How to Choose the Best Air Mattress in 2018
An air mattress is one of the best things to have when you have guests over or are always on the go and need a spot to lie on when you’re in the middle of nowhere. Choosing an air mattress, however, involves careful thought. With factors such as purpose, portability, ease of use and special features to consider, purchasing an air bed isn’t a simple matter of pointing and paying for it.
When you buy an air mattress, you have to choose carefully the one that meets your particular needs. Otherwise, you might end up with something that is totally unusable and a considerable dent in your wallet.
What makes the best air mattress?
- What makes the best air mattress?
- Best air mattress for guests
- Best air mattress for camping
- Best air mattress for everyday use
- Materials used in an air mattress
- Home and health benefits of an air mattress
- Disadvantages of an air mattress
- Air mattress usages – when would I need an air mattress?
- Types of air mattresses
- Factors to consider when buying an air mattress
- Air mattress care and maintenance / Usage tips and tricks
- Air mattress costs
- Air mattress brands
- How to inflate / deflate air mattresses
- How well does the air hold?
When it comes to buying the best air mattresses, personal choice is often the deciding factor. In general and no matter what your needs are however, you need to look for the following air mattress qualities straightaway:
- Well-engineered and constructed product
- Quality of materials used
- Excellent durability
- Efficient pump system
- Good product warranty
- Great customer feedback
- Light weight
- Reasonable price
- Portability and storage options
We will delve further into those factors later in our discussion. We’ll do our best to present you with everything you need to know about air mattresses to help you choose the best one for your needs.
Best air mattress for guests
Houseguests come and go, so it is sometimes impractical to buy a space-consuming foam mattress that is not going to be used all the time. This goes especially for homes with a limited space, or those with no guest rooms. Still, when a guest does arrive or in situations when people who come over have to spend the night in your home, you would need a presentable and comfortable bed for them to sleep in. Making them lie down on a couple of blankets laid out on the floor simply would not do, so investing in a good air mattress for guests is ideal.
An air mattress can easily be inflated for a guest, then deflated and stowed away when there is no longer a need for it. The best air mattress for guests should have the qualities listed above, plus have the height that makes it resemble a normal bed. In this regard, a raised air mattress fits the bill nicely. Raised air mattresses are higher off the ground, making them easier to get in and out of. These mattresses also often have multiple air chambers that add durability and make them hold air more firmly.
Best air mattress for camping
If you love the outdoors and often find yourself going on camping trips, backpacking, or taking long drives far from towns, you probably already have an earth pad and a sleeping bag. These items are camping staples, but they’re really not the most comfortable stuff to doze in, especially if you’re on rocky ground or sleep in your RV.
If you want something more comfortable than a mat or a sleeping bag to bring along during your travels, an air mattress is the way to go. The best air mattress for camping should be self-inflatable and have a thin and low profile. Many air mattress models are lightweight, compact and can easily fit in a tent, making them perfect companions for camping.
There are also air mattresses that come with metal frames that are easy to set up and portable. These framed air mattresses allow sleepers to elevate themselves off the ground. You can of course stick to a mattress with a lower profile if you want to rough it and sleep closer to the ground while staying comfortable in the great outdoors. Make sure to choose one that is heavy-duty and is especially designed for outdoor use, which can withstand craggy and uneven surfaces.
Some air beds that are not self-inflatable come with external pumps that can be powered by a car’s battery, making these great options for those who want to sleep in their RV, minivan, SUV or in the back of a pickup truck. These air mattresses for camping come in different sizes and shapes to fit a number of vehicle types if sleeping in a tent is not an option.
Best air mattress for everyday use
If you are looking for a mattress that will be used regularly, you’ll need one that excels in durability and comes with built-in pumps. It’s also recommended to go for a mattress that comes with an accompanying frame (usually made of metal) that allows the mattress to be off the ground and easier to climb on and off. A raised mattress with a frame also prevents the cold of the floor from transferring to the mattress.
