Air Beds

An air bed is perfect for camping or guests

Purchasing alternative bedding, such as air mattresses and air beds, can be a frustrating experience as the market is increasingly flooded with low-quality products requiring continual replacement. Whether you're shopping for a guest room or planning for a camping trip, there are important features to look for in an air bed to avoid unpleasant, sleepless nights.

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Air Mattresses versus Air Beds

An inflatable mattress is typically a single-chamber unit with a little padding for additional comfort. Air mattresses are very affordable and are usually intended for occasional use. Inflatable air beds are less portable and mimic traditional beds by providing a firmer structure, a raised mattress, multiple layers of padding and increased durability for long-term use. Discount air beds are as cheap as $40, while top-end models are priced into the thousands of dollars. In many cases, more expensive air beds must be specially ordered or purchased online.

You should have an idea of the size, length and weight capacity you need. Most manufacturers offer twin, full, queen and king sizes. Standard twin mattresses can hold between 300 and 350 pounds, and queen mattresses usually have a weight capacity exceeding 600 pounds. Many air mattress beds are slightly shorter than traditional beds, so always check the length if you anticipate a need to accommodate taller individuals.

More advanced inflatable air beds include features such as built-in pillows, separate air chambers for each sleeper and instant inflation using battery-powered pumps. Many raised air beds also allow adjustments for firmness or incline to accommodate your particular needs. For portability, air mattresses may also include a travel bag for easy transportation.

What to Look For

In order to set a realistic budget, it's best to anticipate your frequency of use and understand issues of price versus quality. You should also be aware of what makes a superior air bed. The following tips will help you weed out overpriced products and find the right inflatable air beds for your household:

  • Components. Air beds may be pre-assembled or require manual assembly, which lowers costs. Manual assembly may seem like a hassle, but it does help to familiarize owners with the product so that future repairs can be made easily at home. With either option, stick to models with easily accessible, rather than interior, components.
  • Materials. Even the most respected manufacturers sometimes release badly-constructed products. The materials used for the air chambers and mattress layers will determine your level of comfort and the overall longevity of the bed. The best air beds include firm siding, air chambers made from vulcanized rubber and padding made from latex foam or memory foam. The foam should be approximately 2 inches thick and set near the top of the mattress, where it will provide the most support.
  • Features. Prices for air beds can be sky-high, so cut back on features that are marketing traps rather than enhancements. Stick to air pumps and remote controls with simple settings. If you're considering adjustable air beds, keep in mind that desired firmness can change depending on the position you're sleeping in, so fidgety sleepers may not benefit from adjustability. Just like mattresses, built-in pillows need quality materials or they will flatten out. Try purchasing traditional pillows to accompany your bed. If you're a camper, look for practical additions, such as waterproof capabilities and patch kits.

Quality air mattresses can be had for under $100, while premium air beds will range from about $500 to $2,000 or more. However, it is important to note that even the most expensive models often leave out necessary components. Before purchasing an air mattress, look for websites that offer expert research and consumer reviews on long-term durability and performance. After all, the last thing you need is a mattress leak interrupting a restful night's sleep.