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Best air bed 2022: Great air mattresses and sleeping pads for camping

Best air beds

A good air bed will transform how well you sleep outdoors – here are the best mattresses and pads for any budget

One of the most common worries for would-be campers is whether they’ll be able to get a good night’s sleep in a tent. After all, a holiday isn’t much fun if you’re not getting proper rest, especially if you’re spending a week running around with free-ranging kids. A decent air bed is the best way to make sure you sleep well in the outdoors, and if you’re keen on regular camping trips it’s probably the most important purchase you can make after a good tent.

You’ll see both camping mats and air beds on the market. Camping mats are thin, inflatable mats that roll down small and are designed for backpacking, wild camping and adventures where portability and weight are key factors. Air beds, on the other hand, tend to be large, heavy and time-consuming to inflate. But if you’re packing up the car and spending a week at just one or two campsites, they’re worth having as you’ll sleep far better on a cushiony air mattress than a thin mat. They also allow you to eschew sleeping bags in favour of proper sheets, pillows and duvets that again makes camping really comfy if space is no issue. A good airbed is also a good investment for putting guests up at home.

There are plenty of cheap air mattresses available to buy but this is one bit of kit where we’d recommend spending as much as you can. A cheap air bed can be a false economy because they’re prone to slowly deflating in the night and can be plasticky and uncomfortable to sleep on. Our picks are all reliable, comfortable and durable.

Best air bed: At a glance

How to choose the best air bed for you

What key features should I look out for?

As well as how the mattress inflates, the other key factor in a good air mattress is durability – cheap ones tend to be a false economy and can easily burst when camping on rocky ground or, just as bad, slowly deflate during the night.

We would advise against picking a mattress with a plasticky finish: mattresses with a material top are far more comfortable and some even sport memory foam toppers.

Who do you need a mattress for? Consider whether you want a single or double air mattress – and there are also some great ones for kids. It may sound obvious, but check that your new air bed actually fits into the bedroom section of your tent. Some “double” compartments in smaller tents are actually quite cramped and may only fit a single mat.

Consider how big, bulky and heavy the mattress you buy will be once folded away. If space isn’t an issue, you may as well go as big as possible and grab a really roomy but heavy mattress. If you’d like something portable and easy to store or transport in a smaller car, go for something more modest. Certain mattresses come with their own carry bag, which is useful for transportation and storage.

What’s the best inflation method to pick?

Mattresses are usually either self-inflatable or need blowing up manually. Usually, only the thinnest camping mats need inflating with just lung power; larger air mattresses usually require a pump and can take time to fill up. If you’re picking a big mattress we’d definitely recommend spending more to get one that inflates fast without too much effort, otherwise it could become a serious hassle on camping trips where you’d rather be relaxing. Check what the mattress comes with, too. If it requires inflating with a battery-operated or electric pump, do you need to buy that separately?

Foot pumps can be exhausting so it’s worth spending extra to get a no-effort pump. Some mattresses even inflate with a hairdryer, which is useful indoors if not outdoors. Check what the mattress’s insides are like, too - the better options contain several different air chambers, which makes them comfier, sturdier and less likely to deflate on you.

READ NEXT: The best sleeping bags for any budget

The best air mattresses and sleeping pads you can buy

1. Snugak Air Mat with Built-in Foot Pump: The best budget sleeping pad

Price: £56 | Buy now from Amazon

For such a lightweight pad, the Snugpak Basecamp Ops Air Mat offers a surprising amount of warmth and comfort. As far as basic, affordable sleeping pads go, it's extremely compact and easy to use too. The pump is built-in to the top right corner of the pad, so all you have to do is crank your foot up and down a few dozen times and then fasten the air valve before hopping on and going to sleep. We did find that the polyester sleeping surface was more slippery than other pads we've tested, which may cause you to slide around if you're making adjustments inside your sleeping bag, but it's a small drawback considering the pad's affordability.

Key specs – Dimensions: 183 x 62 x 2.5cm; Weight: 0.63kg; Self-inflating: No; Pump provided: Yes (built-in)

2. ReadyBed Deluxe Junior Airbed: The best sleeping bed-and-bag combo for kids 

Price: £71 | Buy now from Amazon

Don’t these fantastic beds for toddlers and kids look cosy? The ReadyBed combines a deep, durable air bed with a built-in, washable sleeping bag and pillow – and the result is that they’re a great all-in-one option for the kids when you’re camping. They’re extremely comfortable and fun to sleep in for little campers, and you’ll never have to worry that you forgot a vital bit of sleeping equipment because it’s all included. The ReadyBeds come in different cheerful colours and designs, and a battery-operated pump makes them easy to inflate. They’re great for sleepovers too.

Key specs – Dimensions: 140 x 75 x 30cm to 200 x 150 x 24cm; Weight: 2kg to 6.42kg; Self-inflating: No; Pump provided: Yes

3. Kelty Cosmic SI: The best lightweight self-inflating pad

Price: £50 | Buy now from Outdoor Adventurer

The Mummy-style Cosmic SI sleeping pad from Kelty is the perfect choice for hikers who need to cut down on the weight and free up some space inside their backpack. Weighing a mere 600g, it's one of the most compact sleeping pads on this list, and it's still fairly comfortable despite being only 2.5cm thick when inflated. You obviously can't expect air mattress levels of support from a pad this thin, but it does enough to keep you warm and protect your joints from hard ground below. Inflating the Cosmic SI couldn't be easier: simply loosen the brass valve and walk away for a few minutes, then finish it off with a few final breaths and it's ready to go.

