The Best Inflatable Couch | The Wirecutter

At 7 feet, the Live Infinitely Inflatable Air Lounger is about a foot longer than most of the others we tested, providing enough room for three people to sit next to one another, or for one person to stretch out. We found it easier to fill with air than the competition and we appreciated the pocket and stake, which are useful extras. It also stays inflated for longer than the other couches we tested, meaning you can relax longer without having to refill it.

Runner-up

*At the time of publishing, the price was $0.

If our top pick goes out of stock, you want something smaller, or you want a funky pattern, we recommend buying the Chillbo Baggins Inflatable Hammock Lounger. It’s a foot shorter than the Live Infinitely model but it’s made of equally nice material and available in unique prints. We had no problems filling it up, and it also has a stake and a pocket.

Why you should trust us

Inflatable loungers reached peak popularity quickly, during summer 2016. Because this trend grew so fast, there are no inflatable-lounger experts to interview just yet. However, I’ve written dozens of guides during my time at Wirecutter covering a huge range of topics, including trendy products like selfie sticks and hoverboards, so I’ve become quite adept at sorting through the cruft in similar categories to find the best products.

Who should get this

Inflatable loungers are useful anywhere you might need a seat that can shrink down to a small, portable size—think backyard parties, trips to the beach, camping, or perhaps the most iconic, music festivals. They’re not necessary, to be sure. But the best models provide a more comfortable alternative to a blanket. Plus, they pack up smaller than any comfy folding chair and they’re cooler, too.

Also, it’s important to clarify these aren’t those weird rubber couches from your childhood that you had to slowly blow up yourself (you remember those couches—the ones that stuck to your skin in the summer heat). These loungers are a totally different, much more trendy beast.

How we picked

Inflatable loungers are useful anywhere you might need a seat that can shrink down to a small, portable size.

We began our research by sorting through the depths of Amazon search results. The Fatboy Lamzac is the most well-known inflatable lounger and, according to Buzzfeed, the Fatboy is responsible for the original inflatable-couch concept. Now, however, there are dozens (if not hundreds) of manufacturers putting out their own inflatable loungers. There’s a bit of debate around the legality of the recent proliferation of these models: Fatboy told us it has “the original design patent on the Lamzac and all other inflatable loungers are infringing on our product.” It’s common for popular products to be ripped off by other companies, so we wouldn’t be surprised if this is true. Many of these loungers also look the same, so it’s likely that one factory might be producing dozens of different brands and just putting different labels on each.

Sellers without real websites were cut, as there’s no reliable way to communicate with them, especially in the case of a warranty issue. We then averaged the price across all the different models we found, setting a price cap of $60 but allowing for exceptions if there were special features that really stood out (there weren’t). That price was also based on how much the Fatboy Lamzac, the original lounger, costs.

We also looked for notable brands across the Web but didn’t find much beyond what we’d seen on Amazon. Other sites with comparative reviews didn’t demonstrate that their authors actually tested anything in person, either. This left us to sorting through the models we found ourselves, as well as their customer reviews and their specs.

We picked a mix of both one- and two-chamber couches to test, which we’ll define below. Rather than deciding which is the better design based only on reviews, we wanted to see for ourselves which were easier to fill and seal.

How we tested

Once we picked the models we wanted test, we brought them to Buffalo, New York’s Canalside for evaluation. This outdoor space on the water provided us enough room to set up multiple loungers at once. It also has plenty of grass to run on and stake into, and some wind off the water (which we found helps with inflation).

We started by having two testers of different heights (5 foot 10 and 6 foot 2) inflate each of the loungers by running back and forth along the grass, as the package instructions indicated. Inflatable loungers generally have two chambers, or at least two openings to a single curved chamber, so we ran back and forth three or four times per chamber to fill them up. We noticed that the couches didn’t get as full of air as we expected—rather than filling up like a balloon from a gas tank, they just got slightly puffy. This was disconcerting at first, especially because you might assume they’ll fill right up. But this is how they’re supposed to work, which most of the instructions make clear. Once you get going, you’ll find that rolling up the open end to keep the air in also tightens everything else up, forcing the same amount of air into less space and making the couch take on the shape you see in advertisements.

