Air mattresses are notoriously cold in the winter. In this article, I’ll look at practical ways to keep your air mattress warm and share practical tips for having a good night’s sleep in the outdoors from my own experience.
Is an air mattress an okay choice for winter camping or will it be too cold for comfort? Let’s find out!
Insulate your air mattress with a foam mat underneath, and add blankets or a fitted sheet on top. Use an insulating layer like a foam pad between you and the mattress, wear warm clothing to bed, and choose a sleeping bag rated for colder temperatures.
By the way, as an Amazon Associate, I earn when buying qualified products through links on my site.
If your air mattress is something you can’t camp without, you’ll need to know how to set up your bed so that you can stay warm even if you’re camping in the winter. The key word here is layers, layers, and more layers.
Read on for my best tips for insulating your air mattress and staying warm overnight.
When Is Using An Air Mattress For Winter Camping Okay?
There’s no real temperature cutoff when it comes to using an air mattress. Some campers are perfectly happy using an air mattress in just about any weather, while others might find that once the temperatures dip down into the 40s or 30s, it’s just too cold for comfort.
Consequently, the question is less about what temperature is too cold for an air mattress and more about what temperature is too cold for you. Whatever weather you like to camp in, it’s important to be prepared.
In fact we asked hundreds of campers how cold too cold was for camping and we posted our results here. Our article on the subject is a great place to start learning about your own limits when it comes to camping in cold weather.
If you’re camping in colder weather, you’re going to need to be much more prepared than usual. This includes preparing yourself with warm clothing and hearty food, as well as preparing your air mattress by learning how to insulate it properly.
Use Layers To Insulate An Air Mattress For Cold-Weather Camping
Let’s say you’re planning to head out for a camping trip in weather that is cold – but not too cold for an air mattress. You’re probably going to want some tips on how to keep your air mattress bed as warm as possible. After all, nobody likes struggling to stay warm all night when they should be off in dreamland.
Use these tips, and you’ll be warm and cozy on your air mattress:
Insulate the bottom of the mattress
Step one is to make sure you’re blocking the air mattress from absorbing the cold from the ground itself. This is something you can easily do with a closed-cell foam mat. (You know those cheap blue foam pads you can find at Walmart? These will help a lot. Or, you can get one of these fancy ones from Amazon). *Note* If you don’t have anything to insulate you from the top of the air mattress than I would try insulating there first.
Insulate the rest of the mattress
Fitted sheets are a good start, but even a blanket draped over the entire mattress will help keep the air inside the air mattress from cooling down from any air movement within the tent
Insulate between yourself and the air mattress
This may be the most important area to insulate. Remember, the air mattress is full of air, and if it’s not insulated the air will be as cold as whatever is surrounding it. If you don’t trap the heat from your body into the air mattress than the air mattress will suck the body heat from you. If you insulate between yourself and the air mattress, then your blankets or sleeping bags will be able to trap heat.
Thin blankets don’t make great insulation. Closed-cell foam pads work great for this–a foam mattress topper will also do okay and significantly add comfort.
Finally, if you’re camping in cold weather you should be dressed warmly when you go to bed. I would wear thermal underwear as well as a sweatshirt and sweatpants with warm wool socks. Don’t forget a warm beanie (great for sleeping in). Blankets on top of you will work great as well as a sleeping bag. I just went on a trip where it got down to the lower 30s (Fahrenheit) and I can tell you exactly what I used to keep me warm if you’re interested in this article here.
Use a great sleeping bag
Look ahead to determine how cold it’s going to get at night where you’ll be camping. Then, make sure your sleeping bag is rated for at least that temperature. Ideally, it should be rated for about 20 degrees more than that if you want to be certain you’ll be warm enough. In other words, if you are camping in 25 degree weather, you should go for at least a +5 Fahrenheit degree bag
When it comes to insulating the space between your air mattress and the ground, you might be uncertain what kind of material will work best. I’ve mentioned that a tarp or blanket can work, but what other options are there? Learn about the answers in our article on the topic here.
Insulating Your Air Mattress Against the Cold
Here are a few key ways to insulate an air mattress and prevent heat loss when sleeping in cold weather:
- Use a therm-a-rest or closed cell foam sleeping pad underneath the air mattress. This creates an insulated layer between you and the cold ground.
- Pump up the air mattress fully to maximize its insulation value. Under-inflated mattresses conduct heat away more easily.
- Consider using a double height air mattress which provides more loft and insulation than a standard single size model.
- Place the inflated air mattress inside a sleeping bag to create an insulated cocoon around it with your body heat.
To ensure your air mattress is well-insulated against the cold, you need to layer insulation below it, use suitable coverings, wear appropriate clothing, and consider heated accessories. For more in-depth information and tips, click here.
What to put under your mattress
- Closed cell foam sleeping pad – provides insulation from the ground.
- Reflective space blanket – adds an extra layer of radiant barrier insulation.
- Polycryo groundsheet – waterproof barrier to keep the mattress dry.
- Multiple blankets or wool pad – add extra cushioning and insulation from the cold ground.
