If there was a prototype for the current trend of boxable mattresses sold solely online, it is BedInABox (BIAB). Located in Johnson City, TN, the company was started in 2004 with the goal of making affordable memory foam mattresses. Sleep Innovations may have been compressing their mattresses and fitting them in boxes, but theirs were sold in stores, while BIAB’s were sold online. It was ten years later that Casper Sleep ignited the current trend with their one mattress-in-a box model, a memory foam/latex hybrid.

Judging from the Better Business Bureau report and reviews by GoodBed and Sleep Like the Dead, BedInABox has very high customer satisfaction. Their mattresses have a longer average lifespan (over 6 years) than most memory foam mattresses. Their foams are made in America by BASF, combining German and American quality.

In 2013, BIAB had seven models. In 2016 they have just four models, new versions of four of the seven earlier mattresses: PacBed Original (PacBed Original GEL), Tranquility (Tranquility Gel with Natural TENCEL), Silk Elegance (Natural Silk Elegance GEL), and Serenity (Serenity GEL).

There are four firmness levels, from medium soft to firm: Silk, Serenity, PacBed, Tranquility. All have the same 8” high base layer of Sure Align Support Foam. Each model has a unique cover composition.

All current BedInABox models have a 3” comfort layer of BIAB’s CoolRest Gel Memory Foam. The gel infusion is for cooling, but scientific evaluation of this claim agrees with Dr. Rick Swartzburg’s conclusion that the cooling effect of gel is limited. The gel has only two means of cooling: absorption and conduction. As with any material, gel can only absorb so much heat, and this largely depends on its temperature at the time of contact. And conduction only works when there is a place to conduct the heat where it can be released.

BedInABox mattresses were overwhelming rated “Excellent” for temperature on GoodBed.com. This may be partly due to the gel infusion. Other factors also factor into the temperature of a mattress for sleeping, especially breathability. BIAB’s memory foam is open-cell, allowing some air to filter through. We saw no mention of perforation on descriptions, but this does not rule that out.

Dr. Swartzburg has a video demonstrating the breathability of the AirFlow Transfer System, which is an option for Tri-Pedic mattresses and a standard feature in TempFlow models. Open-cell structure lets a little air flow through the foam, and perforation allows more, but the most airflow is achieved by pairing perforation of the upper layers with channels in the top surface of the support layer to direct air to the edge of the mattress.

Covers play a significant role in temperature moderation for BedInABox mattresses. On the PacBed Original, it is thin and breathable. Tranquility’s cover uses Tencel (Lyocell), a regenerated cellulose fiber (similar to rayon) which is structured to wick moisture away from the sleeping surface to evaporate with a cooling effect. The cover of Silk Elegance is a blend of rayon and silk, which also wicks moisture for cooling. Serenity takes a different tack. Its cover has BIAB’s CoolRest Adaptive Material, replacing the Outlast in the prior version. Cooling here is via phase change materials, which are more effective than gel, but still have limits.

BedInABox does not indicate how much gel is infused into their CoolRest Memory Foam. Gel does affect the feel of the memory foam, and the form of the infusion influences this effect. Though several manufacturers boast of the feel, Dr, Swartzburg says it takes away from the benefits of the visco-elastic material.

Speaking about the feel of the memory foam, the top two BIAB models have quilted covers. This partially masks the feel of the memory foam, dampening its effectiveness.

The three models of Selectabed’s Tri-Pedic are three-layer mattresses with two layers of memory foam of differing densities. This concept worked well enough to be used by Tempur-Pedic. However, BedInABox still has two-layer construction. This works better for compression and rolling of the mattress for boxing and shipping.

Another Relief-Mart/Selectabed subsidiary, Snuggle-Pedic, now has a boxable mattress on the market. Like BedInABox models, it has two layers. It also uses the AirFlow Transfer System (ATS). The two layers perform better after compression and expansion than three layers, and the ATS gives it a definite advantage in cooling over other boxable bed brands.