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The best air mattresses and sleeping pads for comfortable camping in 2023

Best air beds

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

The best air mattress will make sure you sleep well outdoors, and if you’re planning on camping regularly, it’s the single most important piece of kit, aside from your 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.

You will see both camping mats and air mattresses 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 mattresses tend to be larger, heavier and more time-consuming to inflate, but what they lack in portability, they more than make up for in comfort. If you’re packing up the car and spending a week at a campsite, they’re worth the space in the boot. They also allow you to eschew sleeping bags in favour of proper sheets, pillows and duvets that can really make camping feel like home away from home. A good quality air mattress is also a sound investment for when unexpected guests come to stay.

There are plenty of cheap air mattresses available to buy; however, this is one bit of kit where we would 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 mattresses and sleeping pads: At a glance

How to choose the best air mattress or sleeping pad 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 – when you’re camping on rocky ground, cheap ones can easily burst or, arguably just as bad, slowly deflate during the night.

We would also advise against picking a mattress with a plasticky finish; mattresses with a flock textured or material top are far more comfortable, and make less noise if you’re a restless sleeper.

READ NEXT: The best sleeping bags to buy

How large should the air mattress be?

Consider whether you want a single or a double – there are also some great ones for kids – as a standard single air mattress is just 60cm wide, which is much smaller than a normal single bed. So, if you want to spread out, or snuggle up with someone, a double may be far more comfortable.

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 will be once folded away. If space or weight aren’t an issue, you may as well go as big as possible, and could even choose a mattress with bags of thick memory foam to provide the ultimate cushioning even on hard ground.

Air mattresses are a brilliantly versatile option if you’re travelling light, backpacking or need to pack a lot of kit for the whole family. Any design over 7cm thick will be able to keep an adult’s hips clear of the ground, and these often pack down to the size of a water bottle and can weigh even less.

What’s the best inflation method to pick?

Air mattresses are usually either self-inflatable or need blowing up manually. Usually, only the thinnest camping mats can be inflated with just lung power; larger air mattresses usually require a pump and can take some time to fill. What often sets good mattresses and cheap mattresses apart is the use of one-way valves. These make blowing them up much easier as no air can escape during the process and they are also much less likely to leak.

Self-inflating designs still need time to work and almost always require a few big breaths, or pumps, to completely inflate. Larger options may require a foot pump. Or you can buy an automatic pump that either plugs into your car’s power, if you are camping near the car, or has its own battery supply, like this excellent model from Flextail.

How we test air mattresses

Being paid to sleep is a dream we’ve now happily fulfilled, thanks to our extensive testing of the best air beds. At home and away, on both family and backpacking trips, we’ve carried, inflated, slept on, and packed up all manner of mattresses, from the lightest camping options to huge double designs. We’ve even raced a couple down a river, although this didn’t impact the final test results…

When inflating our air beds, we’ve used our lungs, supplied inflation bags, built-in pumps, and, when more effort was required, we relied on the Quechua hand pump.

Comfort is obviously very subjective, but we have taken into account cost, what its intended use is (an ultralight camping mat will never provide as much hip-supporting as a 12 cm-thick memory-foam design) and, ultimately, whether it is meant for one person or a couple, as rolling can be a real issue with many designs and one that can guarantee a broken night’s sleep.

READ NEXT: The best inflatable tents to buy

The best air mattresses and sleeping pads you can buy in 2023

1. Snugpak Air Mat with Built-in Foot Pump: Best lightweight easy inflation air mattress

Price when reviewed: £67 | Check price at 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. Junior ReadyBed: Best sleeping bed-and-bag combo for kids 

Price when reviewed: £35 | Check price at Argos

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 will 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

Check price at Argos

3. Alpkit EZ Sleeper: Best lightweight sleeping pad

Price when reviewed: £25 | Check price at Alpkit

A secret weapon for the serious backpacker, this exceptionally light, folding pad weighs just 245g and easily straps to the outside of your rucksack. Made from a clever closed cell foam, the egg box shape and aluminium coating increases insulation from the cold ground, so it is surprisingly warm despite it being only 1.7cm thick.

This pad obviously needs no inflation, is robust, and comes with straps to attach it just about anywhere. If you are travelling light and you don’t mind a firm bed for the night, it can help you drop the total weight of your pack significantly. All-year wild campers will want to take one of these pads along with a lightweight air mattress for guaranteed warmth come winter.

Key specs – Dimensions: 188 x 55 x 1.7cm; Weight: 0.24kg; Self-inflating: N/A; Pump provided: N/A

Check price at Alpkit

4. Vango Comfort Double 10cm: Best value double sleeping mat

Price when reviewed: £130 | Check price at Outdoor World Direct

Given the reasonable price, generous size and 10cm of thickness, the Comfort Double from Vango is one of the comfiest self-inflating camping pads we’ve tested. It’s both warm and hugely 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 most of the work for you. The downside? It’s rather bulky and weighs over 6.5kg, so it’s one for car campers, not backpackers.

