Best Camping Mattresses and Pads of 2018

Tired of sleeping on a thin backpacking pad even when car camping? We have some plush and comfy options for you! After researching over 40 different camping mattresses, we tested the 11 best for months. We slept on them (tough job, we know), packed and unpacked them, and inflated and deflated them multiple times to find the best performers. After hauling them around on countless road trips and using them for many bivys, we have several excellent options for you to consider, including some budget pics, some uber comfortable options, and even a "double-wide" mattress for couples and families. If you're looking for something that you'll actually have to carry on your back, our Sleeping Pad Review for backpacking is where you want to look for some lighter models.

Read the full review below >

Test Results and Ratings

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Analysis and Award Winners

Review by:
Andy Wellman and Maggie Brandenburg

Last Updated:
May 12, 2018

Updated May 2018
We've updated our camping mattress review just in time for your summer road trip. If you're planning on hitting the road and car camping this year, make sure you do it in comfort! We keep adding in new models to see if we can find something that we like better than the Exped MegaMat 10, but it's still our Editors' Choice winner for the fourth year in a row. Keep reading below to see why.

Best Overall

Exped MegaMat 10

The 2017 MegaMat 10
Editors' Choice Award

at MooseJaw
See It

Thickness: 4 inches | Type: Self-Inflating
Very warm and comfortable
Easy to inflate and store
Stuff sack has extra room for your bedding
Large packed size
Not very versatile
Lay down on the Exped MegaMat 10 and you will struggle to remember that this is a camping mattress. For multiple years now, the MegaMat has won our expert testers over, and the updates incorporated into the latest model improve on an already great product. The mega comfort and warmth remains as incredible as ever, and the larger deflate valve makes rolling it up faster than its predecessor. We also loved the new stuff sack, which has extra space for your bedding and a shoulder strap for easy transportation.

Note that the MegaMat 10 is on the wide side for a single pad (30 inches), 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.

Read review: Exped Megamat 10

Best Overall Value

REI Camp Bed 3.5

REI Camp Bed 3.5
Best Buy Award

at REI
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Thickness: 3.5 inches | Type: Self-inflating
Easy to inflate
Affordable price point
Challenging to fit it in the stuff sack
Bulky and large packed size
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

Intex Classic Downy
Best Buy Award

at Amazon
See It

Thickness: 8.75 inches | Type: Air-mattress
Durable bottom
Sleeps cold
Long inflation time
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 Couples

Exped MegaMat Duo 10

Thickness: 4 inches | Type: Self-inflating
Supreme comfort
Very warm
No more "gap" between your pads
Challenging to deflate and pack
Large packed size
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 a two singles pushed together (30 inches each), but it fits perfectly in the back of pickup truck or minivan, and also in most smaller two-person tents.

Because it is so big, it is a bit unwieldy. Packing it up can be a bit of a pain, and once you do wrestle it into its bag, 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 a great choice for families with small children as well, or even for a single individual who likes a lot of space.

Read review: Exped MegaMat Duo 10

Top Pick For Convenience

Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Dream

Therm-a-rest NeoAir Dream Camping Mattress
Top Pick Award

at Amazon
See It

Thickness: 4 inches | Type: Adaptable Air Pad w/ Foam Cover
Two pads in one
Packs down small
Warm and comfortable
Foam bunches up a bit
Inflatable mattress doesn't have a stuff sack
Want a mattress that is quick and easy to use and packs down smaller than the others without compromising on comfort? Check out the Therm-a-rest NeoAir Dream, the most convenient mattress for car camping that you can buy. While there is one other mattress that we rated higher (see our Editors' Choice Award winner above), there is no doubt that it is very large, heavy, and takes some time and effort to deflate. In comparison, this mattress works like a "dream." It's made of a combination of an inflatable Therm-a-rest pad with soft foam on top, all covered by a plush, velvety top. You can remove the inflatable pad for backpacking, and use the whole thing when car camping. Its small size makes it easy to pack around, and it can connect to another NeoAirs to make a double-wide pad.

Here's the bad news; Therm-a-rest has discontinued the NeoAir for 2018. There's still some inventory hanging around online retailers (at a great discount) so if you like the idea of only buying one pad that can work for all of your camping and backpacking needs, get the NeoAir Dream while you still can.

Read review: Therm-a-rest NeoAir Dream

Best Comfort and Size Combo

Therm-a-Rest MondoKing 3D

Therm-a-Rest MondoKing 3D

at Backcountry
See It

Thickness: 4 inches | Type: Self-Inflating
Comfortable and warm
Fits in a smaller tent side-by-side with other pads
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 5 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

select up to 5 products
Score Product Price Our Take
Editors' Choice Award
Our favorite overall for several years running, this mat makes camping feel like a stay in a 5-star hotel.
A high scorer in our tests, this pad is a narrow but comfy option.
Top Pick Award
This versatile car camper still packs excellent performance punch.
Top Pick Award
This model is best for a duo looking for a car camping mattress.
If you've got a designated backpacking pad but want a car camper as well, consider this option.
This self-inflator is a high-scorer, while still missing the mark set by our Editors' Choice winner.
Best Buy Award
For the price, this model packs some serious punch.
This model is neck in neck as the best air bed in our review.
A firm air bed that won't break the bank, this was our favorite among the air beds tested.
The rechargeable pump works well, but doesn't compensate for the less desirable features of this mattress.
Best Buy Award
Although this model scored poorly, its an option for occasional car camping trips or house guests.

