspect regarding the size of the pad, it deserves its own section.

The sleeping pad's packability will often only be a huge concern if you plan to bring it backpacking. Packability is the weight of the sleeping pad and its size when it is either rolled up or in the stuff sack. 

If you are only looking for a car camping option, the packability may not be as big of an issue.

This is often a significant concern when it comes to backpacking, thru-hiking, and bikepacking. In any of these scenarios, you will be carrying all the gear you need, so every ounce counts! 

Comfort & Thickness

If comfort is your top priority, then looking at the thickness of your camping mattress is necessary.

This will often be listed in the "specs" on the manufacturer's website. In most cases, 2-4" will be sufficient for a comfortable night's sleep and proper insulation. 

Once you start getting into 6-7" pads, you will almost get to the air mattress size pad. This can be advantageous for some climates, especially wet ones.

If you have a mattress that elevates you off the ground more than a few inches, and your tent starts to leak because of heavy rains or unsealed seams, then at least you can rest easy knowing that you'll stay dry through the night. 

Insulation (R-Value)

For all of the sleeping pads that we listed, we also mentioned their "R-value."

The R-value is the pad's ability to resist heat flow through it. So the higher the R-value, the better it will insulate you in the cold. 

Most sleeping pads will range from a minimally insulated R-value of 2 to a very well insulated R-value of 5.5 or higher. 

If you are looking for a sleeping pad that can be used in an alpine environment, then you'll want a pad with a high R-value. Versus if you are looking for a summer sleeping pad, the R-value is the top concern because most nights are warm. 

inflatable camping pad

FAQs

What's the Difference Between a Camping Mattress and Camping Cot?

A camping mattress is an inflatable or foam pad that sits directly on the ground. The intention is to add a layer of insulation between the ground and the person lying on the mattress. 

A camping cot or camp bed is a small, portable bed elevated off of the ground. The legs will vary in height, and the bed portion is often made from a strong fabric.  Check out our Camping Cot Buying Guide to learn more.

You will usually want to use a camping pad on a camping cot for added insulation as well. 

How Do You Clean and Store a Camping Mattress?

Depending on the type of camping mattress you have, you should be able to wipe the camping mattress clean with a standard non-abrasive cleaning solution, water, and a cloth.

If there is a fabric or cloth material on one side of the mattress, you will need to read the manufacturer's cleaning instructions. 

Due to the type of materials camping mattresses are made from, they should not be put into washing machines. 

How Do You Repair or Patch an Inflatable Camping Mattress?

Inflatable camping mattresses will often come with a patching kit, but you can purchase patch kits to bring with you when you go camping if they don't.

Follow the instructions provided on the patch kit to repair any punctures in the mattress. This is most easily done when the pad is inflated so you can find the area the air is leaking from. 

tent mattress foam camping

Final Takeaways

The best camping mattresses and pads will be a little different for every camper, and that's why we chose seven categories to rate the best camping pads of 2021. 

There will be a sleeping pad on our list that will fit your needs, from the budget camper to the ultra-light backpacker.

Happy Camping!

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