How To Inflate An Air Mattress With A Hand Pump

Charlotte Corbin in Air Mattresses

As an Amazon Associate, Air Bed Comparisons earns from qualifying purchases. We get commissions for purchases made through links in this post.

Are you standing before a flat air mattress with a hand pump, wondering how on earth you’re going to get this aired up without getting exhausted?

Don’t fret because we will give you a few tips on how to inflate an air mattress with a hand pump!

Table of Contents

Are There Different Types Of Air Pumps?

Today, many air mattresses come with an air pump built right in. All you have to do is plug it in, and away you go. However, most air mattresses on the market for short-term use don’t include an air pump.

The different types of air pumps in use with air mattresses include electric (built-in or standalone,) dual (works on electric or battery), battery, and manual (hand or foot.)

When camping, hand pumps offer a way to air up an air mattress without relying on electricity. Battery operated air pumps cannot handle airing up more than a single twin size air mattress at the most, so they may not be ideal.


There are different sizes and types of hand pumps.

  • Double Action
    • This pump looks like a traditional bicycle pump with a “T” handle and cylinder with feet.
    • These come in small, medium, and large sizes. The larger they are, the more air they will pump.
  • Single Action
    • These are cylindrical with a blunt handle that requires you to cup your hand around it and grip. They require more exertion while delivering less air than a double-action hand pump.

Tips On Inflating An Air Mattress Using A Hand Pump

Unless you are a top athlete with muscles abounding, airing up a mattress with nothing more than a hand pump is going to wear you out! So, what options do you have?

Option #1

You can acquire the help of several people, and by taking turns airing up with a hand pump, you conserve energy, and it’s much more manageable.

Option #2

Invest in a double-action hand pump that quickly delivers more air with less exertion. We HIGHLY recommend this option.

Prepare Your Mattress And Pump

For the sake of protecting your air mattress, it’s always best to spread your air mattress out flat on a surface free from anything that will puncture it. Allow ample room for it to expand as it fills with air.

  • Locate the air mattress air valve and unplug/unscrew it.
  • Most air mattresses have an air release valve. If yours has one, make sure it is securely on.

Begin To Fill With Air

There’s never a better time than NOW to start pumping away.

  • It’s easier to pump standing up rather than sitting down. This enables you to apply the maximum amount of downward pressure to pump air in.
  • Position your feet on each side of the hand pump to prevent it from slipping.
  • Pull up on the pump handle.
  • Pace your breathing with the motion of the downward/upward direction of the pump. Breathe out when pumping down, and breathe in when pulling up.
  • NEVER allow anyone to get on the mattress as it fills with air because it can cause damage to the mattress’s air valve and your air pump.
  • Fill the mattress with air to about 90% capacity. By allowing that 10% of unfilled space, you provide a little cushioning for comfort. For those of us who like firm mattresses, bypass this step and fill to capacity.
  • Don’t overfill your mattress. Once a nickel can bounce off of it, it’s time to stop.
  • Quickly remove the air pump connector to the mattress air valve and securely tightly the valve cap on.

Time For Bed Linens And A Few Snoozes!

Now you can put your sheets and comforter on, add a few pillows, and snooze the night away.

Protect, Prolong, and Enjoy Your Air Mattress

Once you are done using your air mattress, give it a quick cleaning by vacuuming. Promptly remove the air and properly fold it up and place it back into its storage bag. By taking good care of the mattress during every phase of use and storage, you will be able to enjoy using it for many years to come!

Charlotte Corbin

Charlotte is an avid hiker, camper, traveler and home maker. She enjoys writing about sleep, especially ways to sleep comfortably while not in her regular bed at home.