Air Mattress Alternatives

Air Mattress Alternatives

Air mattresses are one of the effective solutions utilized in limited floor space while maintaining the comfort of a traditional bed. They are incredibly affordable, relatively thick once inflated, and can easily be stored away when not in use. Air mattresses have also become the go-to camping bed option over the years. This is because it is affordable, comfortable and easy to use. 

Yet, there are some drawbacks to air beds. Air mattresses are prone to punctures, are a bit bulky, and are cold during winter. They are not the most portable camping bed solutions. Air mattresses can take a while to set up which can be frustrating. They also require a minimum of 30 minutes to inflate and deflate them. Air mattresses also provide less back support and the bounce effect gotten from air beds can disturb your sleep. 

The more you camp, you get to realise that an air mattress is not the best for outdoor adventures. Many users have moved away to finding air mattress alternatives that offer the same utility and convenience. 

Not just any alternative will offer great comfortability, affordability, and convenience as an air mattress. In this article, we are going to run through air beds alternatives while touching the benefits and negatives of each. You will find the best alternatives that are great options when it comes to comfort, durability and ease of use. 

Air mattress alternatives for the home include rollaway beds, futons, memory foam pads, Murphy beds or sofa beds. While some air mattress alternatives for camping include camping cots, hammocks, self-inflating sleep pads, padded sleeping bags, or foam sleep pads. These alternatives are just as comfortable as air mattresses. 

Air Mattress Alternatives for Home

  • Futons

A Futon mattress is a quilted mattress that can be spread out on the floor for use as a bed. Futon mattresses are versatile and space-saving. They can easily be folded and unfolded into different positions. Futons generally come in single, twin, and queen sizes. The mattress can be laid on the floor or on top of a mat to provide more cushioning and airflow. Futon mattresses are suitable for camping, minimalist, guest-use, frequent movers or dorm students. 

Futons are not very portable. They are bulky when rolled up so you need enough space in your trunk when taking them for camping. Futon takes about 5 seconds to set up. All you need is to unroll it and put it where you want to sleep and you are good. Compared to air beds, there is no time and energy wasted in inflating them. 

  • Memory Foam Pads

Memory foam pads can safely be used as an alternative to air beds. They are usually 1 to 2 inches thick and cost around $250. Memory foam pads are available in various standard sizes including; single; queen; and king. The memory foam pad is unique in that it is open cell and closed cell. They are incredibly comfortable because of the cell structure design that conforms to the natural curve of your body. The open cell expands and caters for any bumps on the ground. While the closed-cell creates warmth during colder nights. It retains your body heat quite well compared to air mattresses. The foam pad distributes your weight evenly which results in natural spine alignment and pressure point relief. 

The durability of memory foam pads is affected by the density and thickness of the pads, frequency of usage, and level of care. Nevertheless, good quality memory foam pads can last up to 7 years. Storage bags also ensure the protection of the foam pads from dust, dirt and moisture which helps to increase the mattresses lifespan. The best part of the memory foam pad is that it uses no air and cannot deflate or get punctured. 

  • Rollaway Beds

The rollaway bed looks and feels amazing to sleep on. The bed is designed to seem like a typical bed frame but it folds away for compact storage when not in use. A rollaway bed is built for strength and durability. The steel frame features a spring-supported mattress deck. Rollaway beds are available in twin or cot sizes for small rooms or settings with limited space. 

The rollaway bed is extremely simple to put together. The bed features locking wheels which keep the frame in place and safe throughout the night. You can simply fold it in half and roll it into a closet when it’s time to put it away. 

  • Murphy Beds 

A Murphy bed is a bed that is vertically stored against a wall or inside a cabinet when not in use. Murphy beds are available in different sizes ranging from twin size to king size. They are available in various designs. Modern designs of Murphy beds come with extra elements such as shelves, desks, drawers, and sofas. All of these contribute to making a bedroom multifunctional living space. 

Depending on personal preferences, a Murphy bed can be folded into a closet or cabinet when not in use. Murphy beds are convenient because of their space-saving features and multifunctionality. When not in use, they can easily blend in with the room and can also be used as a guest bed. Murphy beds can look like a regular wall, storage unit or closet when folded against the wall. 

  • Sofa Beds 

Sofa beds are often used as couches with built-in mattresses. The sofa can be folded out to form a bed whenever needed. Sofas are available in different sizes from single to queen size beds and also feature thinner mattresses that aren’t designed for everyday use. To get extra comfort and support, you can place a mattress topper on a sofa bed.

Air Mattress Alternatives for Camping

  • Hammocks 

Hammocks are made from a parachute-style material making them lighter and packable than air mattresses. You can stick your hammock into your backpack with ease without the extra weight of an air mattress holding you back. Hammocks are very comfortable and easy to carry. They can be pitched anywhere and are the most popular option among campers right now. Hammocks can entirely replace your tent. They are a very affordable and compact air mattress alternative. 

Setting up your hammock is quite easy. All you need to do is to find two suitable trees, tie a few knots and have your floating bedroom setup in under 5 minutes. Taking your hammock down is quite easier as well. You just have to untie the knots and stuff back the hammock into your backpack. This makes it faster and easier than inflating and deflating an air mattress. 

A hammock can take some time to get used to if you haven’t tried it before. Camping in a hammock gives a much wilder experience. You don’t need a tent to use a hammock as you will be sleeping suspended between two trees. Sleeping in a hammock comes with its advantage as you are off the ground and nothing can stick into your back. 

