While many might associate camping with sleepless nights of tossing and turning on a cold, hard ground riddled with tree roots, that doesn’t have to be the case. Camping air mattresses take a little of the “roughing it” out of the experience by creating a cushioning pocket of air between your body and the earth.
Camping air mattresses range in shape and size from 19-inch-thick queen-size models that can make sleeping in a tent feel like a night in a hotel room to 5-inch-thick, ultra-lightweight air mattresses that provide much-needed comfort on rugged backpacking trips. Camping air mattresses are made from durable puncture-resistant materials and come with powerful pumps that inflate them in minutes.
This guide will explore some of the crucial factors one should consider when shopping for an air mattress and review some of the best camping air mattress options for different kinds of camping.
- BEST OVERALL: QOMOTOP Ultra Thick Self-Inflating Camping Mattress
- BEST UPGRADE: SoundAsleep Dream Series Air Mattress
- BEST FOR BACKPACKING: Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Ultralight Air Mattress
- BEST SINGLE: Etekcity Upgraded Camping Air Mattress
- BEST COT: Coleman Camping Cot, Air Mattress, and Pump Combo
- BEST FOR WINTER: Therm-a-Rest MondoKing 3D Self-Inflating Foam
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Camping Air Mattress
Size, material, comfort, and even insulating properties are important features to be aware of when comparing camping air mattresses. Ahead, learn about these and other crucial factors to consider when adding an air mattress to your collection of camping gear.
There are a few options when it comes to material types for camping mattresses. Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) mattresses are the most common type. They are waterproof, resist punctures, and are relatively affordable, making them an attractive option. PVC is also a softer and more flexible material, making it ideal for camping. However, some PVC mattresses do give off an odor that can bother some people.
Thermoplastic polyurethane has similar qualities to PVC; however, it is lighter, more flexible, and doesn’t give off unpleasant odors. Mattresses made with thermoplastic polyurethane do tend to be more expensive than PVC air mattresses.
Most camping air mattresses have a thin, textured covering that adds comfort while preventing the individual from sliding off the mattress in the middle of the night. Larger air mattresses use a soft velvety material, while backpacking air mattresses typically have a rugged denier polyester layer.
Camping air mattresses come in a significant range of sizes to suit different types of camping. Larger air mattresses that range in size between a standard single or queen-size mattress are suitable for car camping. These mattresses are typically 8 inches to 19 inches thick, providing excellent support and cushioning. Since these mattresses can weigh upward of 10 pounds, they are not an option for backpacking.
Backpacking air mattresses are large enough to provide a sleeping area for a single person at around 72 inches long and 25 inches wide. These mattresses range in thickness from 2 inches to 5 inches. While these mattresses don’t offer the same comfort as a full air mattress, they are much lighter, with some weighing less than a pound. This size and weight make it easier to carry them in a pack.
Air mattresses are intended for a wide range of uses. Car camping air mattresses are very similar in size and shape to air mattresses one might use for overnight guests at their home. They mimic a conventional mattress’s length and thickness and are ideal for car camping where the mattress does not have to be carried over a long distance.
Backpacking involves backwoods camping that could be miles from civilization. Since backpacking involves hauling gear on one’s back, large inflatable mattresses for car camping are far too heavy and bulky. Air mattresses for backpacking are significantly smaller and thinner while also being lighter.
Winter camping involves sleeping on cold and sometimes frozen ground. In these situations, the mattress not only needs to provide comfort and support while sleeping, but it also needs to serve as insulation that keeps the user separated from the cold earth.
Air mattresses inflate in one of two ways—with a pump or with the user’s lungs. Large air mattresses for car camping typically have an electric pump that inflates the bed in about a minute. These pumps are integrated into some mattresses, making them easy to inflate and deflate.
Others have a separate pump that the user must manually attach to the mattress’s valve for inflation. These pumps can plug into a standard 120-volt outlet, have adapters that allow them to plug into the cigarette lighter of an automobile, or work off batteries. Some air mattresses have foot stand-style pumps that require the user to inflate them manually.
Smaller backpacking air mattresses have valves that self-inflate when the mattress is unpacked. These mattresses usually require some manual inflation by blowing into the valve to reach full firmness. Because these mattresses are relatively small, the user can typically inflate the mattress within a few minutes.
The comfort of an air mattress is directly related to its thickness. The thicker the mattress, the larger the pillow of air that provides support and cushioning for the user. These mattresses also have built-in-pockets that provide structural support throughout the bed to prevent sagging in the middle. Air mattresses even have textured tops that add comfort by supporting different body parts, such as the lower back and neck. A felt or fabric layer on the top adds a cozier feel to the mattress than bare plastic.
Insulation Aspect (R-Value)
Sleeping outdoors in winter weather requires a mattress that can insulate the user from the cold, hard ground. Some manufacturers rate their air mattresses with an R-value, indicating the level of insulation they provide. R-value is the same rating system used to rate the effectiveness of insulation in exterior walls. In short, the higher the rating, the better the insulation properties. Extreme cold-weather camping mattresses will have an R-value of 8 or more, while mattresses for cool weather will have an R-value of around 4 or 5.
All air mattresses for camping are designed to be easily transported from one place to another. Larger air mattresses for car camping typically have storage bags that hold the deflated mattress and accessories such as a pump or power adapters. Backpacking air mattresses can reduce into a thin layer that the camper can roll up for easy transport on or in a backpack. Air mattresses that require an electric pump for inflation typically have car adapters or batteries to allow for use at a campsite with no access to electricity.
