The Best Camping Bed & How to Choose One

As modern citizens of the world, sleep is pretty important to us. And yet, according to the CDC, nearly 1 in 3 adults gets inadequate amounts of sleep every night. And that is in their own beds. How then, would you expect them to sleep anywhere else?

The evolution of camping beds has been a fun process to watch. While some technologies, like the camping cot, have been around in military applications for nearly a century, other technologies like self-inflating air mattresses continue to innovate and inspire.

Of course, the best camping bed is going to be the one that fits you the best, so the ultimate decision is yours. But we thought it might be helpful to take a look at the 8 Best Camping Beds before taking a dive into How to Choose One for yourself.

Best Camping Bed to Keep in your Car

KOMEX Camping Memory Foam Portable Sleeping Pad / Roll Up Bed

TYPE: Foam Pad

WEIGHT:  12.4 pounds            

COMPACT SIZE:  39” x 16.5” x 16.5”         

WATERPROOF:    YES (via removable cover)           

Who would have thought we would see the day when we would be enjoying MEMORY FOAM technology even far out in the wilderness. With KOMEX’s flagship camping bed, that is exactly what you get, and we’ve got to say, it is without much of a doubt one of the most comfortable portable beds on our list.

A solid 3-inches of memory foam is what makes this a real delight. The kind of support you are getting here is vastly superior to traditional sleeping pads.

Of course all this comfort comes with a price, and in the case of the KOMEX roll up bed, that price is both size and weight. At 12.4 pounds, this camping bed is way too heavy to pack along for a week long backpacking trip. It’s even a bit heavy for shorter applications where you are moving from place to place.

But in terms of a back-of-the-car type camping bed that won’t let you down, this is the one you are looking for. It rolls down to a totally manageable size, and in fact you can carry it like a backpack, so it is not entirely inappropriate for travel.

One small issue we noticed was that this 3-inch foam, although plush and luxurious, was not firm enough to support more than about 200 pounds before becoming too thin to become supportive. So heavier users might want to consider something a bit thicker for the same comfort level.

Pros
  • Plush 3-inch memory foam construction = very comfortable
  • Not a bad “rolldown” size for a bed like this
Cons
  • Significantly heavier than most camping beds

Best Inflatable Mattress for Overnight Guests

ETEKCITY Upgraded Twin Queen Size Air Mattress for Camping

TYPE: Inflatable mattress

WEIGHT:  14.9 pounds       

COMPACT SIZE:  11 “ x 7” x 16”           

WATERPROOF:    Yes           

We had to double check our eyeglasses when we saw the price that the ETEKCITY upgraded twin camping bed was going for these days. You’d think that a bed this thick and impressively comfortable would fetch a higher price, but somehow they have managed to make this one of the most affordable camping beds that you can find.

One thing we are always wary of when it comes to inflatable mattresses is how long it takes to actually inflate them. Especially when you are out camping, you want to know that you aren’t going to be wasting a lot of precious sunlight getting your bed setup, when you should be spending it participating in the activities that you love.

The built-in pump is fast, like freaky fast, at both inflating and deflating the mattress. It only takes about 4 minutes to reach full inflation, and that’s with nothing more than the flick of a switch. Of course, using this pump requires that you have access to a power source, which might make this a less desirable option for people going out on longer or more isolated excursions.

Where the ETEKCITY really becomes useful is when the unexpected guest arrives at the house and you need a comfortable place for them to sleep that isn’t the same couch as the dog uses. Considering the hefty weight and the fact that a power source is required for automatic inflation, this is perhaps best kept in the closet for when those guests arrive and you are looking to impress them with comfort.

Pros
  • TALL mattress for ultimate comfort; you won’t touch the ground
  • Inflation / Deflation pump works great
Cons
  • Requires a power source to operate pump
  • Quite heavy for an inflatable bed

Best Budget Pick Camping Bed

COLEMAN Quick Bed Plus Single High Airbed Mattress

TYPE: Inflatable Mattress

WEIGHT:  Yes            

COMPACT SIZE:  Reinforced              

WATERPROOF:    No           

When it comes to finding reliable camping equipment on short notice, there is perhaps no better option than COLEMAN, widely agreed to be a real giant in the outdoor equipment industry, just as they have been for over a century.

The Quick Bed Plus is about what you would expect from their “entry-level” series of camping beds. It is certainly not the thickest inflatable mattress out there, and it can’t hold a candle to some of the memory-foam type options that have hit the market lately. However, it is remarkably affordable, and as we all know, sometimes that is the only thing that matters.

It was pretty smart of Coleman to build this with an antimicrobial fabric along the topside. It’s designed to resist mildew and odors, things that any good outdoorsman should be more than a little bit familiar with if they have spent any extended amount of time on a camping bed.

