Best air beds – the best air mattresses for comfy camping and snug sleepovers

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  • The best air mattresses to accommodate guests or make camping more comfortable

    You might be quick to dismiss air beds as being synonymous with a terrible night’s sleep. However, we’re here to tell you that there are some innovative air beds available that offer true comfort. Air beds are also super portable and storable. Most fold down into a compact size that can be easily stashed under a bed or in the attic or car boot.

    Finding the right air bed for you depends on how you are planning to use it. If the in-laws or older relatives are coming to stay, you will want something sturdy, and the bigger the better. Many air mattresses offer a raised height, similar to a regular bed. Guests will find these much more supportive and easier to climb in and out of.

    However, if you’re a serious camper your air mattress criteria will differ.  You will want something that is easy to carry, light and quick to inflate without the need of a power source. For kids’ sleepovers you could probably make do with a basic single air mattress or mat. To avoid any faffing around with extra bedding, look for air beds that come with pillows built in, or even sleeping bags.

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    Best air beds

    1.   Aerobed platinum raised airbed – best air bed for comfort

    Impress your guests with this raised height air bed that looks and feels like a real divan. Inflation is a piece of cake and it can go from flat to fat in under 3 minutes and vice versa. The pump is built-in – you simply plug it in and press play. A slight downside is having to keep your finger on the button while the mattress inflates.

    Once pumped up, it does resemble a full-size bed so make sure you can leave enough space to walk around it. Make use of the valance and fitted sheet included – you will want to dress to impress with this superior air mattress. If your guests aren’t happy with the level of firmness, it can be easily adjusted with a simple inflate/deflate switch.

    The air mattress pump is quite noisy, so bear this in mind if you’re setting up camp once everyone else in the house has gone to bed. If your budget will stretch, this is a top-of-the-range model which we found to be more comfortable than your average sofa bed.

    Ideal Home’s rating: 5 out of 5

    Buy it now: Aerobed platinum raised airbed, £119.99, Aerobed

    2.   Coleman Maxi Comfort Bed – best double air bed for couples

    best-airbeds-2b. Coleman

    Prefer a softer or firmer mattress to your partner? This air mattress may be for you, because of its dual chambers. Using the dual-controls you can inflate or deflate your own side of the bed to suit your needs. This means no more compromising on comfort – or rolling into the middle of the bed and waking each other up. Made from strong PVC this air mattress is robust and virtually puncture resistant.

    It also features an airtight double lock valve system which locks in air two ways. This means it is almost leak-proof. You will need a separate pump to inflate it but Coleman offer a good range depending on your usage. Choose from battery powered, rechargeable, mains operated or one you can connect to your car cigarette lighter socket. That will also come in handy for pumping up beach toys and other inflatables if you take it camping.

    This is an extremely comfortable air bed for two and the velvety finish means you can lie straight on it – no sheets required.

    Ideal Home’s rating: 4 out of 5

    Buy it now: Coleman Maxi Comfort Bed, £44.99, Amazon

    3. Junior Deluxe Readybed – best air bed for kid’s sleepovers

    This all-in-one sleep solution fills a gap in the market. It’s an inflatable bed but with an integrated sleeping bag. Keep this stashed away in the attic or under the bed, ready for kids’ sleepovers or staying with relatives. It’s the perfect air mattress for introducing your little one to family camping trips, with bedding one less thing to pack!

    This air bed comes with its own battery powered pump and it inflates­­ within a matter of seconds. Note, batteries aren’t included. It’s recommended that you stop pumping when it’s slightly under-inflated, for greater comfort. The mattress is deep and very comfortable. The built in sleeping bag is made from a soft cotton which you can easily detach and wash in the machine.

    To deflate you simply remove the cap and squeeze the air out as you roll it up. Readybed air mattresses are available in four different sizes for all the family, with this one suitable from 3 years up.

