The best air beds for camping

The best camping air beds for portability, comfort and value.

Man blowing up airbed on mountain

by William Austin-Lobley |
Updated on

There is a lot to love about camping - the fresh air of the great outdoors, the sense of adventure, the sound of rain on canvas. But all of this loveliness can quickly fall from view when trying to grab some rest on sub-par bedding. Thankfully, we’ve got the ultimate solution: the best air beds.

Our selection has a few different air bed types available, each meeting a need. We’ve picked some lightweight and highly portable options that are ideal for cross-country treks and long-distance hikers. Anyone setting up a base camp who doesn’t need to worry about packing up every morning will be happy to see our selection of thicker (and more comfortable) air beds. We've even got a budget option for the camping newcomer, who might not be ready to drop a lot of money on an elite-level setup.

Related: Best three-person tents | Best six-person tents

Don't forget that a good bed is only half the battle - read up on the best sleeping bags here.

The best airbeds for camping

Robens Vapour 60 Airbed
Price: $113.99

While the Robens Vapour 60 is, technically, an air bed, it behaves more like a unique roll mat that's ideal for lightweight trekkers and hikers. It has a thin, multi-chamber design that keeps the mattress flexible, moulding to the terrain while simultaneously keeping the sleeper in a stable and supported position throughout the night. Though self-inflating, you can add or remove air to refine the firmness. The result? A lightweight sleeping bed, offering a very comfortable sleep. As the R-Value, indicates, this is best for the warm late spring and throughout summer. The lightweight design and small deflated size mean it takes up very little space in a pack.

Pros Cons
• Comfortable • For dedicated campers
• Packable and lightweight • Season limiting R-Value
• Easy to set up
Weight: 425g
Size: 190 x 55 x 6cm
Size packed (circular): 27 x 8cm
R-Value: 1.6

Therm-a-Rest ProLite Plus
Price: $101.32
Alternative retailers
Outdoor Gear Exchange$114.95View offer
Backcountry$114.95View offer

The Therm-a-Rest ProLite Plus is a trustworthy three-season airbed-mat hybrid that promises the user a great sleep. The mat uses both air and diagonal cut foam to provide a thick foundation for rest. It's self-inflating and the foam is made of an expanding core u2013 after a few moments with an open valve, it's good to go. If you'd like a firmer bed, you can add a few breaths via the valve. Deflating and rolling up the ProLite Plus is a simple task, though strong hands are needed to minimise its packed size. While the foam does add a little bulk to the stuff sack, the extra warmth and comfort it brings are worth the extra weight when encountering cold ground.

Pros Cons
• Comfortable and warm • Strong grip needed for minimal pack size
• Packable • Foam adds weight
• Easy to set up
Weight: 425g
Size: 190 x 55 x 6cm
Size packed (circular): 27.9 x 14.8cm
R-Value: 1.6

If comfort and value are on your wish list, then consider this option from Coleman. Inflatable via the Double-Lock valve, this air mattress has 24 internal coils to offer support while in use, and the PVC material is good at resisting punctures. It's nice and thin, too, measuring in at just 65cm wide u2013 this is preferable, especially when camping, as standard air mattresses are cumbersome and waste considerable space. While air mattresses are fine for basecamps, their size and weight do mean they are off-limits for hikers, trekkers and backpackers.

Pros Cons
• Affordable • Heavy
• Narrow • Too bulky for backpackers
• Comfortable • Time-consuming to inflate without an electric pump
Weight: 1.35kg
Size: 189 x 65 x 17 cm

Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Topo Luxe Camping Mat
Price: £144.50 (was £170)

The NeoAir Topo Luxe from Therm-a-Rest takes all that is good and reliable about its range of lightweight inflatable camping mats and throws a little thickness into the mix. At 10cm deep, the bed has a nice distance from the cold ground, with internal Triangular Core Matrix construction maximising heat retention. While good for warmth, the extra thickness also adds up to a more comfortable and better supported night of rest. It comes with an ultra-lightweight inflation sack, which makes filling it up a short and easy task.

Pros Cons
• Thick • Expensive
• Warm • Not as efficient as a foam mattress
Weight: 650g
Size: 183 x 51 x 10 cm
R-Value: 3.7

Vango Shangri-La II 15 Grande
Price: £179.99 (was £210)

If comfort is your top priority, then the Vango Shangri-La II 15 Grande is for you. Having been updated for 2021, the Shangri-La II 15 Grande is the pinnacle of camping bedding. Itu2019s a SIM (Self-inflating Mattress), so itu2019s easy to put up, while rigid air-filled internal helps to keep the top vertical for a balanced night of sleep. The topper is yarn-knitted for deluxe comfort. Though itu2019s not the best for trekking, it still packs up relatively small and is easy to carry. Note that Vango does not use R-Value ratings, but its own, known as Sleep Mat Warmth Value. The Shangri-La II 15 Grande is one of the brand's highest-rated products at 22.

Pros Cons
• Self-inflating • Expensive
• Excellent comfort • Heavy
• Warm
Weight: 4.35kg
Size: 15 x 200 x 76 cm
Warmth Value: 22

Looking for something else? Read our guide to the best camping beds here.

R-Value explained

What is R-Value? R-Value is a measurement that benchmarks an item’s ability to insulate the user from ground temperatures. It’s a scale typically adopted by high-quality and reputable manufactures with the intended consumers being those heading out on serious hikes and treks.

As Outdoor Gear Exchange has noted, the R-Value isn’t used by all manufacturers. Some instead choosing to reference a temperature range directly or use an independent scale. None of the measurements are independently verified. However, you can be comfortable using the scale and guide as a reference when purchasing from reputable companies.

The R-Value scale

The R-value scale runs from 0 to 6. The higher the number, the better the insulation. It’s an inexact science and it can get a little tricky to line up R-Values with specific temperatures. However, this chart from Therm-a-Rest's blog serves as a decent quick reference guide:

R Value Scale

Using this scale to compare some of our recommended models above, we can see the following. The Robens Vapour 60 Airbed has an R-Value of 1.6, so this mat is ideal for summer use. The Therm-a-Rest ProLite Plus has an R-Value of 3.6, meaning that it’s a fully-fledged three-season mat, capable of insulting through from the beginning of spring to the end of autumn.

There are some mats capable of withstanding extremely cold situations. For example, Therm-a-Rest’s Neoair Xtherm is at a rate of 7.2, exceeding the scale itself, and is, therefore, able to withstand -40 temperatures – both great products, but offer more than the standard UK hiker requires.

How can I make a camp bed more comfortable?

If you’re expecting your camp bed to be as luxurious as your bed at home, then you’re probably going to be disappointed. Camp beds are designed with primarily practical features in mind, like elevation, insulation and portability. That said, there are still ways you can make your outdoor experience more comfortable.

The best way to ensure you’re comfortable on your camp bed is by buying the right size for you. Double-check the measurements of the camp bed before you hit that shop button.

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William Lobley is a Senior Content Writer and reviewer for WhatsTheBest, specialising in technology and outdoors. He also writes for Empire Online.

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