An experienced camper knows that a good night’s sleep can give you a much-needed boost for the next day. There’s no better way to experience maximum comfort outdoors than with a sleeping pad tailored to cushion you from the bare ground.
If you are looking to enjoy a peaceful night under the stars on a comfortable surface, you came to the right place. We will give you a rundown of some of the best car camping sleeping pads available on the market today.
Benefits Of Car Camping Sleeping Pads
- Comfort. A good-quality sleeping pad cushions the user from all things on the surface. It’s a great substitute for conventional mattresses and offers maximum comfort to both side and stomach sleepers.
- Warmth. One of the most important benefits provided by sleeping pads is the warmth they provide to campers, especially during the cold weather. Though sleeping bags are perceived to be great sources of warmth, an insulated sleeping pad will guarantee that you are not losing heat to the ground.
- Space-friendly. Most sleeping pads are inflatable and can be folded to fit in a backpack. Moreover, a typical sleeping pad could fit in a small vehicle or a one-person tent. Inflatable pads come in a variety of sizes, and it’s easy to find a space-friendly option that’s appropriate for your height.
Types Of Car Camping Sleeping Pads
Most air pads have reflective or insulating materials to optimize the warmth campers get. This type of sleeping pad needs to be inflated. You could either blow into the valve (it usually takes less than 3 minutes) or use a foot pump. Some models come with a built-in pump that automatically inflates the pump when activated.
Self-Inflating Sleeping Pads
Self-inflating pads use a combination of air and open-cell foam insulation. When you open the sleeping pad’s valve, air will automatically fill all the chambers. These pads are designed for backpacking and camping and can be folded and rolled up to save on space. Sleeping pads specifically designed for car camping can be rolled up without folding.
Closed-Cell Foam Pads
Closed-cell sleeping pads are made of dense foam that features small closed air cells. In most cases, the pads are folded in Z-formations or rolled up. At a camping site, they can double as sitting pads but are not as comfortable as the other types. They are the most durable of the three types.
Lightspeed Outdoors is a manufacturer of outdoor gears suitable for people with a passion for adventure. The company was established in 2009 to create durable and easy-to-use outdoor products including beds, bags, chairs, and sleeping pads. It’s headquartered in San Diego and produces some of the best sleeping pads, such as the Lightspeed Outdoors PVC-Free Warmth Series.
Therm-a-Rest is an American company that makes outdoor-comfort products such as pillows, sleeping bags, mattresses, and some of the best backpacking sleeping pads.
The company was established in 1971 by John Burroughs, Neil Anderson, and Jim Lea. It’s currently headquartered in Seattle. The Therm-a-Rest RidgeRest Classic and Therm-a-Rest Neoair Uberliteare some of its best sleeping pads for a backpacking trip.
ALPS Mountaineering is an American company that manufactures camping gear. Its products include backpacks, tents, sleeping bags, and car sleeping pads. The company was established by Dennis Brune in 1993. It’s currently headquartered in Missouri. One of its popular air pads is the ALPS Mountaineering Lightweight Series Self-Inflating Air Pad.
Klymit is a private innovation company that makes camping gear, such as sleeping bags, pillows, and car camping sleeping pads. The company was founded in 2007 and has grown into a popular brand with top-notch products such as the Outdoorsman Lab Camping Sleeping Pad. The company is headquartered in Centerville, Utah.
Car Camping Sleeping Pad Pricing
- Under $50: This price range includes the cheapest camping mats on the market. They offer just the right amount of comfort and warmth but may not last as long as rival pads in a higher price range.
- $55-$90: Most sleeping pads that offer user-friendly features and value fall within this range. These are self-inflating pads that are durable. They are constructed with comfortable materials that typically don’t make noise as you turn.
- $100 and up: Budget this much for a premium camping sleeping pad made from high-quality and durable materials. The products here offer unparalleled comfort and have non-slip characteristics. Most come with extra features, such as pillows and repair kits.
R-Value & Insulation
The R-value is a measure of the pad’s capacity to resist the flow of heat. A pad with a higher R-value will offer you better protection from cold surfaces. Most manufacturers will indicate the R-value or the heat range, and you can use the value to gauge the suitability of the pad depending on the climatic conditions of your camping area.