Aside from a frame, a mattress that would be great for everyday use is one that has a thick and sturdy foam rail, which lends to a better sleeping experience because it prevents you from slipping or falling off the bed in your sleep. Mattress foam rails are usually attached to the mattress.
Materials used in an air mattress
Many consumers are interested to know about what materials are used in an air mattress, how it is constructed and which chemicals are part of it. Air mattresses are traditionally made of polyvinyl chloride or PVC, which is a synthetic resin. Many of the most durable air mattresses in the market today are made of the thickest PVC.
However, PVC being a plastic polymer is environmentally unfriendly, plus the volatile organic compounds or VOCs in PVC can give off toxic fumes. Some of the chemicals used in the manufacture of PVC airbeds are also toxic, like phthalates, a group of chemicals that can be harmful to health. This is why manufacturers are beginning to explore alternative options for air mattress materials.
One of these is thermoplastic polyurethane or TPU, which is completely non-toxic. TPU is considered to be the best material for air mattresses as it does not contain phthalates. This material is also lighter and more elastic than regular urethane plastic and PVC.
Other materials used in air mattresses include textile-reinforced urethane, vulcanized rubber bladders, high-grade foams, a pump system, soft fabric and synthetic fiber fillers. All of these contribute to the overall quality and price of an air mattress.
Home and health benefits of an air mattress
What does it mean to have an air mattress around? Here are the benefits you can get home- and health-wise when you use an air mattress.
Convenience – Having an air mattress around means being able to offer guests the comfort of a bed within minutes. Setup is always an easy affair. You won’t need to bother with a potentially dusty foam mattress or test the springs on a traditional coil mattress to see if they’re suitable for your guests. This is especially helpful if you live in a small home and need to create a sleeping area for your guests in a hurry.
Comfortable cushioning – Air mattresses are designed to provide comfortable cushioning for the body and make you feel like you’re really floating on air. There are no springs that can poke your body as you sleep and that you can feel through the surface. Less aches and pains leads to a more restful sleep, which allows your body to heal itself during the night. With an air mattress, you can achieve a state of total relaxation. By having better sleep and letting your body recharge, you will get more energy in the morning to power through your day. An air mattress is also great for quick afternoon naps!
Durability – Air mattresses have an unbeatable durability, which is why many people enjoy having them in their home and during their travels. With the right purchase, you can get many years of use out of an air mattress, plus there’s also a manufacturer’s warranty to guarantee a quality product.
Affordability and value for money – Air mattresses are priced lower than most foam mattresses today, making them the more budget-friendly choice among consumers. Even with a low price, air mattresses don’t compromise quality, which is why you have a wide selection of good value-for-money air mattresses to choose from.
Ease of moving around – In many homes, the bed would seem to be the only thing that remains stuck on the spot, simply because it’s too cumbersome to move around. This isn’t the case with an air mattress, which can be deflated and moved to wherever you want it to be anytime and without breaking your back. This means you can rearrange your furniture as you see fit and even stow your bed away in the daytime when you need more space. Hooray for apartment dwellers!
Ease of storage – Air mattresses can be easily deflated, folded up and stowed away. It’s lightweight, compact and portable, which means it doesn’t use up a lot of storage space and you can bring it along with you when necessary. It can fit in a cabinet, under the bed and even in the trunk of a vehicle for your trips.
Customization – An air mattress can be customized to fit each sleeper’s needs and preferences. You can fill the mattress with less air to make it softer or fill it to capacity to increase firmness. And if you sleep with a partner, if you want something soft but the other person prefers a firmer mattress, you can get both soft and firm sides by adjusting how the air mattress is inflated. Look for a mattress with dual air chambers.
Allergen- and odor-free – We’ve mentioned that TPU-based air beds are non-toxic. Top-quality air mattresses are also designed to be free from odor aside from the initial “new bed” odor that dissipates completely after the first few days of inflating and deflating the mattress. There would be no plasticky smells to bother you. Also, the construction and materials used in the air mattress prevent the growth of molds and allergens from creeping into the bed.
