My wife and I are planning on moving abroad to West Africa in two years. We just got married in the U.S. and need to get a new mattress. We'd like to take our mattress with us to West Africa because we doubt we'll be able to buy a good one there. What should we consider when buying a mattress prior to the move. In particular, what qualities qualify or disqualify a mattress for shipping via sea freight to destinations abroad?

For example, I've imagined that an air bed (e.g., Sleep Number) may fare better, because of its ability to pack down, but that's only a theory; it also may be more easily damaged in transit, or its pumps may have a tendency to break and be difficult to find parts for. Note, while this at first appears to be a subjective question, I'm most interested in answers that objectively address issues like what mattresses pack up tighter, pack up lighter, fit under an airplane, sit in customs for significant durations, pass through customs easier or endure travel in a sea container.

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    Any mattress will survive sea shipment just fine. You needn't worry. – John Zwinck Dec 17 '15 at 13:43
  • Merchako, which country are you moving to? In many/most countries in Africa buying a mattress should not be that much of a problem. – einpoklum Mar 29 '17 at 10:09
  • When I wrote this, I was planning to move to Cameroon. When I lived in Cameroon in 2010-2011, it was very difficult to buy high quality mattresses from within the country. Instead of moving to Cameroon, I've moved to Kenya. We took everything with us in checked luggage on the plane, and it's much easier to buy good mattresses here. (Having a large, wealthy expat community here helps.) – Merchako Mar 29 '17 at 19:19

Let me suggest an alternative:

Nowadays, mattresses are sometimes/often(?) shipped highly compressed, with all the air out. Find a company that sells these and ask them if they ship to Africa. If yes, buy one and try it out.

In two years time, buy another one and have it shipped to your new address.

Yes, this is more expensive. Your 'loss' is that you are using one mattress for 2 years whereas its lifetime may be 10 years.

  • That's only true for certain kinds of mattresses (thin ones mostly). – einpoklum Mar 29 '17 at 10:08
  • @einpoklum These 10 inch matresses ship compressed – user6860 Mar 29 '17 at 10:18
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    Those are foam mattresses. I don't think you could do the same with springs. I'm actually against foam mattresses in general but that's not something to discuss in the comments of another question. – einpoklum Mar 29 '17 at 10:50

I think this mattress idea sounds like a real waste of energy.

First, decide on which country you are moving to, then take a trip there and/or research what even are the standard available bed sizes. It would be stupid to import a mattress only to find there are no reasonably compatible boxspring or bed frame to support it.

Assuming your air bed requires electricity to power the pump? Check on the provision of electricity in the kind of home you would want to live in and see whether the voltage and AC frequency are within the manufacturer's tolerances.

This sounds like a much more expensive proposition than simply buying a luxurious mattress after arriving at your destination.

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    In some places, it can be difficult to find high quality mattresses to buy. I've lived in Cameroon several years ago, and it was difficult to find a mattress much better than egg crate-style foam. – Merchako Oct 2 '16 at 23:45

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