One thing that I see a lot with beginners camping are the great big Coleman air mattresses – the queen-sized ones that take, like 20 minutes with a screaming electric pump to blow up – the kind that are always flat by morning – the kind that provide zero insulation from the cold ground.
That sort of makes them sound more negative than they really are. I suppose they might be an okay option for folks doing 3-season car camping, but if you want to do some pack camping or some cold-weather camping they are not the best for a couple of reasons:
- They do not provide any insulation from the cold ground in the winter. This issue can range from mere irritant to outright dangerous.
- They are far too large and heavy to carry on a pack camping trip.
On the other hand, they have been a camping standard for years and years, and they are inexpensive, so if you are front-country camping – like in a developed campground, especially with new campers, a Coleman air mattress might be a good option. You might even be able to borrow one for free or get one cheap at a second hand store. One hint – get the battery powered pump that goes with it. It’s totally worth it!
But if you are planning to do some pack camping, or if you will be sleeping on cold earth where you’ll need more insulation, Therm-a-Rest makes a much better inflatable sleeping pad, or you can use a simple foam sleeping pad to get you some cushion as well as some insulation.