Hammocks assist you with back pains as the pressure is equally spread across your body. It is also known to help you fall asleep faster. The major downside to a hammock is that you can’t just put them up anywhere as you need two trees to make them work.

  • Camping Cots 

A camping cot is a bed made from a rigid structure with a canvas-like board that holds you above the ground. The camping cot is a type of collapsible bed designed to enhance your overall comfort. They look similar to the military gurney. Camping cots are intended to be used when regular beds are either not suitable or available. 

Camping cots are available in different types to suit everyone’s needs. Compared to an air mattress, a camping cot has a lot of benefits. The first is its high durability as camping cots last far longer than air mattresses. Unlike air mattresses, you can’t puncture a camping cot and there is no valve to break. Under several trials, a camping cot will outlive an air mattress.

A great camping cot is compact, highly lightweight and portable. It offers reasonable comfort to make you feel rested and free from pain.  Camping cots always feature a foldable metal or a wooden frame with polyester, nylon, canvas, or linen covering for comfort. 

When compared to air mattresses, camping cots are easy to set up and dismantle. Assembling a camping cot should not take more than 15 minutes at the maximum. All you have to do is to unfold the frames and secure them in place and you are ready to go. 

Camping cots are stable and easier to get in and out of. You can sit and lie down without suffering the air bumps of an air mattress that reforms every time you roll over. With a camping cot, you are raised off the ground and insulated in colder weather with no creepy crawlies getting to you at night. You can be assured of a better night’s rest with a camping cot. 

Camping cots are a great alternative to an air mattress but they don’t tick all the boxes. They are too bulky and heavy for backpacking. You will need to drive them to your campsite to use them. 

  • Self-inflating Sleep Pads 

Self-inflating sleep pads are available in different shapes and sizes which helps you to find the perfect insulation, portability and cushioning. The self-inflating sleep pads are very durable and comfortable, especially the larger ones. Some are designed for backpacking while others can be rolled up without folding. 

They are a great air mattress alternative if you want to get some inflation in your camp. Self-inflating sleeping pads are a hybrid of a standard foam sleeping pad and an air mattress. They are however more convenient. They work by using open-cell foam that naturally sucks in air and inflates. This gives it a great combo of a squidgy mattress with some air inside for extra comfort. 

Self-inflating sleep pads offer a wide range of options for warmth and sizes. They are reasonably compact and you can adjust their firmness by adding or releasing air. They don’t offer the bounce effect like an air mattress does when rolling around in the night. 

To set up a sleeping bag, all you need to do is to lay it out and open the valve while you watch it pump itself. There is no need for a foot pump or pushing air into them. To pack self-inflating sleep pads, open the valve, roll and close the valve then store. 

Self-inflating sleeping pads are small and are a great choice for backpacking. Although they risk punctures like air mattresses, they are much easier to fix in the field with a puncture repair kit. 

  • Padded Sleeping Bags

Are you an adventurer who loves to travel light? The sleeping bag is an extreme alternative that allows you to sleep on the tent floor without the need for a mattress. Sleeping without a mattress may not sound that comfortable to you. You can make use of leaves or heather to create a soft bed which you can pitch your tent. The extra layer serves as insulation and provides you with some soft layer to lay on. 

The benefit of padded sleeping bags is that there is no need for a mattress. This saves the time and cost of acquiring a mattress. Once this is done, you have nothing to carry, set up, and nothing. 

  • Foam Sleeping Pads 

Foam sleeping pads are a solid alternative for air mattresses. They are lighter and more durable than air mattresses. You can roll up a foam sleeping pad and tie it without any concern of damage, unlike an air mattress. 

Setting up your foam sleeping pad takes a few seconds. You just roll it out with no need for inflation. There is also no need to deflate and fold like an air mattress to pack them, all you need is just another roll. 

Foam sleeping pads aren’t comfortable as an air mattress but they offer good insulation. They are more affordable, lighter and portable. The only downside to foam sleeping pads is that you might not be as comfortable as you would with an air mattress. 

Why should you consider using an alternative to an Air Mattress?

When you go camping, there should be quite a few reasons to leave an air mattress behind and take an alternative that best suits you better. Air mattresses are full of inconveniences and many things can go wrong. 

Cons of Air Mattresses 

  • They are heavy and not good for backpacking
  • They can deflate at night leaving you awake at night with a half-deflated bed
  • They get punctures that can be difficult to fix in the field 
  • You need a pump if you don’t want to spend 30 minutes of your time manually blowing it up 
  • They require time to set up and pack away, compared to the alternatives 
  • The valves are delicate and inflating can become impossible if they break
  • The “bounce effect” can disturb your rest as the mattress adjust to your new position when you move around in the night 
  • They are not  warm when camping in colder temperatures

Pros of Air Mattress Alternatives

There are quite a few reasons why you should not own an air mattress. The air mattress alternatives provide solutions to the issues raised. The benefits of picking alternatives to air mattresses are:

  • Lightweight options for backpacking 
  • Portable and space-saving 
  • Easier and faster to set up and pack 
  • More durable without the risk of punctures 
  • More comfortable and offer better back support
  • More affordable 
  • No risk of deflating during the night 
  • No inflation or deflation issues
  • No extra tools required to pump
  • Better insulated for increased warmth during cold weather 


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