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Whether you’re camping, settling into a new living space or simply setting up a temporary guest bed, an air mattress can have multiple uses. They can typically be stored away easily and their set-up time is fairly quick, making them a great choice for an easily accessible, spontaneous sleeping arrangement. But one thing’s for sure: An uncomfortable or damaged air mattress can put a damper on a good night’s sleep — and you (or your guests) will likely notice immediately. After all, a good night’s sleep is essential for staying healthy and reducing stress, especially during high-anxiety periods like trips that can disrupt your routine.
Finding a comfortable and good quality mattress can be an investment, with many costing upwards of $100. According to Keith Cushner, the founder of sleep product review site Tuck, a lot of air mattresses can be similarly expensive depending on how many features you want, so the price mostly depends on what you’re using it for. “If it's going to be used once in a blue moon by a guest, definitely don't splurge on the most expensive option,” said Cushner. “If you think you'll be using it somewhat regularly, then it's worth a few extra bucks to make sure you get the most comfortable one.”
To help you narrow down the array of options online, we’ve compiled some highly rated and expert-recommended inflatable air mattresses to use for your next overnight trip or full house.
Best air mattresses in 2021
Best air mattress overall: SoundAsleep
Cushner considers the SoundAsleep Dream Series mattress an “overall great bed, especially for indoor use” due to its durability, comfort and adjustability. It’s offered in twin, queen and king sizes and uses ComfortCoil Technology, which features over 40 internal air coils for added durability and support, according to the brand. It has a built-in pump that inflates the mattress at the click of a button — the brand claims it can fully inflate the king bed in under six minutes and the queen bed in under four minutes.
The SoundAsleep mattress is on the pricier end of the air mattress spectrum, but it’s also one of the tallest mattresses on this list at 19 inches, making it easier to hop on and off and adding back support when laying on top. The mattress is made of puncture-resistant PVC and sports a waterproof flocked top for peace of mind, while the grippy bottom ensures it stays in place.
Best affordable air mattress: Intex
If you’re only going to be whipping out your air mattress every once in a while, this affordable option from Intex has a soft flocked surface for more comfort and indented sides to keep sheets in place. It’s composed of several polyester fibers that promote durability and features a built-in pump for easy inflation. The air mattress has a weight capacity of 600 pounds and it’s offered in three heights: 13-inch, 18-inch and 22-inch elevation.
Best air mattress for camping: SoundAsleep
This standard elevated and durable option also equips SoundAsleep’s ComfortCoil Technology and comes in twin and queen sizes. It “packs down to something lighter than the rest, so it’s decent if you're going backpacking or on a longer camping trip,” said Cushner. It comes with a rechargeable external pump, which can inflate the queen mattress in under three minutes, according to the brand, and you can charge the pump at home in advance or in the car using its USB cable. The carry bag included with the mattress makes it even easier to pack the air mattress up and carry it around on trips.
Best air mattress for support: Coleman
This Coleman air mattress has coils that contour to your body, offering extra support and reducing bulging on the mattress so you can stay leveled. It equips a double lock valve that provides an initial sealing point to avoid air leaking out when you remove the pump, while the second lock keeps air in when you sleep. The mattress comes with a zippered storage bag to ensure it’s properly stored away, and the brand offers a one-year limited warranty if anything goes wrong.
Best air mattress with built-in pillow: Sable
This Sable mattress has an integrated raised pillow on the upper side that provides much-needed neck and head support (although it isn’t as soft as a normal pillow would be). There’s a thick, 0.6-millimeter flocked top that lies above the PVC material, allowing for a more leveled sleep. It also limits the amount of noise you make when you turn over, according to the brand. To save time, Sable claims the built-in pump can inflate and deflate the queen mattress in three to five minutes.
Best air mattress for kids: Intex
Providing a protective option for kids who may move around while they sleep, this Intex air mattress has raised borders on all sides to avoid any accidental rolling. You can separate the mattress from the frame in order to tuck in the sheets or utilize it separately. It includes a hand pump and can be rolled up and packed away for easy portability. The brand recommends this bed for kids ages 3 to 6, or up to 48 inches in length.
