Sleeping and eating are two of my favourite things in life. Sleeping well while camping can be a bit of a challenge, from discovering that you’ve camped on lumpy ground, to the fact that your generic roll mat is too narrow to allow you to sleep on your side or roll over in comfort.
As a result of the above, I am a big fan of airbeds – double airbeds to be precise. They aren’t always the most reliable things, but when they work, they work well! We’ve tried various versions over the years, including offerings from Coleman and Outwell, and always end up returning to the trusty ‘Argos red & blue airbed’ – the only variety that seems to not go soft overnight, needs the minimum of topping up during a holiday, and lasts for multiple trips over a couple of years.
Imagine my horror earlier this year when the valve on our latest experimental airbed ripped off (a Coleman, which incidentally lasted an entire three short trips – well, two and a half), and we discovered that Argos no longer stocked our old faithful version.
Time for a new tactic. I sold a kidney, took a deep breath, and bought the Aerobed Active Dual Zone airbed. It’s not cheap, coming in at c£90, but Aerobed are the big names in the airbed world, and their active range are aimed at campers, so I expected great things.
The Aerobed inflates in two halves – so you don’t have to have the same level of firmness as your camping companion, and you don’t get severe roll-together when it starts to get a bit soft.
To inflate the bed you use the supplied Aerobed pump, which clips into the (massive) valves and auto-inflates in c60 seconds. It works really well, but I can’t help thinking that should your pump experience a catastrophic failure, you’ll have zero chance of finding something else to inflate the bed with.
The Aerobed has a raised pillow area, inflates quickly and easily, and is very comfortable. Unfortunately, on it’s maiden voyage, two-thirds of the way through a two week motorcycle tour of Europe, ours developed a leak in a seam. At which point we realised (belatedly and foolishly), that the Aerobed, unlike virtually all other brands, does not come with a repair kit. For a product that costs over four times as much as the alternatives, that’s not really on.
Luckily, a friendly French-Canadian rescued us with his repair kit, and we managed another night of comfort (thanks Giles!), but packing away the bed the next day cracked the repair, and not having a repair kit of our own, that was the end of our comfortable sleeping arrangement (for me at least, it was my side!)
Aside from the leak, the biggest downside of this airbed for me is the pump. It has to be charged for 12 hours – no more, no less. When you’re travelling around, that makes things quite difficult. You can use a 12v cigarette lighter socket to run the pump once it’s used up it’s stored charge – after about three full inflations – but if you aren’t allowed to have your vehicle near your tent and it’s raining, you could end up a bit stuck. Sneaking a motorbike across a German campsite field is not particularly discrete, though we did manage it!
As with all airbeds, this isn’t the smallest or lightest thing to pack down, but if you’re buying an airbed, you’re prioritising comfort over lightweight packing – it’s a trade-off.
The Aerobed guarantee meant that on our return from holiday we swapped the bed for a replacement with no quibbles at all, but I have bought a repair kit from their website just in case.
Summary: It’s a lot of money for an airbed – yet despite our leak, I think it’s a worthwhile purchase, as its quality is clearly head and shoulders above the competitors. But do make sure you carry a repair kit and the 12v charger with you!
More: Aerobed (Note, it’s not on Aerobed’s site, but available widely through retailers)