Something to sleep on, camping edition
June 12, 2017 11:56 AM   Subscribe

She and I are going camping! In a tent! What should we get to sleep on that isn't an air mattress, since all air mattresses are unsatisfactory what with the bouncing around and the deflating and the failure to reinflate. We are both prone to sore backs. We would like to not spend our kid's college fund on this.
posted by goatdog to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (18 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
My husband got a nice camping cot, something like the REI Kingdom Cot (I think his is from Gander Mt., but I can't find it online). His back no longer gets sore from camping. I don't mind sleeping on the ground, myself, but I do appreciate being able to stow stuff under his cot.
posted by Kriesa at 12:14 PM on June 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

You want a self-inflating mattress. You do put air in them, but they have some kind of fill as well. The air just makes them firm. Last year, my husband and I bought two Thermarest MondoKing mattresses, and they are awesome. They are almost as comfortable as my bed at home. A couple of downsides: they are impossible to roll up and put in their stuff sacks (we just roll them up and put straps on them); they must be stored flat (we store them under our king-sized bed -- they take up all the room) and they are bulky to transport. But they are so great to sleep on! They don't rustle at all, and no issues with them deflating.
posted by OrangeDisk at 12:15 PM on June 12, 2017 [4 favorites]

I mean, inflatable mats and mattresses have come a long way.... you might want to check out mats with a foam core in particular, because they don't bounce as much. If you have lots of space and want to go old school, you could get cots, I guess.

I have a queen air mattress for camping that never goes flat, and it's super comfortable, just a point of information.
posted by Huck500 at 12:16 PM on June 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

Cots are a good solution, but have some drawbacks. Since you're comparing to air mattresses, I assume you're not backpacking, so weight shouldn't be a problem. Cots take up a fair amount of vertical space, but if you have a big enough tent that isn't a problem. They're also relatively chilly compared to traditional camping ground pads since you have airflow space beneath you. So those all may or may be drawbacks for you.

Camping air mattresses/ground pads have come a long way, as Huck said. I like the offerings from Exped and Big Agnes, but there are a lot of options out there. Also keep in mind that the big living room style air mattresses won't insulate you as well if you're camping in cold weather due to all of the air space; something like an Exped Downmat is great for cold weather.
posted by craven_morhead at 12:19 PM on June 12, 2017

I talked my wife into camping this past weekend - her first camping trip with me since the 90s. I bought this to upgrade the sleeping comfort. It is damn comfortable.
posted by COD at 12:27 PM on June 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

Go to REI. They have dozens of pads of various types and thicknesses. I have a really nice pad that the most amazing sleep - and I'm a side sleeper, and a big (6'4" 210lb) guy. I love it, and it was only like 100 bucks.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 12:35 PM on June 12, 2017

My family does a fair bit of camping, and my wife and I have been sharing a queen sized coleman air mattresses for car camping for years now. We get about 5-6 years out of a mattress before it needs replacing (I blame the kids, they like jumping around in the tent). We also have various sleeping pads and folding camp cots. Sleeping pads, even self-inflating ones, always leave me with a sore back and shoulders (mind you, I have never tried a thick one like OrangeDisk linked to up above). The cots are big and heavy, are too hard and hurt my back, but are better than sleeping on the ground. A cot with a sleeping pad on top of it is somewhat better. Every option has pros and cons I guess. But honestly, a well-inflated good quality air mattress is the best camping sleep we get. Keeping them firmly inflated minimizes bounciness. Just don't expect them to last forever.
posted by fimbulvetr at 1:02 PM on June 12, 2017

The Lamp Rite self inflating air mattresses are very comfortable at the cost of being bulky and needing to be stored inflated, as OrangeDisk noted. They're closer in feel to being on a firm memory foam mattress than traditional air mattress.
posted by Candleman at 1:05 PM on June 12, 2017

Hit post before I finished.

