I love to camp a lot. In fact, I have lived three months out of this year so far in a tent, that's how much I love the outdoors. What I don't love about living in a tent, however are the aches and pains that come from sleeping without a decent air mattress. Finding the right air mattress can mean the difference between waking up in the morning refreshed or being reminded painfully every day that I'm not as young as I'd like to think!
When shopping for an air mattress for camping, there are a few things I like to consider first before buying. First - and possibly the most obvious - is the size of the tent you will be using. If you are using a huge cabin tent or a large dome, you will have no problem fitting in a queen air mattress or one of the raided air mattress varieties that are available. You can even consider whether or not to add an air mattress frame to make your tent a home enviable by even the most stalwart of mobile home campers. If, on the other hand, a trail tent or a smaller tent is to be your shelter in the wilderness, you are limited by the footprint of your tent. You will need to choose a much smaller twin air mattress or even a self-inflating camping bed to fit the smaller size of your tent.
After trying a pool float once as an air mattress substitute, I have since stayed away from them. While they are a lot cheaper to buy, they don't tend to last very long for me. After a few days of use, they start loosing their air way before the night is over. Pool floats just aren't sturdy enough to stand up to the wear and tear of a camping excursion.
After deciding on the size of your air mattress, the next thing you want to look at is durability. If you camp fairly often as I do, finding an air mattress that you don't have to replace or repair every few months is ideal. Often you can find good user comments on sites like amazon that will let you know what other peoples' experiences are with the air mattress in question. For a starter air mattress for camping, Coleman makes a decent choice. For long term camping, however, I find that their air mattresses don't hold up and tend to start loosing air after about two weeks of continued use. For some serious comfort and long term use, I like a raised air mattress with a portable box frame. This combination has proven time and again to be the most comfortable and durable as the wooden box frame protects the air mattress from punctures from the ground or sides. The raised bed provides additional comfort and support for your back and neck as well.
These are just a few things to think about when deciding on which air mattress to choose. Don't forget when choosing the right mattress to consider the air pump as well. Many camping set ups include a battery powered air pump with the air mattress, but not all do. If you need to purchase an air pump separately, you will want to consider the power source as well as the air valve on the mattress itself. Often times manufacturers create proprietary sized air valves which can be annoying when searching for an air pump for a particular mattress. Its generally best to stick with purchasing the pump and mattress from the same manufacturer for this reason alone.