All about air mattresses

In the past, people associated air mattresses with air leaks and achy backs, but inflatable mattresses have come a long way. Today, there are luxury air mattress models comfortable enough to provide a good night’s sleep.

Air mattresses can range from ultra-thick models with built-in pumps, to minimalist pads suitable for backpacking. The right air mattress for you depends on your needs – whether you’ll be using it for camping, houseguests, or as a temporary bedding solution for yourself.

Regardless of the specific type you need, you should look for an air mattress that offers the following:

  • Comfort so you won’t wake up with an aching back
  • Durability to ensure years of use without leaks
  • Ease of use so you can quickly set up and take down your inflatable bed

In this article, we’ll be discussing the types of air mattresses best suited to a variety of needs. We’ll also list some of the the most highly-rated mattresses on the market, based on consumer reviews and our own research.

Note: The air mattresses we’ll be discussing are inflatable beds designed for temporary use, as opposed to airbeds, which are permanent and non-collapsible. It is not recommended that temporary air mattresses are slept on for more than a few nights at a time, due to comfort and durability.

What to look for in an air mattress

Obviously, the main thing that sets air mattresses apart from traditional mattresses is the support core of air, as opposed to latex, memory foam, or coils. However, many luxury air mattresses attempt to mimic a coil structure to provide even weight distribution and edge support.

Some of the best-reviewed air mattresses are “raised” for extra thickness. The increased height not only adds to comfort, but makes getting in and out of bed much easier, especially for people with back problems. Some air mattresses even come with a built-in memory foam topper for extra comfort, though these can also be purchased separately.

Some air mattresses are specifically designed for indoor or outdoor use, while others are versatile enough to use for both camping trips and houseguests. The chief difference in these is pump type, since pumps that must be plugged into outlets are generally confined to indoor use. Built-in pumps offer the greatest ease of use, and allow users to adjust firmness and quickly top-off air levels in case of deflation. However, if a built-in pump breaks, then the whole mattress is ruined, whereas external pumps can be easily replaced.

The other factor that differentiates inflatable air mattresses is that they aren’t designed for long-term use, and are subject to punctures, bulges, and indentations. While most air mattress models claim to be made of various “leak-proof” materials, it’s always a good idea to test a new air mattress for leaks immediately upon purchasing, in case of factory defects. If you’re going to invest in a luxury air mattress, make sure the company has a comprehensive warranty and a good reputation for customer service.

Pros and cons of air mattresses

Air mattresses occupy a unique niche. They can go places and fulfill needs that would be impossible for traditional mattresses, but anyone thinking of using an air mattress as their primary bed should carefully consider the drawbacks.

Pros:

  • Cost: Even the most luxurious air mattresses rarely cost more than two hundred dollars, as opposed to traditional mattresses, which can easily cost over $1000.
  • Portability: The chief advantage of an air mattress is that one can set it up anywhere, from a tent to a living room.
  • Space-saving: Air mattresses can be deflated for easy storage, as opposed to a cot or rollaway bed.

Cons:

  • Durability: Even the sturdiest air mattresses have limited lifespans, and will inevitably develop problems after heavy use.
  • Comfort:  A good air mattress can give users a comfortable night’s sleep, but most experts don’t advise using them every night. They simply can’t provide your back the same support as a latex, memory foam, or spring mattress.
  • Couples: Air mattresses can be creaky and have a high degree of motion transfer, which can be difficult when sleeping with a partner. However, these issues can be somewhat alleviated by adding a foam topper.

Who should consider an air mattress?

A quality air mattress can be a great temporary bedding solution for a variety of needs. Choosing the right model means understanding what your specific needs are, and the strengths and limitations of air mattresses as a whole.

People with guests

An air mattress is a great way to put up houseguests. It takes up less room than a cot, and a quality air mattress can provide a more comfortable experience than a sofa or a pull-out bed. One caveat is that if you’re going to invest in a good air mattress, you should discourage children from jumping on it, as this can significantly decrease its lifespan.

Campers

While most top-of-the-line air mattresses are too bulky to take backpacking, they can be a great solution for a campsite, music festival, or other occasion when you don’t have to haul the mattress too far. For people with back problems, air mattresses can be a game changer that makes camping fun again. The same goes for older people, for whom the increased height of an air mattress can make getting in and out of bed much easier. It’s just important to make sure you you purchase a mattress with the right type of pump, that won’t require being plugged into an outlet.

People moving homes

If you’re in the middle of a move and your mattress hasn’t arrived yet, the right air mattress can hold you over until you set up your permanent sleeping arrangement.

The best temporary air mattresses

There is no “one size fits all” air mattress, so finding the best temporary bed means knowing how and where you plan to use it. We’ve chosen the mattresses on our list based on data and consumer reviews, and while they are all highly regarded, an air mattress that is perfect for indoor use may not fare as well in an outdoor environment. Each of the following air mattresses combines affordability, durability, and comfort in slightly different ways, so look for the one that suits your individual needs.

Insta-Bed Raised Air Mattress with Never Flat Pump

The Insta-Bed Raised Air Mattress is an excellent choice for at-home use, particularly over an extended period of time. The design features a “neverFLAT” secondary pump that silently reinflates the bed during the night to ensure you won’t wake up on the floor. However, this does require the bed to be plugged into a power outlet, making it less ideal for camping.

