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Most Comfortable Camping Mattress/Pad?

March 2012

My husband and I have only been camping once with the kids, last summer. They loved it, and can't wait to go again soon. We liked it, as well, until it was time for bed. We tossed and turned all night on a Coleman air mattress, and I think I maybe got 2 hours of sleep, at the most.

I'd like to ask veteran campers what sort of mattress or pad they use to get a good night's sleep. I am thinking that an air mattress is not the right choice for us... it was uncomfortable and when one of us shifted, the whole thing would move. Also, it ended up leaking a lot of air throughout the night - by the time morning hit, it was probably 1/2 deflated.

Anyway, any recommendations would be great. We do need something that is 'queen' size (or 2 smaller mattresses/pads that can be attached/combined), as we have a large 2 person sleeping bag. We're willing to pay more for something that is really comfortable, and size/weight is not an issue, as we're strictly car campers.

An acquaintance once mentioned that they used a folding futon foam bed, and that it worked wonderfully. Has anyone ever used something like this? Again, all suggestions and recs are welcome! Thanks so much. Monica


LL Bean's 'camp futon' is a self-inflating mattress that is cushy but not bouncy like a regular air mattress. REI also makes a similar one; pay attention though, there are many varieties and you want the biggest and fattest one, not the backpacking version! As I've aged I've added a 'memory foam' topper from Costco to add another couple inches of softness; I'm a side sleeper so I do tend to hit bottom with my shoulder on the self-inflating pad without the topper. We've camped for many weeks at a time with this arrangement and I sleep well. Well-rested camper
When my brother was in boy scouts 20 years ago he had a foam pad that he would put under his sleeping bag. It was just a piece of foam about 2.5 feet wide, 6 feet long, and maybe 2 inches thick. I loved borrowing it for sleepovers so I would be more comfortable sleeping on the floor. My parents bought it at the local craft store (Jo Ann Fabric sends 40% off coupons if you are on their mailing list). Recently I custom ordered a piece of foam the same size as my son's crib mattress from Foam Factory online. Since it is the same size as his crib mattress, his crib sheets fit on it and it makes a great travel bed since it rolls up fairly small. You may find two smaller pieces (half the width of a queen) will be more useful than one queen sized piece. toddler mom
I'm not much of a camper, and tend to have trouble sleeping in beds that aren't my own. Therefore, I was especially pleased with the REI mattress I borrowed. Don't recall exact model, but it was their own name deluxe one. Slept great! Ellen
A foam mattress is probably what you need. (That's what you'd find in an RV, and some sofabed/futons.) But you'll need to strike the right balance between thickness and portability. (You don't need to be able to fit it on a backpack, but you do need to be able to fit it into your car, and haul it in and out of a tent, so it has to fold or roll up.) If you are slender people, even a foam 'mattress topper' (Target, JC Penney) or Thermarest type pad (a combo of foam and air -- though I've seen those only in small, single-person sizes) might be sufficient; if you are heavier or just want to go cushier, go to a foam store and look at the tri-fold mattress/couch things. They're normally marketed as play/nap/guest beds for children, but can be found in larger and thicker sizes too. Most foam stores do custom work, so you can choose the quality and firmness you want.

The alternative is a much better quality inflatable, like an Aerobed. My mom has one of those extra-height models that she uses as a guest bed in her home, and it's really quite comfy, very different from a typical Coleman camping air mattress! However, it does still have the issue of one person's movements affecting the other occupant of the bed. Holly


Eddie Bauer makes an WONDERFUL pad that has memory foam in the cushion and a flannel cover. Cushy and cozy. It's definitely pricey for a camping pad--but now I look forward to camping no matter how hard or cold the ground! And IMHO this is way better than a bouncy air mattress. Kelley
I am an experienced camper with a double sleeping bag and a back pain sufferer so I have tried them all. Good news is you are on the right track. I sleep on an air mattress every night but the key is to only fill it about 1/2 full so it molds to your body. For camping you probably need two single (twin size) mattresses next to each other as just a large one and you'll roll to the center most likely and be miserable. One key is the mattress must be at least 9' thick. I just bought one at Target made by Coleman for around $32. Coleman makes good stuff and it shouldn't leak. Aqua Seal (REI or Steele's Dive Shop) repairs leaks easy. Aerobed is a lousy company, over-priced, with poor customer service so avoid them. Eddie Bauer and Serta are good. You could also try a 3''-4'' memory foam topper on the air mattress you have but that is big and bulky. I would try two twin size from Target and set the air soft to your preference. I think yours had too much air and was too firm and too soft by morning. Trail mats aren't a good idea. Sound Sleeper

Where to get a used camping tent

May 2004

We need a big tent, one that you can stand up in, say 8x10 or so, and we'd rather buy a good used one than a cheap new one. Any suggestions where we might find one??? Thanks!! Wanna go camping


Try the Wilderness Exchange on San Pablo. kl
Want to buy mine? It's about 10x10 and you can definitely stand up in it. We're downsizing. Contact me if you're interested. (As for other places, I've looked in Craig's List and found expensive, fancy tents. I'm getting our next one at Costco.) Jennie
In Berkeley, try Wilderness Exchange on San Pablo across from REI, also the Army Navy Surplus store, further south on San Pablo on the same side as REI, carries a variey of used camping gear, not just used military gear. Kristen
Definitely check out the Wilderness Exchange (on San Pablo near University) -- they've got all sorts of used (and new) camping/sports gear. the people there are very knowledgeable and friendly and I've always gotten great deals there. shedragon
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