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The success of any family camping trip comes down to two things. How much fun you have during the day and how well you sleep at night. Often, the two go hand in hand.
The key to getting a great night’s sleep when camping is making sure you have the right gear. Without a good camping pad or camping mattress can be almost impossible to get comfortable and drift into the land of nod. Some people can manage without one but for the majority the camping mattress is all important.
Like most pieces of camping equipment these days, there are so many different options on the market that it can be a little overwhelming. So, let’s dive into it below and look at the best camping mattresses and pads for your next family camping trip.
5 Best Camping Mattresses and Pads for Families
Coleman Self-Inflating Camping Pad with Pillow
- Type: Self-inflating mat
- Dimensions: 76 x 25 x 2.50 Inches
- Weight: 6 lbs. 4 oz.
- Great value and comfortable
- Straps are helpful for deflating the camping pad
- The pillow isn’t self inflating
- Not recommended for backpacking as it is a bit heavy
Overall the Coleman Camping Pad is one of the best camping mattresses and pads for a family with different tastes in firmness for a mattress. It has very nice padding for the price point. The pillow is a nice feature as well. The only downsides I see about this product at this point are that it really should be given 24hrs. for the first inflate to fully get the maximum loft.
Alps Mountaineering Apex Pad Series
- Type: Self-inflating mat
- Dimensions: 72 x 20 x 3 in. (Regular)
- Weight: 4 lbs. 14 oz.
- Inflates fairly quickly
- Has two valves so it is quick to roll up
- Great value and decent comfort
- Has different sizes if you’re looking for a longer or wider version
- Value-oriented “regular” size is only 20 inches wide
The Alps Mountaineering Apex inflates by itself really well. Of course one probably needs to top it off to get it completely full, but we’re talking thirty seconds to do so. However, because it holds air so well, it’s tough to deflate. So it takes a bit of effort to get it down to the size of the stuff sack, which is not particularly small.
It’s got a nice faux-velvet kind of feel to the sleeping side, which is cool. But, as with the thickness of the pad, it’s a bit of a luxury. If you’re the kind of camper who drives somewhere, sets up a tent close to the car and sleeps for a night, this thing is right up your alley, keeping in mind that it’s only for one person. If you’re heading out on a trail for a few days, you’d do better with something lighter which wouldn’t have the more comfort-focused elements of this pad. But, hey, if you’re happy to carry the weight and deal with the size, it makes for a comfy sleep (as these things go).
SoundAsleep Camping Mattress
- Type: Airbed with Rechargeable Pump
- Dimensions: 75″ x 42″ x 9″ (Twin)
- Weight: 9 lbs.
- Plug can use both a standard wall plug as well as a car adapter
- You can deflate using the pump or just pull the plug
- Easy setup and is comfortable
- Airbed convenience along with a durable build
- Too heavy for backpacking. It’s better for car camping
- Takes up a lot of space in your tent
- Some customers experienced deflating after a few uses even after taking good care of it.
This SoundAsleep mattress can be inflated anywhere which makes it one of the best camping mattresses and pads on our list. Overall, the experience of this mattress was fantastic. Make sure you blow it up for a few days before camping. This allows the material to stretch before using it.
The little pump is loud, but the comfort is worth it. Set up camp early in the sunlight and seriously bring the car charger! Just in case, and it comes with a nice bag to store everything in which is really convenient.
Nemo Cosmo 3D Sleeping Pad
- Type: Foot pump mat
- Dimensions: 72 x 20 x 3.5 in.
- Weight: 2 lbs 9 oz
- Uniquely sculpted for max sleep comfort
- Comes in multiple lengths and sizes to choose from
- Integrated foot pump is the fastest, easiest way to inflate your pad, and it doesn’t introduce moisture into the interior.
- Not self inflating which can be a little inconvenient for some.
The Cosmo 3D Sleeping Pad is a great quality like my other Nemo products. It’s comfortable and not noisy like some other ones either. The Cosmo 3D is far superior in comfort and inflates with 6-10 strong breaths. The foot pump is my favorite feature. If I had bought it again I’d probably have opted for the wide.
Lightspeed Air Mattress – 2 Person
- Type: Airbed with Pump
- Dimensions: 79 x 55 x 7 in
- Weight: 5 lbs. 6 oz.
- Thick, PVC-free
- adjust firmness thanks to the two-way Boston valve
- Not insulated, long-term durability
- Deflated it takes up half of a small suitcase
- Pump is battery operated
The Lightspeed Air Mattress pumps up relatively quickly and is comfortable. There are small strings on the inside that hold this air mattress together very nicely. It doesn’t shift around as much as other big ones.