I was going to say the best non-inflatable mattress sleep set-up is a layered approach. I put down a layer of thick evazote foam sleeping pads, then a layer of self-inflating sleeping pads, and then a couple wool or fleece blankets on top of that, then the sleeping bag. Almost as good as an inflatable mattress, and nicely insulated from the cold ground.
posted by fimbulvetr at 1:06 PM on June 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

Costco currently has a self-inflating camping pad -- the Skygazer Lightspeed or Lightspeed Skygazer or some such -- with foam in it for $35. I plan on trying it out, with a thick fleece blanket doubled up on top of it, this weekend. It seems cushy so far but my living room floor is very different from a campsite.
posted by The corpse in the library at 1:20 PM on June 12, 2017

You haven't mentioned whether you are car camping or backpacking, which makes a huge difference in what you can take.
Assuming you are car camping, i think a lot of people underestimate the comfort to be had with just a plain ol' pile of blankets, especially if they are laid down over a basic therma-rest ( the advantage of a therma-rest is that it evens out a lot of bumps, plus insulates from the cold ground).
i have all the gear for backpacking, but when i car camp I put down a therma-rest first and then every blanket/comforter/beach towel i've stuffed into the car. makes for a super-cozy environment with no bare tent spots and opportunities for folks of differing sleeping temps to have as much or little extra warmth as they can get.
posted by OHenryPacey at 2:04 PM on June 12, 2017 [2 favorites]

Another option is an egg crate foam mattress pad.
posted by Ms Vegetable at 2:24 PM on June 12, 2017

I have slept on many ridiculous things while camping and at 12 years of Burning Man... we own 2 Aerobeds, we have lots of sleeping pads and such for backpacking.


the best thing I have slept while camping on is a cheap 3 section inflatable couch that folds out into a bed.

It was $50. It stays inflated in the desert heat change for 3 days at a time. The one we have has cupholders.

They make cheap battery powered pumps that will get the job done.

We are on year 3 with this one. At burning man we put a 4 inch memory foam topper on it as well. 13 days on an air mattress is terrible.

I noticed on the new version Intex removed the cup holders and made it a little cheaper. I only vouch for the cup holder version.
posted by bobdow at 4:10 PM on June 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

Geo matt is good stuff. I can sleep well on one on my floor. They make them 2.5 inches thick, and 3.4 inches, I would go with the thicker one. Take a mattress cover and a fitted sheet, for a full sized one, or a queen, they roll up pretty well. If you get one the size of your bed, it is the best topper ever, but it has enough cushion to be comfortable sleeping.

Geo Matt by beautyrest, I got one delivered by Walmart.
posted by Oyéah at 4:43 PM on June 12, 2017

You want a Thermarest or other similar self-inflating sleeping pad (the Costco one sounds promising! I've had great luck with all the camping gear I've bought there). I, too, hate air mattresses and consider them torture devices, and I promise you self-inflating sleeping pads are nothing like air mattresses. I highly recommend you go somewhere you can poke a few in person to see what I mean.

If the ground will be relatively even and rock-free, and you're car camping, the eggcrate foam mattress topper thingies are also pretty comfy under sleeping bags.
posted by rhiannonstone at 8:04 PM on June 12, 2017

Thermarest makes a low, light cot. I think you would like it. If you were then to top it with the Big Agnes memory foam camping mattress, you would have a car camping set up fit for royalty.
posted by grinagog at 8:02 AM on June 13, 2017

Response by poster: We ended up with REI Camp Bed 3.5s. My spouse loved hers! I felt every morning like I had been hit by a truck.
posted by goatdog at 9:04 AM on July 17, 2017

I have one of those, too, goatdog. It's fine if I sleep on the REI camp bed and also sleep on a folded-over double-layered fleece blanket, as I mentioned above -- then I'm fine in the morning. Just the Camp Bed 3.5 is not enough for my middle-aged hips. I don't know if it's the padding or the insulation or both. Maybe try that before you give up on the Camp Bed.
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:17 PM on July 17, 2017

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