Best air mattress for car camping: Luno
The Luno Air Mattress 2.0 is designed to fit comfortably inside multiple vehicle types, including Subarus, Toyotas and Jeeps, according to the brand. It’s made with two joined air chambers that accommodate two campers (each up to 6 feet and 2 inches tall) by inflating both sides, or provides the option of a single mattress set up. The double air chambers also let you adjust the firmness level of each side individually to cater to each camper’s comfort level. The brand claims the included electric air pump inflates the mattress in two minutes and deflates just as quickly, allowing you to compactly roll it up for portability.
Best folding air mattress: Coleman
The Coleman Camping Cot combines the features of a typical camping cot (which usually holds a foam bed) with an air mattress. It not only features a steel frame that comfortably elevates it off the ground and supports up to 300 pounds, but it also folds up compactly to fit inside a trunk or a storage area. The air mattress itself fits nicely inside the included zipper sheet and, like other Coleman air mattresses, equips a ComfortStrong coil system and a double lock valve for an airtight construction. The camping cot also comes with an external battery-operated pump to take camping or on road trips.
How to shop for an air mattress
Sleeping on an air mattress doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice support or comfort — placing your mattress on a platform or utilizing a comfortable pillow, for example, can elevate the bedding experience, according to W. Christopher Winter, MD, the president of Charlottesville Neurology and Sleep Medicine.
Winter recommended testing out the air mattress first, if possible. “I find the online reviews of the products to be pretty helpful,” he added. “If the mattress is going to be something you or someone else is going to sleep on frequently, don't skimp [and] keep the receipt — many people can't tell how a mattress is going to ultimately work out for several weeks of use.”
Depending on how you plan to use your air mattress, experts recommend a few main features to look at when shopping for a new one.
Height and construction
Air mattresses are usually offered in two general heights: standard elevation (single height) and raised elevation (double height). A single height air mattress ranges between approximately 9 and 11 inches tall, while a double height mattress is usually above 18 inches high. Typically, the higher the bed, the more comfortable it’ll be and the easier it will be to get on and off. However, a shorter air mattress will usually be easier to inflate and less of a hassle to store away.
In terms of material, most air mattresses are made of PVC (plastic material) or thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU). According to Cushner, they can also have other components like “additional waterproofing, layers of foam on top of the air mattress (or built in) and some fabrics that help retain warmth on the top of the mattress.” The additional materials can have an impact on how comfortable the air mattress is for you and everyone around you.
Some components like waterproof material can retain heat, though, and they can also squeak or make noise when a sleeper moves around. There can be a lot of motion transfer with air mattresses as well, which can be a big problem for people who are light sleepers or easily disturbed.
Board-certified psychiatrist and sleep medicine specialist Alex Dimitriu, MD, suggested looking for an air mattress with a more breathable or cooling material (like a cooling gel) between the sleeper and the plastic part of the mattress “so you can cool down and not sweat during the night.” If you can’t find an air mattress with a cooling layer built in, you can also invest in a cooling mattress topper, especially for hot summer nights outdoors.
Type of pump
Air mattresses will usually require one of two types of pumps: an internal (electric) pump that you can plug into the wall, or an external pump that is usually either manual or battery-operated. A built-in pump is a great option if you don’t want to pack or store a separate item, and can inflate an air mattress in minutes. A manual or battery-operated pump, meanwhile, is usually separate from the mattress and is ideal for inflating outdoors when an outlet isn’t available.
According to Cushner, If you're using an air mattress for camping, you'll want to consider getting a waterproof air mattress with an external pump since they’re usually lightweight. If you’re using an air mattress for guests, however, you'll want an internal electric pump for fast inflation and a raised elevation for more comfort.
Type of sleeper
Believe it or not, how you sleep ultimately affects how comfortable an air mattress will be for you. “It’s important to note if you are a back sleeper or a side sleeper,” said Dimitriu. He said side or stomach sleepers do better on softer mattresses, while back sleepers do well on stiffer mattresses.
“The stiffness of the mattress will determine how much your body sinks in and where the pressure points will be,” said Dimitriu, adding that a side sleeper on a stiff mattress “will notice discomfort in the shoulder and hip on a stiff mattress.” Because air is compressible, air mattresses will generally be on the softer side.