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You may not use an air mattress often, but when the time comes, you’ll want one that’s reliable, comfortable, and easy to inflate and store. You don’t want to struggle to set it up, you need it to be supportive enough to provide a good night’s rest and the last thing you or your guests want is to wake up in the middle of the night, floundering in a half-deflated blob of vinyl.
We set out to find the best air mattress, putting seven top models to the test, judging them on their comfort while sleeping, as well as their overall usability when it comes to setting up, inflating, deflating, and storage. If you haven’t shopped for an air mattress in a while, you’ll be surprised to find how comfortable and convenient they are nowadays, but even among this impressive group we found an outstanding choice that should make you and your guests happy.
The Best Air Mattress Overall
In addition to providing the most comfortable night’s sleep during testing, the King Koil Luxury Air Mattress uses a built-in pump for quick and convenient inflation, and features a raised pillow that helps mimic the feel of a real bed.
Alex Rennie/CNN Underscored
While many of the air mattresses I tested were similar in design, pump operation, and dimensions, the King Koil Luxury Air Mattress was a clear winner when it came to overall comfort. Not only does it feature a soft, velvety flocking covering the top, it’s designed with a raised pillow area on one end. This area provides just enough head and neck support to mimic the effect of a headboard, making it feel much more like a real bed to me than any other option.
The King Koil Luxury Air Mattress provided a comfortable amount of full-body support as well. I’ll admit, the “coil-beam construction” sounded a bit gimmick-y, but these internal, air-filled coils seemed to work as advertised. They really provided the ideal amount of support for me, mimicking a real mattress more convincingly than the other mattresses we tested. Since these coils are spaced throughout the mattress, edge to edge, I never felt like the sides were going to give way and cause me to roll out, which is sometimes the case in less-supportive mattresses. I did experience a small amount of deflation over my 48 hours of testing, but it was minimal enough to chalk up to standard stretching of the new material. In fact, in addition to the two nights of sleeping, I also found myself laying down on it throughout the day, just to experience the comfort and support.
At 20 inches high, the King Koil Luxury Air Mattress is convenient to climb into at night, and more importantly, comfortable to roll out of in the morning. Air mattresses that are lower to the ground were just more difficult to get into and out off, and the process involved more grunting and bending than we were prepared to do first thing in the morning. This was definitely not the case with the King Koil.
The pump was both easy to use and quick to fill, fully inflating the mattress in just 1 minute 50 seconds. You simply twist the valve you want to use—either inflate or deflate—press the power switch and you’re all set. The power cord also conveniently stores inside a little storage cubby with a latching door, keeping everything nice and tidy when it’s time to store the mattress away.
As for storage, despite its luxurious height and internal structure the King Koil packs up very tidily into a storage sack small enough to tuck into the back of a closet. Some competitors were stiff and difficult to fold up easily, and others were too large even folded away into their stuff sacks to store away easily.
The materials used in the mattress and pump appear to be of high quality, and I never felt like any elements or components were flimsy, loose, or weak. Deflation was a breeze as well, taking just 1 minute 50 seconds to go from full to completely empty. It took me less than a minute to fold it up and slide it back into the included storage bag too, thanks to the illustrated instructions in the manual.
The King Koil Luxury Air Mattress is not cheap relative to the competition, but the overall comfort, build quality and speedy inflation makes it worth the money.
How do you take care of an air mattress?
Even high-quality air mattresses won’t last forever, but there are things you can do to extend their lifespan. Make sure to not only avoid punctures by keeping your pets off the bed—even small dogs can have sharp toenails that can puncture or scratch through an air mattress—but also avoid unnecessary pressure by preventing rambunctious kids from jumping or walking on it. This extra pressure can place more stress on the seams, causing splits and cracks over time. Insta-bed also advises you to avoid placing the mattress against the wall, to avoid hidden carpet tacks.
You should also take the time to vacuum your mattress after every use. Accumulated crumbs and other small debris can also pose a potential puncture threat, especially when you’re folding it up and squeezing it down during deflation.
The most important thing to remember is that cold temperatures can make vinyl stiffen, so if it’s being stored in a cool area, like a basement or attic, make sure to allow your air mattress to come to room temperature before inflating. If not, the vinyl may lack the flexibility it needs to expand safely, which can cause cracks or splits in the material. The Insta-bed manual also recommends this warming up period after your bed is delivered to your doorstep, since it could have been sitting outside for longer than you think.
