Best air bed 2022: Great air mattresses and sleeping pads for camping

Best air beds

A good air bed will transform how well you sleep outdoors – here are the best mattresses and pads for any budget

One of the most common worries for would-be campers is whether they’ll be able to get a good night’s sleep in a tent. After all, a holiday isn’t much fun if you’re not getting proper rest, especially if you’re spending a week running around with free-ranging kids. A decent air bed is the best way to make sure you sleep well in the outdoors, and if you’re keen on regular camping trips it’s probably the most important purchase you can make after a good tent.

You’ll see both camping mats and air beds on the market. Camping mats are thin, inflatable mats that roll down small and are designed for backpacking, wild camping and adventures where portability and weight are key factors. Air beds, on the other hand, tend to be large, heavy and time-consuming to inflate. But if you’re packing up the car and spending a week at just one or two campsites, they’re worth having as you’ll sleep far better on a cushiony air mattress than a thin mat. They also allow you to eschew sleeping bags in favour of proper sheets, pillows and duvets that again makes camping really comfy if space is no issue. A good airbed is also a good investment for putting guests up at home.

There are plenty of cheap air mattresses available to buy but this is one bit of kit where we’d recommend spending as much as you can. A cheap air bed can be a false economy because they’re prone to slowly deflating in the night and can be plasticky and uncomfortable to sleep on. Our picks are all reliable, comfortable and durable.

Best air bed: At a glance

How to choose the best air bed for you

What key features should I look out for?

As well as how the mattress inflates, the other key factor in a good air mattress is durability – cheap ones tend to be a false economy and can easily burst when camping on rocky ground or, just as bad, slowly deflate during the night.

We would advise against picking a mattress with a plasticky finish: mattresses with a material top are far more comfortable and some even sport memory foam toppers.

Who do you need a mattress for? Consider whether you want a single or double air mattress – and there are also some great ones for kids. It may sound obvious, but check that your new air bed actually fits into the bedroom section of your tent. Some “double” compartments in smaller tents are actually quite cramped and may only fit a single mat.

Consider how big, bulky and heavy the mattress you buy will be once folded away. If space isn’t an issue, you may as well go as big as possible and grab a really roomy but heavy mattress. If you’d like something portable and easy to store or transport in a smaller car, go for something more modest. Certain mattresses come with their own carry bag, which is useful for transportation and storage.

What’s the best inflation method to pick?

Mattresses are usually either self-inflatable or need blowing up manually. Usually, only the thinnest camping mats need inflating with just lung power; larger air mattresses usually require a pump and can take time to fill up. If you’re picking a big mattress we’d definitely recommend spending more to get one that inflates fast without too much effort, otherwise it could become a serious hassle on camping trips where you’d rather be relaxing. Check what the mattress comes with, too. If it requires inflating with a battery-operated or electric pump, do you need to buy that separately?

Foot pumps can be exhausting so it’s worth spending extra to get a no-effort pump. Some mattresses even inflate with a hairdryer, which is useful indoors if not outdoors. Check what the mattress’s insides are like, too - the better options contain several different air chambers, which makes them comfier, sturdier and less likely to deflate on you.

READ NEXT: The best sleeping bags for any budget

The best air mattresses and sleeping pads you can buy

1. Snugpak Air Mat with Built-in Foot Pump: The best lightweight easy inflation air bed

Price: £67 | Buy now from Snugpak

For such a lightweight pad, the Snugpak Basecamp Ops Air Mat offers a surprising amount of warmth and comfort. As far as basic, affordable sleeping pads go, it's extremely compact and easy to use too. The pump is built-in to the top right corner of the pad, so all you have to do is crank your foot up and down a few dozen times and then fasten the air valve before hopping on and going to sleep. We did find that the polyester sleeping surface was more slippery than other pads we've tested, which may cause you to slide around if you're making adjustments inside your sleeping bag, but it's a small drawback considering the pad's affordability.

Key specs – Dimensions: 183 x 62 x 2.5cm; Weight: 0.63kg; Self-inflating: No; Pump provided: Yes (built-in)

Buy now from Snugpak

2. ReadyBed Deluxe Junior Airbed: The best sleeping bed-and-bag combo for kids 

Price: £71 | Buy now from Amazon

Don’t these fantastic beds for toddlers and kids look cosy? The ReadyBed combines a deep, durable air bed with a built-in, washable sleeping bag and pillow – and the result is that they’re a great all-in-one option for the kids when you’re camping. They’re extremely comfortable and fun to sleep in for little campers, and you’ll never have to worry that you forgot a vital bit of sleeping equipment because it’s all included. The ReadyBeds come in different cheerful colours and designs, and a battery-operated pump makes them easy to inflate. They’re great for sleepovers too.

