9 of the best camping mattresses for bad backs

by | Mar 23, 2023 | Gear

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One of the worst parts about camping is that you can’t always guarantee a good night’s sleep.

If you already suffer from back pain, the idea of going camping can seem daunting.

But it doesn’t have to be.

What the science says about camping mattresses and back pain

A man trying to sleep inside a tent.

At home, you might have the best mattress in the world at home, but that doesn’t matter if you can’t bring it camping.

Lucky for you, all hope is not lost.

Research has shown that sleeping on an airbed—a.k.a. an air mattress—can actually be better for back pain and sleep quality than sleeping on an innerspring mattress.

This may be due to the fact that airbeds provide more pressure relief and support than innerspring mattresses.

Air mattresses also allow you to adjust their firmness by adding or releasing some air.

Other research shows mattresses made with adaptive foam can help improve back pain by as much as 48% and sleep quality by 55% after 28 days.

A medium-firm mattress appears to offer the best results in terms of comfort, sleep quality, and spinal alignment.

That said, the best level of firmness will most likely come from adjusting your mattress to suit your own personal preference.

There are countless camping mattresses available today, but not all of the are made equal.

If you have a bad back, you’ll probably want to look for one that’s:

  1. Extra thick (at least 2.5 inches)
  2. Made with foam to provide extra support
  3. Adjustable in terms of firmness

Based on the above camping mattress features that are necessary for dealing with back pain, here are our top picks:

Best overall

The WELLAX sleeping pad is our top overall pick for so many awesome reasons.

Wellax Sleeping Pad

The first thing this air mattress emphasizes is its ability to minimize back pain with its UltraFlex memory foam.

It’s part foam, part air inflation, which gives you the best of both worlds in terms of support and customization.

This amazing mattress is three inches thick and has an R-value of a whopping 9.6!

It’s also self-inflating, durable, compact, and relatively lightweight at just under six pounds.

And perhaps best of all, it’s under $100.

Overall, this air mattress hits all the right notes when it comes to looking for a good quality camping for back pain without breaking the bank or having to sacrifice convenience.

What we like about it:

  • Designed to help with back pain
  • Combination of foam and inflation
  • 3-inch thickness
  • 9.6 R-value
  • 6 lbs
  • Under $100
  • Self-inflating
  • Compact
  • Durable

What we don’t like about it:

  • A little on the heavy side for ultralight backpacking/camping

Best ultralight

The Big Agnes insulated Q-core deluxe sleeping pad is probably one of the lightest air mattresses you can find that’s built for comfort and performance.

Big Agnes insulated Q core deluxe sleeping pad

At just over 1.5 pounds, you really can’t go wrong.

This model is a pure air mattress, which means it doesn’t include any foam—but that’s what makes it so lightweight!

Its quilted two-way stretch top creates a pillow-soft surface while larger outer chambers keep you cradled in the middle of the mattress.

At a thickness of 4.5 inches, the I-Beam construction reduces the overall weight of the mattress so you don’t have to carry unnecessary excess weight.

It also has an R-value of 4.3, making it perfect for three-season camping.

What we like about it:

  • Extremely light at 1.5 lbs
  • Built for comfort and performance
  • Wide and long options available
  • Easy and fast to inflate
  • 4.5-inch thickness
  • 4.3 R-value
  • Made with durable rip-stop fabric

What we don’t like about it:

  • No foam for added support
  • Wide and long options are much more expensive

Best extra thick

If you’re car camping or taking a trip where weight and bulk isn’t a huge issue, you may opt for an extra thick sleep alternative like SoundAsleep Dream Series air mattress.

SoundAsleep Dream Series air mattress

This “double height” raised airbed is a whopping 18 inches thick, whether you get it in twin, full/double, queen, king, or California king size.

Its ComfortCoil Technology uses 21 internal air coils to keep it firm for added support and comfort.

With one click, the mattress self-inflates in about three minutes, and you can use the pump to top it up as needed.

At just under 7.5 pounds deflated, it’s not even all that heavy.

It’s also quite affordable at just about $115!