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

Check price at Outdoor World Direct

5. Hi-Gear Deluxe Double Air Bed: Best budget air mattress

Price when reviewed: £24 | Check price at Blacks

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 will 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

Check price at Blacks

6. Coleman Durarest Raised Double: Best for height off the ground

Price when reviewed: £100 | Check price at 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

7. Decathlon Quechua Ultim Comfort 70cm: Most comfortable single air mattress

Price when reviewed: £85 | Check price at 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

Check price at Decathlon

8. Therm-a-Rest NeoAir UberLite Sleeping Pad: Super-light, super-packable

Price when reviewed: £200 | Check price at 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 mattress saving your lungs after a long day’s hiking.

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

Check price at Ultra Light Outdoor Gear

9. Dreamboat Double 12cm: Best double sleeping mat for comfort

Price when reviewed: £330 | Check price at Outwell

With none of the wobble of a standard air bed, and all the comfort and support of memory foam, the Dreamboat Double 12cm self inflating mattress is the comfiest design we’ve ever had the pleasure of camping with. Yes, it’s very expensive, but justify the cost by using it as a spare bed for unexpected guests without them complaining about a bad back in the morning. It rolls up remarkably small for a double sized, extra thick camping mat and, with both in- and out-valves and a small supplied foot pump, inflating and deflating is quick. The design is also good for all seasons, with sculpted columns on one side keeping you cool in summer, and a perfectly flat surface on the other helping retain heat when the temperature drops. Oh and if 12cm isn’t enough comfort, there’s also a 16cm thick option.

Key specsSize: 200 x 140 x 12cm; Weight: 5.5kg; Packed dimensions: 65 x 28cm; Max load: n/a

Check price at Outwell

10. Nemo Tensor Wide Insulated: Best light but wide airbed

Price when reviewed: £180 | Check price at Trekitt

In the rush to save weight and slim down dimensions, comfort can often get compromised. Not so here, with this super wide 64cm air bed from Nemo that is a generous 8cm thick, has a cold weather ready R-value of 4.2, and yet only weighs 590g. It’s an impressive combination of features that helps justify the high price, especially as the crinkle free top layer is made from 100% bluesign certified, recycled 20D polyester fabrics, and even comes with a clever pump sack for fast inflation. It’s not as robust as some, so you will need to look after this camping pad, but if you do, it will keep you warm and comfortable for years.

Key specsSize: 183 x 64 x 8 cm; Weight: 0.59kg; Packed dimensions: 24 x 8.5cm; Max load: n/a

Check price at Trekitt

11. Sea to Summit Ether Light XT Insulated: Best lightweight camping mattress for side sleepers

Price when reviewed: £143 | Check price at Amazon

Despite weighing less than 500g, this Sea to Summit sleeping mattress offers a whopping 10cm of cushioning and an ingenious air sprung cell pattern. This is especially welcome if you’re a side sleeper as most backpacking-ready mats will leave you with sore hips in the morning. The soft and grippy top coating is also super quiet, so your campmates won’t be disturbed every time you roll over.

All that air does mean it takes a bit more effort to inflate but thankfully, the stuff sack doubles as an inflation bag, so you won’t need to rely on your lungs after a long day hiking. We also love the fact they’ve built in a ‘PillowLock’ which allows you to securely attach a Sea to Summit Aeros pillow and guarantee it’ll still be in position come morning.

Key specs – Dimensions: 183 x 55 x 10cm; Weight: 0.49kg; Self-inflating: No; Pump provided: Yes (inflation bag)

12. Silentnight Camping Collection Self Inflating Mattress: Best value thick camping mattress

Price when reviewed: £120 | Check price at Silentnight

Not a brand generally associated with the great outdoors but certainly one that’s synonymous with sleep and mattresses, Silentnight’s self-inflating design is solid value and an incredibly comfortable option. We tested the double, however, a 60cm single is also available for half the price.

Much like the Dreamboat Double from Outwell, this mattress is not compact or lightweight, but what you lose in portability, you gain in plush, 10cm-deep foam padding and a generous layer of air.

As with all ‘self-inflating’ designs, you will need to give it a couple of top-up blows to fully inflate it, even if you have left for a while to expand, but it’s not a big issue. The valves appear well made, the seams all feel secure, and the plush brushed-top finish is quiet and comfortable with a nice amount of grip for your sleeping bag. We’d be happy to use it as a put-me-up bed at home too.

Key specs – Dimensions: 198 x 130 x 10cm; Weight: 5.8kg; Self-inflating: Yes; Pump provided: No

Check price at Silentnight

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