Key specs – Dimensions: 140 x 75 x 30cm to 200 x 150 x 24cm; Weight: 2kg to 6.42kg; Self-inflating: No; Pump provided: Yes

3. Ketley Galactic Air Rectangular Sleeping Pad: The best air bed for lightweight comfort 

Price: £54 | Buy now from Wildbounds

Kelty’s Galactic Air rectangular sleeping pad serves up a generous 9cm of thickness, which given the 1kg weight and small pack size is truly impressive, especially when you also factor in the low price point. To the casual observer it looks a little bit like a beach lilo, but the super soft stretchy fabric topper and durable ground surface make it comfortable and hardwearing. It doesn’t have self-inflation, or a built-in pump, but a dozen or so breaths is all it takes to inflate. There’s also no insulation on offer, so it’s definitely a design for summer camping. Personally we prefer the mix of foam and air for best-in-class comfort, but this is so thick our hips remain clear of the ground, and the larger side rail profile helps keep you in the centre of the mat as you sleep.

Key specs - Size: 186 x 60 x 9 cm; Weight: 1.08kg; Packed dimensions: 28 x 10cm; Self inflating: No; Pump provided: No

Buy now from Wildbounds

4. Campingaz Convertible Quickbed: The best air mattress

Price: £38 | Buy now from Amazon

Not sure if you need a single or a double mattress? Get the best of both worlds with this clever Quickbed – you can zip together the two mattresses to make a comfy double, use them separately or stack them together for a deep single bed. Campingaz reckons its Airtight system ensures no air leaks and we found it stayed inflated very effectively in tests. The Quickbed comes with a repair kit, but not a pump so we’d recommend buying an electric or battery-operated one. It also packs away into a neat little package for easy storage.

Key specs – Dimensions: 188 x 74 x 19cm; Weight: 3.3kg; Self-inflating: No; Pump provided: No

5. Vango Comfort Double 10cm: The best value double sleeping mat

Price: £110 | Buy now from Outdoor World Direct

Given the reasonable price, generous size and 10cm of thickness, the Comfort Double from Vango is one of the comfiest self-inflating camping pads we've tested. It's both warm and hugely supportive, giving you the best possible chance of waking up well-rested the next day. Measuring 200 x 130 x 10cm, it's more than big enough to sleep two adults, and it can be set up in under ten minutes – the Cyclone auto-inflate valves do most of the work for you. The downside? It's rather bulky and weighs over 6.5kg, so it’s one for car campers, not backpackers.

Key specs – Dimensions: 200 x 130 x 10cm; Weight: 6.65kg; Self-inflating: Yes; Pump provided: No

Buy now from Outdoor World Direct

6. Hi-Gear Deluxe Double Air Bed: The best budget air mattress

Price: £15 | Buy now from Go Outdoors

If you’re watching your pennies then this cheap and cheerful air bed ticks all the boxes. It’s easy and quick to inflate with the included pump and is comfortable and roomy enough for two people. The flocked outer material is comfortable to sleep on, and we like the slightly raised pillow (although you’ll still be comfier if you bring your own sheet and extra pillows as well). The rubber bottom feels strong and sturdy, and it also packs away easily. It’s not just useful for camping, either: it’s also a good cheap choice for unfussy house guests.

Key specs – Dimensions: 191 x 137 x 22cm; Weight: 3.6kg; Self-inflating: No; Pump provided: Yes

Buy now from Go Outdoors

7. Coleman Durarest Raised Double: The best for height off the ground

Price: £89 | Buy now from Amazon

We're big fans of the Coleman Durarest, as although it weighs only 3.5kg and is relatively easy to pack down, it inflates to a considerable height, meaning it’s perfect for those who find camping beds and mats that are too close to the ground uncomfortable. It’s available in single or regular double, but we liked the raised double the best – it sat almost half a metre off the ground with excellent padding when fully inflated. It’s a robust bed that won’t disappoint.