What we like about it:

  • 18-inch thickness
  • Coils maintain firmness
  • Available in twin, full/double, queen, king, or California king size
  • Single-click inflation and deflation
  • Affordable at $115

What we don’t like about it:

  • A little on the heavy side at just under 7.5 pounds
  • No insulation

Best customizable firmness

From the same SoundAsleep air mattress line, the CloudNine Series air mattress has everything and more that the Dream Series does (but at twice the price).

CloudNine Series air mattress

In fact, this one is slightly thicker at 19 inches.

What’s really unique about the CloudNine Series is that you can set the firmness level to one of three levels, and the proprietary dual pump system will continuously and silently run in the background to keep it at your preferred level all night long.

Once the desired firmness is reached, the pump will automatically shut off.

It’s much heavier at 25 pounds because of the pump, but if lots of thickness and customizability is important to you, it just might be worth it.

What we like about it:

  • 3 levels of adjustable firmness
  • Built-in “smart pump” that runs silently to maintain firmness
  • Coils help with support and maintaining firmness
  • 19-inch thickness
  • Available in twin, full/double, queen, king size
  • Single-click inflation and deflation

What we don’t like about it:

  • Double the price of the Dream Series
  • Very heavy at 25 pounds because of the pump
  • No insulation

Best insulation

If you’re camping in cold weather, you’re going to need an air mattress with serious insulation, like the AIRELAX self-inflating sleeping pad.

AIRELAX self inflating sleeping pad

It has an incredibly high R-value of 12.5, and given that an R-value of 4.5 or higher is recommended for winter camping, you can be sure that you’ll stay warm and toasty with this mattress.

In addition to being extra warm and durable, it inflates to four inches thick and is made with inner foam that’s softer and more comfortable than your average memory foam.

You can also get it in a single or double size, weighing in at just about seven pounds.

It’s also quite affordable at just about $110.

What we like about it:

  • 12.5 R-value for supreme insulation
  • 4-inch thickness
  • Combination of foam and air inflation
  • Available in twin, full/double size
  • Affordable at $110

What we don’t like about it:

  • No queen or king sizes
  • Somewhat heavy at 7 pounds

Best for side sleepers

Side sleepers need extra cushioning and support, which is why the CertiPUR-US memory foam camping mattress pad is a great option.

CertiPUR US memory foam camping mattress pad

This mattress is pure memory foam, meaning that there’s no air to inflate in it.

Although this generally means you can’t adjust the firmness, it also means that it will mold entirely to your body for extra cushioning.

This mattress is made with one inch of memory foam and another 1.75 inch of dense foam support, for a total of 2.75 inches of thickness.

Since you have to roll it up as is, it isn’t as lightweight or compact as an air mattress at just under 10 pounds.

But its ultra plush, soft, and moldable surface makes it worth it for side sleepers who don’t want to skimp on comfort and need to take care of their backs.

What we like about it:

  • Made with 2 types of foam
  • Top layer contours to your body
  • Bottom layer maintains firmness
  • 2.75-inch thickness
  • Nothing to inflate
  • Affordable at $105

What we don’t like about it:

  • No adjustable firmness
  • Not very compact
  • No insulation/R-value specified
  • Quite heavy at 10 pounds

Best for couples

Several of the above camping mattresses offer options in full/double, queen, and king sizes, but if you’re serious about getting a good night’s sleep next to your loved one, you need to consider checking out the King Koil luxury air mattress.

King Koil luxury air mattress

Comparable to the Dream Series and CloudNine Series mentioned above, this one is also extra thick and comes with a smart pump that keeps it firm all night.

Choose your thickness at 13, 16, or 20 inches in queen or California king size.

Air-filled coils and internal layering offer natural support and help keep the spine aligned as you and you partner sleep.

What makes this one perfect for couples?

Well, it’s one of the only air mattresses out there that offers supreme thickness, a built-in pump that maintains the firmness, and a California king size for lots of extra room.

It’s heavy at 17 pounds and not very insulating, but at least if you’re going to be sharing a camping mattress with somebody else, you better be sure to make it a comfortable and roomy one!

