No camper likes to wake up in the middle of the night only to find that they’ve slid right into the side, top, or bottom of their tent.
Air mattresses are tricky like that.
Most camping air mattresses are made of polyester or nylon fabrics that are usually coated with polyurethane to increase the durability of the fabric and prevent leaks.
Unfortunately, this makes them prone to sliding around on tent floors, which are also typically made with nylon.
Nylon on nylon equals lots and lots of sliding around.
Many camping air mattresses are also made to be super lightweight, so they move around easily.
How much sliding you can expect depends on:
- How lightweight your air mattress is
- Whether you’re camped on a slope
- How much you change your sleep position at night
The sliding can be even worse when there are multiple people and mattresses in the tent.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve woken up to find myself squished between one wall of the tent and Ross’s air mattress, which slid too far over to my side.
We have two NeoAir Xlites from Thermarest, which are ultralight air mattresses.
It became such a problem that we decided it was about time to do something about it.
9 ways to keep your air mattress from sliding
We came across multiple solutions, most of which are super simple.
We’ll tell you exactly which one we went with in the list below.
If you do yoga, you might already have one.
Most yoga mats are made of a kind of rubber called PVC and have a grip that helps them stay in place.
If you don’t have a yoga mat, you can get one for relatively cheap—as low as $20 or so.
The best thing about yoga mats is that they’re the perfect size for your air mattress, meaning they provide full coverage from slipping as long as you use them as-is.
You can, however, cut them up into smaller pieces if you want to save on weight and bulk.
That’s one big downside of using a yoga mat as an anti-slip solution for your air mattress—they’re not exactly lightweight or small.
Foam sleeping pads
Foam sleeping pads look just like yoga mats, but they’re meant for camping.
Many are also made with non-slip textured surfaces to prevent sliding and are built with lightweight camping in mind.
The Wakeman lightweight foam sleeping pad is just half an inch thick and weighs only one pound.
And at $20, it’s a steal.
If you want a specific pad for camping, we recommend going with this instead of a yoga mat.
They might be almost exactly the same, but you’ll probably get more benefit out of one that’s made specifically for camping.
Wool pads or mats
If you’re camping in cool weather, or if you simply want to beef up the current R-value (insulation factor) of your air mattress, wool pads or mats are a great choice.
Not only is wool a naturally a non-slip material, but it also adds an extra layer of insulation to your air mattress.
Some people, however, are allergic to wool, so if that’s the case, you may want to avoid this option.
Wool pads can also be a bit more on the pricey side.
We recommend something like this wool pressing mat made for quilting, which is 22 by 60 inches.
You could also try two or three smaller wool pads, like these cut-to-fit wool insole pads, which are about 12 by 12 inches.
Placing one at the top, middle, and bottom of your air mattress might just do the trick.
If insulating your tent is a priority, this is a great option.
It’s also much more lightweight than bringing along yoga mats.
Closed-cell foam pads
Closed-cell foam pads are made of a type of lightweight, high-density foam used for insulation and cushioning.
Most of them also come with a reflective coating and heat-trapping dimples that capture radiant heat as you sleep.
We have two Z Lite Sols from Thermarest, which we absolutely love and use all the time when we camp in cold weather.
They have an R-value of 2, which is great if your air mattress’s R-value is a little on the low side for the temperatures you’re camping (because you can stack R-values for extra warmth).
The reflective side you sleep on is softer while the bottom side is denser for added durability and protection from the ground.
One tip we do have is to consider using some paracord or other type of cordage to secure your air mattress to the closed-cell foam pad to prevent it from sliding around on the pad itself.
Anti-slip mattress or rug pads
These are made for bed mattresses or rugs, but nobody says you can’t use them for camping.
The Gorilla Grip mattress slide stopper is one worth checking out.
It’s basically made of rubber with dual-sided grip, which you can easily cut to the shape of your air mattress—or even your entire tent if you want.
It’s affordable, easy, and super lightweight, making it a great option for summer camping and ultralight campers.
But don’t expect it to do anything for you in terms of insulation.
Thinlight foam insulation pads
The Seconds Thinlight foam pad from Gossamer Gear is what we use when it’s not cold enough to justify bringing our closed-cell foam pads.
It’s basically an ultralight pad made out of insulating material at 1/8-inch thickness.
Apparently it weighs less than a deck of cards, which is pretty impressive.
You can also bend and fold it any way you want without wrecking it.
We’re not sure exactly what it’s made of since it doesn’t specify on the website, but even though it’s insulating, we definitely don’t recommend using this pad alone in cold weather.
Anti-slip air mattresses
If you’re looking to upgrade your current air mattress, you might want to consider looking for one that’s been designed with anti-slip technology.
Unfortunately, these can be harder to find, and they’re often bigger and bulkier—like the SoundAsleep Dream Series air mattress.
It may be a great idea if you’re car camping, but if you’re going into the backcountry, you’re better off using any other alternatives above.
Camping cots lift you up off the ground, so there’s no chance of sliding around.
You can get super portable and lightweight camping cots these days, like the Helinox Cot One, which we used recently on a winter expedition trip.
They were so comfortable that we didn’t even need an air mattress, and each cot weighs just over five pounds.
If you’re camping on uneven ground, however, you’ll need to bring along some shims to put underneath the feet to help keep it level.
Another way to get yourself off the ground and completely eliminate the chance of sliding around is by forgoing tent camping altogether and getting a camping hammock.
The Easthills Outdoors Jungle Explorer double camping hammock comes with a tarp and a built-in mesh screen to help keep out the bugs.
It can also fit two adults with a maximum capacity of 600 pounds.
Of course, you have to be camping somewhere with trees that are close and strong enough to hang a hammock.
But if you find yourself in the right spot, this could be a great way to get off the ground and make sure you stay put all night long.
Which solution is best?
Well, that’s for you to decide for yourself.
Here’s a handy comparison chart to help you decide.
|Foam sleeping pads
|< 1 lb
|Some insulation, lightweight
|Closed-cell foam pads
|Best insulation, lightweight
|Anti-slip mattress pads
|< 1 lb
|Easy and inexpensive
|Thinlight foam insulation pads
|< 1 lb
|Some insulation, ultralight
|Anti-slip air mattresses
|Lifts you off the ground
|Lifts you off the ground,
no need for a tent
No matter what kind of trip you’ve got planned, at least one of these solutions should help keep you in one spot so you can get a good night’s sleep.
Elise is an experienced backcountry canoe tripper and winter camper from Ontario, Canada. She loves cooking up a storm over the campfire, taking in all the backcountry views, and enjoying a piña colada or two while relaxing at camp. She’s also certified in Whitewater Rescue (WWR) I & II and Wilderness First Aid (WFA).