Key specs – Dimensions: 198 x 137 x 47cm; Weight: 3.5kg; Self-inflating: No; Pump provided: No

8. Decathlon Quechua Ultim Comfort 70cm: The most comfortable single air bed

Price: £80 | Buy now from Decathlon

Self-inflating mattress technology has come on a great deal in recent years, with the combination of easily compressible foam and air pockets offering superb levels of comfort that put bulky airbeds to shame.

The Quechua Ultim Comfort 70 is a generous size for one adult (110kg, 200cm tall) and while 7cm doesn’t sound that thick, unless you’re at the very top of the weight range, you won’t feel the floor, even when lying on your side. The top has a plush finish that feels nice on the skin.

Supplied in a carry bag that’s around the size of a pillow, this camping mat has two valves to make inflating and (importantly) deflating super simple. If you wait for an hour, air will naturally be drawn inside and it will just need a few big breaths to top it up to the firmness you like – or, if time is tight, it doesn’t take more than a couple of minutes to inflate manually. It can also be clipped to a second mattress to make a double, which is a well thought out bonus.

When it comes to packing away, the one-way valve means you’re not fighting to get every last breath out in order to wrestle it back into the bag.

Key specs - Dimensions: 200 x 70 x 8 cm; Weight: 2.9kg; Self-inflating: Yes; Pump included: No

Buy now from Decathlon

9. Therm-a-rest NeoAir UberLite Sleeping Pad: Super-light, super-packable

Price: £170 Buy now from Ultralight Outdoor Gear

When only the lightest, most packable option will do for your backpacking adventures you will not find better than the Therm-a-rest NeoAir UberLite. At 264g it’s the lightest full-size sleeping pad available, but impressively it still manages to offer a surprisingly comfortable 6.5cm of cushioning.

Measuring 15 x 9cm when packed it isn’t much bigger than a can of pop, and it takes no more than 30-seconds to inflate using the reliable one-way valve to a grown-up 183cm in length. It feels incredibly thin, but the nylon and polyurethane construction is impressively tough; we’ve watched people use these as fun lilos in the summer, although we wouldn’t suggest camping on gravel.

It has an insulation "R" rating of 2.3, making it best suited for summer expeditions. We love the fact it also comes with an expensive repair kit and a bag that can be used to inflate the air bed saving your lungs after a long day’s hiking.

Key specs - Dimensions: 119 x 51cm; Weight: 264g; Self-inflating: No; Pump included: Yes

Buy now from Ultra Light Outdoor Gear

10. Dreamboat Double 12cm: The best double sleeping mat for comfort

Price: £285 | Buy now from Outwell

With none of the wobble of a standard air bed, and all the comfort and support of memory foam, the Dreamboat Double 12cm self inflating mattress is the comfiest design we’ve ever had the pleasure of camping with. Yes, it’s very expensive, but justify the cost by using it as a spare bed for unexpected guests without them complaining about a bad back in the morning. It rolls up remarkably small for a double sized extra thick camping mat and, with both in- and out-valves and a small supplied foot pump, inflating and deflating is quick. The design is also good for all seasons, with sculpted columns on one side keeping you cool in summer, and a perfectly flat surface on the other helping retain heat when the temperature drops. Oh and if 12cm isn’t enough comfort, there’s also a 16cm thick option.

Key specs - Size: 200 x 140 x 12cm; Weight: 5.5kg; Packed dimensions: 65 x 28cm; Max load: n/a

Buy now from Outwell

11. Nemo Tensor Wide Insulated: Best light but wide airbed

Price: £199 | Buy now from Ultra-light Outdoor Gear

In the rush to save weight and slim down dimensions, comfort can often get compromised. Not so here, with this super wide 64cm air bed from Nemo that is a generous 8cm thick, has a cold weather ready R-value of 4.2, and yet only weighs 590g. It’s an impressive combination of features that helps justify the high price, especially as the crinkle free top layer is made from 100% bluesign certified, recycled 20D polyester fabrics, and even comes with a clever pump sack for fast inflation. It’s not as robust as some, so you’ll need to look after this camping pad, but if you do, it will keep you warm and comfortable for years.

Key specs - Size: 183 x 64 x 8 cm; Weight: 0.59kg; Packed dimensions: 24 x 8.5cm; Max load: n/a

Buy now from Ultra-light Outdoor Gear

Read more

Best Buys