Ultra-light products are the best for camping since they are portable and ideal for backpacking trips. To get the best lightweight pads, consider going for a tapered shape that packs smaller by reducing volume, or a closed-cell foam sleeping pad with short lengths.
Length and Width
You should at least be able to fit your hips and shoulders on the sleeping pad. Regular pads are about 72 inches long, but some stretch out to 78 inches long.
There are shorter pads than that, but they aren’t recommended for winter camping since you will need extra clothing to insulate your legs and feet. Most pads offer a 20-inch width as a standard, but there are larger pads that can go up to 30 inches wide for larger people.
Sleeping pads often feature high-volume inflation and deflation valves. Some pads have bigger openings that facilitate faster inflation with fewer breaths. Look out for sleeping pads that have separate inflation layers or chambers so you can still use the pad even in situations where one chamber or layer has failed.
- Pad Surface: If you are a restless sleeper, choose a pad with a brushed-fabric or textured surface. These two types of surfaces will keep you from sliding off the pad at night. They are also quieter.
- Pad Construction: Some pads have side baffles that help protect side sleepers from rolling off when turning. These are especially ideal for kids. Some come with pillow baffles to support your head. The baffle, however, is more of a preference than a requirement.
Best Car Camping Sleeping Pad Reviews and Recommendations
1. Best Overall: Lightspeed Outdoors PVC-Free Warmth Series
The Lightspeed Outdoors PVC-Free Warmth Series is a self-inflating sleeping pad that earns the top spot in our list for its superior quality and comfort. The package comes with an extra pillow for comfort, compression straps that hold down the pad when you fold it, and an oversized carry bag to store the pad. In addition, dual oversize air valves facilitate quick inflation and deflation of the pad.
The sleeping pad is made of PVC-free materials that don’t give off plastic odors that might make your night uncomfortable. Also, the fabric won’t make crinkly noises when you climb on it.
The pad offers the user three sizes to choose from when adjusting its thickness: 1.5, 2, and 3 inches. Each thickness value offers you extra warmth, and the pad stretches out to 77 inches long.
The downside of this sleeping pad is that it takes too long to inflate the first time you use it. It’s also a bit heavy for backpacking as the pad weighs 6.4 pounds, which would be hard to carry around when hiking. Also, the pad is narrow and may feel uncomfortable when used as a sitting pad.
2. Best Value: Therm-a-Rest RidgeRest Classic
The Therm-a-Rest RidgeRest Classic is a camping sleeping pad that strikes the perfect balance between quality and affordability. This pad has a closed-cell foam design that results in a light durable pad. The pad only weighs 19 ounces and measures 77 inches long. You can easily fold and fit this pad in a backpack as it has a lightweight and compact profile.
The pad comes with an almost indestructible cross-linked polyethylene material that acts as a shock absorber and protects you from sharp rocks, roots, and other objects on the sleeping surface. Moreover, it has a 2.6 R-value, which makes it a great fit for sleeping outside in the fall, summer, and spring. Also, the pad has anti-slip dots that prevent the pad from moving around when you are sleeping.
The Therm-a pad’s main drawback is that it is not the warmest pad, and you may need to purchase an extra sleeping bag if you are camping in cooler regions. Also, the pad doesn’t even out on a rough surface; that may leave you with backaches. The stiffness of the pad also sacrifices comfort.
3. Honorable Mention: ALPS Mountaineering Lightweight Series Self-Inflating Air Pad
The ALPS Mountaineering Lightweight Series deserves an honorable mention in the best camping mats list due to its dual inflatable pads. You could fold it and use it as a single thick sleeping pad or unfold it and create ample room for one more person.
The pads also detach from each other, allowing you to use both pads separately. This feature is enabled by the hook-and-loop Velcro connection running between the two pads.
The manufacturer designed this product with a high R-value to make the pad warm and ideal for all seasons. When folded, the R-value increases by a factor of two, which makes it one of the best pads for cooler regions. The pad weighs 9 pounds, has a maximum length of 75 inches, and the width measures 47 inches as a double unit.