The slim design is great with a queen size elastic bottom sheet. The material doesn’t feel like cheap slippery plastic and doesn’t smell
How to Choose a Sleeping Pad or Air Bed: A Buyer’s Guide
Before reading our buyer’s guide, take a few moments to think about how you plan to camp and sleep.
Will you be driving up to a camp spot, hiking a mile or so in, or heading out on a weeklong backpacking trip? Do you sleep on your back, side, or stomach? Is extra cushioning important, or do you care more about saving on weight?
Understanding your sleep preferences will help determine the best pad. Read on for the most important factors in choosing a camping pad.
Air Bed Features: What You Need to Know
There are different types of air mattresses and pads. Below are 5 different types.
- Mattress vs Sleeping Pad: An air mattress uses air to provide distance between the sleeper and the ground or other surfaces. They can offer more cushioning and thickness variation when compared to a sleeping pad. Mattresses can be heavier than sleeping pads, and while good for car camping, not all may be suited for backpacking.
- On the other hand, a sleeping pad has thermal technology that gives sleeping the warmth and support they require for ground camping. Aside from a pure foam sleeping pad, sleeping pads are generally lightweight and compact, many finding they can store them inside a pack.
- Self-Inflating: A self-inflating camping mattress is exactly that, lay out the bed flat, open the valves and allow the mattress to inflate itself. It is certainly a nice feature but can take a long time to fill and doesn’t always give you the firmest mattress, so you may need to pack a pump.
- Pumps: Most camping mattresses come with a pump, either electric or manual. Electric pumps are great, especially the rechargeable type. Just attach the tip into the mattress valve, flip the switch and watch it fill. A manual pump is OK too, you won’t ever need to worry about running out of juice as you get your tent together after a long day of hiking.
- Insulated Padded Tops: An insulated air mattress is nice to have on those cold nights in the tent. The extra padding keeps the cold ground between you and your warm sleeping bag.
- R-Value: A higher R-value is used to talk about the insulation of an air mattress. A high R-value is desired when looking for all season comfort when camping outdoors, as it is the mark of a densely insulated material. Expect an R-value close to or at 9.5 for an air mattress or sleeping pad suitable for winter temperatures.
Weight & Packed Size
If you’re mainly car camping, you can maximize comfort by going with a more padded, inflatable option like the NEMO Roamer. The trade-off is that these don’t pack down as small and are too heavy for backpacking.
If you plan to hike, a pad that packs down small and weighs less is ideal. Just how small and light you want to go is up to you. There are some great options listed above.
In general, the thicker the pad the more comfortable it is. Additionally, having a bit of foam or extra insulation increases the comfort factor and decreases the noise.
If you’re a side sleeper, you understand the need for plenty of cushioning under your hips and shoulders. For a better night’s sleep, you would do well to get a thicker sleeping pad. Something like the NEMO Cosmo 3D will keep you comfy all night long.
We love a good value, but also appreciate gear that performs well and lasts through several seasons of use. If you only plan to do a family camping outing a weekend or two a year, a cheaper pad may get the job done just fine. But if camping is a regular occurrence, it’s worth investing more in a pad. In general, forking over a few extra bucks will get you some combination of increased comfort, durability, and warmth.
Length & Width
Most camping sleeping pads come in regular and long versions. And some also come in short, wide, and extra-long varieties. The length and width you need depend not only on your dimensions but also your camping goals.
The main thing to remember is that an increase in length and width almost always corresponds to an increase in price and packed size.
The most common complaint about lightweight backpacking sleeping pads is the loud, crinkly noise. While packing less is great, sleeping on a pad can be so noisy and less than ideal especially with a family member who tosses and turns.
We were impressed with Cosmo 3D’s ability to combine comfort with quietness.
How to Store Your Camping Mattress
A final camping mattress consideration is how and where you’ll be storing it between trips. To maximize lifespan, it’s best to leave your self-inflating pad unrolled and with the valves open. This can create some challenges with a huge mattress, but one possible location is storing it under a bed (provided you have the space).
If you must leave a self-inflating pad rolled up in its bag, try to do your best to occasionally let it self-inflate to avoid long-term damage to the open-cell foam. Air mats are easier: when finished, open the valve, release all the air, and keep it in a storage sack to avoid accidental punctures. Finally, closed-cell foam pads require the least attention, although you’ll want to be sure not to leave any heavy objects on top of them to compress the material.
Looking for the best tent? Check out our list of Best Tents for Family Camping.
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