Sadly, you simply cannot get an affordable mattress for this price and expect it to be the same construction quality as more expensive models. For one thing, they tend to use a weaker seal along the seams in models like these, meaning that air leakage is something you should expect to happen sooner rather than later. Even out of the box and at full inflation, it does not take long for the Quick Bed Plus to start losing a bit of air, potentially leading to that thing we all dread: when you wake up and your butt is touching the floor!

Despite the technical flaw, this is a great portable air mattress that can come in very handy in a pinch, and is perhaps the most affordable camping bed on our list.

Pros
  • Very affordable (BUDGET PICK)
  • Small & portable
Cons
  • Seams have a tendency to leak in time
  • Some air leakage probable even on first use

Best Camping Bed for a Bad Back

TETON SPORTS Adventurer Camp Cot

TYPE: Military style cot

WEIGHT:  26 pounds          

SIZE:  75” x 25” x 17”        

WATERPROOF:    Yes           

The ongoing debate between inflatable camping bed and camp cot is not one that we are likely to solve today, but we can provide some insight into why one might be more preferable than the other.

Firstly, a camping cot can’t leak. Because it utilized a fixed-frame structure to support its user instead of captured air, you will wake up with the exact same tension in the bed as when you went to sleep, something that you can hardly say about even the most respected inflatable camp beds out there.

Of course anyone that is looking for a really soft sleeping experience might prefer the more plush nature of an inflatable mattress, as cots tend to be a bit more firm, even with the add-on cot toppers that you can get these days.

The ADVENTURER cot from Teton Sports is indeed a firm sleep, but that is actually our preference when it comes to portable camping beds. It takes a few minutes to setup, and although it can be somewhat difficult to do at first, it gets easier every time you do it. We just recommend that you practice setting it up and breaking it down a few times in your living room before going gallivanting out into the woods with this thing.

One thing that we noticed that made us raise our eyebrows a bit was that the bolts around the leg apparatus seemed to come loose way too easily. We were able to tighten them again without any trouble, and it’s not like the whole structure was about to come down, but you’d think Teton Sports would want to make something that was a bit tighter than this.

Pros
  • Sturdy and firm construction for a reliable sleep
  • Portable and easy to setup
Cons
  • Not as soft as an inflatable mattress
  • Heavier than most inflatable mattresses

Best Inflatable Camping Bed for Backpacking

iMESHBEAN Double Self Inflating Sleeping Mattress Air Bed

TYPE: Inflatable Mattress

WEIGHT:  8.36 pounds            

COMPACT SIZE:  27.6” x 7.87”        

WATERPROOF:    No           

When it comes to affordable camping beds,  it can be hard to choose from the staggering variety of options on the market. Lately it has seemed quite flooded with “bargain brands”, offering high degrees of comfort and supreme portability. But the amount of inflatable beds that actually live up to these loftly claims are few and far between. That’s one reason we wanted to take a look at iMESHBEAN’s self-inflating double bed, which has no doubt been one of the best-selling inflatable beds since it was introduced last year.

We can say this: it is certainly one of the lightest inflatable beds on our list, in fact, one of the lightest camping beds of any kind. This can be particularly handy when you’ve got more than a few miles to walk before you reach your camping destination. The packdown size is pretty handy too, though it seems to us that we could get it a little smaller if we really tried.

As far as construction material you are kind of getting what you pay for here. Its non-slip polyester, but not much more than that, giving this bed a distinct ‘plasticy’ feel that might be uncomfortable for some users without using sheets as well.

What really disappointed us was the built-in inflatable pillows. They are just so big and rigid; some people might like it but it certainly didn’t fit out neck so well. So when we used this thing we actually turned it around and propped our feet up on the pillows, using our own soft pillows for our heads.

Pros
  • Super lightweight for an inflatable bed
  • Very Affordable
Cons
  • Strange plastic feel to the surface
  • Built-in pillows are awkward.

Best Camping Bed for Couples

ACTIVE ERA Premium Queen-Size Double Air Bed

TYPE: Inflatable Mattress

WEIGHT:  7.82 Kg           

INFLATED SIZE:  19” x 80” x 80”     

WATERPROOF:    No          

Any sleep deprived person who is looking for a bit more space to stretch out should take a look at the next item on our list, which is the largest inflatable camping bed that we looked at, and more than that, one of the most comfortable without a doubt.

Now with these big inflatable mattresses it is hardly feasible to blow it up with nothing but your lungs, so naturally they have included a built-in pump to get this job done. The upside is that the whole thing can be inflated to capacity within a matter of minutes, so you aren’t left huffing and puffing every time the in-laws come and visit.

