Inflatable Beds 101: What Features Matter? Which Brands Are the Best?

Kids on airbed.

Of you need an inflatable bed, air mattress or air cot - but aren't sure what features, specs and pricing to look for - then you've come to the right place!

Knowing the correct terminology, type of mattress you need, specs and information will really speed up your buying process.

After reading this 5-minute tutorial, you'll be smart enough to buy your first inflatable mattress without confusion.

What Is An Air Bed?

Air beds are meant to provide ease and comfort to you while camping or traveling.

Most air beds have a bottom made of thick, durable material to deal with the harsher exterior conditions of the ground outside or just inside the tent.

The top, however, is usually made of a softer flocked material for comfort and to avoid the need for sheets on a trip.

Just one less thing to pack, although people often use they're sleeping bags with them as well.

Kids on airbed.

The three most important categories for air beds are temporary home use (guests), camping, and permanent home use (bedrooms). Air beds are versatile and can be used for a replacement bed when outdoors.

How Does An Air Bed Work?

Air beds use air, instead of a coil system to work correctly. This allows users to adjust the mattress to a firm or soft setting. Some air beds have a dual zone technology where both partners can adjust their bed's firmness setting.

Higher end air mattresses provide full customization on the bed's zones. This feature is ideal for sleepers with weak necks or bad backs. Sleepers rest comfortably knowing that air beds support each part of their body. Buying an air bed ensures that you and your partner will sleep comfortably during the evening.

What Is The Difference Between an Air Bed, Air Mattress, and an Inflatable Bed?

The major difference is that an inflatable air mattress is designed for indoor use. Without the protective, durable bottom layer, an inflatable mattress may not be a good choice to take on the road, or to sleep outside on.

An air mattress is designed to sit directly on the floor of your home. It may also come without a flocked top and would require sheets to be placed on top for added comfort.

Some air mattresses are much taller as well to simulate the size of an actual bed although this varies with the model.

Inflatable bed.

Since air beds and air mattresses come from various manufacturers, the way the beds are constructed are different than the manufacturer. Both have coils under the mattress or a long tubular chamber

Some air beds have a single mattress that has a low profile or a mattress layer thick. Inflatable mattresses have two layers, which position the mattress above the ground.

When Should You Buy One?

A good air bed helps you sleep properly. For instance, all air beds have enough supportive padding to keep your back aligned while you sleep. Since air beds are portable, they can be used in almost any location.

A Great Guest Bed

Sometimes, you'll have guests over at your house. Having an extra bed helps them feel relaxed and enjoy your living space. Because of that, air beds can accommodate

Air beds are great to have for anyone who entertains guests. They are comfortable as well as easy to store away when you do not have company—easy to bring out and inflate at a moments notice as well.

Inflatable bed - great option for guests.

Get a queen or king sized bed when shopping for an inflatable bed for a guest. Smaller sizes won't accommodate for their weight and cause potential sleeping problems. Air beds are loved by home owners because it helps their guests sleep more comfortably.


They are great for the beach as well. Who needs another model when you can float on a bed or even leave it on the beach and relax like you're back at home? This is optional, but having extra beach chairs with your air beds enhances your relaxation experience.

But, you'll have to maintain your beach air mattresses properly. For instance, it receives a lot of exposure to dirt, sand, and moisture. We suggest cleaning your mattress a few days in advance before you plan on using an air mattress for the beach.

An Additional Temporary Bed

You can use it yourself for an additional bed as well. It's always good to have a spare bed in case anything happens. Spills, pets, kids and other messes can come at any time. It's good to be prepared for this issue by having an air bed.

We suggest having two additional air beds in your home. The beds are great during emergencies and for casual use. Buying an additional bed ensures that you'll have a safe place to rest during any unexpected situations that occur.

Camping Without Pain

It's the choice for camping. It's durable, its comfortable, it's easy to travel with and this way you can sleep like you're back in your bed. The last thing anyone needs is a bad nights sleep to ruin an otherwise great outdoors experience.


When camping, you need to consider the size of your mattress. While you could opt for a larger size, it might be too heavy to carry with your current equipment. Get an air mattress of a queen size or lower to ensure your air bed works while out camping.

Truck Beds and Cars

It's great for truckers too, getting stuck without a good place to stop for the night. This way you can pull out a whole bed and sleep like a king. For truckers, we suggest you get a bed whose dimensions fit inside of your truck. For instance, a small twin or a queen sized bed will do the trick.

What Sizes Are Available?

The width, thickness, and length of the mattress are important factors that include insulation and comfort. 

Air beds come in a wide range of sizes, which lets you pick a model to match your sleeping requirements and body size. Use a queen or even a king. You can get short or long, or whatever size fits you and your needs best.

Thicker air beds offer more cushioning and are more comfortable than thin beds. Large pads also provide insulation. This isn't an issue if you're sleeping indoors. But when you're outside in colder temperatures, a thick sleeping pad makes a huge difference in protecting you from the cold air.


