True story this: When I bought my house it had been empty for a year and just sort of abandoned. It was a bare shell of a place without any hint of life or furniture. Except, that is, for in the attic.
Up in the cold, dark and spider-rich roofspace sat a very large, very pink and very out-of-place inflatable armchair. Now, two things about this chair amazed me. Firstly, the fact that it was way too big to come down out of the attic inflated – meaning that someone inflated it up there – and secondly, the sheer number of ‘specialist’ magazines which sat next to it. It was, fairly obviously for reasons I shalln’t describe, the previous owner’s favourite inflatable thing in the world.
Now, this leads me on nicely to what is currently my favourite inflatable thing in the world; the Aerobed Explorer.
I’m a big fan of sleeping; do it almost every night in fact, and the one thing I appreciate (aside from warmth, a full belly, a bedtime story, my teddybear and the sound of rain on canvas) is a comfortable mattress. So whenever I’m camping with a vehicle, I take the Explorer.
It costs the same as (roughly) three cheapo PVC mattresses, but at the rate they fail on me the investment is definitely worth it. The Explorer has been going strong for 3 years now.
Inflated by a rechargeable wireless pump in around 60 seconds, the Explorer dispenses with the need for footpumps or plug-in pumps (that said, it does come with a car-connection for immediate charging).
The model I own (single) is wider than a normal single mattress. I think it’s 3ft, which is the only reason I’d mark the Explorer down – you can’t get two side by side in a 2/3-man tent. But then again, I suppose you could buy a double…
It’s a heavy old beastie (3kg, same as 3 bottles of red wine) – significantly more so than a self-inflating mattress due to the pump and the fact that its much, much thicker – but Aerobed have used a really nice grade of PU-coated welded fabric in its construction which helps on the weight. I wouldn’t dream of taking it hiking, or cycling, so it’s more of a car-camping item.
Well, the video shows how it compares to other airbeds, so a mention about how it compares to self-inflating and trail-style lightweight mattresses. It doesn’t. Very different kettle of fish. The Explorer is much more comfortable, especially if you like to sleep on your side, and especially if you have more than 2 nights in a row in the outdoors. I’ve done 2 weeks on a self-inflator, and 2 weeks on the Explorer and slept much better on the latter. I still wouldn’t carry it up a mountain though.
SUMMARY: The Aerobed Explorer is an effort-saving, time-saving, better built and longer-lasting alternative to traditional airbeds. It’s expensive, but as an investment probably worth it. However, it isn’t really suitable for trail, so think of it more as a camping-with-transport solution to a good night’s sleep. Consider the double if you ever plan to share a 2/3-man tent with anyone else, because with the single you can’t. It’s ONLY for that reason that I’m giving it a 4 Hammers instead of 5 rating. If I can get hold of a double-version, I’ll review that separately.
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