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Many people shudder at the thought of camping, despite the fact most of us thoroughly enjoy spending time in the great outdoors.

We have sadly become too accustomed to having modern-day conveniences like a comfortable bed, electricity, and running water!

There are however, a number of ways to make camping an enjoyable and relatively comfortable experience. So if you’ve been putting off that camping trip out of fear of having to endure an unbearable sleepless night, fear not!

Camping comfortably is indeed possible and often starts with investing in a quality air mattress.

Should I Get an Air Mattress for Camping?

Camping Has Come a Long Way

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Camping has thankfully come a long way from what it once was. From giant tents with multiple chambers to camping showers, camp kitchens, and hi-tech gadgets that provide everything from light to power for all your electronics, camping has become much easier than it once was.

More and more people are now trading a hotel room for a night under the stars thanks to the many improvements that have been made to camping gear, especially when it comes to bedding.

Often times, the thing that can make or break a camping experience is getting a good night’s sleep after a long day of hiking, fishing, or other outdoor recreation.

While there are many different sleeping options available to campers including hammocks, folding camp beds, sleeping bags, and simple sleeping mats, there’s no denying that today’s quality air mattresses provide the best comfort.

Gone are the days of air mattresses proving difficult to inflate and being uncomfortable or prone to punctures and leaks.

The Advantages of an Air Mattress for Camping

1. Adaptable

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One of the best things about choosing an air mattress for camp sleeping is the fact they have become so adaptable.

There are now many different mattress sizes for you to choose from, meaning there’s an ideal mattress whether you’re planning to throw one in the back of your vehicle or in a tent. You also have sizes that range from single to king which allow you to sleep alone or share your mattress comfortably.

There are a number of things to consider when choosing a size of air mattress for camping in terms of both dimensions and weight. You want to make sure it will fit in the space you intend it to go, will support your height and weight, and can be carried easily if you plan on hiking with it on your back to a campsite.

Air mattresses now also come in varying heights, with double height mattresses providing a great deal of extra comfort. Of course you’ll need to consider whether your vehicle or tent will allow the necessary clearance.

Note that you should always check the actual dimensions of the mattress you plan to purchase instead of relying on descriptions like twin, queen, or king since these can vary between manufacturers.

2. Portable

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Most air mattresses are quite portable being that they can be deflated and rolled up into a compact space. For the comfort they provide, air mattresses are the best lightweight, compact, and least cumbersome form of bedding to bring with you camping.

If you don’t need to haul your camping gear very far from your vehicle, you can opt for an air mattress with a built-in pump which does add weight.

If your campsite requires a decent hike, then maybe opt for one with a lighter external manual pump which can reduce the weight.

3. Easy to Set Up

One of the greatest advantages to air mattresses is that they require no assembly. Other sleeping options like hammocks require installing hooks or wrapping straps around trees.

With air mattresses, you simply unfold the mattresses and inflate. Sometimes, this is often as easy as pressing a self-inflate button.

Many air mattresses these days offer rapid inflation, allowing you to have a comfortable mattress in minutes. Even with manual pumps, nearly anyone including children can easily inflate an air mattress.

They are also very easy to clean, maintain, and deflate. Most campers will only be inflating/deflating their mattress a single time each outing, so even the most slow pumps aren’t really a nuisance.

4. Comfort

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Of course the top reason for selecting an air mattress for camping is the comfort they provide. It’s nearly impossible to find completely flat ground in nature that’s free from sticks and stones, not to mention ground that’s soft. Having an air mattress provides you with more than enough padding to absorb any ground variations and debris.

Air mattresses also provide a lot more flexibility than a hammock or sleeping bag in that you can sleep in your normal sleeping position and more easily get up during the night for things like using the bathroom.

You won’t feel constricted or restricted when sleeping on an air mattress because it’s the closest thing to your normal mattress back home.

In fact, many people use air mattresses at home as guest beds for when family and friends come to visit. Not only are air mattresses easy to set up, they also allow you to customize the firmness based on the amount of inflation you choose. This is great since everyone has a different firmness preference.

Disadvantages of an Air Mattress for Camping

While there are many reasons you should choose an air mattress for camping, there are a few instances where they may present some problems. Thankfully, many of these problems can be remedied quite easily.

