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Spring is here, and summer is just around the corner. So that means longer days, warmer evenings, and of course, lots of camping. There are many ways to enjoy the great outdoors, and one of the easiest ways is through car camping and overlanding. And just like sleeping in a tent, finding the right car camping mattress is key to getting a good night's sleep.
Different from a typical sleeping pad for backpacking trips, a car camping mattress is thicker, more insulated, more comfortable to sleep on, and usually inflatable. Unlike other camping pads, car camping mattresses are heavier and bulkier. You certainly can use them in a tent, just know you'll have to carry it from the trunk to wherever your campsite is.
So why get one? Car camping eliminates a lot of the stress associated with hauling your camping gear into the backcountry, and when your vehicle acts as your pack, your home base, and your sleeping quarters, camping becomes a lot more accessible (and a lot more cozy, too).
What to Look for in Car Camping Mattress
The greatest thing about camping is that there is no right or wrong way to go about it. Ultimately, it’s up to preference, but there are a few things to consider when selecting a mattress for your car.
Even with car camping, size still matters. Two-person car camping mattresses exist if you're camping with a partner, but you should make sure the mattress fits into the trunk of your car or the bed of your truck. Some camping mattresses are pliable enough for some degree of squeezing in, but the old adage still applies: measure twice, buy once!
Choosing the right material can make or break a good night's rest. You can opt for a foam mattress, an inflatable air mattress, or a blend between the two. All are great, but depending on the type of sleeper you are, foam mattresses and hybrid mattresses tend to work best for most. Insulation is also important, and finding a good mattress that carries a high R-value (R-Value denotes a sleeping pad's ability to prevent heat loss) will ensure that heat never escapes, especially during those colder nights.
The 7 Best Car Camping Mattresses
The Luno Air 2.0 was made specifically to fit in over 1,800 different vehicles. Yes, inside vehicles—which it does thanks to a unique, non-rectangular shape that avoids wheel wells and offers any car camper the ability to create a comfy sleeping surface in minutes, thanks to an included electric pump. The mattress is big enough for two, though you can opt to inflate just half of it if you're flying solo, and features a durable 300-denier fabric that can easily pack down and be stowed away without taking up too much space. It might just be the perfect pad for road trips.
Volume: 6 ft 2 in
Weight: 15 lbs
Price: $330 SHOP NOW
The Outfitter bedroll system uses a quick setup to make comfortable sleeping in the backcountry as low hassle as possible. Just roll out the pad, let it self-inflate, and off to bed. The pad fits in a variety of cars or truck beds, though it's also perfect for the tent or, heck, right on the ground for open-air dozing. With its 300D brushed polyester canvas and two-and-a-half-inch thick open-cell foam, the Outfitter is durable enough to last a lifetime of comfort under the stars. (Also, it integrates perfectly with Teton Sports' cots, if you'd rather sleep outside or in a tent).
Volume: 82 in x 38 in x 3 in
Weight: 9 lbs
Price: $130 SHOP NOW
As Thermarest’s largest mattress, the MondoKing is a best-in-class sleep system that maintains a compact and durable design that's easy to inflate and deflate. It features an R-value of 7.0, a compressible foam core, and a speedy dual-valve design to bring the comfort of home to the outdoors. It also comes with a stuff sack air pump, so you can avoid all that huffing and puffing.
Volume: 30 in x 80 in x 4 in
Weight: 5 lb 8 oz
Price: $230 SHOP NOW
With its award-winning design, Nemo’s self-inflating mattress is a top choice for anyone looking to elevate their car camping experience. The Roamer is lightweight and ultra-compact while featuring four-inch open-cell insulation with a memory foam feel, an R-value of 6.0, and a multifunction, micro-adjust valve for custom inflation. It comes with a storage bag, patch kit and Nemo's Vortex Pump, which is like a stuff sack that lets you collect a big wad of air and push it into the foam pad. Of course, you can always blow it up manually, too, if you want.
Volume: 78 in x 30 in x 4 in
Weight: 5 lbs 8 oz
Price: $250 SHOP NOW
Zenbivy offers the complete camp bed package in a high-quality all-in-one system for car camping. The MotoBed features a convertible comforter, a dual-layer mattress that's half self-inflating and half foam, and a large integrated hood that all pack up neatly in a convenient carry bag. Its packed size is small enough to shove in the back of the car, and all you have to do to deploy it is unroll. Offered in two sizes for single-person sleeping, the MotoBed is the most efficient mattress on this list.
Volume: 30 in x 78 in
Weight: 10 lbs
Price: $339 SHOP NOW
Looking for a simple setup, the REI Camp Dreamer is a solid choice. It's perhaps the most similar to the blow up air beds you might find at big box stores (which, for the record, you should avoid — they always pop). It's a fast self-inflating pad that’s large enough to fit two people, has welded seams for robust durability, a pump that doubles as a padded pillow, and an included carry bag. With an R-value of 6 and a four-inch thickness, the Deluxe Bed is no slouch in cold weather either.
Volume: 6 ft 2 in
Weight: 10 lbs
Price: $279 SHOP NOW
If you like more room and don’t want to be constricted to a small mattress, then Big Agnes’s Rapide camping pad is something to consider. It’s large enough to cover a tent floor but with its tapered design, the pad is pliable enough to squash into SUVs when the back seat is down. At an R-value of 4 and with a four-inch thickness, the insulated pad is durable and ultralight, yet comfortable enough to keep you sleeping sound on your next car camping trip.
Volume: 50 in x 40 in x 78 in
Weight: 3 lbs
Price: $300 SHOP NOW