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 Whether you are tent camping or sleeping out under the stars, 
using a sleeping bag or some other form of bedding, 
you need to put something between your torso and the cold hard ground.

Sleeping Pads   Air Mattresses   Cots   Pick Up Trucks
Adding the finishing touches to your campground bed

Alternatives to sleeping on the hard ground

Sleeping on the hard ground is not conducive to a good night's rest.
 To address this concern there are sleeping pads.

Made primarily for backpackers, they are compact, lightweight, and durable. 

Sleeping Pads

Sleeping pads are basically just flexible sheets of foam. They are lighter (some weigh less than a pound), more compact and easier to carry than either air mattresses or cots, making them a good choice for backcountry use.


If purchasing a pad, campers should remember that pads are available in different degrees of thickness. Some offer little cushioning, but others have ridged or egg-carton patterns that are more comfortable. Some of the better pads even have egg-carton foam on top and insulating foam on the bottom, making them both comfortable and warm.
One drawback of pads, however, is that you tend to slide off if you are on a slight incline or if you are prone to toss and turn during sleep.


Pads should last the camper a long time. They are more durable than air mattresses, which puncture easily. In general, pads are the cheapest of the sleeping accessories, but there is a wide range of prices for all three types. If campers want to spend as little money as possible, they can just use a sheet of egg carton-shaped open-cell foam. However, campers should be aware that open-cell foam soaks up water like a sponge.


Sleeping pads are just one solution to providing some layer of comfort between you and the hard ground, but there are other alternatives.
 Remember those exercise pads used in the gym in high-school phys-ed class?

Air Mattresses

Air mattresses inflate manually or with a pump, and are often flocked on the top surface. Some find them more comfortable than pads because they provide more cushion between the camper and the ground. However, they provide little protection from the cold, so are best used for car camping in warm weather.

A regular air mattress (NOT a sleeping pad) is cold because you are sleeping on air. Your body heat will warm the surface of a regular mattress, but you can never produce enough heat to warm the air in an air mattress.  You will need something THICK between you and an air mattress - a sleeping bag is perfect, but you might get by with a quilt or thick mattress pad.  The point is, you will need something to sleep ON as well as something to sleep UNDER.

Some like to use a pad and air mattress together.

Air mattresses, especially the large, two-person kind, are heavier and bulkier than sleeping pads. This is especially true if the mattress has to be inflated with a compressor powered by a vehicles lighter, which makes the mattress hard to transport if the vehicle is far from the campsite. Compressors can also disturb other campers, though this can be minimized if the mattress is inflated before sunset. Air mattresses can be inflated with just lung power, but this can be a very tiring chore, especially for larger mattresses.
Another item bought by my wife and I at Wal-Mart is a battery operated compressor. Works faster than the compressor powered by a vehicles lighter and very minimum noise!
About 4X4 inches in diameter.

Click here  for enlarged photo

The main disadvantage of air mattresses is that they are vulnerable to punctures. This is especially true if the mattress is placed directly on the ground. Even a small, undetectable hole or tear in an air mattress can make it deflate during the night, leaving the camper on the hard ground by morning.


In general, air mattresses are more expensive than pads but less expensive than cots.


My wife and I purchased from Wal Mart a Queen-Size Air Mattress With Frame. 
A  bed frame that folds together along with an inflatable air mattress. 

Click Here for Enlarged photo

We have a large Family size Canvas tent to accommodate this queen-size bed which is more comfortable than our bed at home.


Self-inflating Mattresses


Self-inflating mattresses are hybrids of pads and air mattresses, and are the most popular sleeping accessory among backcountry campers because or their excellent portability, cushioning and warmth.


When the valve is opened, the internal foam structure causes the mattress to self-inflate. An airtight shell keeps the air in. When its time to pack up, the valve is opened again and the mattress is rolled up, forcing the air out.


