Whether you are looking for an extra bed for guests or a temporary bed for yourself, the all-around best night’s sleep can be enjoyed on the SoundAsleep Dream Series Air Mattress. For overall comfort, ease of operation, reliability, and customer service, the SoundAsleep Dream Series ranks at the top after thousands of reviews. Plus, with its high, 19″ raised profile, it is easy to get on and off without straining your back. I would use this as an extra bed at home and as a comfortable alternative to standard air mattresses while camping, in spite of its 19.4 pound weight.
Are you willing to pay more to get a well-known mattress brand? Then try the Serta Raised Air Mattress with Never Flat Pump. This mattress features two air pumps: the primary, which provides initial inflation with automatic shut-off, and a secondary pump, which operates when the pressure reaches a certain level to (almost) silently keep the pressure at the desired level during usage. This mattress also features a pillow top for more comfort. The Serta rises to 18″ above the floor. Serta offers the best warranty of all air mattresses, at a respectable 2 years.
The Insta-Bed Raised Air Mattress with Never Flat Pump is a great alternative. Insta-Bed does not have the pillow top, but Insta-Bed and Serta are owned by the same company, so the only real difference between these two beds is the warranty. Insta-Bed’s 1-year warranty is still a good one.
What you should know before buying
Know your purpose in buying an air mattress. You’ll look for different qualities when shopping for an extra bed for guests in your home than if you need a comfortable bed while camping. If you are expecting overnight guests, or need a temporary bed during a move, you’ll want one that is raised, with an internal pump that can be plugged into the wall. For camping, an external pump that can be plugged into or charged from the car is preferable, as it makes for a lighter weight product.
Air mattresses can come in several sizes, from twin to king. For the purposes of this article, all mattresses are queen sized. Be sure to check the dimensions when looking for sheets. Some of the raised air mattresses require larger sheets, or special extended sheets.
The vinyl covering on most air mattresses needs to be stretched before the first usage, so the mattress should be fully inflated and left for an hour, then topped off. This helps the vinyl to set. As the vinyl stretches, it will seem as if the bed is losing air, when in fact the capacity for holding air has increased. It may be necessary to add air to the mattress the first few times that it is used.
Air mattresses have weight limits. Check the limit on the mattress before using, and take into account the weight of the person or persons who will be using the mattress. Weight limits range from 300 to 600 pounds for most queen sized mattresses. If your children are going to be crawling on top of you while you are in the bed, you don’t want the seams to pop!
The interior design can vary greatly. Some designs seem to work better than others, so it’s best to know what’s available.
Coils: Circular coils are welded top and bottom into the mattress, providing stability when inflated. Being welded means that the coils will withstand a great deal of use without coming undone.
Dual Chambers: An outer chamber limits air movement in the mattress, for a more comfortable sleep. An interior baffle system provides stability. Some customers have reported failure in the baffles.
Longitudinal Ribs: Lengthwise material are glued to the top and bottom to provide stability. These ribs are more likely to become unglued, causing bulging, as reported by several customers.
There are two ways to inflate an air mattress: internal pump or external pump. An internal pump is built into the mattress, and plugs into a wall outlet. This means that it’s less useful for camping, and if the pump fails, you need to replace the entire mattress. An external pump can be plugged into a car charger or may be battery operated. External pumps sometimes take longer to inflate, and if your pump gets separated from your mattress or you leave it at home, you have no way of inflating your mattress other than lung capacity. The good thing is that you can purchase another pump which will work just as well.
Flocking on the top of the mattress helps to keep bedding from slipping. It also helps the mattress to feel warmer than unflocked vinyl. This is especially helpful if the room or tent is cold, as the air in the mattress will also become cold. In addition, some mattresses have special rubberized grips on the bottom to prevent sliding around on the floor. This is helpful when you are trying to make the bed.
Warranties are important! Check carefully that the bed you choose has a warranty. Warranties run from 90 days to 2 years, although most good mattresses will have a one year warranty. Know how long your warranty lasts, and if there is a problem, be sure to contact customer service right away.
What do I know about air mattresses
Having camped for over 30 years, I have experienced everything from blow-up beach mattresses to internal pump, flocked-topped, raised beds. I’ve endured slippery mattresses that dumped me on the ground during the night, mattresses that made noise every time I moved, ones that bounced me every time my husband moved, and mattresses that developed leaks and went flat the first time I used them. We’ve tried various brands and features when looking to find a good temporary bed for guests, and endured others while staying with friends and relatives. The bottom line is that there are lots of choices, so read up on them.
What is an air mattress anyway?
An air mattress is a shell of usually polyvinyl chloride (PVC) which is inflated using an internal or external air pump. PVC is waterproof, making it ideal for air mattresses. It is easy to clean, and spills won’t ruin the covering. PVC is also fire-retardant, due to a chemical that is painted over the material. This makes it very safe for use around children. It is also cheap, so it keeps the cost of the mattress down. The PVC is coated with another material which makes it pliable. Other choices for the shell of an air mattress include rubber or textile reinforced urethane such as thermoplastic urethane (TPU), and food-grade polyurethane. These are much more expensive options, but important for those with conditions that prevent usage of PVC.