Key specs – Dimensions: 183 x 51 x 2.5cm; Weight: 0.6kg; Self-inflating: Yes; Pump provided: No

Buy now from Outdoor Adventurer

4. Campingaz Convertible Quickbed: The best air mattress

Price: £38 | Buy now from Amazon

Not sure if you need a single or a double mattress? Get the best of both worlds with this clever Quickbed – you can zip together the two mattresses to make a comfy double, use them separately or stack them together for a deep single bed. Campingaz reckons its Airtight system ensures no air leaks and we found it stayed inflated very effectively in tests. The Quickbed comes with a repair kit, but not a pump so we’d recommend buying an electric or battery-operated one. It also packs away into a neat little package for easy storage.

Key specs – Dimensions: 188 x 74 x 19cm; Weight: 3.3kg; Self-inflating: No; Pump provided: No

5. Vango Comfort Double 10cm: The best double sleeping pad

Price: £110 | Buy now from Outdoor World Direct

Sleeping pads don't get any more luxurious than this. The Comfort Double from Vango is the most comfortable self-inflating camping pad we've tested; thanks to its generous 10cm of clearance from the ground, it's both warm and supportive, giving you the best possible chance of waking up well-rested the next day. Measuring 200 x 130 x 10cm, it's more than big enough to sleep two adults, and it can be set up in under ten minutes – the Cyclone auto-inflate valves do all the work for you. The downside? It's rather bulky and weighs over 6.5kg, so you can forget about taking it on multi-day backpacking trips.

Key specs – Dimensions: 200 x 130 x 10cm; Weight: 6.65kg; Self-inflating: Yes; Pump provided: No

Buy now from Outdoor World Direct

6. Hi-Gear Deluxe Double Air Bed: The best budget air mattress

Price: £15 | Buy now from Go Outdoors

If you’re watching your pennies then this cheap and cheerful air bed ticks all the boxes. It’s easy and quick to inflate with the included pump and is comfortable and roomy enough for two people. The flocked outer material is comfortable to sleep on, and we like the slightly raised pillow (although you’ll still be comfier if you bring your own sheet and extra pillows as well). The rubber bottom feels strong and sturdy, and it also packs away easily. It’s not just useful for camping, either: it’s also a good cheap choice for unfussy house guests.

Key specs – Dimensions: 191 x 137 x 22cm; Weight: 3.6kg; Self-inflating: No; Pump provided: Yes

Buy now from Go Outdoors

7. Coleman Durarest Raised Double: The best for height off the ground

Price: £89 | Buy now from Amazon

We're big fans of the Coleman Durarest, as although it weighs only 3.5kg and is relatively easy to pack down, it inflates to a considerable height, meaning it’s perfect for those who find camping beds and mats that are too close to the ground uncomfortable. It’s available in single or regular double, but we liked the raised double the best – it sat almost half a metre off the ground with excellent padding when fully inflated. It’s a robust bed that won’t disappoint.

Key specs – Dimensions: 198 x 137 x 47cm; Weight: 3.5kg; Self-inflating: No; Pump provided: No

8. Decathlon Quechua Ultim Comfort 70cm: The most comfortable single air bed

Price: £80 | Buy now from Decathlon

Self-inflating mattress technology has come on a great deal in recent years, with the combination of easily compressible foam and air pockets offering superb levels of comfort that put bulky airbeds to shame.

The Quechua Ultim Comfort 70 is a generous size for one adult (110kg, 200cm tall) and while 7cm doesn’t sound that thick, unless you’re at the very top of the weight range, you won’t feel the floor, even when lying on your side. The top has a plush finish that feels nice on the skin.

Supplied in a carry bag that’s around the size of a pillow, this camping mat has two valves to make inflating and (importantly) deflating super simple. If you wait for an hour, air will naturally be drawn inside and it will just need a few big breaths to top it up to the firmness you like – or, if time is tight, it doesn’t take more than a couple of minutes to inflate manually. It can also be clipped to a second mattress to make a double, which is a well thought out bonus.

When it comes to packing away, the one-way valve means you’re not fighting to get every last breath out in order to wrestle it back into the bag.

Key specs - Dimensions: 200 x 70 x 8 cm; Weight: 2.9kg; Self-inflating: Yes; Pump included: No

Buy now from Decathlon

9. Therm-a-rest NeoAir UberLite Sleeping Pad: Super-light, super-packable

Price: £170 Buy now from Ultralight Outdoor Gear

When only the lightest, most packable option will do for your backpacking adventures you will not find better than the Therm-a-rest NeoAir UberLite. At 264g it’s the lightest full-size sleeping pad available, but impressively it still manages to offer a surprisingly comfortable 6.5cm of cushioning.

Measuring 15 x 9cm when packed it isn’t much bigger than a can of pop, and it takes no more than 30-seconds to inflate using the reliable one-way valve to a grown-up 183cm in length. It feels incredibly thin, but the nylon and polyurethane construction is impressively tough; we’ve watched people use these as fun lilos in the summer, although we wouldn’t suggest camping on gravel.

It has an insulation "R" rating of 2.3, making it best suited for summer expeditions. We love the fact it also comes with an expensive repair kit and a bag that can be used to inflate the air bed saving your lungs after a long day’s hiking.

Key specs - Dimensions: 119 x 51cm; Weight: 264g; Self-inflating: No; Pump included: Yes

Buy now from Ultra Light Outdoor Gear

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