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Hands-on Gear Review
ALPS Mountaineering Rechargeable Air Bed Review
Cons: PVC construction, no insulation, “bouncy castle” comfort.
Bottom line: The lowest scorer in our review, not a product we would recommend.
The ALPS Mountaineering Rechargeable Air Bed is one of three air beds tested for this review and is unfortunately the lowest scoring car camping mattress that we reviewed when combining all of the metrics. While it features eight inches of inflated mattress underneath you, without foam cushioning on the inside, it simply isn't as comfortable as its competitors. This mattress is made of flexible PVC, an exceedingly durable material that unfortunately has been linked to increased health risks in humans and been labeled as one of the most environmentally harmful materials to both produce and dispose of. While we did think that the rechargeable air pump worked very well, as the lowest scorer in our tests, this is not a product we would recommend to a friend.
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Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
The grey flexible PVC construction of this airbed requires the addition of phthalates, or "plasticizers," in order to make it flexible. These substances are linked to kidney disorders, cancer, and reproductive disorders, and frankly, this bed off-gasses. When lying on it, you can clearly smell plastic. Additionally, PVC is a compound that is known to virtually never break down — great for the durability of this bed, but very bad for the landfill; this non-recyclable material will be there forever. Compared to the other two air beds we tested, both made of TPU, a highly durable and far less harmful compound, both environmentally as well as personally, we don' think the materials used in this bed should endear you to purchasing it.
Ignoring its material construction and focusing instead simply on performance, it suffers from the same drawbacks as the Lightspeed 2-person and the REI Relax Airbed, namely lack of insulation, and compromised comfort in comparison to all the other car camping mattresses we have tested, both self-inflaters as well as adaptable mattresses. While it does pack down relatively small and is quite easy to use, these qualities simply don't override its detracting attributes.
We thought this air bed was roughly the same in terms of comfort as the Lightspeed 2-person, which was unfortunately at the bottom of our test pile. When inflated it is a full eight inches thick, more than any other mattress, but again, it's full of only air, without supportive foam inside. The mattress is constructed exactly the same as an inflatable pool raft, but with a softer face fabric on top. While we certainly think it is far more comfortable than sleeping straight on the ground, we feel that the rest of the products we have tested have set the bar for comfort quite a bit higher than a pool raft. Give it 5 out of 10 for comfort.
Ease of Usez
This mattress is without doubt one of the easiest to use in this entire review, and this is its strongest suit. It comes with a rechargeable air pump that has cord adapters for either a car lighter or a wall plug. The pump inflates the bed in a very fast 1:30 minutes, and can hold charge enough for 4:00 minutes, meaning there is plenty of time to blow it up a couple times before needed to plug the pump in again for a recharge. The large twist valve couples directly with the pump, so you can easily go hands free while inflating, a unique feature to this mattress. Overall we awarded it our top score, 9 out of a possible 10 points.
To inflate, make sure the pump is charged, and twist it onto the valve, coupling it according to the lines and labels clearly marked on the valve. Then turn the pump on. In about 1:30, the bed will be full and firm.
To deflate, you can either use the pump, reversed, to suck the air out of the bed, or you can simply open the large valve and squeeze all of the air out. Fold into quarters and roll up tightly with the valve open to expunge the remaining air.
Like both of the other air beds in this review, the Rechargeable Air Bed has an R-value of 1.0. This ranks it right down there with the lowest in our test, and therefore we gave it a score of 4. Anecdotally, the rubbery vinyl feels to us like it holds the cold, or heat, more than the thinner material of the other airbeds. As such, we can really only recommend this mattress in the heat of summer. If you are looking for a much better car camping mattress that is usable in all seasons, look no further than our Top Pick for Couples, the Exped Megamat Duo.
Versatility as it applies to car camping mattresses means how many different situations can the item be successfully used in. Due to their weight and lack of insulation, the air bed genre in general we found to be much less versatile than the other mattresses in the review. However, we still felt like they made good spare mattresses for the house when guests slept over. We can't say the same for this airbed. Due to its material construction, it is off-gassing bad smelling and health risking chemical compounds. For this reason we wouldn't recommend using it in any closed air space — neither the house or inside a vehicle. A well ventilated tent in the summer might be okay, but this is a really limited range of use. Call it 2 out of 10.
The Rechargeable Air Bed ties with the REI Relax Airbed as the third smallest mattress when packed down. We gave it 7 out of 10 points for this quality.
While it is designed to be a summertime car camping mattress with multiple potential uses and applications, due to the limitations we have already described, we would only consider using this mattress in a well-ventilated air space, during the summer in a warm climate. That's pretty limiting.
This mattress will cost you $120 retail, the same as the Relax Airbed. Since we think it is not as high a performer as the other air beds in this review, let alone all the other car camping mattresses, this does not present a good value.
The ALPS Mountaineering Rechargeable Air Bed is very easy to use and incorporates a cool rechargeable air pump that we liked. However, it was still the lowest scoring car camping mattress in our review, and we have concerns about the smell and environmental costs of producing a product like this with plasticized PVC. Despite being very affordable, we would not recommend this product to our friends or the loyal readers of OutdoorGearLab.com.
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— Andy Wellman
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