Camping is typically fun, but when you sleep in your car it can be a challenge to get adequately comfortable. If you own an SUV, it’s a little easier, but you can probably use some tips and extra gear to make it work well for you.

Sleeping in your car appears to be the ideal way to stay warm without having to set up a hot tent or bundle up in a sub-zero sleeping bag, but looks can be deceiving. If you’ve never slept in your car, you can expect to wake up with a sore back and cramped legs – if you can even sleep, that is.

If you’re planning to sleep in your vehicle the next time you go camping, here’s how to turn your car into a better, more comfortable place to sleep.

1. Get an SUV if you camp regularly


If you camp regularly and don’t sleep in a tent, it’s worth trading in your small car for an SUV. Not only will a larger vehicle help you carry more recreational gear, but you’ll have more room to sleep inside it.

Owning an SUV will make everyday life easier, too. You won’t have to worry about lacking sufficient space for your groceries or tools and appliances from a hardware store.

And contrary to what you might expect, you don’t have to spend a fortune. You can get a good deal on an SUV from a place like car yards

2. Get a car mattress

Have you ever tried to shove a real mattress into your car just for camping? It’s not easy, and most of the time, it doesn’t work.

Most mattresses are too long to fit sideways in a back seat, and most cars are too short to lay out a mattress from the hood to the trunk. Even with the back seats flattened, a mattress is difficult because it adds 4-6 inches of height. Can you really see yourself getting comfortable sleeping on your back with your face two inches from the roof of your car?

Happily, several companies make car mattresses that are specifically designed to turn your back seat (or truck bed) into a comfortable place to sleep without the additional height.

Car mattresses are basically air mattresses shaped to fit in your car with built-in pillows and “pillars” that support the mattress over the empty space in your back seat. Most of these back-seat mattresses fit in a sedan with ease, but you’ll still be cramped. If you’re even slightly taller than average, you’ll have to curl up on your side to sleep in your car – unless you have an SUV.

You can get one of these to fit any car, but the widest range of options are available if you own an SUV. Car mattresses for SUVs are large and designed to fill the entire back seat and trunk area. Knowing this, it’s easy to see why owning an SUV is better for camping. You have more space and more options for gear.

3. Get a folding memory foam mattress


Folding memory foam mattresses are great for just about everything. They usually fold up in three sections and are anywhere from 4 to 8 inches thick.

If you can fit a folding memory foam mattress into your car, you’ll definitely enjoy a great night’s sleep. One of the advantages is you don’t have to unfold these all the way.

If all you can unfold across the horizontal space is two sections, you can use the thick, doubled-up section to elevate your head or your feet. Also, for campers who are not comfortable sleeping on an air mattress, these are great because you can get them in smaller sizes designed for children and even babies.

4. Get a pillow-top mattress

Pillow-top mattresses are excellent for sleeping in a motor vehicle. A full-sized pillow top folded in half will have enough cushioning to support any weight, provided you’re not sleeping directly on the floor.

Your car’s cushioned seats will make sleeping on a pillow top more comfortable. Although, you’ll still have a lack of space without an SUV, so you might feel a little cramped.

Pillow-top mattresses are fantastic for truck beds and when placed in the back of an SUV. They’re more comfortable than air mattresses, though slightly more expensive.

5. Get a memory-foam mattress topper


A memory-foam mattress topper might be your best option if you can’t get a car mattress. These toppers are flexible and easy to fold, so you can double or triple them up in the back seat.

A memory-foam mattress topper should give you a good night’s sleep, and it will also keep you warmer since they tend to retain body heat.

6. Sleep on body pillows

As a last resort, if you can’t get a pillow-top mattress, a car mattress, or any kind of memory-foam mattress, get your on-the-road rest on body pillows. Lay them out horizontally relative to the length of your body so they’ll stay put.

Place a warm blanket on top of the pillows and you’ll have a comfortable bed. If you don’t have an RV for camping, body pillows can go a long way toward making you feel like you’re sleeping in luxury.

7. Get a warm sleeping bag and sleeping pad


Once you have a way to get physically comfortable when you’re prone, don’t forget to stay warm! A big part of being comfortable includes staying warm.

Get a cold-weather sleeping bag that works in all temperatures. Some even come with three layers so you can choose how warm you’d like to be in your bag.

Even in the summer, you’ll feel more comfortable if you have a warm sleeping bag. Nights can get surprisingly cool, even when the days are hot.

Car camping can be comfortable

Sleeping in your car doesn’t have to be uncomfortable. If you get the right padding and mattress, you’ll wake up feeling refreshed the next time you camp in your car.