The Best Camping Mattress for Bad Backs – Reviewed

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If you’re in a rush and want to find out what the best camping mattress for a bad back is, we recommend the Exped MegaMat 10 sleeping pad.

In my opinion, one of the worst things about camping is trying to sleep on the hard, rocky ground. Twist and turn all you want, you’re going to struggle to find a position that feels comfortable for more than 30 seconds, especially if you have an achy back.

Because of that, we decided to find a few sleeping options that could solve this problem. This review is titled the best camping mattress for bad backs, but it’s really for everyone who wants to get a restful night’s sleep at the campground.

In this article, we’ll be reviewing the following best camping mattresses for bad backs:

Size

The height and width of your mattress are important if you want to get a good night’s sleep. Especially if you suffer from a bad back, having adequate room to spread out (and stretch out) is necessary for reducing aches and pains.

For those of you who won’t be sharing a mattress with someone else, I’d suggest going with something as big as a full-size mattress. Unfortunately, you’ll want to go smaller if you’re planning a backpacking trip. If you already have a bad back, you don’t want to make it worse by filling your pack with extra weight. Most manufacturers give the exact dimensions of their products in the description, so it should be easy enough to figure out if it will work for you or not.

Fill

a couple lying in a popup tent taking a selfie

Not all camping mattresses are created equal, and some types are definitely more comfortable than others. For starters, closed cell foam pads are thin, lightweight, and portable, which makes them perfect for backpacking. However, they don’t add much cushion or insulation, meaning they’re terrible camp beds for people with bad backs. Not to mention, you can hardly call them “mattresses” with how thin they are.

Air sleeping pads provide more support, but they still aren’t ideal if you have back pain. Inflatable air mattresses don’t contour to your body very well, and it can be hard to find the right balance between firm and soft. Not to mention, if there’s only air on the inside, it will feel chilly from the cold ground beneath it.

Which leaves us with self-inflating pads, which are the best camping mattresses for bad backs, in my opinion. By far the most luxurious to sleep on, they provide better insulation against the cold while maintaining a high level of comfort. Most are filled with memory foam that suck in air, inflating as soon as you open the valve. Well, that’s the idea at least. In reality, you’ll probably have to blow into it a couple of times to get it to full capacity. Once you do, though, you’ll feel like you’re sleeping on a cloud.

Of course, the downside to self-inflating pads is how expensive they are. They’re also quite heavy, making them a poor choice for backpackers.

Thickness

Generally speaking, when it comes to camping mattresses, thicker means more comfortable. It’s one of the reasons why closed cell foam pads are a bad choice if you have an achy back, simply because they’re so thin.

Thicker mattresses tend to offer more support, and they smooth out any lumps created by roots or rocks underneath your bed. Again, self-inflating pads are going to be the best here, because of how well they contour to the shape of your body. Air mattresses are second best because they at least get you away from the ground, but they don’t do much to provide support for your neck and back.

Weight

sleeping bags laid out on the ground in a tent

The weight of your camping mattresses has very little to do with how comfortable it is when you lie on it. However, it’s an important consideration, nonetheless, depending on where you’re setting up camp.

Hiking long distances with a heavy, self-inflating mattress is a bad idea any way you spin it. Your shoulders will tighten up if you carry a heavy backpack for a long period of time, aggravating whatever pain you’re already dealing with. Of course, this won’t be too big of an issue if you’re car camping, and don’t need to lug your gear any significant distance.

R-Value

R-value is a measurement used to determine how insulative a certain product is. The higher the number, the better it will insulate (for example, an R-value of 8 will do a better job of insulating than an R-value of 2).

The “R” in R-value stands for resistance, referring to how well the product resists temperature conduction. If you live in a colder climate like I do, you’ll want a mattress with a higher R-value, in order to prevent cold air from seeping up from the ground. On the other hand, if you’re camping in a warm climate, a lower R-value might be preferred.

Best Camping Mattress for Bad Backs – Reviewed

Big Agnes Insulated Q-Core Deluxe Sleeping Pad

  • Best For: Backpacking/Car Camping
  • Weight: 2 Pounds
  • R-Value: 4.3
  • Pad Thickness: 3.5 Inches
  • Stuff Sack: Yes

With a name like Big Agnes, you’d think that most of their products would be big and bulky. However, they’re a brand that’s well known for making ultralight tents, and they kept some of that mentality when designing the Q-Core deluxe sleeping pad as well.

