It can be hard to get a good night's sleep when you're camping, especially if you have back pain. That's why it's so important to have a good mattress. The best camping mattress for bad backs is typically firm without being too hard and offers several inches of support, so you won't feel any discomfort from the hard or uneven ground beneath you. To help find out more, I emailed Dr. Gbolahan Okubadejo, FAAOS, a New York-based spinal and orthopedic surgeon. He said that firmer mattresses are particularly helpful for lower back pain.
"Lower back pain is the most common and is usually tied to basic muscle strain but also complicated issues that affect the nerves and vertebrae," Dr. Okubadejo says. "A mattress that helps with lower back pain needs to provide sufficient support. If a bed is too soft, the hips may sink too deeply into the mattress and out of alignment with the lower lumbar region." This means that if you opt for a mattress with memory foam, you shold pick a firmer model, and if you select an inflatable style, you'll want to make sure it has a durable, leak-proof design.
Another important factor is the size of the mattress, according to Dr. Okubadejo, both in terms of width and depth. He recommends trying a wider option or a double sleeping pad if possible so you have more room to move around. And it should be at least 3 inches thick, he adds, to offer enough cushion from potentially rocky, uneven terrain.
"When people have a bad back, they often need the flexibility of space to stretch out to positions that are most comfortable for their back," he says. "Most singular camping mattresses don't afford this." If your pain makes it difficult to get up and down off the ground, he suggests using a camping cot to reduce the distance you have to crouch down.
Lastly, Dr. Okubadejo recommends consulting your own doctor before the trip. Everyone has individualized needs, he explains, so it's important to describe your injury and how it occurred so you can get the best mattress recommendations.
Given these considerations, here are some of the best camping mattresses for bad backs.
1. The Best Foam Mattress
What's great about it: Constructed with soft, comfortable material, this high-quality memory foam camping mattress is ideal for bad backs. As Dr. Okubadejo recommends, it features supportive memory foam and a thick 3-inch cushion. What's more, it's wider than most camping pads and features a "firm but soft" feel, according to reviewers. Customers on Amazon have vouched for its compatibility with bad backs and, in addition to the pain-friendly qualities, it comes with a soft cotton terry sheet that's waterproof. Not only that, but there's a grippy water-resistant bottom panel underneath. The easy-to-carry handle makes it super portable and fans noted that it's simple to roll up when not in use.
One reviewer says: "I have back issues that make sleeping anywhere difficult and I was very wonderfully surprised at how well I slept on this mattress on the floor for 2 full weeks. I highly recommend this product and hope to purchase another one."
- Available sizes: Twin, Single, Kids
2. The Best For Cars
What's great about it: If you're looking for a car camping mattress, this inflatable option is smooth and comfortable, according to fans. Compatible with most trucks, SUVs, minivans, and RVs, the design is extra wide and it's incredibly easy to inflate. (Per the manufacturer the process takes less than five minutes). The mattress holds air well and remains firm throughout the night. It's 4.7 inches thick (even more on the outside edges) which helps provide the support that Dr. Okubadejo says is so important. Plus, it's simple to clean and has an ergonomic wave design for comfort.
One reviewer says: "It took me literally no more than 5 min to inflate the Mattress. The mattress is very comfortable and looks the same as the picture. Besides, when it's easy to carry when deflated. Overall good experience!"
- Available sizes: One size
3. The Best Sleeping Pad
What's great about it: If you're looking for a basic sleeping pad but you don't want the aches that sometimes come with sleeping on them, check out this comfy option from In Your Prime. If you use it on its own, it's a little thinner than Dr. Okubadejo recommends, at 2.25 inches. But it's firm without feeling too hard and, at 47 inches wide, the camping mattress for two offers plenty of space for you to move around. According to reviewers, it's comfortable to sleep on and compatible with bad backs. It inflates in seconds and the durable material (made from 40-denier ripstop nylon) is puncture-resistant too. As a bonus, it comes with a Paracord survival bracelet with a flint, compass, and fire scraper.
One reviewer says: "This is a great mattress topper if you have back problems and didnt take but a min to inflate with the blowup bag."
- Available sizes: One size
4. The Best Cot
What's great about it: On top of providing a decently soft and comfortable mattress to sleep on, this option features a built-in cot that saves you from having to crouch down low (something which can also help folks with bad backs). It's designed with a supportive coil system that offers excellent cushioning, along with a double-locking valve so air doesn't leak, keeping it firm all night. It's wider than most camping mattresses and, while the exact thickness isn't given, reviewers estimated that it boasts at least 5 inches of support. The sturdy steel frame doesn't wobble and it's capable of supporting up to 300 pounds. As an added bonus, it features two compact side tables with cup holders.
One reviewer says: "I loved going camping as a kid and teenager but I had back surgery several years ago and sleeping on the wrong surface can really make me miserable for a few days after. I was extremely skeptical that this product would offer enough support for me [...] but I woke up with no back pain at all. We ended up staying for 4 nights and I didn't have any issues."
- Available sizes: TK
5. The Best For RVs
What's great about it: Constructed with soft polyester fiber blended with smooth rayon, this luxurious hybrid mattress — which comes in a wide variety of sizes in addition to the "short queen" model featured above — is perfect if you're camping in an RV or a trailer and ready for an upgrade. The soft, supportive polyurethane memory foam, which no doubt beats the hard mattress your camper came with, is in line with the Dr. Okubadejo's recommendations, and on top of that, it has an innerspring base that adds even more comfort to your sleep. This mattress is firm enough to support your back yet not so hard that it makes you feel achy. Plus, it's available in 8-, 10-, and 12-inch thickness versions. The exceptionally popular mattress has more than 58,000 reviews on Amazon and a 4.6-star overall rating.
One reviewer says: "I can’t believe how comfortable it is!!! I have old dance training injuries and can tell immediately if something is going to hurt my back! ... Great that it comes in variety of thickness and LOVE that it comes in short queen for an RV and boat! I’m super happy with this purchase and I’m like a princess when it comes to my bed! Best money I’ve ever spent on a mattress!"
- Available sizes: Twin, Twin XL, Full, Short Queen, Queen, King, California King