- An air mattress is a convenient and comfortable option for unexpected visits, sleepovers, and camping trips.
- Our top pick from SoundAsleep is comfortable, provides great back support, and comes with excellent customer service.
An air mattress is a great investment for those who like to be prepared for unexpected visits, sleepovers, spontaneous trips, or even camping. It can be set up quickly and stored easily, but still comfortable enough for a good night’s rest.
As a researcher with two years of experience studying sleep, running a sleep lab, and reviewing sleep products, I’ve seen firsthand the importance of getting a good night’s sleep — no matter the circumstances. Well-rested people experience a better mood, more energy, and enjoy their surroundings more; something we can all appreciate while traveling or staying the night away from home. Improper sleep could potentially have an impact on your guests’ social interaction or even ruin their mood for the rest of the day. As the host, you’ll want to provide your guests with an enjoyable option to make them feel right at home so they can wake up feeling their best. The same applies to nature-lovers who need to wake up feeling refreshed and ready for their camping adventures.
To find out what makes a good air mattress, I interviewed sleep expert Bill Fish, president of OneCare media, which runs several major sleep product review sites like sleepfoundation.org, sleep.org, and tuck.com (of which he is founder). Fish has tested thousands of sleep products over many years. “Spinal alignment is key to getting a good night of sleep, and an air mattress is no different,” Fish said. “If you can achieve spinal alignment, you will wake up feeling refreshed.”
The key with an air mattress, he said, “is finding a product where the quality is enough to maintain enough pressure so you do not ‘bottom out’ either when stationary or rolling over.” According to a scientific systematic review, a medium-firm air mattress tends to result in better sleep quality. With that in mind, we tested four of the most popular air mattresses on the market and evaluated each of them on firmness, comfort, durability, and ease of use. You can read more about our testing methodology, as well as tips for caring for and cleaning your air mattress below.
Here are the best air mattresses
- Best air mattress overall: SoundAsleep Dream Series Air Mattress (Queen)
- Best air mattress for camping: REI Co-op Kingdom Insulated Sleep System 40 (Queen)
- Best air mattress on a budget: Intex Pillow Rest Raised Airbed (Queen)
- Best air mattress with an automatic pump: Insta-Bed Raised Air Mattress (Queen)
Updated on 03/22/2021: Two models we were in the process of testing: the AeroBed Air Mattress for Kids and Coleman Air Mattress With Built-In Pump (Queen), have reportedly been discontinued by the brand. We’re in the process of exploring new brands for testing. In the meantime, we stand by our picks and streamlined this guide for a better reading experience.
Sleeping on the SoundAsleep Dream Series Air Mattress (Queen) feels like you’re resting on a giant soft pillow; it’s a durable, comfortable option for in-home use.
Pros: Raised 19 inches off the ground for easy access in and out of bed, extremely comfortable, inflates quickly, built-in pump, comes with storage bag and patch kit, great customer service
Cons: Not designed for everyday use
The SoundAsleep Dream Series Air Mattress (Queen) is one of the most popular air mattresses on the market because of its comfort, high-quality materials, and great customer service. The mattress is designed with 40 discs on the surface that the company calls “air coils,” since they’re meant to mimic the firmness and bounce of a spring mattress. The “coils” ensure a balanced distribution of air throughout the mattress as it inflates. It’s made with eco-friendly polyvinyl chloride (PVC), which makes it extra durable, waterproof, and long-lasting. It can hold up to 500 pounds; a good size for two people to comfortably sleep on.
The Queen-sized air mattress inflated relatively quietly and in under four minutes. The pump is built into the mattress, so all you have to do is plug it in and set the dial to inflate until you’ve reached your desired firmness.
The bottom of the air mattress has a grippy material to make sure it stays in place, and the whole mattress is made with puncture-resistant material. While it did have the new mattress plastic/chemical odor that I’ve encountered with most air mattresses, the smell disappeared after only a couple of hours of airing it out.
It feels like any traditional mattress; it was so comfortable that I almost forgot I was sleeping on an air mattress until I woke up. Its soft, velvety surface prevented my deep pocket sheets from slipping off, and also helped maintain the right temperature throughout the night; I never got too cold or too hot, as can sometimes be an issue with air mattresses since there isn’t much insulation between you and the air. It’s raised 19 inches off the ground, which is a good height for easily climbing out of bed in the morning.
I had to give it a brief top-up before bed on the last night of testing, but I didn’t notice any air loss during the first couple of nights. Deflating the mattress after the last night took approximately four minutes, and the integrated cord storage and carrying bag are convenient additions.
Overall, the SoundAsleep Dream Series Air Mattress is a fantastic option for in-home use; it was the best air mattress we tested because of its simplicity and the extraordinary level of comfort.
Best for camping
The REI Co-op Kingdom Insulated Sleep System 40 (Queen) is extremely well-insulated and made with high-quality materials that will keep you warm and comfortable while you’re camping.
