CAMPING | Your Complete Guide To Camping Beds & Sleeping In Comfort Under Canvas

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Getting a good nights sleep isn’t always straight forward when camping. Whilst being that bit closer to nature is scientifically proven to reduce stress and improve your sleep, a comfortable nights sleep under canvas isn’t a given. But with so many camp bed and mattress options, which is best for you?

From the humble self-inflating mat to luxury sprung memory foam fishing beds, we explore the main camp bed options and let you know the pros and cons of each one, so you can find the camp bed that’s right for you.

Covered In This Guide

  1. Ready Beds/All-in-one Beds
  2. Self Inflating Mats (SIMs)
  3. Standard Air Mattresses
  4. Double Height Air Beds
  5. Folding Camp Beds
  6. Carp Fishing Beds

1. Ready Beds & All-in-on Beds

This kind of bed generally consists of a self inflating or inflatable air mattress with an attached sleeping bag. Most are specifically designed for camping and are as such easy to transport and carry.

Some have sleeping bags that can be zipped away from the base and whilst they are a popular choice for children, there are an increasing number of options available for adults in single and double configurations.

My experience: I have a Bundle Bed and it’s quality is superb. The duvet and pillow have cotton covers that can be easily washed, and I’ve found the duvet exceptionally warm to use. Due to my joint condition I am unable to sleep on any kind of self inflating mat on it’s own, so I use mine on top of my fishing bed.

  • All in one solution
  • Easy to carry and transport thanks to integrated carry bags/straps
  • Lots of fun children’s designs available
  • Single and a few double options available
  • You’ll sometimes compromise on sleeping mat comfort and sleeping bag warmth
  • Can sometimes feel a little restrictive

BUDGET: Kids ReadyBed Airbed and Sleeping Bag In One £25,

ReadyBed Airbed and Sleeping Bag In One £25,

MID RANGE: Deluxe ReadyBed – Single Adult Airbed and Sleeping Bag £80,

Adult deluxe ready bed

LUXURY: Bundle Beds from £199,

Bundle Beds Camp Beds


2. Self Inflating Sleeping Mats (SIMs)

A self-inflating sleeping mat is essentially like a thin air mattress with a layer of foam padding inside. When you open the valve, air is sucked in, immediately inflating the mat, and you usually need to top it up by blowing a little extra air in using your mouth or by closing the valve, partially rolling it back up and then opening the valve again.

They are a popular choice due to their small size and low weight, which makes them ideal for backpackers, festivals and wild campers. You’ll find that every camping retailer will have a good selection of SIMs on offer, and their prices vary wildly, from just a few pounds for something not much more substantial looking than your average yoga mat, to hundreds of pounds for expedition quality SIMs from the likes of Therm-a-rest.

My experience: Most of the self inflating mats that you’ll find in shops are cheap and quite thin, only a few centimetres thick. For side sleepers or anyone that suffers from achey joints, many just don’t provide anywhere near enough padding for a comfortable nights sleep. However, SIMs have come a long way are are no longer the sole preserve of backpackers who need to travel ultralight. SIMs are now packed with technical materials like memory foam and it’s much easier to get your hands on thick padded SIMs of around 7cm to 10cm and some even thicker. Take it from me, in terms of comfort and warmth, they are SO much better than an air mattress and well worth a look, but depth is key! Check out our review of the Outwell Dreamboat Double SIM and the Vango Comfort 10 SIM.

  • Lightweight
  • Easy to carry/pack
  • Ideal for backpackers, expeditions and wild camping
  • Options for every budget
  • Foam layer provides good insulation, especially from thicker SIMs
  •  Maximize tent sleeping space as they are generally narrow
  • Cheap versions are not padded enough to provide good levels of comfort
  • Limited insulation, particularly from cheaper models

BUDGET: Regatta Napa 3 Self Inflating Mat £20.95, Outdoor Gear

Regatta Napa 3 Self Inflating Mat £20.95, Outdoor Gear

MID RANGE: Vango Allure 10 Self Inflating Mat £89.99, Winfields Outdoors

Vango Allure 10 Self Inflating Mat

LUXURY: Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite Mattress £114.99, Go Outdoors*

Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite Mattress (Regular)

*more of a hybrid SIM + Air Mattress

3. Standard Air Mattresses

Standard air mattresses/airbeds are a hugely popular choice as they offer a great combination of comfort and value. They are also small and light to transport and easy to get hold of, In the summer months even supermarkets and bargain shops stock them. Although they aren’t impossible to inflate by mouth, a pump is definitely recommended, which should be factored in to your purchase price, and most will lose air overnight during use and will require topping up for continued use.

