Lofty, comfortable and convenient, air beds are the perfect way to add a touch of comfort to your camping trip or guest room. We tested these beds for comfort, annoying air leaks, and speed of inflation and deflation, with a single adult and two adults for the double beds.
Some – like Coleman’s extra durable – have stood the test of time, much abuse, and many festivals; we’re confident that they’re practically indestructible. For almost all of these beds – except where we’ve noted – you will need an external pump.
A basic foot pump is the cheapest and simplest way to inflate your bed – although not always the easiest. We’ve used a Coleman battery-powered pump for years without any problems. If you’re likely to be camping with a car or van, pick up a 12v pump, which will plug into the cigarette lighter.
The key thing with airbeds is not to over-inflate them, tempting as that is. Just like a sprung or memory foam mattress, you need a little bit of give to ensure your spine is kept roughly in alignment while you sleep. Over-inflating air beds also reduces their lifespan, so always leave a little squish and you’ll be amazed at the difference in your night’s sleep.
Air beds can also be very temperature-sensitive. If you’re sleeping outside on one, bear in mind that air is a terrible insulator.
Pop a mat under your air bed – a reflective one, if you have it – to stop the cold reaching you from the ground. If it’s very hot, the synthetic flocking that gives most mattresses that velveteen effect can be a heat trap. You can reduce that a lot by using a bedsheet on top.
As well as luxury air beds the height of a four-poster, we included a couple of super lightweight air mattresses in this round-up, too. These are more technical – so better for sleeping outdoors – but more suited to a hiking trip than a fortnight glamping in a yurt.
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Outwell dreamboat single
Finally, an air bed that’s comfortable whatever the weather. On one side of the bed thick air cores help to regulate heat and keep you cool in warm weather; flip the bed over and sleep on the insulated side, padded with thick foam, in cold weather.
We tested the mattress on a hot day and the cooling effect was really noticeable: the fabric covering, polyester fibre, was also more comfortable in sticky weather than the usual flocked covering on airbeds.
We were amazed at how light it was: the single weighed just 3.9kg. Best of all, it’s self inflating – ours took just a couple of extra breaths to reach the perfect level of firmness. A game-changer.
Coleman extra durable double airbed
The most durable air bed we tested. Coleman has run demo models over with a small quad bike and not punctured them, and we had seven adults sit on one in a tent during a rainstorm.
Ours has never leaked air in the night, and survived multiple festivals without a puncture. It’s also very comfortable – when just under fully inflated, using an external pump, it spreads the weight beautifully – and it feels light for a double bed. We love the attached carry bag.
Active era luxury single air bed
Brilliantly easy to use and fast to inflate, this bed blows up to the height of a normal bed within minutes thanks to its integrated electric pump, which just needs plugging into a power source. The firmness is good and the bed feels stable and spacious (we tested a single).
The ridged top is a good mimic of a proper mattress, and the raised edges are a nice stabilising touch. So is the inbuilt pillow: it’s not very high, but as you’re likely to use this bed at home anyway, you can always bulk it up.
Campingaz smart quickbed airbed double
A camping bed with an extra touch of luxury, our favourite thing about this comfy and durable bed was the storage compartments hidden under the inbuilt pillows. It inflates quickly and easily with an external pump, and didn’t lose any air overnight when we tested it.
The slightly deeper indentations give the bed a “coil-sprung” feeling that’s nicer than the squishy lilo feeling you can get with some airbeds. We preferred to layer pillows over the inbuilt ones for a little extra support.
Vango blissful double
The cleverest air bed we tested, it contains an inbuilt pump that continuously monitors and tops up air pressure, so you’re never at risk of being dumped on the floor by a puncture. Even better, you can set the pump – which is very, very quiet – to your ideal firmness: we liked “plush” best.
It spreads the weight well, particularly impressive given how tall it is, and has a nice sprung mattress feel on the firmer settings. It’s also very competitively priced given the technical features.
A really comfortable, lightweight camping mattress. The bed is self-inflating, with an easy to use valve that you either compress to let air in and out, or pull up to lock. The fabric is soft and doesn’t feel as artificial and plastic-y as some mattresses – and it doesn’t make a cacophonous rustling sound when you move around.
It is low to the ground – although higher than many camping-specific mats we’ve tested – and slightly tapered to match a mummy-shaped sleeping bag, so better for hiking or biking than rolling out for guests.
Silentnight deluxe airbed
A perfect option for festivals or emergency sleepovers, this budget-friendly air bed comes with its own inbuilt foot pump – brilliant if you’re travelling light or looking for a bargain, although it takes a fair bit of legwork to get it to a supportive level of firmness.
Once there, it’s very comfortable – the dimpled mattress really feels like a proper mattress, and the low raised pillow is a nice touch. The valve wasn’t as heavy duty as more expensive beds we tested, but we didn’t notice a huge amount of air loss overnight.
Sea To Summit comfort plus mat
The comfiest lightweight mattress we’ve tested, this mummy-shaped mat – ideal for camping – has two separate “sprung cell” layers, which you inflate separately using the incredibly innovative pump bag (a kind of wind sock).
This gives you really precise control over how the mattress feels – softer on top but with a firm base, for example. We tested a regular mat, which comes in at less than a kilo (710g), and which stood up to some really cold nights outside. It packs down as small as a water bottle, and gave our reviewer as good a night’s sleep as any she’d ever had camping.
Quechua camping air basic mattress
Simple, affordable, easy to use and ideal for a festival or short family camping trip. The bed inflates very quickly with an external pump, to a firmness that’s perfectly comfortable for a night’s sleep, and deflates just as quickly.
It also felt surprisingly light – at just 1.9kg – and folds up agreeably. It did lose some air over the course of a few hours, and didn’t feel as durable as the more expensive mattresses, but at just over a tenner it’s the best budget buy on the market.
The verdict: Air beds
We were really impressed by Outwell’s temperature regulating technology, and delighted by how quickly and easily it inflated itself. We still adore our Coleman double air bed; a real workhorse that has never let us down.
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