Pros: Easy-to-use hand pump, insulated system for warmth, firm, does not deflate during the night
Cons: Very bulky compared to typical camping items, which might limit how and where you carry it
If you don’t want to give up quality sleep while camping, the REI Co-op Kingdom Insulated Sleep System 40 (Queen) is definitely the best option for a camping-specific air mattress. This air mattress is intended to keep you warm through temperatures as low as 40 degrees. It’s made from 100% polyester with an eco-friendly thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) laminate and the bottom contains a polyurethane coating for high durability and weather resistance. It includes a machine-washable mattress cover and top sheet made of polyester so you don’t need to worry about bringing a sleeping bag. It also has a 600-pound weight capacity and an included hand pump for electricity-free inflation.
Although it’s completely PVC-free, it still emits a mild odor when first unpacked, but the smell dissipates once it airs out for a few hours. Inflating it with the hand pump was a little laborious considering I have very little upper body strength, but it honestly wasn’t as difficult as I expected and only took 12 minutes to fully inflate (including a couple of breaks between pumping). The inflation hose is conveniently long enough to pump from outside of your tent, in the chance that the air mattress occupies your entire tent footprint.
I slept surprisingly well on this air mattress; it’s very comfortable and cozy. The sheets are soft and warm and the quilted mattress cover has a durable water-repellent finish. This air mattress is firm, which is great for proper spine alignment and a good night’s rest, even outdoors. It didn’t make any noise when I moved around and it lost very little air, if any, during the four nights that I slept on it. The hand-pump has an option to deflate the air mattress, but I found it easier to open the valves and let it deflate as I rolled it up and packed it into the included storage bag.
The rectangular-shaped air mattress is only six inches thick and very lightweight for an air mattress at just 15 pounds. However, while this may be light compared to other air mattresses, it’s on the bulky side for camping gear and is probably too heavy for hiking and backcountry camping. I recommend investing in this air mattress if you enjoy backyard or car camping, but don’t want to have to give up a good night’s sleep. It’s also a good system to have around for situations where you might not have access to electricity, such as in a rural cabin.
Best on a budget
The Intex Pillow Rest Raised Airbed (Queen) is an affordable option that will still provide great support and comfort for occasional use.
Pros: Comfortable, affordable price, lightweight
Cons: Low to the ground, built-in pillow bar might be uncomfortable for some, limited 90-day warranty, takes a few days for the chemical smell to dissipate, moves a bit during the night
At less than half the price of any other mattress we tried, the Intex Pillow Rest Raised Airbed (Queen) is quite inexpensive, but will still provide your guests with a solid surface to sleep on. This mattress is made with a built-in pillow bar and composed of thousands of high-strength polyester fibers which provide stability and support. The top is covered in a velvety material for extra comfort and the mattress has a weight capacity of 600 pounds, so two people can sleep on it. It has an internal electric pump, but can also be inflated manually with a properly-sized hand pump.
The mattress comes with easy instructions and inflates with the switch of a button. It took less than four minutes to lay out and inflate and I was able to adjust it to my desired level of firmness by turning the dial. The indented sides are positioned to keep sheets in place, and my deep pocket sheets did not slip off during the night. The new mattress plastic/chemical odor was stronger than the other air mattresses I tested but slowly decreased after a couple of days. It’s only about 16 pounds; one of the lightest we tested. However, since it’s so lightweight, it also moved a lot during the night.
Sleeping on this air mattress for the first two nights was actually very comfortable. The firmness is good and the surface is very cushiony. It’s raised 16.5 inches from the ground, making it slightly more difficult to get in and out of than some other models we tried. By the third night, it had lost a noticeable amount of air so I had to re-inflate it again. The ambient temperature also dropped significantly on the last night and I noticed that the air mattress, even with the sheets on, felt colder than usual. The built-in pillow rest sounds like a great idea, but it creates too much elevation and is too firm; it definitely does not compare to the comfort of a real pillow.
Deflating the Intex Pillow Rest Raised Airbed took less than four minutes and it also comes with a convenient storage bag. Considering the price, this is the best option for occasional use; it’s very comfortable for one or two nights, just make sure you provide your guests with a couple of pillows and an extra blanket.
Best with an automatic pump
The Insta-Bed Raised Air Mattress is built with two internal pumps that constantly adjust the air pressure throughout the night to ensure that you never wake up flat on the floor.
Pros: Pump automatically shuts off when the mattress is inflated, secondary pump makes sure the air mattress stays inflated through the night
Cons: Larger and heavier than most air mattresses, automatic pump makes noise throughout the night
The Insta-Bed Raised Air Mattress (Queen) is constructed with a top layer of pierce-resistant PVC, making it water-resistant and extra durable. It’s built with 35 circular coils to provide a balanced and supportive surface. Its weight limit is 500 pounds and can hold up to two people.
