HEST Sleep System Review: Best Mattress for Car Camping

By: Ashley Vitiello | Last Updated on December 22, 2023

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I love camping – but I don’t like sleeping in a tent. While that may seem counterintuitive at first, let me explain. I don’t like being cold, and I have a hard time sleeping, which means I used to associate camping with chilly, sleepless nights. On the other hand, I love all the things that camping brings when it comes to campfires, quiet time, social recharging, and a proximity to nature that can’t be replicated many other ways. Normally the pros outweigh the cons, but either way, I wanted to make it easier.

So I went on a hunt to find the best gear to make tent camping as comfortable as possible. After trying several products, I decided to spend the extra money on a super high quality, remarkably comfortable sleeping pad, the HEST Sleep System. And I’m happy to report that I don’t regret a single penny of that purchase. After several nights on the HEST, I’ve never felt more rested or warm in all my camping days, which means I couldn’t recommend this product more. Let’s take a look at the specs and features that contribute to this well-thought-out product, as well as a tutorial on how to set it up.



  • R-value: 11.8
  • Open size: 25 wide x 78 long inches
  • Packed size: 14 x 25 inches
  • Weight: 26 lbs
  • Made of 2-layer foam construction on top of an inflatable base
hest sleeping pad

Top Layer

The uppermost layer of the HEST sleeping pad is an open-cell foam that is meant to conform to your body and regulate temperature, while the lower layer of foam provides pressure point relief. The foam itself is 7 inches thick and has a moisture-wicking cover that is easy to remove using a zipper and is machine washable (cold cycle, hang to dry). Plus, this foam layer can be zippered off and detached from the inflatable base, meaning it can be used on it’s own.

The foam is super comfortable for sleeping, and reminds me of a high quality memory foam mattress. I’m a pretty consistent side sleeper, and I don’t feel shoulder and neck discomfort after sleeping on the HEST. This was a common problem I had with other sleep systems, and it’s no longer an issue.

Lower Layer

The bottom layer is a durable, drop-stitch inflatable base that’s composed of thousands of strain-locked polyester threads. This allows for it to reach a high internal pressure to provide a solid and durable platform. The material could be compared to something you would see on a heavy-duty white water rafting boat or inflatable kayak. It’s abrasion resistant, waterproof, and dirt resistant so it’s made for the outdoors. In addition, this tough lower layers helps compress the foam so it rolls into a more compact design using the carrying case.

hest carrying case

Carrying Case & Accessories

The carrying case is a heavy duty fabric as well (water- and dirt-resistant polyurethane-coated nylon), and has integrated compression straps so it’s easy to compress and roll. On the inside of the case, you’ll find a compartment for the included air pump and hose. When using the pump to air up the lower layer, you should inflate it to your comfort level, although I choose to inflate it pretty hard and let the foam give me the support and comfort I need. I do appreciate how the hose connects to both the pump and pad with a twist-lock mechanism, so you don’t have to worry about it popping out during pumps.

Features We Love

  • Super High R-value: This measurement typically ranges from about 1-5.5 (with 5.5 being the best for extreme cold) but the HEST blows it off the charts at an 11.8, making it one of the highest R-value portable camping mattresses on the market. This feature was the biggest game changer for me during cold nights in the mountains.
  • Rugged Construction: We’ve tried our hand at several traditional air mattresses, only to end up with a deflated mattress and drained sense of adventure by midnight. With the HEST, you can feel how high quality the lower layer is, and I have no fears of it deflating during use.
  • 100 Day Money Back Guarantee: HEST stand by their products 100% and want you to enjoy every second of the great outdoors, which is why they include a 100 Day Money Back Guarantee. You can get a full refund for up to 100 days after purchase – no questions asked.
  • 5 Year Warranty: Although things rarely go wrong with this high-quality of a product, things happen and HEST provides a free 5 Year Warranty.
  • Made in the USA: All products are assembled in Seattle, WA, using components from California, Philippines, and China.
  • Machine Washable: All the covers on their products are machine washable – just unzip and toss it in the washing machine on cold followed by a line dry.
  • Portability: While this sleeping pad is far from lightweight (26 lbs!) it rolls up into a small duffel bag size with carrying straps, so it’s easy to throw in the back of the car or even check as a suitcase for air travel.

How to Set Up a HEST Sleeping Pad

While it does take some time to set up, the effort is well worth it when it comes to a comfortable night sleep. It only takes a few minutes, and we’ve broken down the steps in a how-to video:

The Verdict

This HEST sleeping pad is the quintessential car camping mattress and we highly recommend giving it a shot. With their 100 Day Money Back Guarantee, you have nothing to lose besides some sleepless nights. Although it is a bit bulkier, that’s the price to pay for the added comfort and high quality materials, so it’s worth lugging it from the car to the tent and back. After sleeping on this, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to go back to something more simple or thinner – not that I’d want to.

Why Trust Know Nothing Nomads?

Since 2017, Know Nothing Nomads has cemented itself as the “approachable experts” in everything camping, hiking, climbing, and adventuring in the Great Outdoors.

With over 60 years of experience in the outdoors, we don’t just talk about outdoor gear or recommend a good hiking trail.

We USE the gear we talk about. We’ve hiked 1000’s of miles. We have camped 1000’s of nights in the wilderness. We have sent hundreds of boulders and projects.

We don’t just know a few things about the outdoors — WE EAT, SLEEP, AND BREATHE IT.

We are not journalists from a magazine telling someone else’s stories from behind a computer. We are the ACTUAL outdoorsmen that those people write about. 

We are not a “gear lab” that runs tests on gear in life-like conditions. We are the seasoned, “trial-by-fire” experts who have taken the gear into the wilderness and USED IT. Read about our gear testing process here

We started Know Nothing Nomads to share our passion and expertise with our readers to inspire, educate, and enable you to explore the outdoors in the way that we have. And you will be more equipped and capable than ever before with the knowledge you gain here guiding you along the way.

And the best part? We are real people that LOVE our readers and this community. If you need anything or have a question about any of the things we have to write about, just reach out. Normally, one of us can respond within 24 hours, sometimes within minutes. THAT is the approachable expert.

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While we always focus our attention on gear that stands out to us—sometimes we discover that things aren’t up to our standards. This is exactly why we will always talk about the downfalls and compromises that we find while we are testing anything (If we find any).

About The Author

Ashley is an adventurous soul who loves all things nature, especially warm sunshine, wildflowers, scenic snacking, and mushrooms. She is an avid outdoor enthusiast who has spent years enjoying time outside doing things like hiking, camping, and rock climbing.
Her goal with Know Nothing Nomads is to make these hobbies easily accessible through knowledgeable content and how-to's based on all the stuff she's learned on her journey. If she isn't writing an article, she's probably in a forest looking at big mountain views and tiny pieces of moss on the side of the trail.

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We are Derek and Ashley of Know Nothing Nomads. Whether it is hiking, camping, or just generally being outside, we love it. We are so happy that you have found our little blog and hope that you stick around a while. Feel free to contact us with any questions or get in touch with us on social media!


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