Disadvantages of an air mattress
There are a few disadvantages associated with an air mattress. One of these is that most air mattresses are not really designed to replace a “real” mattress made of foam or a foam-coil hybrid, which means they should be reserved for occasional use only. Some air mattress models are not fit for prolonged use and may only be slept on for up to two weeks at a time. Mattress companies actually specify that if you use the air mattress as your primary bed, you will void the warranty on it.
Speaking of warranties, these are limited and last less than the warranty on a foam mattress. Most air mattress warranties are only for a year, which can turn off those who plan on using the mattress for more than a year.
Longevity is another matter to consider. As with other mattress types, the life span of an air mattress depends on how it is used, maintained and stored. Most air mattress models could last up to four years, which is considerably less than the life span of a traditional spring or foam mattress, which can be up to ten years with regular use.
Another issue that some air mattress users complain about is how the air in the mattress leaks out at the seams or via the air valve, requiring them to inflate often. In most cases, this is considered normal – the loss in air pressure is attributed to the elasticity of the vinyl material used. This is a small hassle however, something that manufacturers strive to address by improving on air mattress design and construction.
An air mattress isn’t for folks who like the firm support and tight bounce from a spring mattress or the conforming ability of a memory foam mattress, so it’s best not to expect these qualities from an air mattress.
Air mattress usages – when would I need an air mattress?
There are several situations when an air mattress is the most convenient and comfortable option for you and others in your care (guests and children). For example, if you have just moved in to a new apartment, house or condo unit and need a bed to sleep on, an air mattress can provide you with a comfortable night’s sleep right away.
While you can use a folding cot, camping pad, sleeping bag or futon, these aren’t as comfortable as sleeping on an air mattress. An air bed is also similar to a “normal” mattress in terms of comfort, height and surface area. You won’t have any difficulty getting up from bed, and your back, shoulders and hips won’t hurt either. You can also use the bed sheets you already have. In the morning when you need to fix more stuff in the house, you can simply deflate the air mattress and store it in a corner so you have space to walk as you work.
You can also use an air mattress as your main or permanent bed, but you must be sure that the mattress you choose is designed for that purpose. As we’ve mentioned, there are some air mattress models that are more suited for occasional use. Air mattresses for nightly use tend to be more expensive than those designed for guests or for camping and are available in large sizes. Air mattress models designed for regular use may already come with their own frame or raised platform.
Perhaps the primary reason why people buy an air mattress is to have a temporary bed for guests to sleep on. For this purpose, a queen or twin bed is ideal. When you have an air mattress, your guests won’t have to sleep on the sofa or on the floor. Having an air mattress for guests allows you to be a thoughtful host who cares about your guests’ comfort while they are staying in your home. After their visit, you can easily pack the air mattress away in a closet or in the corner of the guest room.
Another use of an air mattress is as a bed for when you’re on a long road trip and want to save on a hotel or motel stay. There are small air mattress models that are designed to be used in a car. Some even come with custom stands or are designed with inflated feet that sit in the rear footwells so that the mattress doesn’t sag over the edge. The edge support results in a snug fit that maximizes the surface space of the back seat, giving you enough room to sleep in.
Air mattresses are also great for camping. The typical sleeping gear campers use consists of a sleeping pad and a sleeping bag, but nowadays an air mattress has become the comfier alternative. There are air mattress models that fit inside a tent, which is great if you want a softer surface to sleep on and don’t want to feel the rocky ground on your back. Look for air mattress models that are specifically intended for camping, which can be used both indoors and outdoors and are small enough to be easily packed when deflated. Make sure to choose a model that can be used with a manual pump or a self-inflatable one so you can use it where there is no electricity.
