How to Pick the Perfect Camp Mattress

A few key sleeping pad features you’ll want to consider the next time you’re shopping for a better way to sleep in the outdoors

A sleeping pad has two functions: smooth out the rough spots and help keep you warm. Anything that fits between your sleeping bag and the ground and covers those bases will give you a better night’s sleep in camp. Whether you are on an extended backpacking trip or just parking and pitching, there is a camp mattress that’s right for you. Check out a few of these highly rated options.

Inflatables

Klymit Static V Sleeping Pad
Klymit Static V Sleeping PadKlymit

For serious backpackers, inflatable mattresses are the standard. Some are self-inflating; others need a few puffs of air to take shape. Most offer a couple of inches of cushion, which is adjustable through a valve system. That extra loft also creates dead-air space to insulate you from the ground. Compare R-values as you shop, as that is the best indication of the pad's ability to resist heat transfer. The higher the R-value, the warmer you will sleep.

Foam Mats

BetterHabitat Sleep Ready Memory Foam Floor Mattress
BetterHabitat Sleep Ready Memory Foam Floor MattressBetterHabitat

If space and weight are not an issue, consider a foam pad. Some are so plush that they sleep as well or better than a home mattress. The trade-off is portability. Foam pads for backpacking have largely been replaced by inflatable mattresses, but lightweight foam versions are still available for those who just want to roll up a pad and go without having to deflate their sleeping quarters.

Double Mattresses

Lunvon Self Inflatable Pad Camping Air Mattress
Lunvon Self Inflatable Pad Camping Air MattressLunvon

For the ultimate in outdoors comfort, it's hard to beat an inflatable double mattress. There are two basic varieties: self-inflating or manually inflating, the latter sold with either an electric or manual pump. For the electric variety, be sure to carry an adapter to plug into a vehicle's cigarette lighter so you can bed down in comfort, even when you're off the grid.