Written By Nikola Petrovski
Published May. 20, 2020

There’s nothing like a little adventure to get the blood pumping and the inspiration flowing. Whether you’re car camping for just a weekend or for an extended period of time, one thing you’ll want to make sure to pack is your car camping sleeping pad. Let’s face it: You’ll spend roughly 30 percent of your time asleep while you’re off adventuring.

No one wants to return feeling completely depleted from either poor sleep or lack of sleep altogether. There are some key considerations you’ll want to keep in mind. Make sure to measure the length, width, and vertical depth of your car’s backseat or trunk. This will help you narrow down the sleeping pads that will fit into your car.

You’ll want to consider the material that the pad is made out of and make sure it will fit your needs. If you anticipate a cold climate while you’re camping, you may want to go with a foam pad to make sure you’re warm enough through the night. Here are some of the best car camping sleeping pads to fit your car camping needs.

The AirExpect Camping Sleeping Pad is the best compact sleeping pad for those looking for a smaller option. However, with its 660-pound capacity and built-in pillow, the small size does impact its sturdiness. The mattress is narrower than others on the list, which could be just what you’re looking for if you have a smaller vehicle.

Interestingly, if you purchase two of these mattresses, you can button them together to create a twin-sized mattress. There is also a built-in pump that will inflate your mattress at the press of a button. Not only will you not have to carry a pump with you, but this mattress is also extremely lightweight, weighing only 21 ounces.

Key Features
  • 660-pound capacity
  • Built-in pillow
  • Narrow for smaller vehicles
  • Built-in pump
Specification
  • Brand AirExpect
  • Model 1.8 pounds
PROS

Buttons together with a second sleeping pad

Lightweight

Easy to inflate/deflate

CONS

May emit a strong odor

Thin material

Pillow is not very comfortable

The best-priced option is the Sleepingo Sleeping Pad for Camping. You can rest easy knowing that a single pinhole leak won’t deflate your whole mattress while you are soundly asleep. This sleeping pad is made up of a dual air chamber system arranged in a unique 3-layer design.

In the morning, you can patch any holes using the repair kit that comes included with this mattress. When inflated, this mattress is approximately 78 inches by 24 inches by 4 inches. It is made of tear-resistant nylon material, which means this is waterproof for an added level of security.

Key Features
  • Dual air chamber system
  • Three-layer design
  • Repair kit included
  • 78 x 24 x 4 inches
Specification
  • Brand Sleepingo
  • Model 14.5 ounces
PROS

Material is tear-resistant

Waterproof

Inflates quickly

CONS

Material is slippery

Too narrow for larger people

Plug is hard to secure

The best premium car camping sleeping pad is the TETON Sports Outfitter XXL Camp Pad. As we mentioned in the introduction, if you’re planning on camping in a cooler climate, foam is the way to go.

The air pressure of cold air is lower than warmer air, so you could experience a deflation-like experience with an inflatable sleeping pad as the air becomes colder overnight. You won’t need to worry with this foam pad because it provides a layer of insulation that ensures your comfort all night long.

Key Features
  • Open-cell foam pad
  • Extra insulation
  • Roll-up straps included
  • Removable shell for cleaning
Specification
  • Brand TETON Sports
  • Model 130
  • Weight 9 pounds
PROS

Three different size options

Warm for cold climates

Easy to store

CONS

Foam may be thinner than expected

Bulky when rolled up

Cover is susceptible to pilling

The Lightspeed Outdoors 2-Person PVC-Free Air Bed Mattress is the best car camping sleeping pad for two. The dimensions of the bed when inflated are 80.1 inches by 55.1 inches by 7.1 inches, meaning you can pack your queen-sized sheets for your trip. Note that with a larger mattress size like this, you’ll need a larger vehicle to accommodate such a spacious mattress.

The mattress itself is made of durable PVC-free thermoplastic polyurethane, a material known to be more abrasion-resistant than PVC mattresses. It also comes with a handy battery-powered pump for easy inflation. You can also adjust the firmness of the mattress using the Lightspeed’s patented stabilizer system.

Key Features
  • 80.1 x 55.1 x 7.1 inches
  • Designed for two sleepers
  • Made of PVC-free thermoplastic polyurethane
  • Includes battery-powered pump
Specification
  • Brand Lightspeed Outdoors
  • Model 27135-CU
  • Weight 6 pounds
PROS

Material is abrasion-resistant

Firmness is adjustable

Easy and quiet inflation

CONS

Not comfortable for two large adults

May start to lose air after short period of use

Pump is not the best quality

The most versatile car camping sleeping pad is the IForrest Sleeping Pad with Armrest & Pillow. It has double-sided supports so you can flip the mattress and it would still provide the same level of comfort. It also can serve as either an adult or a child’s sleeping pad because it has built-in armrests that will prevent a child from accidentally rolling off. 

