Sleeping pads are never as comfortable as the mattress on your bed, but this is especially true for side sleepers. Lacking the springs or memory foam of a mattress, the pads rely on the wider surface area of back sleepers to make them even moderately comfortable. Suffices to say, finding the best camping mattress for side sleeping is no easy task. That’s not to say a side sleeper can’t be comfortable; you just need to look a little harder and do your research before purchasing a pad. Fortunately, we’ve got a whole list of mattresses that are perfect for the side sleeping camper. Check them out…
1. Outdoorsman Lab Camping Sleeping Pad
Outdoorsman Lab is not one of the more well-known companies in the mattress market, but what they lack in name recognition they more than make up for with a sleeping pad that checks all the boxes for side sleepers.
The pad is 2.2 inches thick when inflated and weighs just over a pound, which isn’t bad as far as inflatable pads go, but wouldn’t exactly be considered ultralight. It has an R-value of 2.2, not something to brag about but expected given it’s thinner design.
Where the pad really shines though is foldability; when fully deflated, it rolls up into a packed size of only 8x3x3 inches. This is perfect for campers without space to spare in their pack. Inflated though, it covers 22×73 inches of ground, not quite long enough for the tallest campers, but good enough for most.
The pad is made from 30-denier nylon, which isn’t the toughest material out there. It holds air fine, but make sure it doesn’t get caught on any sharp rocks and always carry a repair kit to patch holes in the field.
Those wanting an inexpensive and all-purpose sleeping pad will be pleased with this model. It’s not the warmest, most comfortable, or lightest weight pad, but it gets the job done.
2. Coleman Camping Cot Air Mattress and Pump Combo
When you’re car camping, comfort is of the highest priority, and the Coleman Camping Cot is easily the comfiest way to spend a night in the woods.
Let’s start with how comfortable this mattress is; it’s an airbed, but it has a coil system similar to your mattress at home. Those coils deliver comfortable sleeping by redistributing body weight and taking the pressure off of your hips and shoulders. The cot keeps the mattress a full 22-inches off the ground, which makes it so much easier to get up in the morning. Since the cot lifts the mattress off of the ground, you don’t need to worry about heat conduction and R-value as much.
Adding to the luxurious feel are two side tables that fold out from the cot. These are perfect for holding drinks (they even have cup holders!), books, or a lantern. You’ll feel like you’re lounging in your living room with this camping mattress. Even though the setup includes a mattress, cot, and side tables, it only costs a little more than some of the high end sleeping pads. When you consider that it sleeps two people, it’s a fantastic deal.
The mattress comes with a battery-operated pump, so you don’t need to get yourself lightheaded inflating it. The pump runs on 4 D-cell batteries, which aren’t included and might not be something you have lying around the house, but you can’t argue with the pump’s convenience.
The drawbacks to the Coleman Cot are pretty obvious; it’s heavy and difficult to transport. It weighs 41 lbs and even in its collapsed state is 6-feet-tall and about 20-inches wide. Fortunately, it comes with a carrying bag that has wheels on one end, so you won’t need to schlep it around. If space and weight aren’t a concern, the Coleman Camping Cot is undeniably the best pad on the market.
3. Better Habitat SleepReady Memory Foam Floor & Camping Mattress
If you want to bring all the comforts of home on your next camping trip, the SleepReady Memory Foam Mattress from Better Habitat should be added to your kit. It’s not really a sleeping pad so much as your bedroom’s mattress without the box springs or frame.
The 3” thick memory foam has the same dimension as a regular rectangular shape twin mattress (75×36 inches) and weighs 17 lbs, taking up a small duffle bag’s worth of space when rolled up. But you can’t beat the memory foam weight distributing abilities – ideal for chronic side sleepers.
Memory foam also has incredible insulating properties – some people actually find them too hot to sleep in at home. There’s no need to worry about the ground robbing you of precious heat with this camping mattress.
Given its portability issues, this mattress is only useful for car camping, where size and weight aren’t a concern. However, it’s also pretty expensive for a one-person mattress, but that’s the price you pay for memory foam comfort.
