The Best Sleeping Pads for Camping of 2023: Tested

Bring comfort from home to the campground with these nine sleeping pads.

Heather Balogh Rochfort|Updated April 21, 2023

13 reviews with an average rating of 3.5 out of 5 stars
A camper gets his tent set up with the REI Co-op Camp Bed sleeping pad.

Overview

We’ve come a long way from the days when campers laid out bedrolls on pine boughs. The sleeping pads lining shelves today are thick, cushy, warm and downright palatial compared to the mats of yore. Frankly, many are nicer than what college kids sleep on.

And when your vehicle does the heavy lifting—whether you’re car camping or overlanding—almost any sleeping pad is yours for the taking. You simply need to decide what type of pad you want, then factor in personal preferences like dimensions and price. There are a ton of options available to you, dear sleeper, and we bet there’s one for you in this list.

Our Top Picks
Check out the results of our field test here or scroll down for in-depth reviews.
Best All-Around Sleeping Pad
NEMO Roamer Sleeping Pad - XL Wide
Best Sleeping Pad for Adventure Camping
Exped MegaMat 10 Sleeping Pad
Best Sleeping Pad for Glamping
HEST Sleep System Sleeping Pad
Best Sleeping Pad for Budget-Conscious Campers
Kelty Mistral SI Sleeping Pad
Best Sleeping Cot
REI Co-op Kingdom Cot 3
Best Sleeping Pad for Crossover Campers
Big Agnes Boundary Deluxe Insulated Sleeping Pad
Other Top Performer
Helinox Cot Max Convertible

Test Results

Best All-Around Sleeping Pad

Test Results: Behold, the sleeping pad by which we evaluate all others: the NEMO Roamer, an REI Co-op Editors' Choice Award winner. It’s comfy, it’s warm, it’s durable, it’s easy to set up, and—perhaps best of all—it easily fits in your car trunk. That’s the picture of perfection when it comes to camping, so if you read just one review in this gear guide, let it be this.

It starts with the sort of comfort that makes you forget you’re outside in the first place. The Roamer is 4 inches thick and does a good impression of memory foam when side sleepers dig their hips in. It also has the most generous dimensions in this lineup—78 inches long and 30 inches wide—so campers can spread out. One tester even deemed it broad enough for sharing with her 3-year-old.

But if there’s a truism with sleeping pads, it’s that the cushier the mat, the harder it is to set up—and fit in your car. By such laws of physics, the Roamer should fail miserably in both areas, but it doesn’t. Thanks to dual valves (one for inflation and the other for deflation) and NEMO’s proprietary foam-lined, internal air channels (called Flow Core™ construction), you don’t need superhero lungs to blow up this pad. It self-inflates in about five minutes. Top it off with a few lungfuls, and it’s good to go.

When it’s time to pack up and head home, release the deflation valve, then squish the Roamer into its included storage bag. All said, it packs down to the size of a throw pillow, thanks to its diagonal air channels, which collapse smaller than standard vertical and horizontal chambers. That helped our testers find small nooks for it in storage between camping trips and, because it weighs just 5 and a half pounds, easily toss it in the car and haul it to the tent. Note: That Flow Core™ construction does make the Roamer slightly bouncier than other foam pads, but our testers thought it hit the sweet spot between comfort and function.

Our favorite feature? The Roamer has a toggle system along the side of the pad, so couples or groups looking to create the ultimate cuddle puddle can secure two pads together to make a seamless, queen-size camping bed. 

Bottom Line: Supreme comfort, generous dimensions and surprising packability make the NEMO Roamer – XL Wide our top selection for any camping adventure.

Testing Stats:

  • Testing states: California, Colorado and Utah
  • Best testing story: Here’s another gold star to the Roamer for versatility. “I know this has nothing to do with camping,” a Colorado-based tester sheepishly notes, “but the Roamer is so darn comfortable that my 65-year-old mother chooses to sleep on it when she visits.”

Best Sleeping Pad for Kids

Teach ’em young by creating a cozy tent experience that begins with the Kindercamp sleeping pad from REI Co-op. Kids don’t need as much material or surface area as adults, so the Kindercamp sticks to the essentials: a 60-inch length that’s long enough for big kids and a 20-inch width that is downright capacious for the littlest of littles (and can fit a parent in a pinch). Bonus: Inflation is easy. “Setup and takedown are the fastest of any pad I’ve ever used,” says one tester after a night near the base of Oregon's Mount Bachelor.

The Kindercamp really hits the high notes when it comes to comfort. During the last redesign, REI added thickness so the Kindercamp sits at a plush 1.5 inches—plenty of cushion to keep young one’s shoulders off the ground. Warmth is also noticeable with an increased R-value of 4.5. This means that the Kindercamp should keep your babies toasty during shoulder season and summer.

