Once upon a time, inflatable furniture was mainly for kids’ playrooms. But today, some modern designs allow almost three-piece suite levels of comfort while we’re away on our caravan holidays. So to help you work out which products are winners and which are really just a load of hot air, Practical Caravan conducted an inflatable furniture group test.

There are some stunning folding and non-folding camping chairs available to buy in accessory shops now, but we were interested in the colourful (and conveniently easy to stow) world of inflatable furniture. Nothing you can pack in your caravan rivals the ultimate relaxing qualities of your three-piece suite back home. Many people would say that’s just a compromise caravanners have to live with. No longer. Many brands have quietly developed advanced inflatable furniture. The results of their work, as with modern full-height airbeds, are surprising. 

While many modern airbeds are so secure and comfortable that they feel like a decent conventional mattress, other inflatable furniture isn’t quite there. Due to its height, it’s difficult for designers to eliminate the slightly wobbly sensation that inflatables often have. Engineering a genuinely supportive backrest has been another major challenge. Still, many of today’s products are definitely better for lounging and relaxing than metal-frame camping chairs, even if you would never mistake one for your best Chesterfield at home. 

Aside from comfort, inflatable furniture has other good points to consider. It’s lightweight, relatively cheap, and compacts down until it’s almost flat – great when packing for your caravan holidays. These plus points must be weighed against their often excessive size when inflated and how that complicates storage. And forget about leaving an inflatable outside, because even light winds will carry it away. You need an awning for inflatable furniture to really make sense – they are also liable to being punctured on many surfaces. And remember that, regardless of brand or quality, inflatables always need a top-up of air every couple of days or so when in use. 

So, how did we test these inflatable chairs? We initially concentrated on how fast and easy each chair is to inflate and deflate. We also rated them for comfort, taking into account sitting height, ease of standing up from them and how they fare when our testers sit upright or lean back to lounge. To keep things practical, we measured how big a footprint each seat needs when fully inflated – some inflatable chairs are huge – and how much seating area you actually get. And, as always, we factored in value for money.

Here we have the SunnCamp 5 in 1 sofa bed. Priced at £35 it won’t break the bank, so that is certainly a good start. Genuinely clever ideas often don’t work well in reality, however this ingenious sofa is an exception to that rule, as our review revealed. Inflate the two flat sections to either make a large double airbed or – if stacked and clamped together – a double-height single bed. Then inflate the backrest.

The result is a piece of furniture that can be set up for use as a double bed, a lounger with its own backrest, as a double-thickness single bed or as a double sofa (this the configuration shown in our image). There’s a further option, too: turn the entire bed upside down, allowing the backrest to become a support, and you get an inclined double lounger. That’s a lot of options for your money.

It inflates and deflates rapidly, is comfortable in all modes, and has a practical 45cm seat height in sofa mode. All of which meant that at the end of the Practical Caravan inflatable furniture group test, this SunnCamp 5 in 1 sofa bed was crowned the winner. Fancy something a smaller and more colourful? We also tested another SunnCamp product, the single flocked sofa, as well as the Bestway Moda, the Bestway Comfi Cube, the Bestway Nestair, the Gelert ABD099, the Easy Camp Movie Seat Double, the Intex Café Chaise, the Intex Beanless Bag and the admittedly not very colourful Vango armchair.