Air beds are useful for camping and overnight guests, and some owners report using an air bed in place of a regular bed. Simple air beds typically are 8 to 9 inches deep when inflated, while raised air beds are up to 22 inches deep (the height of a standard bed frame and mattress) so they're easier to get in and out of. Most can be used either indoors or out, but different features -- such as electric pumps or construction materials -- make some models better suited for indoor-only use.
Wenzel's Insta-Bed Queen Raised Sure-Grip Bottom with Built-In Pump (*Est. $120) is repeatedly singled out as one of the best air beds in reviews. Designed primarily for indoor use, the Insta-Bed Raised Sure-Grip Bottom features an integrated electric pump that inflates this mattress in a mere 90 seconds, and its grippy bottom prevents it from sliding on the floor. The 200-plus consumers reviewing this Wenzel Insta-Bed on Amazon.com give it an average rating of 4 stars out of 5, and it receives a lot of praise for being leak-resistant. There are a few complaints that the mattress seems uneven, with a sinking sensation in the middle, but a few owners suggest that this problem could be caused by over-inflating the mattress. Though it only comes in queen size, the Insta-Bed Raised Sure-Grip Bottom is priced considerably lower than other comparable air mattresses.
Good Housekeeping magazine recommends the 9-inch deep Wenzel Insta-Bed (*Est. $55 to $75, depending on size). Testers say this mattress is comfortable and easy to inflate and deflate, although they note that the bed's material punctures more easily than some other models. We found some complaints about leaks on Amazon.com, where nearly 50 owners contribute to an overall rating of 3.5 stars out of 5, but most reviewers say the Insta-Bed is comfortable, convenient and affordable. Like the more expensive Wenzel's Insta-Bed Queen Raised Sure-Grip Bottom, the standard Insta-bed has a built-in pump, but it is battery powered rather than electric, making it more practical for outdoor use. The top of the mattress is also lined with a grippy cover to keep bedding in place.
Shoppers looking for a more sophisticated Insta-Bed model can try the Insta-Flex (*Est. $150) or the newer Insta-Flex 2 (*Est. $240). Both mattresses, which are only available in queen size, feature a built-in pump, a fabric top to keep bedding in place, a storage bag and an adjustable seat position -- the top portion of the bed can incline like a hospital bed. The newer Insta-Flex 2 also has an adjustable leg section. At 22 inches deep, both beds are the same height as a standard frame and mattress, and their automatic pumps inflate the beds in about four minutes. The Insta-Flex original has more than 40 consumer reviews on Amazon.com. User reviews are mixed, with this model garnering just 3 stars out of 5 overall; in fact, more reviewers give the Insta-Flex 1 star than 5 stars. The most common complaint is that the mattress has a tendency to leak air overnight.
While the AeroBed line is generally well-received in reviews, the company has revamped its product line in the past year, so newer products haven't yet been the subject of many professional and consumer reviews. That said, we did find several AeroBed products with positive owner-written reviews, including the AeroBed for Kids (*Est. $60). The AeroBed for Kids can be used for children 3 years and older and can support up to 150 pounds. This air mattress isn't included in any professional reviews, but gets rave reviews from owners. It receives near-perfect ratings and more than 540 comments from consumers posting at Amazon.com, and almost 150 reviewers weigh in with similar opinions at Walmart.com. Parents say this inflatable 50-inch-by-25-inch mattress is ideal for overnight trips, since it can easily be tucked into a travel bag. Users also say the AeroBed for Kids is very sturdy (an important consideration, since kids are often rough with air mattresses). It inflates to 4 inches high and features an additional 4-inch safety cushion around the edges so children don't roll off.
Among basic air beds, the AeroBed Guest Choice (*Est. $60) is recommended by Lisa Wood, a self-described magazine writer and travel enthusiast who reviews several air mattresses based on her family's experience for AirMattressBest.com. Wood purchased the AeroBed two years prior to writing her review, and says she has chosen the Guest Choice as the best air mattress overall "for its balance in comfort, portability, ease of use, and price." This basic air bed comes in twin size, with a weight capacity of 450 pounds, and queen size, which has a weight capacity of 750 pounds. It inflates in 60 seconds and deflates in 15 seconds; when inflated, it's 8 inches deep. Nearly 120 owners posting to Amazon.com contribute to an overall rating of 4 stars out of 5; the majority are highly pleased with the ease of use and comfort the AeroBed Guest Choice offers.
Based on the more than 30 reviews at Amazon.com, owners seem pleased with the AeroBed Sleep Away (*Est. $90 to $140 depending on size), which has a rating of 4 stars out of 5. Most reviewers say this bed inflates and deflates quickly -- about 60 seconds for each -- and is very comfortable, but there are a few complaints about leaks. The Sleep Away is 9 inches deep when inflated and comes in twin, full and queen sizes.
The AeroBed Premier Cushioned Comfort (*Est. $150 to $250, depending on size) also comes in twin, full and queen sizes, but it sits a bit higher at 14 inches. An article in Real Simple magazine offering tips for preparing for overnight guests mentions this air bed, but no details are offered. The Premier Cushioned Comfort features a Smart Pump which automatically detects when the bed is fully inflated. We weren't able to locate many owner opinions for this model; and the few reviewers posting to Amazon.com have differing opinions, including one that complains that the auto-inflate switch broke after one use.