It’s made of foam and has an inflatable chamber, giving you the best of both worlds. Depending on whether or not you want to inflate the armrests, that will save you 3 inches along the sides, making this a super versatile option for car camping. Fully inflated, this mattress measures 79.5 inches by 29 inches by 2.1 inches.

Key Features
  • Double-sided supports
  • 79.5 x 29 x 2.1 inches
  • Foam with an inflatable chamber
  • Available in green or gray
Specification
  • Brand IForrest
  • Model 3.9 pounds
PROS

Armrests prevent kids from rolling off

Pillow is comfortable

Compresses very easily

CONS

Sides and top may deflate overnight

No pump included

Too narrow for some users

Best Car Camping Sleeping Pads Buying Guide & FAQs

If you enjoy camping but don’t want to commit to a backpack adventure in the middle of nowhere, car camping is a great alternative. You can sleep either inside your vehicle, outside on the ground, or in a tent nearby, and you get to bring all sorts of gear you wouldn’t be able to carry in a backpack alone.

One essential item you should put on your shopping list is a car camping sleeping pad. It serves several purposes, but overall will make your adventure much more comfortable and enjoyable.

In our buying guide below, we go into detail about the different types of car camping sleeping pads and the features you should consider before making a purchase. We also answer some commonly-asked questions about the item.

Benefits of a Car Camping Sleeping Pad

There are basically two types of car camping. One type of camping involves sleeping inside your vehicle, and the other involves transporting your camping gear in your car but sleeping outside. You can camp either in a designated camping spot or in places where camping in the wild is permitted.

Compared to a backpacking sleeping pad, car camping mattresses are typically much more comfortable. That’s because you don’t have to worry as much about their weight or portability. You can focus on their comfort and thickness instead of how convenient they are to carry on a 10-mile hike.

Also, how you sleep can directly affect the way you feel the following day. If you sleep well, you wake up refreshed and ready to tackle the day’s tasks. If you sleep poorly, it’s harder to get motivated and fully enjoy the day’s activities. A good car camping sleeping pad can make a huge difference when it comes to your mood and energy levels.

  • They’re suitable for use both inside and out of your vehicle.
  • They’re comfortable.
  • They provide a good night’s sleep.

The Most Common Types of Car Camping Sleeping Pads

When you’re shopping for a camping sleeping pad, you will notice that there are a lot of options, and there’s no one-size-fits-all product. Each has its pros and cons. The three types of pads are: self-inflating open-cell foam pads, closed-cell foam pads, and inflatable air pads. Below we examine the differences.

  • Self-Inflating Foam Pad

This type of sleeping bad is self-inflatable and made of foam. When you unfold the pad, it decompresses and the foam’s open air cells draw in the air. It typically takes between 12 and 15 breaths to reach a desired level of firmness. Self-inflatable sleeping pads are very comfortable, popular among campers, and quieter than fully inflatable mattresses.

Also, because they are made of foam, they are more insulating, which makes them quite versatile: You can use them both in the car or in a tent. One downside is they are heavier and bulkier than inflatable air pads. They can also be a little pricey, depending on the brand.

  • Foam Pad

Some campers opt for closed-cell foam sleeping pads. Basically, they are a durable strip of foam, and they can have a variety of texture designs to provide cushioning and to keep heat in. This type of sleeping pad is the cheapest and typically lasts the longest because you don’t have to worry about punctures like you do with an inflatable sleeping pad.

Some users have held onto their foam sleeping pads for decades, particularly if they’re not used very often. Another benefit is that you can use a foam sleeping pad as one of several layers for added warmth and comfort.

  • Inflatable Air Mattress

An inflatable air pad requires either a hand pump, an electric pump, or your lungs to reach full capacity. Many products are lightweight and compact and include either synthetic insulation or a layer of down. This makes them a popular option among backpackers.

If you plan on sleeping in your car, you may not need a sleeping pad that’s heavily insulated (unless you’re camping in a really cold climate). The air alone should be enough to provide a good night’s sleep. One drawback with this type of sleeping pad is that it’s very susceptible to punctures, so you have to be careful with it if you want it to last. They can also be expensive.

What to Consider When Buying a Car Camping Sleeping Pad

Don’t get trapped into purchasing the cheapest car camping sleeping pad you encounter. There are several things you should consider besides just the price. Comfort is critical for a good night’s sleep, and you also want a product that lasts for several years. Also look into its insulation properties, size, versatility, and ease of use.

  • Comfort

Hiking and backpacking sleeping pads are designed to be lightweight, compact, and portable. If you plan on car camping, you can choose a product that is more luxurious and comfortable because you don’t need to be concerned as much about its weight or packability. After all, you’re either using it in your car or in a nearby tent, so portability isn’t as crucial.

