Folding mattresses can be a handy sleep accessories. Unlike standard mattresses, folding models are designed for easy transport and take up little space when stored properly. They are suitable for camping and travel, and also provide comfy accommodations for guest bedrooms. They also cost less than most standard mattresses, with an average price-point of $100 to $175.
This guide will explore the designs and characteristics of folding mattresses, as well as tips for first-time buyers and our picks for the best folding mattresses sold today.
A folding mattress is ideal in the following situations:
- Camping: Whether sleeping in our out of a tent, folding mattresses provide extra padding that can make camping much more comfortable. The mattresses are also portable enough to fit onto or inside most large backpacks, as well as the backseats of automobiles for car campers.
- Travel: A folding mattress can be useful for travelers who would rather not sleep in hotel or motel beds.
- Guest bedding: While some houseguests may prefer the feel of a standard mattress, folding mattresses are an inexpensive way to accommodate overnight sleepers in guest rooms or other areas of the house.
- Kids’ sleepovers: Folding mattresses are suitable for children of all ages, and can double as play mats for exceptionally young kids. Models with washable covers are considered ideal for children’s bedding.
The term ‘folding mattress’ refers to any portable mattress that can be folded to save space. Most folding mattresses have either two, three, or — in rare cases — four folds. Additionally, folding mattresses usually share the following characteristics:
Material composition: Folding mattresses are almost always made of foam. This allows them to be lighter and easier to store. A small number of folding mattresses contain individual layers of viscolatex, a hybrid material made from memory foam and latex. As an alternative to folding mattresses, some people invest in air mattresses for camping; these are also fairly lightweight and can easily be stored and transported. Innersprings and hybrids are virtually nonexistent as folding mattress models.
Two types of foam are typically used in folding mattresses, and some models feature both:
- Polyfoam, short for polyurethane foam, is a material that is also commonly found in standard mattresses. It is not particularly comfortable or durable, but the price-point for polyfoam folding mattresses is relatively low.
- Memory foam, also known as viscoelastic polyurethane foam, is engineered to soften when it comes into contact with body heat and return to its original shape once it cools down. Memory foam conforms more closely than polyfoam, and the material provides more pain and pressure-point relief. Memory foam folding mattresses tend to be more expensive than all-polyfoam models, but some feature base layers of polyfoam.
Memory foam and polyfoam share one notable characteristic: body heat retention. Both materials absorb body heat, causing the mattress to sleep relatively hot compared to other mattress materials. This may be uncomfortable for people who naturally sleep warm.
Cover: Most folding mattresses feature some sort of protective cover that safeguards the bed against moisture. The cover is usually removable and machine washable, featuring a zipper for easy on-and-off, but some models have sewn-on covers that cannot be removed.
Cover material is particularly important for people who plan to use their folding mattress for outdoor activities like camping. Waterproof, antimicrobial covers that protect against dust mites and other allergens are considered ideal for these uses. Additionally, some covers have ‘non-slip’ padding on the bottom that prevents the mattress from slipping around on the ground.
Most folding mattress covers are made of polyester, but some newer models feature covers made of rayon from bamboo.
Height: The height, or thickness, of a folding mattress will usually be shorter than that of a conventional mattress. Most people find that thicker folding mattresses are more comfortable than thinner models. However, portability is another consideration because thinner mattresses are generally lighter and easier to transport and store.
Thicknesses for folding mattresses vary by brand and model, but most measure between three inches (3″) and eight inches (8″) thick.
Sizing: In addition to thickness, the length and width of a folding mattress should be taken into account when planning for storage and transportation. Folding mattresses follow the same sizing criteria as standard mattresses, but certain models may only be available in select sizes (such as Twin, Full, and Queen). Additionally, some folding models are available in smaller specialty sizes.
Common sizes/dimensions for folding mattresses include the following; please note that there may be slight variations with some models:
||Dimensions (Width x Length)
|Extra Small (XS)
||25W” x 75L”
||31-33W” x 75L”
||38-39W” x 75L:
|Twin Extra Long (XL)
||38-39W” x 80L”
||53-54W” x 75L”
|Full Extra Long (XL)
||54W” x 80L”
||60W” x 80L”
||76W” x 80L”
||72W” x 84L”
Please note that some folding mattresses come in one size only; this size typically corresponds to one of the sizes listed above.
Firmness: Due to their relatively low profile, most folding mattresses are considered ‘Medium Firm’ or ‘Firm.’ This may be an issue for sleepers who prefer softer bedding surfaces. One possible workaround is to use a mattress topper, an individual layer of cushioning that rests on the sleep surface. Toppers are usually designed to make the mattress softer, though some can make the mattress firmer if it feels too soft. Toppers typically measure less than three inches (3″) thick, making them easy to store and transport, and most cost less than $100.
When shopping for a new folding mattress and comparing different brands and models, here are a few factors to take into account:
- What is your folding mattress budget? While some folding mattresses can cost $200 or more, most models are available for less than $100.
- Is the mattress made from polyfoam or memory foam? Material composition can be a trade-off when it comes to folding mattresses. Polyfoam models are usually the cheapest, but they are not very comfortable and tend to deteriorate quickly. Memory foam models, on the other hand, provide more comfort and last longer — but be prepared to spend more.
- What kind of mattress cover is included? If you plan to go camping or otherwise use the mattress outdoors, then a waterproof, antibacterial cover with a slip-proof bottom is considered the best option. Also check to see whether the cover is removable or not, since models with non-removable covers cannot be cleaned as easily.
- How many folds does the mattress have? The number of folds comes down to personal preference. Some people don’t mind the extra divot in the sleep surface of tri-fold or four-fold mattresses, while others prefer the flatter, more uniform feel of bi-fold models.
- How thick is the mattress? As a general rule of thumb: the thicker the mattress is, the softer and more comfortable it will feel. However, thinner mattresses are usually lighter and easier to transport and store.
- What mattress size do you need? Some mattress sizes — such as Twin XL, King, and California King — are less common that sizes like Twin, Full, and Queen when it comes to folding models. Some folding mattresses are also available in smaller specialty sizes, which can be great for kids and camping trips, but these are not as widely available.
- What are the dimensions when the mattress is folded up? This is important for determining how the mattress will be stored, as well as finding space when transporting it. Keep in mind that the mattress will be twice or three times as high (depending on the number of folds) and the width dimensions will be roughly the same, but the length will be considerably shorter.
- How much does the mattress weigh? All folding mattresses are generally lightweight, but some weigh more than others — and weight can be crucial for transportation and storage planning. Most weigh between 10 and 15 pounds, although some weigh as much as 30 pounds or more.
- What are your firmness preferences? Although firmness varies by model, an eight-inch (8″) model will usually feel softer than a six-inch (6″) model, which in turn will usually feel softer than a four-inch (4″) model. If your budget calls for a thinner mattress, then consider using a topper to offset some of the excess firmness.
- Does the mattress come with a warranty? Warranties for folding mattresses varies significantly. Some models come with warranty coverage that spans five years or longer, while others do not come with any sort of warranty whatsoever.