Our team of testers struggled to find something they didn't like about the REI Co-op Camp Dreamer XL. We wrongly assumed that since this pad was less expensive than previous award winners, there would be some serious design flaw, like it would be a pain to inflate or at least smell weird. This is fortunately not the case, and the competitively priced Dreamer XL has an easy inflation system, is as comfortable as our beds at home, and even has a convenient carrying/storage bag. The price and quality combo would earn it our Best Buy award, except that it's our favorite mat, period, making it our new Editors' Choice. The only thing that will limit your enjoyment of this mat is the size of your tent, as it's only available in a massive 78" x 32".
REI Co-op Camp Dreamer XL Review
Cons: Too big for some single person tents
Manufacturer: REI Co-op
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The REI Dreamer XL is built to compete directly with top-end camping mattresses. It gets you four inches off the cold ground just like other mats that are similar in design, and it has a foam inflation pump that works better than the other hand pumps. Its carrying sack makes it easy to tote around from the car to the tent. Most importantly, it is incredibly comfortable and at a friendly price, making it our Editor's Choice.
REI seems to have taken many of our favorite features from other mattresses and combined them into a better and less expensive (crazy, we know!) camping mat. The polyester top is soft, silent, and not even the slightest bit sticky against your bare skin.
Like your mattress firm? You can pump this mat up to nearly bursting with the large foam pump pillow and not lose any air due to the one-way reversible hi-flow TPR valve. For a plusher sleeping experience, you can press on the valve to fine-tune the mat to your preferred level of softness. The foam pump doubles as a pillow; while car camping, you're probably just going to carry along your pillow of choice from home. However, the pump/pillow is actually pretty comfortable, and you can adjust the firmness the same way you would the mat. You can also squeeze all the air out of the pillow for more compact storage. When we first laid eyes on the Camp Dreamer, we thought the visible air chambers would feel lumpy. After testing, we can assure you that you won't notice the chambers, no matter how much you over or underinflate the mat.
Ease of Use
Our lead tester has used a plethora of camping mats, and truth be told, there are more exciting things to test than an inflatable pad. When we unpacked the Dreamer XL, and he saw the tightly packed pump/pillow, he elicited a taciturn "whoa cool" under his breath.
Not only does the pump make a comfortable pillow, but it also inflates the mat easily, drawing air in through a one-way valve and pushing it through another one-way valve into the mat while you pump it with your hands or feet. It takes very little time or effort to get this mattress fully inflated.
To deflate the mat and the pump, you push the valve in and flip it around so you can squeeze all the air out without any getting back in. The valve feels flimsy, and while we are concerned that it may not stay locked in place and could flip around on its own after a lot of use, we didn't experience this at all during our testing period. The horizontal channels that run across the mat actually make rolling the pad up quite easy.
With an R-value of 5.5, you'll have plenty of insulation between you and the cold ground for most car-camping style adventures in the lower 48. The R-value rating is exponential, so this mat is 5.5 times as insulative as a pad with an R-value of 1, which we would comfortably use all summer long. Also, remember that while the mat will keep a nice layer of warm air trapped under you, it won't make you feel any hotter on warm nights than a pad with a lesser R-value.
This puppy is one of the biggest single-person mats we've ever seen, and it's going to take up quite a bit of precious real estate in your tent. It may not even fit in the back of your truck. Though all that room to roll may offer unparalleled comfort, it makes this pad less versatile. This is something to take into consideration for those that camp with a significant other. Unless you have a very large tent, you will have a tough time getting two of these to fit (and you are going to need two… for sure). This may not be a problem if you camp solo, but even then, measure your tent before you make the investment.
There are better options for folks on the move who are sleeping in places where space is at a premium. If your backcountry mission is mule assisted, we wouldn't hesitate to load one of these suckers up and have the most comfortable nights imaginable.
A set of these mats for the family will take up a ton of space in the car, and currently, XL is the only available size. With the pillow/pump, this pad packs away to 11 x 30" if you take the time to squeeze out as much air as you can. Otherwise, it's even bulkier when packed away.
The carrying sack is generously sized and stretchy, so if you're in a hurry or just feeling lazy, it's not difficult to fit the pad inside even if there's still a little air in the mat. REI also includes a pair of helpful compression straps, but they aren't attached to the pad, so they're easy to lose. Considering the vast sleeping space provided by this pad, we think it packs away to a respectably compact package, and it doesn't take up more space than other pads in this category.
The retail price gets you the pad, the pump, and the carrying sack. A great deal. Our current Best Buy Award Winner is a bit more, and we like the inflation system on the Dreamer better. The Outback does have an extra two inches of length, but you won't need them unless you're over 6'6".
REI knocks it out of the park with the Dreamer XL, earning it our Editors' Choice Award. It provides a level of comfort that rivals and sometimes exceeds that of our own beds. For car campers and travelers with enough room in their vehicle, there is no better option for a good night's sleep. We will hands down never go car camping again without this mat. Weight is no concern when you're walking from your car to your tent site or sometimes simply putting the mat down next to your car. With the Dreamer XL, we got great sleep away from home so we could play hard the next day.
— Laurel Hunter & Matt Bento