How Thick Should a Camping Mattress Be?

How thick should a camping mattress be?

I’m always looking for ways to get out in nature with the family, and camping is always our go-to escape.

And one of the most important things to consider when sleeping in a tent is to ensure it’s a comfortable experience.

Because a bad night’s sleep out in the wilderness sucks.

I’ve gone through multiple mattress pads over the years.

There are many options for different people, such as UL backpackers, car campers, and those who tent camp like us.

So how thick should a camping mattress be for a comfortable night’s sleep while camping? 

From my experience, I feel that a 3″ mattress is the best option for my family and me in terms of comfort and packability.

For others, it may be different.

This depends on a few things:

  • Your body weight
  • Storage capacity
  • Budget & Durability
  • Comfort level

Knowing what thickness will work best for different activities, such as backpacking and car camping, is essential in ensuring you have an enjoyable time outdoors.

There are many factors to consider when choosing the right thickness for your needs, including weight, insulation, comfort level, and durability.

Body Weight

The first thing to consider is your weight.

Most mattresses (air and foam) won’t give you a weight capacity, but a good rule of thumb for both mattress types would be 300 lbs for a single-person air mattress or 600 lbs for a dual mattress.

Once you’ve reached that weight threshold, you might experience a little sagging.

exped mega mat rolled up

Storage Capacity

As a family of 5 with a dog, packing for a camping trip is like playing Tetris.

We need all the space we can get, so the packed mattress size was a priority.

We initially purchased the 4″ Exped self-inflating foam mattress pictured below:

This was a fantastic mattress, but it took up too much space.

So we got the Sea To Summit Comfort Plus Self-Inflating Sleeping Mat.

It was packed small and was very comfortable.

However, if you’re an ultra-light backpacker carrying everything in your backpack, you’ll want to find something smaller and lighter.

Budget And Durability

When it comes to camping gear, I’m always on the side of the “buy once, cry once” team.

What does that mean? 

You get what you pay for.

But that doesn’t mean the best mattress is always the most expensive.

Here’s a scenario.

You’re not an avid camper, but your friends invited you on a camping trip.

You shop online for an air mattress, and you see one for $33 and another for $400.

For $33, it’s a small investment to go camping and see if you actually like camping.

After your camping trip, you had so much fun and look forward to next year’s invite.

That $33 will go a very long way for that type of person.

The quality might not be the best, but that mattress can be destroyed 10 times and would still be cheaper over a few years.

For other folks who camp a lot, quality, comfort, and durability are what they’re looking for.

Comfort Level

This is what it all comes down to, regardless of price.

The 3″ thick mattress I purchased allowed me to deflate the air mattress a little to find that perfect comfort zone without feeling the ground, whether sleeping on my back or to the side.

Your mileage may vary.

Exped camping mattress

Types of Camping Mattresses

Self-Inflating Mattresses

Self-inflating mattresses are a great option for campers who want the convenience of an air mattress but don’t want to spend time inflating it.

These mattresses are designed with a foam core that automatically inflates them when opened, making setup quick and easy.

They are usually thicker than air mattresses, providing more cushioning and insulation from the ground. They also tend to be heavier and bulkier than other camping mattresses, so they may not be ideal for backpacking trips where weight is a concern.

Air Mattresses

Air mattresses are popular among campers because they provide comfort and support without taking up too much space or adding extra weight to your gear load.

Most air mattresses have adjustable firmness settings, so you can customize your sleeping experience based on your preference.

These beds require manual inflation, which can take some time, depending on how big the mattress is.

They aren’t as thick as self-inflating or foam models, offering less insulation from the cold ground below them.

Foam Mattresses

Foam mats offer superior warmth compared to other types of camping beds.

However, their thin design means there is not much room between you and the hard ground beneath if you move around during sleep. This could become uncomfortable over long periods in one spot.

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Camping Mattress

When it comes to choosing a camping mattress, several factors need to be taken into consideration.

Size and weight are two of the most important factors when selecting a camping mattress.

A larger size may provide more comfort but can also add extra weight and bulk, which could make carrying the mattress more difficult.

On the other hand, a smaller size may not offer as much comfort but will be easier to transport.

Comfort level is another factor to consider when choosing a camping mattress. Different mattresses have different levels of cushioning, support, and breathability, which can affect how comfortable you feel while sleeping.

Durability and weather resistance are also key considerations when selecting a camping mattress.

The material used in construction should withstand wear and tear over time, as well as any extreme temperatures or wet conditions encountered during your outdoor adventures.

These factors can influence the thickness of your chosen camping mattress.

For example, thicker mattresses provide better insulation against cold temperatures than thinner ones, so they might be preferable if you spend extended periods outdoors in colder climates or at higher altitudes where temperatures drop significantly overnight.

When deciding on the right thickness for your needs, it’s important to consider both your sleeping position and body type; those who sleep mainly on their side may prefer something thicker than those who sleep mainly on their back or stomach since this will help keep them supported throughout the night without causing discomfort due to pressure points forming in certain areas such as hips or shoulders.

