Camping can be a time of joy and relaxation, but with one condition: you take the right type of gear! You should also calibrate it according to your trip style because you don’t want to be carrying an unnecessarily heavy backpack up a steep trail!
But I was a beginner camper and adventurer once and I know how easy it is to overpack. With this in mind, I think it’s best to guide you towards choosing one of the most important pieces of equipment you’ll ever need in a tent: the camping mattress.
Consider the Make (aka Construction)
You’ll find countless designs on the market, but at the base of them all, there are only three main categories of mattresses (or pads).
- The Closed Cell Structure
This one’s basically a sheet of foam with air trapped in each cell to provide some cushioning. It is lightweight, and you can simply hook it up to your backpack, but it is rather bulky if you want to put it inside. It’s also not much of a comfort-maker and it won’t keep the coldness of the ground from creeping into your sleeping bag during the night.
I like to use this type of a pad for some extra cushioning and insulation on top of an air mattress. Also, it’s nice to have something to sit on during the day.
- The Self-Inflating Design
Another foam design, but with open cell structure this time, self-inflating pads can be rather comfortable. Besides the fact that they are bulky and don’t compress too much, I find them perfect for sleeping in a tent or under the stars (depending on your preferences).
- Air Pads
Finally, these are the luxurious models of camping pads since they provide both good comfort and insulation. The downside is that it’s rather difficult to inflate them (if you don’t want to carry a pump around).
So, if you want to make sure you’re getting the best camping air mattress, it should be a model from this category.
As I already mentioned, size is an important factor when you have to carry all your tools in a backpack. Therefore, you should first check if your pad folds out or if it can be compressed into a small bag and only afterward think about comfort.
If the pad has a protective cover that’s waterproof, you can simply plate the pad on top of the backpack and secure it using some paracord or a strap. However, if it’s too big, it may become a hindrance as you move through trees or hike on tight trails.
Weight & Size
If it’s designed for camping, a pad will never be too heavy. But, any experienced hiker and camper know that even 100g over your weight limit can become difficult to stomach when you’re tired and still have a few miles to hike.
So, before you decide on taking a new pad, make sure you know your limits. If not, better stick with the weight you know you can manage!
In terms of size, most pads are designed for one or two people. However, if you’re going as a couple or a family, everyone should be carrying their own pad (assuming the kids are old enough to hike and carry their own backpack).
There is no way to predict the accidents that may happen on a hiking or camping trip, but you can avoid some of them by thinking ahead. For instance, an air pad may get punctured which means you won’t be able to use the entire surface for your comfort (the air is distributed in several chambers).
On the other hand, both the self-inflating design and the closed-cell one are a lot more resistant to punctures. This information is important for you to make the right decision when choosing the best pad.