The materials you choose really matter here. The best are closed cell foam, wool, or something reflective.
How To Stay Warm On An Air Mattress
If you’re intent on bringing an air mattress no matter what the weather is like, you’re going to want to know how to stay warm on it. Although it can be more difficult than other kinds of bedding like sleeping pads and cots, it’s absolutely possible.
- Wear thermal base layers on top and bottom even when sleeping. Merino wool or fleece works well.
- Use a warm sleeping bag rated for low temperatures. Make sure it’s in good condition with no drafts.
- Add additional insulation under and over the sleeping bag like closed cell foam pads or a wool blanket.
- Wear a hat even indoors as up to 40% of body heat can be lost from an uncovered head.
- Ensure the space you’re camping in is well ventilated to avoid condensation but still retain heat.
The next time you’re planning a camping trip in colder weather, make sure to use the following tips to keep yourself warm and happy.
Bring A Heater
A heater can be a fantastic way to get your tent nice and cozy before bedtime. Just turn it on, let the tent heat up and you’ll be ready for a comfortable night’s sleep. There are also many battery-powered heaters out there that will allow you to avoid the risks of trying to use cords in potentially wet weather.
Note: make sure you have proper ventilation before using a heating device in your tent and also turn off the heater before falling asleep. There are just too many deadly risks from leaving your heater on in an enclosed space while you’re asleep.
There are also catalytic powered heaters that burn propane so you don’t need to have batteries or electrical outlets. These need to have a particular safety rating that I talk about in the article I’m going to link to in the next paragraph.
A heater might be a perfect option for camping in the cold, especially with an air mattress. However, it’s important to know what kind of heater is safest to use in a tent. In our article on the subject, you’ll learn what is safe, what isn’t, and how to use a heater for warming your tent effectively. Check it out here.
Bring Several Blankets
When you’re camping in the cold, you may need to forgo traveling lightly in order to make sure you’re safe and comfortable. On top of that, air mattresses can be a little bit harder to keep warm than other types of camping beds.
Because they are filled with air, you will need extra insulation both above and below you to make sure you can stay nice and toasty throughout the night. One easy way to help trap the cold is to bring any spare blankets you have. This is one situation where it’s better to overpack than under pack.
Handwarmers are highly portable, convenient, and effective for more areas than just your hands. If you pack enough of them, you can use them just about anywhere you might need a little extra warmth. Add them to your gloves, socks, pockets, and more!
One way some winter campers like to use hand warmers is to open a few in the evening, shake them up to get them working, and toss them into their sleeping bag. By the time they’re ready for bed, it’s already pre-warmed and so when you get into your sleeping bag you’ll feel snug.
Eating hearty, warm meals might be a little more difficult if you’re camping in cold weather, but it’s all the more worthwhile. Nutrients and calories help to keep your body warm.
If you’re spending time in weather that is cold, you may also want to think about increasing your calorie intake. After all, your body will be spending more calories than usual just trying to keep itself at a normal temperature. It’s going to need plenty of fuel.
We talk about some awesome sides you can use with hot dogs (a somewhat traditional camping meal) here.
Try A Mattress Pad Heater
Typically, air mattresses tend to be a bit colder to sleep on. This is mainly because they are filled with air, and we all know that sometimes air gets cold. Compared to options like sleeping pads, which can use closed-cell designs to avoid absorbing and distributing the cold, air mattresses are usually a more ideal option for warmer weather.
However, separating yourself from the mattress can be a great way to stay warm. You can simply lay some blankets underneath you, or you can turn up the comfort levels with a heated mattress pad. Just be careful that you avoid getting the cord or outlets wet.
Use An Electric Blanket
If you prefer to add more heat into your covers rather than underneath you, an electric blanket can be a good idea. They’re compact, very warm, and fully capable of keeping you comfortable while you’re sleeping in cold weather.
However, much like heated sleeping pads, these tools often need to be plugged in. If you’re camping somewhere without electrical hookups, that can be a problem. Additionally, you should be careful when using such a tool in wetter weather, as it may become a problem if the electrical outlet isn’t efficiently covered.
There are, however, battery-powered electric blankets, like this one on Amazon. You can charge it with a USB port that many people are putting in their cars on the drive to the campsite.
Cold Weather Camping Checklist
- Warm sleeping bag & layers
- Sleeping pad
- Warm cookware & food
- First aid kit
- Map & compass
- Emergency shelter & supplies
- Extra clothes & socks
- Water & water purification
- Toilet paper & trowel
Do Air Mattresses Keep You Warm By Themselves?
A normal air mattress does nothing to keep you warm. You have to provide insulation for your body in order to stay warm when sleeping on an air mattress in cold weather.
An air mattress is essentially a thick, rectangular-shaped balloon. The air in the mattress will eventually become the same temperature as the air around it, therefore you’ll be as cold as before. A sleeping bag or other insulated material captures and reflects back the heat from your body.
Unless an air mattress is insulated (which a normal air mattress is not), then you’ll need something else to provide insulation. Check out the rest of this article for ideas on how to insulate your air mattress.