If your bed does get damaged, it’s not a lost cause. Every mattress I tested included a patch kit for leaks, which, if applied properly, can easily fix the problem. And should your built-in pump go haywire, some mattresses allow you to still fill them manually with a separate pump.
Yes, you can take an air mattress camping. If you’d prefer to sleep well off the ground and not have to worry about roots and uneven ground impairing your sleep, they could be a great choice. However, you’ll need to be aware of their limitations and the effects they may have on your trip.
First, since air mattresses are extremely vulnerable to punctures, you won’t want to lay it directly on the ground, and take care to keep it clear of stray campfire embers that could melt the vinyl. While patching holes is a solution, it’s not really a project that’s ideal to perform out in the wilderness. Keep in mind that you can just as easily puncture your mattress when it’s folded up, so don’t pack it with sharp objects. Air mattresses are also relatively heavy, and depending on how long you plan on carrying them to your site, this weight can be more trouble than it’s worth.
Perhaps most importantly, you’ll need to make sure you have a reliable way to inflate your air mattress. If you want to take advantage of the convenience and quick performance of built-in pumps, you’ll need to have a power source, like a car cigarette lighter, or a campsite power hookup. If you’ll be away from electricity, you’ll need to go with a mattress that comes with a battery-powered pump, like the Intex Dura-Beam Standard Single-High Air Mattress, or a mattress with a manual foot pump. If these limitations sound like they won’t work with you and your trip, you’ll probably be better off with a camping pad.
To help better understand the benefits and drawbacks of the air mattresses we tested, we ran each mattress through a comprehensive battery of real world tests, from setup to packing and unpacking and, of course, sleeping, evaluating them across a range of criteria but focusing on comfort and convenience.
Since air mattresses are frequently set up in areas not typically used for a bed, and sometimes last-minute, it’s really important that they’re easy to use. Nobody wants to fumble around with a confusing air pump or have to go digging for an instruction manual when you just want to get to sleep. I paid close attention to how simple—or complicated—each mattress was to operate, from unboxing, to setup, inflation, deflation, and finally storage. Specifically, I noted any specific issues with the pump operation controls, and the helpfulness of each mattresses instruction manual.
To accurately judge each mattress on the most important measure performance — it’s comfort and support while sleeping, I slept on each model for two nights, noting both how comfortable their soft topper was, as well as overall stability. I also paid close attention to any deflation issues overnight. Although minor deflation is expected with new air mattresses—the vinyl material stretches—I did my best to notice any significant deflation that could indicate actual issues down the road. I compared each mattresses pump as well, evaluating them on how easy they were to setup, notable noise differences, and how long it took them to fully inflate the mattress.
After testing each mattress, I then deflated, rolled (or folded) up each mattress and stored it and any pumps in their included storage bag. I noted how easy this process was from start to finish, paying attention to how well the pump deflated the mattress, if there were any included instructions that made it easier to fold up the mattress correctly, and how easy it was to fit into the storage bag.
During all of this testing, I kept track of any issues that caught my eye when it came to build quality. Flimsy switches or valve openings, and any noticeable seam or molding issues with the vinyl or soft topper all helped me evaluate one mattress vs another.
In addition to these testing categories, I also compared specific metrics like overall weight, the dimensions of each mattress when folded up, and warranty lengths.
A solid runner-up, the SoundAsleep mattress gave us a comfortable, supportive night’s sleep, and was a breeze to setup and inflate. Once you unfold it, you simply plug in the power cord and turn the control dial to “inflate” and you’re all set. That’s it. The velvet topper was nice and cozy, and I could definitely tell that it had some kind of structural support inside that helped keep it’s shape. Although I did experience some deflation after two nights of sleeping, it didn’t appear to be leak-related and could be chalked up to some standard stretching of the material. The only real drawback I had was a minor design issue with the power cord storage. Unlike other mattresses that provide a small latched door to keep the folded cord inside, this mattress only provides an open hole that you just kind of cram the cord into. It’s also worth noting that this model doesn’t include instructions for folding/rolling up the mattress for storage. This was a fairly straightforward process, so certainly isn’t a dealbreaker, but a diagram could certainly come in handy if you don’t remember how it was folded when you unboxed it. This mattress is also just 18 inches high, as opposed to the 20 inches of the King Koil, which was the primary reason it didn’t take my top spot.