Most air beds are made with an extra durable or thick vinyl layering to protect your bed's bottom from harm. Even with the durable quality, it is still recommended you place a tarp beneath the bed on the ground to avoid any punctures rocks or sticks may cause.

Airbed with Built-in Electric Pump

The top then is made with a much softer flocked velvet-like material, getting rid of the need for any extra layering. It's everything you need in a bed all-in-one.


Look for a mattress with extra coils if you want a durable mattress. The coils offer more support and keep the body more aligned when you sleep. Plus, you need to take care of your mattress to enhance its durability. We suggest cleaning it at least every two weeks. Doing this ensures the bed won't lose its quality and saves you money in the long run.


Another thing you need to consider is the comfort of your bed. It's recommended to buy a memory foam mattress. Memory foam beds allow you to adjust the settings of the bed to your liking.

For beginners, we suggest you search for a queen sized mattress or higher. These mattresses give the user enough space to sleep comfortably. Buying mattresses of this size ensure that you'll have a great sleep without experiencing any difficulties in posture.

Inflatable Vs. Closed-Cell Foam

Another decision you need to make is whether you want an inflatable model or a closed-cell foam material. Both forms of material have their pros and cons.

  • Foam Pads: Closed-Cell Foam pads are inexpensive and provide a substantial amount of sleeping support. They offer a moderate level of comfort and cushioning, lightweight, and are completely durable. Compared to smaller inflatable pads, the pads are bulkier when folded or rolled for storage.
  • Inflatable Mattress Pads: Sleeping pads and inflatable mattress are more functional than other models. Higher end models compete with cots when it comes to comfort.

Larger air beds are useful if you have set up the gear and an ample amount of space. Certain air beds pump with user input while others have a built-in auto pump system to inflate the bed.

Self-inflating air beds and sleeping pads are made for individual use. To self-inflate, your mattress, unravel the mat and it begins to expand. Shut off the valve and begin to sleep. Of course, self-inflating beds will cost you more money than normal beds.

Men and daughter reading on a air mattress.

If you're planning on tent camping, buy an air bed with gripping material. This material prevents the bed from sliding and shifting underneath you while you sleep.

Pay attention to the valve's quality when looking for air bed. If the valve becomes unplugged, your bed will deflate. Modern air beds improved this issue, but make sure to check this feature on your air bed. As a rule of thumb, if you can afford a better valve, buy it.

Air Bed Accessories

You need to keep your air bed constrained while traveling. Store your bed by rolling them to circulate the air. Then, protect the bed using a stuff sack or straps. The stuff sack protects your bed from water and dirt.

Another inexpensive accessory is the mattress repair kit. Most beds have sturdy exteriors, but it isn't armor.

Getting a repair kit ensures that you can repair a tear before it destroys the quality of your bed. Another essential accessory is a chair sling.

Fold the pad and then place the chair sleeves over the ends. The adjustable straps keep your bed standing in an upright position.

Inflatable bed repair kit.

Air pumps are used to inflate the bed. 

You can buy powered models that have a DC of 120 volts, AC of 120 volts, or rechargeable batteries.

You can also opt for a foot or hand pump, but they'll take longer than electric models.


  • Quick Inflation - An air mattress can inflate to full size within a few minutes. For instance, twin sized mattresses take at least 5 minutes to become filled. Smaller mattresses used for camping take 3 minutes. Air beds are easily inflated making it easier for you to gain proper rest.
  • No Sagging - Sagging occurs when the surface loses functionality after years of usage. This problem creates a crater like an effect when the user sleeps on the mattress. We suggest getting a replacement if your inflatable mattress starts to sag.
  • Reduces Pain - Traveling can be uncomfortable. Sleeping the wrong way can lead to back pain or even bed sores. An air bed helps eliminate those problems and provide a great nights sleep. No one wants the short-term or even the long-term discomfort a bad nights sleep can cause.
Woman laying in bed on her back.
  • Comfortable - As the name suggests, sleeping on an air bed feels like sleeping on air. Sleepers can adjust the firmness of the mattress by adding as much or little air that you desire. The bed fits the form of your body and reduces the pains and ache when you wake up the next day.
  • Economical - Air beds are cheaper than regular mattresses but have similar benefits. Sometimes you'll need a quick place to rest; air mattresses provide an economical solution. Plus, air beds provide a comfortable and economical solution to guests you have over your home. It's less expensive than buying a new mattress.
  • Customized Firmness - The biggest advantage of air beds, especially ones that are used for permanent beds, is that it provides a customized firmness setting. You can set the bed as soft or as firm as your desire. Reduce the air for a softer and plush surface. Or, you add extra air to a firmer surface. Air mattresses are great for guests because they can adjust the bed to their personal sleeping preferences.
  • Durability - Depending on how you take care of your mattress, it can last as long as a regular bed. The fabric used to create beds are thin. Air mattresses withstand more damage and weight than traditional mattresses. The more you take care of your mattress, the longer it will last.

