How to Buy an Air Mattress for Camping

Campers are people who are skilled in packing a lot of living into small spaces. It seems like the inflatable air mattress is one product that is made with campers in mind.

In this article, I will show you a few things to look for as you select your mattress. Armed with this information, you will be able to find an air mattress that will serve your needs for years to come.

A good inflatable mattress is lightweight and easy to store when not inflated. Mattress technology has improved and some air mattresses are so comfortable and durable, they can be used as temporary beds.

Other features you may find include special thick layered vinyl skin. There are a variety of high profile mattresses. These are 20 inches high or higher. This makes it much easier to for you to go from a laying to a standing position if the mattress is on the floor. I am in my mid-sixties and I really appreciate the higher profile mattress.

how to buy an Air Mattress

Low Profile

how to buy an air mattress

High Profile

Many of today’s inflatable air come with built in electric air pumps. The most useful of these will pump air in or out. This makes inflating and deflating your mattress a snap. Look for things like the number of air chambers or air coils the mattress has. More air chambers usually indicates a higher degree of comfort.

Some mattresses come with built in pillows. Many brands have a layer of fabric called “flocking” on the top. Sheets have a tendency to slip easily on vinyl. Bare skin on bare vinyl is not pleasant at all. The flocking helps eliminate the slipping and if the sheet should pull off, you are in contact with what feels like cloth, not ideal, but much better.

An air mattress bought for camping has this added benefit, you can use it at home, too.


How are You Planing to Use Your Mattress?

This is the first and most important question your need to answer. Will it be mainly used by a child or an adult? If it will be used by a child, low profile, lower price mattress may be all you need. Especially, if the child will only use it occasionally.

How much are you planning to use your mattress? Once in a while? Every night during an extended trip? The amount of use makes a difference. If the mattress will be used only occasionally, a less expensive, low end mattress might be just fine. However, if you spend more than a night or two on an inadequate mattress, you can wake up feeling as if you had no sleep at all.

Will your mattress be used on the floor or will it be used on a bed stand? If the mattress will be used on the floor, and the user isn’t a child, a high profile mattress is your best bet. If your mattress will be used off the floor, then a low profile mattress is the way to go.

Will you be camping in RV parks with electric hookups, or will you be boondocking? If you are going to be off grid, think about how you are going to inflate and deflate your mattress. A built-in electric air pump might be much of a benefit if you have no electricity. There are some models that are fitted for external air pumps.
Likewise, if you will be camping in a tent, unless it is a large tent, you want a low profile inflatable mattress.

Does the Mattress Provide Adequate Support?

You may remember the days when an air mattress and a pool flotation raft were the same thing. Those type mattresses are still available but there are much better, firmer, more comfortable options available today.

Put your weight on the old “pool raft” type mattresses the air would flow from the chambers under you to the other chambers. If you were laying on the ground, this was better than nothing.

Many of today’s inflatable mattresses have multiple air chambers and other construction features designed to keep the air under you and not rushing to the other parts of the mattress.

Typically, the more air chambers, the better the support.

Will it Inflate and Deflate Quickly and Easily?

Many mattresses come with built in electric air pumps. A good electric will inflate the mattress in three to four minutes. Look for a pump that inflates and deflates. Some have battery operated pumps. This may be an ideal option if you are camping without electricity.

Is the mattress configured to accept an external air pump? You don’t want to replace the entire mattress if the built-in air pump quits.

Hand pumps and foot pumps are fine for low profile mattresses. With high profile mattresses however, a manual pump might feel like an aerobics workout.

Does It Pack Up Small?Inflatable air mattress

Space is a premium commodity for campers. You have got to be able to get as much air out of your mattress as possible. The reversing air pumps really shine here, but even if you are using manual pumps, you should be able to pack that mattress small. Some mattresses come with a carry bag.

How Well Does it Hold Air?

Before you say, “well, duh!” This is important. Your mattress will look great all inflated, but might continuously lose air as you sleep on it. All inflatable mattresses will lose some air. The weight of the sleeper and changes in air temperature cause this.

Your should be able to sleep on your mattress all night without having to add air. Look for mattresses with thicker vinyl skins and reinforced seams. Make sure the seals around the air pump inlet are tight.

Pay Attention to the Specifications

A good inflatable mattress will list its specifications. You want to know how long, wide and tall the mattress is in inches. Just because it says “Queen Size” on the box does not mean your mattress is the same size as a queen size house mattress.

Find out the weight rating. Don’t ruin your mattress by putting too much weight on it.


Now, You are Ready for a Good Night’s Sleep.

inflatable air mattress

Put get your inflatable mattress, you may find yourself using it more than you expected. It’s great to have an extra bed for impromptu guests. Inflatable mattresses have many more uses.

You can set up outside for sunbathing. It can be a comfortable place to recline during outdoor events like concerts and fireworks. Buy a good mattress, and you will get a lot of use out of it.

Do you have an inflatable mattress? If so what is your experience? Please share it with me by leaving a comment in the comment box below.

Do you have any questions about these mattresses? Just post your question in the comment box and I’ll be back shortly with an answer.

Happy Camping.




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Camper Joe


  1. Thank you for the informative and helpful article on how to buy an air mattress for camping. It will help me with making the right choice as you have covered everything to pay attention to. Could you suggest where to buy the mattress? And which one could you suggest or have favored? Perhaps you have already covered the best air mattress choices in some other post?

    • Hi, Arta. You are welcome. Thanks for stopping by. You can buy a fine air mattress at Amazon. Many mattresses are Amazon Prime. Amazon has a huge selection. For Amazon Prime members, there are no shipping charges. Some makes and models are available at big box retailers like Wal-Mart and Target. Large sporting goods stores like Cabella’s and Bass Pro Outlet are good sources.

      I just completed a post Best Twin Air Mattress 2018. Here I show a good selection of high quality inflatable mattresses. 

  2. Wow, what a great and informative article for buying air mattress. Normally most of the people dont know about these things in detail and struggles while buying. Your article will help them a lot…great work..

    • Thank you, Sarah. If you have any questions about any of these mattresses. I will be happy to answer them.

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