A complicated gift
January 5, 2007 9:08 PM   Subscribe

Voltage converter / inflating an air mattress to be used in Italy: My friend, a sculpture instructor in Florence, Italy, is putting us up and guiding us around the city. Very cool. He has asked that we bring an air mattress with an electric pump, which he will later use for camping, also in Italy.

I'm trying to shop intelligently for the best combination of mattress + pump-that-will-somehow-work-in-Italy. I think I've got it figured out and just need to know how to shop for a good voltage converter -- my main question -- but am also interested in whether I can do better (lighter/more comfy) with the mattress setup. Possible purchase links included.

I found (online) an air mattress with a 110V electric pump built in. This weighs ~ 13 lbs (as described below, various people will be flying with this, so weight matters). Is this about the best I can do, weight-wise?

I think it's OK that it mainly works in the US, since my friend is a US citizen and lives here most of the time.

In any case, I believe that Italy has 220 V, so I'll need a converter. The ones on the REI site are $42-$55, but I've found several on Amazon for significantly less money. Is that just because I need to buy a plug separately? Or are they likely to catch fire or break or something?

I also found this one, but can't tell if this is completely legit. In other words, it looks kind of iffy, but I want to believe in it.

Also, from looking at this page, it seems that Italy has some kind of funky special electric plug configuration unique to itself. Even if hotels were likely to have some kind of generic "European" outlets, I think he may be in an older apartment.

Air mattress recommendations are also welcome; I read previous AskMe threads on this, but they were focused on home use. We'll be flying with this in our checked luggage, and my friend will be later also -- he's going to use it for long-term camping, also in Italy. He needs the mattress to be full-sized (for me & my guy to share now), not queen or larger since it will have to fit in a tent, and not too bulky or heavy. Comfortable would be nice, too.

He's offered to buy it from us, but I figured it would make a nice gift, and he is putting us up for five days, so we'll be giving it to him.

We're leaving around Jan. 20, so I don't have a lot of time for trial and error.
posted by amtho to Travel & Transportation around Italy (9 answers total)
Probably cheaper to buy a second 220V pump once you're in Italy than a voltage converter.
posted by polyglot at 11:07 PM on January 5, 2007

Hmm.. Hand pumps sold with air mattresses are actually surprisingly easy, considering you are filling a very large volume.

If electric is a requirement, why not get one designed to plug in a cigarette lighter (12V), that would be much more useful when out camping, I would think..
posted by Chuckles at 1:49 AM on January 6, 2007

A Coleman mattress with battery operated pump can cost you less than the voltage converter alone. A double size with a 4 D cell pump is $34.99 on Amazon. I got my twin size locally at Target some years ago and it is still leak free and inflates quickly. Enjoy your trip.
posted by zoel at 3:49 AM on January 6, 2007

I'd be surprised if 12V models aren't common, and the adapters for 12V are readily available everywhere.
posted by tomble at 5:02 AM on January 6, 2007

Response by poster: 12V won't work - this will be used a) inside an apartment, and b) camping without a car. I get the impression that lots of people living in Florence (and around) do without cars.

Battery-operated pump might be an option. It would still be nice to have a converter for other things, though (hair dryer, laptop, etc.).
posted by amtho at 6:52 AM on January 6, 2007

Response by poster: tomble: when you say that "adapters for 12V are readily available everywhere", do you mean Italian-wall-socket-to-12V-jack ?

Also, he specifically requested an electric pump, and he is being awfully nice to us.

posted by amtho at 6:54 AM on January 6, 2007

If you get a 12V pump, make sure you check the amps required.

I had to email campbellhausfeld to find out this info for one of their inflators I had.

They replied that it took 8-10 amps which is often beyond typical power converters.
posted by MonkeySaltedNuts at 11:49 AM on January 6, 2007

What zoel said- I have a coleman mattress with a detachable battery operated pump.
If you must have an electric pump, it would make a lot more sense for your friend to by a universal electric pump in Italy.
posted by oneirodynia at 12:42 PM on January 6, 2007

Consider ordering something like this online (eg, Amazon.uk) and having it shipped to your friend. This saves you luggage space and the voltage-conversion problem.

With converters, only use one with enough watts that says it is for electronics. There are some cheap assy converters that are hard on equipment (instead of a real transformer, they switch on/off rapidly. This causes odd noises over the power lines).
posted by Goofyy at 5:25 AM on January 8, 2007

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