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Read time: 10 mins
Modern day humans are a funny bunch. We spend about a third of our lives either sleeping or trying to.
Yet we often use our mattresses long past their intended point of expiration until the once-supportive springs dig into our backs – an aching reminder that we still haven't gotten around to properly investing in a good night's rest.
Thankfully online mattress startups are shaking things up – not only by bringing costs down, but also by simplifying the research required to find the best mattress for your individual needs.
Making it easier to buy a mattress by streamlining options (with a one-firmness-for-all design in Koala's case) can create limitations for fussy sleepers. For its part, Koala claims its studies and focus groups helped get the firmness level "just right".
They'll give you a 120-night risk-free trial to test the mattress at home yourself. That's four months, with free return and full refund if you're not in love with your new mattress.
Should you wish to send it back, the return shipping is covered for those in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth. If you're outside those areas, you'd need to cover shipping to whichever of those cities is closest to you.
Back in 2016, Koala moved from a three-layer design to the current two-layer construction.
Both layers use high-grade polyurethane Dunlop foam, touted as more supportive than memory foam and more breathable than latex. The 6cm top comfort layer, dubbed "Kloudcell", is ventilated for a cooler sleep while the 16cm Ecofoam support layer is firmer for increased durability.
The top-knit is made from hybrid polyester/Eucalyptus fibre (also known as TENCEL).
|188cm x 92cm x 23cm||203cm x 107cm x 23cm||188cm x 138cm x 23cm||203cm x 153cm x 23cm||203cm x183cm x 23cm|
|10 year limited warranty|
|Pay by Visa, Mastercard, Paypal or Zip Money (interest free payment plans)|
I'm still blown away that you'll get delivery within four hours if you live in one of the five cities mentioned above and order an in-stock item before 2pm on a weekday.
It's immediately clear that Koala has taken great care in customer service and convenience. You even get a text message when your order is on the way. You can choose to have boxes left if you can't be home, and select metro areas can receive deliveries up until 8pm weekdays or on Saturday mornings. And though the standard couriers can't come inside (or carry boxes up more than three flights of stairs), Koala's premium delivery option gets you a two-person crew that'll bring your mattress upstairs, set it up in the room of your choice and remove any packaging.
One final note here: for Sydney and Melbourne, Koala has partnered with Soft Landing, a mattress recycling social enterprise that can remove and recycle your old mattress. Some council pick-up allowances are better than others, so this service worked great for me. It saved me time, hassle and money.
A quick shout out to whoever came up with Koala's long, slimline box design. In my case, it definitely eased the pain of navigating doorways off a narrow hallway. It's great for terraces and flats.
When it came time to unwrap the Koala mattress, we triple checked, but we didn't receive an instruction booklet, little cutting tools – or even a cuddly Koala toy in the box like I've seen others get. The truth is, you really don't need a guide. It's pretty straight forward for two people to pull out the rolled-up mattress and place it on the bed base. By the way, if you've got slats, Koala recommends they be no more than 7.5cm apart. It also cautions against using the mattress on the floor due to reduced air flow.
As you can see in the video on this page, we couldn't find any markings on the plastic for which side of the mattress should face up. Inevitably – like buttered toast always falling face down – we got it wrong. But a quick and easy flip over and we were back on track.
We took the plastic off and we quickly had one expanded mattress – mostly. While you can sleep on the Koala mattress soon after unboxing, the company says it can actually take about three to five days to come back to full feel.
Koala says its mattress is designed to "distribute weight evenly" and "not to sink or bend in the middle" and is for "people of all shapes and sizes". And sure enough, you'll find plenty of reviews online from users who find the zoned support helpful to reduce back pain. This also makes the Koala suitable for back, side and stomach sleepers alike.
But again, everyone is different – and that's the joy in being able to try the Koala risk free for yourself. What have you got to lose?
Coming from a traditional pocket spring mattress, my first impression was just how much firmer the Koala mattress is. At first, it was kind of like sleeping in a hotel. And without my old topper, the Koala (at 23cm) is noticeably much lower in height and closer to the floor.