It’s not the lightest pad in this review, but considering all that you get for the weight, it’s certainly one of the most impressive. With an R-value of 4.3, it’s a well-insulated pad that’s perfect for sleeping in colder climates. By itself, it still isn’t good enough for winter camping on frozen ground, but it will get the job done well in shoulder months and alpine weather.

The middle of the pad is 3.5 inches thick, while the outer edges are 4.25 inches. This helps you stay comfortably cradled inside, without having to worry about rolling off during the night. The thickness also provides more than enough cushion to keep you far away from any uncomfortable rocks located beneath you.

There are a few different sizes that you can choose from – regular works great for women, and long is ideal for men. Either way, I would suggest you get the “wide” variety to give you that extra 5 (or 10) inches of width to spread out more.

Pros:

– Good weight
– Nice thickness
– Well insulated
– A variety of sizes to choose from
– Thicker rim to keep you from rolling off
– Very comfortable

Cons:

– Can take awhile to blow up

Exped MegaMat 10 Sleeping Pad

  • Best For: Car Camping
  • Weight: 5 Pounds
  • R-Value: 8.1
  • Pad Thickness: 3.9 Inches
  • Stuff Sack: Yes

I’ve always been impressed with the quality of Exped’s products, especially when it comes to their sleeping gear. And honestly, the Exped MegaMat 10 sleeping pad is going to be one of the most luxurious mattresses that you’ll find on the market. As a self-inflating pad that’s filled with foam, comfort is the last thing you’ll need to worry about. In fact, you might find that it rivals your own mattress back home!

On top of that, the R-value is off the charts at 8.1, making it the best insulated product in this review. You could take this beast with you for a night in the arctic circle, and you likely wouldn’t feel any of the chill seeping up from the ground.

The weight and bulk make it unusable for backpacking, but for car camping, it truly can’t be beat. If you suffer from severe back pain and thought you wouldn’t ever be able to camp again, this is your ticket back into the wild. Even side sleepers will be able to enjoy a good night’s rest on this camping mattress.

Pros:

– Incredibly comfortable
– Very insulative
– Self-inflating
– Durable
– Great width

Cons:

– Doesn’t fold down very small

HEST Dually Mattress

  • Best For: Car Camping
  • Weight: 26 Pounds
  • R-Value: N/A
  • Pad Thickness: 3.9 Inches
  • Stuff Sack: No

Perfect for couples who want to sleep together, the HEST Dually has to be the best two-person camping mattress I’ve ever seen. For an outdoor sleep system, it’s definitely on the heavy side, but that’s because so much went into making this a comfortable place to rest.

With two layers of foam, it was designed to accommodate all of your needs. The top layer of foam is breathable, and conforms to your body, offering pressure point relief. On the bottom, the foam is more resilient, giving you the support that you need. Like the Exped sleeping pad mentioned above, you may end up liking this mattress more than the one you have back home.

I love how versatile it is, too. Sure, you can use it in a tent, but it also fits perfectly between the wheel wells of most pickup trucks. Perfect for stargazing at night, and also for sleeping, if you’ve got yourself a good truck tent. I’ve even heard of some folks using this in place of their mattress back home, simply because of how comfortable it is.

Pros:

– Heavy duty
– Versatile
– Very comfortable
– Mattress cover can be removed and washed
– Pockets on either side of the mattress

Cons:

– Heavy

Nemo Quasar 3D Insulated Air Sleeping Pad

  • Best For: Backpacking/Car Camping
  • Weight: 2 Pounds
  • R-Value: 3.3
  • Pad Thickness: 3.5 Inches
  • Stuff Sack: Yes

Nemo is one of my favorite camping brands for a reason. I’ve used their gear for many years, and my wife swears by their Forte sleeping bag, so I’m not surprised by the quality of the Quasar sleeping pad.

The weight makes it suitable for both backpacking and car camping, which is one of the biggest reasons why I like it. Usually, comfortable mattresses are too heavy to carry for any significant distance, effectively ruling out trips that involve hiking. But who wants to stay limited like that?

With a 3.5 inch thickness, you won’t be sacrificing any amount of cushion either. It is an air pad, so insulation won’t be quite as good, but it’s definitely all you need for summer camping. Spring and fall shouldn’t pose too much of an issue either, depending on where you’re camping. Because it is an air pad, you will need to inflate it, but don’t feel like you have to use your breath – the pad comes with a pump sack that quickly fills it with air, while minimizing moisture.

