[Disclosure: As of the time of this writing, I am not directly affiliated with nor have been sponsored or hired by any of the companies or organizations whose services I mention in this article – everything you read from me regarding these companies is my objective advice. Any advice in this blog does not constitute legal or medical advice and is provided as is with no liability to #FrugalCongressLife or the author.]
We are well into dance congress season in the US at this point with about three months passed and about five more to go, and as we all know and I have pointed out many times, roomsharing is the cheapest, most convenient, and most supportive way to save money on lodging at a dance congress.
One of the many areas where roomsharing can get tricky is when there are more people in a hotel room than there are beds. One solution to this is for two or more people to share beds, but not everyone is comfortable with that and that isn’t always feasible.
Whenever I can, I use the BetterHabitat Sleep Ready Memory Foam adult twin floor mattress as my portable bed for congress hotel roomshares. It is extremely comfortable, with 3 inches of memory foam and a feel much like a real mattress, but it is also very bulky. Even rolled up and in its bag, it has the footprint one would expect from a rolled up twin-size mattress, about as tall as me at 6 feet and about 18 pounds. It works well for driving distance congresses where I can just throw it into the trunk of my car and only have to carry it from the car to my hotel room, but forget about taking it on a bus, train, or plane.
Although I am happy with the BetterHabitat mattress, a situation where I would be roomsharing at a congress not within driving distance will call for a solution that is smaller and more portable. I went on the Googles this past March to look for the best small air mattress that would also deliver the comfort and usability needed to not be #TeamNoSleep at the congress, and my search brought me to the Airlite 100.
Made by stalwart camping gear company Fox Outfitters, the Airlite 100, available from Amazon.com for $49.99 with a $17 off coupon, is a sleeping pad made of Diamond Ripstop fabric specifically designed to resist being torn on rough terrain. Originally designed with outdoor camping, backpacking, and hiking in mind, this durable pad can surely withstand the rigors of an indoor hotel room at a dance congress.
The mattress rolls up to a mere 4” x 13”, a tiny footprint that can fit in the tightest of Spirit bags. A foam footpump is integrated into the mattress itself, allowing you to easily pump up the mattress to full size using no electricity and only your feet or hands in about a minute and a half. A double-brass air valve release system allows the mattress to deflate just as quickly.
Despite the low footprint, a tubular design system allows the mattress to be comfortable enough to provide support to your entire body and allow you get to sleep comfortably and stay asleep through the night.
I gave the Airlite a battle-testing this past April at one of my favorite dance congresses, the Baltimore Salsa Bachata Congress. I was the roomshare admin of a four-person roomshare in a two-double room at the event hotel with myself, one other guy, and two ladies. The two ladies shared one hotel bed, the guy got the other hotel bed to himself, and as a good roomshare president does, I made the sacrifice any responsible leader of a hotel roomshare is bound by duty to make and set up camp in the corner of the room with my newly-purchased Airlite.
This congress was a particularly good testing ground for the Airlite. Due to the spotty availability of parking in downtown Baltimore and the high cost of parking at the hotel, my frugal transport method was to drive to BWI Airport, park in their long-term lot, and take an UBER with other congress attendees from BWI to the hotel. I had no trouble getting the mattress into my backpack, but I realized I would have to do some Tetrising and probably make a few other sacrifices as far as other stuff I could bring to be able to fit it into a Spirit bag, but not many. Deflated and rolled up, the mattress’ total footprint is that of about 2-3 rolled-up t-shirts.
Inflating the mattress is easy and straightforward. You unroll and unfold the mattress, tighten the two brass valves at the end (righty tighty, lefty loosey), remove the cap on the integrated pump, then make an airtight seal over the hole with your hands and pump as if you were doing CPR on the mattress. Alternately, you can create the airtight seal with your foot and use your foot to pump up the mattress instead. The mattress inflated as quickly as advertised every time. I deflated the mattress and left it unrolled on the floor of my room (as recommended by the instructions) every morning before leaving for workshops.
While not quite as comfortable as my Better Habitat mattress, the Airlite was definitely comfortable enough, especially with the fitted sheet and coverlet set I bought with me to the congress (although the coverlet left a hell of a footprint in my bag — in the future I think I’m just going to leave the coverlet at home and ask for extra sheets from the hotel). By the end of a long night of burning up the floor at the Baltimore Congress’ parties, preceded by a long day of workshops, I could probably have slept in the chair if I really wanted to, so the Airlite was more than comfortable enough to drop off to sleep quickly on.
The mattress’ small footprint meant I was easily able to fit into the space between the bed and the wall (which was admittedly relatively expansive at the Hilton Baltimore), but it really is a narrow mattress; it is barely wide enough for most people to lay on their backs on, and if you move around in your sleep you’re likely to find yourself off of the mattress in the morning when you wake up. At 82 inches, the mattress was long enough even for a tall dude like me. For what it’s worth, you get more or less the same sleeping real estate you would get on a shared bed or a couch.
I found the Airlite to be as durably constructed as advertised, and it held onto air like a champ throughout the night – I got 5-6 hours of sleep a night on average at BSBC despite dancing until 5am, having 3 roommates, and sleeping on an air mattress. I haven’t been able to find a maximum weight rating for the Airlite online, but speaking from personal experience, I was about 225 pounds at the time of the test and the mattress was able to support me with no issues. Still, I have to assume individuals heavier than 250 pounds may have issues with this mattress.
Despite being an air mattress, the Airlite makes almost no noise when you move around on it. I was very impressed at how quiet it was – quite optimal for not disturbing your roommates with typical air mattress noise.
Deflating and rolling up the mattress is fairly straightforward as well. Open the valves and the pump and roll your arm along the mattress until all the air is out. Once it’s all out, fold the mattress back up and roll it toward the valves. Make sure you roll it towards the valves because if you roll it toward the pump, a pocket of air forms near the pump and the mattress can’t roll up all the way.
My ultimate verdict is that while the Airlite is definitely a compromise between ultimate comfort and a low footprint, it is an acceptable and usable sleep solution when space is tight both in your bag and in your hotel room. I would definitely use it at a congress again when the situation calls for it. I hope this article and this mattress helps you find comfort and better sleep in your hotel roomshares!