Inflators are one the most underrated, but most often used utilitarian tools around.
Nothing is worse than a bicycle tire that goes flat, a basketball that won't bounce, and especially a flat tire on the side of the road.
Sure, you might think that you could get by just using a hand-powered bicycle pump, but they are one-trick-ponies good for one thing: inflating bicycle tires.
When it comes down to it, inflators can tackle almost any inflating task at hand filling-up: sports balls, inflatables, bike tires, car tires, air mattresses, and rafts with ease!
Take a look at the table to see where having an inflator or air compressor makes your life easier.
If your inflation needs exclusively consist of filling sports balls, you could buy a hand pump, but they tend to be too slow for large items. Since inflators are relatively inexpensive, you might as well do yourself a favor and get one.
Inflatable toys, beach balls, and rafts can be filled the old-fashioned way: with your lungs. However, this can take a very long time. An inflator with an adapter can get these items full of air in a fraction of the time you could do it manually.
You have three options for inflating bicycle tires, and your decision basically comes down to how much time do you want to spend.
A hand pump will take the longest. A 12-volt inflator will fill up bicycle tires faster, while a 120-volt inflator will do it even faster. But a compressor will get you back on the trails in seconds, not minutes.
The most popular reason, by far, for purchasing an inflator, is to fill automobile tires. More than a convenience item to have in the trunk, an inflator can be a literal life-saver. Preventing you from becoming a victim, an inflator can get you up and running in no time flat! A 12-volt inflator uses the vehicle's battery power and shines the most while on-the-go. 120-volt inflators may be more powerful, but you'll need to find an outlet to plug into.
Overall, inflators are great for small tasks and emergency situations, but if you'll be using it on a regular basis or want to take on jobs around the house, do yourself a favor and go with an electric air compressor.
Air Mattresses & Rafts
Tubing is more fun than a barrel of monkeys so long as you don't try inflating the tube by mouth or hand. Even using a 12-volt or 120-volt inflator is going to take a long time.
The two best options are a high-volume inflator meant for items like these, or an air compressor with an adapter. Usually items such as tubes or air mattresses have large openings so you'll need to make sure you have the proper adapter for the job.