Air mattresses deflate to a flat state, and can be folded or rolled into a smaller shape for storage. Many come with storage bags. Some camp mattresses can roll up to the size of a water bottle!
Air mattresses should not be confused with air beds, which are standard mattress frames with bladders which can be inflated or deflated to create the firmness the sleeper desires.
Will an air mattress work as well as a standard mattress?
The better air mattresses are quite comparable to a standard mattress, and in some cases can be more comfortable. Raised air mattresses can be as tall as a standard mattress and box springs, making it easy to get on or off the bed. An air mattress will not last as long as a standard mattress, but can be a great choice for temporary or even extended usage. An air mattress has the advantage of having adjustable firmness like much more expensive air beds.
Who should buy an air mattress?
Have you ever been in a situation when someone you haven’t seen in years calls and says they’re going to be in your area, and could they stay with you? Of course, you say yes, then panic because you don’t have a place for them to sleep! So you run to the nearest Store-That-Has- Everything to grab an air mattress. They all look about the same, so you pick one that looks good and doesn’t cost too much. You take it home, blow it up, throw on some sheets, and hope for the best. Your friends come, you talk most of the night, then take them to their bed to find… it’s flat! Or they sleep on it all night and in the morning…it’s flat! You vow to do your research and get ready for the next opportunity to entertain overnight guests. It wasn’t until we were visiting relatives with a full house that we discovered the merits of having raised air mattresses that inflate with an electric pump. If you are short on beds but entertain overnight guests, a raised air mattress is a very useful household item.
Those who love to camp have a better night’s sleep on an air mattress, as I can profess by personal experience. The extra-thick vinyl on the best ones helps prevent ruptures and leaks, and you don’t feel every stick and pebble underneath you. Air mattresses also provide some insulation from frozen ground in winter camping.
College students who may move frequently find air mattresses to be useful, especially if they are renting an unfurnished space. The ease in set-up, the convenience of packing it up, and the comfort over a sometimes less than comfortable standard mattresses that may be provided are all positive features for the thrifty scholar.
When you sell a house and move to another, it often happens that the schedules for the movers don’t coincide with your moving dates. Having a raised air mattress allows you to send your bed along with the other furniture to your new house while still enjoying a good night’s rest for your last days in your old house. For long distance moves, you may arrive hours, days, or sometimes weeks before your furniture, and you’ll need a good temporary bed.
With a 1-year warranty and a 500 lb. weight capacity, the SoundAsleep is a great choice as a guest bed, a temporary bed during moving, or a permanent bed for a college student. The welded 40-coil construction assures a flat surface for sleeping and added durability. Multiple layers of vinyl protect against puncture.
The doubled height of 19″ makes the SoundAsleep nearly equal to a standard box spring and mattress set, making it easy to get on and off. Even older friends and relatives will be comfortable with this. In addition, the waterproof flocked top makes it nearly as comfortable as a pillow top mattress. The flocking holds extended queen sized sheets in place, and the “SureGrip” bottom ensures that the mattress won’t slide around.
When problems occur, good customer service can make the experience more positive, and those reporting an issue with their mattress related how helpful Customer Service reps were, and how quickly the problem was resolved. Many said that they would buy again from SoundAsleep because of this.
Flaws but not dealbreakers
No product can ever be perfect, and customers have reported some flaws, but not enough to bump the SoundAsleep from our top ranking. These include initial stretching of the vinyl and pump noise when inflating and deflating, which are minor issues.
While possible to use camping, this mattress is best suited for indoor use. Due to the coil construction, there is dimpling on the top when fully inflated to a firm setting. The mattress works best with deep fitted, non-standard sheets
If the SoundAsleep is out of stock, the Serta Never-Flat is our choice for runner-up. An innovative plus of this mattress is the double-pump system, which keeps the pressure steady all night long. After initially filling the mattress using the first pump (which automatically switches off when the bed reaches your desired firmness), the second pump can be turned on. It regulates the pressure in the mattress, adding air as needed. Customers report some noise with this second pump, but not enough to disturb their slumber.
The 2-year warranty is the best in the industry. The 35 coils make for a good, stable surface, and the 18″ height is nearly as tall as the SoundAsleep. Leakage around the coil welds seemed to be the number one issue. The lower ranking coupled with the higher price kept this mattress from the top spot.
Insta-Bed Raised Air Mattress with Never Flat Pump
The Insta-Bed Never-Flat offers a very similar product to the Serta, with a 1-year warranty. The reason that the Serta beats it out is the warranty. The Insta-Bed is still a good choice, and customer service is great during the warranty period.