What we like about it:

  • 3 thickness choices (13, 16, and 20 inches)
  • Available in twin, queen, and California king size
  • Built-in “smart pump” that runs silently to maintain firmness
  • Coils help with support and maintaining firmness
  • Inflates in 2 minutes

What we don’t like about it:

  • High in demand and potentially unavailable
  • Very heavy at 17 pounds because of the pump
  • No insulation

Best budget-friendly

We know that not everyone has the budget to spend a fortune on a good camping mattress, which is why we’re recommending the ELECINNOV self inflating camping foam air mattress.

ELECINNOV self inflating camping foam air mattress

You need to be willing to spend more than $20 if you’re dealing with a bad back, but you certainly don’t have to spend as much as $100.

This one is just $77 and is combines both air inflation and high-density rebound memory foam for superior comfort and support.

It’s 2.4 inches thick, putting it just under the ideal thickness level, but for the price it’s a steal.

At just over six pounds, it’s slightly heavier than you might want it for a backpacking trip, but still not too heavy.

The R-value is not specified, but the added foam appears to insulate well from cold weather.

If you really want to take care of your back, but want to keep the cost to a minimum, this is a great option.

What we like about it:

  • Combination of foam and air inflation
  • Self-inflates in 20 seconds
  • Affordable at $77

What we don’t like about it:

  • Just under the recommended thickness level at 2.4 inches
  • Somewhat heavy at just over 6 pounds
  • Insulating, but R-value not specified

Best luxury

If you can afford to splurge, you’ll want to check out the HEST memory foam camping mattress.

HEST memory foam camping mattress

It’s $500, but given that you can easily spend over $1,000 on high-quality camping gear, the price isn’t as bad as you might expect—especially for what you get out of it.

This mattress has been carefully engineered to optimize body alignment, provide pressure point relief, and encourage temperature regulation.

It includes two layers of high-performance memory foam.

The bottom inflates with air to create firmness while the top layer molds to your body to provide support.

it’s a whopping seven inches thick and offers excellent insulation with an 11.8 R-value, meaning it will perform wonderfully in extreme cold.

Unfortunately, it’s rather heavy at 25 pounds for the regular version and 29 pounds for the wider one.

If going lightweight is important to you, this may not be the right choice, but for luxury comfort, you may not be able to beat it!

What we like about it:

  • Combination of foam and air inflation
  • Made with high-performance memory foam
  • Designed for body alignment and pressure point relief
  • 7-inch thickness
  • 11.8 R-value
  • Regular and wide versions available

What we don’t like about it:

  • Expensive at $500
  • Heavy at 25 to 30 pounds

What to consider when making your choice of camping mattress

A super thick camping air mattress inside a tent with two sleeping bags.

We’ve provided some really great camping mattresses for you to consider, but ultimately, it’s up to you to decide which one is best for your needs.

When making this decision, there are a few things that you should take into account.

Ask yourself:

What’s your preferred sleep position? You may need less or more foam depending on how you like to sleep.

How firm do you like your mattress? If you’re finicky, you may want to get an adjustable one.

What size do you prefer? You may need extra width, length, or mattress sizes depending on your body size, sleep position, comfort level, and who else may be sleeping with you.

How thick do you like your mattress? For some people, 2.5 inches of thickness isn’t always enough.

How light and compact do you need your mattress to be? If you’re traveling, such as by going on a backpacking trip, you’ll need to prioritize weight and bulk.

Are you camping in cold weather? If you are, you’ll want to check that the R-value is at least 4.5.

What’s your budget? Most of the above mentioned camping mattresses are quite affordable, but you’ll have to decide for yourself how much you want to spend.

There’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to choosing the best camping mattress.

As long as you consider your unique needs and preferences, you can be confident that you’ll make the right choice.

Happy camping!

Next up: How to keep your air mattress from sliding around your tent

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About Us

Elise & Ross

We’re Elise and Ross, avid backcountry campers and outdoor adventurers! We started Gone Camping Again as a way to share our knowledge and experience about wilderness living and travel. Our hope is that we inspire you to get outside and enjoy all that nature has to offer!

Read more about our story.