Best Inflatable Camping Pads

Updated November 2019
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

37 Models Considered
68 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
481 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for best inflatable camping pads

Last Updated November 2019

For those who love communing with nature, there’s nothing better than camping. But a solid night’s sleep is hard to come by on the dirt, or on the floor of your tent. Enter the inflatable camping pad. All you need to do is blow it up, and voilà: a suitable sleeping surface.

Before you rush off to buy yours, here are some factors to consider: are you looking for a manual or self-inflating pad? You’ll also want to consider the pad size, how durable the material is, and whether or not it includes a pillow. Weight is important, especially if you’ll be backpacking with your inflatable camping pad.

If you’re ready to take your camping up a notch, take a peek at our shopping guide below. We’ll help you find an inflatable sleeping pad that gives you a restful night’s sleep, no matter where you set up camp.

Seek a grassy spot to set up your tent. It will be more comfortable to sleep on than rocky or hard-dirt ground.

Key considerations

Size

The average size of an inflatable camping pad is 72” x 30”, slightly smaller than the dimensions of a twin size bed. Most inflatable camping pads expand to at least two inches thick. This is great for minimalist backpackers who want to keep things as light as possible. If you’re  taller than average, you can find extra-long inflatable pads that are 80 inches long. Shorter-than-average inflatable camping pads are also available, which can save shorter folks space and weight in their packs.

Thickness

Inflatable camping pads typically range from 1.5 to 6 inches thick. A 1.5-inch camping pad is best for petite people. If you’re a side sleeper, your hips may dig into the ground. If you’re a plus-size person, you’re essentially sleeping on the floor. A 2.5-inch pad is suitable for the average person. It’s still portable for backpacking while being thick enough to keep your body off the ground. A 4-inch-plus camping pad is ideal for car camping, where size and weight are less critical. Self-inflating pads are on the thicker end of the spectrum.

Manual vs. self-inflating

Manual inflatable camping pads, also known as air pads, are inflated with your own breath. Simply blow into a tiny plastic air valve. You can usually blow up an air pad within a few minutes. Fancier models can include a mini pump that is either external or built-in. Air pumps are also useful for avoiding mold issues, which can happen when breath moisture gets trapped inside. You can also find air beds light enough to backpack with. The lighter the camping pad, however, the pricier it will be.

Self-inflating camping pads are made with open-cell foam, which is enclosed in plastic with an air valve inside. You just need to open an air valve, and the pad will fill automatically. You can also blow air into the valve for a little extra inflation. These are ideal for camping in cold climates because they’re well insulated. Unlike air pads, self-inflating pads are less likely to deflate overnight. They’re also made of stronger fabrics and are therefore less likely to rip. Self-inflating pads are heavier and less compact than manual ones, which makes them more suitable for car camping than backpacking.

Insulation (R-value)

R-value denotes a camping pad’s ability to keep you warm from the cold ground. The higher the R-value, the warmer the camping pad will be. We recommend an inflatable camping pad with an R-value of 5 or higher for cold climates. Values of 1 to 4 should be fine for milder climates. Women campers note: Since women’s bodies tend to have a lower average body mass than men and therefore retain less heat, women should add one to the standard R-value to choose a suitable camping pad.

FOR YOUR SAFETY

Keep your inflatable camping pad away from sticks, rocks, and animals that could rip it.

Features

Color

You can find inflatable camping pads in practically any color. Shades like black, army green, and gray are pretty common. If you want some pizazz, colors such as baby blue, orange, and red aren’t hard to find.

Accessories

  • Pillow: Some inflatable camping pads include pillows. However, for those that don’t, you could always buy a separate inflatable pillow. When deflated, inflatable pillows take up very little room.

  • Air pump: Save time (and your breath) after a long day of hiking with a battery-powered air pump.

  • Repair kit: In the unfortunate event that your inflatable camping pad becomes punctured, you can patch it with a repair kit. These kits include patches and adhesive.

  • Eye masks and ear plugs: Block out pesky nature noises and bright, ambient light.

Inflatable camping pad prices

Inflatable camping pads range from $20 to $100 in price. As with many products, you get what you pay for in inflatable camping pads.

Inexpensive: The $20 to $35 price range will get you a manual inflating pad (also known as an air pad). These pads are on the thinner side and may not exceed 1.5 inches in thickness. The good news is that they’re lightweight and very portable. But if you’re not petite, you’ll probably want to spend a bit more to camp comfortably.

Mid-Range: The $35 to $65 price range offers a larger selection of thicker camping pads and some self-inflating models. Most pads will still have the standard twin bed dimensions, and some will come with inflatable pillows.

Expensive: Anyone who needs an inflatable camping pad for two, or anyone who is unusually tall, or anyone who needs a larger-than-average durable camping pad, should be prepared to shell out $65 to $100. This price range is also where you’ll find extra-plush camping pads, which are usually self-inflating.

EXPERT TIP

Test out your camping pad before your camping trip to avoid any deflating surprises.


Staff  | BestReviews
EXPERT TIP

Spraying your tent with insect repellent should help keep pests away — just remember to rinse the spray residue off before you store your tent.


Staff  | BestReviews

Tips

  • Remember to store your pad in a sealed bag to protect it from rips and other damage. If you’re backpacking, keep your pad towards the top of your backpack rather than the bottom.

  • After your trip, wipe down your inflatable pad — especially if it has been exposed to insect repellent, which can break down synthetic fabrics over time.

  • To avoid mold, once you get home, try inflating and deflating your camping pad several times. Use something other than your breath to inflate the pad, such as a hair dryer, battery-powered pump, or hand pump.

Other products we considered

We also like Klymit’s Static V2 Ultralight Sleeping Pad. This extremely compact sleeping pad weighs one pound and is the size of a soda can when deflated and rolled up. When inflated, the ergonomic design cradles your sleeping body comfortably. Even larger users report that the pad remained inflated throughout the night. Opt for the insulated version of the pad if you’re camping in cold weather.

ECOTEK’s Insulated Sleeping Pad is another excellent choice, especially for winter campers. Users love the coziness of this pad, which keeps you warm in below-freezing temperatures. The cell design reduces airflow, allowing the pad to retain warmth. Inflation is as simple as 10 to 15 breaths. ECOTEK’s pad is made from a woven polyester blend, rather than the typical nylon. This means the pad is relatively noiseless, soft, slip resistant, and resistant to tearing.

Most inflatable camping pads are either for car camping or backpacking. Car-camping pads are usually better suited to warm weather and tend to be less insulated.

FAQ

Q. Are inflatable camping pads bad for my back?

A. If you’re a back sleeper with lower back problems, you’ll probably want to pay extra attention to the kind of pad you purchase. A self-inflating pad tends to be more firm, so opt for one of those.

Q. How do I clean an inflatable camping pad?

A. To clean the outside surface, rub it down with warm, soapy water. Be sure the pad is dry and fully deflated when stored. Leave the valve open during storage.

Q. How do I deflate a self-inflating camping pad?

A. Simply open the pad’s valve — you’ll know it’s open if you can hear air escaping. Then, fold your sleeping pad vertically, and roll it toward the valve to push out excess air.

The team that worked on this review
  • Erica
    Erica
    Writer
  • Katie
    Katie
    Editorial Director
  • Ola
    Ola
    Writer

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