Best Inflatable Bed By Fox Airbeds – Plush High Rise Air Mattress
When money is not an object, the Best Inflatable Bed By Fox Airbeds boasts Pillow Top Airflow Chambers and an unbeatable 25″ rise, the highest of all beds tested.
Fox Airbeds Plush High Rise Inflatable Air Mattress
For even more luxury, Fox Airbeds makes the Plush High Rise Inflatable Air Mattress with Premium Gel Memory Foam Mattress Topper. This bed comes with a gel memory foam topper and two memory foam pillows on top of the Plush High Rise Air Mattress. Customers raved about the comfort of the mattress topper, but were less enthralled with the rather small built-in pillows.
The beds come with a built in pump and a tethered remote with storage pocket for quick adjustments. These beds are heavy–up to 45 lbs., so are not ideal for camping, but will fool your guests into thinking that they are on a regular bed. Extra large sheets are recommended due to the size.
Top pick for camping
AeroBed Classic Inflatable Mattress
For those looking for a lightweight option for camping, the AeroBed Classic Inflatable Mattress is the one that I would choose. AeroBed is a well-known and trusted name in camping beds. Weighing in at just 12.2 pounds plus the external pump, the travel bag makes it easy to carry in your backpack for overnight treks. It sits 9″ above the surface, making it ideal for smaller tents. It uses oval coil construction for comfort, as well as a flocked top to help prevent sliding.This bed, with its heavy gauge vinyl construction, is ideal for those who love the great outdoors, but also works well as a temporary bed for those unexpected guests. The external pump comes with adapters for car charging or an indoor AC outlet.
Air mattresses with built-in frames
Insta-Bed Ez Bed Air Mattress
If you are looking for an air mattress that sits up off the ground or floor, the top pick is the Insta-Bed Ez Bed Air Mattress. You need only take it out of the wheeled duffel bag and turn on the pump. The mattress inflates and the frame folds out. When you are finished, you hit the “deflate” button and it deflates and folds up on its own, ready to return to its bag.
Coleman Queen Airbed Cot with Side Tables
It has an external battery operated pump, but its weight does not make it a good choice for backwoods camping. The duffel bag does come wheeled, and the side tables with drink holders are an added bonus.
Best PVC-Free Air Mattress
For those looking for a PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride)-free alternative, try the Kelty Sleep Eazy PVC Free Queen Airbed. Those using this mattress found it to be a comfortable mattress for camping, although not a top choice for indoor use.
Aerobed Pakmat Airbed
Another choice is the Aerobed Pakmat Airbed and Pump. Customers reported that it works well, although it is narrow, and the polyester material can be quite noisy if you are a restless sleeper.
These items have not been reviewed enough to give accurate ratings. It is important to note that the material used in these mattresses, TPU (Thermoplastic polyurethane), can still cause a negative reaction in those who are Multiple Chemical Sensitive (MCS)
Coleman Double-High Support Rest
Coleman is a name commonly thought of for camping, but they make a raised bed that works well both indoors and out. The Coleman Double-High Support Rest comes with its own attached carry sack, making it easy to roll up and pack. What it does not come with is an air pump, so you’ll need to buy one. This allows you to choose a battery operated or plug-in style.
ALPS Mountaineering Rechargeable Air Bed
Another popular camping choice is the ALPS Mountaineering Rechargeable Air Bed. With a rechargeable air pump, this is ideal for wilderness camping. The pump can remained charged for a week or more.
SoundAsleep Camping Series Air Mattress
If you wish to invest a bit more, SoundAsleep makes a highly rated camping bed. The rechargeable pump can be charged from the car battery or an AC outlet. Extra thick vinyl stands up to most standard campsite hazards.
Wrapping it up
The SoundAsleep Dream Series Air Mattress is my recommendation for an all-around great mattress at a reasonable price. Comfort and great customer service make for excellent bed-fellows! The Serta Raised Air Mattress with Never Flat Pump and the Insta-Bed Raised Air Mattress with Never Flat Pump are also excellent choices. There is a wide variety of air mattresses available on the market, and many are quite good. Whether you are looking for a comfortable night while camping, an extra bed that your guests will love, or a temporary bed for personal use, you have great choices. List your needs, wants, and what you want to spend. Take into account the features mentioned in the sections above, and make sure to contact customer service if there is a problem. If you buy through Amazon, they will ensure an easy exchange if necessary. It’s not that hard to enjoy a good night’s sleep! Pleasant Dreams!
Jen Miller is a former electrical engineer and product specialist with more than 20 years of product design and testing experience. She has designed more than 200 products for Fortune 500 companies, in fields ranging from home appliances to sports gear and outdoor equipment. She founded Jen Reviews to share her knowledge and critical eye for what makes consumers tick, and adopts a strict no-BS approach to help the reader filter through the maze of products and marketing hype out there. She writes regularly and has been featured on Forbes, Fast Company, The Muse, The Huffington Post, Tiny Buddha and MindBodyGreen.