My experience: I used a standard air mattress successfully for a good many years. Quality wise for a spend of around £15-£25 I have found they have provided consistently decent performance, though I’m yet to find an air mattress that doesn’t lose some air overnight, and the older I’ve got, the less I enjoy sleeping so close to the floor.

  • Very inexpensive and readily available
  • They roll/fold up very small making them easy to transport
  • Lightweight
  • Lack of insulation can be addressed by using extra layers/blankets etc.
  • Single, double, queen and kingsize options all available
  • Air pump needed to inflate (manual, rechargeable or electric)
  • Air often leaks out during use
  • They take up more space than a sleeping mat or SIM so you might struggle to reach full occupancy using airbeds
  • Cheaper models can puncture easily
  • Poor insulation so they can often be cold to sleep on
  • Life-span tends to be quite poor (a few uses rather than a few years, though there are rare exceptions)

BUDGET: Silentnight Flock Inflatable Airbed £19.99, Go Outdoors

silentnight airbed

MID RANGE: Vango Airhead Double Flocked Airbed £30, Go Outdoors

Vango Airhead Double Flocked Airbed £39.99, Go Outdoors

LUXURY: AeroBed Active Dual Chamber Bed £112.64,

Aerobed active dual chambered bed

4. Double-Height Air Mattresses

Double height mattresses keep you well off the ground, making it feel more like you are getting into a real bed and as such they can be a very good option for those with mobility issues. As well as looking and feeling more like a ‘real’ bed, double height air mattresses are very comfortable.

Due to their size, they can take considerable time to inflate, so a 12v or battery powered pump should be factored into the purchase cost, inflating with a foot pump takes approximately 17 hours…

My experience: I spent 18 months sleeping on the same double-height twin size (slightly wider than a single) mattress. I loved it so much that when it finally started to deflate significantly during the night, I bought the exact same one again, which lost a lot of air from the first use. I managed to use it only twice before I got so fed up with it deflating in the night that I had to throw it away…

Whilst It’s usual for some air to leak out of an airbed, in my experience the quality of seams and valves can vary greatly, and because they can be relatively expensive (a Kingsize double-height airbed can easily set you back £80 or more), when they do start to lose air (not from a puncture that can be repaired), it’s quite a big investment to replace it. We have the Campingaz double-height airbed shown below and the sides of this bow out – taking up more space inside the tent, but by comparison the sides of our AeroBed Active do not, so if space is at a premium, make sure you choose a design that maintains it’s shape, like the Coleman DuraRest or AeroBed.

  • Very comfortable to sleep on
  • Extra height makes them ideal for those with mobility issues
  • Lack of insulation can be addressed by using extra layers/blankets etc.
  • Single, double, queen and king size options available
  • Air pump needed to inflate (manual, rechargeable or electric)
  • They take a long time to inflate up so best used with a powered pump
  • Many already have an electric mains pump attached, making them unsuitable for camping (unless you have an EHU)
  • They can be cold to sleep on so you’ll need to insulate your back/top of the mattress in cold weather
  • Fairly expensive and suffer from same durability issues as basic single air mattresses
  • Variable quality of seams and valves can result in inconsistent performance, even from same model and brand
  • You may find that the sides bow out, increasing the overall width of the airbed meaning you’ll need plenty of space inside your tent.

BUDGET: Campingaz Raised X’tra Quickbed Double £49.93,

Campingaz Raised X'tra Quickbed Double

MID RANGE: AeroBed Comfort Raised King Airbed £75, Go Outdoors

 AeroBed Comfort Raised King Airbed

LUXURY: Coleman DuraRest Raised Air Mattress £89.99, Go Outdoors

 Coleman DuraRest™ Raised Double Airbed

5. Folding Camp Beds

Frequently used by the military, this style of bed offers great value and good levels of comfort, providing you’re happy sleeping on your back or don’t like to spread out too much. Stretched canvas is generally attached to a folding Aluminium frame. To erect, typically two Aluminium poles are placed either end and slot into position to pull the canvas taut and keep the whole frame rigid.

