The Relief Bed is a sleeping pad with a twist. Unlike normal sleeping pads marketed to those looking for a little more comfort in the woods, the Relief Bed has a dual humanitarian purpose, and its makers propose that it’s “changing the world one bed at a time.” First, however, how does it fare as a mattress?
This four-centimetre thick inflatable sleeping pad with an attached inflatable pillow is the result of a partnership between Relief Bed and Thermarest, an established outdoor products brand. The differences between the Relief Bed and a standard Thermarest are an integrated pillow, denser foam for added comfort, quicker inflation time and a higher r-rating (insulation rating). It only comes in one colour: blaze orange.
When deflated and rolled up, it’s about the size of a classic blue foam mat. That means it’s larger than most mid- to high-end camping mats, but it also feels more durable than, for example, the compact Thermarest NeoAir. The pillow feature is a nice touch, though it wasn’t thick enough to support my head while lying on my side; I needed to double the height to align my spine. The accompanying carrying bag feels too flimsy to bring into the backcountry.
I’m about 182 centimetres (six feet) and 84 kilograms (188 pounds) and often find the average mat too short and, as a side sleeper, not thick enough to support my hips. The Relief Bed is a bit short for me, though the pillow helped extend the length. This mat, however, is plenty thick. I slept on bare rock when I tested it and didn’t wake up with sore hips — as I often do when using lighter, smaller mats.
The main goal of Relief Bed is to provide comfortable mattresses to disaster victims, homeless people, aid workers and people in developing countries. This is important because, according to the literature that accompanies the product, mattresses are the most requested item by personnel working in the field, and sleep is the third most-important aspect to survival (food and water being the first and second). Relief Bed is partnered with various Christian missionary organizations such as World Vision, The Gubbio Project and Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission. To date they’ve given out more than 1,500 mats. For more information on their partnerships, visit reliefbed.com/#partnerships.
All told, the Relief Bed is a comfortable but large inflatable sleeping mattress that I would recommend for car camping or easy canoe trips when weight and bulk aren’t concerns. The cost is about the same as most mid-range inflatable mats (US$99), and for an extra US$50, you can donate a mat to an organization of your choice.