The downside of an electric pump is that it is just that, electric, and there isn’t a whole lot of electricity in the great wild yonder. While many of these pumps are low-voltage enough that they can be run on an automobile’s 12V charger circuit, you might not always have an automobile with you.

What this means: this is a great camping bed for sleepovers and family guests, but not necessarily the one we would recommend for trekking across Europe.

The integrated pillow is actually nice in this case, mostly because it is only a slight incline as opposed to a big, bulbous curve like in the iMESHBEAN Camping Bed.

The Achilles heel of this camping bed is its tendency to bow in the middle when two people are present, meaning that you might have to get used to cuddling to whoever you are sharing the bed with, because you will most likely be rolling towards them all night long.

Air loss is minimal but not altogether absent; probably could be improved but it held the night okay. 

Pros
  • Very comfortable & thick
  • Pillow design works well on this model
Cons
  • With two people, there is a tendency to roll towards the middle

Best 2-Person Air Mattress for Backpacking

LIGHTSPEED OURDOORS 2-Person PVC-Free Air Bed Mattress

TYPE: Inflatable Mattress

WEIGHT:  6 pounds            

PACKED SIZE:  16.5” x 8.9” x 8.9”              

WATERPROOF:    Yes           

So far we have taken a look at a number of high-comfort inflatable camping beds that we would not recommend brining on a long journey. But now we arrive at a product designed for journeys, as it is both light enough and durable enough to handle the rigors of daily travel and use.

The best use for a camping bed like this is no doubt a two-person backpacking trip. It’s only 6 pounds, which when you consider the weight of two separate sleeping pads, is not that bad at all. One person carries the camp bed, and the other, the tent. It only makes sense!

One feature that we were particularly excited about was a battery-operated pump, which certainly makes travel a bit easier. Instead of having to look for an outlet wherever you go, you only have to make sure that you brought enough batteries so that the pump doesn’t go out.

And if the batteries die, you aren’t exactly left in the lurch. The manual inflation spout is more than adequate for self-inflation, and given the relatively thin structure of this camping bed, we don’t imagine that it would take more than 5 minutes to get it fully inflated.

Speaking of fully inflated, we could never seem to get this thing to a perfect, firm inflation. As we mentioned before, we tend to favor firmer camping beds over softer mattresses, but even so, it seemed to us that more air could fit inside this thing that what we were able to inject. The result was a somewhat soft mattress that was only slightly softer the following morning.

Pros
  • Battery Operated Pump
  • Very lightweight = great for camping & backpacking
Cons
  • Doesn’t seem to inflate as much as it could
  • Some overnight air loss

Best Camping Pad to Use with a Cot

TETON SPORTS Universal Camp Pad

TYPE: Foam Camping Pad

WEIGHT:  6.0 pounds            

SIZE:  80” x 30” x 2”        

WATERPROOF:    No           

While the Teton Sports Universal Camp Pad was designed specifically to fit the Teton Sports Universal Camp Cot, that is certainly not the only thing that it is good for. As a lightweight, compressible bedroll, this baby is set to follow you on just about any adventure, from the woods of the Canadian Rockies to a night on your friend’s living room floor. No matter what the adventure calls for, having some roll-out comfort at your fingertips is never a bad thing.

The brushed canvas fabric isn’t the most comfortable surface in the world, but it certainly does feel durable, which we gather must have been the real point. Considering that you would most likely be using this with a sleeping bag, it shouldn’t be too much of an issue, and even more, the bag is less likely to slide around atop something like brushed canvas than a more slick synthetic material.

Any gripes? Yes, a few. First off, this isn’t the same kind of high-density memory foam that you get with something like the KOMEX Sleeping Pad. Rather, it’s something called “open-cell” foam, which is considerably thinner and less dense than memory foam. This means that the UNIVERSAL camping pad by Teton is less comfortable on straight, hard surfaces, like a hardwood floor. It does add a significant amount of comfort to a cot or the forest ground, but without some give to the subsurface, you will likely experience your hip and / or spine come into contact with the ground. We love the removable cover. That makes it very easy to wash, and as long as you remember to air dry instead of put through the drying cycle, you shouldn’t experience any shrinking that would prevent you from getting it back over the foam pad.

Pros
  • Lightweight & Compressible
  • Removable & Washable brushed canvas cover
Cons
  • Thin foam; less dense than memory foam
  • Actual foam width has been shown to vary from order to order

Conclusion

Truth be told, we LOVE us some sleep, even when adventuring in the backcountry. So making a list of the best camping beds of 2019 meant that we would have to harness our passion for slumber so that we might analyze them with an unbiased opinion.

In terms of sheer sleeping comfort, the ACTIVE ERA Queen Size air mattress jumped to the top of our list without much contention. It is simply one of the plushest, softest air mattresses you can get, and it leaks a lot less than its competitors.

