How to Inflate an Air Mattress While Camping: 5 Clever Tips and Tricks

An air mattress can increase your comfort and improve the quality of your sleep while camping. The easiest way to inflate it is – obviously – with a pump. Most air mattresses come with built-in or external portable pumps designed to ease up the inflating process. But what to do if the mattress’ pump breaks? Should you sleep on the ground?

Of course not! Luckily, there are a few alternative methods you can use. So, here’s how to inflate an air mattress while camping. 

1. Inflate with a Tire Pump 

Whether it’s for car or bike tires, the easiest way to replace the mattress pump is with your vehicle’s. Considering that you should have a pump with you regardless of the transportation means that gets you from home to the camping spot, this shouldn’t be a problem, isn’t it? 

Most car and RV tire pumps come with various nozzles and accessories that allow you to inflate not only air mattresses but also other inflatables, including rafting boats, balls, and beach toys. 

If the nozzle doesn’t fit quite right, seal the inlet valve with insulating tape (which you should have in your camping kit, because it can fix anything) or a bag. Inflate the mattress until firm, then remove the nozzle and close the valve as quickly as possible. 

The task could be tricky, but it’s really the easiest way to inflate your air mattress while camping. 

2. Inflate the Air Mattress with a Hair Dryer

If you’re so unlucky to find yourself in the middle of nowhere with a broken air mattress pump and no other pump at hand – we really hope you won’t get a flat tire – you can use a hair dryer to inflate your mattress. 

Now, we know most people don’t really care about hair styling while exploring the outdoors, but if you’re the fancy kind and can’t imagine leaving your tent without good-looking locks, a portable, battery-operated hair dryer is something you’ll probably carry in your backpack. 

Place the dryer next to the air inlet valve and turn it on, selecting the cold air setting and full speed. The inflation process could be boring and lengthy, so keep a beer at hand to help you pass the time. 

3. Use a Portable Vacuum Cleaner

Okay, the chances of having a hair dryer are remote, we get it. But maybe you have a portable vacuum cleaner in your trunk? This appliance is essential if you want to keep your vehicle clean at all times, and it can also help you inflate an air mattress. 

To understand how this works we need to get into the operating principle of a vacuum cleaner. This device is designed to suck in dirt and debris, thus the air. While the debris is stuck in though, the air exits the machine from the opposite side. 

Therefore, to inflate your mattress, place the back end of the vacuum cleaner (the exact part from where you feel the air getting out) onto the air inlet valve. Turn on the vac and let it do its magic. Again, it may take some time, so keep a beer at hand. 

4. Use a Garbage Bag

Assuming you don’t have a pump nor any kind of air blowing machine with you, a garbage bag should be the answer to your prayers. This method is rather tricky, but you’ll surely have a laugh while trying to prepare a comfy sleeping area. Here’s how to do it: 

  • Trap as much air as you can into the garbage bag, then close its top with your hand. 
  • Slightly loosen the bag’s mouth to create a small opening. 
  • Place the mouth over the mattress’ air inlet valve and keep it tight around it with your hand. 
  • Lay on the garbage bag. This will hopefully force the air into the mattress. Repeat for as many times as necessary, until the air mattress is firm. 

This may or may not work, but it’s undoubtedly a great way to exercise before bedtime. 

5. Blow Air into the Mattress

If everything else failed, the only way to inflate an air mattress while camping is with an old-fashion method – by blowing air into it. That’s exactly what it sounds like. Fill your lungs with air, place your mouth over the valve, and blow the air into the mattress. It will take ages to inflate it, but the method has worked since the dawn of times; after all, air mattress pumps are a quite recent invention. 

Now that you know how to inflate an air mattress while camping, all you have to do is pick your favorite method and create yourself a cozy shelter. 

As a rule of thumb, remember it’s good practice to have a tire pump with you at all times. And this will save you all the hassle if you get to the camping spot only to find that your air mattress pump is broken.