If the only air mattresses you’ve ever used were those manufactured more than about a dozen years ago, you might still be thinking of them as difficult to blow up, prone to leaks, and really not all that comfortable. Today however, at least with quality products, the finicky valves, foot pumps designed to smack you in the ankle, slippery sleeping surfaces, and things that go “phffffft” in the night are largely a thing of the past. In fact, some people now prefer blow-up models to stuffed, sprung mattresses even for daily use.
There are several different kinds of air mattresses these days, and you shouldn’t expect the same level of comfort from, say, a self-inflating model and one in a more expensive category. So, you generally get what you pay for, but once you know exactly what your requirements are and what kind of air mattress will best meet them, you’ll be in a much better position to choose a model that’s exactly right for you. Hopefully, it will be able to satisfy you for years to come.
Characteristics of Any Good Air Mattress for Camping
For most of us, affordability will be a major part of the equation. You’re likely not going to head off into the wilderness any more often than once a month or so – even if you’d like to, work obligations, weather, and visits from the in-laws are all likely to get in the way. Of course, an inflatable mattress also makes a great guest bed. It doesn’t take up much space and most are certainly comfortable enough, but it will still be spending most of its time in a closet. It really shouldn’t set you back a week’s salary if it’s usually just gathering dust.
That said, remember that only the rich can afford to buy cheap, because they can afford to buy twice. If you’re serious about the outdoors you’ll most likely be using your mattress for years, so both the build quality and the manufacturer’s reputation for customer service have to be impeccable. Comfort is important, of course, but at present this is no longer much of an issue. The difference between comparable models is usually incremental, not revolutionary.
Air Mattresses for Hiking
It’s a well-known physical law that something that weighs three pounds at the trailhead weighs eight after a day of walking, or even more if the going was difficult. Especially for longer excursions, food and other consumables are bound to take up a large portion of what you can comfortably carry, meaning that saving weight wherever you can is certainly worth it.
Since you should obviously not compromise on safety, this often means that you’ll have to put up with at least a little discomfort. Of course, for many people, this is simply part of the adventure, and after a day scrambling up hills, you’ll probably be able to sleep just fine on a sack stuffed with rocks.
Still, you’ll be glad to know that camping equipment has improved enormously over the last couple of years – or does nobody else remember the time before Goretex was breathable? Likewise, advances in material science and some really clever designs have resulted in products like the self-inflating air mattress, which rolls up into a package the size of an old-fashioned foam pad but is still surprisingly comfortable when set up. This procedure is unbelievably simple – twist off the valve cap and unroll it. To pack up, just reverse the process. Easy as that.
One great product of this type is this Wealer’s sleeping mat. At 2 pounds (1 kg) and 12½” by 7″ (30.5 x 18 cm) when rolled up, it strikes an excellent balance between price, durability, and comfort – both while hiking and while sleeping.
If you’re hiking as a couple, though, and insist on your beauty rest even in the wilderness, you might be willing to split an additional few pounds between the two of you. This SoundAsleep mattress comes with a rechargeable air pump that inflates it in under 4 minutes, meaning that you can sleep in style even in the middle of nowhere. It’s also tough and extremely comfortable compared to anything in its weight class. Due to its special construction, you won’t end up sleeping in a hollow created by the pressure of your body weight.
Inflatable Sleeping Equipment for Drive-In Campsites
Much as some of us love the Great Outdoors, we love our knees and backs more. Older people, as well as families with kids, might not be able to embark on three-day treks on foot, but would still enjoy an occasional bit of peace, quiet, and birdwatching. Also, after a certain age, sleeping on the wrong surface can put you in just as much pain as doing your best packhorse impression over rough terrain.
Fortunately, there are numerous camping options that accommodate this crowd. Similarly, the air mattress industry seems biased towards this market; there are simply too many good products to pick out any single one. The variety of air mattresses also means that it’s worth it to read customer comments until you find exactly what you’re looking for.
Everybody’s requirements are different. Some need an air bed with good lumbar support, and these are indeed available. On the other end of the scale, other air mattresses are specifically designed for children – although the manufacturers do not recommend using them as trampolines.
What to Look for In an Air Mattress for Air Travel
While there’s a lot to be said for camping excursions within driving distance (you might be surprised at the ecological variety your neighborhood offers), for seeing something truly spectacular like this…
… you will generally need to get on a plane.
This results in a number of special requirements, size and weight being the most important. This is particularly true if you’re embarking on a backpacking holiday where your major modes of transport are likely to be buses and rickshaws, and unwieldy luggage will be no fun to manage. Also, your mattress will preferably have the ability to operate or charge from either 110 or 220 volts.
The AeroSport All-Terrain fits this bill. It has a built-in pillow so you don’t have to support your neck with a rolled-up sweater. Various pumps can be used; the factory-supplied one charges from any 12V source and is capable of about 7 uses before needing power again. Fully inflating the bed only takes about 1½ minutes. It weighs 9 pounds and its longest dimension when packed is only 16″ so it should fit comfortably in most suitcases or rucksacks.
As with all travel holidays, though, the best advice is to pack as lightly as possible. Especially if comfort is less important to you, taking the time to read some reviews will often lead you to a more minimalist product that’s perfect for you. Some people really don’t mind pumping up their mattress by hand every evening – and these will be the ones laughing when the power goes out.