Tuesday, July 19, 2016

How to choose the best air mattress

Buying the best air mattress for camping or home use might’ve been a walk in the park some years ago, while they were still a “novelty”.
Today, though, we have a market saturated with mind-boggling amount of different models to pick from.
It’s a real jungle if you don’t know exactly what you’re doing, so let’s try and make some sense out of that mess.
Shall we?

How far can we go with the price for a blow up mattress?

The first step is a biggy - let’s talk budget.
We all want as “painless” shopping as possible, right?  
Although the “bang for the buck” rule applies here, there are some corners to be cut as well. We won’t let ourselves be seduced by clever marketing strategies, rigged reviews and shiny features that prove only prove the 80-20 principle. So, let us dive right in and look at some of the basic ins and outs of choosing, interpreting the existing reviews of the air beds and choosing the best air mattress for your need.
If we want to save some cash, let’s look beyond the (for the most part) unnecessary additions that jack up the price, and focus on the basics.
Is NeverFlat pump a necessity?
I don’t think so…
Do we really need those gimmicky cup holders and/or cheap “free” pillows?
Do we absolutely have to have a suede layer on the sides?
Absolutely not!
You see where I’m going with this, right?
If finances are a concern, there’s a very simple rule of thumb we need to follow.
We’ll separate “must-haves” from “nice-to-haves”.
We’ll talk both categories, of course, but this is just a simple money-saving rule to start us off on the right path.

Best air mattress must-haves (with a side dish of some extra features)

We’ve split a good air bed performance factors into several categories:
  • Comfort
  • Durability
  • Air retention
  • Pump


Beds should be comfortable; it’s as simple as that.
So, let’s see all the cogs and tiny bits under the hood of a comfortable inflatable.
The overall comfort mostly depends on the innerworks of the model.
We can choose between:
  • Air chambers
  • Air beams
Air chambers are small air-storing pockets for air storage. Needless to say, we prefer chambered designs.
Here’s why:
  • They give a much better support than air beams, especially if there’s 30+ of them. The more air chambers, the better
  • They are all individual units, so we still have a mattress if one (or 3, or 4) pop a leak
  • They maintain a flat sleeping surface even after prolonged use. This means your bed won’t develop bulges or holes…
Flocked top, yes or no?
Flocked top feels much nicer to the touch than plain rubber, and it will keep your sheets riveted.
On the other hand, it’s just a pain to clean. Plush surface seems almost dust-magnetic, so you can expect it to get dirty quite often. Once you start cleaning it with a wet cloth, you just seem to group the dust into big clusters, so you’ll really have to give it a proper go.
So, it’s up to you.
Most people didn’t share positive experiences in their air bed reviews.
The main problem is the fact that you’re used to a certain height when it comes to pillows.
Ergo, if your pillowtop is too high, there’s nothing you can do about it except putting your head on the “leg side” of the bed.
If it’s too low, however, you can try to add an extra pillow, but that’s quite a tricky setup if you ask us.


Materials are the breaking point here.
Let’s talk PVC
Polyvinyl chloride is the most commonly used material when it comes to air mattresses.
Besides being cheap, there are some other factors that made it so:  
  • It’s waterproof, which is especially useful if you have a home patient
  • It’s very easy to clean. Washcloth and water should be more than enough
  • A bit of chemistry magic made PVC into a full-proof fire-retardant material
On the other hand:
  • PVC is much too hard to sleep on in its “natural” state. This calls for addition of substances called “plasticizers” to soften it up. This is where the whole phthalate controversy stems from. Phthalates were very dangerous, but they’re not used anymore (at least not by reputable manufacturers). Their molecules didn’t get bound to the surface, so they could fly off at any given moment and end up in our lungs. As I said, they’re not used anymore
Some other options:
  • Rubber
  • Textile-enhanced urethane
  • TPU – This is the one we need to say a couple of words about. Thermoplastic urethane is considerably lighter than PVC. It’s a very strong material, elastic and resistant to abrasion. This is by far the best choice when durability pops to mind, albeit, a bit heavier on the pocket

Pump and air retention

The ability to hold air is something we can’t do without when it comes to air beds.
Best air bed is the one that doesn’t leak air, period.
We’re not talking piercing and puncturing accidents here. First, we’re expecting the inflatable mattress to hold its air “in a vacuum”, without any outside influence. Second, we need it to do the same with one or two people sleeping on it (even if they’re what we like to call “restless sleepers”).
The key feature here are the seams and connections. They have to be glued perfectly to a fault and if they are, they can provide as good a sleeping surface as any mattress.
We also need a reliable valve that won’t let any air outside, and that’s glued to the material perfectly.
So, take a look at the mattress and the quality of the seams.
Are they glued properly?
Is there any glue sticking out?
Are there any visible “soft spots?  
The pumps come in all shapes and forms, but we don’t need to go overboard here. We want a good integrated pump that can both inflate and deflate the air bed. That’s it.
If you have some money to spare, a NeverFlat pump is a great idea. We don’t really need it, but it’s definitely convenient.
It monitors the air level within the mattress and activates automatically to bring it back to your desired setting. It’s so silent you can’t even hear it activate.  

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