4. Etekcity Camping Air Mattress
Have you ever had a friend or partner that refused to go camping because they didn’t want to sleep on the ground? This is the backpacking sleeping pad you get for those folks. The Etekcity is 9-inches thick, the thickest sleeping mat on this list, and also one of the easiest to get up from after a long night of slumber. While it’s still an air bed, it’s far outside the category of sleeping pad and much closer to the comforts of your bedroom mattress.
This is a full-sized queen sleeping mat, capable of comfortably fitting two campers, and has a weight limit of 650 lbs. It’s made for extremely durable PVC, so you don’t need to worry about punctures, and it actually holds air quite well throughout the night.
The Etekcity is by no means portable; it’s simply too bulky and heavy for anything but car camping. Deflated it occupies a 13x7x15 inch space, which really isn’t that bad for such a thick mattress. It also weighs only 14 lbs – lighter than the Coleman Camping Cot.
It’s also not that easy to inflate; blowing it up with your mouth is not an option. The mattress comes with a battery-powered inflator that can be recharged from a wall socket or your vehicle. It takes several hours to charge, though, so be sure to plan ahead for each trip.
This is a moderately-priced air bed that’s both tough and comfortable. It’s not packable though, so save this one for car camping trips where you can splurge on weight.
5. IFORREST Sleeping Pad with Armrest and Pillow
The most common problem for side sleepers is falling off of their mattresses. With less surface area on the sleeping pad and the movement of switching sides during the nights leaves many campers waking up on their tent floor.
Fortunately, the IFORREST can solve this problem by adding a pair of armrests to the edge of the pad. Acting like a pair of bumpers at the bowling alley, the inflatable tubes pen a camper in, no matter their level of nocturnal movement.
The armrests aren’t just for side sleepers though; they also make the IFORREST an excellent daytime lounger; it even comes with an inflatable headrest. So pull the pad out of your tent, lay down on your back, and crack open a good book – rarely has a sleeping pad doubled as lounger quite so well.
On the other hand, the pad weighs almost 3 lbs, making it one of the heaviest single-person mattresses on the list. It’s not very durable either, being constructed of polyester rather than the heavier-duty nylon seen on almost every other sleeping pad.
The IFORREST is a different breed of camping mattress with its armrests and headrest. If you are having trouble staying on your pad, this one could be a lifesaver. However, it’s quite heavy and not tough enough to weather serious backcountry adventures.
6. Klymit Insulated Static V Lite Sleeping Pad
The Klymit Static V certainly looks funky with its prominent V-shaped ridges running from top to bottom. However, that unconventional design is exactly what makes this one of the most comfortable sleeping pads around.
Klymit listened to campers’ complaints and found that inflatable sleeping pads with vertical baffles felt bouncy while horizontal baffles crushed under pressure. The solution – V-shaped ridges that avoid these issues and help to reduce pressure points on the sleeping mat, one of the biggest sticking points for side sleeping campers.
Look in between those ridges, though and you’ll find pockets of trapped warm air, kept close to the body instead of escaping into the atmosphere. That’s just one reason this is probably the warmest sleeping pad on the list. With an R-value of 4.4, the Klymit is solidly in the 4-season category, though still not enough for extremely cold temperatures on its own.
Not only is the Klymit comfortable and warm – just perfect for cold weather, but it’s also quite packable. Even though it rolls out to 23×72 inches, it squishes down to a measly 8×5 inches when deflated. It also weighs just under 20 ounces, which is quite good for such a warm mattress.
No sleeping pad is perfect, though, and the Klymit falters in terms of durability. It uses 30-denier nylon instead of the tougher 70-denier seen on a few of the other inflatable pads. Be careful where you lay it down, and know how to use the included repair kit.
The Klymit Insulated Static V Lite is moderately priced and has some excellent features, so if you think 4-season camping is in your future and you want one of the most comfortable mattresses on the market, go with this one.
7. Therm-a-Rest Z Lite Sol Ultralight Foam Backpacking Mattress
This is the only closed-cell foam pad on our list, and that’s primarily due to them being somewhat uncomfortable. The Therm-a-Rest Z Lite Sol doesn’t have much cushioning, and side sleepers have less surface area contacting the mattress, which creates pressure points on the hips and shoulders. If you’re accustomed to a soft mattress at home, this will be the wrong pad for you.
