Not All Camp Pads and Mattresses are Created Equally: Air Mattresses


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O. K. , I have to admit it. Last year I caved in and started sleeping on an air mattress while camping. I guess that is what old age does to a body. I always felt like I would be cheating if I slept on one but now I will never go back. No more rocks or roots sticking in my back. No more getting wet when it pours. Don’t let anyone tell you that an air mattress is for wimps. An air mattress simply makes your camping experience a pleasure.

There are several types of air mattress construction out there. What type of mattress is for you depends on your likes and dislikes. In this article, I will discuss two different types of air mattresses – Tube Constructed and Coil Constructed.

Tube Style Mattresses

The tube style air mattress is constructed of tubes running the entire length of the bed. Some people say these are not mattresses at all but more of a pad. This type of mattress reminds me of the loungers people use in pools. They are thinner than a coil style mattress but thicker than a camp pad. The average height of the tube style is four to five inches. Depending on the size you want will depend on the number of tubes. For example, a 5 tube air mattress will be approximately 74" x 20" and a 9 tube air mattresses will be approximately 75" x 55".

A factor that may be important to some people is stability. These mattresses are not very stable unless you have it filled with as much air as possible. The larger tubes allow more air to be displaced. I remember our first experience with a tube style mattress. We did not want the mattress firm so we did not fill it completely. My husband’s weight shifted the air over to my side of the bed. He ended up with very little air under him and I kept sliding over to his side. Therefore, in order to make the mattress stable enough for the two of us, we needed to completely fill it. This did not allow us much flexibility when determining the firmness of the bed.

If you are looking for an inexpensive mattress where weight and stability are not a factor, this style would be great for you.

Coil Style Air Mattress

The coil style air mattress is constructed of individual coils. When I talk about coils in these air mattresses, I do not mean the traditional metal spring coil. The coils are simply made of air. Again, the number of coils usually depends on the size of the mattress. These mattresses are thicker than the tube style. I have seen coil mattresses range from 12 inches up to 25 inches.

The coil style mattress is the one you will pick if you are looking for great stability and flexibility. With the coil construction, you have better control of the firmness of the bed. If the bed is not filled completely, there is less chance of air displacement. What this means is that if you are sharing your bed with another person, the bed will not be uneven.

I am beginning to see many new styles of these mattresses coming out. There are air mattresses with memory foam, pillow top, double high and even air mattresses on top of cots. The days of waking up feeling like you got hit by a train are gone. Don’t think that just because you are camping you can not enjoy a luxury sleeping experience. Go ahead and get yourself a nice air mattress. I guarantee camping will never be the same.

Pat Hogle is the owner of ACE Camp Gear: Ace Camp Gear is an online store with great camping equipment. Pat has been camping for 25 years and spends much time in the Adirondacks of New York.


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