How to Keep an Air Mattress Warm When Camping (Quick Tips)

Air mattresses are a popular piece of camping gear that makes sleeping in a tent much more comfortable.

But, on those cold weather nights, they offer very little in terms of insulation or warmth.

In fact, they can be downright freezing!

So, let’s learn how to keep an air mattress warm when camping so you can get the best night’s sleep possible!

Why Am I So Cold Sleeping on an Air Mattress?

When sleeping on an air mattress in cold weather, there is little insulation between you and the cold air since the air inside the mattress will eventually resemble the same temperature as the cold air around it.

So, essentially, you’re sleeping on cold air. It might be slightly less cold than sleeping on the freezing ground, but it’s still cold.

Air mattresses are not designed for sleeping in colder weather. They are meant to be a portable, easy-to-setup sleeping solution for home and some camping use. Similar to a cot.

Related: Camping Cot vs Air Mattress: Which Is Best?

However, sleeping pads are a type of insulated air mattress specifically designed for camping and backpacking use. They come insulated with a much higher R-value than your typical home-use air mattress (which don’t even come with advertised R-values).

Air mattress vs sleeping pad

So, what’s an R-value?

An R-value is a measure of how much a material resists heat transfer. The higher the R-Value of your sleeping mattress, the more body heat you will retain instead of it dissipating into the air. And the more you will be insulated from the cold air and ground beneath you.

But, back to your typical air mattress, they have a very minimal, if any, R-value.

However, with a few tricks and tips, you can insulate your air mattress to help keep you warm when camping.

How to Keep an Air Mattress Warm When Camping

To effectively keep warm when using an air mattress, you need to add insulation between you and the cold mattress.

You can do this in several ways. Just choose the option (or options) that’s best for you!

Cold-Weather Sleeping Bag

Not all sleeping bags are the same. Some are specially designed for winter camping and cold weather use. The Coleman Mummy bag, for example, is designed for use in temperatures down to 10 degrees F! This is a great option to help insulate you from the cold air mattress, keeping you warmer and more comfortable. And if you typically bring a sleeping bag with you camping, there’s no extra gear to carry!

Coleman 0°F Mummy Sleeping Bag

Coleman 0°F Mummy Sleeping Bag

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Foam Sleeping Pad

Placing an insulated foam sleeping pad, also called a foam mattress topper, on top of your air mattress is an excellent solution to keep warm. You’ll essentially get the best of both worlds – the comfort of a cozy air mattress and the insulating properties of a sleeping pad. Plus, you’ll get the highest R-value rating from a foam topper.

Related: How to Make an Air Mattress More Comfortable Camping (7 Expert Tips)

The major downside? They are big and can be heavy, so they aren’t ideal if you are hiking or backpacking.

Memory Foam Camping Mattress

Memory Foam Camping Mattress

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Extra Blankets

Layering extra blankets between you and the air mattress is another effective solution using items you likely already have lying around. The trick here is to use blankets made of well-insulated and warm material (wool is a good insulator) so you don’t need to bring as many on your camping trip.

Thermal Air Mattress Topper

Another effective solution is to use a thermal air mattress topper, or mattress pad, on top of your air mattress. The reflective metallic insulation is designed to capture your body heat and keep you warm naturally. Again, it’s an extra item to carry, but it will help insulate you from the cold air mattress underneath.

Twilight Thermal Mattress Topper

Twilight Thermal Mattress Topper

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Wear Extra Clothes

Wearing extra layers of clothes will help insulate you from your cold mattress and supply additional warmth at night. And if you’re on a multi-day camping trip, you can just throw on the extra clothes you already brought. Be sure to wear warm gloves and socks to help retain heat, as these areas of the body are where a lot of heat loss comes from.

Heating Pad

While I’ve never heard of a heated air mattress, there are heating pads designed for camping use that fit inside a sleeping bag, which would provide arguably the most amount of heat and effectively keep your air mattress warm. The downside, of course, is they are battery-operated, which may not be a big deal if you have access to a power source to recharge it (a portable battery pack will work, too). If your wilderness camping for days on end, you might not want to rely on it. Plus, if your airbed is prone to condensation, this might not be the best solution.

Mantuole Heated Sleeping Bag Liner

Mantuole Heated Sleeping Bag Liner

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What About Under Mattress Insulation?

Contrary to what others might say, placing insulation under your air mattress is not an effective solution to keeping it warm.

It’s certainly an effective way to protect your air mattress from the ground below, but don’t expect it to keep your airbed warm. The air in your mattress will still cool down to the ambient temperature in the tent, so you won’t be any better off.

Check out our guide on what to put under an air mattress when camping for more important information!

Is an Air Mattress Good for Cold Weather Camping?

By themselves, air mattresses are not a great option for cold weather camping. Not if you like to keep warm when sleeping, that is. With a little insulation, however, they can definitely work!

Again the idea is to add a layer of insulation between you and the cold air mattress. In other words, you want a barrier between your body and the cold air inside the mattress to stay warm. 

The best way to keep warm is to invest in an insulated sleeping pad with an R-value of at least 5 and a cold-weather sleeping bag. This will help lighten your load (no need for extra blankets or clothes) and sleeping pads are smaller and lighter than your typical air mattress, making them perfect for hiking and backpacking.

Ultralight 4-Season Camping Sleeping Pad

Ultralight 4-Season Camping Sleeping Pad

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They may not be as comfortable as your typical air mattress since they are not as thick, but they make up for it with built-in insulation and portability.

Related: Most Comfortable Way to Sleep in a Tent (15 Best Tips)

With that said, if you already have an air bed and want to stay warm when sleeping on it, the air mattress camping tips above will work.

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