Buying Guide – How to Choose a Folding Mattress
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.
Who Should Use a Folding Mattress?
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.
Common Designs and Characteristics of Folding Mattresses
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:
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.
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.
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.
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:
Please note that some folding mattresses come in one size only; this size typically corresponds to one of the sizes listed above.
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.