The next step was to stake down the couches, if a stake was included. This might not sound like a huge deal, but a gust of air could send your lounger flying if it’s not tethered to the ground. Models without a stake weren’t immediately ruled out, but it was certainly a strike against them. The same goes for pockets: It’s much better to have somewhere to store your phone, sunglasses, or book, if possible.

Before sitting on any of the loungers, we felt the material to see how comfortable it was to the touch and how tough it felt. Most of these couches are made out of ripstop polyester or nylon, designed to inhibit tearing. We didn’t like the way the non-ripstop models felt or sounded, though—imagine the constant fabric-swishing sound that might come from sitting on a giant, blown-up windbreaker.

After that, we lounged! Three Wirecutter staffers alternated between sitting and lying in the couches to see how far down we sunk, how easy it was to get out, how much air was lost, and most of all, how comfortable each was. Once we had a few frontrunners, we also took running leaps onto them to make sure they wouldn’t pop or slide out from under us. Thankfully, none did.

Finally, we wanted to see how long the loungers would stay inflated with weight on them. We took our top two models based on all the other tests, fully inflated them, then laid three 50-pound bags of rice on each (to simulate a 150-pound person lying on them). After 2 hours, 45 minutes, both loungers looked like they’d lost air—but one lost significantly more air than the other, which was telling.

Our pick

The best inflatable lounger for most people is the Live Infinitely Inflatable Air Lounger. Though all the models we tested were pretty similar, this one has a few key advantages that make it the top pick. At 7 feet, it’s longer than the average lounger, meaning you have more space to spread out or share with friends. In fact, we found that you could easily fit three people next to one another on this couch. We also found it easy to fill the couch with air, compared with the other loungers, and the ripstop polyester definitely feels like it would stand up to some abuse. The lounger comes with a stake to hold it down, too, and there’s even a pocket on one side.

Like every couch we tested, the Live Infinitely Inflatable Air Lounger ships with a drawstring bag that you can use to carry it around. The bag is made of the same ripstop polyester as the couch. Inside the bag is the lounger, a stake, and printed instructions. We found the guide to be pretty clear thanks to both written instructions and illustrations, plus a Web address with a video.

When it comes time to set up the lounger, you remove it from the bag, unsnap the plastic buckle, and unroll it. It measures 9 feet long fully unfurled, although the final lounging length is a few feet less because you roll up the end to keep the air in. There are two major design styles when it comes to these loungers in general: Some loungers have two distinct chambers, like a set of parentheses stuck together, each with a single opening; and others have one long U-shaped chamber with openings at either end. The Live Infinitely model uses the second design, which we found more efficient because air can enter the whole tube through both openings, rather than just one at a time.

The two sides of the tube are connected down the middle of the lounger, forming a “cushion” to support you. The inside of the lounger is lined with clear plastic to keep the air in, which can make a crinkly sound (but we didn’t find it bothersome). To fill it, we opened up one chamber and ran two or three times back and forth for about 10 to 20 feet before switching to the other side. We found that closing the chamber before stopping running helped keep air in better. As mentioned above, these loungers don’t puff up to their full size from scooping in air alone, which you might expect. It’s only when you roll up the open end as tight as you can and snap the buckle in place that it’s fully compressed and ready to be sat on.

Of all the loungers we tested, the Live Infinitely model had the highest weight capacity at 500 pounds. That means if you’re willing to cuddle up a bit, you could fit three pretty-average-size adults without going over the limit.

Filled well and tied off tightly, the lounger is also supportive and comfortable. You can either sit on it like a bench, perpendicular to the long side, or lie back across its length. A little bit of air does escape as you’re getting in and out, but that’s to be expected. When we let the loungers sit for 2 hours, 45 minutes with 150 pounds of rice on them, the Live Infinitely lounger definitely lost some air. That seems pretty reasonable, though—it’s rare that someone would spend that much time in one unless they were taking a nap, and the Live Infinitely did stay much more air-filled than its competitors.

