Sometimes, even the best sleeping bag just isn’t enough to get a good night’s rest while you’re having an adventure. You also can’t really bring your entire mattress with you when you’re camping in a tent, staying over at a friend’s house, or on any other journey beyond your home. And while a sleeping pad can make your ground-sleeping experience a bit more enjoyable, a good air mattress is even better.
Air mattresses aren’t exactly new technology: These handy inflatable beds have been around for decades, but not all are created equal. Below, we’ve sniffed out the best air mattresses for camping, from full-sized double-height air mattresses to ones made just for little ones.
A good air mattress should be comfortable, quick to inflate, hold air well, and, most of all, comfortable to sleep on, and the SoundAsleep Dream Series bed ticks all the boxes. It stands 19 inches tall when inflated and features a built-in one-touch pump that fills it up with air in five minutes or less (you can also give it a quick pump to top it off or make it a bit firmer if you prefer). Its 40 internal air-filled “coils” also mimic bed springs to give you support all over, preventing the sagging that often occurs with simpler single-chamber air beds. Though you may still want to add one of the best pillows for added comfort.
It’s not the cheapest (or the lightest at 20 pounds), but good sleep is worth paying a little extra for. The SoundAsleep Dream Series air mattress is available in twin, queen, and king sizes starting at $95.
The SoundAsleep Dream Series is a premium pick with a price tag to match, but you don’t have to pay too much for a good air mattress. The Intex Dura-Beam is supremely affordable, doing what you need an air mattress to do – provide a comfortable, portable sleeping surface – while still offering multiple air chambers for evenly distributed body support. The Dura-Beam air mattress is also a good alternative if you find double-height beds to be a bit too bulky for your tent or other sleeping space once they’re inflated, just note that you’ll need your own air pump to inflate it.
On the other hand, if you’d like a double-height air mattress but are still looking for a budget-friendly option, Intex offersof the Dura-Beam bed for as little as $25.
Most air beds, even single-height models, are fairly thick (which is why they’re generally more comfortable than a sleeping pad). For smaller tents and for car camping, though, a thinner air mattress like the LightSpeed Outdoors bed might be a better option: This six-pound pad inflates to about six inches thick, is large enough to sleep two adults comfortably, and comes with its own battery-operated air pump.
Another nice feature of the Lightspeed air mattress is that it’s made of PVC-free material, so it doesn’t have the chemical smell that some air beds can have – if you’re sensitive to this, then this bed is for you.
For a larger family-sized tent and for extended camp outings, you may want to consider springing for an air mattress with legs like the Coleman Camping Cot. This air bed works much like our other top picks, coming complete with a battery-operated air pump, but you also get a nice sturdy steel fold-up cot to serve as a bed frame. The mattress itself also utilizes a similar coil system to the SoundAsleep Dream Series for sag-free comfort, and the camping cot has a handy little shelf for use as a nightstand.
The Coleman Camping Cot is available in both twin and queen sizes for $130-140.
If you’re looking for a separate kid-sized air mattress made just for a little one in your family, then the Intex travel bed set is one of the best designs we’ve seen. Rather than just being a plain down-sized air bed, this Intex air mattress has two components. A removable sleeping pad nestles inside the raised “frame,” ensuring that its small occupant doesn’t roll out of the bed in the night.
This design also makes it easy to add sheets to the inflatable pad or pull it out altogether for use as an even smaller standalone sleeping surface (which means this could also be great for car trips, hotel rooms, and sleepovers). The Intex kid-sized travel air mattress set rings in at just over $40 and comes with a manual air pump.
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