I love my memory foam mattress and would take it everywhere if I had a magic shrink machine. Until that’s invented though, I have to make do with an air mattress when I sleep under the stars or draw the short straw for a bedroom at family gatherings.
I used to joke that using an air mattress was a little like playing Russian roulette with your sleep. I still think there’s some truth to that if I’m honest, but in the 35 years since I first slept on one, I’ve seen a vast improvement in their quality.
Nowadays, manufacturers generally try to use resilient and puncture-resistant materials, and they mostly do a very good job of it.
But in reality, some will still get a leak due to a random manufacturing fault, tiny camouflaged pins hiding out in the carpet or pet claws. And if you have neither pins nor pets in your home, it’s probably just fairies with sharp teeth and an addiction to PVC.
In this list, I’ll be recommending the most robust, comfortable and easy to use air mattresses I’ve tried. But if your air mattress happens to be visited by a hungry mythical creature, remember that it should have a warranty (the mattress, not the fairy).
My top tips for using an air bed
- Inflate it two hours before you use it. Then top it up just before going to sleep.
- If it deflates over time, it’s not always a leak. They naturally stretch with body weight and heat changes. Topping it up again will help more than kicking it in frustration (speaking from experience).
- Place it on a freshly hoovered carpet or rug rather than floorboards.
- Try adding a mattress topper for extra softness, or turn yourself into a double duvet sandwich (it works, believe me).
1. SoundAsleep Dream Series
Ideal for the home, with auto-inflation and deflation along with a sturdy design
The SoundAsleep Dream Series is an excellent air mattress that has convenience in mind, either as a temporary bed or for extra guests. You can use it for camping too, but you’d need a power source to use the internal pump.
One of the main benefits is that it has a simple dial to auto-inflate or deflate it as needed. And that just makes life simpler than endlessly stomping on a pump or being on your hands and knees trying to squeeze air out of a valve.
It has an extensive internal coil system – 40 in total – which helps reduce dipping in the middle. So if you’re sharing with a partner, you’ll both be comfortable without rolling into the center in a neverending nightly hug.
It’s made from thick puncture-resistant eco-friendly PVC, with a comfy flock top. And along with the fact that it’s a whopping 20 inches high (great for getting in and out), it does end up being quite heavy to transport, as just under 20 pounds. But in my experience, to keep slow air leaks at bay, bigger is better.
Despite my cautious approach to discussing air beds in this article, the SoundAsleep is the one I feel has the best chance of keeping you or your guests happy when an extra luxury memory foam mattress isn’t an option.
2. Intex Dura-Beam
A sturdy auto-inflating air bed for a reasonable price
As the name suggests, the Intex Dura-Beam uses a long internal beam system instead of coils. And with lightweight and durable fibers to increase the support, it’s a good choice for two people.
Like the SoundAsleep, there’s an internal pump which will both inflate and deflate, and in just a few minutes. It’s a little shorter than the SoundAsleep, at 16.5 inches high, but also lighter at 16.6 pounds. So it’s perhaps more convenient if you need to carry it further than the cupboard to the middle of a room.
The product description says that the built-in pillow section means you don’t need to bring your own, but I disagree. An air bed might beat my pillow in a pillow fight, but would lose in a comfort competition. So ignore them, and do bring your own.
It has a soft velvety top (which isn’t actually velvet, of course) that adds a little extra comfort under your bedsheet. And it’s worth noting that it costs considerably less than the SoundAsleep. I’m not entirely sure why though as this is also a dependable air mattress that manages to hold its breath well when I use it.
3. Coleman Double High Support Rest
Comfy for camping, but don’t forget to bring your own pump
The Coleman double-high support rest, as you can guess from the name, is 18 inches tall and easy to get in and out of. Just remember that for camping, you’ll need space in your tent to accommodate the combined height of the bed and your horizontal body.
It’s designed with robustness in mind. It has a reinforced PVC construction with internal coils to maintain the shape, and a dual-sealed valve to prevent leaks.
It doesn’t inflate automatically, so you need to use a separate pump. It doesn’t come with a pump though, so you’ll need to buy one if you don’t already own a Coleman compatible pump.
Bear in mind that the total weight is 18.5 pounds, so if you are taking it camping, it’s not one to carry on your back unless you fancy training your leg muscles. But to pull out of the car at the end of a long day in the great outdoors, or just as an extra bed back at home, it’s a comfortable air bed.
4. King Koil
Comfortable auto-inflating air bed that will suit shorter people
The King Koil would win the prize for best name. But is this a king that the people love, or has he let them down too many times?
When it comes to inflation, it does so in almost record time – just a couple of minutes using the internal pump. The same pump will also deflate, which is always preferable to the old-school routine of squeeze, squash, roll, repeat.
It has fairly standard durable PVC to fend off sharp objects, and a coil system to support your body. And a flocked top puts the finishing touches to the essential support+comfort balance.
One notable point is that it has raised sides all the way around, which significantly reduces the amount of ‘flat’ space to sleep on. So tall people who don’t sleep in the fetal position might have to offer up their feet to inquisitive pets in the morning.
It does come in a California King size though. So although I wouldn’t say this is the King of air mattresses, you can at least use the literal name to convince taller guests it really is a king size.
5. Insta-Bed Raised Air Mattress
An automatic pump keeps it topped up in the night
The Insta-Bed takes around four minutes to inflate using the automatic internal pump, which is standard for queen size air beds.
What makes it unique though is the addition of a second pump, which generally divides opinion as to how useful it is. Rather than manually stopping it when it reaches your chosen fill level, you have to select one of three firmness options.
Now, that’s great if one of those suits you perfectly, because the second pump will then automatically keep it topped up in the night to maintain that firmness. But it does mean it’s a little less flexible, while adding an extra component that can potentially go wrong.
Having said that, this is an air mattress that you might appreciate if you tend to get frustrated by the natural slow deflation that can happen in the night. And with 35 coils and 18 inches of height, it will do its job as a substitute bed if those pumps hold tight.