- Sleep Aids
- Sleep Health
- How Sleep Works
- Sleep Resources
Air mattresses are a handy accessory for any overnight trip that includes backpacking or car camping. The current selection for shoppers includes a wide range of options, from minimalist mattress pads that are manually inflated to high-profile, self-inflating designs with microcoil layers for added sleeper support. Most camping air mattresses sold today feature antimicrobial, waterproof covers to help the bed withstand outdoor elements. Internal and external pump models are available, as well. Air mattresses should not be confused with airbeds, which are typically larger, more expensive, and primarily used for sleeping indoors.
An important consideration for shoppers is whether the mattress will be used for backpacking or car camping. For backpackers, the best camping air mattresses usually include low-profile models that are lightweight and consist of few external parts; these mattresses offer the best portability. Car campers, on the other hand, have more sleeping space and do not need to carry their air mattress long distances; for this reason, higher-profile models that offer more sleeper support tend to be the best options.
Read on to learn more about selecting a new air mattress for backpacking and/or car camping. Below you’ll find our picks for the best camping air mattresses sold today. Our choices are based on verified customer and owner reviews, as well as intensive product research and analysis.
Temperature neutrality is a chief consideration for backpackers. Sleep surfaces should feel cool and comfortable during hotter periods, but also provide warmth in colder climates. Our Editor’s Pick, the NeoAir XLite from Therm-a-Rest, provides great temperature neutrality that holds radiant heat in baffled compartments to prevent excessive cooling. The mattress also boasts a sleek, tapered design that keeps its weight at one pound or less, depending on the selected size; Small, Regular, and Large designs are available.
The NeoAir XLite has a 2.5? profile and manually inflates within two minutes using an external air valve. The mattress is also highly portable; in its largest size, it packs to 11? x 4.5?. It is rated as an R-3.2 in terms of insulating ability, making it generally suitable for outdoor camping during the spring, summer, or fall. The NeoAir XLite Ultralight Backpacking Air Mattress is backed by a lifetime warranty, and a stuff sack and repair kit are included with purchase.
Another concern among backpackers and tent sleepers is adequate support, since many inflatable mattresses can cause discomfort to sleepers when they lose air during the night. Our Runner-Up Pick in the backpacking air mattress category, the Outback Inflatable Mat from ALPS Mountaineering, is constructed with internal foam layers that offer targeted support for sleepers, particularly beneath the shoulders and hips where more weight is concentrated. The foam is also lightweight, making the mattress easy to store and light to carry; it weighs 7.5 pounds when fully deflated.
At 4? thick, the Outback is also on the thinner and firmer side; this makes it suitable for most sleepers regardless of their weight. The mattress comes with a self-inflating external air valve, along with a manual deflation valve. The Outback is durable, as well, thanks in part to its flocked cover made of 30-denier polyester. ALPS Mountaineering offers a lifetime warranty with the Outback Inflatable Mat; its price-point is relatively low, as well.
The Comfort Plus Insulated Mat from Sea to Summit boasts an innovative, reversible design that allows sleepers to use the opposite side if the other side is damaged, punctured, or otherwise unusable. This construction can be highly beneficial for backcountry campers who may not have all of the tools needed for full onsite repairs. Additionally, the mat is exceptionally lightweight – roughly 17 ounces when deflated – and features an antimicrobial cover. It is rated R-5.0, and should be suitable for outdoor sleeping any time of year due to its excellent insulating properties.
The Comfort Plus has a slip, a tapered design and is available in one size, which is comparable to (albeit slightly narrower than) a standard Twin XL-size mattress. More than 500 individual air chambers – known as Air Sprung Cells – hold air and offer targeted conforming based on the sleeper’s body weight. The mat also features a multifunctional inflation and deflation valve; a nylon stuff sack and repair kit are included with purchase, as well. It is backed by a lifetime warranty.
The average air mattress for camping costs at least $160, and some models sell for $250 or higher. Our Best Value pick, the V2 Sleeping Pad from Klymit Static, is a notable exception; this camping pad is widely available for less than $60, yet it offers the same helpful features and supportive properties as many of its higher-end competitors. The V2 has a contoured surface with V-shaped baffles that naturally align with the sleeper’s body for above-average conforming and support in any sleep position. Raised side rails also ensure sleepers won’t roll off the surface during the night.
