Air Bed or SIM?

Let’s face it a good night’s sleep is the single most important element of a successful camping trip.  With a full night’s comfy sleep under your belt you can cope with anything the day throws at you. To achieve this you will require warmth, a pillow to suit your requirements, and of course a comfortable surface to lay your weary bones upon.  So how do you choose?  Air bed or SIM?

Air bed

Sounds good doesn’t it.  A bed of air. Lovely.  Sea sickness mat with deflating tendency – less good.  I’ve given it away haven’t I?  I was going to try to be balanced and critical but I hate air beds. Firstly, they take ages to inflate.  Yes, I know you can get electric pumps but they make a hideous noise and are so easily forgotten. Next, I’m a bit hazy on the physics because I thought air was insulating, but air beds are cold.  Brrrr.  I’m told putting a picnic blanket underneath helps with this but I can’t comment on the effectiveness as I’ve never tried. Wobblyness – if you’ve ever slept on an air bed this needs no more explaining.  Wibbly, wobbly, bleugh. Finally, they deflate.  It beats me why with all the wonders of modern technology this particular issue hasn’t been solved but I have never, ever slept on an air bed that didn’t deflate during the night. Some a little, some a lot. To sum up I had the most uncomfortable camping sleep of my entire life sleeping on an air bed.  I was freezing cold and ended up literally on the floor.  The next day we went and bought a couple of SIMS and life was changed.


Self Inflating Mat.  Yep, self inflating.  Unplug the stopper, roll it out and it actually sucks air into itself.  I know amazing isn’t it.  And you wind up with not just air, but a nice foam mat too.  These things come in a hundred different varieties and you get what you pay for.  Check out an outdoors company like Cotswold Outdoor for a look at a good range. Needless to say the thicker your mat the more comfy it will be but also the bulkier it will be. If you sleep on your back you may get away with a thinner mat but if you sleep on your side get a thicker one. The cons. It is possible to slide off your mat in your sleep, some mats have less slidy material than others.  Also they are relatively expensive, depending on which one you choose.  However, if you go the air bed route you are likely to end up buying several as they puncture or you go on a never-ending search for one that doesn’t deflate. So there it is my completely unbiased look at your family camping sleeping options.  The BBC would be proud. Basically, get a SIM (cheap ones for the kids and plush ones for yourselves). NB. This is a sponsored post, but I would have written it anyway….

10 thoughts on “Air Bed or SIM?

  1. Louise says:

    It’s nice to know it’s not just us on the quest for a good night’s sleep! Think I’ll use the kids’ big foam jigsaw to put under ours for insulation & extra comfort the next time we’re away. Can’t hurt

  2. Ewan says:

    Yes I’d also wholeheartedly agree. Airbeds are a false economy – go down this route and you’ll need to buy over and over again. (An under blanket is warmer, by the way – I think the coldness comes from the rubber). SIMs are much better, particularly when paired with a good quality sleeping bag to give added padding and warmth. Decent sleeping bags – including for the kids ! – are just as important I think.

  3. Philippa | It's Nice Out says:

    I’ve never tried a SIM, but I have to say since we got our Coleman Comfort airbed I’m a total advocate. It has two separate air chambers so you don’t get that rocking sensation and the valves are really good quality so it doesn’t deflate during the night. I love it. I’m honest to goodness not affiliated!

    • Hazel says:

      Interesting, I must admit I have been eyeing them up. They do look good. Nice to get an endorsement. Thanks for commenting and love your blog!

  4. BlundstonedLove says:

    After a couple of cold camps on an airbed I switched to a self-inflating mat, which I much prefer – everyone else is still on airbeds though.

    I think kids like the trampoline effect and the adults enjoy the softer sensation (than a SIM) when they settle down – mind you when they wake up in the middle of the night freezing, I’m not awake to hear their teeth chattering.

  5. Paul says:

    I couldn’t agree with you more…when I was a teenager and went camping to T in the Park, I didn’t even bring a air bed, let alone a SIM; I was fine with the ground…but, nowadays 14/15 years later, older and wiser, SIMs are the only real option.

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