December 22, 2021 5 min read

What is better for camping, a memory foam mattress or blow up air mattress and what is the difference between the two options? Sleeping pad, camping mattress, air pad, what does this all mean. Let us explain what each type is and break down the benefits and drawbacks for both options.


Memory Foam Camping Mattress


Benefits of using a memory foam mattress when camping.    

Pressure point relief 

Memory foam is designed to contour to your body to help relieve pressure. This may help reduce pain and improve sleep quality with the additional support. Foam can provide good support and spinal alignment helping reduce tossing or discomfort during sleep. Foam distributes the force of your body across a larger surface area and results in lower pressure on your body parts. This offers better blood flow and muscle recovery.  With an air mattress, it's common to wake up with a body part asleep, since the force of your body is concentrated on a smaller area. Additionally with air mattresses, if your body shifts in the night and compresses down in one area it firms up in another point.

Body Alignment

Memory foam conforms to your body and offers great body alignment and support. The foam conforms based on weight, so your shoulders and hips sink further into the foam and help align your spine (for side sleepers).  This can help relieve sleeping with back pain or other injuries. All HEST enhanced memory foam mattresses have a stretch nylon cover that conforms to the foam and allows your body to align within the foam for the best possible support. Since we use foam for our camping mattresses and they don't need air, we can use a stretch material. Compared to an air mattress, the cover does not conform and your body will sink inconsistently into the air as the air moves around. These air mattress covers are designed to hold pressure rather conforming to shape of the mattress. 

Temperature regulation and insulation 

In addition to maintaining it’s plush properties across all temperature ranges, this enhanced memory foam that is found inside a HEST mattress can help to regulate your body temperature. At cold ranges, the foam will help to insulate your body heat, keeping you warm. In hot sleeping conditions, foam can help your body to breath & stay cool. 

As for a HEST enhanced memory foam camping mattress, the foam and stretch nylon cover do not hold air. Instead, they can breath which allows your body temperature to regulate in different climates.  Also, the 3.9” of foam inside a HEST mattress offers low thermal conductivity. The second law of thermodynamics indicates the tendency for two bodies to reach equilibrium with temperature. In the case of camping, a person’s warm body will try to reach equilibrium with the cold ground.  The way to address this is with insulation of low conductivity material and our memory foam mattress offers this.


Drawbacks of camping with a Memory Foam Mattress 

Foam hardens in cold temperatures (almost) myth 

Well this myth is sort of true. Since the temperature in your home is usually in the 60-70° "comfort zone", most home mattresses aren't designed to be used in the cold. If you were to bring your standard memory foam mattress on a fall camping trip you'd be cozying up onto a cold, hard surface at the end of the day. Uncomfortable? You bet!  

Memory foam is not a new technology, it has been around in home mattresses for years. HEST enhanced memory foam is different though... we've spent tons of time developing a dreamy memory foam that was selected & tested specifically to perform in freezing temps. Compared to the memory foam in your home mattress, our HEST enhanced memory foam will retain it's comfortable, plush, body conforming properties in cold temperatures and won't harden up. The key is in the number of air cells in the foam... (to read more about the science and how it works read HEST memory foam compares to home mattress memory foams in colder temperatures).


Not the best to hike and carry  

At the end of the day what mattress you bring camping depends on the trip itself. Are you car camping or hiking into your campsite? If you plan to hike into your camp most likely a memory foam mattress is going to be too heavy to carry multiple miles. They typically don’t pack well for hiking and weigh more than other types of sleeping pads. But if you plan to camp in your camper or near your vehicle, a memory foam mattress should not be an issue to bring. 

HEST Foamy. Our "no pump or air needed" two layer enhanced memory foam camping mattress.


Air Mattress for Camping


Benefits of using an air mattress when camping.

Packs down to fit in a backpack 

Because air mattresses use air to expand into a full mattress, the primary benefit is how well they pack down in size. An air mattress is a great option when hiking into your campsite when every item in your pack needs to take up the least amount of space and weigh the least amount. Every ounce of weight and inch of space need to be justified when hiking with a full pack.  

Customize the firmness 

Adjusting the air pressure inside the air mattress can help you regulate the firmness. More air provides a firmer mattress. The less amount of pressure the softer the mattress can become.


Drawbacks of using an air mattress when camping.

Watch out for sharp objects 

Air mattresses can easily ruin a fun camping weekend if they get a rip or hole in it. Most holes can be repaired but properly fixing a tear in an air mattress can be difficult to keep. Nothing worse when camping is having an experience of going to sleep on a firm mattress and waking up in the middle of the night on the ground with a flat mattress.  

Bring your lungs 

Most likely you will need to blow up your mattress yourself or with a pump. Not the worst drawback but something to note. After a 5 hour drive the last thing you want to do is pass out trying to blow up your mattress in the dark.


HEST Sleep System. Our camping mattress that has an inflatable drop-stitch base with a two layer memory foam mattress top comes with it's own pump.


Temperature Troubles 

Anyone who’s ever shivered (or sweated) a night away on an air mattress can attest to how crappy they are at regulating and insulating your body temperature. This lack of temperature resiliency is especially troubling while camping, since the temperature ranges in the great outdoors can fluctuate wildly. 

Noisy 

You’re headed into nature to escape the noise of the city, so why would you want to listen to an air mattress crinkling all night with every tiny movement.