When visiting family in the UK last year, my cousin kindly put us up in his spare room for a week.
We all slept on air mattresses, and it was a bit of a light bulb moment for me. What a great space-saving alternative to traditional spare beds!
It got me thinking whether or not we should get an eco-friendly air mattress for our spare room.
My initial thoughts were that air mattresses couldn’t possibly be eco-friendly because they’re made of plastic.
However, after much research and testing, it turns out that it's not as black and white as you might think.
They Say: Bringing the comfort of your home mattress to your nights under the stars, the HEST Sleep System sleeping pad offers deluxe comfort in a portable package that's ready for camp. Engineered for consistent performance at different ambient temperatures, mattress combines temperature-regulating airflow through upper foam with excellent ground insulation.
We Say: Mrs. M pointed me in the direction of REI Co-op when I was researching the eco-friendly swimwear article.
I remember thinking at the time that they’d potentially be great for this upcoming air mattress article…and indeed, they were!
This luxury air mattress, made by HEST, is incredibly comfortable. It genuinely is a super portable version of a traditional mattress.
It’s not cheap. However, it made it as my overall winner because although it's technically a camping air mattress, it would also work faultlessly as a temporary spare room bed for guests staying for the weekend.
I tested it on my cold hard office floor, and the insulation stopped the cold air from rising to the sleep surface.
The sleep surface is made from moisture-wicking stretch nylon twill to help keep you at the best sleeping temperature all night long.
It’s low to the ground, though, so those with mobility issues might struggle to get on and off.
If you need a bigger sleep surface, HEST also does a wide version, measuring 78” x 30” x 7” and costing $50 more.
A REI Co-op membership (costing $30) will save you up to 10% on this purchase, and all future REI Co-op purchases, for life.
Shipping costs $35, or you can pick it up in-store for free.
Another reason why this is my overall winner is the excellent manual pump. I found it inflated the mattress very quickly with minimal effort.
A manual pump is more eco-friendly than an electric pump, and it’s one less thing to go wrong.
To cap it all off perfectly, Hest are members of 1% For The Planet, so you know their eco-credentials are first rate.
They Say: King Koil Airbeds were designed with you in mind. Enhanced Coil Technology provides the support you and your guests need for a sound night's sleep. Air-filled coils and internal layering naturally support the body, keeping the spine aligned as you sleep. The state-of-the-art coils also excellently maintain the inflatable bed's shape and firmness over time.
We Say: If you’re not interested in camping and looking for a double-height air mattress with a built-in pump, then the SoundAsleep Dream Series Air is a perfect choice.
The internal pump inflates the mattress in two minutes.
The resulting sleep experience is incredibly comfortable thanks to the air coil beam support system and the slightly raised pillow end.
I also like that the sides are flocked in the same material as the top, giving this air mattress an extra feel of luxury over some of its competitors.
They Say: Industry-leading design exclusively using ComfortCoil Technology and a SureGrip bottom to ensure firmness and stability. No slipping and sliding! With 40 internal air coils for added durability and support, your bed will remain flat and firm so that you can stay SoundAsleep!
We Say: This is another excellent double height option that would give your guests a great night's sleep for as long as they want to stay. The sleep surface is soft to the touch, and you could sleep on it uncovered if you needed to.
It’s just as good as the King Koil mentioned above. It was only pipped into second place because of two minor points:
The powerful built-in ‘one-click’ pump fully inflates the mattress in four minutes. And, with another click, it will deflate the mattress for you in the same amount of time.
Once inflated, this air mattress is supportive (thanks to the dual chamber construction and internal air coils) and big enough to take two adults.
I tested the Queen size option, but the following sizes are also available:
The PVC used for this air mattress is multi-layer 15 gauge and puncture-resistant. This does not mean it won’t puncture, though, so it’s best always to keep sharp objects away from air mattresses.
They Say: The self-deploying frame automatically unfolds as it inflates, while 16 powder-coated steel legs provide a solid and secure base, allowing you to sleep with peace of mind. Crafted from heavy-duty PVC with a waterproof flocked top, our inflatable mattress will provide years of overnight comfort for you or your guests.
We Say: Thanks to the generous dimensions and frame support, this air mattress felt the closest to a standard bed out of all the options I tested. I slept like a baby on this framed air mattress!
It’s almost hypnotic watching this air mattress unfold, and the legs deploy in just three minutes and at the touch of a button.
I also love that it folds back down into a wheeled suitcase for easy storage and transportation.
They Say: Coleman helps people make fun memories by providing the lighting, stoves, coolers, tents, sleeping bags, and camping tools integral to their favorite outdoor experiences.
We Say: This Coleman framed air mattress combo is an excellent alternative to the Simpli Comfy if you’re looking for framed support but need more weight support. You get an extra 100lbs max weight with this option.
With everything being separate, it's not quite as convenient as the Simpli Comfy. But the battery-operated pump means you can use this bed in places with no power outlets (camping, for example).
A separate pump means it’s easier to lose it. However, it's also easier to replace if it breaks, unlike a built-in pump.
They Say: Sleep easy wherever you choose to camp on the queen-size REI Co-op Kingdom insulated air bed. Its internal insulation helps keep you comfortable in temperatures down to 40°F. Includes manual air pump with simple, 1-way inflation valve to keep air from leaking during setup; separate deflation valve lets you dump air quickly. Also includes a stuff sack for packing and storage.
We Say: Besides stocking excellent air mattress brands (such as HEST), REI Co-op also makes its own.
Their Kingdom Insulted Air Bed is designed for camping, and I’ve no doubt it would do a great job keeping you warm in a cold tent.
