I need the finest camping air mattress in all the land
August 11, 2014 9:51 AM   Subscribe

My family likes camping. My extended family LOVES camping. I like camping OK except that I sleep very very badly and that makes me miserable. I need the best queen-sized air mattress available that can be inflated without an electric outlet. Specific details inside.

The family members are me (250 pound woman with a car accident in the past 6 months that has left me with a lot of low back and hip pain), husband (190 pound man with autoimmune arthritis), and our two children, currently seven and three. This is not a situation that a thermarest or other backpacking mattress can ever adequately solve, nor does it need to -- we are car camping for the foreseeable future. I want one air mattress that I can drop into our coleman 4-person tent that we can then all sleep on in something approximating comfort, something super deluxe with baffles and . . . whatever else makes an air mattress good, but which can be inflated with a battery-operated or manual foot pump. And ideally which will be tough enough to last us for several trips without developing a slow leak such that we all end up lying on the ground at 4 AM. Help me to never spend another camping trip trying not to cry while I stare at the ceiling of the tent and pray for the sun to come up!
posted by KathrynT to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (16 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
You may not be able to compress it enough to make it reasonable to bring along camping, but if you have a big vehicle, memory foam could be a solution. (I have only used cheap air mattresses that move too much when other people move, so I don't have a good recommendation for them. You may find some that have pumps that can be operated using your car battery, to expand your options.)
posted by metasarah at 10:07 AM on August 11, 2014

Have you considered cots? They seem to have had sort of a renaissance lately. I was looking at these are REI this weekend, and they seem pretty cool. They fold up as small as a backpacking pad!
posted by juliapangolin at 10:11 AM on August 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

My family of four, we have a four year old and a 1.5 year old, use this one and love it. We have house guests who prefer this thing to our crazy expensive fold out sofa. I will say that the adults are much more comfortable if we can get the four year old excited enough about a sleeping bag to not want to be on the mattress. This isn't a light mattress, but I don't think that will matter in your situation.
posted by Nickel Pickle at 10:17 AM on August 11, 2014

We have this Coleman queen-sized double-high air mattress and it's only ok. My husband and I are about the same weight as yourselves, and find that it does sag a little in the course of the night and we usually end up rolling together in the middle at some point.

If you can spare the space and weight I wanted to recommend a cot too. Worst case scenario and your air mattress on top collapses, you still have the cot frame as a bed. Plus, much less rolling into the middle vortex.

All that said, we're packing our 2" memory foam mattress topper to take to Burning Man...
posted by cabingirl at 10:21 AM on August 11, 2014

Seconding Nickel Pickle's Insta-Bed. I use mine at Burning Man and it's a-ma-zing.
posted by mykescipark at 10:24 AM on August 11, 2014

Response by poster: The Insta-Bed says it has to be plugged in all night to maintain pressure, and that it requires an A/C pump -- is that not true?
posted by KathrynT at 11:13 AM on August 11, 2014

Since you're car camping, might a power inverter open up some options for a/c powered pump beds? Power inverters are useful to have around for other things, too.

Aerobed makes some very good air mattresses. I slept on one for years.
posted by alphanerd at 11:23 AM on August 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

We just returned from a 3 week camping trip across the western United States and used a set of these sleeping pads with great results. They are self inflating foam-plus-air mattresses that are 3" thick when inflated.

We found them really comfortable.

It went so well we are already mapping out next years trip!
posted by axismundi at 12:58 PM on August 11, 2014

We tent camp a lot, and have had the most luck with these Intex mattresses with "built-in foot pumps" (meaning one can inflate them using one's foot alone). They come in twin or queen sizes, and are a great value; very durable and comfortable.
posted by hush at 2:00 PM on August 11, 2014

I have a luxurylite, and it's awesome, but it's going to be uncomfortable at that size of person, and there'd be no way to sleep two on it. I'd go with a less for-hiking cot.
posted by flaterik at 4:59 PM on August 11, 2014

For what it's worth we have a queen insta-bed (and love it) and leave it unplugged after we fill it up. I've never slept on it for that long and it's been ok, our 2 kids have slept on it for longer periods but they are 70 and 85lb. I would guess *maybe* you might have to plug it in after a couple nights to get it to where you like it again. It's also very tall-that might be something to consider. But it's the closest I have experienced to a 'real' bed in a blow up bed.
posted by 58 at 5:16 PM on August 11, 2014

When my wife and I camped and drove across the country, she purchased this pad. Note Bene: It is not queen size, but two of them together will approximate a queen size bed, without the worries of bouncing the partner off of it while rolling over in the night which I have suffered several times while sharing a inflatable bed.

When we went shopping to buy a second pad, the clerk proved its worth by laying it out on hard concrete floor, scattering tent stakes around, and then laying the mattress on top of it. My 6'4" 250 lb self could lie down comfortably and not feel a thing. On the trip I carried my well-loved Therm-a-rest backpacking pad. But by the end of the trip, I had already made plans to purchase my own and retire my old pad. it is, and I say this as an unpaid, unrewarded testimonial, the best. thing. ever. for sleeping on the ground, on the floors of friends' apartments, or in the back of a Volvo station wagon. Our dog also agrees.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 5:17 PM on August 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

I've camped quite a lot and slept on airbeds for years. For your situation I would buy two single height airbeds and place one atop the other because you are pretty much guaranteed that both will not go flat during the night, it reduces the "tacoing" where everyone ends up in the middle and the trampoline effect when your bedmates roll over. Put a tarp under your tent and a thickish blanket or something similar under your airbed[s] of course.

I've had good luck with Coleman brand air mattresses. Sleeping well is especially important when camping, moreso with kids of course. Two of http://www.coleman.com/product/quickbed-queen-extra-high-airbed/2000015764?contextCategory=10079#.U-mRmaNyHG4 seems a worthwhile investment.

Happy camping. I haven't been in a while and I'm jealous.
posted by vapidave at 9:17 PM on August 11, 2014

I'm going to recommend the Marie Antoinette tack - get your own bed and let the rest eat cake. My husband and I have an aerobed queen for car camping, random house guests, etc. We stopped using it for camping though because any loss of air pressure means you start getting bumped around when anyone moves. Heck, changes in air temp overnight can cause some deflation. Kids are often better with a simple sleeping pad and if your husband has different sleeping needs then you can both pick what makes you most comfortable. Plus individual sleeping spaces are much easier to arrange and move around in a tent. You need a pretty big tent for a queen size air mattress not to dominate the floorspace.
posted by amanda at 6:18 AM on August 12, 2014

I would test the power inverter suggested above. We did a test run for our planned glamping trip. Only an early run of tarantula mating season on Mount Diablo is preventing us from taking it out into the wild.
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 4:30 PM on August 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

I've had bad luck with both Aerobed and Coleman mattresses. This might sound nuts, but try me out: the most comfortable thing I've slept on in a tent is an REI self-inflating camping pad, with a fleecy blanket on top for extra cushiness. I have hip and back pain if I sleep on the wrong sort of thing, but this has never happened with these pads. You could each get one -- or, let's be realistic, get two and get cheaper ones for the kids, or let the kids sleep in just their sleeping bags, they'll never notice -- and they'd all easily fit in the tent.
posted by The corpse in the library at 5:33 PM on August 16, 2014

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