With all this cushion, it isn’t the lightest or the smallest pad out there and therefore won’t be your first choice for backpacking. (It packs down to the size of an ultralight one-person tent). But, we feel confident the kids will love it. 

Bottom Line: Little and big kids alike love the easy inflation, cozy feel and solid durability of the REI Co-op Kindercamp.

Testing Stats:

  • Testing States: California
  • Best Testing Story: “Our toddler dragged this pad all over camp—including a moment when it got too close to the fire—and it still looks good,” says our California dad. “Three cheers for kid testing.”

Best Sleeping Pad for Adventure Camping

Test Results: Our testing samples of this mattress have seen a lot—we put them through the ringer to test the pad's ability to stand up to adventures that require hardier gear. We’ve thrown down on dirt and granite, to be sure, but also desert floors, truck beds and even a gravel parking lot. The pad was even included in a bounce-house-style melee among overeager testers confined to an REI Co-op Kingdom 6 during a Colorado squall that rendered other pads in need of repairs. And after all was said and done, the venerable Exped MegaMat 10 is no worse for the wear—the only perfect scorer in the durability department in our round-robin test.

The MegaMat 10 has a laminated top and bottom, making it far more durable than most inflatable pads. The 75-denier polyester bottom layer easily shrugs off dirt and other debris should you forgo the tent like one tester did on a rough-and-tumble night outside Moab, Utah. “There were cactuses everywhere, but my pad escaped unscathed,” she reports. Of course, all that armor does come with a size penalty; the MegaMat 10 packs down to the size of a bag of doggie kibble (2 feet and change by 8 inches, or nearly double the size of the packed-up NEMO Roamer).

Still, the MegaMat 10 is light for its size. It weighs less than 5 pounds—awesome for campers who might schlep it onto a raft, lift it overhead into a roof-top tent or haul it in and out of the car every day on longer road trips. Credit its horizontal air chambers for shaving the ounces without affecting comfort—the MegaMat 10 is still nearly 4 inches thick. “I’m a side sleeper, and this is the first pad that doesn’t make me wake up with a bruised hip,” one tester wrote on her feedback form. 

Bottom Line: If you want to hit the dirt for an adventure without hindering your beauty sleep, grab the mega-hardy Exped MegaMat 10.

Testing Stats:

  • Testing states: California, Colorado, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming
  • Best testing anecdote: Our Utah crew rolled into Moab on a busy holiday without reservations or ideas as to where to set up a dispersed camp. After aimlessly cruising Bureau of Land Management wilderness after dark, the group called it. “It was after midnight and we were exhausted, so we pulled over on the side of the road and threw our stuff into the dirt,” says our tester. “I got a good night’s sleep on the MegaMat, but I was less than thrilled in the morning when I awoke to a shrub in my face on one side and a cow on the other.”

 

Best Sleeping Pad for Glamping

Test Results: Put simply: This sleep system is for campers with an insatiable appetite for comfort. And if you make the investment, stratospheric comfort is exactly what HEST delivers. One tester put it this way: “Hands down: This is the best sleep of my life.”

Your soft tactile experience starts with the 7-inch-thick home-mattress portion of the sleep system, which has a layer of memory foam on top of a firmer, more stable polyurethane foam substrate. It’s all covered with a stretchy, wicking nylon fabric that makes the whole package a likely step up from what you’re sleeping on at home. (Nice touch: The cover zips off for washing.)

The air-filled base is as close to an indestructible air pad as you can find at REI, thanks to the beefy casing and drop-stitch construction borrowed from inflatable SUPs. The other advantage to this technique, where thousands of tightly packed high-tensile threads connect the top and bottom of the air-filled base, is the rigidity it provides. Short of bringing your platform bed to the campground, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more luxurious setup.

Getting the HEST ready for a night under the stars is easy on the lungs, too. The Sleep System comes with a foot pump. It’s easy to fill, and deflation is simple: Pop the valve on the air pad and let it flow. At more than $400 and more than 25 pounds, however, this isn’t the sleep system for everyone. But if a decadently comfortable night’s rest is what you’re after, this is it.

Bottom Line: Campers wanting to live in the lap of luxury regardless of cost or weight will love the unmatched comfort and thoughtful design of the HEST Sleep System.

Testing Stats:

  • Testing states: Colorado, Montana and Utah
  • Best testing anecdote: One tester with a history of back problems appreciated the comfort offered by the HEST. Have your partner load it into the car and unload it at the campground, she advises, then enjoy easy sleep like she has, most recently at Dominguez-Escalante National Conservation Area in Colorado and Glacier National Park in Montana.

Best Sleeping Pad for Budget-Conscious Campers

You get a lot for a little when it comes to the Mistral SI by Kelty. This 3-season pad has a solid R-value (4.7) that should keep you toasty during the coldest of shoulder seasons, as one tester discovered during a chilly 30-degree evening near Bishop, California. And it does this at a fraction of the price of other sleeping pads on this list. 