A portable air mattress is also great to have when you’re unsure of the sleeping arrangements when your kids are going on a sleepover. Because air mattresses are easy to use, kids (with the supervision of grownups, of course) can inflate and deflate a mattress themselves.
Types of air mattresses
There are different kinds of air mattresses in the market today and they come in different sizes. Here’s a quick rundown to give you a better idea of the types of air mattresses that are available to you and what these would be ideal for:
- Raised air mattress – taller than the typical air mattresses, raised air mattresses not only have added height but also multiple air chambers, stability and durability. Sleeping on a raised air mattress feels like sleeping on a regular foam or spring bed. Raised air mattresses usually come with smart features such as an automatic pumping system.
- Convertible air mattress – having a convertible air mattress is like having two beds in one. A convertible is basically two twin beds that when put together results in a larger air mattress, and may be cheaper to get than two separate twin beds.
- Air mattress with frame – some low-profile air mattresses come with a frame on which to put them for added height. An air mattress with a frame thus allows you to have the feeling of sleeping on a raised air mattress without the expense.
- Air mattress with a built-in pump – Some air mattress models already come with an internal pump that allows you to simply plug it in to inflate your mattress. Some pumps simply take in air, while others allow you to adjust the mattress firmness.
Aside from those four main mattress types, there are also other kinds of mattresses:
- Basic model with a separate pump – good for kids on sleepovers and guests
- Thick mattress with built-in pump – more sophisticated and good for those who need more support
- High-end air mattresses with built-in pump and dual air chambers – provide extra stability and customizable firmness
- Air mattress for outdoor use – usually made of sturdier materials and great for camping
- Air mattresses with memory foam padding – the extra layers of cushioning provide for a superior sleeping experience
- Air mattress with an internal coil system – internal coils (and other internal support systems) provide greater stability, add back support and prevent sagging. In a way this kind of air mattress can be considered a hybrid.
Factors to consider when buying an air mattress
So what should you look for when you’re in the market for an air mattress? Let’s discuss the factors to consider.
- Air mattress comfort – Since air mattresses are used for sleeping, the top consideration when buying one is comfort. Comfort is relative with some people preferring a soft surface to sleep on, while others want a firmer bed. An air mattress then should be able to meet sleepers’ needs by providing full-body support and allowing them to adjust the firmness. Some air mattresses have built-in controls for this purpose, while others are built with memory foam for added comfort.
- Mattress top – It’s also important to consider the top of the mattress. Due to the fact air mattresses are usually made with PVC or other synthetic materials, the sleeping surface can be uncomfortable to sleep on. To address this, some manufacturers add a suede or velour top to provide a softer feel. Aside from comfort, these soft flocked tops also make sure that sleepers (along with bed sheets and blankets) don’t slide off the mattress. If the air mattress you’re eyeing doesn’t have a soft top, inquire about a separate mattress topper.
- Durability – Some air mattresses are designed to be used as permanent beds, while others are more suited for temporary use over a long period. Either way, an air mattress needs to be durable and capable of preventing air leakage even with repeated use. It should be made of top-quality, heavy-gauge material to lessen the risk of tears and seam splits.
- Weight support – In general, a twin size air mattress should be able to support up to 350 pounds of weight, while queen and king size mattresses, which are intended for two people, should be able to support up to 600 pounds of weight.
- Odor – Some air mattress models, particularly those made of PVC vinyl, have an unpleasant chemical odor due to the material used and the vinyl manufacturing process. The odor dissipates when the mattress is aired out, inflated and deflated for the first few days. PVC-free mattresses contain no odor.
- Convenience and ease of use and setup – An air bed shouldn’t make it hard for you to have a comfortable spot to sleep on. It should be something that can quickly and easily be unpacked from storage, inflated either with an internal or external pump, adjusted and deflated and stored when it will not be in use for a while.
- Height – The height of the air mattress affects how easily you can lower yourself onto the bed and lift your body out of it. This is why many people prefer raised or double-height mattresses that measure up to 24 inches tall. Added height can also be achieved through the use of a frame. For children however, low-profile models prove to be the better option.
