Difference Between Air Mattress and Self Inflatable (With Table)

Mattresses offer plenty of choices. Two of them are air mattress and self-inflatable. Both are popular among camp lovers. A sound sleep is important to enjoy the blissful experience of bivouacking. Keeping that in mind, choosing the right mattress can be a tough call. The two alternatives have their own assets and liabilities.

Air Mattress vs Self-Inflatable

The main difference between an air mattress and self-inflatable is that you need to pump air into the air mattress. On the other hand, self-inflatable  has valves so when you open it, the compressed foam expands and, sucks air by itself. The former takes less space unlike the latter.

Air mattress or “blow-up” bed is buoyant and can acquire different shapes and sizes. Air is pumped into it with help of a pump(manually or by electric pump). The amount of air can be adjusted as per preference. It has medical benefits. In a long run, it can be used in houses or swimming pools.

Self-Inflatable inflates automatically when its valves are opened. It is thicker and provides insulation which matters a great deal when it comes to warmth. It is stable and comforting, but difficult to be carried along as it does not fit in a backpack easily.

Comparison Table Between Air Mattress and Self-Inflatable

Parameters of comparisonAir mattressSelf-inflatable
Method of inflationInflation through pumpSelf inflation
Weightlight in weightheavy
CostLess expensive but pump is requiredExpensive but no pump required
Material usedPVC or rubberFoam
SpaceOccupies less space, bag-pack friendlyOccupies more space difficult to accommodate.
InflationYou can select the ideal amount of inflationYou cannot select ideal inflation
TerrainNot suitable for rocky surfaceComfortable on rocky surface
InsulationDoes not provide insulationProvides insulation

What is Air Mattress?

It was introduced by Pneumatic Mattress and Cushion Company, in the year 1889. The material used to make it is PVC i.e. polyvinyl chloride which is softer than the one related to the pipes. Higher quality mattresses use vulcanized rubber or TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane).

It is designed bumpy and not flat. These dents/dimples provide the much-needed balance. Their absence would cause stumbling. It is light in weight, easy to carry, and affordable. The pump is an extra requirement. One can adjust the capacity of air and hence choose the right inflation. They are also called “air-beds”.

In case of an emergency, it can be used as a floating device or maybe for some leisure time in the pool. Be it night stay with a group of friends or travelling, they can be a good companion.

It has some advantages like its light in weight and easy-to-carry feature makes accommodation easy (in backpacks and vehicles) while travelling. It is cost-efficient and can be used in pools.

Medical applications include its use in hospitals as it helps to prevent pressure ulcers (commonly caused by prolonged bed rest), relieves back pain. It improves blood circulation and prevents skin breakdowns which usually occur due to low circulation.

It also has some drawbacks. The pump is an extra requirement. Air loss is common and it deflates over time. A pin or any other sharp object can cause an explosion. It is not the ideal choice for a heavyweight.

What is Self-Inflatable?

The name itself is self-explanatory. It has valves (can be single or multiple), so once they are opened, it inflates automatically. The material used for manufacturing it is mainly foam. It is comparatively heavy and not so easy to be accommodated in a bag. The foam is compressed and can be folded to some extent, which expands, when unfolded, to let the air seeps into the space.

The inflation process can take an hour or even a few minutes. The foam provides insulation protecting the body from biting cold. It raises enough to give a comfortable sleep in rocky terrain. It is not prone to punctures by a pin, needles etc.

It is very comfortable and more stable than an air mattress. The foam provides insulation that keeps the body warm. Additional pump is not required and there are negligible air losses. Prevention from discomfort due to rocks and durability add up to the advantage.

This long list of advantages is accompanied by some flaws. It cannot be adjusted in compact space. Usually, if it has been folded for a long time, due to compression, it will take a lot of time and effort for inflation. It is heavier in weight as compared to an air mattress.

Main Differences Between Air Mattress and Self-Inflatable

  1. The biggest and the main difference is that air mattress needs to be inflated with the help of a pump whereas self-inflatable is capable of self-inflation sucking the air, when the valve is opened, by itself.
  2. The former is light in weight as compared to the latter.
  3. Air mattress is made from polyvinyl chloride whereas the other one is made from a layer of foam.
  4. Air mattress does not provide enough heat to the body whereas self-inflatable ones act as a shield against the cold floor.
  5. An air mattress may be unstable and uneasy causing the user to fall off while sleeping, but the latter is comfortable.
  6. Air mattress deflate on exertion of pressure and is prone to an explosion near fire or sharp objects like needles, thorns etc which is not the case with self-inflatable.
  7. Air mattress is useful in hospitals for patients who have prolonged illness and hence remain in bed for long durations. It helps in avoiding pain and ulcers caused by pressure. Self-inflatable cannot be used for this purpose.
  8. Air mattress can float on water but self-inflatable cannot.
  9. Taking cost into account, an air mattress is cheaper (but pump add up to the cost) whereas self-inflatable is expensive.


Till now what we know is air mattress is more affordable in terms of both money and carry purposes and has an upper hand. Its water-resistant property makes it more of an obvious choice to pick for people who want to trek but it isn’t as if self-inflatable mattresses are literally of no use.

When it comes to protecting yourself from the insects, insulation for a comfortable sleep and other small creatures disturbing your sound sleep at night, self-inflatable comes in handy and you do not need to carry a pump. Therefore, self-inflatable is quite hassle-free for an experience.


  1. https://www.mdpi.com/829778
  2. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352721815001400