LAST UPDATED: May 28, 2019
Best Car Camping Sleeping Pads: Experience a Good Night's Sleep When Camping
Our top picks for maximum comfort and warmth when enjoying a night in the outdoors
The Review Team
How We Decided
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PUBLISHED ON May 28, 2019
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.
Integrated pillow for head support. Available in different thicknesses and sizes.
Made with durable materials. Great for summer, fall, and spring camping. An economical option for camping and backpacking trips.
Why Trust Us
All of our reviews are based on market research, expert input, or practical experience with most products we include. This way, we offer genuine, accurate guides to help you find the best picks.
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 with the aim of creating 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 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. There are also pads that 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: There are pads that 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 2020
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.
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.
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.
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.
This inflatable mat comes in green and blue. It’s made of a nylon material with a TPU coating. The unique design of this mat features flexible air cells that function like a pocket-sprung mattress. This gives the mat stability, so it won’t wobble or bottom out when you lie on it. The mat weighs 14.5 ounces. When rolled up, it measures 10 by 3.5 inches. When fully inflated, it measures 78 by 24 by 2.5 inches.
This mat is durable, thanks to the 20D rip-stop nylon construction. This makes it resistant to abrasion and tears. It’s waterproof and reflects radiant heat back at you. You’ll also find this mat to be quieter than others, with no squeaky or crinkly sounds.
Unfortunately, you’ll find parts of your body touching the ground even when the mat is fully inflated. This is only made worse by the mat’s inability to hold air. The material feels thin.
This inflatable sleeping pad is a soft, tufted design. When unrolled, it will self-inflate through the free-flow valve. To deflate, you roll the pad and use the compression straps to force the air out. The outside of the pad is made of durable polyester. At one end is an attached pillow. When fully inflated, the pad measures 76 by 25 by 2.5 inches.
What’s nice about this pad is that it’s more than just a blow-up mat. It gives you an extra layer of cushion and comfort. It’s also easy to set up, as it requires no work on your part.
The downside is that the strap can break at the rivets that attach them to the pad. This makes it difficult to expel all of the air and hold the pad in a rolled-up position. It also takes a long time for the pad to inflate and deflate.
This self-inflating sleeping pad comes in two colors: army green and blue. It also comes in two sizes: large and extra large. When fully inflated, the large measures 26 by 77 by 1.5 inches with a 2-inch armrest. The extra large measures 29 by 79 by 2.1 inches with a 3-inch-thick armrest. The large and extra-large sizes have R-values of 4.9 and 6.8, respectively, which makes this a four-season pad.
What makes this pad stand out is its durability. It’s made of 80D polyester that’s waterproof. It’s also more comfortable to lie on because it has an inner foam core that provides increased support.
Unfortunately, there are separate chambers and valves for the bed and the pillow. This can result in one of the sections going flat while the other gains air. The material can also feel more like sleeping on a pool float.
This bright green sleeping pad inflates to the dimensions of 72 by 23 by 2.5 inches and weighs 16.6 ounces. You can inflate the bed in 10 to 15 breaths. When packaged up for storage, it measures 3 by 8 inches. The V-shaped air chambers limit air movement within the pad to help support pressure points and retain heat.
What’s nice about this pad is the unique design of the air chambers. There’s a center wave to create extra cushioning and two outer lines of individual air chambers. These outer rails help keep you centered on the pad while sleeping. You can also use this sleeping pad with the V sheet and Pillow X products for a complete bed-like experience.
Unfortunately, the valve is made of hard plastic, so there isn’t an airtight seal. This may cause the pad to leak air and go flat in a few hours. The seams between the air chambers may begin to separate, which can create leaks and turn it into one large air chamber.
This slate gray sleeping pad is long and thick for increased comfort. When fully inflated, it measures 75.2 by 22.4 by 4 inches. When packed away, it fits into a 7.3-by-4.7-inch carrying bag. The pad weighs 19.8 ounces. It’s made of 40D nylon fabric and is waterproof.
You’ll like sleeping on this pad because it has a natural curve that results in the sides being slightly higher than the center. This creates a cradling effect so you won’t roll off in the middle of the night. It’s also easy to inflate and deflate with the large two-way valve. You can blow it up by hand or with a standard air pump.
The downside of this sleeping pad is that it creates a lot of noise when you lie on it. With every toss or turn, you may be waking up your fellow campers. The seams are a weak point for the pad and can begin to leak air with use.
- 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. A wash 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.