A twist-pull air valve allows for full inflation with minimal effort. Another benefit is durability; the cover is made from tough polyester fabric that effectively withstands wear and tear. When fully deflated, the V2 weighs roughly one pound. A repair kit is included with purchase; Klymit Static offers a lifetime product warranty.
Shifting gears to air mattresses for car camping, our Editor’s Pick for these models is the Raised Air Mattress from Insta-Bed. This model is a standout for several reasons, the first being sleeper support. The Raised Air Mattress is constructed with a microcoil layer for comfortable, sag-free sleeping regardless of weight or preferred position. The mattress is built onto an 18″ profile, which is exceptionally thick for any mattress type. It is available in Twin and Queen sizes.
The Raised Air Mattress also offers advanced air retention. A built-in device known as the Never Flat Pump tracks air pressure throughout the night and provides inflation adjustments when needed, ensuring sleepers will not wake up due to excessive deflation. The mattress also has two internal air pumps that allow the bed to self-inflate or deflate within four minutes. The Raised Air Mattress from Insta-Bed has a below-average price-point, and is widely available for less than $60. It is backed by a one-year warranty.
One notable perk of car camping is that sleepers can pack a mattress of any size and shape – particularly if their tent is large enough. The Classic Series Air Mattress from WonderSleep is a luxurious, innovative sleep surface designed to optimize comfort in several ways. The air is compartmentalized in vertical columns that provide advanced support to different areas of the body, resulting in an even, uniform surface. The waterproof cover is extra-thick for additional padding, and also made from layered, puncture-resistant fabric.
The Classic Series Air Mattress measures 20″ thick, making it one of the thickest air mattresses on the market today. It is available in Twin and Queen sizes. Sleepers can adjust air levels to match their needs based on body weight and preferred position. The self-inflating process takes approximately four minutes. The mattress also has a slip-free bottom surface to prevent excessive movement during the night. The WonderSleep Classic Series Air Mattress is backed by a one-year warranty.
The Coleman SupportRest Double High Airbed is our Best Value pick in the car camping air mattress category; it is widely available for less than $55. The mattress measures 18″ thick, making it suitable for most sleepers regardless of their weight or sleep position, and features a contoured, flocked cover made of cotton-jersey for extra padding and body support. The built-in AirTight system also helps hold in air and prevent leaks during the night.
The SupportRest is available in both Twin and Queen sizes; an external pump, which is required for inflation, may be included with some purchases. The bed is also designed with the Wrap N Roll storage system, which allows owners to compress it to a very compact size for convenient storage. It is backed by a one-year warranty.
Many air mattress models sold today are ideal for camping because they provide the comfort, support and temperature neutrality required for sleeping on rough outdoor terrain. These models are also relatively inexpensive and highly portable, since they can be easily inflated and deflated, packed, and stored in a backpack or the back of an automobile.
Today’s camping-friendly air mattress options range from low-tech pads to state-of-the-art designs. This guide will look at important factors to consider when shopping for and comparing inflatable air mattress for camping, as well as some common pros and cons associated with these products and our picks for the top-rated models.
The term ‘air mattress’ refers to any inflatable sleeping pad designed for short-term use; these products may also be referred to as ‘blow-up mattresses.’ Air mattresses are considered suitable for camping on the ground or in an RV, as well as floor bedding for guest rooms.
It’s important to note the differences between inflatable air mattresses and ‘airbeds,’ which are standard-size mattresses built with adjustable air chambers in the support core, and are designed for long-term use. For more information about airbeds, please visit our Airbed Reviews page.
Also, camping style is another consideration. Some people prefer hiking to a campsite with all of their provisions stored in a backpack, while others prefer to ‘car camp,’ or camp at sites that are accessible to vehicles.
Although designs and features vary by brand and model, today’s air mattresses designed for camping generally share the following characteristics:
Most air mattresses sold today are made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC), also known as polyvinyl or vinyl, a synthetic plastic polymer that is also used to make bottles, food packaging, and an assortment of other goods.
PVC has raised some pollution and human health issues in recent years, largely due to the use of chlorine in the PVC production process. As a result, some air mattresses are made from ‘eco-friendly PVC,’ which refers to PVC that has not been made with chlorine.
In addition to the PVC shell, some air mattresses feature microcoils for added support and comfort. Some self-inflating models are insulated with polyfoam. Unlike other air mattresses, foam-padded models often do not carry a weight limit.
