Air bed buying guide

Air bed buying guide

Sylvie, Ecrivain & journaliste brico/déco, Essonne

Guide written by:

Sylvie, Ecrivain & journaliste brico/déco, Essonne

273 guides

While air beds are generally reserved for occasional use, they should still be as comfortable as possible! Whether you're looking for a spare bed or a camping bed, you'll have to think about size, mattress density, materials, top surfaces and inflation methods. Follow our guide for all you need to know about air beds.

Important features

  • Uses
  • Size
  • Thickness
  • Materials and flocking
  • Inflation methods
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Key criteria for choosing an air bed


Also known as inflatable bedsair beds are essentially air-filled mattresses. Cheaper than traditional mattresses, they aren't suitable for everyday use, but serve as the perfect spare bed for occasional overnight guests. They are also ideal for a few nights of camping or an evening under the stars.

Air beds take up minimal space oncedeflated but should still be chosen with their intended purpose in mind. Do you need a bed that's lightweight and easy to move around? Or would you prefer a model that is quick to inflate and easy to store? The choice is all yours.

Whatever you decide, it's important to consider the dimensions of the air bed, how many people will be using it and itsthickness. The thickness of the mattress will determine how comfortable it is and the amount of insulation it provides from cold, uneven surfaces. An air bed must be made of strong materials and its upper surface should  feature a soft finish, such as suedette, velour or laminated cotton. This flocked surface can be used to cover horizontal or vertical beams, or a coil beam construction.

Last but not least, you must choose the inflation system. If you go for a model that does not feature a built-in air pump, the mattress must be inflated by mouth (for the bravest among you) or using a hand or foot pump. You can also use a separate electric pump.

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Electric pump

Choosing an air bed according to function

Since inflatable mattresses can be used to serve so many different purposes, it's important to identify your own needs.

Air mattress for a spare bed


Naturally, the air bed must be comfortable but it should also be easy to pack away quickly.By adjusting the level of inflation, these beds can even adapt to the individual comfort requirements of different people.

Air mattress for camping


These air beds should be lightweight, easy to carry and the right size for you (or anyone you may share the bed with).

Please note: inflatable pool mattresses are only suitable for use in the water. They are notdesigned to be used as a bed and will not be comfortable to sleep on.

Choosing the right size and thickness for your air bed


The size of the air bed must be suited to the person intending to use it. If you plan on using your air mattress as a spare bed for guests, make sure you choose the largest model possible. Double air beds are always more comfortable, even when used by a single person. However, you should also check there is enough space in your tent or home to accommodate the air bed.

The thickness of an air mattress will impact your sleeping comfort: the greater the distance between you and the ground, the less you will feel the cold or bumps on uneven surfaces. This will also play a role in how easy the air bed is to use. Thicker air beds are higher which will make it easier for you to get in and out of bed.

For an air bed intended for indoor use as a spare bed (or for more regular use), a thickness of between 38 and 56 cm is usually recommended. For camping or less frequent use, you can choose a thinner mattress of 16 to 35 cm.

While you can find even thinner air beds, they will offer less comfort.

Air bed materials and flocking


While most air beds are made of soft plasticthe bottom should be as hard-wearing as possible, especially if you plan to use the mattress outdoors. Vinyl or PVC bed are therefore good options. The mattress air chambers may be arranged in horizontal or vertical beams, or form a coil beam construction.

For additional sleeping comfort, you can buy a mattress with flocking – and it looks nice too! The upper surface material will determine how soft your air bed is. Suedette, velour or laminated cotton sleeping surfaces are particularly popular. However, when it comes to materials, your choice will simply depend on your own tastes and the level of comfort you're after.

Air bed inflation methods

There are two main types of air beds: models with a built-in pump and those with an external pump (usually sold separately so be sure to check).

Air beds with manual or external pumps


These air beds can be inflated by mouth or using a hand or foot air pump. Alternatively, you can use an electric air pump that can inflate the bed in mere minutes. That said, keep in mind that electric air pumps are more expensive and are better suited to home use since you need to have a power supply nearby.

Air beds with built-in pumps


Integrated inflation mechanisms mean you don't have to carry an air pump around with your air bed, so these models are particularly ideal for camping. Built-in pumps are either electric or operated by foot by exerting pressure at a specific point on the mattress. If you occasionally camp in places without electricity, it's best to opt for the latter model.

Whichever model you choose, mattresses with an integrated air pump offer another key advantage: they usually have a reverse system that allows you to both inflate and deflatequickly.

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Guide written by:

Sylvie, Ecrivain & journaliste brico/déco, Essonne, 273 guides

Sylvie, Ecrivain & journaliste brico/déco, Essonne

Après avoir travaillé au service de presse de France 2 et de la Cinq, j’ai choisi de laisser parler ma plume en m’orientant vers le journalisme et l’édition. Aussi éclectique dans mes goûts que dans mes écrits, passionnée de décoration et de bricolage comme d’histoire et de sciences, j’écris depuis plus de vingt ans sur ces thématiques. À mon actif : des ouvrages didactiques, romans et nouvelles, et de très nombreux articles brico déco regorgeant de conseils et d’astuces, expérimentés dans la vieille maison que je rénove peu à peu.

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