DIY Camping Mattress So You Can Finally Sleep

Let’s face it, sleeping in a tent isn’t the most comfortable. But with some creativity you can make your sleeping experience more comfortable. Because, if you are car camping, you can bring whatever you want to enhance your sleeping experience! I just tried my own sleeping solution, and had a much better sleeping experience.

The layers to a perfect camping mattress are:

  • Base layer: camping pad that provides insulation such as closed-cell foam
  • Comfort Layer: Thick old comforter, old sleeping bags spread out, and/or foam mattress topper
  • Warmth Layer: Any blanket or comforter you like to sleep with for warmth
  • Pillows: All the pillows!

There seems to be some unspoken rule that you’re not really “camping” unless you are uncomfortable. I say that camping is about enjoying the outdoors and, for me, getting a good night’s rest helps me enjoy the nature around me. So I finally decided to step outside the norm and create my own sleeping solution that would allow me to sleep more comfortably – without spending a lot of money. Let me tell you about my sleep set up!

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The Camping Mattress Sleep Set Up (Worked For Me While I Was Pregnant)

When creating your own DIY sleep situation in a tent, it’s all about the layers. Most likely you aren’t going to take a real mattress out there with you (not unheard of though), and so you are going to want to have a few layers of padding between you and the hard (potentially cold) ground. I suggest picking one main type of padding of your preference and then some other layers below and on top of that.

It may seem like overkill to have so many layers, but the layers of padding are what improve the comfort of your sleeping experience. So don’t be afraid to have more layers than you think you need.

Previously I was using an inflatable sleeping pad. But I hated it because it would partially deflate during the night, and it just wasn’t comfortable to me. So I have opted for a twin-size memory foam mattress topper – we happened to already have one that we weren’t using on a bed anymore.

The first layer of my setup was two thin foam camping sleeping pads.

Then I put the mattress topper.

Then I put an old sleeping bag opened like a blanket.

Next came my mummy sleeping bag. Those 4 pieces made up my base.

On top I threw an old comforter. For our first test of this set up, the comforter was plenty of warmth. But in colder or warmer weather I will use more or less blankets.

awesome tent sleeping solution

To top it off, add the pillows of your choice. I am usually satisfied with my travel pillow. But I might experiment and bring some nicer pillows to see if it significantly improves the experience.

The first time I tried my new set up, I was 30 weeks pregnant, so I brought ALL my pillows from home (4 in total) since I knew it would be even harder to get comfortable while sleeping. And, I can say that the experience was better than usual! Even being 30 weeks pregnant.

I am much happier with the foam padding instead of the inflatable, and liked having plenty of blankets / sleeping bag to snuggle up in.

What I Might Try Different

For future uses of this sleep situation, there are a few things I might try differently.

I might try adding another layer of foam as padding. We have another twin size egg crate foam pad and I’d like to try throwing that in my mattress cover with the other foam pad – just to see if that enhances the comfort any.

I also have a twin size foam mattress from Ikea (the ones that are a few inches thick). That might be a bit heavy to load into and out of the car, but I wouldn’t be opposed to testing that as well, just to see what the difference in comfort level is.

Also, during the summer months, we definitely won’t need our sleeping bags and, as I mention below, snuggling is a great perk of this diy sleeping solution – with the one exception of sleeping bags. Our mummy bags are very cozy, but keep us pretty separate. So when it’s warm enough to sleep without them, I think I might bring a few lighter blankets and leave the sleeping bags at home.

Some Other Perks


One of the things I also really liked about my sleep set up was that nothing I brought had to be inflated or put together. I did have to put out my layers, but it was as simple as just laying them out.

Not Breaking the Bank

Since I used materials that we already had around the house, my new sleep set up cost me nothing! There is some pretty expensive gear you can buy to help you sleep more comfortably while camping, but unless you camp a lot, that might not be worth it. See what you have around the house already!

The one thing I did buy was a waterproof mattress cover for the mattress topper. I can wash everything else if it gets dirty, but not the foam pad, so I wanted to make sure to protect that.

More Like a Bed

I liked that all my layers and blankets felt more like a bed than my usual tent sleeping experiences. The foam topper provided one continuous sleep surface, unlike a thick, slender sleeping pad (I always feel like I’m going to slide off those if I move too much). And I am a tosser and turner. So the foam topper made it easier to turn over. Also the foam topper was quieter to sleep on (a perk when tossing and turning and trying not to make too much noise for your camp-mates).

The layers of blankets also provided a bed-like experience. Beds are covered in sheets and blankets, and it was comforting to have a similar experience in my tent, rather than my normal mummy bag and inflatable pad. If my feet needed to poke out of the blankets to cool down they weren’t resting on the tent floor or on my rough inflatable pad.


My diy sleeping solution ended up creating one large sleeping area, whereas previously my husband and I each had our own sleeping area. The inflatable pads we used separated us and made it pretty near impossible to snuggle up to each other during cold nights. This sleeping solution has made it possible for us to snuggle while we are camping – which is a plus for couples and families with small children.

Related Questions

What different kinds of padding are there to sleep on? Three of the most common types of sleeping pads are: (1) inflatable air pads (the ones you blow up), (2) self-inflating pads (which usually use a combination of air and open-cell foam), and (3) closed-cell foam pads (these are the thinnest).

How can I maintain a comfortable body temperature while sleeping in a tent? There are a few things you can do to make sure you are a comfortable temperature in your tent. If it’s cold: sleep with more blankets, more padding. more clothing, and hand warmers. Check out this post for more tips on how to stay warm while camping. If it’s hot: sleep with less blankets, sleep on top of your sleeping bag, and invest in a battery powered fan.


The planner behind all the adventuring.

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