When I was a kid, my dad took our family to Assateague Island National Seashore every August to rough it for a week in our secondhand camper. I loved collecting shells on the beach and glimpsing the island’s famous wild ponies—but I loathed the clouds of carnivorous flies and the mosaic of mosquito bites I incurred. We even had to flee major hurricanes.
My interest in camping ended by middle school. But since the pandemic began, I—like tens of millions of other Americans—decided to give camping another shot.
Part of my inspiration stemmed from learning about gear designed to ease newbies into the great outdoors. I came across Luno, a company that makes air mattresses specially constructed for car camping, one of the most common types of camping. (It involves putting your gear in your vehicle and driving to a campsite, as opposed to hiking or biking to a campsite while carrying all your stuff.)
The company’s Air Mattress 2.0 ($330) and accessories are sized to fit snugly inside nearly 2000 different vehicle makes and models, from Audis to Volvos. According to the brand’s website, the mattress fits two people up to 6 feet, 2 inches tall, is made of tough, durable 300-denier Oxford fabric, and inflates in minutes with the included electric air pump. Two large inflatable cubes called Base Extenders, which support the mattress to maximize sleeping space, are also in the kit.
I wanted to see if a Luno mattress could banish my itchy memories of Assateague Island, so I asked the brand’s publicist if I could test a mattress set designed for my car, a Subaru Forester, a.k.a. The Tank. A few days later, the kit arrived. I could smell s’mores in my future.
How to Set Up the Luno Air Mattress 2.0
Remember those millions of other campers I mentioned? Apparently they were occupying every campsite within 50 miles of my house when I tried to reserve a spot over Labor Day weekend. So my test run of the Luno mattress took place on the street outside my house—not quite as scenic, but at least I didn’t have to go far for the bathroom.
First, I watched the company’s instructional video and unpacked the mattress kit from the carrying bag. The material was thick and heavy—it seemed like it could certainly withstand pokes and prods without popping.
Next, I moved everything from the back seat and trunk area of The Tank to the front seats and pulled those forward as far as they would go. Pro tip no.1: If you have a lot of camping gear that won’t fit in the front seats, I suggest bringing a storage tent or bin to corral everything outside the vehicle, because you won’t be able to keep much in the car while you’re sleeping in it.
Then I removed the headrests from the back seat to make room for the Base Extenders and folded the seats down. There was a slight bump where the trunk area met the seats, but I hoped I wouldn’t notice once I was laying on a pillow of air.
While still crouched in the back seat, I placed the two Base Extenders on the floor behind the driver’s and passenger’s seats. Pro tip no. 2: Turn the car on to power the air pump before you stuff all your gear in the front seats (hey, I’m new at this). Each of the extenders has separate inflate and deflate valves clearly labeled on the top, making the process foolproof—just be sure that the deflate valve is closed when you’re inflating. It took less than a minute to get each cube fully puffed.
I checked my timer and was amazed that the set-up had taken only seven minutes so far—including another viewing of the instructional video.
The next step was unrolling the mattress in the trunk area right side up (helpfully marked by pillow outlines). I accessed the inflate valves on each side of the mattress by opening The Tank’s side doors and got the bed pumped up to my desired firmness.
I discovered that Luno’s mattress is really two separate air mattresses connected by fabric, so it can be folded in half lengthwise even when both sides are inflated. This design element made the fully inflated mattress easier to handle and position in the car—plus, if you’re camping with someone who prefers a softer or firmer sleeping surface, each side of the mattress can be adjusted independently. For single campers, Luno suggests inflating one side and folding the other (deflated) side underneath it, which creates more space in the car for your gear.
When I pulled the mattress up against the front seats, the other end lay just inside the closed hatchback door—long enough to accommodate me, a 5-foot-5-inch camper, with plenty of room to spare. The company also notes that each side of the mattress can handle up to 300 pounds of weight.
Luno Air Mattress 2.0: The Pros and Cons
Now, the moment of truth: I unrolled my sleeping bag and got in. The mattress was slightly inclined toward the front of the car, so that’s where my pillow went, and I had plenty of headspace between me and ceiling—not quite enough to sit up straight, but it definitely didn’t give off buried-alive vibes. I could even open the sunroof and pretend I was in the wilderness.
I hunkered down for a good night’s sleep and was not disappointed: Luno’s air mattress was just as comfortable as an air mattress you’d use indoors, and I didn’t feel the bump underneath me at all. Pro tip No. 3: Try to inflate both sides of the mattress to similar firmness, because one tends to roll towards the less-inflated side if there’s a significant imbalance.
I woke up feeling more refreshed than I anticipated, though the car was pretty stuffy. Luno’s video recommends lowering your car windows about an inch for air flow while you sleep, but I’m not sure that would be sufficient for me, especially in hot or muggy conditions (i.e., all of summer in the Mid-Atlantic).
The only remaining question was whether I could get the whole kit back into the carrying bag. You can use the “deflate” setting on the pump to suck out the air from the mattress and Base Extenders, but I ended up just unplugging the valves and sprawling across each component for a few minutes, which did the trick. Rolling everything up was easy, and once I put the car seats back into their upright positions, it was like I’d never been there. Leave no trace, as they say.
Though I didn’t test them this time around, I’d consider buying a couple of Luno’s accessories to make my car camping set-up even more comfortable. The company offers a seatback organizer ($45) to keep your phone, keys, tablet, books, water bottle, and more within arm’s reach. It even features a special pocket with a translucent window for positioning a reading light at night. Luno’s window screens ($50) would also be a good option; the dense mesh screens fit over the car door frames, so you can avoid nosy neighbors and roll the windows down completely for plenty of fresh air without letting in bugs. They’d likely help solve the issue I ran into of the car being too stuffy in warm weather.
Is the Luno Air Mattress 2.0 Worth It?
I’m definitely looking forward to using Luno’s mattress on my car camping expeditions this fall and next spring, when cooler weather prevails. The Air Mattress 2.0 sells for a list price of $330, which is much pricier than your average air mattress—but Luno’s product is so well designed for its purpose, and made of such durable materials, that I consider it a great investment, especially for folks who plan to make the outdoor adventures they began during the pandemic a permanent lifestyle.