How to keep an air mattress from sliding in a tent?

In a camp, your sleeping bag and the mattress under it are your bed. A moving bed is an annoying bed and an air mattress sliding in the tent can ruin your sleep during camping. New campers face this problem a lot and they want to know how to prevent it.

Besides being annoying, a sliding air mattress can cause some serious problems for you. Your air mattress works as an added insulation to keep you warm. The nights in the wild are cold. The mattress keeps you off the cold ground.

But if that mattress slides away from under you during a good night’s sleep, the warmth of your sleeping bag will escape into the ground through contact. The result will be an angry, frustrated, shivering, camper whose beautiful sleep was ruined because of the cold.

You may want to slit open your useless mattress at this point, but that won’t solve your problem. The new one will do the same thing besides costing money. But with a little understanding of the problem and a few easy tips, you can solve the problem easily. Let’s get into it.

The inherent problem with the air mattress

Being filled with air, air mattresses are inherently slippery. Have you ever tried resting your head on an air-filled balloon? It is difficult because the balloon slips away. It keeps floating around. An air mattress is somewhat similar to that balloon.

There is no mass inside the mattress to keep it from sliding. The modern lightweight mattresses slip even more.

But how does mass help? Well, fill a balloon with water, it stops floating and takes some effort to role. Fill it with solid rocks….and you get the point. But doing that with an air mattress isn’t feasible.

There are two reasons for that. Filling the mattress with insulation like down would turn it into another sleeping bag. It will become heavy and it will take up a lot of space in your backpack. Not ideal for outdoor minimalist packing.

The second is that air is among the worse conductors of heat than many solid materials. The insulation benefits of air, along with being the most lightweight make it feasible for use. Hence, air mattresses for camping make sense.

The materials

While being inherently slippery, there is one other factor that contributes to the slippery nature of the air mattress – the material it’s made of. New campers are often indifferent towards the material they pay for. Such a lack of knowledge makes their bed slide from under them.

Air mattresses are manufactured using 4 materials; nylon, polyester, thermoplastic polyurethane, and memory foam. Of these 4, polyester and nylon are the slipperiest while thermoplastic polyurethane has good slip resistance.

How these mattresses are made, also plays a role in how slippery they are going to be. Mattresses with a plain and simple surface without any texture, brushed, slip more. Textured and unbrushed surfaces are less slippery.

A smooth, plain surface makes the mattress slippery on both sides. Not only does the mattress slide itself, but it also makes it easy for the sleeping bag to slip off. Now, you have to deal with two problems.

How to prevent air mattress from sliding?

Having an understanding of what makes your air mattress slip can give you some direction on how to solve your problem. Nevertheless, a few techniques ought to do the trick.

Let some air out

A common belief among campers is that you inflate the air mattress, the more comfortable it becomes. So, when it comes to inflating the mattress, everyone tries to fill as much air in the mattress as they can. But may not turn out to be the right thing to do.

Overinflation causes the air mattress to become bouncy. If you overinflate a tire in your car, you can feel that side of the car bouncing. Bouncing tire results in less traction making it hard to control the car. Similarly, the more bouncy the mattress is, the more it slides around.

You would also have a hard time keeping yourself on the mattress as well. A bouncy mattress would make you slip off and it will most likely slide from under you while you are sleeping.

Over-inflation is never good; from an air mattress to the economy.

The air mattress should be inflated just enough to keep your body from touching the ground. If you have too much air in your mattress, let it out. A little deflation would make the mattress flat providing it stability.

Having less air in the mattress also allows the body to sink in. The mattress conforms to the shape of the body. It becomes more comfortable and less slippery.

Buy the right size

Many articles on the internet will tell you that if you are slipping off of your mattress, you should get a wider size. Makes sense. But as intuitive as it is, it may not be a good idea with an air mattress.

When you lie down on an air mattress, the air moves outwards where the body weight is not present. The mattress seems pressed in the middle – where your body is – and seems more inflated at the edges. The edges are also raised above the ground a bit.

In a wider mattress, this outwards air movement is more because there is more space for the air to move. To overcome this movement – to keep the mattress inflated adequately – you would have to overinflate the mattress. Now, you are back to square one.

Buying a wider size is a good strategy with closed-cell foam or a self-inflating foam mattress if you are slipping off of it. But a wider air mattress won’t work, it will only exacerbate the problem. The right-sized air mattress is a better option.

Silicone based adhesives

Using a silicone-based adhesive on your mattress is a long-term solution. It is also the most popular solution among hikers to keep the air mattress from sliding. The adhesive is used to make beads on the surface of the mattress. These beads work as grips that keep the air mattress from sliding. These adhesives are easily available at the store.

However, using a silicone adhesive requires time and planning. You can make these beads in your free time. But if you remember this technique at the last minute, you would have to do without it. Here are a few easy steps to make beads on your air mattress:

  • Wash the mattress with soap and water and let the mattress dry. The purpose of the wash is to get rid of oil build-up and dust particles. Oil and dust particles prevent adhesives to stick properly.
  • Make beads with the adhesive onto the underside of the mattress in the middle and around the edges. More beads mean more grip. The torso area is where the mattress slips and slides the most. Make more beads in this area.
  • Let the mattress sit for 24 hours before packing the mattress for your trip.

If you have the problem of your sleeping bag slipping off of the mattress, you can make beads on both sides of the mattress. Keep the size of the beads small, otherwise, it will feel like tiny rocks under your mattress.

Velcro strips and grip liners

Velcro strips and grip liners are more of a temporary, but an immediate solution. They are easily available at the stores. Apply the soft part of the strip on the mattress and the grip on the sheet of the tent sheet. It is an immediate and effective way to keep the mattress in place.

Grip liners are also available easily. They can be bought as roles. But they require an additional item; an adhesive like a double-sided tape. Stick the grip liner under the sides of the mattress.

The downside of these options is that it requires you to carry some extra weight in your backpack. Although it is not a big deal, every ounce matters when you are packing light.