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It’s decision time, the humble air mattress or pad for camping, what do you choose? The sleeping pad vs airbed debate has been going on for decades and will continue to go on for as long as camping in nature is a thing.
If you have never experienced sleeping on a camping pad before, it can be a tricky question to answer. This is because both the air mattress and the sleeping pad have their positives and their negatives.
To find out which one would work best for your situation you need to understand the difference between the two and base your decision on the pros and cons of each. To add in an extra element of confusion, you can quite easily look at the benefits of using a pad vs a airbed vs a camping cot. But that’s for another day. Today we are just focusing on the sleeping pad and its varieties and the camping air mattress.
Quick Links To Info On This Page
- 1 Advantages To An Air Mattress When Camping
- 2 Disadvantages To An Air Mattress
- 3 Advantages & Disadvantages To Camping Pads
- 4 How To Choose A Pad Or Air Mattress For Camping
Advantages To An Air Mattress When Camping
If you’ve never been camping with an air mattress then you’re missing out on one of the best ways of improving your comfort while camping. There are a lot of advantages to using an air mattress when camping which you might not know and learning this is a good way to make your next trip more enjoyable.
But at the same time, air mattresses come with a number of disadvantages when comparing them to a sleeping pad. So understanding the pros and cons of both is essential to making an informed decision.
In my opinion, the biggest advantage of an air mattress when camping is the amount of comfort you get when sleeping. Compared to a sleeping pad with a sleeping bag or camping cot, an air mattress is a lot more comfortable with it being the closest you can get to sleep on your bed at home.
A big part of this is thanks to how you’re able to adjust the firmness in an air mattress. If you want it to be softer, you can by releasing a bit of air than fill it up to increase the firmness if that’s your preference. This level of versatility is great if you struggle with getting the right amount of firmness.
Using a suitable air mattress can help a little bit with back-pain thanks to the adjustable firmness. While it won’t solve all your back problems it certainly can help relieve back tension for a lot of people. If you avoid camping, for this reason, an air mattress can help with this.
Airbeds Offer More Versatility
One thing that is often overlooked with an air mattress is that they are very versatile. You can use them while camping, if you have friends stay over and you need to provide a comfortable temporary bed for them or even as an everyday airbed solution.
Suitable For All Shapes & Sizes
Air Mattresses come in a variety of sizes so they can work for everybody from the tall people to the heavy person needing a high weight capacity air mattress. If you need something for you and your partner there is a size to suit you, if you need to add some kids into the mix there is a size for you, if you’re by yourself there is one for you.
Disadvantages To An Air Mattress
There is no such thing as the perfect product and this is true for air mattresses also. While they have a lot of great pros, they do have some cons that can be an issue for some people. Working out what these are can help in finding out if an air mattress is right for you.
Maintenance Can Be An Issue
The maintenance isn’t really towards the air mattress itself, but for the air pump, you will use it to inflate the mattress. They have a habit of breaking down when you really need them which means you will be replacing them more often which will cost you more money over time.
Something that I’ve noticed over the years is that in a lot of cases the warranty on an air mattress seems to be quite short. This can lead to you being left up a creek without bed and needing to spend your hard-earned on a new air mattress.
Air Mattresses Leak Air
The most common complaint about using air mattresses is that they leak air. While there are some close to leak-proof air mattresses, in reality, they all leak air. There are no two ways around it. So you need to ensure you buy a high-quality airbed in order to prevent as much air loss as possible.
Setting Up Can Be Noisy
I don’t think anyone could argue that an air pump is a quiet machine when it’s on. This can be a problem if you get to a campsite late and need to set your bed up, or if your youngster has fallen asleep before the bed is up and the pump wakes him up.
Depending on the size of the mattress and pump, it can take a while to set up an air mattress. I’m a fan of getting the job done when camping, so I can get to relaxing and enjoying my trip more. Having to wait for an hour for my air mattress to fill up can be frustrating but not a dealbreaker.
Advantages & Disadvantages To Camping Pads
Sleeping pads come in 3 varieties, foam, self-inflating and air pads. Each with their own pros and cons. Each type of sleeping pad is unique and will often serve a number of purposes.
Pro’s For Foam Pads
There is a surprising number of advantages to using a foam camping pad that a lot of people don’t actually realize. Camping can be expensive when you add the cost of everything together. This is why foam pads are so popular as they’re often cheaper than air mattresses.
Some people mistake this cheapness as being bad, but that’s not always the case. When you buy a foam sleeping pad you’re getting something that is extremely durable which should last you a long time. Unlike inflatable mattresses that are susceptible to puncture, foam pads free you from this worry and this is certainly one of their biggest advantages.
Setting Up Is Quick & Easy
For me, camping is much more about enjoying my time relaxing and not about spending hours setting up a campsite. A foam pad is much easier and quicker to set up which will save you a lot of time over your trip. So you can spend more time doing the things you enjoy.
