by mamasch

Whether you’re having guests over, planning a camping trip or just like the option of being able to adjust the bed to fully suit your needs, an air mattress is something to consider.

Air mattresses have come a long way from being thin, flimsy and uncomfortable and have evolved into wonderful, luxurious beds fit for the most demanding of needs. For many years they’ve come with a bad rep due to the materials used in production but that has since changed and you can sleep easy knowing your health is not at risk.

Girl Sleeping on an Air MattressSince they greatly vary in quality and price this simple but extensive guide should shed some light on what air mattresses really are and what to consider before buying one.

What is an air mattress in the first place?

An air mattress is an inflatable bed or a sleeping pad that can be fully adjusted. They’re usually made of eco-friendly PVC or rubber and some models come reinforced with textile for extra durability.

They’re inflated with an electric pump, usually built in into the mattress itself. Some pumps are battery operated and others plug into an outlet. When fully deflated, the mattress takes up very little space and can be rolled up and packed away.

They’re a recommended choice for people suffering from back issues or spinal injuries due to the ability to adjust the firmness and relieve pressure points and are comfortable to lay on for long periods of time.

Before we get into it – these are some guidelines from Consumer Research.

Things to consider before buying

Home Mattresses

Low or High rise?

The first thing to consider is whether you need a low or a high rise mattress.

Low Rise AirbedHigh-rise airbeds make great primary home beds, ones that will be used regularly. They’re also a good choice for elderly people that have a harder time getting lower to the floor and getting back up.

A low rise mattress is a good choice for kids and young people and makes a good guest bed.

Couple Sleeping High Rise Blow up BedSet up

Setting up one of these is no trouble at all. The majorities of the best air mattresses self-inflate and deflate and take up very little space once the air is out. After you’ve deflated your mattress simply roll it up and put it away until it’s needed again. If you are looking for specific tips on best air mattresses – this is a mega guide on listing their top picks in every airbed category.

EZ mattress for light sleepers

A slightly more costly option is an EZ mattress, an air mattress set up on a bed frame.

If you’re a light sleeper and need silence to fall asleep this would be a great choice for you. The frame it is mounted on eliminates almost all noise a regular air bed would make.

EZ beds are a great pick for guest rooms – read more on that at

Choices of air pumps

The days of horrible leg pumps are over and hours of sweating and panting over the mattress thinking “Will this ever be over?”. Electrical pumps are here to save the day, and your arms and legs. Now it’s only a matter of choice between a battery operated pump or a “Never-flat” pump.

Battery operated

Not all of air pumps plug in and not all are battery operated. Depending on the occasion and certain situations a battery operated pump could be a better choice like if you’re going camping and won’t have electricity available, there’s a power shortage or the location of the bed isn’t close to an electrical plug.

NEVER-flat pump

This is a relatively new term but it is a very simple one. Mattresses with “never-flat” in their specs have two pumps. One main pump that sets up the mattress and deflates it when it’s no longer in use and a smaller helper pump that can be turned on or off if and when needed. The helper pump has a sensor that detects a drop in pressure and adds a bit of air back in to readjust the firmness of the mattress.

Inflatable Bed with a Never Flat PumpA thing to keep in mind is a slight low pitch humming noise coming from the auxiliary pump when it is adding in air, it may be an issue for some people while others won’t be bothered at all.

Inner construction

The best air mattresses are made with separate inner beams or coils that distribute the weight evenly. This offers better support and makes the edges of the mattress more stable, reducing the risk of the edges drooping and you rolling off. Always go for the mattresses that are made with inner beams or coils instead of a few large air chambers.

Main materials

Many companies that produce air mattress had to adapt after Sweden banned the use of PVC in 1995 due to harmful chemicals it contains. Companies switched to using PVC that is free of phthalates which stopped consumers from seeing an air mattress as a risk to their health.

These mattresses are now marketed and labeled as ECO-friendly and phthalates-free.


A strange term but it only means that the top and bottom of the mattress are covered with a velveteen material that prevents the sheets from slipping off. Flocking on the bottom prevents the bed from sliding around the room and flipping over, it also minimizes any noises that come from turning over at night.


Changes in temperature of the air in the mattress depend on the room temperature that you’re sleeping in,

Adding a mattress topper or a blanket under the sheets will eliminate the feeling of cold air rushing from below. This will also add extra points to the overall comfort.


Air mattresses come in same sizes as regular mattresses and fit the corresponding sheet and bedding dimensions. Keep in mind the dimensions of the room the mattress will be in when fully inflated before buying.

Research and read reviews before buying

A mattress can look good in the ad and have all the features you are looking for and still perform poorly. What the seller will never tell you are the little faults that the mattress might have, that it takes ages to inflate or loses air quickly. By doing your research and reading reviews, both positive and negative, you’ll be able to get the right information you need to make a final decision.

Users that have already slept on the mattress you are interested in can give you their most honest opinion which can help you greatly. Research the most important features like firmness, support, practicality (size, set up etc).

Also keep in mind that some negative reviews are subjective, like “ Humming sound” or the smell of plastic that goes away pretty quickly. These opinions do not reflect the real quality of the mattress and shouldn’t be taken too seriously.

Taking the time to do proper research can save you the trouble of wasting money on a product that doesn’t completely suit your needs

Bells and whistles

For an extra cost, you can get mattresses that have fun added features like an LED light at the bottom that serves as a night light, a USB port for charging your electrical devices overnight.

Camping Mattresses / Sleeping Pads

If you’re going hiking or on a camping trip a big, high rise mattress can only slow you down and could potentially tear.

Sleeping pads are lightweight, compact and made of sturdier materials with nature in mind. Once deflated they can be rolled up and packed away.

Couple on Camping Air MattressWhen getting a camping airbed there are two main factors to keep in mind:

Insulation/ R-value

A unit used to describe how well the sleeping pad is at insulating the body from changes in the temperature and how well it performs in resisting the heat or cold.

The higher the R-value (9.5 max) the better it is at insulating and protecting you while you sleep.



The dimensions of your sleeping pad should be enough for your hips and shoulders to fit comfortably onto.

A regular 72” is a good go-to while a Long 75-78” is better suited for colder climates.

The longer sleeping pad will allow for your feet and legs to be insulated as well.

A 47” is good for mild climates and lighter hikes.

Width and shape

Depending on the width of your tent you can go for a regular 20” or something a bit wider if you’re a restless sleeper and the size of your tent allows it.

It is good to know that rectangular pads pack a bit bigger but otherwise the shape of it shouldn’t affect the quality of sleep.


In conclusion, an air mattress is a good, practical go-to whether you’re planning on using it yourself or to accommodate guests when they come over. They range in price point and quality but generally fit the bill for most people. They’re simple and easy to set up and will give you years of comfort and easy sleep.

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