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“Roughing it” is likely never more accurate than trying to sleep in a tent without an air mattress.
Whether a lightweight sleeping pad or something top-of-the-line and custom-fit, an airbed can really make a big difference when it comes to achieving a better night’s sleep outdoors.
When looking for an air mattress, you first should consider your needs: Are you just getting acquainted at a nearby campsite, or are you a seasoned outdoors person looking to level up in #vanlife? Any quality mattress should be made from durable polyester or have a fabric-covered plastic and feature divets, not unlike that of your mattress at home.
In the case of battery-powered vs. human-powered, that comes down to your fortitude and lungs. (We’ll just say that blowing up a queen-sized air mattress using your lungs only is a much different endeavor than using a battery pump.)
To help in your search, we picked five of our favorite air mattresses for camping, starting with our top pick and moving through various use cases.
1. Kelty Kush Air Bed
What we like about our top pick is the ease of setup to make hauling between campsite and car a breeze, along with a simple valve to adjust the air to a preferred level. The Kush unfolds in a matter of seconds, and you can leave the battery pump largely unattended for a few minutes while the mattress inflates (however, initial adjusting to get to a preferred comfort level may take some time). The puncture-resistant material comes in handy on uneven surfaces (because you never know what you’ll lay your tent on), and the footprint ends up being good-sized real estate, all under 5 pounds before batteries.
2. REI Co-op Kingdom Insulated Sleep System 40
Sure, this is an excellent mattress on its own, but once you add the quilt, top sheet *and* mattress cover, you have yourself the next best thing to being at home. That is, of course, unless your home is the great outdoors, in which case, this is an excellent option for you too. The quilt and top sheet are a single unit and fit nicely around the foot of the mattress to prevent drafts. However, if you’re rocking an airbed this swanky, drafts probably aren’t at the top of your worry list.
3. Intex Prestige Downy Airbed Kit
A solid air mattress doesn’t have to break the bank, and for casual campers (those who make an outing between two and three times per year), this option from Intex provides plenty of support and comfort at a reasonable price point. The soft flocked top is a nice touch for extra coziness on cold nights and this airbed will fit standard queen sheets. While the basic design may not be feature-heavy enough for some, it does equate to a reasonable weight at 10.7 pounds for car camping or hauling between rooms at home.
4. Nemo Quasar Insulated Double Sleeping Pad
BEST FOR COUPLES
An air mattress can provide additional warmth in the winter, and with PrimaLoft insulation in tow, that’s precisely what the Quasar does. It’s hard to keep couples comfortable with the temperature and cushioning, but Nemo has found a nice balance of both in a highly portable and remarkably light package. This is one of our pricier options but worth the investment for those needing high performance in a compact design (just be prepared to pump it on your own).
5. Coleman Inflatable Air Mattress with Frame and Battery Pump
BEST QUEEN SIZE
This unique airbed comes with its own frame for an elevated sleeping experience — something we rarely see in the world of outdoor camping. We think the added “side table” is a nifty offering, which essentially makes this its own inflatable bunk. The only downside is that with all of those added features comes added heft at a total weight of more than 30 pounds.
6. Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm MAX Ultralight Backpacking Sleeping Pad
A lightweight, single-person sleeping pad with the added bonus of an ingenious lightweight pump for easier inflation. Upon deflation, which is designed to be quicker than most, this pad packs up to the size of a generous water bottle.
7. Luno 2.0 Air Mattress
BEST FOR CAR
Of course, the best part of car camping is bringing more gear and creating a more comfortable setup. Case-in-point is Luno’s mattress specifically designed for such an activity. This high-level mattress is compatible with more than 1,800 vehicles. It builds in a lot of technology, including the ability to inflate each side separately. Hence, each sleeper has their own comfort level in what amounts to an “ultimate” air mattress solution. This is so good; we’ve already added it to our go-bag.
8. Klymit Insulated Static V Sleeping Pad
A three-season backpacking solution with unique patterning built around comfort and durability. The 75D polyester fabric is abrasion-resistant and soft to the touch and the extra-long shape helps ensure it’s a universal length for any last-minute addition to the trip.