Air Mattresses Buying Guide

When you need an air mattress, you really need an air mattress. It's an indispensable item when you have holiday guests, your kid has a friend sleep over, or an adult child moves back home temporarily. Less bulky than a cot or trundle bed, these spare sleeping spots pack away into their own bags so you can fold them up and stow them under the bed, in a small trunk, or on a closet shelf.

Types of Air Mattresses

Types of Air Mattresses

From basic to luxurious, air mattresses serve the same purpose: They provide comfort for a good night's rest. To pick the right one, match one of these types of air mattresses to the kind of sleeper you have.


The basic air mattress is a vinyl pillow roughly the dimensions of a twin, full, queen, or king mattress. The standard version has one main air pocket measuring 8-10 inches tall with a valve at one end. The valve may be small to fit a separate air pump, or it may be large and contain a built-in pump. The surface of a standard air mattress is typically slick vinyl, but some come with a soft velvety top.


The double-high air mattress is at least twice as tall as the standard air mattress, measuring about 25 inches from the surface to the ground. With two, three, or four stacked vinyl chambers, the double-high air mattress comes closer to the height of a bed with a mattress and box spring on a frame. This is an easier bed to climb into and out of, and it can be warmer because the sleeping surface is farther off the floor.


An air mattress designed for camping has features that make it suitable for the outdoors. It should be waterproof and made from extra-durable vinyl that will resist punctures. It should also come with a pump that doesn't need electricity to operate; some have batteries, some are manual, and some have converters that run off a car battery.

Purchase Considerations

Purchase Considerations

Before you purchase an air mattress, consider the size of bed you'll need for the number of sleepers, as well as the storage space you can allot for it. In most cases, a twin-size air mattress is sufficient, unless you often have multiple sleepers. Then take into account these other factors.


Pumps vary widely from bed to bed. Some come with the air mattress as a package set, and some are sold separately. If you buy the pump as a separate piece of equipment, make sure it can fit the valve of your particular mattress. The basic pump is a manual version you can operate by hand or foot. It requires no electricity, is always separate from the bed, and inflates the air mattress slowly. An electric pump offers quick inflation, and it can be separate from the bed or built into it. Take note of the advertised speed of inflation for the electric pump, however. A good pump should inflate a queen-size mattress in 2 minutes or less. Some electric pumps have adapters that can be used in foreign countries or with a car battery. And there are air mattresses that come with remote controls tethered to the pumps. The remote control allows the sleeper to let out or add air as needed for comfort.


Every air mattress has a recommended weight capacity indicated in the purchasing materials. Take into account the weight of the sleeper -- or a couple's combined weight -- and choose accordingly.


If not used, stored, or inflated properly, an air mattress can develop a leak. Some air mattresses are sold with patch kits, or you can buy a kit separately from a store that sells camping equipment or home goods.


As regular mattresses become more sophisticated, so do air mattresses. The latest additions to the air-mattress marketplace are toppers that give you the same memory foam or pillow-top comfort of a regular mattress. Some toppers are sold as separate components to add to the air mattress, and some are built into the design.

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