However we aren’t going to be taking a queen size inflatable mattress on our next fishing trip into the mountains. For that purpose, we are going to have to go with something lighter, and in this case that’s the LIGHTSPEED OUTDOORS 2-Person Mattress. It’s a lot lighter than anything else on our list, which more than makes up for how thin it is compared to the other products.

How to Choose a Camping Bed for You

As you could probably tell by looking at our list, there are more than a few factors that determine how good of a match you will be with your new camping bed. Here’s our brief rundown of exactly what you should be looking for:

Bed Type: Inflatable vs. Foam Pad vs. Camping Cot

The two most common styles of camping bed are the inflatable mattress and the roll-out foam pad. While both are popular for a number of application, each has its own drawbacks as well.

Inflatable Camping Beds are soft and very comfortable, but they have the immediate drawback of needing a power source for full inflation, that is, unless you are looking at a smaller, more manageable model like the LIGHTSPEED OUTDOORS 2-PERSON MATTRESS.

Foam Pads are particularly popular amongst travelers and backpackers who are more “on the move” and might need something more lightweight and minimalist in design. While these do provide some comfort on the trail, they are not as appropriate for sleeping multiple people or serving as a bed for everyday use.

Camping Cots are stull built from the same basic design that the military came up with nearly a century ago, and perhaps for good reason. These camping cots are not only sturdy, but they provide a surprising amount of comfort for something that is really just canvas stretched over a structure of metal poles. Camping cots have a firmer surface than pads or air beds, so it is often recommended to pair your cot with an appropriately sized pad for maximum comfort.

camping beds

Sizing: Length, Width, & “Packed Size”

When shopping for a camping bed, you might notice that there is more than one measurement given. The first dimension provided is usually the “sleep size”, or inflated size. This is the length, width, & height of the assembled, inflated, or rolled out bed, depending on which style of camping bed you decided to go with.

Our recommendation is to always go with a little more space than you think you need. For instance, if you are 6’ tall, then it wouldn’t do you much good to get a pad that is exactly 72” long. Instead, shoot for something in the 75” to 80” range in terms of length. For width, a few extra inches can be a very welcome thing for the sleeper who likes to roll around a bit, so don’t skimp! A width of about 30” is best for most sleepers, although pads do come more narrow if you need something lighter.

The packed size is a different metric altogether, and is known by a number of names. No matter what you want to call it, these are the dimensions of the packed product, whether it is rolled up, folded, stuffed, or stacked. This is an important measurement for backpackers especially who want to know exactly what will fit in their bag. It can also help in planning out car space for your next big adventure.

bed size

Durability

Fortunately for us, most of the camping beds on the market are quite durable. Their thick fabrics and dense material weaves ensure that they will not fall so easily victim to tearing and puncturing.

One of the metrics used to determine how tear resistant a particular product will be is its Denier Rating. This is a number that ranges from 50D to 150D , with the higher numbers indicating a greater tear resistance. While this number is not always provided by the manufacturer, it can be a helpful metric in deciding on which camping bed to buy.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Which of them is best for daily use?

A: If you are looking to use one of these beds as a daily sleeper, then there are a few things to consider. Firstly, an air mattress will slowly loose inflation, no matter how well constructed it is. That means that periodic fillings will be necessary to keep it at full inflation.

For this reason, camping cots are a popular solution for everyday use, because once you set them up, they remain quite sturdy and will not lose any support over the night. However these cots are more firm than their inflated counterparts, so a camping pad might be necessary to place on top of the cot.

Fortunately, most camping cot manufacturers make pads that are designed specifically for their products. 

Q: What bed has the best weight limit?

A: From what we could tell, no other bed on our list had as great a weight limit as the ACTIVE ERA QUEEN SIZE AIR MATTRESS. At 550 pounds, the rating is high enough for two people and then some. This is a particularly good thing for an air mattress, where usually if you even approach the weight limit you might start to experience air leakage.

However most camping cots have a pretty good weight limit considering that they are only built for one person. Usually this number is around 300 pounds, which should be more than enough for the sleepy adventurer.

Q: Which of them are easier to clean?

A: Generally speaking, a camping pad will be easier to clean than an air mattress, simply because most camping pads have a removable cover that allows the surface area to be cleaned without exposing the internal foam to water damage. The Teton Sports Universal Camp Pad, for example, has a great brushed canvas outer shell that can be tossed in the wash as often as you need (just don’t air dry it). If you are leaning towards an air mattress, then fear not. Air inflated camp beds are almost always built to traditional sizing metrics, meaning that no matter what size you go with, you should be able to find a corresponding set of sheets to go along with it. Seeing as how these kinds of beds are usually used around the house, this provides an easy way to keep your mattress looking great year after year.

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