    Ideal Home’s Rating: 4.5 out of 5

    Buy it now: Junior Deluxe Readybed, £90, Amazon

    4.   Vango Airhead double flocked airbed – best air bed for tall people

    best-airbeds-4. Vango-2018-furniture-inflatable-airbed-airhead-double-HI

    At 210cm this extra long air mattress will keep most feet from slipping off the bottom. It also comes with an inflatable head board so you can sit up in bed to read or enjoy your morning cuppa. This added feature makes the double air mattress easier to hunker down on at night. It feels more like a proper bed, which for the price tag, isn’t bad going.

    This is a sturdy yet supportive air mattress thanks to it’s coil beam construction. The flocked finish gives it a cosy touch and prevents sleeping bag slippage. Overall, this is a good budget air bed that feels comfortable and holds it shape well. It should stay inflated for a few days before needing a top-up. It’s a great air mattress for couples – or you can stretch out and enjoy it all to yourself.

    Ideal Home’s rating: 4 out of 5

    Buy it now: Vango Airhead double flocked airbed, £48, Amazon 

    5.   Dreamboat 12cm, XL – best air bed for camping

    Start saving now as this is one of the most advanced self-inflating mats we could find. It is super light, weighing only 3kg and is extremely supportive and comfortable, thanks to it’s 12cm depth. It is also very generous for a single air mattress with a 77cm width. Made from ultra-touch stretch polyester these mats are built to last. They are also slip-resistant, guaranteeing a secure night’s sleep on uneven ground.

    To inflate the mat, you simply open the two flat valves at one end and roll out the mat, then sit back and watch. The foam will expand and self inflated within two to five minutes depending on how long it had been rolled up. We’d suggest you always allow longer for first time use.

    Another plus side is the fast-fit bags they come in. Forget about having to wrestle with your air mattress to squeeze it back into a drawstring bag. The Outwell bags have a simple split down one side so you can open it up wide, pop in the rolled-up mat then wrap the bag around to fit. We were really impressed with this, and thought it would come in useful if we were trying to pack up a tent in the rain.

    Overall this is a very impressive self inflating mat and definitely worth the investment if you’re a keen camper. It’s deep profile with ergonomic shaping is second to none. Indeed, once you’ve spent a night on it you may not want to try anything else. Just don’t let your fellow campers know how comfortable it is!

    Ideal Home’s rating: 5 out of 5

    Buy it now: Dreamboat 12cm, XL, £181, Amazon

    6. Ez bed, Durable Inflatable Automatic Air Mattress on Folding Frame – best air bed for guests

    On first impressions this is a bit of a beast for a temporary sleeping solution. Folded up, the box is heavy with a double air mattress weighing around 20kg. However, don’t let that put you off as this air bed is a serious bit of kit and a clever design. It comes folded up in a smart-looking black case on wheels, so it’s easy to trundle around from room to room.

    The set-up is super fast and the air bed does all the hard work for you. Simply unzip, plug in and let the show begin. As the air mattress unfolds it’s like watching a transformer toy morph into something completely different. It concertinas out and leaves you with a full-size and sturdy bed on a proper metal frame. Take-down is easy too, plug it back in, select the deflation mode and once the mattress is flat you gently lift the frame up and fold the bed back into the case.

    This is the perfect spare bed for guests and the ease of use is impressive. It felt just as comfortable to sleep on as a proper bed. One tiny snag is the positioning of the cable – it sticks out of the side of the mattress, and we found it could get in the way of fitted sheets.

    Ideal Home’s rating: 4.5 out of 5

    Buy it now: Ez bed, Durable Inflatable Automatic Air Mattress on Folding Frame, £159.99, Amazon

    7.   Bestway Dreamair Premium Airbed – best air bed for everyday use

    best-airbeds-7a. Bestway Dreamair Premium Airbed - Single

    With integrated pump, this luxurious air mattress inflates in only 200 seconds – it’s quite a spectacle to watch! The pump is mains-operated so you just need to be within easy reach of a power socket. It also has a deflation option making it super easy and quick to pack away in a drawstring bag. And if you want to take it camping there is a separate valve which you can hook a battery operated pump into.

