Comfortable enough to convince even the most reluctant camper, air beds are the perfect way to bring a bit of home comfort into your tent.
They’re also great for guests, with some of the tallest beds we tested offering a level of comfort at least as good as a sofa bed – but with the added benefit of being easy to deflate and store in a cupboard.
We have tested these beds on multiple camping trips, on car camping trips where space and weight wasn’t an issue, on hiking and biking trips where smaller was definitely better, and while overlanding, where a small mattress made a huge difference to our rooftent sleeping.
We tested beds across lots of different categories, from regular bed-sized inflatables that need mains power but promise a brilliant night’s sleep, to super lightweight beds that you can blow up in no time. With all the beds we tested we looked for excellent sealing around the valve, which we measured by testing how much air the beds lost overnight, as well as stability and good weight distribution (with one or two sleepers depending on the size of our sample), and overall comfort.
Air beds have a bad reputation because of their temperature regulation: the combination of thin air and synthetic covers means they can retain heat horribly and leave you sweaty in hot weather or freezing in cold weather. But modern camping tech has largely solved this issue: some of the best beds we tested came with seriously impressive insulation ratings, and all of them had mitigated the synthetic fabric effect to such an extent we didn’t really need to use a sheet with any of them.
Some of the beds we tested were self-inflating – these always profit from an extra puff or two to get the perfect level of firmness. The larger beds usually had a self-contained pump, and we’ve specified if they need mains power to inflate. We’ve also indicated when you’ll need a separate pump to inflate the mattress – a simple foot pump, available from any camping store, will never let you down, although a battery-operated pump is a great (and luxurious) alternative.
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The best air beds for 2021 are:
Best overall – Sea to Summit comfort deluxe si: £170, Seatosummit.co.uk
Best for hiking and biking – Robens primacore 90: £109.99, Blacks.co.uk
Best for a spare room – Vango blissful double airbed: £136, Winfieldsoutdoors.co.uk
Best for guests – Outwell flow airbed single: £88, Outwell.com
Best for camping on a budget – EasyCamp hexa mat: £22.50, Easycamp.com
Best for unexpected house guests – Active Era luxury single air bed: £69.99, Activeera.com
Best for festivals – Coleman extra durable double airbed: £69, Gooutdoors.co.uk
Best affordable air bed – Quechua inflatable camping mattress air basic: £19.99, Decathlon.co.uk
Best for cold weather – Sea to Summit ether light XT extreme Mat WMN: £220, Seatosummit.co.uk
Sea to Summit comfort deluxe si
This is one of the most comfortable self-inflating air beds that we’ve ever tested. Wide, soft and luxurious, it distributes weight in the same way a regular mattress does: even our fussiest slide sleepers managed a comfortable night on this bed. Absolutely ideal for casual campers, or anyone who’s sworn off tent camping after a miserable night on the floor, it inflates to four inches thick and boasts an incredible R-Value (insulation rating) that will keep you warm even if you’re sleep outside. At 1.8kg (regular size) it’s not designed for hiking or biking, but would be ideal for car camping or anywhere you make a base camp – like a festival.
Buy now £170.00, Seatosummit.co.uk
Robens primacore 90
Best: For hiking and biking
Wide, comfortable and perfect for camping or as an emergency spare bed, we loved the horizontal cells on this warm mattress, which – after our extensive testing of sprung cell mattresses – surprised us with its even support. At 830g it’s extremely light, making it perfect for camping trips or stowing away in a drawer, but it comes with a thick and well-distributed layer of insulation (Robens’s own primaloft) for all over warmth. It’s also easy and quick to inflate.
Buy now £109.99, Blacks
Vango blissful double airbed
Best: For a spare room
Still our favourite bed-sized air bed, this tall, comfortable double from Vango has a smart pressure detection system that adds increments of inflation in the night if the bed loses any air. Perfect if weight isn’t an issue and you like a bit of luxury at the campsite, it inflates quickly and smoothly using the inbuilt pump (which is mains powered, so you’ll need to have access to a hook up), and stops inflating automatically when it hits the upper limit. Three inflation levels mean you can get the bed to your ideal pressure setting – at its firmest setting, our favourite, we found it was incredibly stable. It also has comfortable material, although we tested it in mild weather.
Buy now £136.00, Winfieldsoutdoors.co.uk
Outwell flow airbed single
Best: For guests
Our favourite of the classic impromptu sleepover air beds. Unlike so many airbeds, the coating (polyester pongee) stays breathable, which means you avoid the dreaded airbed sweat, and it feels soft even without a sheet over the top. It retained air really well during the night, and pumps up easily and quickly (we used a foot pump). Fully inflated, so pretty firm, it holds weight really well – tossing and turning on it didn’t make the mattress wobble or move around. Good for car camping, festivals or a spare room. You can also buy a double version (£107.09, Amazon.co.uk).
Buy now £88.00, Worldofcamping.co.uk
EasyCamp hexa mat
Best: For camping on a budget
We were blown away by how comfortable this small air bed was. Vertical cells kept us supported and comfortable during the night, with little to no air leakage, and the inbuilt foot pump was a dream to use. Brilliant for using indoors or for mild camping conditions, it kept us warm in good weather, but didn’t feel sweaty on sunny mornings. At the price, pretty unbeatable: this little mat would be perfect for kids’ sleepovers if space is at a premium, or for family camping trips.
Buy now £22.50, Easycamp.com
Active Era luxury single air bed
Best: For unexpected house guests
A fantastically bed-like air bed for a brilliant price, this is our go-to for house guests. The electronic pump is quick and efficient – at both inflating and deflating the bed – and holds pressure well. The height is just right, about the same as a regular single bed, and the interior “beams” give the mattress as firm a level of support as you can get from an inflatable bed. It is heavy and bulky when packed – this doesn’t matter if you keep it indoors, though, or if you’re camping with a car in a large, family-sized tent. There’s also a double option (£99.99, Amazon.co.uk).
Buy now £69.99, Activeera.com
Coleman extra durable double airbed
Best: For festivals
A staple of festivals and sleepovers, Coleman’s extra durable air bed is still a brilliant combination of ease and comfort. Really easy to blow up with a foot or electric pump, its interior coils spread weight well and stay supportive. But what makes this little airbed so legendary is its durability: ours has suffered through music festivals, family camping trips and interactions with pets with barely a scratch and never a puncture.
Buy now £69.00, Gooutdoors.co.uk
Quechua inflatable camping mattress air basic
Best: Affordable air bed
While it’s not as durable as some of its pricier competitors, this simple air bed is ideal for overnight guests and camping in gentler conditions. It inflates easily with a foot pump or electric pump, and kept decent pressure overnight. We found the material did trap some heat in our tests, but popping a thin sheet over the top helped a lot. Perfect for families or festival camping: to increase its durability and insulation in cold weather, use a foam mat underneath.
Buy now £19.99, Decathlon.co.uk
Sea to Summit ether light XT extreme mat WMN
Best: For cold weather
Officially, this gorgeous, warm mattress is a camping mat: but with its air-sprung cells, extra thick design and generous insulation it outperformed many of the taller air beds that we tried. Perfect for unexpected guests who don’t mind sleeping closer to the ground, each cell deforms individually, which means your weight distributes perfectly even if you sleep on your side. The amazing R-Value (6.3) means it can withstand some epically cold conditions, and at 685g it’s extremely hikeable, as well as easy to stash in a corner of your spare room.
Buy now £220.00, Seatosummit.co.uk
The verdict: Air beds
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