Air Bed vs. Camping Bed vs. Self-Inflating Mat

A good night’s sleep is essential for a great outdoor camping experience. Everybody loves to wake up energetic without any stress or body aches on their camping trip. However, it’s hard for campers to decide what camp bedding option they need for a comfortable sleep outdoors.

Let’s have a look at the three main bed options available for your camping trip. Find out what bedding situation is best for your needs.

Air Beds

An ideal option to sleep on is an air bed that is more commonly known as an air mattress. Unlike foam or coil systems, the mattress uses air to hold it and support your weight. Air beds are a common choice among campers due to their comfort and inexpensive price range. The inflatable mattress requires an additional air pump to fill in the air. It packs down folded into small compact size after deflation that makes it very travel-friendly. Available in single, double, and king-size, the air beds eliminate the need of bringing several sleeping bags when you go camping with family or friends. Some air beds also come with a built-in pillow and blanket yet so easy to carry and transport when deflated.

The biggest drawback of air beds is that they are easily prone to puncture and tiny holes slowly deflate the mattress overnight even when you’re sleeping on it. Also, an air bed is little bouncy, and a person might experience a partner’s wiggle when using a twin air mattress. This happens because air pressure transforms over, and you feel movements. On the other hand, air pumped in can be customized to make it plush, firm, soft, or tight depending on your sleeping preference.


  • Budget-friendly; inexpensive to purchase
  • Available in different sizes
  • Inflated air can become adjustable to match sleeper’s comfort
  • Comfortable to sleep on
  • Conforms to body shape
  • Lightweight and packs compact


  • Prone to puncture
  • Tiny holes are hard to identify
  • No insulation
  • Air pump required

Our Top Air Bed Pick

Active Era Air Bed - Premium Single Size AirBed with a Built-in Electric Pump and Pillow
  • Built-in Electric Pump: Integrated easy-to-use electric pump fully inflates the...
  • Integrated Pillow: Ergonomically designed raised-pillow provides head and neck...
  • Full-Body Support: This blow up bed is fitted with 21 structured air-coils to...

Camping Beds

Camping beds feature fold-out design and often referred to as camping stretchers. Durable canvas or other fabric is tightly stretched across the aluminium frame to support body weight. It’s a bit easier to in and out of bed as the frame is raised almost 15-20 inches above the ground. Camp beds are strong and sturdy but not so comfortable to sleep on.

However, camp beds not only act as a sleep site, but campers can also use them for sitting as well as a table. Since a durable framework is involved in camping bed, they tend to be little bulky and heavy. They are less noisy and also offer underneath storage to keep bags or other camping gears. One great benefit of this camping style is that there’s no air pump required and won’t deflate over time. It folds up nice to easily carry in your vehicle to the campsite.


  • Rigid, durable frame
  • Underneath storage space
  • Versatile use
  • Easy and quick to set up


  • No padding or foam support
  • Heavy; suitable only for car camping

Our Top Camping Bed Pick

REDCAMP Folding Camping Beds for adults, 28" Extra Wide Heavy Duty Sturdy Camp Bed Portable, Stronge...
  • 【STURDY & HEAVY DUTY】Finished with updated and thicker elliptical shape...
  • 【LARGER SIZE】The folding cot for adults measures 75"x28"x15" when open, 1...
  • 【EASY to SET UP and CARRY】No assembly required. The sleeping cot for adults...

Self Inflating Mats

A self-inflating mat comes sealed airtight in a bag and features deflated foam. It works by opening the valve at the top or bottom, and the foam inside expands itself to original size when unrolled and exposed to the surrounding air. When foam sucks in air and expands fully, the valves are closed to retain firmness. The most exceptional ease is that these mats are self-inflating; there’s no need to bring an air pump along. Thanks to the evenly spread foam layer inside, the mat offers insulation and keeps you warmer for a more comfortable night’s sleep during chilly weather.

These foam-filled mats are larger, narrower, and feature a non-slip sleep surface. They come in a range of different thicknesses, but even the thinnest foam offers comfort and support, you need to get a good night’s sleep or rest. Self-inflating mats are light in weight and packs very small. This is why they are a popular choice among backpackers, campers, and for festivals.


  • No pumping involves; self-inflating
  • Warmer
  • Comfortable
  • Combine air and foam


  • Small holes cause the mattress to inflate even rolled in a bag.

Our Top Self Inflating Mat Pick

KingCamp Luxury Self-Inflating Camping Mattress 3D Foam Sleeping Pad Double(79.1"x50.3"x3.0")/Single...
  • 🌳【SUPER COMFORT】The 3D cutting process not only makes the mattress...
  • 🌳【EASY TO INFLATE AND DEFLATE】The thick sleeping pad mattress with 2...
  • 🌳【WARM AND ENVIRONMMENTAL】The sleeping pad is made of 30D stretch cloth...

Main Differences between the 3

Unlike air beds that require pump inflation, camp bed and self-inflating mats don’t need a pump for set up. Camp beds and mats are usually available in a single size while air beds come in various sizes for family camping mattress. Air bed and self-inflating mats are lightweight to carry even in a backpack but framed camp beds being bulky are most suitable for car camping.

Although raised off the ground surface, there’s no insulation offered by the camping and air beds. They are not as warm as the self-inflating mats. Self-inflating mats combine both air and foam for a warmer and comfortable sleep surface. The extra thermal insulation offered by self-inflating mats, they make an excellent option for camping during winter, spring, and autumn; great for 3 season campers.

Self-inflating mats being 2.5 t0 10cm thick and air beds are closest to ground while the camping beds are much higher off in the ground. This makes it much easier to get in and out of bed without any trouble.


 A reliable bedding option helps you rest better during nights under the stars. Air beds are an ideal choice for people who suffer from backaches, hip, neck, or other body pains. It not only conforms to your body shape, size, and weight, the mattress firmness can be adjusted in different air chamber zones as well. This offers adequate support and comfort to the sleeper’s body for optimal rest. If the bouncy effect of twin air bed worries you, there are air beds with dual-zone dial technology that has a separate system for both sleep partners to avoid sleep disturbances.

Camp beds work well for people who sleep on their backs and don’t spread out much as they are narrow. It doesn’t make you feel like you’re sleeping on the ground. For utmost comfort, use a self-inflating mat on a camp bed.

Sleep well!

Last update on 2022-03-03 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Previous ArticleNext Article