Everyone has different definitions of what ‘real camping’ is to them. I’m not one to camp-shame as long as you’re being respectful to those around you and nature (i.e. please don’t blast music in a campground, and of course, leave no trace!). So if you sleep in a tent with a cot, sleeping pad, or an air-mattress, that’s great! It’s all a matter of personal preference. I personally use a sleeping pad under my sleeping bag. It’s just how I’ve always done it, although sleeping pads have come a looooong ways since my childhood on foam pads and egg-crate foam. Also, when I go backpacking it will be nice to already be used to a pad–can you imagine lugging an air mattress for miles into the woods?!
Typically now, most sleeping pads are either inflatable or very lightweight folding foam pads. There are pros and cons to each, so I went with my wallet– I was lucky enough to nab my inflatable Klymit Static V Sleeping Pad for a bargain price on Prime Day a few years ago. While this year’s Prime Day won’t come till summer (and no guarantees they will have the Static V again this year), I have heard it can be found at Costco for a reduced price for you bargain hunters. The pad inflates easily with less than 20 breaths (no need for a pump), but packs down in a compact carrying pouch to 18.3 ounces. While the pad boasts that it’s ‘side rails’ keep you in place all night, I am a very mobile sleeper, so I cannot attest to that in particular.