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 over the age of 26, when perfect recovery just doesn't happen if you are lying in the dirt.

We tested the XL versions of the leading manufacturers' highest 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 pounds! 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 10, retails for $230 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.

Sleeping like a dream on the NeoAir Dream. Worth noting is how much of this two-person backpacking tent one of these XL pads takes up. Not much room for other people!
Sleeping like a dream on the NeoAir Dream. Worth noting is how much of this two-person backpacking tent one of these XL pads takes up. Not much room for other people!

The Exped Megamat 10 was the most comfortable. The Exped MegaMat Duo 10, which is the same mat but twice as wide, felt as comfortable. Just behind was the Therm-a-Rest MondoKing 3D. We put both of those is a special category of "supreme comfort" that will rival your home mattress. Most other pads that were comfortable, just not exceptional. Least comfortable, compared to the other products in the test, was a tie between the ALPS Mountaineering Rechargeable Air Bed and the Lightspeed 2-person, although they still provided a good night's sleep, much better than without the bed!

The Megamat Duo perfectly fits in the back of a pickup truck  making for a wonderful night's sleep in a wonderful location!
The Megamat Duo perfectly fits in the back of a pickup truck, making for a wonderful night's sleep in a wonderful location!

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 — that is not an easy task! So 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 NeoAir Dream was very simple to roll out, inflate, and then deflate and roll up again. Likewise, the Lightspeed 2-person air bed and the ALPS Mountaineering Rechargeable Air Bed, with their battery operated inflation pumps, were easy to set up and take down. 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 do its job fully. The manual mini-pump included required a bit of time to inflate these behemoth pads. The 2016 versions of these pads were challenging to deflate and roll up, but the larger deflate valves on the 2017 models make them much easier to deflate in our experience, contributing to faster pack up times with less struggle than their predecessors.

The Relax Airbed comes with a manual pump somewhat similar to a rafting pump. After inserting it into the smaller inflate valve  many  many pumps are needed to inflate the entire bed.
The Relax Airbed comes with a manual pump somewhat similar to a rafting pump. After inserting it into the smaller inflate valve, many, many pumps are needed to inflate the entire bed.

Why Doesn't a Self-inflating Mattress Self-Inflate?
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 realizehow 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 boy did it make a 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 Therm-a-Rest MondoKing 3D. The coldest, least insulated mattresses, which did indeed cause us a bit of suffering outside in the mountains, even in summer, were the four air beds — ALPS Mountaineering Rechargeable Air Bed, 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? Our Top Pick for Convenience, the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Dream, makes an excellent case for always answering that question with a yes. It packs down easily into a small bag, making it easy to carry around. Its setup and take down is very simple, it has good insulating properties, and it can separate into a compact, lightweight, backpacking sleeping pad. It also has some qualities that other mattresses don't, like straps designed to help marry two single pads together to form one. The Big Agnes Sleeping Giant system, paired with a QCore SLX backpacking air mattress, proved to have the same level of versatility.

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 inflated backpacking mattress is inserted into the Sleeping Giant foam mattress cover  and then zipped closed. This system is the most versatile in the test and adds crucial warmth to the lightweight mattress.
The inflated backpacking mattress is inserted into the Sleeping Giant foam mattress cover, and then zipped closed. This system is the most versatile in the test and adds crucial warmth to the lightweight mattress.

Packed Size

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 largest packed mattress. The smallest was the Lightspeed 2-person Airbed, and considering its double width, that is the right size to sleeping comfort ratio. We weighted Packed Size as 10 percent of a product's final score.

The nine camping mattresses arranged in order from smallest on the left to biggest when looking at their packed size. Left to right: Lightspeed 2-person  Thermarest NeoAir Dream  Alps Mountaineering Rechargeable Air Bed  REI Relax Airbed  Big Agnes Sleeping Giant  Exped Megamat 10  Thermarest Luxury MAP  REI Camp Bed 3.5  and on the bottom the Exped Megamat Duo.
The nine camping mattresses arranged in order from smallest on the left to biggest when looking at their packed size. Left to right: Lightspeed 2-person, Thermarest NeoAir Dream, Alps Mountaineering Rechargeable Air Bed, REI Relax Airbed, Big Agnes Sleeping Giant, Exped Megamat 10, Thermarest Luxury MAP, REI Camp Bed 3.5, and on the bottom the Exped Megamat Duo.


Comparison testing the row of five single-person mattresses in this review  one after the other. Tested in exclusion for a whole night's sleep  we thought all of these mattresses were very comfortable. Only when laid out like this could we get very picky about which ones were truly the best.
Comparison testing the row of five single-person mattresses in this review, one after the other. Tested in exclusion for a whole night's sleep, we thought all of these mattresses were very comfortable. Only when laid out like this could we get very picky about which ones were truly the best.

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.

Taking a nap among nature is quick and simple with the Relax Airbed. Many people even use air mattresses like these as their primary bed in their homes.
Taking a nap among nature is quick and simple with the Relax Airbed. Many people even use air mattresses like these as their primary bed in their homes.
Andy Wellman and Maggie Brandenburg

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