The Folding Mattress My Overnight Guests Love

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In the summer of 2020, during the grueling first months of the pandemic, my family escaped our cramped Brooklyn apartment and journeyed to my mom’s place in Washington state. While my husband and I took turns between an air mattress and a regular bed, our kids crashed on foam folding mattresses.

The folding mattresses (also called tri-folds) were surprisingly comfortable — especially compared with the air mattress, which felt clammy and inevitably leaked and hammocked after a few nights, leaving me with back pain. (Even the best air mattresses that Wirecutter has tested aren’t meant to be slept on long term.) I’ve since bought two of the same twin-size folding mattresses, the 4-inch Best Choice Products tri-folds, for guests at my home.

As the name suggests, these mattresses fold into thirds (or fourths). Unfolded, each makes a 75-inch-long bed. At 4 inches thick, the high-density foam beds offer the firm yet slightly sinking feel of some memory foams, hugging the body’s curves and supporting bony hips and shoulders. But I’ve never felt stuck in the foam, as I have with some of the memory-foam mattresses I’ve tested for Wirecutter.

The tri-folds are also delightfully versatile. When one guest visits, I stack the mattresses on a folding twin frame to create one 8-inch-thick mattress. When I cover them with a waterproof mattress protector and sheets, no one can tell they’re tri-folds. They look like a normal bed, which makes our guest space (my office) look far more polished than it would with a blow-up mattress. When two guests visit, I put the mattresses directly on the floor. Butted together, they make a king.

When I want the mattresses out of the way, I slide them under my king-size bed frame and stow the folded twin frame under the kids’ bunk bed (ah, the Tetris of small-apartment living!). More often than not, the kids commandeer the mattresses for their room. We wedge the tri-folds side by side to form a long couch (I tightly secure a quilt around them, using these weird but effective sheet clips), or the girls sleep on them. We also drag them into the living room for epic movie nights when friends come over.

Like my mom, I chose the Best Choice Products folding mattresses because they’re well rated (4.4 out of five stars across more than 4,900 reviews on Amazon), and you can remove the foam inserts to wash the covers. Not that I’ve ever done that! It seems like a pain, so I just spot-treat them — but when my cat inevitably pukes on one, at least washing will be an option. The mattresses came with fabric carrying cases, too, but those accessories felt cheap and tore after a few uses. Nice in theory, bad in practice.

Although I love these beds, they’re not right for everyone. They’re not a good option if your space is tight on storage. Folded, each one still measures about 39 by 25 by 12 inches, taking up far more room than a rolled-up air mattress. That said, they’ll never pop or leak, as nearly all air mattresses do.

Ever since I’ve had these tri-folds, various guests have visited my home for stretches ranging from a few nights to a few weeks. All of them have said that they’ve gotten great sleep on our mattresses. And my kids and I continue to use my mom’s tri-folds during the summers, and I always remark on how comfy they are. That’s something I’d never say of an air mattress.

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