As a rule, air mattresses must be inflatable, but the inflation method varies from model to model. An air mattress may feature a built-in internal pump, or an external pump.
The pump mechanism also varies by brand and model; generally, four different mechanisms may are used with today’s air mattresses:
The table below explains air mattress pump mechanisms in greater detail.
|Pump Type||Description||Pump Mechanisms||Pros||Cons|
|Internal||Built-in inflation system operated using switches and/or knobs
No extraneous parts
|No risk of losing spare parts
Inflate at a faster rate
|Prone to breakdowns
|External||Pump is a separate component that attaches to an outside nozzle||Manual
|Time- and energy-consuming
Risk of losing spare parts
Most air mattresses designed for camping have flocked (or textured) sleep surfaces to help maintain warmth, and also to provide resistance and prevent sleepers from slipping off. Many of these covers are waterproof and/or antimicrobial, as well, which may be useful for sleeping outdoors.
In terms of thickness, air mattresss fall into two general categories:
Some models may feature legs or fold-out cots for additional height. Please note that the heights of some mattresses may differ by inflation/deflation level.
Unlike standard mattresses, air mattresses typically come in three different sizes: Twin, Full, and Queen. An air mattress model available in all three of these sizes is somewhat rare; most come in one or two. In lieu of these standard sizes, some mattresses come in specialty sizes.
When completely deflated, most standard elevation air mattresses will weigh less than 10 pounds. Raised elevation models tend to weigh more, but rarely will they exceed 30 pounds when fully deflated. Weight is an important consideration for backpackers, since they are required to haul the air mattress on their back; for this reason, a standard elevation model is typically most preferable. Car campers are less restricted with regard to mattress weight.
Standard inflatable mattresses can support at least 300 pounds, and some models may be able to support up to 600 pounds. While this is sufficient for most single sleepers, those who weigh more than 230 pounds may experience uncomfortable sagging. Additionally, regardless of the listed weight capacity, couples should avoid sleeping on the same air mattress (see ‘Cons’ below for more information).
Because air mattresses are used in backpacking and camping so frequently, most models sold today are designed to be easily folded, packed, and stowed or attached to backpacks. Models will easily fit into the trunk or backseat of a standard vehicle, as well. Packing equipment, such as cords and a carrying sack, may be included with purchase or sold separately.
In addition to the pros and cons listed above, let’s look at three performance factors that tend to vary from model to model:
When choosing an air mattress that will be primarily used for camping and backpacking, here are a few factors to keep in mind:
Punctures and air leaks are to be expected when using an air mattress, but proper home storage and pre-trip preparation can greatly mitigate the risk of these issues.
Air mattresses should never be stored in areas that are excessively hot or cold, or humid spaces that are prone to dampness and moisture buildup. Additionally, owners should ensure that there aren’t any sharp objects under, on top of, or in physical contact with the mattress. They should also keep dogs, cats, and other clawed pets away from the mattress. Even superficial knicks can cause significant air leakage.
Air mattresses should be fully deflated when stored. This will help preserve the integrity of the internal air chamber, and is also helpful for conserving space.
Carrying cases can be quite handy for home storage, and many models come with these accessories. They provide extra protection against moisture and sharp objects. If the mattress does not come with a case, they are widely available through outdoor and sporting goods retailers.
Air mattress owners should plan to inflate the bed every time they plan to use it, although full inflation may not be necessary. More importantly, users should avoid over-inflating the mattress; this can lead to tears, leaks, and undone seams. Most self-inflating air mattresses will never over-inflate, but other air pumps are susceptible to this issue because they are owner-operated.
Many air mattress manufacturers recommend inflating and deflating the mattress at least once before using it. This will break in the air chambers, and can also help owners identify any leakage issues before they plan to sleep on it.
Many air mattresses come with vinyl leak repair or patching kits. If not, they are widely sold in outdoor and sporting goods stores, and are usually sold for $10 or less.
To repair an air mattress leak, follow this step-by-step process:
One important note: never submerge the air mattress in water in order to find the leak. This may cause irreparable damage to the air chamber, nozzle, and/or other internal and external mechanisms. However, applying liquid soap to the surface may be helpful for locating the leak, as air bubbles will form wherever a puncture occurs.