Innovative Ways to Blow Up an Air Mattress Without a Pump

Sleeping on an air mattress when you go camping is so much better than sleeping on the hard (and sometimes cold) ground. But what happens when you go camping and forget your air pump? Sometimes an air pump might break or be left behind.

Never fear. We have you covered. In this article, we share tips on how to blow up an air mattress without a pump.

There are many benefits of using an air mattress when you are camping. We all know that a good night of sleep is super important, and camping is no exception.

Sleeping on an air mattress can help keep you comfortable from bumpy, rocky, or uneven terrain and help you stay warm.

There are many ways to inflate an air mattress, some require electricity, and some don’t. We realize you might not have some of these items on your camping list, like a hairdryer.

But not everyone goes camping in a tent, and many campgrounds have full hookups, including electricity. So we tried to cover all the bases for you.

If you are camping in a cabin or glamping in a yurt, you may have access to electricity, so you can use that hairdryer.

Hang in there while we share tips on getting the mattress pumped up so you get a good night’s sleep. If you want to forgo an air mattress, check out our article about alternatives here.

Here are some creative ways to inflate an air mattress without a pump.

Vacuum Cleaner

If you are camping in a cabin, brought your air mattress but forgot your pump, or it’s DOA, look for a vacuum cleaner. Maybe there is a shop vac hiding in a shed or closet.

A vacuum cleaner is an effective way to inflate an air mattress without a pump. You can use this method if you are camping in a cabin with electricity and a vacuum.

Also, if you have a portable vacuum that plugs in your car, you can use this out-of-the-box method in a pinch, even if you are car camping.

When using a vacuum cleaner to inflate an air mattress, the vacuum must have a reverse function or exhaust mode, blowing air instead of sucking.

The first thing to do is make sure the vacuum is clean. You don’t want to inflate your mattress with dirt. Next, turn the vacuum to exhaust mode, take off the bag or canister, and turn on the vacuum for about 10-15 seconds to blow out all the dirt, dust, and debris.

Depending on the vacuum attachments and the valve on the air mattress, you might have to get creative. For example, you can use duct tape to seal the vacuum hose attached to the valve.

Next, turn on the vacuum cleaner and hold onto the mattress as it inflates. Again, you might have to switch attachments or try a different one until you successfully connect with an attachment that works well with your vacuum cleaner and valve on the mattress.

If the vacuum has multiple speeds, start slow and gradually increase the output as you go.

If it doesn’t work at first, keep trying!

Blow Dryer

Another way to blow up an air mattress without electricity is by using a blow dryer. This is an alternative way to inflate your air mattress if you are camping in a cabin or glamping in a yurt.

Blue blow dryer with cordPin

Many modern blow dryers have a non-heat setting, making this an attractive option for blowing up an air mattress.

Some hair dryers are battery-powered (cordless), so you don’t need to plug them in. These models are great for traveling and camping.

A blow dryer works well for this method because it has the power to inflate an air mattress. Just make sure you don’t use the heat setting.

If you use a blow dryer, make sure it has cooled entirely before trying this method on your air mattress.

To be completely honest, attaching the blow dryer to the air mattress is not easy. You will probably need some type of tape (duct, masking). A funnel or a cone-shaped piece of paper or cardboard can also work.

Using a blow dryer to pump up an air mattress might be a two-person job. One person holds the air mattress valve open while another operates the hairdryer.

Even though this seems simple, getting an airtight seal between your blow dryer and inflatable mattress is not easy. Once you get a tight seal, use the blow dryer on the highest output setting to make quick inflation work.

Plastic Garbage Bag

This method can be used if you are seriously roughing it and don’t have a functioning air pump. All you need is a plastic garbage bag to use this method. The bigger, the better.

If you have a large garbage bag, you can cut one corner of the bag to fit over the valve. This method works best with a Boston or one-way valve. Wrap the cut end around the valve and secure it with a rubber band to rope.

Then you will collect air in the bag by whipping/swooshing/swinging the bag to get in it. Then squeeze the bag to force the air into the air mattress.

