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Best Air Mattresses for Camping – 2019 Picks and Buyer’s Guide

Our Review Process
Tuck’s mattress and sleep product recommendations are based on more than 300,000 verified customer experiences and our team’s exhaustive testing procedure. We never recommend a sleep product we haven’t personally experienced and tested in our lab. You can rest assured, when you’re ready to buy, the product you pick meets Tuck’s lofty standards.

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Quick Summary

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.

Best Air Mattresses for Camping

Editor’s Pick – Backpacking Air Mattress – Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite Ultralight Backpacking Air Mattress

Runner-Up Pick – Backpacking Air Mattress – ALPS Mountaineering Outback Inflatable Mat

Best Backpacking Air Mattress for Luxury Comfort – Sea to Summit Comfort Plus Insulated Mat

Best Backpacking Air Mattress for Value – Klymit Static V2 Sleeping Pad

Editor’s Pick – Best Car Camping Air Mattress – Insta-Bed Raised Air Mattress

Best Car Camping Air Mattress for Luxury Comfort – WonderSleep Classic Series Air Mattress

Best Car Camping Air Mattress for Value – Coleman SupportRest Double High Airbed

How We Decided

 

37 camping air mattresses considered –– 70 hours of research –– 4 sleep experts consulted

Best Air Mattresses for Camping – Tuck's Top 7 Picks

Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite Ultralight Backpacking Air Mattress – Editor's Pick – Backpacking Air Mattress

Highlights
  • 2.5″ profile
  • External air valve; manual inflation
  • Multiple sizing options
  • Excellent temperature neutrality
  • Lifetime warranty

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.

Good for:

  • Backpackers traveling long distances
  • Those who tend to feel chilly when sleeping outdoors
  • Sleepers who prefer baffled (contoured) surfaces

ALPS Mountaineering Outback Inflatable Mat – Runner-Up Pick – Backpacking Air Mattress

Highlights
  • 4″ profile
  • External air valve; self-inflating
  • One sizing option
  • Exceptional comfort and support
  • Lifetime warranty

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.

Good for:

  • Those who tend to develop aches and pains on inflatable mattresses
  • Sleepers who prefer flat surfaces
  • Value seekers

Sea to Summit Comfort Plus Insulated Mat – Best Backpacking Air Mattress for Luxury Comfort

Highlights
  • 2″ profile
  • External air valve; manual inflation
  • One sizing option
  • Durable, reversible design
  • Lifetime warranty

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.

Good for:

  • Backpackers traveling long distances
  • All-season campers
  • Sleepers who prefer contoured surfaces

Klymit Static V2 Sleeping Pad – Best Backpacking Air Mattress for Value

Highlights
  • 2.5″ profile
  • External air valve; manual inflation
  • One sizing option
  • Body-contouring shape
  • 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.

Good for:

  • Backpackers traveling long distances
  • Campers who prefer warmer weather
  • Those who prefer baffled (contoured) surfaces

Insta-Bed Raised Air Mattress – Editor's Pick – Best Car Camping Air Mattress

Highlights
  • 18″ profile
  • Internal air pumps; self-inflating
  • Multiple sizing options
  • Excellent air retention and minimal noise
  • 1-year 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.

Good for:

  • Campers with large tents
  • Those who prefer flocked (contoured) surfaces and thick profiles
  • Value seekers

WonderSleep Classic Series Air Mattress – Best Car Camping Air Mattress for Luxury Comfort

Highlights
  • 20″ profile
  • Internal air pump; self-inflating
  • Multiple sizing options
  • Body-padded comfort and great durability
  • 1-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.

Good for:

  • Campers with large tents
  • Those who prefer flocked (contoured) surfaces and thick profiles
  • Sleepers/couples in any weight group

Coleman SupportRest Double High Airbed – Best Car Camping Air Mattress for Value

Highlights
  • 18″ profile
  • External air valve; manual inflation
  • Multiple sizing options
  • Great air retention and stability
  • 1-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.

Good for:

  • Campers with large tents
  • Those who prefer flocked (contoured) surfaces and thick profiles
  • Sleepers/couples in any weight group

Best Air Mattresses for Camping Buyer's Guide

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.

Common Characteristics of Camping-friendly Air Mattresses

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.

  • Backpackers typically prefer lighter, lower-profile air mattresses because they are easier to store and haul in backpacks.
  • Car campers have more options, and many choose higher-profile mattresses because they can be easily transported in a vehicle.

Although designs and features vary by brand and model, today’s air mattresses designed for camping generally share the following characteristics:

Construction: 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.

Inflation: 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:

  • A manually powered pump, often designed to be operated with feet to help users avoid back strain. These are almost always external pumps.
  • An electric pump with a built-in electrical main that can be programmed and adjusted using buttons, switches, and other external controls.
  • A battery-powered pump, which can be programmed and adjusted in the same fashion as an electrical pump, but these are typically external models that can be easily detached from the mattress.
  • A self-inflating pump, which can be operated by flipping a switch or twisting the external nozzle. These models can be customized for firmness by simply stopping the self-inflation process when the mattress reaches a certain thickness.

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
Electric
Self-inflating
No risk of losing spare parts
Inflate at a faster rate
Prone to breakdowns
Higher price-point
External Pump is a separate component that attaches to an outside nozzle Manual
Electric
Battery-powered
Fewer breakdowns
Lower price-point
Time- and energy-consuming
Risk of losing spare parts

Cover: 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.

