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Last updated on: February 7th, 2020
It’s the midseason for travel and welcoming guests, and many of us are likely to be in a situation to plan sleeping arrangements for an overnight stay.
If you have a mansion with 3 guest rooms, this article is probably not going to be of much relevance for you. It’s a cluster of tips for the rest of us who have to worry about our cousins and half a dozen of their kids.
It’s for those of us who have to work with what they have, use every inch of our limited space and turn 1000 square feet into a dorm for 10 people.
Limited space calls for smart decisions
With the limited space, portable beds are the only option we’ll have in the above scenario and one type of those stands out regarding versatility and convenience – airbeds.
If you know what to look for, it might even be fun and turn into a conversation piece for the following day at that garden barbecue. That’s especially true if you have kids over, they find the beds immensely amusing.
Just make sure they don’t use it a bouncy castle because they tend to do that, we’re talking from the first-hand experience.
So, let’s dive in and look at 5 crucial quality aspects you should look for.
1. Think about size
If it’s not just one guest, the first decision you’ll need to make is what size to go with. On paper, blow up beds come in all the same size as regular beds – Single, Twin, Full, Queen, King and California King air mattresses.
In reality, things are a bit different, and the sleeping surface is a peg smaller than a standard bed. The main reason for that is the material and potential air loss. The few inches will not make a substantial difference, but it’s important to know all the facts.
Before you go online and just get 3 of these, take a look around your house and plan where the beds would go, think about:
- How many people you’re welcoming
- Is one bed enough?
- Where will the bed go (measure the space to make sure it fits)
- Look at the nearby power outlets and the length of the cord (you can inflate an airbed and move it, but if you choose one that relies on power to work, like an airbed with a NeverFlat pump, you’ll want to measure the space and look if the length of the cord is going to be enough)
- Do you have plans to use the inflatable after your guests leave? (like camping or hiking trips)
2. Read reviews of the air mattresses
There’s probably no better source of information on choosing the best air mattress for you than reading the reviews of the air bed you have your eyes on, either from people who are already using it or from websites that are testing the air mattresses independently -like TheSleepStudies.com.
Look for a set of circumstances that are similar to yours, read the reviews of the inflatable beds shared by people who were in a similar situation to yours.
There’s no more helpful source of information to help you in making an informed decision.
3. Materials and durability
Most of the time, airbeds are made using PVC, and the standard of the industry is vinyl that’s just under half a millimeter thick.
If you are looking for a guest bed, 95% of the time, you’ll need either a Twin-size or a Queen-size blow-up mattress.
Both of these comfortably sleep two people and have a weight limit of about 600 lbs, and that will do the job in most cases. If your guests are on the heavier side, you’ll need something tougher – either made of thicker materials or reinforced in some other way.
Here’s what to look for:
- Thicker vinyl – there’s just a few of these models and most of them come from Fox airbeds. The materials used are thicker which makes them more resistant to punctures and makes the weight capacity higher (up to 700-800 lbs)
- Reinforced, layered vinyl – low-quality models use plain vinyl while some of the better brands (like the SoundAsleep Dream Series) use layered vinyl that less stretchy and makes for a more stable and flatter sleeping surface
Bottom line – if you need a good blow up bed that you’ll often be using, it’s smart to go with something more durable and puncture-proof.
4. Pumps and valves
The best blow up mattresses on the market come with a built-in, power-operated pump, but that’s not the only option, let’s take a look at a few others:
If you’re outdoorsy and there’s a chance that you might be using the inflatable bed on a campsite, think about getting one that’s powered by batteries. Most popular battery-operated models come from Coleman and are inflated/deflated using a standalone pump.
The batteries are usually good for 3-4 full inflations.
A bonus tip: It’s smart choosing a product that has an alternative valve for manual/leg inflation and has a manual pump in the trunk. Don’t rely on the battery pump because it can malfunction or simply not inflate the bed fully. Having a manual pump on hand can save the day.
As we mentioned, most modern inflatables come with a built in electric pump. This is the most convenient option since it’s just plug-and-play. You plug the cord into a standard power outlet, choose your desired firmness level (on the knob of the pump) and let the bed do its thing.
A bonus tip: If among the features listed you don’t see the words “auto shut-off”, it means that you’ll have to be nearby and turn off the pump manually once the bed is firm enough.
In some of the superior models, you’ll find a system that uses two pumps – the main one to inflate the bed and the secondary to maintain firmness. Different brands have different names for the system – Insta and Serta call in a “Never Flat” while SoundAsleep calls it “Smart Pump.”
These work by staying plugged in through the night and maintaining the firmness levels – they turn on for a few seconds if a bed starts losing air.
These models usually cost a bit more, but you’ll never experience the shame of your guests telling you they woke up midnight to a deflated mattress.
5. Go with a trusted, time-tested brand
In the past few years, the air bed market has seen quite the turmoil. With new companies and models hitting the market, it’s all become very confusing for the average consumer.
To cut through the clutter of information, follow these few rules of thumb:
- If shopping online, look for a product with 100+ reviews (there are shady companies out there that have systems in place to review their own products and push it up in the listings)
- Trust only verified ratings– as a response to the dodgy practices we mentioned above, most of the online retailers have introduced a system that only allows people who bought the air mattress to review it (this is usually listed just under the name of the person)
- Make sure you don’t fall victim to quality changes – as the market is ever-changing the companies try to adjust and cut cost. The first way they do it is by outsourcing, which is not bad in itself if it doesn’t result in quality changes. To make sure your inflatable is as good as it ever was, sort “by date” and look for the most recent experiences. If there are any issues, they will be reflected in the recent reviews.
That’s about it; you are now better equipped to make a smart decision that 99% of people will ever be.
Just be patient, follow the tips to the letter, and you’ll end up with a high-quality product without breaking the bank.