1. Dealing with the Cold

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One challenge of camping is often staying warm throughout the night.

Due to being constructed with synthetic materials like PVC or vinyl, air mattresses can become cold to the touch in cold weather and the air contained within the mattress can also stay cold throughout night due to your body heat not transferring to the air trapped within.

The remedy is to place a barrier between you and the top of the air mattress which will aid in temperature regulation. Adding a mattress topper or normal bed sheets will ensure a warm night and even more comfort.

I recommend allocating a set of sheets solely used for camping purposes, so as to not damage or soil your normal bed sheets you use at home on your regular bed.

Sheets used for camping are likely to get sand, dirt, and moisture during your outing. Although they can be washed, this takes time and you may not wish to get right into cleaning once you return home from camping.

You can also add warmth by getting your air mattress off the cold ground. One of the best ways to do this is to put foam in the form of a mat or square tiles underneath the mattress.

2. Leaks

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Another problem with air mattresses is that they can easily leak, depending on the quality of their materials. Leaks are more likely with the cheaper brands, but they can occur with any mattress that contains air.

The obvious solution to avoiding leaks is to keep sharp objects away from your mattress. This means clearing debris and possibly even raking the ground before setting up your tent and mattress.

Adding foam underneath your mattress with also help to keep any sharp objects from coming into contact with your mattress.

Sometimes, simply changes in air temperature and you sleeping on your air mattress can cause it to lose air. Check your mattress each day and re-inflate as often as needed. Be mindful to not overinflate your mattress, since this can make it more prone to punctures and tears.

Many air mattresses now thankfully include a handy repair kit in the event a leak does occur. You can also use duct tape in a pinch if you are without a patch kit. It’s always best to repair holes or rips early before they become bigger and thus more difficult to patch.

If you are finding it difficult to locate a small hole/leak, you can use a spray bottle of soapy water to spray over the mattress and then look for air bubbles.

3. Noise

Air mattresses can sometimes be noisy to inflate, but this is often limited to cheaper low quality brands.

I recommend you always choose to pump up your mattress as early as possible and not wait until just before you decide to settle in for the night. This will prevent you from waking up any children you have that may already be asleep or other campers at the campsite.

Electric pumps are likely to cause more noise than manual pumps or self-inflating mattresses, so if noise is a big concern than opt for either of these two options.

In addition to pump noise, you may also want to consider mattress noise. Because of the plastic nature of air mattresses, they can make a great deal of noise when tossing and turning during the night.

Remedy this by adding a mattress topper or bed sheets. Some air mattresses even have built-in toppers made of a soft material which reduces the noise while also adding comfort.

4. Sharing a Bed

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There can be a great deal of motion transfer on an air mattress, making it sometimes difficult to share a mattress with another and both get a good night’s sleep. Don’t expect it to be like those traditional mattress ads where you can set a glass of wine on one side and jump on the other without making it spill.

There are thankfully larger air mattresses now that contain two separate air chambers which can reduce motion from one person affecting the other. Separate air chambers also allow each person on the mattress to inflate to their desired firmness.

One thing that seriously needs to be pointed out is that mothers with newborns should NEVER sleep with their baby on an air mattress. Air mattresses are considered to be too soft for infants to maintain a clear airway.

Air mattresses have been proven to be a hazard to infants less than 15 months of age due to the risk of asphyxia. Babies can easily suffocate if their face turns toward the air mattress during the night or is pressed into the air mattress by a parents arm, leg, or other body part.

So now that you know the pros and cons of using an air mattress for camping, I hope it allows you to decide whether or not one is right for you.

While there may be a few drawbacks to air mattresses, many of these can be easily remedied and the advantages seem to far outweigh any negatives.

Megan is an Australian Journalist and award-winning travel writer who has been blogging since 2007. Her husband Mike is the American naturalist and wildlife photographer behind Waking Up Wild; an online magazine dedicated to opening your eyes to the wonders of the wild & natural world.

Having visited 100+ countries across all seven continents, Megan’s travels focus on cultural immersion, authentic discovery and incredible journeys. She has a strong passion for ecotourism, and aims to promote responsible travel experiences.


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