Car camping sleeping pads should be a little thicker compared to a pad you would take on a backpacking trip. There’s no reason to scrimp on comfort if you plan on keeping the sleeping pad in your truck bed or simply taking it from the car to a nearby campsite.

  • Durability

Whether you’re buying a car camping sleeping pad or another type of camping gear, you want it to last, especially if you spend a lot of money on the item. Sleeping pads are prone to rips, tears, and holes if you don’t take care of them properly.

One way to stack the deck is to choose a pad that is thicker with a high-denier fabric. Sleeping pads range from 20 denier, which is thin and light, to 70 denier, which is much thicker. Also, check to see if the inflatable air pad or self-inflating pad comes with a repair kit.

  • Size

Sleeping pads are available in a variety of sizes and shapes. Bigger is typically better, but you need to choose a product that is comfortable and not too heavy, particularly if you also plan to use the pad for backpacking. Also, you need to choose a pad that will fit in your vehicle if you plan on sleeping inside of it. Some vehicles are small and can not accommodate larger pads.

In addition to the length, you need to choose either a single or double pad. The latter provides more space and comfort for a solo camper but is also suitable for two sleepers. Some sleeping pads are as small as 72 inches long, but many are 77 inches long or up to 80 inches long. Backpacking sleeping pads are typically 20-inches wide, but you probably want one that’s at least 25 or 30 inches for a car camping sleeping pad.

  • Insulation

Sleeping pads have an R-value, which is a measurement of the product’s insulating power or the material’s ability to prevent heat from escaping. The higher the R-value, the warmer the pad is. Outdoor companies determine the R-value of their own products, and it’s not regulated by the government.

Since it can be challenging to determine what’s inside a sleeping pad by just looking at it, make sure you read the description about its construction. Some are made of synthetic or down insulation, while others are designed specifically to provide insulation. If you choose to sleep both inside and outside of your vehicle, an insulated sleeping pad is a good idea to keep you warm.

  • Ease of Use

Many people enjoy camping because it helps them relax and unwind. So, it can be frustrating to struggle with a sleeping pad that is difficult to inflate, deflate, and pack up for storage. You want a product that is easy to set up and break down when you’re finished using it. It’s not that critical if you only use the pad once a year, but if you’re a frequent camper, it should be easy to roll up and store.

If you choose an inflatable sleeping pad, it’s important that it’s easy to inflate and deflate. Check to see if it comes with a pump or whether you need to supply your own. Also, check if the pump is battery-operated. In addition, some pumps are louder than others, which can be irritating to some users (or nearby campers).

  • Versatility

If you only plan on using a sleeping pad for car camping, its versatility is less important. However, if you want to use it for backpacking or a sleepover guest at your home, it should be versatile enough to accommodate various seasons and various activities. Some sleeping pads, for example, can even be connected with another one to make a larger sleeping pad.

Heavier and bulkier sleeping pads are not as versatile and are usually designed for certain conditions. Sleeping pads that aren’t insulated are also limited in their use. Plus, some pads are too big for smaller cars, standard truck beds, or small tents.

Best Car Camping Sleeping Pads FAQs

By now, you know a lot about car camping sleeping pads and what sets one type apart from another. Since they are designed to promote better sleep, they can make a trip in the wilderness much more relaxing. We answer commonly-asked questions about sleeping pads, such as how to clean them, in our FAQs below.

Q: How do I clean a car camping sleeping pad?

It’s a good idea to clean the car camping sleeping pad on a regular basis. First, close the valves. Then wipe the surface using warm water and a soft cloth. Avoid putting it in the washing machine, and let it air dry.

Q: How do I choose the best car camping sleeping pad?

There are many factors you should consider when shopping for a car camping sleeping pad. After you determine your budget, look at features such as comfort, insulation, and size.

Q: Is it worth getting a car camping sleeping pad?

Yes. Whether you choose to sleep in your vehicle or outside of it, a car camping sleeping pad will provide more comfort and insulation than a sleeping bag alone.

Our Top Pick

Our pick for the best car camping sleeping pad is the AirExpect Camping Sleeping Pad. While it’s a little on the small side, it’s great if you don’t have a lot of space in your vehicle. It comes with a built-in pillow and can be connected to another sleeping pad if you want something a little bit larger. It also has a built-in pump and is easy to inflate and deflate.

Final Thoughts

While the AirExpect Camping Sleeping Pad is our top pick, we also like the Sleepingo Sleeping Pad for Camping. It takes less than 15 breaths to inflate and decompresses to the size of a water bottle when you’re not using it. It’s made of tear-resistant nylon, is waterproof, and comes with a repair kit in case it gets punctured.

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