Filling an air mattress with a plastic bag is very manual, but it might be your best option when you are in a pinch.

Leaf Blower

Raise your hand if you take a leaf blower camping with you. I can honestly say I have done this 🙂

A leaf blower can clear a campsite, stoke up your campfire and blow up an air mattress. If it blows air, it can inflate your mattress.

Orange Stihl leaf blower can be used to inflate a mattress without a pumpPin

I concede that most folks don’t take a leaf blower with them when they go camping. But using a leaf blower can be an effective way to inflate a mattress at home or if you are staying at a cabin that happens to have one.

Fitting the blower to the mattress valve can be tricky, just like most of the other methods listed, but with some creativity, you can make it work.

Getting the air mattress valve and a leaf blower in sync can be tricky, but once you do, it will only take a few minutes to fill up the mattress.

You can cut the top off of a water bottle to funnel the air into the mattress valve. This is a two-person job for sure.

Using a leaf blower is the most efficient way to inflate an air mattress without a pump, based on the volume of air that the blower pumps out.

Mouth to Mouth

Blowing up an air mattress with your mouth is not much fun unless you like feeling lightheaded and out of breath. Been there, done that.

But, in certain situations, you have no other option. For example, if your mattress has a one-way valve, meaning air can’t get out once you blow in, that is much more efficient.

If you use your mouth to inflate the mattress, put one end of the valve in your mouth and blow. You might have to do this for a few minutes, but it will eventually inflate.

This is not an ideal way to inflate an air mattress, but it is better than nothing if you are stuck without a pump or any other option.

It’s not so bad if you are topping off a self-inflating camping mattress; otherwise, it’s no fun.

Try a Self-Inflating Air Mattress

Speaking of self-inflating mattresses, these are a great option if you know you will be without a pump. All you need to do is open the valve and let the mattress do its thing.

Blue Lightspeed self-inflating mattressPin

You don’t need an air pump, a blow dryer, a leaf blower, or anything else to take with you, just your mattress. Self-inflating mattresses have a valve; when it’s open, it lets air in. When the mattress is inflated, close the valve to keep the air inside.

The good news is that once they’re inflated, these mattresses will stay at their desired level until the next time you pack them up. You can also top them off by blowing into the valve if you want the mattress to be more firm.

Inflation valve on a self-inflating air mattressPin

Self-inflating mattresses work great but take some time to inflate completely. You can expect anywhere from 10 minutes or more, depending on the size and type of material they’re made of.

Self-inflating mattresses are more compact and expensive than some run-of-the-mill inflatable mattresses, but the cost is worth it. You can go camping without worrying about pumping up your air mattress.

Of course, you still need to bring a repair kit if your mattress gets a hole in it.

Consider Packing a Manual Pump

Yes, I know this article is about blowing up an air mattress without a pump, but it might be a good idea to pack a small manual pump in your camping gear as a backup.

These pumps are small, lightweight, and easy to store. And they work like a charm – all you have to do is attach the pump to the valve on the mattress and start pumping.

Inflating your air mattress with a manual pump won’t take long, but it’s not as fast as a leaf blower or air compressor.

Packing a manual pump in case you forget your air mattress battery-operated pump or even the foot pump that comes with most inflatable mattresses is not a bad idea. It might be slower but will do the job when nothing else is available.


Blowing up an air mattress without a pump can be challenging to do. Still, anyone can get the job done with some creativity and dedication. This article outlined many ways to inflate a mattress without a pump.

Next time you find yourself in a situation with an air mattress and without a functioning pump, you can be prepared.

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About the author
Steve Morrow
Steve Morrow owns Paddle About, an outdoor recreation and travel blog. Steve loves to travel, kayak, paddle board, camp, hike, and spend time outdoors with his wife and two kids. When he's not exploring the great outdoors, Steve enjoys writing about his adventures and sharing tips for getting the most out of your outdoor experiences. He has a lot of interesting stories to share, and he's always happy to help others get more out of life.