Even so, the Mistral doesn’t skimp on comfort in exchange for its affordability. The 22-inch width is slightly broader than the industry standard of 20 inches, meaning you get a little more wiggle room for your buck. It’s also decently long at 73 inches, though taller testers (over 6 feet) were forced to dangle their toes off the edge. Testers praised the self-inflation: “Just let it sit for a minute and you don’t have to worry about getting lightheaded.”

The 1.5-inch-thick pad isn’t as plush as others on this list, but it’ll keep you warm and relaxed during a night under the stars. And while the Mistral is a heavier option given its size, we still think it’s a screaming value at this price. 

Bottom Line: While the Kelty Mistral SI sleeping pad is a bit bulky, it’s a top choice for budget-minded campers looking for a warm and durable pad.

Testing Stats:

  • Testing States: California, Oregon and Washington
  • Best Testing Story: One tester used the Mistral SI as her bed-away-from-home while working the Flash Foxy Climbing Festival. “I worked really long hours and needed some sleep, and this pad helped me get it!” she says.

Best Sleeping Cot

Go big or go home. That’s the idea behind this feature-rich, extra-large cot from REI designed for campers who don’t want to sleep on the ground. Comfort reigns supreme thanks to 1.5 inches of padding and raised sides that gently envelop your body like a warm hug. When combined with the multi-position back that can sit upright like a lawn chair, you’re also looking at your new favorite viewpoint for stargazing.

The sleeping surface sits 14 inches above the ground, making it a gentler option for those with cranky joints or other mobility problems—no more crawling onto a mat. Oversize, stabilizing feet accommodate uneven terrain, so testers never struggled with a wobbling bed. Cots usually sleep cold, but the Kingdom Cot 3 surprised our testers: “Temps dropped down to 30 degrees and I thought I’d get cold, but I was totally comfortable,” reports one tester after his first night in Virginia’s Prince William Forest Park.

The Kingdom Cot 3 is a burly addition to your gear load, clocking in at 20 pounds and roughly the size of a large card table when collapsed. This means storage and transportation take some creativity. Still, for those who want to live the luxe life above the dirt, we think it’s a great bet.

Bottom Line: The REI Co-op Kingdom Cot 3 is a luxurious option for campers who want a cot with a lot of comfort.

Testing Stats:

  • Testing States: Virginia
  • Best Testing Story: “I was the envy of the other Scout leaders,” says one tester after a weekend Boy Scout trip. “I had the comfiest bed and it even stayed dry after the kids tracked water into the tent.”

Best Sleeping Pad for Crossover Campers

Boundary Deluxe Insulated Sleeping Pad

Big Agnes Boundary Deluxe Insulated Sleeping Pad

Score: 95 of 100

Versions Regular, Long, Regular Wide, Long Wide, Long X-Wide

Pad type Air

Insulation Synthetic PrimaLoft® Silver

R-value 4.3

Dimensions 72 x 20 x 3.5 in. (regular); 72 x 25 x 3.5 in. (regular wide); 78 x 20 x 3.5 in. (long); 78 x 25 x 3.5 in. (long wide); 78 x 30 x 3.5 in. (long x-wide)

Weight 1 lb. 9 oz. (reg); 1 lb. 16 oz. (reg wide); 1 lb. 11 oz. (long); 2 lbs. 3 oz. (long wide); 2 lbs. 8 oz. (long x-wide)

Boundary Deluxe Insulated Sleeping Pad

Big Agnes Boundary Deluxe Insulated Sleeping Pad

Score: 95 of 100

Versions Regular, Long, Regular Wide, Long Wide, Long X-Wide

Pad type Air

Insulation Synthetic PrimaLoft® Silver

R-value 4.3

Dimensions 72 x 20 x 3.5 in. (regular); 72 x 25 x 3.5 in. (regular wide); 78 x 20 x 3.5 in. (long); 78 x 25 x 3.5 in. (long wide); 78 x 30 x 3.5 in. (long x-wide)

Weight 1 lb. 9 oz. (reg); 1 lb. 16 oz. (reg wide); 1 lb. 11 oz. (long); 2 lbs. 3 oz. (long wide); 2 lbs. 8 oz. (long x-wide)

Camping gear isn’t cheap, so finding items that can work for multiple types of adventure is one way to get more bang for your buck. This is where the Boundary Deluxe from Big Agnes shines, hitting that warmth-to-weight sweet spot that makes it a great choice for those who car camp and backpack. The secret is its synthetic PrimaLoft® Silver insulation that upticks the R-value but decreases the weight when compared to traditional foam insulation. The end result is plenty of warmth without a major weight penalty. “It’s so lightweight for what it offers,” says our Missouri-based tester. “Comfortable, warm and fewer ounces added to my already-overweight pack? Yes, please!”

