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I bought a queen-sized four-inch memory topper and cut it into two halves to get two twin(ish)-sized toppers. I use one half on my bed at home, but that left me with another extra half. I've heard people talk about using memory foam toppers for camping, and so I've taken this topper out into the outdoors (car camping only) on several occasions as well.

Cool weather

The problem is, I've had mixed results. In cooler weather, the memory foam gets cold and hard and is only comfortable once you wait for the foam to warm up directly underneath you. If you move in your sleep, this can be disturbing, as you have to wait for the foam underneath you to warm up for it to be comfortable. This isn't a huge deal, but it's not as comfortable as the same topper at room-temperature.

Warm weather

In warmer weather, the memory foam loses its "memory" and just ends up being super squishy foam. I believe it retained heat (in the summer, not cooler weather!) more than I would have liked. Again, not as comfortable.

Has anyone else tried this? Is your experience different from mine? What am I doing wrong?

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    "What am I doing wrong?" – You're using a memory foam mattress topper for camping. Consider using a camping mattress for camping instead. – ShemSeger Mar 4 '15 at 17:48
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First things first:

Has anyone else tried this?

No I've not tried it.


Would I use a mattress topper while camping

No

Why?

  • They're heavy and awkward to move in and out of tent
  • they'll absorb water
  • they'y designed to sit on top of a nice flat mattress not a bumpy stone covered field
  • (as you say) they will react differently depending on the temperature.

So what should you do?

I'd invest in a decent ground mat (some in cotswolds here). Ground mats have come a long way from the thin peices of foam rubber you stuck under you sleeping bag. Most (good) ground mats these days are inflatable. This allows them to be much thicker than the old foam ones. This keeps you warmer and more comfortable. You can also adjust the pressure depending on your preference.

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    Great answer. Nothing like feeling a rock sticking into your back on a foam mat though ;) – Aravona Mar 5 '15 at 16:20
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    For cold weather, some inflatable ones have fibres or dawn inside, and are only a wee bit bulkier. – Davidmh Mar 5 '15 at 22:11
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I've used foam mattress toppers before. So they can absolutely work well but there's a few things to keep in mind.

  1. Thickness - 4" is OK and would probably be great for a back sleeper on grass. However, on a more rocky/rigid surface that may only be entry-level comfort and you might find that bigger rocks can be felt underneath. Thus, you might need to find a buffer zone for those rigid areas (like an old compressed rollout mat used for backpacking or even a thick old blanket. Increasing the density of material between you and the ground is the key. I'd suggest anything over 4" to find some decent comfort because that foam really compresses under body weight. 6" would probably be the sweet spot, especially if you're more preferable to side sleeping.

  2. Material - Memory foam is great, gel-infused memory foam is better. Gel allows for more air flow which means you get ventilated padding that doesn't heat up with your body as much as it could. Most people prefer cooler sleeping surfaces and that's backed by science that says ideally your room temp should be around 68-70 degrees for optimal conditions. Too warm = less sleep. Too cold = shivering/less sleep. Your sleeping bag/blanket set should do just fine as long as it's rated to handle the temperatures you're camping in.

  3. Weather - Wet weather is something to keep in mind. If you've got a great tent with a great rainfly then you won't really have an issue here. But if you're rolling with a budget tent and a small rainfly you gotta be very careful not to track water into your tent. A little isn't an issue but a leak will turn your sleeping area into a wet sponge and that sucks. If it's dry, regardless of cooler or warmer temps, then you'll be just fine.

Getting an inflating air mattress can set you back $100+, especially for a queen size. My wife and I got a queen size and I think it's OK but it leaks a little air when more than a couple hundred pounds are on it and that sucks for multi night camping and so I'm looking to buy a gel-foam topper and use a giant old foam topper as my base. Should give me roughly 6" of foam to lay on and I may buy a duvet cover or some kind of cheap sheet to wrap it all in which will be great to lay on at night. BTW Walmart has pretty good deals on gel foam toppers. I think you can get a 3" topper Full size for $30 - hard to beat.

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