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We’ve all got friends and relatives, but we don’t all have a guest room for their overnight visits. On that safe assumption, the air mattress business was born. Fortunately, these blow-up beds have advanced quite a bit from the flimsy models you’d inflate with a bicycle pump—or by mouth until you were dizzy. Seemingly without fail, air mattresses of old deflated in the middle of the night, and the poor soul sleeping on them would wake up on the floor, cranky and achy. Today’s top models are less likely to leak, and the best air mattress options are designed with internal baffles to better support a sleeper.
Of course, it’s tough for even the best air mattress to compare with a real one, and cut-rate versions are still on the market, so before you buy, do your research here. We’ve outlined exactly what to look for in a comfortable, convenient air mattress, and pulled our top three consumer picks in a reasonable price range. You’ll be prepared the next time your college buddy or in-laws come to town—not to mention equipped for your next camping trip—with an air mattress that’s a dream come true!
Height matters. Raised air mattresses, up to three times higher than the standard 8-inch mattress height, make it easier on the knees and the back when getting in and out of bed. Reviews website The Sweethome tested a number of air mattresses and found that 18 inches is the most comfortable height for adults.
The sag truth. Sadly, some sagging is inevitable with even the highest quality air mattress. This isn’t due to air escaping but to the material, polyvinyl chloride (PVC), stretching under pressure. Some manufacturers claim that their mattresses are more likely to stretch when new; after they’ve been slept on a few times, the sag factor should decrease.
Pump improvements. No one wants to spend a lot of time filling or emptying an air mattress, so choose one with a quick-inflate pump that will get it to optimal firmness in a few minutes. Internal electric air pumps offer fastest inflation, but they’re only suitable for in-home use. If you want a mattress for camping, buy one with a battery operated pump (take plenty of extra batteries) or a manual pump. “Always on” electric pumps can sense a pressure drop and add air as needed to keep the mattress firm—nice, but pricey. Manual pumps, operated either by foot or hand, are the least expensive option.
Dollar values. You get what you pay for with air mattresses, but only to a point. Those no-frills $50 air mattresses tend to get low consumer ratings because they simply don’t stand up to frequent use. Air mattresses can run as much as $300 dollars, but at that price you pay for bells and whistles, such as portable frames, remote control pump operation, and foam toppers. According to The Sweethome, the best air mattress typically won’t cost more than $150; after that, you’re most likely purchasing perks that won’t enhance your sleeping comfort.
Get a warranty. A one-year limited warranty is standard with the purchase of better air mattresses, but manufacturers warn that using their product as a regular bed will void its warranty. Most makers only guarantee against factory defects of the mattress and the pump.
We’ve rounded up the top models based on the criteria above as well as reviews from consumers and experts alike so that you don’t have to lose a single night’s sleep when shopping for the best air mattress.
Perfect for a Pair: SoundAsleep Dream Series Air Mattress with ComfortCoil Technology ($120)
With a thick flocked sleeping surface, and ComfortCoil technology that distributes air evenly throughout, the SoundAsleep Dream Series Air Mattress wins top honors from The Sweethome. This queen size air bed is a very comfortable 19 inches high, measures 78 inches by 58 inches, and supports up to 500 pounds of sleeping weight, making it perfect for a couple of overnight guests. Its high-capacity internal electric pump inflates the mattress in just four minutes, and more than 11,000 enthusiastic Amazon buyers gave it a robust 4.4 out of 5 stars. Reviewers raved about its stability (virtually no jiggle) and noted only minimal sagging. The mattress comes with its own storage bag and weighs in at 19 pounds. Available from Amazon.
Quick and Comfy: AeroBed One-Touch Comfort Air Mattress – Double High, Twin ($130)
For a single guest, the AeroBed One-Touch Comfort Mattress inflates to a lofty 17 inches high in just two minutes, while the Whoosh® valve makes deflation just as quick the next morning. The internal electric pump has a control wand that lets the sleeper add air pressure without getting out of bed, and a patented stability base increases firmness. The mattress offers a generous 39-inch by 74-inch surface to accommodate a sleeper up to 300 pounds, and features an antimicrobial surface to resist mildew. Target shoppers gave the AeroBed a wholehearted 5-star rating based on its easy setup, high level of sleep comfort, and minimal sagging. It weighs 15 pounds and comes with its own stow bag and a two-year limited warranty. Available from Amazon.
Best for Camping: Coleman Airbed Cot, Twin ($109)
The battery-operated Coleman Airbed Cot means sweet dreams inside and out! While the mattress is only eight inches high when fully inflated, the included portable cot raises the entire bed to 22 inches, making getting in and out of bed a pleasure. The mattress inflates and deflates with the included 4D battery pump (batteries sold separately), boasts stable, supportive ComfortStrong Coil construction, and features an Airtight® system guaranteed by the manufacturer not to leak. The Airbed, which got 4.4 stars from Amazon buyers, is 45 inches wide and 74 inches long for a sleeper up to 300 pounds and its removable cover is machine washable. The cot collapses for easy storage in its own bag, and has a one-year limited warranty. Weighing in at 30 pounds, it’s probably too heavy for remote backpacking but a great pick for tent camping near your vehicle. Available from Amazon.