A simple panel of polyester sewn onto one side serves as a pocket, divided into 6- and 13-inch segments. Depending on how much air you’re able to get into the lounger, you should be able to fit anything from a book to a beer in there.

When it comes time to deflate the Live Infinitely lounger, you simply unsnap the buckle and roll the air out, starting at the closed end. It’s similar to rolling up a sleeping bag. We found that we weren’t able to get the airless couch back to the shape it shipped in, but it was still easy to get it small enough to fit into the travel bag.

Flaws but not dealbreakers

Because the Live Infinitely is longer than most standard models, it weighs 3.1 pounds, which is slightly heavier than the other models we tested—and, of course, it’s going to take up a little more space, too. If either is a concern, this may not be the pick for you. Also, the Live Infinitely has a pocket on only one side (divided into two segments), instead of both sides. Finally, there are only a few solid color options and they’re bright, so they may not appeal to all people. We’d love to see Live Infinitely introduce some patterns for variety.

Runner-up

*At the time of publishing, the price was $0.

If our top pick goes out of stock or you prefer cool patterns over solid colors, the

Chillbo Baggins Inflatable Hammock Lounger

is a great option—not to mention awesomely named. It’s not quite as long as the Live Infinitely lounger, but it uses similar ripstop material (the company says it’s nylon, not polyester), has pockets on either side, and comes with a stake. We found it a touch more difficult to inflate than our favorite lounger, likely due to the fact that it’s designed with two separate chambers, not one.

The Chillbo Baggins weighs 3¼ pounds and measures 6 feet long. It supports up to 400 pounds, which is 100 pounds less than the Live Infinitely but still enough support for two average adults. It folds a little smaller than the top pick and comes with the same kind of carrying bag. In our deflating test, this lounger lost more air than the Live Infinitely model, with the rice almost hitting the ground by the end of the 2 hour, 45 minute process.

Other than the name, our favorite thing about the Chillbo Baggins loungers are the pattern options. Most of the competing loungers come only in solid colors, but the Chillbo was available in five fun patterns, in addition to orange and pink, at the time of publication. If you’re looking for something with a little more personality, the Chillbo Baggins is a good choice.

The competition

We tested the original lounger, the Fatboy Lamzac and found it to be a well-built couch. However, it lacks a stake or any pockets, features the rest of the competition have for the same or lower prices. Fatboy says the Lamzac holds up to 440 pounds and it’s about 6 feet in length—shorter than the Live Infinitely and on a par with the Chillbo Baggins.

Both the AeroBon and AeroBon 2 use a “nano-fabric” material that’s uncomfortably slick compared with the ripstop nylon and polyester of the other couches, and they lack any sort of inner lining. This means that if the single layer is punctured, there’s no second line of defense to keep air in. AeroBon cites this as a benefit on its website: “There are no unpleasant noises and there is no water leakage inside compared to the ones lined with the PVC film.” But we see it as a downside.

Care and maintenance

We know it’s tempting to use these loungers in the water or on the gravel, but we’d advise you to be careful with anything extreme. Most of these couches could pop in certain contexts because they’re not meant for much besides actually lounging on flat surfaces. The instructions on the Chillbo Baggins give a good overall picture of this, saying that the couch isn’t designed for “use on sharp rocks, jumping on, climbing inside of, river rafting, surfing waves, pulling behind boats, sliding down hills.” A warning on the Chillbo Baggins’s instructions also makes clear that “while the bag does float on water, this is not a live saving device.” So if you are going to use an inflatable couch on water, be careful and stay aware.

If your lounger does get a hole, the Appalachian Mountain Club recommends Gear Aid Tenacious Tape for patching nylon. Fatboy says to clean its lounger with lukewarm water and neutral soap, as needed.

What to look forward to

This is a very new category, which means competitive models will get better and cheaper, quickly. We expect to see prices drop and features increase as time goes on. There’s not much room for the basic design to change, but it’s likely that companies will continue to innovate and put out better loungers in the near future.