Couples Camping Gear Just Got Even Better
New two-person sleep systems are lighter, plusher, and more affordable
Back in 2016, I reported on exciting innovations that were, for the first time, enabling two people to sleep together comfortably outside. Now I’m even more excited to report that the nascent couples camping space is already evolving quickly. New pads promise to make such sleeping arrangements more comfortable, lighter, cheaper, or considerably easier to transport than ever before.
I want to get right to the innovations, so excuse me if I recap only briefly. Until just a few years ago, if you wanted to cuddle your buddy in a tent, you had to do so either across the gap between your two separate sleeping pads or, worse, camp on one of those too cheap inflatable air beds that provide zero support or insulation.
Something better was needed, and that need was met by two amazing products: the Exped MegaMat Duo and the two-person Big Agnes Q-Core SLX. The former is ridiculously plush but way too big and heavy to fit in a backpack. The latter actually creates a lighter, more compact base weight than two one-person pads. I’ve found both to be life changing.
The trouble with the Exped MegaMat is that it’s both expensive and challenging to pack, even in a car. To remedy those issues, the Swiss mountaineering brand will reveal a slimmer, more affordable luxury camping pad this week called the DeepSleep. Like the MegaMat it will be available in both regular and long-wide sizes. The long-wide DeepSleep Duo matches the full-size bed length and width of the long-wide MegaMat Duo (77.6 inches by 52 inches) but will cost $279 to the MegaMat Duo’s price of $389. Compared to the four-inch-thick MegaMat, the DeepSleep measures just three inches thick but still features a comfortable, durable, stretchy, and totally flat sleeping surface, vertical sidewalls, and the two separate flat valves for inflation and deflation. It sacrifices the MegaMat’s plush tricot top fabric for a slicker, cheaper alternative. The long-wide DeepSleep Duo weighs just under 9.9 pounds and packs down into a 27.6-inch-long-by-11.8-inch-thick roll. The long-wide MegaMat Duo weighs 10.2 pounds and packs down to the same size.
I laid the DeepSleep out next to the MegaMat to see how they differ. Immediately, I noticed that while sitting on the thinner DeepSleep, my butt would hit the floor if the pad wasn’t inflated absolutely as firm as it gets. That never happens with the MegaMat, even at lower levels of inflation. With that thicker pad, even if you’re on your hands and knees, bouncing vigorously, no part of your body will ever come into contact with the ground. But rolled over on my side, the DeepSleep did still prove extremely comfortable and supportive. R-value drops from 9.5 for the MegaMat to 8.5 on the DeepSleep. Still, that’s enough to keep you alive down to minus 45 degrees Fahrenheit when paired with the right sleeping bag.
There will also be one-person versions of the DeepSleep starting as low as $149 for the 72-inch-by-20-inch model. This is a great, more affordable option for campers who don’t need their pad to support athletic sexual endeavors (the MegaMat remains the superior option in that regard).
I’d never have thought there’d be a need for an even more ridiculous MegaMat, but Exped is also introducing a six-inch-thick version of that pad called the MegaMat Max. That will be available in two sizes: a 77.6-inch-by-30.3-inch one-person pad for $299 and a 77.6-inch-by-52-inch Duo for $429. The Max is built just like the four-inch MegaMat, just with more air and foam creating those two extra inches of thickness and a level of comfort that’s almost obscene. It also has a hitherto-unheard-of R-value of 11, meaning it’s good for sleeping outside in temperatures as low as minus 76 degrees. It’s obviously also heavier (13.6 pounds) and more difficult to pack (30 by 14 inches). I think it’s total overkill for even luxury car camping, but if you’re looking for the most comfortable mattress money can buy to install in your custom-built Sprinter van, cabin, or canvas tent, then this is absolutely it—by a long shot.
All three Expeds remain bulky and difficult to transport. That’s a problem Nemo set out to tackle with its new Roamer pad, available in two sizes: 76 by 25 inches for $210 or 80 by 30 inches for $230. Both are four inches thick and offer an equivalent experience to the regular MegaMat. You may have noticed that I haven’t mentioned a two-person version. That’s because Nemo doesn’t make one, instead relying on a coupling system that allows you to join two one-person pads into one two-person pad. I’ve never found two coupled pads to offer anything like the unified comfort of a true two-person pad, but Nemo seems to have solved that problem with a toggle system that’s both easy to use and pulls the pads so tightly together that you can genuinely detect no gap or crack while laying or moving around on them.
Achieving true two-person comfort from two separate pads makes the system much easier to pack and transport. The smaller version of the Roamer weighs just 3.9 pounds and packs into a 12.5-by-8.5-inch roll. Inflated, two of those together provide similar full-size bed dimensions to the MegaMat Duo, while saving over two pounds. Two of the bigger Roamers add up to a 60-inch-wide, 80-inch-long, completely flat sleeping surface. That’s exactly equivalent to a queen-size mattress but with a total weight that’s just three ounces more than the full-size MegaMat Duo. Together, two of those big Roamers take up about two-thirds of the packed space as the MegaMat Duo, and by splitting them up, they’re made even easier to pack into a truck, raft, or luggage.
That queen-size Roamer setup is what Wiley, Virginia, Kevin, and I are pictured in up top. There really is enough room for three people and a dog to sleep comfortably in it, so long as you like each other. More typically, it’ll just be housing Virginia and me, plus our three big dogs. So it’s a nice upgrade in size from the MegaMat Duo, with the same comfort, plus improved packability.
It’s also nice that Nemo makes a rectangular sleeping bag sized exactly to queen-size dimensions. The 8.6-pound Jazz Double Luxury ($350) features a generous hood (it’ll easily swallow pillows from home), two full-length zippers on each side, and synthetic insulation that helps make it comfortable down to 20 degrees. An integrated pad sleeve and strap help attach it securely to the pads, so it won’t bunch up or allow you to roll off while you sleep. Because the Roamers are good down to minus 30 degrees, the bag is also a solid start for cold nights when paired with these pads. Just pile on more blankets or quilts to achieve even more insulation.
What if you want to sleep together while pursuing type-two fun? Well, there’s news from the ultralight market as well. Big Agnes has taken the already excellent two-person Q-Core SLX pad and made an upsize version scaled to exactly fill the dimensions of most two-person backpacking tents. Compared to the rectangular alternative, its dimensions at the head end grow from 40 to 50 inches, then taper down to 40 inches at the foot. At 78 inches, it’s also six inches longer. Weight increases from 2.4 pounds to 2.6 pounds.
While Big Agnes doesn’t currently make one of its awesome system bags scaled to fit the SLX tent floor pad, it can be used with either traditional mummy bags, quilts, or, better yet, its three-pound insulated tent comforter ($90). That on its own won’t be enough for nights dipping below about 50 degrees, but in the summer, this setup could bring unprecedented space and freedom of movement deep in the backcountry.
And that’s the point of the entire couples camping space. There are plenty of people who will look at this stuff and see ounce counts that don’t add up or price tags that scare them off. But for those of us who can think of nothing better than spending a night outside with someone (or some people) we love, and doing so comfortably and enjoyably, then this gear is just awesome.