- Air pump – Air mattress pumps are either internal (built-in) or external (separate electric or manual). One of the factors to consider in choosing an air bed is how loud the pump is when it’s inflating or vacuuming out the air. The loudness of an air pump can be likened to that of a hair dryer or a vacuum cleaner. Some pumps are designed to be quiet, which is great if there is a need to adjust the firmness of the bed in the middle of the night. There are also automatic air pumps that can detect changes in air pressure and automatically pump more air in when needed.
- Sizes – Width and length should be considered when choosing an air mattress. The mattress should give plenty of room for sleepers not only on the sides but on the top and bottom as well. If you don’t want to sleep with your feet dangling off the edge, you should choose an air mattress with a suitable size so you can sleep comfortably and not fall off the bed even if you change positions throughout the night. Air mattresses come in all the standard mattress sizes: twin, full, queen and king. There are also models designed to fit in an RV or at the backseat of a car.
- Inflation and deflation time – The shorter the inflation time, the faster you’ll be able to use the air mattress. Likewise, the shorter the time to deflate it, the quicker you’ll be able to roll or fold it up and keep it in storage. Most air mattresses are able to inflate and deflate within 2 minutes.
- Ease of deflation and packing – With some air mattress models, you will have to complete the deflation process yourself by pressing out the remaining air. This can be tricky and take a lot of time, not to mention a hassle when you’re in a hurry (for example if you need to break camp and pack things up quickly). Folding and rolling up a deflated air mattress so it can be put back in a storage bag is a task that can test your patience.
- Ability to maintain constant air pressure – What can make or break your air bed sleeping experience is the ability of the mattress to keep the air pressure constant. Some air mattress models have a tendency to lose significant air pressure overnight, causing you to roll out of bed because the sides have become soft or rock back and forth, possibly waking your sleeping partner, because the air is not evenly distributed throughout the mattress. When you lose air pressure, you lose comfort and stability, so it’s ideal to look for an air bed with an internal support system that keeps the mattress firm and stable if you will be using your air mattress regularly. The ability of an air mattress to hold air in is also important if you are going camping in a cold environment, which causes the air inside the mattress to condense, which means there will be less air to support you in the morning than there was at nighttime. If you don’t want to wake up on the ground, choose an air mattress that can hold as much air as possible.
- Portability and ease of storage – You choose an air mattress because it is considerably less bulky and takes up less space than a foam or spring mattress when it’s deflated. For you to be able to take it with you on your travels, it should be compact, lightweight and easy to carry. At home, it should be easy to store in a closet, cabinet or under the bed. An air mattress should be easy to fold, roll and store in a small space, and come with a sturdy storage bag.
- Price and value for money – We’re all warned that when it comes to products, you get what you pay for. However, we’re also secretly hoping that the things we buy can be so much more in terms of value – that even if something is budget-friendly, it’s also great in quality. In this regard, it’s best to be on the lookout for an air mattress that is rated highly but priced reasonably.
- Warranty and customer service – A warranty protects you from product defects such as faulty materials or manufacturing or workmanship defects. Some air beds have a one-year warranty while others have a 25-year warranty. Always buy an air mattress with a warranty and from a company that has a good reputation for reliable customer services. This way, should your mattress be in need of repair or replacement, there’s always someone on the other line ready to assist you.
Air mattress care and maintenance / Usage tips and tricks
An air mattress requires a bit more care compared to traditional foam mattresses. Here are some tips to follow if you have one in your home.
Avoid over-inflating the mattress, which can result in leaks and rips. While it’s tempting to fill it to full capacity to make it as firm as possible, it’s not recommended because it may put too much pressure on the seams. Here’s a trick to make sure it doesn’t burst on you: On first use, fill it up to around 90 percent capacity, wait a couple of hours then deflate it. Repeat this process and then fill it up to capacity. By doing so, you get the material used to expansion. It’s like breaking in a new pair of shoes.