Pros:

– Lightweight
– High quality
– Comes with pump sack
– Made from recycled materials
– Comfortable

Cons:

– Deflates a little overnight

REI Camp Bed Self-Inflating Sleeping Pad

  • Best For: Car Camping
  • Weight: 3.5-5 pounds
  • R-Value: 7.6
  • Pad Thickness: 2.5 Inches
  • Stuff Sack: Yes

Heavy and well-insulated, this REI camping mattress is perfect for nights that are spent out in the cold. And I mean really cold. In fact, considering how high the R-value is, it’s actually pretty surprising that they were able to make the pad so thin. This makes it much easier to roll up and pack away, compared to many of its competitors.

This self-inflating pad will need a little help from your lungs to fill it to max capacity, but it gets most of the way there by itself. Unfortunately, the valve has been known to leak, but that’s mostly an exception instead of a rule. Most often, you won’t even lose air during the night, like you will with the majority of air pads.

It takes a bit of effort to roll it back up again, but that’s also pretty common among self-inflating pads. The width and height give you plenty of room to spread out on, which is perfect for back aches and injuries, or for people like me who like the extra room. Of course, when you combine the large size with the heavy weight, it’s really something you can only use for car camping.

Pros:

– Great insulation
– Doesn’t tend to leak during the night
– Long and wide
– Comfortable
– Well made for the price

Cons:

– Heavy
– Difficult to pack up

Sea to summit Camp Self-Inflating Sleeping Pad

  • Best For: Backpacking/Car Camping
  • Weight: 2 Pounds
  • R-Value: 4.2
  • Pad Thickness: 1.5 Inches
  • Stuff Sack: Yes

Thinner than any other pad in this review, Sea to Summit’s product is perfect for backpacking – lightweight, not very dense, but still incredibly insulative. Of course, the thin design can quickly turn into a two-edged sword. While it works well for saving space, it also keeps you closer to the ground than a pad that’s twice as thick. And if you’ve got a bad back, lying closer to the ground usually doesn’t make for a pleasant night.

All that to say, go for this mattress if you’re planning a backpacking trip. It’s still a little bulky and heavy compared to a closed cell foam pad, but it’s going to give you a lot more comfort and support. Not to mention, it does a much better job of insulating.

On top of that, the durability of this pad is something to be admired. The material on both sides won’t easily be punctured or damaged, so you can feel comfortable putting it through the works. Likewise, the valve system holds up quite well. It’s two directional, which makes it simple to inflate and deflate in a short amount of time.

Pros:

– Thin and packs down well
– Two-way valve system
– Good insulation
– Durable
– Affordable

Cons:

– Not as supportive

Therm-A-Rest NeoAir Topo Luxe Sleeping Pad

  • Best For: Backpacking/Car Camping
  • Weight: 1.5 Pounds
  • R-Value: 3.7
  • Pad Thickness: 4 Inches
  • Stuff Sack: Yes

Looking for a lightweight air pad that packs down small? The NeoAir sleeping pad might be the thing for you…if you don’t mind a bit of noise.

I can’t deny that this is an incredibly handy piece of gear to have, simply because of how light and portable it is. In fact, I would say it has all of the other mattresses in this review beat when it comes to those two things. The downside, as I’ve mentioned, is the fact that it makes noise when you shift your weight on it.

The other downside is the lack of insulation compared to other sleeping pads. That’s not to say it has none at all – just that it’s somewhat inferior to its sibling mattresses on the market. If you’re camping in the summer, you might actually see this as a good thing, so it really comes down to how you intend to use the pad.

Pros:

– Lightweight
– Portable
– Easy to inflate and deflate
– 4 inches thick
– Works well for side sleepers

Cons:

– Makes noise when you move on it

Final Thoughts

For a good night’s rest at the campsite, you either need a solid camping cot, a comfortable mattress…or to be so tired that you can’t help but sleep. Unfortunately, if you suffer from a bad back, your options become even more limited.

A comfortable and supportive pad will likely be your best bet, and our favorite is the Exped MegaMat 10 sleeping pad. With superior insulating properties, several inches of cushion, and enough width to spread out on, it’s what we consider the best camping mattress for bad backs.


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Spencer Yeomans

Spencer Yeomans

A lover of the outdoors, and especially the mountains, Spencer has always enjoyed pushing people to step outside their comfort zones. His mission is to help others get out of their homes to have fun and stay active in nature.

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