The price of self-inflating mattresses varies widely. They range from about the price of a pad to twice the price of a cot. The more expensive models offer the most cushioning and insulation, while using the lightest materials possible. Conversion kits allow some self-inflating mattresses to be set up as chairs during the day.



Cots are less portable than either pads or air mattresses, being both heavier and bulkier. For this reason, cots are more often used when sleeping in a vehicle or when the same site will be used for an extended time. This should not be misconstrued to mean that cots have no portability, as most can be folded up and conveniently carried for short distances.


Cots have the advantage of elevating campers well above the ground, which produces extra storage space in a tent. This quality also protects campers from hard protrusions and provides protection from animals such as snakes and scorpions that might climb on campers during the night. However, cots offer little insulation from the cold air below, so a pad can be used simultaneously to remedy this drawback. Another advantage of a cot is that sleepers don't slide off, like they can with pads and air mattresses.


Cots are very durable, but if you are a large individual, make sure the cot you buy can support your weight. Different cots have different weight limits, though most are adequate for most people.


Pick Up Trucks

If you happen to take your truck camping, there are different choices available. 

Got a Pick Up with a cap on it?
Check out a Camper Top Tent from Campmor®  that attaches to the cap door while open gives you a truck/tent effect.

A great way to convert your vehicle into a complete camping unit. Easy setup! Just raise the rear window, lower tailgate and place tent over the opening.

For a sleeping pad, you can use an old futon mattress that fits just right in the truck bed and is very comfortable to sleep on.


Another solution for those weekend getaways in the truck is to get one of those pick-up bed tents like the Sportz Truck tent from Napier® which even comes with a floor.


Today there are as many varied ways of camping as there are campers.
 Camping becomes a personal thing. 
Even though you may be away from the warm confines of your cozy bedroom at home, 
you still want to get just as good a night's sleep.

Adding the finishing touches to your campground bed


Having chosen a method of ground protection for under your bed,
 whether it be a sleeping pad, foam pad, air mattress, futon, cot, travel trailer, or a home-made device,

it's time to add the finishing touches that will determine your bed's degree of cozy.


Backpackers have only one viable solution: sleeping bags.
 The adventurous souls who love to wander in the backcountry are forever concerned about the weight and compactness of items when it comes to selecting gear.
Backpackers typically select a light-weight mummy style sleeping bag with down or synthetic insulation, filled to differing degrees of loft depending upon the seasonal extremes.
 Pillows can be made from rolled up clothing, a small inflatable air pillow, or your pack. And, if it happens to get too warm during the night, simply zip down the bag a little.


Tent campers, on the other hand, need not be as concerned as backpackers about weight and size of gear.
You are limited only by the amount of storage space that is in the vehicle taking you to the campsite.
Canoeing to a campsite will not offer as much space as driving there in a car, and driving there in a car, in turn, will not have as much space as a van or truck.
However you get to the campground, take advantage of space and pack whatever gear you can that will add comfort and enjoyment to your trip.


With enough space, take regular bed items to the campground:

 sheets, blankets, pillows, comforters, and quilts. 

If you happen to be camping at the beach where sand eventually finds its way into everything, consider using flannel sheets rather than cotton. Flannel sheets are more comfortable because they have a loose weave that allows sand to pass through.


For many campers, standard fare will be a rectangular sleeping bag. 
For camping couples, there are models available that you can zip together to accommodate the both of you.
Otherwise, open one sleeping bag, lay it flat, put a sheet over it, and then use the second bag for a blanket.
If you're an RV camper, then you have the convenience of a real bed, so take advantage of that fact and bring along bedding to make it cozy just like your bed at home.


Now that you've decided what items you need to construct a comfortable sleeping place at the campground, it's time to add a roof over your bed and consider a shelter for protection from the elements of wind, rain, snow, heat, bugs and critters.

Putting a roof over your campground bed


Do you need an address or phone number for an outdoor gear company?
Here is a listing of a contact information for some of the major gear companies.

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