Using a Regular Air Mattress for Camping–A Good Idea?

Whether your on a budget or just looking for the added comfort of a traditional air mattress, how practical is it to use a regular air mattress for camping? Some things to consider when choosing your best camping mattress would be weight, comfort, and expected environments to name a few. This article aims to help in your choice whether to bring your regular air mattress or consider an alternative.

Yes. Your regular air mattress is definitely a good option for your next camping trip! With the added comfort and thermal separation from the ground a traditional air mattress will be a very comfortable option on your next camping experience.

Although a traditional air mattress will be a superb choice for your next camping trip keep in mind some of the limitations these mattresses have. Unpredictable ground conditions can make for a very disappointing camping experience if your mattress goes flat. Also if you’re expecting to camp away from any kind of easy access point the traditional air mattress may not be the best option for you.


A Traditional air mattress is by far the most comfortable option available to campers when you’re not looking to bring any kind of foam bedding. With the inflatable mattress you check off both concerns when considering comfort. These concerns being uneven ground and thermal separation.

Uneven ground is by far the biggest concern for all campers whether you’re in the deep back country or car camping in a park, no one gets a good sleep if all you can feel is small rocks or twigs under your mattress. With traditional air mattresses inflating anywheres from 4inches up to 12inches your back will thank you.

Thermal separation is a big concern too when looking for comfort. Unknown to beginners the ground draws your body heat out of you when in direct contact with it. Even if your in a well rated sleeping bag the ground will draw your body heat out of you making for a cold uncomfortable night. Using a traditional air mattress will give you that much needed ground separation and thermal buffer.

Weight and Size

Traditional air mattresses (though very comfortable) are inherently heavy and at times bulky. When considering whether or not to use one of these air mattresses keep in mind how far your camp site is going to be from your vehicle. Traditional air mattresses weigh in anywhere from 4lbs up to 8lbs for the larger offerings This can make it a deal breaker for anyone looking to backpack any length of distance with their camp literally on their back.

When looking at your air mattress be sure that it will properly fit into your tent!

When looking for a proper fitting air mattress be sure that the mattress does not contact the side walls of your tent. During the night condensation will build up on the walls of the tent and if your mattress is in direct contact with the side wall chances are condensation will run across your mattress and potentially get to your bedding.

Keep in mind when sizing your mattress and tent that many tents abruptly curve inwards from the floor. This can cause problems if you use the base footprint measurements of your tent to size your mattress. Though the size of the mattress and the footprint of the tent fit, once the mattress is inflated and bedding added contact with the side wall of your tent can easily happen.

To help mitigate this sizing issue try using a mattress with a lower inflated profile such as 4inches.

Potential issues? Alternatives.

Some potential issues when using a traditional air mattress for camping can be concerning and even trip ending if not properly addressed. A often overlooked issue is the environment that your looking to camp on.

For example, hikers in desert locations often find sand spurs in their camping areas. These small thorns will puncture any air mattress even if you are using a standard ground mat. For this reason many campers in this circumstance opt out of any air mattress and go with either a folding or rolled foam mat.

Now with added precautions a traditional air mattress will work in areas with potential puncture hazards however, don’t think small cactus thorns are your only enemy when using an air mattress. Small sharp stones or even dry pine needles can puncture an air mattress and cause it to loose pressure over time.

The use of a ground mat can significantly reduce the chances of puncturing your air mattress.

A lesser thought of issue with traditional air mattresses now a days is the added components in order to make them inflate at a reasonable time and effort. Air mattresses will usually come with either a manual pump or small electric pump in order to inflate them. Issues with this can range anywhere from lack of batteries to damaged pumps.

Remember, due to the increased volume of the traditional air mattress it isn’t always viable to manually (with your own breath) inflate them. In fact some models require the use of their specific fittings and pumps in order to inflate them.


When looking at potential options and alternatives for camping there are three general options available on the market for campers. One being the traditional air mattress of course, two being the folding or rolled foam option, and three being an inflatable foam hybrid.

Foam mattresses are a staple and have been around for several years. They are fast to setup and give decent thermal protection. Their durability is second to none although they often lack comfort when compared to the other offerings.

Inflatable hybrid mattresses will consist of either small versions of the traditional air mattress where you can inflate them with your own breath and for added thermal protection can have a foam membrane inside of the pad. These mattresses are good for their added thermal protection and increased comfort from the foam mattresses.

The chart below will break down the strengths and weaknesses of all three styles of camping mattresses. 1 being rated the best and 3 being less optimal.

Air MattressFoam MattressHybrid Mattress
Setup (requirements and time)312