The queen size model is guaranteed to hold up to 500 pounds, which is adequate for most couples, though lower than some of the other brands on this list. The sueded texture of the top helps keep bedding in place. Most users praise the Insta-Bed’s comfort, and it features 35 circular coils to provide even support. Its 18-inch height is tall even among luxury air mattresses and helps with getting in and out of bed. This model is among the more expensive options, but comes with a 1-year warranty.

Highlights:

  • Secondary pump: The Insta-Bed’s patented second pump keeps it from going flat in the night.
  • For indoor use: The Insta-Bed works best when plugged in throughout the night.
  • Warranty: The company offers a one-year warranty.
  • Support and comfort: The coiled design and 18-inch height offer good support for users with back issues.

The Insta-Bed Raised Air Mattress is available in grey, tan, and white.

SoundAsleep Dream Series Air Mattress

The SoundAsleep Dream Series Air Mattress is among the top-rated air mattresses for comfort and at-home use. It is on the more expensive side but offers a one-year warranty and the company is generally known for very responsive customer service. This mattress features a built-in pump that must be plugged into an outlet, so it’s not ideal for camping. However, with a 19-inch height (in the queen size model) and an industry-high 40 coils, the SoundAsleep earns top marks for comfort.

SoundAsleep also utilizes a water-resistant material for its top and a slip-resistant material for its bottom, which add to comfort and durability.

Highlights:

  • Ease of use: The SoundAsleep’s built-in pump inflates quickly and easily.
  • Best-in-class coils: This mattress features 40 coils, which ensure superior edge support and weight distribution.
  • Tough materials: Consumers have praised the waterproof top and slip-resistant bottom.

Purchase the SoundAsleep Dream Series Air Mattress from Amazon.

Intex Dura-Beam

The Intex Dura-Beam aims to provide the comfort of a luxury air mattress at a reduced price. The Dura-Beam is an updated version of the Intex Deluxe, which is also well-reviewed. This mattress typically sells for $50, which is roughly half the cost of the competition. The Dura-Beam features a built-in pump that requires a wall outlet, which makes it best-suited for at-home use. However, you can attach an external pump (either battery or hand-operated) to the air-release valve for use when camping.

At 16.5 inches tall, this mattress offers much of the height of its competitors, but at only 14 pounds, is significantly lighter. This product comes with a relatively short, 90-day warranty. The Dura-Beam has a weight capacity of 600 pounds, and “fiber-tech” technology that attempts to distribute weight evenly without using coils. This mattress is generally reviewed well in terms of comfort, though consumers are divided as to whether the built-in pillow is an advantage or a drawback.

Highlights:

  • Indoor/outdoor use: The built-in pump requires AC power, but you can attach an external pump for outdoor use.
  • Affordability: The Dura-Beam is roughly half the cost of its luxury competitors, but with a much shorter warranty.
  • Built-in pillow: Some users love the extra support (while others dislike it) of the Dura-Beam’s built-in pillow.

Purchase your Intex Dura-Beam air mattress today.

Coleman Queen Airbed Folding Cot with Side Tables

The Coleman Queen Airbed Folding Cot’s big feature is a folding steel frame, which gives it a 22-inch height, and provides arguably the most bed-like sleeping experience. The pump is battery-operated, which makes this a good choice for camping, and the built-in side tables with cup-holders are a unique and convenient feature. The entire unit weighs 43.7 pounds, which is made more manageable by the wheeled carry bag. The mattress itself utilizes an air coil system for even support, and has a maximum capacity of 600 pounds. Users report that the mattress is generally comfortable, but does require moderate reinflation with every day of use. This product includes a one-year warranty, and is generally regarded as quite durable, though the mattress’ sewn-in cover may wear out prematurely.

Highlights:

  • Steel frame: The folding frame lets users sleep high off the ground, allowing for extra storage under the mattress.
  • Luxury camping: The battery-powered pump is good for the outdoors, though the heavy weight limits portability.
  • Side tables: The frame features side tables on either side, with convenient cup holders.

Read customer reviews and buy your Coleman Queen Airbed Folding Cot.

Fox Airbeds Plush High Rise Air Mattress

The Fox Airbeds Plush High Rise Air Mattress is one of the best-reviewed air mattresses on the market in terms of comfort. Consumers are pleased with its unique plush top, which offers more padding than a typical air mattress and eliminates the need for an additional memory foam topper. The strong edge retention and 19-inch height are helpful for sleepers who have a hard time getting on and off of lower air beds.

The Fox Airbeds Plush High Rise is also constructed with a thicker latex than most models, which reduces leaks and increases durability. This air mattress can support up to 700 pounds, the highest weight capacity of any model on this list. The Fox Airbeds Plush High Rise is comparable in price to the Insta-Bed and the SoundAsleep air mattresses, though it has only a 90-day warranty which does not cover many types of punctures.

Highlights:

  • Comfort top: Fox Airbeds uses a unique sleep surface that provides highly-rated comfort and a lack of motion transfer, which is helpful for couples.
  • Indoor/outdoor use: This model features a built-in pump, but has a secondary valve to which you can attach an alternate pump.
  • High weight capacity: Fox Airbeds guarantees its queen mattress for up to 750 pounds.
  • Multiple sizes: The Plush High Rise is available in Twin, Full, Queen, and King sizes.

Learn more about the Fox Airbeds Plush High Rise Air Mattress and purchase yours through Amazon.