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Camping: Do You Need an Airbed?

By: Chris Nickson - Updated: 25 Dec 2012 | comments*Discuss
Camping Air Mattress Pump Comfort

As we get older, our bodies want a little more comfort. Sleeping in a sleeping bag on a ground mat might be fine when you’re young, but add a decade or two and you want to rest on something softer.

A camp bed is fine for that, but camp beds are very bulky beasts; there’s simply no way to cram them into a small space. The perfect solution is an airbed. If you’re a couple camping together, then you can buy double airbeds – or even a queen size - that let you snuggle up together in the tent.

It’s worth bearing in mind than an air bed can also be dragged out when you have a house full of guests to give more people somewhere to sleep.

Using An Air Bed

An airbed is essentially an envelope that’s inflated so that you have a cushion of air between yourself and the ground. To be properly effective it needs to be fully inflated, which can be accomplished either with an automatic pump (such as one that plugs into the cigarette lighter of your vehicle) or a foot or arm pump (which will give you plenty of exercise, especially if you have to inflate more than one airbed). For more money you can also buy air mattresses with built-in rechargeable pumps; all you do is press a button.

The result can be nearly as comfortable as sleeping on your own bed at home. The flexible surface of the airbed means that you don’t feel the ground underneath, just the air cushion. You’re also suspended off the ground, so the cold isn’t transmitted through to your body. All of this means a better night’s sleep, especially if your bones are a little older and more sensitive to the conditions.

Who Can Benefit From An Airbed?

If you’ve camped overnight and woken in the morning with your body aching, it’s a sure sign that you could use an airbed to make your rest more comfortable. Even if you’re quite hardy, then as you get older, comfort becomes more appealing, and can leave you more rested and able to enjoy your camping holiday.

Those with medical problems, such as arthritis or back problems, will gain the most benefit from an air mattress when camping. The body is not only cushioned, but also insulated from the cold of the ground at night time.

Travelling With An Air Mattress

The beauty of an air mattress is that, once it’s deflated, it can fold up to just take a small amount of space, and it doesn’t weight much. However, if you’re planning on carrying everything around on your back, it will be too bulky and heavy for that, especially with a foot pump included. This is definitely an item for car camping!

That said, if you’re packing stuff in the car boot, an air mattress will fit into a small corner, not taking up much room.

Buying An Air Mattress

There’s no shortage of air mattresses on the market, ranging from the very cheap to the relatively expensive and luxurious that resemble a divan. When you’re making a decision about what to buy, look for one where the plastic is thick, so that sharp stones in the ground won’t puncture it. You also want one that will take up as little room as possible when deflated (you’ll never return it to the same small size it was when new).

Make sure that your tent is large enough to accommodate your air mattress - this may be stating the obvious but it's a commonly made mistake!

You don’t need to spend much to buy a very serviceable air mattress. Those with a flocked surface, at least on one side, can be more comfortable on the body, and your sleeping bag will not slip around on it. For all the advertising, when you’re buying an air mattress for camping, there’s not a great deal to choose between different brands. As long as it’s sturdy and inflates so it’s at least four inches thick, then you’ll sleep well.

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As someone now in his late fifties who's been camping for years, I can testify to using an airbed to sleep on in a tent. I started to have back problems about ten years ago and thought I'd have to give up camping until a friend suggested using an air bed. You can buy something to fill it easily using the car engine, and the comfort it brings at night is unbelievable!
Ray - 31-May-12 @ 10:34 AM
I'd always recommend placing a couple of insulating sleeping matts under the airbed to double insulate you from the cold. An airbed alone can still leave you cold.
PrincePugh - 23-Feb-12 @ 3:31 PM
Found this really helpful! Planning a camping holiday with the children this year (my first time camping in. 10 years?!) and have used both this article and the checklist on this site.I will definitely be purchasing an airbed - just glad to read the details and what to look for! Thankyou!
Jeni - 8-Apr-11 @ 3:17 PM
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