Last Updated on 26/10/2022
What to Put Under Air Mattresses When Camping?
In this guide on what to put under air mattresses when camping, we share all the different ways you can raise an inflatable sleeping pad off the floor, improve warmth, and protect it from punctures.
You might be wondering, what can I put under my air mattress to protect it from punctures and add warmth when camping? The most obvious choice is to use a foam sleeping pad which is the perfect size and designed for the purpose. There however several other things you can use if you don’t have a spare foam pad lying around.
By adding something insulative under a sleeping pad you can increase the temperature range of your sleeping pad to be suitable for winter. A benefit of using something under your air bed when camping is that it will protect it from any puncture hazards but also allows you to camp directly on the ground instead of using a tent. Here are some of the many things you can use under an inflatable sleeping pad when camping.
8 Things You Can Put Under An Air Mattress
Foam Sleeping Pad
Foam sleeping pads are my favorite type of air mattress liner because they are cheap, durable, and reliable. You can pick them up almost anywhere for around $10 or you can even use a yoga mat which you can get for a dollar from a thrift store. I prefer a compact and lightweight pad like the Thermarest Z lite or NEMO Switchback which costs a bit more but is worth it in the long run.
When you use a foam pad under an air bed you gain puncture protection, added warmth (between 1 – 2 R-value), and potentially some comfort on your hips if you have a thin pad. If you have ever woken up to a punctured air mattress you will understand why having some protection helps you sleep a little easier. Foam pads never fail.
Foam pads are easy to carry. You can strap one to the outside of your backpack without worrying about it getting punctured or damaged and if you ever fall backward you have some cushion to break your fall. They make excellent seats on the wet ground around camp, absorb very little water, and always seem to come in handy.
EVA Foam Mat
Foam matting is the perfect material to put under an inflatable sleeping pad. The best things about it are that it is available in varying thicknesses far beyond what you will ever need and it can be cut to size so you can really customize it to your needs.
EVA foam is what most camping mats are made from however you will only find a very limited range of depths in outdoor gear shops. If you want a really thin piece of foam to put under an air mattress then you are best looking for the industrial material in sheets like this EVA 1/8″ Foam Pad.
Similarly, if you want a foam pad that is thicker than those available in camping shops you should look at things like foam mattress toppers and again industrial-sized sheets like this 4-inch closed-cell foam. You can also use multiple layers of foam to create a sleeping pad sandwich.
We have spoken before about using a wool blanket as a sleeping pad but how about using one as a liner underneath an air mattress? Wool is such a versatile material that can be used in so many ways and indeed you can put a wool blanket underneath an air mattress to improve protection and warmth. You may even consider wrapping a wool blanket around a sleeping pad completely for a liner on the bottom and also on the top.
If you want to use a wool blanket to put underneath sleeping pads then we recommend one of these rugged camp blankets and where possible you should fold it over multiple times to increase its depth. Wool is an excellent insulator that even works when wet but the fact that it does absorb some moisture could be an issue if you are sleeping directly on wet ground.
One thing I would say to look out for when using a wool blanket as a sleeping pad liner is thorns and other puncture hazards that become attached to the wool fibers when you lay on it. Wool will absolutely give you some protection against thorns but those thorns may then get stuck to it. If you then use the other side of the blanket next time you go camping this could potentially puncture your pad so always give it a pat down or stroke before laying on your pad.
Thermal or Mylar blankets are amazing at trapping radiated heat but they are very thin and will not provide too much puncture protection under your sleeping pad. Much more likely to tear after a few days of doing this. They also don’t add too much thermal value when placed underneath your air pad and instead should be placed on top of your pad to reflect your body heat back at you before it is lost through the hollow air space of an uninsulated air mattress.
Better than the thin survival blankets is reflective insulation like Reflectix which is not designed for camping but is actually perfectly suited for lining an air bed. It still doesn’t work very well without an air gap but it provides puncture-proofing and can be used to sit on as a foam pad can. The main benefit of something like Reflectix vs a mylar blanket is that is far more durable.
A sheepskin hide or rug is technically an old-school sleeping pad – it’s what many people used hundreds and thousands of years ago. I have used them when camping in the back of a van to add extra insulation and comfort to the situation. They have a durable leather back that lays flat on the ground to protect you from thorns and sharp rocks and then on top, it has a shaggy depth of a couple of inches for warmth and comfort.
A standard sheepskin rug is almost the perfect size and shape for an adult torso but you can get rugs with two sewn together for a full-length bed roll. Sheepskin rugs are not the heaviest but they are quite bulky and not as weatherproof as foam when you strap them to the outside of your backpack.
I really like using sheepskin rugs for camping as they are just such a good thing to have when sitting around camp. You can even use them as a shawl for warmth if you drape one over your shoulders. There is something special about using a sheepskin rug to sleep on that reminds you we aren’t so different from those people of past times.
Roll of Carpet or Lino
A roll of carpet would not be my first choice to take camping but it does make a good sleeping pad liner to put under an air mattress. Think about it… The underside is durable and waterproof while the top has some loft and insulation. It is cheap and easy to trim to size and although it isn’t the lightest, it isn’t too heavy or bulky.
A similar material you could use solely as an air mattress protector from punctures is lino flooring. Along with carpet, many people have a few spare offcuts in the attic or garage left over from recent renovations. It rolls up nice and tight, is completely waterproof, and is as tough as it gets.
Clothing or a Towel
Clothing can be put under sleeping pads if you are shivering at night and have nothing else to help keep you warm. Any kind of insulative jacket is better served over the top of your sleeping bag but if you can feel the heat being sucked into the ground then it is worth a try. Waterproof jackets, spare trousers, and tops can all be laid flat underneath a sleeping pad to try and trap some of your body heat and increase your sleeping pad’s R-value.
A towel is another last resort that you may have with you and can add a thin layer of insulation under your sleeping pad. The problem with towels though is that they are designed to absorb water and so dampness can build up very easily.
Tarp or Ground Sheet
A tarp or groundsheet is the best thing to put under inflatable mattresses when the ground is wet. They provide the most waterproofing and are often big enough to be used in a number of ways that help keep your dry and comfortable.
You can create a makeshift sleeping pad liner using a tarp wrapped around a blanket, some cardboard, or some natural materials like leaves/moss. This gives you waterproofing and added insulation under your air mattress.
Why Put Something Under an Inflatable Sleeping Pad?
There are two main reasons to put something under your inflatable sleeping pad. The first is to protect your air mattress from punctures or damage. The second is to add warmth to an under-insulated sleeping pad when the temperature is below 60 degrees. Another reason you might put something under a sleeping pad is for extra comfort.
Benefits of Raising Your Sleeping Pad Off the Ground
Here are some of the main benefits of using some extra padding under your air mattress:
- Avoid ground moisture
- Distance yourself from the cold ground
- Reduce the risk of puncture
- Extra comfort
- Can help with air circulation
Benefits of Putting Insulation Under Air Mattresses
Here are some of the benefits of adding insulation underneath your air pad to improve your R-value:
- Camp all year round
- Camp in cold environments
- Stay warmer
- Sleep better
- Use a quilt
What Is the Best Thing to Put Under an Air Mattress?
The best thing you can put under a single air mattress is a foam sleeping pad. They are cheap, lightweight, and durable, with an insulation R-value of between 1 and 2. If you have a double air mattress then two foam pads are best but a picnic blanket with a waterproof back will also do the job for a few nights.
We hope this guide on what to put under air mattresses when camping has given you some ideas and clarification on what to use and why.