Top Manufacturers

Luckily there are still lots of great options to choose. Among the manufacturers of great air beds are:

  • Intex Intex are leaders in making Above Ground Pools and Inflatable Spas as well. Still, their quality air mattresses are worth mentioning. Buy an Intex mattress if you need a bed that's durable and long lasting.
  • SoundAsleep Makers of a wide variety of fine air beds and mattresses. For first time bed owners, they have the best air mattresses in the market. Buy from this manufacturer if you want to control your sleep settings and relax once you rest.
Intex Comfort Plush Mid Rise Dura-Beam Airbed


SoundAsleep Dream Series Air Mattress


  • Serta - Also manufacturers of the noted Serta Mattresses as well as other beddings, sheets and pillows. Their beds are sold at a modest price and are a great investment if you plan on sleeping outside.
  • Wondersleep - Makers of the Classic Series Air Mattress. This company is the leader in creating high-quality sleeping mattresses. We suggest buying a Wondersleep mattress to maximize your comfort while you sleep.
Serta Raised Air Mattress


Air Mattress KING size - Best Choice RAISED Inflatable Bed


Maintenance And Cleaning

As we've stated earlier, your air mattress requires constant maintenance. Keeping your mattress in good condition increases its life span. Read these few tips to get to clean and get the most out of your air mattress.

Step 1: Safety Precautions

First, remove your mattress from its power source. Some models don't have a built-in air pump, skip this step if this is true. Never clean an air mattress that's attached to its power source. Make sure it's disconnected before starting the cleaning process.

Step 2: Eliminate Any Coverings Or Sheets

If you keep a blanket, sheet, or pads on your bed remove it. You can throw the items inside a washer machine while cleaning the other air mattress parts. This means we'll wash the air mattress while it's still inflated.

This method works the best because you'll clean tougher spots with no problem. Make sure to remove dirt that's found in hidden spots of your air bed.

Step 3: Wash The Mattress With A Vacuum

If there's visible debris or dirt inside your mattress, you need to vacuum it away before you start wiping the mattress. If left unattended, you'll leave a large mess. While all of the dust and dirt are visible, it's still recommended to vacuum the air inflated bed anyways.

Wash The Mattress With A Vacuum

Put in your vacuum and run over the mattress with the extra attachment. Don't exert too much force wile vacuuming. Overexertion causes the mattress to lose its quality and become damaged. Once the debris is removed, you can go to the next step.

Step 4: Use A Soft Cloth To Clean The Mattress

Once you remove everything from your mattress, you need to start cleaning it with a soft cloth mixed in rubbing alcohol. Wipe down the mattress and focus on the areas that might've been stained. You'll remove a lot of grime and dirt using this cleaning method.

If there are stains that aren't picked up by the cloth, place rubbing alcohol on the affected area. Rinse and wash out the small cloth and wipe the area down again. If you repeat the process, your mattress will be cleaned.

We don't recommend letting any moisture or water reach the mattress. This problem causes bacteria to arrive. As a result, the moisture exposure reduces the quality of your inflatable bed.

Step 5: Dry Out The Air Mattress

Allow your air mattress to dry after finishing the cleaning process. If you live in a warm/hot climate, leave the mattress outside to air dry. This method eliminates unwanted smells and reduces the moisture exposure to your mattress.

We recommend drying out the mattress while it's still inflated to ensure the creases are dry. On average, it takes at least 3-5 hours to dry an inflatable bed fully. You can place the blankets and sheets back on, and wait until you're ready to sleep on the mattress.

Couple laying on the air mattress.

Cleaning air mattresses is a challenging process. If you follow the previous steps, you'll clean your mattress in no time. Keep cleaning your mattress on a daily basis, and you'll keep it in good condition for a long time.

What If I Have Tougher Stains?

Do you have some stains that are irritating to remove? As annoying as it seems, you might have to buy another air bed if the stains are too much of a problem.

After all, air mattresses are cheaper than traditional ones. While you can pay extra for repairs, sometimes it's best to fork out the extra cash for a clean and new mattress. Doing this ensures that you'll have a soft bed that's not exposed to moisture, dirt, or other contaminants.

How Do I Dry The Mattress?

Some air mattresses take out air as well. See if your air pump comes with a deflation setting. This comes in handy when you're camping and want to strike the camp quickly.

You'll have to deflate your bed manually if the air pump doesn't have this feature. Remove the cap of the bed's valve and listen for the air to release. Then, remove your shoes and walk along the length of the air bed. After that, start rolling the air bed from the opposite side of the air valve. When you've rolled up the bed, use a cord to keep its shape.

Final Thoughts

To conclude, your inflatable bed is the best sleeping equipment when outdoors or indoors. Now that you have a greater understanding of them there is one last thing you need to know.

Woman smiling and sitting on air-bed.

Overall, an air bed is a good purchase for your home -for guest, for a backup - or for the road - it is the choice for traveling. By buying now you prepare yourself for many different situations, and you allow yourself time to make a careful, informed decision about which product model is right for you.

We haven't, had the time to go into the examples of each model here, luckily, our buyer's guide can help make that decision easier.

Go check it out and see what you think about each product and let us know in the comments which one you picked!

DISCLOSURE: As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

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