If you’re extra-sensitive to changes in air mattress inflation and prefer a specific level of firmness, this is the bed for you. The “never flat” pump will automatically power on if it detects that the bed is beginning to deflate, even a small amount, pumping it back up to your desired setting. You can choose between 3 of these settings—plush, medium, and firm—and the pump will maintain that setting at all times. If you’re worried about the noise of the pump interrupting your sleep, you shouldn’t be. I’m a fairly light sleeper and never woke up once during either night, despite the mattress remaining perfectly full the entire time. I kept the mattress next to my desk during the day to monitor the pump, and when it would power on for a few moments, I was really surprised at the low noise level. The supportive structure and velvet topper was comfortable as well, making this a favorite during testing. Keep in mind that you do have to keep it plugged in at all times to take advantage of the never-flat feature, which might limit where you can place it in your room. Plus, unlike the King Koil that covers the sides of the mattress with a soft black velvet, this model has exposed vinyl all around,giving it more of an “air mattress” feel, as opposed to the King Koil, which felt more like a real bed — but this is still a very comfortable air mattress.
If a speedy inflation time is your priority, consider this high-quality EnerPlex mattress and its built-in pump. It took just 1 minute and 21 seconds to fully inflate, which was the fastest of all the mattresses we tested. The pump itself was simple to use: you just plug it in, rotate the inflation valve to open it, and press the power button. This mattress also scored major points in overall comfort during my sleep test, and its “coil beam construction” definitely provided a good amount of support throughout the night. I also appreciated the non-skid bottom too, which kept it firmly in place when getting in and out. Its 2-year warranty is twice as long as any other mattress I tested, making it well-suited for those who plan on using it frequently. Unfortunately, its 18-inch height was noticeably less comfortable to get in and out of than the 20-inch King Koil. That being said, if the King Koil is unavailable, this mattress is a great alternative.
The ultra-low price and compact size of this Intex mattress makes it a great choice for campers or those who are on an extra-tight budget. I was surprised at how comfortable this model felt during the night too, and the inner support system provided more structure than I expected at this price point. That said, its 10-inch height was definitely more of a challenge to get in and out of than the taller options I tested. Although the battery-powered pump took the longest to inflate—4 minutes—it was by far the quietest among the group we tested, which might be worthwhile if noise is a concern (apartment dwellers take note). I do wish the intake valve fit the pump a bit better, as I had to continually press the valve adapter into the port the entire time it was operating. Another drawback: Intex doesn’t include the six “C” batteries required for the Dura-Beam’s pump. I had to purchase these separately, so keep that in mind if you don’t already have them on hand.
I really enjoyed the subtle “bumpers” on the edge of this mattress, which created a cozy, secure sleeping surface, and gave me the confidence that I wouldn’t accidentally roll out in the event of overnight deflation. At 22 inches, it was also the tallest of the models I tested, which made it really easy to get out of in the morning. The internal horizontal support beams gave it a nice and sturdy feel, and provided a really comfortable sleep overall. The pump was simple to use too, with just a simple dial to rotate from side to side. The main drawback to the this mattress was its inflation time. It took the longest to fill up, 4 minutes and 10 seconds, so keep that in mind if speedy inflation is a priority. At 21 pounds it’s also the heaviest of my testing pool, though not by much.
The Coleman GuestRest mattress, unlike most of the competition in this price range, uses an external pump, which I found much less convenient than the built-in units. While the ability to use the pump for other items could be useful to some—like if you have pool toys, inflatable kayaks, or balloons—it was extremely loud by comparison, ultimately reaching a pitch that I would describe as “screaming”, and its ill-fitting adapter required you to hold it tightly in place during the inflation process. If you anticipate having to fill up your mattress late at night, this is not the mattress for you. I did appreciate that the pump and inflation instructions were both included in the instruction manual, as well as printed on the side of the mattress itself, which would be convenient if you lose the manual. In the pump’s defense, it did fill the mattress relatively quickly, taking just 3 minutes and 37 seconds to get a nice firm mattress. It’s also nice and compact, making it convenient to store when not in use.