What the best air mattress does
- Provides plenty of support. A well-made air bed will distribute the air in the mattress equally, so there aren't lumpy spots or "bubbles" that make you roll off. Look for air mattresses with a network of internal air coils or chambers. Coil counts of 30 and up are most comfortable for a queen-sized air bed.
- Inflates and deflates easily. Mattresses with built-in pumps tend to work very quickly -- four minutes is usually the longest it takes to inflate or deflate a queen-sized air mattress. The pump should also be easy to use; simple dial controls are best. The air valves on air beds with external pumps should be well-adapted for the recommended pump and well-sealed to prevent leaks.
- A small footprint when deflated. Air mattresses are often used for camping, travel and other temporary situations, and are meant to be stowed away when not in use. When deflated, the mattress should be compact and lightweight enough to carry and pack away into a closet at home or a car trunk when camping.
- Holds air through the night. Virtually all air mattresses will deflate to some extent during use due to a combination of the weight of the sleeper and changes in temperature. However, the best blow-up mattresses should lose very little to no air over the course of a single night.
- Comes with a warranty. The best airbed warranties will cover both the bed and the pump (if included) for at least a full year.
Know before you go
How will you use the mattress? If you intend to use the mattress for guests -- or even as your own temporary bed -- then you may prefer a double-height air mattress. These are roughly the same height as a normal bed, making them easier to get in and out of than a single-height mattress on the floor. If you plan to use the blow-up mattress mostly for camping, however, you might find a single-height mattress easier to fit into your tent. With a camping mattress or sleep pad, you should also pay attention to how long the mattress takes to inflate and deflate and how easy it is to carry.
How will you inflate your blow-up mattress? If your mattress is strictly for indoor use, then a pump that plugs directly into a wall outlet will be both quick and convenient. However, if you intend to take the mattress camping in areas where there's no electricity, you'll need some other means of inflating it. You could use a pump that's powered manually (such as a bicycle pump or a built-in foot pump), a battery-powered one, or one that plugs into your car's accessory outlet. Some mattresses don't come with a pump at all, so you'll need to buy one separately. In that case, make sure that the one you choose will work where you intend to use it, and also that it's compatible with the air valve on the mattress.
How big does the air bed need to be? Air mattresses aren't always as large as a comparable regular mattress and box spring -- although others are. Double-check the mattress measurements to make sure it's large enough for you to fit comfortably -- or that it's comfortable enough for two if you have a partner. This is especially important if you (or your partner) are taller than average. Check the mattress's weight capacity as well to make sure it can support your body weight (solo or combined).
Where will you store the air mattress? Consider the amount of room the air mattress will take up when it's deflated. Don't assume that you'll be able to fit the mattress back into its original box once you've unpacked and used it; without a vacuum pump, it may not be possible to squeeze every bit of air out of it for packing.