The Boundary Deluxe is available in numerous sizes, but they all boast more than 4 inches of thickness, which is plenty of cushioning for your frontcountry campsite. Still, backpackers shouldn’t sleep on this pad (or maybe they should!); with a reasonable weight and a packed size similar to a water bottle, it’s a great option for a night or two in the backcountry. 

Bonus: Big Agnes uses oversize outer chambers that run along the sides of the sleeping pad, creating a slight wall. For those of us who sleep a little rowdy after a night of s’mores, these should keep you contained.

Bottom Line: If you want an objectively comfortable sleeping pad that can take you from the backcountry to the frontcountry and back again, grab the Big Agnes Boundary Deluxe.

Testing Stats:

  • Testing States: Missouri
  • Best Testing Story: One tester struggled with stomach sleeping after the birth of her child but changed her tune with the Boundary Deluxe. “I can lay on my belly for at least an hour on this pad,” she says. “I’d buy it just for that.”

Other Top Performer

Test Results: Looking for a sleeping pad that will save a few dollars and still keep you pretty cozy at night? Look no further. Belying its relatively affordable price, the REI Co-op Camp Bed boasts 2.5 inches of foam, plus a T-shirt-soft cover on top. It still rolls up tight (one tester compared the regular size to that of a jumbo Wiffle Ball bat), though, making it a great option for folks considering toting it along on occasional backpacking trips. Bonus: The 150-denier polyester is toughest in test.

Other Top Performer

Test Results: Get off the ground with the Helinox Cot Max Convertible. The benefits of a cot like this are many: For starters, its canvas trampoline-style top cradles your joints and curves more uniformly than a traditional sleeping pad. It also has significant ground clearance (more than 6 inches), which makes it easier to get in and out of and conserves storage space in the tent (you can stuff your belongings underneath it). It may be obvious, but you also don’t have to waste any breath inflating it. As for the downsides, the Cot Max Convertible won’t keep you as warm as an insulated pad, and nailing the setup takes a few practice rounds. 

Buying Advice

If you’re looking for a car-camping sleeping pad, your motorized packhorse is doing the heavy lifting, so just pick the warmest, cushiest, most durable pad you can afford, taking into account your space. Your unfurled sleeping pad needs to fit inside your tent, and your packed-up sleeping pad needs to fit in your vehicle and wherever you’d like to store it when not in use.

Types of Pads

You have three main sleeping-pad styles to choose from: air pads, self-inflating foam pads and closed-cell foam pads.

Most car-camping sleeping pads are of the self-inflating foam variety. That means they have open-cell foam insulation for warmth and padding, plus air inflation to enhance cushioning. To inflate one, you open a valve to let the outside air pressure plump up the pad. (This typically takes five to 10 minutes.) To get it fully inflated to your liking, though, you’ll have to blow a few lungfuls in, too. (Some pads come with a pump.)

Self-inflating pads’ warmth comes from the open-cell foam inside. Compared to air pads, they are heavier and bulkier to pack, and because they’re inflated, you need to take care not to puncture them and should carry a field-repair patch kit on your trips.

Pad R-Values

R-value measures a pad’s resistance to heat flowing through it (hence the “R”). Higher R-values are warmer. Below are rough guidelines about temperature conditions for different R-value ranges:

  • R-value less than 2.0: Warm-weather pads
  • R-value 2.0 to 3.9: Cool-weather pads
  • R-value 4.0 to 5.4: Cold-weather pads
  • R-value 5.5 and greater: Extreme-cold-weather pads

Methodology

We distributed the best sleeping pads intended for car camping that are currently available at REI among a team of 12 testers. Over the past year, these co-op members logged more than 250 nights on these mattresses. They  camped beneath the Milky Way in Utah, sweltered through Nevada’s hottest evenings in Red Rock Canyon and entertained babies during whipping winds outside Ottawa, Canada.

At the end of the testing session, we asked our team to evaluate each sleeping pad used on its comfort, warmth, durability, ease of setup and packability. We then took those scores, found the averages, and presented our top picks to you in this guide.

The top overall scorer is the NEMO Roamer – XL Wide (98), which we’ve also awarded an REI Co-op Editors’ Choice Award. Following the Roamer, the Big Agnes Boundary Deluxe (95), the Exped MegaMat 10 (94), the REI Co-op Kindercamp (93), the Kelty Mistral SI (93), the REI Co-op Kingdom Cot 3 (92) and the HEST Sleep System (91) scored high in most—but not all—categories. The REI Co-op Camp Bed (90) and Helinox Cot Max Convertible (89), which scored high in some categories, are good choices for specific users.

About the Author

Heather Balogh Rochfort

Heather is a freelance writer and author specializing in the outdoors and adventure travel, particularly as they apply to women and families. Her organization WildKind educates and empowers families to find their wild. REI member since 2008.