Thickness: In terms of thickness, air mattresss fall into two general categories:

  • Standard elevation models (also known as ‘single high’ mattresses), which measure 10 inches or shorter. These tend to be the best choice for backpacking campers, since they are lighter and take less time to inflate.
  • Raised elevation models (also known as ‘double high’ mattresses), which are thicker than 10 inches. While some backpackers prefer to haul raised elevation mattresses on camping trips, these models are heavier and take more time to inflate, making them more suitable to car camping.

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.

Size and weight: 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.

Weight capacity: 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).

Collapsibility: 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.

Pros, Cons and Variables of Air Mattresses

Some benefits associated with using air mattresses for camping include:

  • Temperature neutrality: Most air mattresses — particularly those with flocked surfaces — provide adequate warmth for campers when used with a sleeping bag and/or blanket. Waterproof and antimicrobial surfaces provide added protection against the elements too.
  • Portability: Air mattresses can often be broken down and stowed in a backpack and/or vehicle storage area, making them a convenient accessory for camping trips and backpacking excursions.
  • Customizable firmness: By inflating or deflating the air mattress, users can usually adjust the firmness until the sleep surface meets their personal needs and preferences.
  • Few odor complaints: Unlike standard mattresses that produce off-gassing, very little odor has been reported from air mattress owners apart from fleeting, rubbery smells that dissipate rather quickly.
  • Low cost: With few exceptions, inflatable air mattresses cost no more than $150 to $200. Additionally, a wide range of models are available at $100 or less for shoppers on a budget.

Drawbacks linked to air mattresses for camping include:

  • Short lifespan: Most air mattresses will perform for no more than two years of regular use; when used occasionally, they may last three to four years, but rarely longer. This is due to factors like malfunctioning air pumps and air leakage due to punctures and/or split seams.  
  • Noise potential: Air mattresses may produce squeaking or rustling noises when sleepers shift positions, and many can be noisy when pumping air or self-inflating.
  • Minimal support for heavy sleepers: Some sleepers who weigh more than 230 pounds report sagging and discomfort on air mattresses, regardless of the listed weight capacity. This is especially common with lower-profile models.
  • No double-occupancy: Inflatable air mattresses are not usually designed to support more than one person, and tend to sag on one side (depending on who is heaviest). Inflatable air mattresses are considered poor for sex, as well.
  • Little to no warranty coverage: With few exceptions, inflatable air mattresses come with no more than one year of warranty coverage, and many do not offer warranty coverage at all. Sleep trials are rarely — if ever — available.

In addition to the pros and cons listed above, let’s look at three performance factors that tend to vary from model to model:

  • Comfort: How comfortable an air mattress feels often comes down to its ability to hold air for long periods of time. Some models tend to deflate during the night due to pressure from the sleeper’s body, while others are designed to maintain full inflation. The cover may also be a factor for comfort.
  • Support: As is the case with comfort, escaping air can negatively affect how supportive the air mattress feels. Models that hold air longer tend to provide better support.
  • Ease of movement: Generally speaking, higher-profile air mattresses are easier to get on and off of than lower-profile models. Other factors, including sleeper weight, may also affect ease of movement.

How to Tell if an Air Mattress Is Suitable for Camping

When choosing an air mattress that will be primarily used for camping and backpacking, here are a few factors to keep in mind:

  • How heavy is the mattress when fully deflated? Weight is especially important for those who plan to haul their air mattress in a backpack, and less of a concern for those who prefer to car camp and transport their supplies to the campsite via vehicle.
  • What is the mattress size? Twin- and Full-size air mattresses will fit into most single-person tents, but Queen-size models may be too wide/long.
  • How thick is the mattress? Air mattresses will — regardless of height — fit into most standard tents, but smaller tent models may be too cramped for high-profile mattresses. Alternatively, low-profile models may not provide enough cushioning for sleeping on rocky or uneven surfaces.
  • Is the pump external or internal? Keep in mind that external pumps often require campers to haul additional parts in their backpack, whereas internal pumps do not feature separate components.
  • What is the pump mechanism? Every camper has different preferences, but a manual pump may present difficulty after long hikes.
  • Is the cover flocked? Flocked covers tend to keep sleepers warmer than non-flocked covers, and also provide traction that prevents them from slipping off the surface.
  • Is the cover waterproof and/or antimicrobial? Treated covers provide better protection in adverse camping conditions.

Tips for Maintaining and Repairing an Air Mattress

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.

Storing an air mattress: 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.

Maintaining inflation: 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.

Fixing leaks: 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:

  1. Find the source of the leak by feeling the surface or listening for hissing sounds.
  2. After locating the leak (there may be more than one), fully deflate the mattress and allow it to rest for several minutes. This will help ensure all of the air is gone.
  3. Apply sealant from the repair kit to the leak on the exterior of the mattress, and then let the sealant set for at least five minutes.
  4. Administer at least one additional layer of sealant; when in doubt, add more. Three layers is sufficient for most leaks.
  5. Place a patch over the leak; it should stick to the sealant. Press the patch down to remove air bubbles.
  6. If the leak persists, repeat steps 2 through 5, adding more sealant and another patch to the same spot. This may work in the short-term, but owners may want to consider having the air mattress inspected and professionally repaired when they return home.

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.

Additional Resources

For more information about air mattress construction and care, please visit the following Tuck guide pages:

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