Edge support is decent for a foam mattress. Edge sleepers (and those who pull their shoes on at the side of the bed) will notice more box edge sag than with a traditional mattress.
All the above took some time for me to adjust to, but now it's the new norm. I'm liking my Koala bed. I find it conforms enough to be super comfortable, but not to the point where I sink in and lose support.
I do feel the Koala sleeps a little hotter than my old pocket spring mattress, but not enough where I've given it any thought outside of this review. I'm certainly not losing any sleep.
"Conforms enough to be super comfortable, but not to the point where I sink in and lose support."
Speaking of which, the partner disturbance/anti-transfer capabilities of the Koala mattress were highly welcomed in my little family. Taking turns to get out of bed and settle my daughter in the middle of night just got a whole lot easier. Pro tip: a snug fit on your bed base that avoids sliding movement is equally important.
If you've got little ones, it's worth noting that Koala doesn't recommend using a mattress protector with its mattress. This is not only because it would reduce airflow, but also because you've already got a removable, hand-washable cover with underside zipper. You're also able to use your favourite old topper or electric blanket, but the same breathability issues could come into play.
I tested the queen-size mattress Koala sent us to review with Koala bedding I purchased myself: super-smooth TENCEL sheets and pillow cases. Your favourite linen should also fit just fine as Koala uses standard Australian sizing – see our table.
Koala says to expect the mattress to last about 10 years. I'm only a little over two months in, so I haven't noticed any permanent sinking spots across the sleep surface.
The company provides a 10-year limited warranty on the mattress, which covers "visible indentation greater than 2.5cm... that is not associated with an indentation or sag which results from use of an improper or unsupportive foundation or adjustable bed base."
Out of the box, it can also take a few hours for the "new mattress smell" common to foam mattresses to fade. That's the materials "off-gassing". Some people are more sensitive to it than others, so it's hard to say how long you'll need to let your mattress breathe before you're happy to use it. In my case, we turned the ceiling fan right up to speed ventilation, left the bedroom door open and happily slept on the mattress the next night. It took about a week for us to forget there had ever been any out-of-box odour.
Koala says its mattress has been "rigorously tested for all the nasty chemicals that can be found in other mattresses." That means it contains no phthalates, heavy metals and has low volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions, though the company doesn't share any certifications concerning laboratory testing. The Koala mattress is also fire retardant, "using a flame retardant stockinette [Nylon netting], not dangerous chemicals."
Environmentally, the Koala mattress is proudly vegan and made from GECA-certified foam (Good Environmental Choice Australia standards of environmental friendliness). And when you buy a Koala mattress, you also symbolically adopt a sick or injured Koala, through a partnership with WWF Australia.
Koala and Ecosa are two of Australia's earliest mattress-in-a-box brands, having both started in 2015.
Koala says it has now sold over 100,000 mattresses, with the 25- to 35-year-old crowd its biggest group.
Is Koala better than Ecosa? While Koala has a single two-layer mattress that balances "not too firm, not too soft", the feel of an Ecosa mattress can be customised thanks to three interchangeable layers (supported by a 100-night trial and 15-year warranty). Another Aussie online mattress brand, Sleeping Duck, has a quiz to help you choose your preferred level of support.
The Ecosa mattress is uniquely engineered with multiple foam layers to provide maximum support and comfort. The layers are designed to regulate temperature and circulate air, and you can adjust the firmness to suit your needs. The mattress is delivered to your door in a compact box.View details
Though some beds/bases from certain Swedish furniture stores are smaller than Australian standards, "you can squeeze the [Koala] mattress into a bed frame up to 3cm smaller than the mattress" with no problems.
In many ways, online mattress brands like Koala in Australia, Casper in the US, Simba in Europe and Endy in Canada have arguably matched the convenience and reasonable value-for-money of IKEA, while moving onto new foam technologies even as the Swedish giant continues to roll with springs, memory foam and latex.
Danny has been reviewing consumer products for 20 years and is the former managing editor of Lifehacker Australia.
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