The soft-touch sleep surface is pretty luxurious for an air bed.
This air mattress is also comfortable enough to use as a temporary spare bed in your house. It’s not quite as comfortable or supportive as the HEST, but it is considerably cheaper.
A REI Co-op membership (costing $30) will save you up to 10% on this purchase, and all future REI Co-op purchases, for life.
Free shipping is available on this item.
They Say: Mattress materials pass the US California Proposition 65 tests for lead, cadmium, and phthalates, totally safe for family use, including children. 15 gauge puncture-resistant mattress materials brave the elements and accidents. The mattress is structured so that even if you sit on the edge or the side, it keeps firm.
We Say: If you don’t mind sleeping low to the ground, this is a great budget option.
For well under 100 bucks, you get an extra-thick (Etek states their design is up to 20% thicker than other air mattresses) durable air mattress, and a rechargeable electric pump.
The pump is slightly underpowered, and inflation is slow. It gets there in the end, though, and the inflation time is acceptable for the price.
This air mattress was comfortable to sleep on (thanks to the innovative wave beam support system) and would be fine for camping trips in warmer weather or when guests come to stay for the weekend.
I considered numerous factors when compiling the list of the best air mattresses in the U.S.
I discounted air mattresses that were difficult to inflate or deflate.
Self-inflating mattresses are super convenient as there is no separate pump to store and potentially lose. However, on the downside, if the built-in pump stops working, the air mattress is then often useless.
Durability is vital when looking at potential air mattresses. You’re buying a plastic-based product, so you don't want to be replacing it every few years.
Buying an air mattress that will last you decades (or even a lifetime) goes some way to offsetting the environmental impact of the plastic used in its construction.
If you’re using an air mattress for an extended period, it’s good housekeeping to deflate it every few days (and leave it deflated all day). This gives the PVC a chance to go back to its original shape. This helps durability.
I tried to prioritize air mattresses that were easier to dispose of sustainably when they reach the end of their usable life.
This ties in with durability to some degree. A longer warranty usually indicates a higher-quality and more durable product.
The three most common materials for air mattresses are:
I tried to include a range of options to suit all budgets without compromising too much of the other factors mentioned above.
However, price and quality are definitely linked in the world of mattresses. I would advise you to stretch your budget as far as you can. It will help boost the potential lifespan of your air mattress.
An expensive air mattress is still considerably cheaper than an eco-friendly mattress and bed frame combo.
After testing the air mattresses for myself, I then took a look at genuine customer reviews to see if their experience matched mine or if I’d missed something.
What you will use your air mattress for will significantly impact which one is right for you.
If you’re just looking for a spare room bed that will get used once or twice a year, then a cheaper, less supportive option might do.
But, if you’re thinking of replacing your main mattress with an air mattress, you should consider digging a bit deeper into your pockets and looking at the best air mattresses with more support and added features (such as soft fabric top layers and internal support beams).
There are three main air mattress pump types:
If you’re buying an air mattress for use away from home (sleepovers, camping, etc.), portability becomes an important consideration.
It might be wise to avoid air mattresses with built-in pumps in this instance.
When inflating an air mattress, the air is warm due to friction. Over time the air cools, causing it to contract.
This cooling/contraction will result in your air mattress deflating slightly. Inflate your air mattress slightly firmer than you like to take this into account.
Air mattresses can be a fantastic alternative for asthma and allergy sufferers.
The PVC material of most air mattresses is much easier to keep clean than traditional mattresses.
One excellent benefit of an adjustable air mattress is total control over the firmness.
Like a soft and hugging mattress? Let a bit of air out!
Need a firm mattress to help ease a bad back? Pump it up rock hard!
The advice here is simple. In the words of CPSC, “Air Mattresses Are Not For Infants”.
Please do not ignore this advice. It’s simply not worth the risk.
If you want your air mattress to last, you need to keep your pets away from it.
Even the world's best quality air mattress will be no match for sharp pet claws.
There are two main types of air beds:
Air mattresses need to keep the air inside, so they’re not the most breathable things in the world. Using breathable sheets and bedding will help cool your sleeping experience somewhat.
Considering that the primary material used to make many air mattresses is PVC, it’s hard to get away from the fact that some toxins may be present.
I’ve researched this hard and believe that the recommendations in this article offer low VOC levels. However, if VOCs are a big concern to you, you might want to consider more natural sleep options such as eco-friendly mattresses and organic mattress toppers.
Most air mattresses come with kits to fix air leaks. Simply inflate as usual and cover the air mattress with soapy water. This should help identify where the leak is.
Then apply the repair patch as per the instructions. Air mattress repair kits are also readily available on Amazon.
I didn’t test the Lazery Sleep Air Mattress, but it looks like it gets decent reviews. I’ll add it to the list of follow-up tests for when I update this article in the future.
Air mattresses have come a long way since my college days. You can now get some seriously comfortable air mattresses for everyday use, that are genuine contenders to replace your traditional bed.
This was never going to be the most eco-friendly of topics because of the level of PVC used to make these products.
However, the best air mattresses can still be a good eco-friendly option depending on your circumstances.
For example, if buying a traditional bed for your spare room, you’d potentially need a new bed frame, foundation, and mattress. That’s potentially a high cost, both financially and in terms of resources used.
The right air mattress could do a great job putting up your guests for a few days/weeks without the significant outlay of money and resources. It also has the bonus of folding away in a cupboard and freeing up floor space when not being used.
Where do you buy your air mattresses? Do you disagree that, in some cases, inflatable beds can be considered an eco-friendly option? Do you have a favorite temporary spare bed solution or air mattress for everyday use I've not covered? Drop me a line and let me know.