Cons To Camping With A Foam Pad
It’s not all positives for foam camping pads as they do have some drawbacks that can be an issue for some people and their needs. Sadly one of the biggest drawbacks is that they’re generally more uncomfortable compared to inflatables. This is because they lack the thickness and support that their inflatable counterparts do.
When it comes to camping the difference between something that is 8 ounces and something that is 10 ounces can be a big difference. Foam pads are often heavier which can be a downside for those who are trying to keep the weight down such as backpack campers who need the weight kept to a minimum.
This trend continues when it comes to the size of a foam camping pad. They’re often much larger and take up a lot more room which can be an issue since space is at a premium when camping. Combining the weight and bulk of a foam pad does rule them out for backpackers more often than not.
Advantages To Self Inflating Camping Pads
As the name implies a self-inflating camping pad’s biggest advantage is the fact that it can self inflate. This is a great time saver as you can set it up to start inflating and you just need to keep an eye on it. This self-inflating technology means you never need to take a pump with you whether you’re camping or backpacking. This makes them a popular choice for many times of adventure seekers.
These types of camping pads offer a lot of the advantages of a normal inflatable camping pad. They’re much more comfortable compared to foam camping pads and offer you more support when sleeping. Since they’re thicker compared to foam you’re able to sleep on your side much easier.
One of the biggest drawbacks of a normal inflatable camping pad is that they aren’t as durable. Self-inflating camping pads are thicker compared to the standard inflatable pads which gives them a much higher strength level. This combination of features makes it difficult to go back to foam once you’ve used one of these.
Disadvantages To Self Inflating
Some of the disadvantages of a self-inflating sleeping pad can be a dealbreaker for some people when they want something comfortable for when they camp. One of the biggest issues is that self-inflating pads are more expensive to purchase which can be an issue if you’re trying to keep the cost down on your camping trip.
In my opinion, the biggest issue of a self-inflating sleeping pad is the weight and size of them. They’re often larger and weigh more which can be a bit of a problem when you don’t have a lot of room to work with.
While a self-inflating camping pad is more durable than your standard inflatable camping pad they can still get a puncture. This will always be a drawback of anything that’s inflatable sadly. It’s made worse that sometimes the puncture can’t be fixed with a repair kit which means buying something to replace it costing you more money.
Benefits Of An Air Pad
A lot of people don’t know that there is a difference between an inflatable pad and an air pad which is why air pads are often overlooked when people are camping. Air pads are for people who want something that’s more comfortable than a foam pad but not as expensive as an inflatable pad.
Air pads are a little thinner than an inflatable which helps with keeping the weight and size down. I’ve already mentioned why this is an advantage before and all that still applies to these excellent pad options.
There are a number of little advantages to going with an air pad that really does make them worth your time. They’re quick to set up and are far less likely to deflate compared to an inflatable pad. Versatility is another good advantage that you can get with an air pad since you’re able to use it in a variety of situations.
Drawbacks To An Air Pad
You will find that air pads have some similarities in their disadvantages to both foam and inflatable pads. Just like an inflatable pad, an air pad can also still be punctured which is always going to be the case with things that are filled with air and are made out of PVC.
While they certainly are more comfortable than a foam pad, they do lack the comfort levels of an inflatable pad. This can be a dealbreaker for a lot of people who are looking for maximum comfort when they’re on a camping trip.
Something that you might not expect considering how easy air pads are to set up is that they can be really difficult to deflate. This can be frustrating when you’re trying to pack up at the end of your trip and you’re just trying to get home. While this might not be every air pad on the market it does seem to be a common issue for a lot of them.
How To Choose A Pad Or Air Mattress For Camping
With there being so many different sleeping pads and air mattresses on the market, trying to find the right one for your needs can be an overwhelming task. This often leads to people making a desperate purchase only to end up with something that doesn’t work for them which ends up costing them more in the long run.
Best Time To Use A Pad
When and what type of camping you’re doing can greatly affect what type of pad you will need when camping. Such is if you go car camping then you will want something that is warm and thick which does rule foam pads out in my opinion.
If you’re camping in the winter months then you will want something that is thicker to help protect you from the cold. A self -inflating pad is best in this situation and something you should consider beforehand.
Foam and air pads are a great option for when you’re camping in the warmer months when you don’t need as much protection from the cold.
Best Time To Use A Air Mattress
Air mattresses aren’t as limited in when you can use them compared to there camping pad counterparts. Since they’re been designed with comfort in mind which is there biggest selling point in my opinion. It comes down to how much you’re able to spend since it’s better to go with something that will cost more but last longer.
Something that air mattresses do a lot better is they excel at being great for family trips since they’re so large. So you won’t need to buy 4 or 5 camping pads which can help with saving money in the long run.
If you go winter camping and you want to use an air mattress for cold weather, they can have a decent level of insolation from the cold. It would be made better if you did go with a foam pad underneath it to help increase the protection from the cold ground.