The ALPS Mountaineering Rechargeable Air Bed is one of three air beds tested for this review and is, unfortunately, the second-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, this is not a product we would recommend to a friend.
ALPS Mountaineering Rechargeable Air Bed Review
Cons: PVC construction, no insulation, “bouncy castle” comfort
Manufacturer: ALPS Mountaineering
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The grey flexible PVC construction of this airbed requires the addition of phthalates, or "plasticizers," to make it flexible. This bed off-gasses; when lying on it, you can clearly smell plastic. 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 should you ever throw it away. This non-recyclable material will be there forever. Compared to the other two air mattresses we tested, both made of TPU, a highly durable and far less harmful compound, both environmentally as well as personally, we don't think the materials used in this bed should endear you to purchasing it.
Ignoring its material construction and focusing simply on performance, it suffers from the same drawbacks as the other air mattresses — namely lack of insulation, and compromised comfort in comparison to 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 found this air bed to be roughly the same in terms of comfort as some of the other air mattresses, 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.
Ease of Use
This mattress is, without a doubt, one of the easiest to use in this entire review, and this is its strongest feature. 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 speedy 1:30 minutes and can hold charge enough for 4:00 minutes, meaning there is plenty of time to blow it up a couple of times before needing 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.
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. Soon 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. 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.
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, we found the air mattresses to be much less versatile than the other mattresses in the review. However, we still felt like they made good spare beds for the house when guests slept over. However, due to its material construction, its off-gassing bad smell, and health risking chemical compounds, we wouldn't recommend using it in any closed air space — whether a house or inside a vehicle. A well-ventilated tent in the summer might be okay, but this is a really limited range of use.
The Rechargeable Air Bed packs down fairly small, giving it an average rating in this metric.
This mattress is about average in its cost, and somewhat high for an air mattress. Since we think it is not as high a performer as the other air beds in this review, let alone all the other foam 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 did perform well in our tests, and we have concerns about the smell and environmental costs of producing a product like this with plasticized PVC. Despite being affordable, we would not recommend this product to our friends or the loyal readers of OutdoorGearLab.
— Laurel Hunter & Andy Wellman