Whilst this style of camp bed is heavier and bulkier than the other options we’ve looked at so far, most come with storage/carry bags, making them a great choice for people who are frequent car campers, i.e. transporting their camping gear in a car and not having to carry it. One of the big benefits of this style of bed is that they don’t deflate overnight so once it’s up, you don’t need to think about it again and you’ll get more life out of this style of bed than your average air mattress.

My experience: I spent a couple of years using a folding camp bed, purchased for under £25 from Aldi. I loved it, but then I broke my back and could no longer sleep flat on my back. Sleeping on my side on a folding camp bed resulted in a painful hip the next day as the sleeping surface has no padding so I could no longer use it, and that’s when I swapped to a double-height air mattress.

  • No faffing around with pumps required
  • They can be purchased cheaply
  • Quick to put up
  • Fairly sturdy
  • The extra height keeps your back away from the cold floor
  • Comfort is improved greatly if you use a sleeping mat on top
  • Storage space created under the bed (great for stowing rucksacks .etc)
  • Usually single, though there are some double options available
  • They are fairly narrow, so not too comfortable if you prefer to spread out
  • Not comfortable for side sleepers due to lack of padding
  • Generally much heavier to carry
  • They are fairly big to transport so only suitable for car camping

BUDGET: Freedom Trail Slumber Aluminium Camp Bed £34.99, Go Outdoors

Freedom Trail Slumber Aluminium Camp Bed

MID RANGE: Outwell Posadas Foldaway Single Bed £39.99, Winfield Outdoors

Outwell Posadas Folding BedLUXURY: Outwell Centuple Double Camp Bed £199,

 Outwell Centuple Double Camp Bed £143.95

6. Carp Fishing Beds

Whilst a fishing bed might not be the first things that springs to mind when thinking of camp beds, Carp fishermen have been keeping a secret from the rest of us, and that’s the key to a comfortable night of sleep outdoors. Known as Chairbeds, Carp fishing beds are designed to provide somewhere comfortable to sit hour after hour, and they serve a dual purpose as they convert easily from a chair to a bed.

Fishing beds are seriously comfortable. Most have adjustable legs, so are great for use on uneven ground, and look out too for a padded sprung base, which makes it easy to adjust the firmness. For even greater comfort, top-end fishing beds include thick memory foam pads. They also make an excellent choice for heavier people, and there are extra long and wide options too.

The compromise however comes in terms of their size and portability – they are big and fairly heavy and only to be considered if you’re using a vehicle to get to and from the campsite, and even then you’ll need to make sure you have enough space, both inside your car and in your tent.

My experience: After being fed up with inflatable beds deflating overnight and sore stiff hips from using my folding camp bed I went along to my local fishing shop and tried out a number of different models of bed. I eventually chose one which provided the most comfort and the least bulk and I couldn’t be happier. It’s quite simply amazing.

If you’re considering a fishing bed, I’d urge you to try it out before you buy – I can thoroughly recommend Fishing Republic, who were a huge help when I bought mine last year.

  • Quick to put up
  • Ideal for use on uneven ground
  • Padded mattresses make for a very comfortable nights sleep
  • The extra padding of the mattress keeps you warm
  • Most are much wider than a standard single bed, making them ideal for those that like space
  • Most can easily be converted into chairs or day beds making them very versatile
  • Elastic bases can often be adjusted to your preferred firmness
  • Single and extra-wide options available
  • They are big and take up a serious amount of transportation space
  • Extra size means they are a bit heavier to carry than other styles of camp bed
  • Single size beds are often wider than standard and so take up more room inside the tent
  • They are expensive compared to some other options
  • Carry bags aren’t usually included as standard
  • Looks wise, you get to choose from very limited options; mainly olive green

BUDGET: TFGear Chill Out 3 Leg Fishing Bed £75, Go Outdoors

TFGear Chill Out 3-Leg Bed

MID RANGE: ANACONDA Bed Chair Cusky £218,

Anaconda Fishing Bed Chair

LUXURY: Trakker Levelite Oval Bed System £399.99, Fishing Republic


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