So why would any side sleeper choose this mattress? Warmth. Closed-cell foam is a much better insulator compared to open-cell foam or a mattress with an air chamber. The Therm-a-Rest Z Lite Sol has an R-value of 2.6, which should keep you comfortable down to about 20 degrees. The surface of the pad is dimpled, like egg-crate foam, to help trap heat and it’s got a reflective coating to stop the pad from absorbing any heat from your body It’s not winter camping ready (though it could be used as a secondary insulator), but it’s well into the 3-season zone.
Closed-cell pads are also much more durable since there’s no way to puncture them. If you’re camping with a dog or doing some big mile thru-hiking, this might be enough of an advantage to ignore how uncomfortable they are. However, closed-cell foam pads are also pretty bulky since they can’t be deflated. If you’re car camping, this won’t be a problem, but backpackers are often annoyed that the pad has to be strapped to the outside of their pack instead of going inside. On the plus side, the pad only weighs 14 ounces.
If you’re looking for a lightweight and inexpensive pad for colder camping, the Z Lite Sol could be a great addition to your kit. However, its lack of packability and less comfortable design gives it a limited market.
8. Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Xlite Ultralight Backpacking Air Mattress
Are you a side sleeper that likes to hike light, fast, and warm? The NeoAir Xlite is one of the highest-quality self-inflating sleeping pads on the market right now, and as far as backpacking mattresses go, it’s also one of the most comfortable.
If you’re looking for packability, you’ve come to the right place; the Xlite weighs just 12 ounces – one of the lightest sleeping pads on the list. Fully deflated, it packs down to the size of a one-liter Nalgene bottle and folds out to 20 x 72 inches. One issue that arises from that packability is the pad’s shape – it’s designed to accommodate mummy bags with a close fit and rounded corners. If you’re someone that tosses and turns at night, you might fall off. That’s especially true given the Xlite’s ultra-slick surface.
The pad is coated in Therm-a-Rest’s ThermaCapture technology, which reflects your body heat instead of absorbing it like most camping mattresses. It has an R-value of 3.2 and inside the pad is a baffle-filled matrix that traps warm air rather than circulating it towards the cold ground.
The Xlite is a fairly expensive sleeping pad, but if you need something super packable, this should be your go-to mattress.
9. Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Trekker Lightweight Backpacking Air Mattress
The NeoAir Trekker has a fairly similar design to its Xlite cousin and the Therm-a-Rest Neoair xTherm, but with slightly less emphasis on packability and more on comfort.
It weighs a full 7 ounces more but also slightly larger dimensions compared to the Xlite. One reason for this is the rectangular design compared to its predecessor’s mummy shape. This makes it harder to fall off and gives more space to move around.
This pad is also one of the more durable options, with 70-denier ripstop nylon on its top and bottom. With an R-value of 3.2, the NeoAir is a moderately insulating pad, suitable for early spring and late fall, but not warm enough for winter adventures by itself. It also has the ThermaCapture reflective coating to help you retain heat just a little bit better.
As this is a Therm-a-Rest, you already know that it’s going to come with a premium price point. It costs twice as much as the Outdoorsman Lab sleeping pad mentioned at the top of the article. However, if you’re looking for a very durable mattress with moderate insulation that’s fairly comfortable, this is a great choice.
10. ALPS Mountaineering Self-Inflating Air Pad
ALPS Mountaineering’s Lightweight Self-Inflating Pad is as basic as they come, but it’s also one of the most reliable pads out there. Unroll it, open the valve, and let the self-inflating foam do its magic. When it’s finished, you’ll have a warm sleeping space.
The simple design is admittedly not the most comfortable for side sleepers. It’s just one air chamber, with no baffles to redistribute your weight and take the pressure off your shoulders and hips. If you can sleep on your back, at least some of the time, this will be a more comfortable mattress.
You’d think that with such a simple design, the ALPS would be fairly compact, but it takes up more space than the average sleeping pad – 4.5×21 inches when deflated. You’ll almost certainly need to strap it to your pack rather than putting it inside. It also weighs 2.25 lbs, which is fairly average for a self-inflating pad.
ALPS Mountaineering’s sleeping pad is inexpensive and warm, and those are really the only reason you’d buy it. It’s not particularly comfortable and packs down poorly, but if you only use it once or twice a year, that won’t matter.