The 9 Best Car Air Beds
A Brief History Of Air Beds
Their initial 1889 offering was made of rubber and intended to replace the hair and hay-filled beds in use by crews on steamships making trans-Atlantic voyages.
Though they've certainly experienced a boom of popularity over the past few decades, air-filled mattresses have actually been in use for centuries. Technically, the air bed predates the spring mattress, typically considered the grandfather of modern sleeping platforms, by at least 200 years.
The earliest known examples are designs for air-filled cushions made by the German inventor and engineer Konrad Kyeser circa 1405. In the following century, a Frenchman named William Dejardin conceived of the "wind bed" – an air-filled pocket of waxed canvas. An upholsterer by trade, he unfortunately struggled with sealing it off, and so his invention never caught on.
A few centuries later in 1850, a woman by the name of Margaret Frink made the trek to California in hopes of cashing in on the gold rush. In her journal, which was later published in an anthology of writing by women who went West, Frink wrote of an "India-rubber mattress that could be filled with either air or water" that she brought along for the journey. She described the bed as not only comfortable but efficient, because it could be emptied each morning to make more room in the wagon.
Frink's account makes it clear that such beds were not uncommon amongst westward travelers at the time. The first patent for a mattress using air for support was filed just a few years later, in 1853 by John Scott. It combined the padding of a fabric mattress with the firmness provided by a bubble of air trapped within its core, much like the Sleep Number beds of today.
Towards the end of the 19th century, the first true commercial air mattress was developed by the Reading, Massachusetts-based Pneumatic Mattress & Cushion Company. Their initial 1889 offering was made of rubber and intended to replace the hair and hay-filled beds in use by crews on steamships making trans-Atlantic voyages. They worked well on ships for some the same reasons they did in conestoga wagons – they were lightweight and collapsible – but they could also double as floatation devices in the event of an emergency at sea. The company also developed inflatable rubber collars – a sort of proto-life vest intended for keeping amateur swimmers afloat.
It didn't take long before the rubber beds caught on on dry land, and by the early 20th century they were in high demand among city-dwellers with limited space. Like many mattress retailers today, Pneumatic offered a 30-day trial for their beds, which retailed for $22. If you weren't satisfied, you could simply return it for a full refund. The same was true of their child-sized version, which cost half as much and was intended for use in cribs.
Thanks to its durability and capacity for airtight seals, rubber remained the leading material until midcentury, when vinyl replaced it. A 1948 patent by Harry W Brelsford championed the material for its ability to be insulated without adding substantial bulk, as well as its capacity for holding its form under pressure. Indeed, PVC, or polyvinyl chloride, remains the by far the most popular material for air-filled mattresses to this day.
The Benefits Of Having An Air Mattress In Your Car
If you're thinking about taking the plunge but aren't sure yet what you'd do with an air bed in your car, there are more than a few good uses to consider.
If you're not a hardcore outdoorsperson, you might prefer sleeping in your car over pitching a tent and roughing it on the ground.
The first and probably most obvious use is camping. If you're not a hardcore outdoorsperson, you might prefer sleeping in your car over pitching a tent and roughing it on the ground. An air bed can make a night in your SUV feel like a night at the four seasons. Many car air mattresses are built to handle the weight of two sleepers, so you can comfortably shack up with your loved one without feeling too cramped.
Another great way to take advantage of your investment is on long road trips. Spending even a few nights in your car can make a big difference in the cost of a cross-country trip. If you're in a rush and would prefer to keep it moving through the night, you can always let your driving partner get some good rest while you handle duties at the wheel, and then switch places when you get tired. Being able to fully recline and spread out as opposed to napping in your seat is sure to help you feel more energized come sunrise, among other benefits.
If you're the owner of a pickup truck, putting an actual bed in your truck bed offers plenty of comfy opportunities for hanging out in the great outdoors. In particular, it makes the perfect platform for both amateur and serious astronomers alike to get a good look at the night sky. With or without a telescope, you're sure to enjoy the view.
A Note On Air Bed Materials
Most air mattresses today, including those made for cars, are made of polyvinyl chloride, more commonly known as PVC. The world's third most popular type of synthetic plastic, PVC has countless applications, from pipes for plumbing to phonograph records, and is often used as a rubber replacement.
Most air mattresses today, including those made for cars, are made of polyvinyl chloride, more commonly known as PVC.
PVC is made flexible with the addition of plasticizers like phthalates, which some studies have linked to health complications. While a few nights on an air bed will likely have no adverse effects on your health, it's worth considering the risks if you're thinking about a long-term inflatable solution, especially for children.
As an alternative, mattresses made of TPU, or thermoplatic polyurethane, are also available. It's the same type of plastic used in polyester, so if you're comfortable wearing it, you're probably comfortable sleeping on it.
Finally, while some options on the market offer a consistently smooth plastic surface on all sides, many feature top coatings that feel like microfiber or suede, known as flocked tops. These help keep your sheets in place and tend to be less squeaky than plain old plastic, so if those things are of concern for you, it's work exploring your options.