Check for leaks regularly. A hissing noise is a sure sign of a leak. To check for leaks visually, use a soap and water solution on the seams and look for bubbles. If there’s a leak, fix it immediately with a repair kit, which usually contains vinyl patches and adhesive.
Avoid overloading. Check the weight limits of the mattress you are using to avoid putting excess weight on it, which can result in seam damage and air leaks.
Protect it from sharp objects, pet claws included. Scissors, knives, pencils, pens, pins and kitty claws can scratch and tear the surface of the air mattress, voiding the warranty and leaving a hole for you to repair.
Don’t use it as a trampoline. Air mattresses may have a nice bounce, but they’re not for play.
Have a repair kit handy. If your mattress didn’t come with a repair kit, you can purchase one from a hardware or camping store. Make sure the mattress is fully deflated and follow the manufacturer’s instructions on leak repair. Avoid using supplies or chemicals that may damage the mattress.
Keep it clean. Cleaning the air mattress is important especially if you use it regularly, if you’re bringing it out after several months in storage and before folding it up for storage. To clean, make sure it is unplugged. Run a vacuum over it to remove dirt, crumbs, hair and other debris. Wipe it down with water and a mild soap solution using a clean piece of cloth and let it air dry.
Store it properly in a clean, dry place. Always place the folded-up mattress in its box or storage bag when not in use. If you can’t find the original bag, wrap the mattress in a towel, place it in another bag and label it. Avoid storing your air mattress in a humid spot or in an area with high temperature fluctuations. Doing so will affect the integrity of the air mattress materials.
Use a mattress protector. A mattress protector that can be placed on the top or around the mattress helps in protecting the bed from accidental spills and scratches that can make the mattress look and feel older than it is. You can also opt for a foam mattress topper for added comfort.
Place it on a soft surface like a carpet or a rug. An air mattress can squeak much like sneakers on hard flooring.
Air mattress costs
Air mattresses are usually priced according to their size, specifications, materials used and extra features that they may have. Size-wise, the larger the mattress the higher the price. For instance, a basic twin mattress can cost as little as $25, while high-end queen mattresses can run up to $150.
Mattress material, air pump type and other features such as memory foam, USB ports and LED lights all affect the pricing of an air mattress. Fortunately, there are top-rated models in each price range, so no matter how big or small your budget is, you’ll be sure to find one that would meet your needs.
Air mattress brands
Some of the most popular air mattress brands in the market today are the following:
- Fox Airbeds
- Lazery Sleep
- Lightspeed Outdoors
- Sleep Restoration
- Simmons BeautyRest
How to inflate / deflate air mattresses
Inflating and deflating air mattresses are best done using an air pump, which can be internal or external. External pumps can be battery powered, mains powered or manually powered by foot. For external electric pumps, inflation is simply a matter of connecting the pump to the air valve, connecting the pump to the power source and turning the pump on. Deflating the mattress is done using the reverse or vacuum mode.
Internal pumps are those that are built into mattresses. These pumps usually have control switches that allow for air pressure adjustment as well as automatic inflation and easy deflation. An air mattress with an internal pump simply needs to be plugged into a wall socket. A switch or remote control starts the inflation or deflation process.
How well does the air hold?
Air mattresses deflate gradually overnight because of the temperature, its design, the pressure that sleepers put on them. There is no such thing as a 100 percent airtight mattress – an air mattress loses air as soon as you lie on it, and when the air inside it condenses.
How well an air mattress keeps air in will then depend on your body weight, the temperature and design. There are a few things you can do to decrease the amount of air the mattress leaks out.
One, you can keep the mattress away from a cold surface by placing it on top of carpet, rug or earth pad. You can also avoid sitting on the mattress, which puts a high amount of pressure on a small area and pushes air out. Investing in an air mattress with built-in “never flat” pump technology can also work well in your favor.