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Camping Beds And Air Mattresses vs Tent Floor Space

Camping beds vs. tent floor area

The size of the tent and shape of the tent floor play a major role in the number and type of camping beds that can be used inside.

Family tents with rectangular floors offer the most usable floor space for large items, such as camping air mattresses, and also for sleeping capacity.

The tent floor area will need to accommodate the shape and dimensions of the air mattress. Air mattresses are rectangular and fit best in a rectangular space.

Sloping walls

Due to sloping walls on certain tents, floor space can be much greater than headroom.

Even 12 to 16" above the tent floor, the area available for an air mattress and sleeping camper can be substantially less than at ground level. 

Since they elevate the camper from 6" to 22" off of the ground, air mattresses usually reduce the sleeping capacity of the tent.

Tent walls almost always slope inward, so the higher off of the ground campers want to sleep, the further away from the edge of the floor they will need to place an air bed.

A fixed shape

Unlike a sleeping bag, an inflatable mattress is a fixed shape.

Campers cannot fold in the corner of the air mattress to get it closer to the wall—they will need to keep the mattress further from the edge of the floor, which means further towards the center.

The center of a family tent is prime real estate for other activities, such as sitting, standing, crawling, walking and getting into and out of the tent.

Leaving enough space in the center for these activities will make a big difference in family comfort while camping.

Campers who choose to camp with an air mattress, especially a raised air mattress, will appreciate a tent with plenty of floor space.

If the tent is not large enough for the mattress, it will quickly feel like the proverbial "elephant in the room" or "elephant on the floor".

Extra space

Although an air mattress will reduce sleeping capacity, the leftover floor space isn't necessarily wasted.

Non-traffic space around an air mattress is handy for storing packs, clothing or other small camping extras.

Air mattresses can be stacked or even deflated during the day to make the tent more accommodating to daytime activities. An air mattress inflator is very handy for this.

Twin size air mattresses 

A twin air mattress takes up the same space as a twin bed mattress, about 39-40" in width by 74-78" in length (1m x 1.9m) .

This is about 20 square feet of space (1.4 sq m) that can be used for lying only. Including any floorspace lost between the mattress and the tent walls, this figure will probably be closer to 25 square feet with dome tents.

20 to 25 square feet is a significant amount of space in a tent for a single sleeping space.

Small tents and an inflatable twin

Since an air mattress raises a camper 8" off of the ground, a small, "2-man", 5'x7', 35 square foot dome tent with a 36" ceiling will not offer enough height to sit up inside the tent.

A self-inflating pad is a much better solution for these tents.

A "3-man", 7'x7', 50 square foot dome tent will be a minimum size tent for a single twin mattress.

The 42 to 48" ceiling on "3-man" tents should make it possible to sit and dress inside.

The mattress can be placed along the back wall to ease entry into the tent.

Due to the 7' sloping walls, the head and foot of the mattress will be close to, if not touching, the tent walls. Unless the rainfly covers the lower walls, campers may need to take extra measures, so that bedding or clothing does not get damp in the rain.

Leisure camping and twin air mattresses

A "4-man", 65 square foot tent offers a comfortable leisure camping experience to a solo camper with a twin mattress.

The mattress can be placed along the longer wall and keep it away from the fabric in the rain.

4-man tents are large enough to squeeze in a second twin mattress. There will be a sliver of floorspace in the center of the tent for stooping or walking.

Camping couples may prefer two twin mattresses over a single queen, so that when one of them shifts in the night, it doesn't disturb the other sleeper. The two twins will also offer more sleeping space.

However, adult campers will likely soon tire of two twin mattresses in a 4 man tent.

Queen air mattress vs tent size

A queen air mattress takes up about 5 feet by 6-1/2 feet or approximately 32 square feet.

According to the information above, a twin air mattress needs a tent with floor area approximately 3 times the size of the mattress for comfortable camping.

Applying the same principle, a queen air mattress will likely require a 10'x10', 100 square foot tent, in order to leave enough space for a camping couple to get around the tent and have room for dressing and sitting.

The mattress will fit in a 8 or 9 foot square dome tent. However, with a sloping canopy, a queen mattress will occupy much of the center of the tent, where the headroom is, forcing campers to crawl around a tent that otherwise has standing room.

A 10'x10' cabin tent is a better fit for leisure tent campers with a queen inflatable mattress. Campers can move the tent to a back corner and have some floorspace in front and on one side for dressing, sitting and gear.

Raised air beds

Raised camping beds may require a tent with even more floorspace, since, due to sloping walls, they need to be placed even further towards the center.

At 16" to 22" high, a double-high, queen air mattress will require a 10'x10' cabin tent or preferably larger for more comfort.

Multiple air mattresses

Multiple air mattresses offer an economy of scale: a tent with two air mattresses does not need to be twice as large as a tent with one.

Multiple mattresses are usually along opposite walls, opening up the prime headroom space in the center of the tent for foot traffic and dressing.

For a reasonable amount of comfort, two twin mattresses will likely require a 9'x9', 80 square foot or larger tent.

2 queen size (or 4 twin mattresses) will probably require at least a 128-square-foot or larger cabin tent. This might be a 9-1/2' x 13-1/2' configuration.

If an mattress is too large to comfortably fit inside the tent, campers will be forced to crawl around the tent, stressing the mattress—and the campers!

This may be suitable for youth and young couples getting started with camping, but older couples and families will appreciate being able to stand and walk around inside the tent.

In conclusion

Air mattresses offer extra comfort. Since they are available in standard bed sizes, they take up more tent-floor space than other camping mattresses.

Unless your tent is plenty large, it is worthwhile to take a moment to visualize an air mattress on the floor of your tent and how it will impact comfort and sleeping arrangements.