    Once inflated, this air mattress is huge, standing almost half a metre off the ground. If you top this with a 13.5 goose down duvet and fluffy pillows it will look and feel like a proper single bed. The sleeping surface is velvety soft and the unique rib design is there to prevent roll offs. Sewn onto the side of the mattress is a mesh storage pocket; we found this useful for storing our bedtime read, eye mask and smart phone.

    Ideal Home’s rating: 4­ out of 5

    Buy it now: Bestway Dreamair Premium Airbed, £62, Amazon

    How much do I need to spend on an air bed?

    best-airbeds-5f. Selfinflating_Mats_Outwell

    Image credit: Outwell

    Depending on size and usage the prices of air beds can vary hugely. For an expedition-quality self-inflating mat, £60-£200 would get you a top-of-the-range single. If you’re after a straightforward air mattress for kids’ sleepovers, prices start around £10 for something fairly basic.

    If you want to offer your guests something close to a real bed experience, look to air mattress experts Aerobed. A coil construction mattress starts at £130 for a double, going up to £330 for a raised king size. It may sound expensive but it’s still cheaper than your average sofa bed!

    How to buy the best air bed for you

    best-air-beds-2a. Coleman

    Image credit: Coleman

    What is the difference between an air bed and a self-inflating mat?

    A self-inflating mat or SIM is a popular choice for campers and festival-goers. It is a thin air mattress with a layer of foam padding inside. They range from 2cm–12cm in thickness but check the width too, as they can be a bit narrow so you might want to upsize. To inflate, you simply open the valve to allow air to be automatically sucked in.

    They roll up small, similar to your average yoga mat and are extremely light. Some people might find them too thin and firm. however, note that they can also be used with a camp bed base for an off-the-ground set up. Air beds follow the same sizing rules as regular mattresses but they can feel a bit smaller based on their level of inflation.

    These air mattresses are a better option if you’re planning to share with someone else. There are plenty available in a double or king size. The best mattresses come with long, tubular air chambers. This means the level of firmness or softness can be adjusted using the pump, which are either built-in or external. Some come with a special flocked velvet-like coating that eliminates the need for sheets as they are super soft to the touch.

    How easy is it to inflate and deflate an air mattress?

    This depends on how much your budget will stretch. There are three main types of pumps: a foot pump, an integrated pump or an electric pump. Most top of the range airbeds come with a rechargeable or mains-operated integrated pump. They will also have a remote control which can inflate and deflate the mattress within a matter of seconds.

    Self-inflating mats are a doddle as they come with a valve that, once opened, allows to mat to self-inflate. You can then top it up with a few breaths, so no need for any extra equipment. Your average air bed comes with a separate pump that is either rechargeable or can be plugged into the mains for home use or into a car cigarette lighter socket. The latter is handy if you’re camping and can take up to 3 minutes to inflate.

    Do air beds lose air?

    Like anything filled with pressurised air, these mattresses are susceptible to springing a leak. Air beds do tend to lose air naturally and gradually anyway. If you notice a rapid loss, there could be a hole somewhere. But where? Follow these steps to help detect the source of the problem:

    1. Blow up the air bed fully and then examine the entire sleeping surface and listen out for a thin hissing sound. An inflated mattress makes it easier to identify defects.

    2. If the leak is too small, it might be hard to hear so another popular method is to gently wipe over the mattress with a soapy sponge and look out for small bubbles. Washing up liquid is good for this.

    3. Once you find the hole, circle it gently with a permanent marker so you don’t lose it and then deflate it.

    4. Most good air beds come with their own fixing kit. Each kit’s instructions may vary so be sure to read them carefully.

    5. If your air mattress doesn’t come with a repair kit, there are many available on line, or you can repair the hole in the same way as you would with a bike puncture.

    Common reasons why air bed repairs fail

    There are two things to look out for here. The first is that you shouldn’t patch up your air mattress while there is still air in it. Secondly, you need to make sure the surface is clean and free from any oil or dirt – you need a good surface for the adhesive to stick to. Sand down the surface lightly to ensure good adhesion. 

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