It’s also helpful to test out different thicknesses either by trying them out in-store or reading online reviews before making your final decision, so you know what works best for you personally based on past experiences with similar products rather than just relying solely on product specifications alone!

Finally, proper care and maintenance are essential to ensure that your camping mattress lasts many years. Cleaning regularly after each trip using mild soap and warm water followed by air drying completely before storing away helps prevent mold growth.

Additionally, repairing any damaged air valves immediately prevents further damage from occurring due to leaks caused by improper inflation/deflation techniques being used over time.

Thickness of Camping Mattresses for Different Activities

Different activities require different levels of comfort and support, so choosing the right thickness for your needs is essential.

For backpacking trips, a thinner mattress is usually best as it will be easier to carry and won’t take up too much space in your pack. Look for 2-3 inches-thick mattresses, as they provide enough cushioning without being overly bulky or heavy. Self-inflating mattresses are a great option for backpackers as they offer good insulation and can be easily rolled up when not used.

Car camping requires more comfort than backpacking trips, so you may opt for a thicker mattress. For example, 4-6 inches-thick mattresses provide plenty of cushioning while still being lightweight enough to transport in your car or RV. Air mattresses are often used by car campers because they can quickly inflate and deflate with minimal effort.

Foam mattresses also work well but tend to be heavier than air models, making them better suited for stationary campsites rather than frequent moves from one spot to another.

When making a purchase decision, it is important to consider your sleeping position and body type, as these factors can affect how comfortable you feel on any mattress.

Proper care and maintenance should always be considered when camping mattresses; clean them regularly after each use and store them properly when not in use, so they last longer over time. If possible, test out different thicknesses at stores or read online reviews before investing in something that might not meet expectations later.

Tips for Choosing the Right Thickness for Your Needs

Your sleeping position and body type can significantly affect what thickness is best for you.

For example, if you’re a side sleeper or have broad shoulders, something thicker may be more comfortable than sleeping on your back or stomach.

Another factor to consider when selecting the right thickness is how much weight and space you’ll need to carry with you on your trip. If weight and size are important factors for your camping trips, opting for a thinner mattress may be the way to go.

Testing out different mattresses before buying one is also highly recommended, as this will give you an idea of which ones feel most comfortable to sleep on and which ones provide enough support while still being lightweight enough for travel purposes.

You can do this either by visiting stores that sell camping gear or by reading online reviews from people who have already purchased them so that they can provide their honest opinions about each product’s performance in terms of comfort level, durability, etc.

Care and Maintenance of Camping Mattresses

It is important to clean your camping mattress regularly to keep it in good condition.

  1. Start by brushing off any dirt or debris that may have accumulated on the surface of the mattress.
  2. Use a mild soap and warm water solution to spot-clean any stains or spills.
  3. Let your mattress air dry completely before storing it away.
  4. Keep your camping mattress in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight, as this can cause damage over time.


What type of mattress is best for camping?

Comfort is paramount; look for mattresses with good support, cushioning, and breathability.

Weight and size are also important considerations; you want something lightweight enough to carry easily but large enough to provide adequate sleeping space.

Durability is another factor; choose a mattress made from high-quality materials designed to withstand outdoor conditions.

Finally, consider cost – some higher-end models may be more expensive but can last longer and provide greater comfort in the long run.

Finding the right mattress for your needs will ensure an enjoyable camping experience.

How thick should a self-inflating mattress be?

The thickness of a self-inflating mattress will depend on the type and size of camping you plan to do.

Generally, a mattress 2 inches thick mattress for backpacking or lightweight camping should be sufficient.

For car camping or more luxurious camping trips, a thicker mattress, such as 4 inches, maybe more comfortable.

The most important factor when choosing the right thickness is comfort – make sure to choose one that fits your needs.

What is the most comfortable thing to sleep on when camping?

The most comfortable thing to sleep on when camping depends largely on personal preference. For some, a sleeping pad or air mattress is the best option for providing cushion and insulation from the ground.

Others may prefer an inflatable hammock or cot for extra support and comfort.

A sleeping bag can also provide warmth and cushioning, while a lightweight backpacking tent offers shelter from the elements.

Ultimately, it’s important to find what works best for you based on your needs and preferences to get a good night’s rest in any environment.

Is 20 inches wide enough for a sleeping pad?

The width of a sleeping pad is an important factor to consider when choosing the right one for your needs. Generally, 20 inches wide is enough for most people looking for a comfortable night’s sleep while camping or backpacking.

However, if you are taller than average or prefer more room to move around in your sleep, a wider sleeping pad may be worth considering that it offers more space and comfort.

The best way to determine what size will work best for you is by trying out different sizes and seeing which fits your body type and preferences the best.

Before You Go

It can be a little daunting getting into a new hobby, and camping is no different. I’ve compiled a list of resources below to get you started on the right foot. Cheers.

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