How to Blow Up an Air Mattress Without a Pump – Our Complete Guide

Gear Mattress

No matter how prepared you try to be, it’s easy to forget to bring a camping essential with you, especially if you’re packing a lot of gear. Our guide on how to blow up an air mattress without a pump will be helpful if you’ve left this essential piece of equipment at home.

There are actually a few ways to blow up an air mattress without a pump. You can even use something as simple as a trash bag, if that’s all that you have. We’ll outline everything that you need to know below!

6 Ways to Blow Up an Air Mattress Without a Pump

Inflatable bath cushion with valve

So, you’ve brought your air mattress, sleeping bags, and pillows, but forgot to bring an air mattress pump? No need to worry. There are a few options you can try, even if you’re stuck in an area without electricity.

The key to any of the methods below is to ensure that you always close the valve as quickly as possible. It, of course, requires much more effort to fill the mattress with air using these methods, so the last thing you want is to leave the valve open for too long and undo all of your hard work.

Here are a few ways you can blow up an air mattress:

Use a Vacuum Cleaner

Closeup of central vacuum cleaner hose plugged in to wall inlet socket

You can use your vacuum cleaner to blow up an air mattress, which is one of the faster options. All you need is a hose attachment and a ‘reverse’ mode on your vacuum cleaner to make it work.

Here’s what you need to do:

  • Ensure your vacuum is clean. You can remove the bag and run it for around 10 seconds to make sure that there isn’t any debris, or dust, left in the pipe.
  • Attach a thin nozzle (as the regular nozzle may be too large).
  • Lay the air mattress flat on the floor, unfolding it fully.
  • Attach the hose to the inflation valve. This may not fit perfectly, so it can take a moment to make it work.
  • Turn on the reverse mode (or ‘exhaust’ mode), inflate the mattress.

Using a Hairdryer

hair dryer isolated on white background

Another option is to use a hairdryer, although be forewarned: this can take a while! This only works if your hairdryer has a cold setting. Using the hot setting can melt the valve and the airbed itself, so to reiterate, do not attempt to do this unless the dryer is set to cold.

There’s not too much to think about here. Just place the nozzle of the hairdryer against the valve opening and switch it on. Most air mattresses have a one-way valve, which means air can easily enter the valve but not leave it. The hairdryer method should work easily with this kind of valve.

Some air mattresses have a two-way valve, which allows for faster deflation. These can be trickier to inflate using the hairdryer method, so you may need to hold it open with a peg or clip to allow the air to get through.

Use a Leaf Blower

Gardener clearing up leaves using an electric leaf blower tool. Gardening details

This option will be slower than a vacuum cleaner, but faster than a hairdryer. Place the air outlet of the leaf blower over the valve of the air mattress and switch it on.

Using a Hand Pump

Bicycle pump on wooden background

It’s worth keeping a small hand pump in your backpack, the kind you would use to inflate bicycle tires, for example. Just connect the pump to the valve and you’re good to go. It will take longer than a regular pump for an air mattress, but it still gets the job done.

Use a Garbage Bag

transparent blue plastic garbage bag inflated and tied in a knot, bag isolated on a white background

This is a clever method. It does take some time to properly execute, but this method requires no electricity and it works really well in an emergency situation. Even if you’re camping in the wild, in the middle of nowhere, you can make this work. Here’s what you need to do:

  • Roll out your air mattress and lay it completely flat
  • Swing the garbage bag around until it inflates, and then close it tightly to keep the air trapped inside
  • Place the open end of the bag around the mattress valve. You could use rubber bands to secure it tightly, this will prevent any air from escaping
  • Gently press the air out of the garbage bag and into the mattress. When all the air has gone from the bag, remove it and close the valve as quickly as possible
  • Keep repeating the process until your bed is fully inflated!

You can also check out the Trespass Essential Wild Camping Checklist for more ideas on essential gear to bring when camping without electricity.

Using Your Lungs

Close up of man blowing up a self inflatable sleeping pad for camping

This is an obvious one, but will be the most exhausting! Blowing up an air mattress this way takes a long time, and while it’s absolutely possible, it’s not easy. We would only recommend this in an emergency situation, where there are no other options available.

Consider Investing in a Self-Inflating Mattress

A man gets his tent and sleeping bag ready at a campground by inflating and setting up his blue blow-up mattress pad to put for under his sleeping bag

One thing you can do for future camping trips is to bring a self-inflating mattress. This completely removes the worry of having to bring a pump in the first place. Some self-inflating mattresses have internal pumps, which work really well. Usually, the process goes like this:

  • Plug it in and put the power on
  • Pull out the ‘inflate’ valve
  • Turn the knob to start the pump
  • Once full, turn the knob again to stop it

Deflating the mattress just involves opening the valve and waiting for it to deflate.

We’d recommend the EnerPlex Queen Air Mattress. It’s a thick air mattress at 16 inches, it’s durable and extremely easy to set up. 

A Quick Note on Punctures

Bicycle or bike tube patch, an emergency repair kit on white background

Another thing to consider throwing into your backpack in case of emergencies is a puncture repair kit. It’s small in size and easy to pack, and could be just the thing that you need if you notice your air mattress deflating quickly.

Try the TPU Patch Repair Kit which comes in a roll and can be used for many situations, including: repairing air mattresses, pool floats, inflatable toys, and more.

You can read the REI Co-op’s guide on How to Patch up a Sleeping Pad for more details. Although this article refers to sleeping pads, the same advice applies to the thicker air mattresses that we’ve just listed as well.

To Sum Up on How to Blow up an Air Mattress Without a Pump …

A girl in the woods carries an air mattress

We hope this has helped provide you with many possible solutions, if you ever do forget to bring your air mattress pump. Any of these methods will work for an emergency situation, although we’d definitely only advise blowing it up using your lungs as a last resort.

If this has helped, feel free to share it using the buttons below. We’d also love to hear your comments. Do you have any tips and tricks that we haven’t mentioned here? Let us know!