People with sensitive backs always pay particular care when choosing a mattress – and rightly so. Over the past year, we noticed a trend of inflatable furniture coming back into the home design arena, both for indoor use (air mattresses) and gardens (inflatable furniture like chairs and sofas).
So we kept an eye on the trends and did our research during the year, planning to publish this guide towards the end of 2017.
Why are we calling it a comeback?
It is a comeback because air mattresses and inflatable sofas did have a brief spur of glory about two decades ago.
Back in those days, it was a passing trend that didn’t turn out too well. It only lasted for a year or two.
Products that were popular towards the end of the century have very little in common with the airbeds we’re seeing today.
It was an uphill battle for the airbed industry
The reasons behind the fleeting trend were, above all, quality problems.
Looking at it from this point in time, it doesn’t come as a surprise because the “old-school” inflatables were primarily advertised to teenagers as fun pieces of colorful furniture. The quality was secondary.
To put it simply – they resembled lilos (cheap pieces of plastic that you’d take to the beach).
The market remembers and, even though the air mattress of today is nothing like that, gaining the trust of the customer back was certainly an uphill battle.
Airbeds and inflatables as we know them today
Following the 90s, there was a steady shift in quality. Airbed companies were now targeting a more serious part of the market – those looking for a temporary bed for their homes or furniture sets for their gardens.
With each passing year, the products were getting better, from the materials used, quality of the craftsmanship to the safety standards set by the ASTM International.
The result is the airbed as we know it today, much more reliable and less prone to air leaks and similar issues. Not only did it find its way back into people’s homes as a temporary bed, but some of the best air mattresses are even used on long-term basis.
The timeline & reasons behind the comeback
In the gap of two decades, companies like Aerobed & Coleman did make solid products, but it wasn’t until a few years ago that we’ve seen a full-on comeback.
What pushed the products back into the mainstream was a sudden increase in competition, with many new arrivals giving the bigger companies a run for their money.
The era of e-commerce and online shopping just speed up the process because it made it increasingly hard to hide any product flaws. Today, any potential buyer can go online and read air mattress reviews before they “pull the trigger” and get one.
On top of that, you now have independent websites that test and review the inflatables (like thesleepstudies.com). With most of them, it’s some of these new arrivals that have been labeled as the best air mattress.
In this environment, the smaller and younger brands thrived because it was suddenly less about the brand and more about what owners are saying about the airbeds in their reviews.
Three tips on choosing the best air mattress
As we promised, we’ll offer a few tips here on how to choose the best inflatable bed for your money.
Read the reviews
We mentioned that it’s the user’s opinion that formed the competitive market. It’s also the best tool you have when choosing right, especially if you want to shorten the research process.
One thing to look out for
If you go to a retailer website, don’t simply sort the products and go with the highest-rated, dig a bit deeper.
The e-commerce era did make the market as competitive as it ever was, but it also created ways to game the system.
For example, pretty much anybody can drop-ship a product from China and then artificially inflate the ratings by hiring people to review their air bed.
To the untrained eye, it might seem that these new products are the best blow-up mattresses out there. In reality, the high ratings you see are not organic.
How to avoid it
To avoid this kind of tomfoolery, look for products that have been on the market for at least a year and have at least a few hundred reviews.
Look at the warranty terms
If you don’t want to spend time learning about the ins and outs of choosing a high-quality blow-up mattress or worry about whether you’re interpreting the reviews right, you can always go straight to the warranty terms.
A company can make all sorts of claims about their products being the best, but backing up those claims with a solid warranty is a whole different story.
Ideally, look for an air bed that offers a 90-day return and 1-year warranty on all defects.
Unless the product is the real deal, it won’t make much financial sense for the company to offer this kind of terms.
Look for a smart pump
One of the technological advancements that was a game-changer is the smart pump.
These pumps are designed to address the primary concern any buyer has when getting an air mattress – leaks and airloss.
Instead of just inflating and deflating the bed, these pumps have the capacity to maintain the firmness by adding air if the bed starts deflating.
How to recognize the models
Since various brands have different names for these pumps, it might get confusing.
For example, Insta and Serta will call it a Never Flat pump while SoundAsleep (one of the younger companies we mentioned) will use simpler wording and will refer to the pump as “smart.”
Whatever the case, the chances of confusing these models with anything else are low because the manufacturer will brag about it in the specs every time.
Recommendation we promised
We did make a promise in the very title of this article to mention one specific recommendation, so let us do it here.
We’ve been following the developments in the market over the past year and, primarily based on user reviews, one brand stands out – SoundAsleep.
It’s one of the younger companies that stirred the waters. Their staple product is the Dream Series and an upgraded version (with a smart pump) named Cloud 9.
The two airbeds are praised both in the reviews of owners and by third-party websites testing the products.
We like what’s happening
There’s nothing better for the potential buyers spending hard earned money than healthy competition.
That’s what we’ve seen while researching for this article.
New companies, new products and advancements in both technology and materials… we’re eager to see how it all plays out in the next few years.