There are a thousand reasons to love camping—but for most people, a good night’s rest isn’t one of them.
A lucky few find a restrictive sleeping bag and an inch-thick sleeping pad a sufficient substitute for their bed at home. The rest of us enjoy a star-filled sky, a meditative campfire, crisp morning air, and a respite from our devices—but comfortable rest? Not so much.
But what if you could sleep as comfortably in the outdoors as you do at home? That’s what Hest Outdoors founder Aaron Ambuske wondered after countless nights sustaining poor rest on family camping trips.
As head of Strategy and Business Development at Seattle design firm IDeology, Ambuske came from a product development background, and applied the same process of materials sourcing and testing to his pet project: creating a sleep system that could provide a good night’s sleep outdoors and subsequently encourage more people to get outside.
The result is the Hest Sleep System ($399), a two-part camp mattress that features an inflatable drop-stitch platform on the bottom and a two-layer foam pad on top to create what truly can be called the most comfortable car camping sleep system available.
The dual system means you have the benefits of both an inflatable mattress and a foam mattress working for you. The bottom layer is a blow-up, drop-stitch base that is water- and puncture-proof and can rest on top of branches and rocks (within reason) to create a flat, insulated surface. A two-foam mattress is attached onto the base—the bottom is stiff and provides support, while the top is open-cell and adds comfort and breathability.
The mattress cover is also breathable, a soft nylon stretch twill that can be zipped off the drop-stitch base so that the mattress can be used on its own.
The Hest Sleep System comes in its own duffel bag, which includes a lightweight pump the size of a traditional bike pump. Setup is as simple as unrolling the system and inflating the bottom layer with the pump, which takes about a minute.
When finished, deflate the bottom layer by releasing the valve, and then roll the system back into its duffel bag and slip the pump into its designated sleeve.
The mattress is 25-inches wide, 78-inches long and 18-centimeters tall. Rolled up, the set weighs 28 pounds.
Upon testing the Hest Sleep System for several consecutive nights, it proved to be almost as comfortable as promised. Its only limitation was that it felt a bit narrow, which is good for fitting it into a tent, but since the system is 18 centimeters tall, when you come off the mattress, you feel the drop, unlike with a thinner sleeping pad. Two sleep systems can be clipped together for two-person setups—or maybe even for one person who wants more space.
The mattress felt as cushioned as a home mattress, and the drop-stich base layer provided firm support. The mattress cover is soft enough to sleep directly on top of and—weather allowing—to be paired with only a blanket on top.
Pockets on the top and bottom of the mattress can fit a cell phone or headlamp—two easy-to-lose items in a dark, cluttered tent.
The exterior of the drop-stitch base feels very sturdy, but Hest includes a patch kit just in case you still experience a puncture.
Setting up the Hest Sleep System was simple and quick. Compressing it and rolling it back into its bag unassisted took a couple practice runs, but proved pretty easy, overall. The pump is large and sort of clunky, and it will be interesting to see whether future generations of the Hest might have a more compact inflation system.
The ease with which you can clean the system is a huge plus—the bottom is waterproof and can be wiped or hosed off, and the mattress cover can be zipped off and thrown in the washing machine.
While a slightly wider size would make the Hest even more comfortable than it already is, the system can fit into a one-person tent with room to spare. It’s also a great option for the back of a truck or van. You can save yourself a couple inches in height (important when you find yourself stuffed underneath a truck shell) by detaching the mattress from the base, and can roll it back into its bag when you want more space in your vehicle.
The price point of $399 is higher than some might want to spend, but the value is there, and (if you can afford it) worth every penny for a peaceful night’s rest outdoors.
The Hest Sleep System is available on their website and at Evo.com.