The primary built-in pump inflates the mattress to your preferred firmness, allowing you to choose from three different options — plush, medium, or firm. The primary pump automatically shuts off when the air mattress has reached your desired inflation. What makes this air mattress particularly unique is the secondary pump system that monitors air levels and quietly maintains the air mattress at your chosen level of firmness throughout the night.
Setting up the Insta-Bed Raised Air Mattress was the most effortless experience of all the air mattresses I tested. All I had to do was unpack, plug it in, and turn the dial to my desired firmness level — I chose medium. The pump is loud compared to the other air mattresses, but I was able to leave it alone and wait in a different room thanks to the auto shut-off feature. It only took around four minutes to completely inflate.
My sheets fit well on this air mattress and I had no issues with them slipping off during the night. It had a very strong and supportive surface that was comfortable to sleep on. I slept really well on this air mattress without ever having to worry about it deflating, and it’s raised 19 inches from the ground, so it was easy to climb in and out. That said, it’s also a little on the heavy side, weighing 22 pounds.
Some users might find the secondary pump somewhat bothersome when it’s plugged in. I didn’t have an issue with it but I recommend sleeping on the opposite side of the pump if you think you’ll be disturbed by a subtle buzzing, or you can also choose to unplug it completely. Deflating the Insta-Bed works the same as inflating; just set the dial to deflate, wait around three minutes for it to completely collapse, fold it, and pack it inside the included carry bag.
In order to determine the best air mattress on the market, I used my knowledge of sleep science from two years in sleep research and implemented what I learned from sleep expert Bill Fish, president of OneCare media, on how to properly test air mattresses. I slept on every air mattress in this guide for at least four consecutive nights.
During the testing period, here’s what I looked for in the best air mattresses:
Inflation: I took notes of the unboxing process for each air mattress, including how easy it was to assemble (if necessary) and whether or not the product came with instructions. I also timed how long each air mattress took to inflate and noted whether or not the air mattress emitted any strong chemical odors.
Firmness: This was the most important factor since a good air mattress should be firm enough to support you throughout the night. I paid close attention to any air loss over the course of four nights and took notes on my own sleep quality and how refreshed I felt after waking up.
Comfort: I noted how comfortable each air mattress was to sleep on over four nights, including any major issues with temperature regulation. I also recorded whether or not the air mattresses made any noise when I moved, or whether my pillow and sheets fell off during the night. I also considered how easy it was to climb in and out of each mattress.
Durability: At the end of the four days of sleeping on each air mattress, I used an uncapped pen to test the durability of the air mattress by poking it in three different places and noting if it punctured. Fortunately, all the air mattresses passed this test.
Deflating/packing up: I recorded how long it took for each air mattress to deflate. I assessed the difficulty of folding up and packing the air mattress into its respective carry bag, and also noted the ease of storage considering its weight and size.
Size and special features: In addition to testing out any special features, such as insulated sheets or double pumps, I also noted the dimensions of each air mattress, including length, width, and height, both when fully inflated and when packed up and stored. I also noted each mattresses’ weight and method of inflation.
Air mattress care and cleaning
An air mattress won’t last you as long as your regular mattress, and you shouldn’t expect it to — most air mattresses are designed for occasional use and should not be used to replace an actual mattress. Here are some tips to extend the life of your air mattress:
Store in a mild, dry place: Most manufacturers advise against using or storing your air mattress in below-freezing temperatures to avoid tears and cracks. You should also avoid exposing your air mattress to direct sunlight for long periods of time.
Be gentle: As fun as it might sound, avoid jumping or flopping on your air mattress, as it could damage the material or cause tears. When you’re setting up your air mattress, make sure to lay it out on a clean floor or carpet and look out for any sharp objects on the floor that might puncture it.
Expect a break-in period: Due to the elastic materials, you might think that the air mattress is losing air during the first couple of uses. There’s nothing wrong with your air mattress: it usually takes a few inflations for it to completely stretch to its full shape. Manufacturers recommend inflating your brand new air mattress a few hours before using it and then topping it off before sleeping on it.
Keep it clean: In order to keep your air mattress clean, it’s always a good idea to sleep on it with a fitted bed sheet. However, accidents are bound to happen, and air mattresses can get dusty during prolonged storage. To clean your air mattress, first lay it out flat on the floor and use a handheld vacuum to remove any crumbs and dust on the surface. To remove stains, you can inflate the air mattress, unplug it, and then use a soft cloth and a mild soapy solution to wash it. Don’t use any harsh chemicals or cleaning products as they could damage the air mattress.
Check out our other mattress and bedding buying guides
The best mattresses
The best pillows
The best sheets
The best weighted blankets
The best duvet covers
Check out our great camping gear guides
The best sleeping bags
The best camping tents
The best camping chairs
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