Air beds used to be a fast-track ticket to a sleepless night and sore back the following day. Not so nowadays, with decent ones sending you swiftly off into the land of nod. Whether you want one for camping, sleepovers or just for the rellies staying over once in a while, our guide will help you find the right one for your needs.
If you’re after a high-performance option for serious camping trips, you’ll probably want an air mat, in which case consider whether it’s self-inflatable or you have to blow it up yourself. Check the sizing too – some are on the narrow side – and how small and light it is to carry during the day. If it’s for kids, there are dedicated air beds available, that are well worth checking out. And for adults in the home environment, remember bigger usually means better – and that’s not just width, but height, with some now as tall as regular beds, with similar comfort levels.
Consider how fast and easy it is to inflate and deflate, as well as how robust it is – you don’t want one that works wonders for a few nights, then punctures, leaving your guests waking up on a cold, stone floor. Above all, check it’s comfortable. Every air bed claims to be snug and relaxing, but many are anything but. The best ones are well crafted with high quality air chambers and top layers consisting of the likes of memory foam, as well as allowing you to adjust the firmness or softness of the mattress. As with any mattress, you ultimately want one that supports your body, while providing enough “give” to conform to your natural shapes and curves.
1. Vango Flocked Airbed: From £25, Vango
Who says you need to miss out on a headboard, just because you’re on an air bed? This bed, which is available in various sizes, has a headboard that also inflates. It’s comfortable and holds its air, even with reasonably heavy sleepers, and is pretty resistant to puncture. It packs back into the bag pretty easily and has a soft, flocked surface.
2. Aerobed Activeplus Dual Zone: £89.99, Ibex Camping
Prefer a softer or firmer mattress to your partner? No need to argue anymore, with this high-quality, dual-control air bed that means you can inflate your side just as you like it. There’s plenty of room for two adults and it has built in pillows, although we found we needed our own as well. It inflates in less than a minute, deflating in even less time.
3. ReadyBed Deluxe Airbed Junior: £49.99, Amazon
No need for kids to miss out on the fun with this junior bed that also has a cotton, machine washable sleeping bag built into it. There are plenty of cheaper ReadyBeds, with themes ranging from The Gruffalo to Frozen, but for durability and comfort, we think this extra deep mattress is worth the money. Suitable from three years.
4. Intex Ultra Day Bed Lounge: £60, Tesco
No need to save the luxury air bed for night-time with this funky purple day bed that looks as though it’s straight out of an Austin Powers movie. The backrest is detachable and there’s plenty of room for two people. The velvety finish means you can lie straight on it and the reinforced laminated bottom means it’s suitable for outdoors too. It’s easy to inflate and deflate and has good support, but you’ll need a separate pump.
5. Coleman Durarest Raised Double: £89.99, Go Outdoors
Launched last year, this bed is available as a single, double and – our favourite – a raised double. Despite weighing just 3.5kg and storing into a tiny carry wrap, it’s huge when inflated, standing almost half a metre off the ground. Inflating within just six minutes into a robust, puncture-proof but extremely comfortable bed – even for two - with a velvety finish, it lacks that plastic smell that many air beds have.
6. EZ Bed: £159, JML Direct
Unusually, this comes in a huge, wheeled storage box that you unzip, plug into the mains and watch as a full size air bed – complete with proper metal frame – reveals itself within around three minutes. It’s a joy to lie on, with just the right amount of bounce and it is just as simple to set the dial to deflate and fold itself up. We found it lasted well too. Available in single or double.
7. Outwell Dreamboat: £120, Go Outdoors
Self-inflating mats are ideal for campers as they are much easier to store and carry in backpacks than full air beds. This is one of the most advanced self-inflating mats out there, with quick inflation, superb comfort and support during sleep, along with extra depth and width, despite it just being a single. All this, and yet it’s one of the lightest and smallest on the market to carry.
8. Aerobed Luxury Inflatable Guest Bed: From £179.99, Bensons for Beds
This is as good as a proper bed, in terms of stability, bounce, comfort and height, which Aerobed claims is all down to the four-layer construction. You can inflate, adjust and deflate with just one touch, so there’s no need to hold a button down. It comes in a handy carry bag which is great for storage and travel. Available in single, king and double.
9. Campingaz Covertible Quickbed: £34.99, Argos
This comes as a set of two single mattresses that can be used independently or zipped together to make a double bed. Or you can stack one on top of the other to make a higher mattress. They inflate in just two minutes with an electric pump and although the mattresses look a bit thin and flimsy at 19cm, they are surprisingly comfortable and lose very little air in the night. Great for those in need of versatility.
10. Snugpack Premium Airmat: £39.95, Snugpak
This affordable single air mat has a brushed effect – and the base has a non-stick surface – both ensuring that you and the mattress don’t roll about. It packs pretty small into the stuff sac and is light at 500g, as well as being very comfy for the price. It’s quite narrow, though, and stick to lying on it, rather than sitting. It isn’t self-inflating, so you’ll need to get your lungs into action to blow it up, which might be tiring after a full day of hiking.
11. Outwell Cubitura: £49.99, Amazon
This single air bed is supremely comfortable, thanks to it having a quilted microfibre topper. We found it soft, but supportive and a good pack size. It’s easy to clean, thanks to the removable foam insert and machine washable cover. It keeps your body temperature on an even keel too, rather than leaving you hot and sticky at night. Available in single or double.
12. Robens Prima Core: £79.99, Robens
This compact air bed isn’t the lightest on the market (although it is one of the smallest), but it’s well worth carrying the extra few hundred grams in your camping backpack for a decent night’s kip. It honestly feels like a mattress you’d have at home – deep, snug and supportive, although obviously more narrow. It keeps you warm, even in cold weather or on cold ground and takes around three to four minutes of blowing to inflate.
13. Halfords Flocked Airbed: £8, Halfords
If you want a cheap and cheerful single air bed that will do for sleepovers or short camping trips, this is a great buy. We found it doesn’t puncture anywhere near as easily as many others twice its price and it loses less air than many others too. The flocked surface means you don’t slide about and it’s easy to inflate and deflate. Available in single and double.
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