Photo: Amazon

Put your hands up! It’s camping season which means we are full-tilt in the midst of s’mores, starry evening skies, and campfire laughs and lullabies. Sleeping in a tent with my family may truly be one of my favorite things on this planet, so this time of year brings me massive amounts of joy.

And sometimes back pain. There, I said it.

As my age creeps closer to 40, I’ve noticed my spine doesn’t always love the ultralight-and-ultra-thin sleeping pads used in the backcountry. But, that’s the beauty of car camping: weight doesn’t matter. You can schlep an entire air mattress to your campsite if you have the gumption and the car space, but we often prefer something more portable (But not always....!)

Below I’ve highlighted my favorite sleeping pads for car camping. Some are extra wide (toddler snuggles, anyone?), some are extra thick, and some are downright luxurious. Regardless, you can’t go astray with any of this under-the-stars beds.

Therm-a-Rest MondoKing 3D

The warmest of our picks, the Therm-a-Rest MondoKing 3D is great for all-seasons, and at 4" thick, offers a comfortable base for your sleeping bag.
Photo: Amazon

When a brand describes the pad as the biggest they’ve ever made, you know it is going to be good. The MondoKing uses completely vertical side walls so sleepers don’t lose space to the dreaded sloping effect. The pad itself is four inches thick which is absolutely gargantuan for a sleeping pad, but you won’t be sad about it when you’re dreaming throughout the night. Bonus: With an R-value of 11.4 (the standard rating for warmth), it is the warmest on the list.

NEMO Cosmo 3D

The NEMO Cosmo 3D is baffled to cradle your body and raise head slightly, and its foot pump means you can give your lungs a break.
Graphic: Shep McAllister

Sleeping pads just got fancy. Redesigned for 2019, the Cosmo 3D uses body mapped baffled to cradle the sleeper for maximum coziness all night. A raised head area sleeps like a lawn chair, and the easy-to-use foot pump means you won’t spend hours huffing and puffing to inflate the pad in the beginning.

Exped Megamat

The Exped Megamat is great for all seasons, and includes a mini pump that you can use while you’re laying down on the pad to adjust the firmness levels.
Graphic: Shep McAllister

There isn’t anything ultralight about this sleeping pad, but that’s okay because it makes up for its bulk with sinful comfort. The Megamat is just a tick under four inches thick and over 25-inches wide, which means you’ll have plenty of room to toss and turn. Plus, it has an R-value of 9.5 so you can legitimately sleep on this in the snow and not feel a thing.

NEMO Roamer

The Nemo Roamer is easy to attach to other Nemo Roamers. Put two of them together to create a luxurious queen sized mattress wherever you’re camping.
Graphic: Shep McAllister

I realize I’ve doubled down on NEMO sleeping pads, but this list wouldn’t be complete without the Roamer. Like the MondoKing, the Roamer is four inches of open-cell foam goodness. Plus, side toggles make it easy to attach to a second Roamer pad, creating a veritable queen-sized bed that won’t slip and slide around. Our daughter bounced on this for an entire weekend and it is certainly toddler approved.

SoundAsleep Camping Air Mattress

If you’re actually camping in the back of your car, the SoundAsleep Camping Air Mattress is an affordable option that includes an electric air pump that plugs into your car’s power outlet.
Graphic: Shep McAllister

Remember that air mattress I referenced earlier? Perhaps you don’t mind the weight and the bulk in your car. If that is you, the SoundAsleep is going to be your best bet thanks to its absurd comfort. Eco-friendly construction is specifically designed for outdoor use and it comes with an external pump that inflates the entire bed in a couple of minutes. Double win: It’s the most affordable bed on the list.