Our Top Picks
The list below takes into account the above considerations to narrow the field to some of the best air mattresses for different camping needs. Any of the air mattresses below will make sleeping in a tent a more comfortable experience.
Even some of the best air mattresses can end up having the bouncy feel of a pool floaty, especially for those used to sleeping on a memory-foam mattress. QOMOTOP sets itself apart from other air mattresses by adding a memory foam top layer to its mattress. The 4-inch-thick foam creates a softer feel than that of most air mattresses. Adding or removing air adjusts the softness of the mattress.
This mattress also has an innovative way of inflating. The carrying bag doubles as an inflator, eliminating the need for bulky stand pumps or electric pumps that require access to a power source. With a high R-value rating of 9.5, it’s also a good option for camping in cold temperatures. This mattress is available in both single and double sizes, making it suitable for larger and smaller tents.
Camping doesn’t necessarily have to mean roughing it. This queen-size mattress closely mimics sleeping in a real bed, thanks to its luxury design. It features ComfortCoil technology, which uses 40 internal air coils to provide support and a firm feel. At 19 inches thick, this bed also offers plenty of cushioning and excellent insulation from the ground, which makes it suitable for cold weather car camping.
A SureGrip bottom keeps the bed from sliding on the tent floor, while a soft top adds comfort and warmth. With its multiple layers of PVC material, this bed is also rugged enough to hold up to the rigors of camping without puncturing. The mattress sets up quickly, thanks to an integrated pump that fully inflates it in under four minutes. A carrying bag makes transporting this mattress to the campsite easy. It’s available in king, queen, twin, and twin XL sizes.
With this air mattress, there’s no need to compromise weight or comfort. 5 inches thick, this air mattress provides plenty of comfort to allow for a good night’s sleep after a long day on the trail. It weighs just 12 ounces, and with a size of only 9 inches by 4.1 inches when packed, this sleeping pad isn’t a burden to carry. It features a ribbed surface that allows it to hold its shape while providing comfort.
An easy-to-use valve makes inflating and deflating this mattress easy. Its ample thickness gives it a 4.2 R-value, making it suitable for camping in cooler weather. The NeoAir Ultralight comes in four sizes ranging from small at 20 inches by 47 inches to large at 25 inches by 77 inches, making it suitable for a broad range of body types.
While many air mattresses are more than a foot thick, a lower profile mattress sometimes makes more sense for car camping. This twin-size mattress from Etekcity offers exceptional comfort and durability in a thinner size. It features a wave beam inner construction, which provides more support and comfort than a standard air mattress. The contours of the “wave” top conform better to the body than a traditional mattress with a flat top, making for a better night’s sleep. The top features a velvety fabric layer, which adds an extra layer of warmth and a more comfortable feel.
One of the biggest pluses of this air mattress is its air pump, which runs off a rechargeable battery, making inflating the mattress at a campsite easier. The battery provides enough juice to pump up the bed multiple times before needing a recharge. The mattress includes a wall plug power cord and a car charger power cord as a backup.
The ability to get up off the ground can give the tent a homier feel while also keeping creepy crawlies from finding their way into the bed. This Coleman cot air mattress combo provides that cot feel while also including some useful add-ons. At about 6 inches thick, the air mattress provides ample support and cushioning. A removable mattress cover makes cleaning easy while adding a soft feel to the mattress and a protective layer to prevent punctures.
A sturdy steel cot elevates the mattress about 2 feet off the ground. A handy canvas surface extends from the cot, creating a convenient nightstand for personal belongings such as a book or pair of glasses, and the integrated cup holder is a good place to set a nighttime beverage. A battery-operated pump conveniently inflates the mattress without the need for a cord, and the cot and mattress break down for storage in a carrying case for easy transport.
Keeping the chill of the cold ground off one’s body while camping in winter is crucial to staying warm at night. This can be a challenge when backpacking, where carrying the least weight is vital. With its exceptional insulation, this self-inflating foam camping mattress is up to the task. It weighs less than 5 pounds but inflates to 4.5 inches thick. This ample thickness gives it an exceptional R-value of 8, making it suitable for camping in extreme cold.
The mattress uses a dual valve system that causes the pad to self-inflate when unpacked and deflate quickly when it’s time to hit the trail. The top has a ribbed shape that adds comfort while maintaining a flat top. The MondoKing is available in two sizes: 77 inches by 25 inches and 80 inches by 30 inches.
FAQs About Camping Air Mattresses
If you’re still wondering about how air mattresses work, then read on for answers to some of the common questions about these camping luxury items.
Q. What do you put under an air mattress when camping?
While the tent floor will do an adequate job of protecting your air mattress, you can place a foam pad, blankets, or even house wrap paper such as Tyvek under the air mattress for extra protection.
Q. How long does it take for a self-inflating mattress to inflate?
A self-inflating mattress will usually fill with air within a few minutes; however, to get the maximum amount of firmness for sleeping, you typically need to blow a few puffs into the valve.
Q. Do air mattresses deflate overnight?
All air mattresses will lose a little bit of air overnight for a few reasons. Air mattresses allow some air to escape to prevent the mattress from bursting from the weight of you lying on it. Changes in air pressure can also cause an air mattress to lose its firmness.
Q. Can you wash an inflatable mattress?
To wash an inflatable air mattress, wipe it down with a damp cloth. Make sure to allow the mattress to dry completely before packing it away to prevent mold growth.