The only drawbacks are weight and the outer layer covering. If you are looking for an ultra-lightweight pad for your backpacking and car camping trips, this pad might not be the best as they are heavy.
Moreover, the sack is rather poor in quality and may need to be replaced after a few months of use. Despite the flaws, the pad is suitable for couples looking to camp together with the convenience of one large sleeping pad.
4. Honorable Mention: Outdoorsman Lab Sleeping Pad for Camping
Choose from blue, green, or orange for your sleeping pad color. This ultra-light pad weighs 14.5 ounces and rolls up to a compact 8-by-3-inch size. When expanded, it measures 73 by 22 by 2.2 inches. It has an R-value of 2.2, which makes it warm enough for use in temperatures down to 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
What’s nice about this sleeping pad is how easy it is to set up. You can blow it up in 10 to 15 breaths. Give it a few more puffs for extra firmness. Deflating it is just as easy with the rubber seal that can be moved out of the way to create a “leak” for quick air expulsion.
Unfortunately, the pad can easily spring a leak. While it does come with a patch kit, there’s not enough patch material to cover all of the holes it can develop. Some people may not find it thick enough to provide adequate support.
This sleeping mat comes in green, navy, and royal blue. It’s constructed of heavy-duty 40D nylon that’s both waterproof and damp-proof. It can support up to 660 pounds.
When fully inflated, it measures 94.5 by 28.5 by 2.7 inches. One end of the mat has a built-in pillow chamber to give you extra comfort while lying on it. The bottom of the mat has an anti-slip coating to enable you to sleep anywhere.
You’ll like using this mat because it comes with an easy-to-use foot pump for inflating it. It can reach full inflation in 25 seconds. It’s just as fast to deflate with the quick-release valve. You can also link two mats together to create the size of a twin bed.
The downside of this mat is that it’s not very good at holding air and can deflate during use. The pillow chamber is also an awkward size, which can make lying on it uncomfortable.
- Always place your sleeping pad at the top of your luggage. Most people tend to put the pad at the bottom of the backpack, which is not a good idea since the first thing people do when they reach their destination is to drop their luggage. You won’t want the pad to be at the bottom just in case there is a pointy twig or thorn.
- Wash the camping sleeping pad after every camping trip. Insect repellent is one of the things that you need to clean off the pad because most contain DEET, a compound that can compromise the integrity of synthetic fabrics. Awash after camping will also get rid of pine sap, mold, and body oils that can affect the performance and reduce the lifespan.
- Keep your pad away from direct sunlight. For self-inflating foam pads, leave them semi-inflated, as this is good for air circulation and the longevity of the foam. Air pads should be hung in the closet, and don’t form a habit of folding them along the same crease line. It may weaken the pad.
- Always carry repair kits for air pads. The smallest holes can compromise your comfort. Knowing how to repair minor damages will go a long way in making your camping trip comfortable in case of a puncture.
Q: Why is my sleeping pad losing air every time I lay on it?
A: If your sleeping pad is losing air, and you have confirmed that there are no tears on the fabric, then the issue must be with the valve. The valve may malfunction due to normal wear and tear or unintended pressure that destroys the valve. Most pads support metal and plastic valve replacements where you can buy a replacement kit from the manufacturer in case your valve malfunctions.
Q: What is a loft pocket and how does it work?
A: Loft pockets are voids that are strategically placed in the body of the pad to allow your sleeping bag to expand in this space for optimum thermal benefits. This design is important for people camping in colder regions. Apart from thermal benefits, these pockets also improve comfort.
Q: Is it OK to use the sleeping pad inside a sleeping bag?
A: Many people do it without damaging the bag, so yes. One of the benefits you could get is maximum insulation. Restless and side sleepers can also enjoy the fact that the pad limits your movement inside the sleeping bag.
The best car camping mattress that combines value, superior quality, and comfort is the Lightspeed Outdoors PVC-Free Warmth.
Therm-a-Rest RidgeRest Classic Foam Camping Sleeping Pad is the best camping sleeping pad for campers looking for a budget pad that does not compromise on quality.