Sleep Pads and SUV tents

I’m thinking of a REI 3.5" self-inflating pad for 99.50, Paco has a 3" for 250.00. Anyone with experience with self-inflating pads, either one of these brands? Not sure why the big price difference. I’m older, bad back, overweight but still trying or at least thinking of trying. I’d like to use something like this to see if I can sleep in the back of my old Blazer.

Along those lines - has anyone ever used or seen anyone use those SUV tents? There is one that just sort of fits over your open hatch and back end for sleeping and others that are tents connected to a “sock” that fit to your open back end. Honestly I don’t know how often I’ll do this, I’m exploring the idea. I have seen magnetized screens for vehicle windows and I think that’s a brilliant idea.


My opinion
is that the REI pad is the better value.

The Paco Pad is designed to be bullet-proof, standing up to the rigors of western river trips where just about all vegetation is sharp an prickly. They are designed to survive when there is no REI nearby for a replacement.

I have never been able to identify with the SUV cabanna-type tents. While there are apparently customers for them, it seems like a pain if you have to move your vehicle. ANd not every campsite has a tent pad adjacent to the parking pad. Better off to have a free-standing tent.


We’re using REI pads with just one step
less thickness, and it is plenty. Whatever you get, experiment in the store and at home with different degrees of inflation. I think pads work best if inflated just enough to keep your hip bone off the ground when you sleep on one side. If a pad is inflated more than that, then the rest of you will not be as evenly supported.

The thicker the pad, the more difficult it is to roll up and bag. That’s one reason not to buy more pad than you need. If you end up sleeping in an SUV a lot, see if you can avoid deflating and rolling up your pad. Often you can just fold it over once and put in over your cooler or something.

car Camping
Heck if you are car camping fit in a coleman twin size 6 inch inflatable air mattress and be done with it for a lot less. It won’t fit in your kayak, but it might fit in your canoe and I think it is better than most regular home mattresses.

Which type of SUV tent?

– Last Updated: May-07-10 3:18 PM EST –

Some are huge and sit on the ground as well as being attached to the rear of the vehicle.

Others serve as ventilated extensions of the vehicle. For one road trip, we bought one of these. We were going to be moving every night and didn't want wet-tent hassle, but sleeping in the SUV would've been too hot with windows closed, and too buggy with them open. The tent extension did the job so well that we now use it for all road trips in that vehicle (a Chevy Tahoe). For only $99, it was worth trying out.

Set-up is extremely quick, like two minutes or less.

Just make sure that you get the right size for your vehicle--if I remember correctly, it's sort of a generic fit for "medium/small" and "large" SUVs. There will be some gaps where the fabric fits around the tailgate, but not enough for rain to get in. When we go to buggy places with it, I spray some picaridin bug repellent on a paper towel, ball that up, and place it near the gaps. Has worked well.

I still prefer my truck topper with screened sliders, though.

Sleeping in SUVs
I’ve never used the SUV tents. I currently have a Toyota Tacoma with a Leer cap that has screened side windows. I’ve slept in the back of this, a Ford Explorer, and a Dodge Grand Caravan (with the middle buckets and rear bench seat removed) many times.

I have generally used the Thermarest self-inflating pads in their “CampRest” thickness and found them comfortable. I often don’t deflate and roll them up, as was said.

I know others with caps on their pickups who swear by a low cot. This allows one to slide some stuff underneath the cot. I think a large, thick air mattress would be a pain to inflate, deflate, fold, and store and probably not worth the trouble.

I have a Thermarest Luxury Camp for sale
This is the most comfortable mattress made by Thermarest.

SPECS: Size large. W 25” L 77” Thickness 2”. Foam on the bottom + self-inflating. R-value 7—can be used down to zero degrees. Condition: like new.

$70 (was $130 new).

If you’re interested, please e-mail me with your location.

futon mattress
in the back of the truck.We have a raised plywood floor so the wet pfds pads and paddles go underneath.

Now after ten years the futon mattress was questionable and we have a Coleman cheapo air mattress queen size that is fine. Buy an swim tube inflator for ten bucks at Wally World while you are there and most all cars have enough electrical outlets convenient to inflate the bed.

Though once I did inflate it in the cab in a driving rain and got forced out!

I have never tried one of those screen tents since there are so many gaps between the truck cap and bed anyway the no seeums get in. I just wear DEET to bed.

For now I think
I’m leaning with the Coleman suggestion. Dual use for guests. I don’t have an REI near me but there is one on the way to my Mother’s. I may put off my purchase till I see if REI has the 3".

As for the SUV thing - seems if it were dry you could use painters blue tape to seal the thing to the vehicle for the night.


mattress has a thermarest tkype mattress, 4" thick, for about $55. way comfortable.