Tips for choosing the right camping bed

A good camping bed can be a difference between a whole day filled with adventure or you nursing your sore back. This is especially true if you are an experienced adventurer, if you don’t have a good quality camping bed, you may not recover from a night of restless sleep in time for more hiking.

Thankfully, there is a large variety of superb camping beds available that can not only fit into your budget but also your tent thanks to their various price ranges and features. However, with more options comes the headache of choosing what’s going to work best for you. Some people like camping beds that are raised above the ground, while others prefer to have an air mattress.

We will cover a lot of different yet great camping beds in our handy best camping bed guide as well, so you can make a fruitful and well-informed decision.


Types of Camping Beds

Self-Inflating Mats

As the name suggests, the self-inflating mats inflate themselves, just like me on cheat day. However, they’re not technically going to inflate themselves fully. Inside the mats, there is an open-cell foam that absorbs air and inflates when you open the valve. These have been around since the 70s and are quite popular simply because they are easy to carry and easy to inflate as well. We recommend that you unroll them as soon as you set up your tent, so they get a few minutes to inflate. We like the KingCamp self-inflating 3 inch camping sleeping mattress.

Foam Pads

The foam pads are like self-inflating mats, but they don’t even require any inflation. They are made with closed-cell foam and all you need to do is unroll them and that’s it. There’s no risk of getting a puncture, and they are easy to transport as well thanks to their light weight. They are not going to be comfortable because these are usually thinner than other camping beds, but they can make a great first layer to place your sleeping bag on. We like the WELLAX self-inflating UltraThick FlexFoam sleeping pad.

Air Mattresses

The air mattress is filled with, you guessed it, air! You need to inflate these by using a pump or your own lungs (which we don’t recommend for larger mattresses). The biggest advantage of having an air mattress is not only comfort but also the reduction of weight. They are almost half as wide as other self-inflating mats, so you can either carry them around while trekking or hiking. Some people prefer to sleep on an air mattress, but generally speaking, they fall a tad bit when it comes to comfort. We like the Intex Dura-Beam delux plush airbed.

Air Beds

If your camping tent is of a luxurious size, an air bed might be the best choice for you. The biggest quality of having an air bed is that it lifts you up from the ground. It is also great if you are planning to have more than one person on a single bed. Here’s a tip, when cousin Tim visits you for the 5th time in a week you can have an air bed plopped down in a few minutes. For the kids, we like the Inflatable toddler travel bed with electric pump.

Camping Cots

Just like air beds, camping cots also lift you up above the ground, so you don’t have to feel that one pebble at an awkward angle all night. It also helps you keep warm because your bed is not touching the ground. Camping cots can also be used as a couch, so you can simply lie around outside during the day as well. One point you need to note here is that most camping cots only fold in half, so transportation might be an issue if you’re planning to walk on foot a lot. We like the MARCHWAY Ultralight folding tent camping cot bed.


Features of Camping Beds Worth Considering


One of the biggest features you need to note while purchasing a camping bed is the size. We understand, it may seem obvious right now, but we have made the same mistake countless times before. Make sure you know what size you need and whether it will fit inside your camping tent and your vehicle or not. Usually, camping beds and mattresses are around 72 to 77 inches, but some can even extend to 85 inches. The longer the camping bed, the happier tall persons will be. You also need to keep in mind the width of the camping beds, but everyone appreciates a wider one.

Comfort Level

This is entirely subjective, some people love the feel of air mattresses, while some cannot live without mats. However, the thickness of the mattress can actually be scientifically better, the thicker the mattress, the more comfortable it will be. Of course, you cannot have an infinitely thick mattress either because that would be a hassle carrying around. However, in our experience, the self-inflating pads are soft enough to be comfortable but also light enough to be carried around with ease. Again, this is a personal preference, yours may vary, and it will be just as valid.

Mattress Insulation

Mattress insulation is an important aspect to consider, especially when you go out camping in all seasons. While a mattress with no insulation can be great during the summer, taking the same mattress on snow covered ground isn’t going to be enjoyable. The mattress insulation rating is measured in R-value, the higher the R-value, the more insulation the mattress will provide. Many manufacturers are not keen on disclosing this rating, but it is a welcome thing when you can spot it. We recommend getting a mattress that’s about 3 R-value for general uses, and about 5 for winter.

Weight and Portability

A camping bed should be lightweight and easy to carry, but we don’t live in a perfect world and not all camping beds will be super easy to carry around with you. Generally speaking, going with a camping bed that is comfortable and durable is the best way to go, rather than choosing the one that’s the lightest. Here’s the thing, you want to rest on a comfortable bed after a long walk, it will get you refreshed and up in no time even though it might weigh a little more. But if you have an uncomfortable bed, you won’t be getting refreshed and ready to go in the morning, and the lightweight feature would mean nothing if you are fatigued.


The usage of a camping bed can vary from person to person. If you’re getting a camping bed for a baby, a portable cot might be the best option. What about a toddler, a smaller-sized mattress would do just fine for them. How about sharing your bed with a friend or partner? Then you’ll need a bigger one, especially in width. Taking the right camping bed for your tent and personal usage is essential in making or breaking your camping trip.

Want to look at more sleeping options? Check out our buyer’s guide.

bed buyers guide