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Which camping bed is best?

Maps, clothing, tools, food and other gear are all important parts of having a great camping trip. While there are plenty of great sleeping pads that offer impressive comfort for their small size and lightweight, sometimes you want something more substantial to ensure you get a good night’s sleep. After all, a deep, refreshing sleep goes a long way toward ensuring a fun and action-packed trip to the great outdoors. To that end, a high-quality camping bed can be a great investment.

The best camping bed for most people is the Coleman Camping Bed Combo, which boasts a sturdy steel frame, dependable leak-free air mattress and even a pair of fold-out side tables with cup holders.

What to know before you buy a camping bed

Sleeping pads vs. camping beds

Therm-a-Rest Prolite Apex

Generally speaking, sleeping pads are meant for backpackers who need a decently comfortable sleeping surface but are willing to sacrifice a little to save on pack size and weight. The highly recommended Therm-a-Rest Prolite Apex, for example, is one of the lightest and most well-engineered pieces of ultralight sleeping gear you’ll find that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. But if you’re looking to simulate sleeping on an actual bed, you can probably guess that staying high off the ground and having enough space to roll over at night make a big difference. If you don’t want to have to train yourself to sleep still in one position for most of the night, you’ll find a camping bed far more comfortable than a mere sleeping pad.

Beware of cheap air mattresses

There are good air mattresses that hold air well, don’t expand much and resist tears and punctures. One such airbed from Coleman gets relatively high marks. What’s not recommended is deciding on the least expensive and simplest air mattress you can find. To a large extent, you get what you pay for when it comes to inflatable beds. Even from the same manufacturers, airbeds with high-end aspirations generally have thicker materials and more consistent, durable construction than their entry-level counterparts.

Above all, avoid selecting an air mattress just because it’s cheap. Take special care to avoid any knock-offs or mostly unknown brands without thorough real-world testing and reviews.

What to look for in a quality camping bed

A sturdy frame

A sturdy metal frame or camping cot keeps you off the ground and away from rocks, sticks and other debris that can make your night uncomfortable or even damage your mattress. A loose or weak frame doesn’t just allow for sagging or wobbling leading to a sore back, it can also spell disaster in case it breaks while you’re sleeping. If you’re considering a camping bed with a frame, make sure it’s well-made before investing.

Internal coil construction

If you decide to go with a frameless air mattress, make sure to get one with a resilient internal coil system. Unlike spring coils found in traditional mattresses (which provide actual vertical support), air mattress coils increase side-to-side stability and keep the entire surface more even to keep you from rolling off and your back and hips from sagging too much.

A compact size when collapsed

You certainly won’t be taking any full-size camping beds on the backpacking trail, but size and weight are still considerations. For example, some air mattresses with frames and high-end pumps work great in the home because they’re remarkably similar to beds, but they’re still incredibly heavy and bulky even when not in use.

Take care to note how big and heavy your potential new camping bed is, because if you can’t easily fit it in your car alongside your other gear, then it’s not a good investment.

How much you can expect to spend on a camping bed

The cheapest camping beds that will stand up to repeated use will cost around $60, while the very best options on the market run as much as $200.

Camping bed FAQ

Do I need a separate pump for an air mattress?

universal air mattress pump

A. Most air mattresses require an external pump. There are some high-end models that have one built in, but then you’re paying for a fixed pump that may well break someday and can’t be replaced. For use while camping, it’s recommended that you get an air mattress without an integrated pump and pick up a dependable universal air mattress pump to fill it.

Are camping hammocks good to sleep in?

A. Once you’re used to them, yes, camping hammocks can be quite comfortable. However, they have a pretty big learning curve and if you’re not experienced with one, it can easily lead to tightness and soreness that makes hiking difficult. If you want a novel, lightweight sleeping system for your backpacking setup, a hammock is great, but it won’t compare to the sheer comfort of a full-size, raised camping bed.

What’s the best camping bed to buy?

Top camping bed

Coleman Camping Bed Combo

Coleman Camping Bed Combo

What you need to know: It’s just about the closest thing to a real bed designed for camping.

What you’ll love: Available in twin and queen sizes, it consists of a Saturday, raised frame, single-high air mattress with pump and a pair of fold-out side tables. The frame keeps you off the ground ensuring comfort and providing storage so you can keep your tent as organized as possible. The whole thing folds down to roughly the size of a packed tent for easy transport.

What you should consider: Because the mattress cover is sewn onto the frame and there’s a rail running down the middle, it basically requires the inflated air mattress for use. Luckily, if the included one should ever spring a leak, many single-high air mattresses would make a good replacement.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Top camping bed for the money

Coleman Double-High Air Bed

Coleman Double-High Air Bed

What you need to know: This queen-size mattress offers a luxurious sleeping surface at a reasonable price.

What you’ll love: The internal coils of this popular air mattress help stabilize it, while its large size accommodates standard queen sheets and keeps you well off the ground. It’s one of the most durable air beds on the market and should last relatively long if you take good care of it.

What you should consider: While there is a twin-size model, it’s too tall for its width and therefore too unstable to recommend; stick with the queen size.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon and Home Depot

Worth checking out

Disc-O-Bed Modular Camping Cot

Disc-O-Bed Modular Camping Cot

What you need to know: This might be the most versatile camping cot ever made.

What you’ll love: It’s a cot, it’s bunk beds, it’s a couch — there aren’t any other camping beds available that offer this kind of functionality. It’s thoughtfully designed and sports a remarkably strong frame that’s even suitable for long-term use. Unlike inflatable camping beds, it runs no risk of sagging or failing. It also doesn’t require any tools and can be assembled easily by one person.

What you should consider: There’s no inflatable or plush surface to add extra comfort.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon


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Chris Thomas writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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