Choosing a sleeping mat for camping

By Alpkit

When we set about producing our sleeping mats, we wanted a range of mats that we could use in every eventuality from week-long camping trips out of the car to multi-day adventure races. Ignoring hammocks and heavy camping beds there are basically 4 types of sleeping mats of interest to the modern camper. Which mat or combination of mats is best for you depends on your chosen activity.

Closed-cell foam mats – these used to be the budget choice. Their big advantage is their indestructibility and suitability for very cold conditions. Partner with a self-inflating mat like Airo or Dirtbag in winter conditions.

Lightweight Inflatable Mats - Lightweight mats such as Cloud Base and Numo pack down very small and weigh much less than self-inflating mats making them ideal for bikepacking and backpacking

Self-inflating Mats - This is now the choice for anyone that wants a comfy nights sleep. There is a wide range of suppliers with an even wider range of designs. Later we will highlight a few and if your interested give our spin on the pros and cons of each of the products.

Airbeds – Many people still swear by the old fashion airbed, but unless you want a bed that sleeps two or like carrying heavy sheets of rubber then they are best left alone.

Self-Inflating Mats - The concept

A self-inflating mat is basically a layer of compressible foam sandwiched inside an airtight envelope with a sealable valve. When you open the valve the foam expands and sucks air into the mat. After a couple of minutes, the mat will be semi-firm and you will have to add a few breaths of air to make the mat firm enough to sleep on. The first time you use your mat you may have to blow into it more to wake up the foam. The foam is what makes a self-inflating mattress different and superior to an airbed.

Materials and construction

The sleeping mat range is now lighter and more compact than ever but we haven't just made the mats smaller. The secret lays in that all-important foam layer laminated between the 'Mini Diamond Ripstop Nylon' outer. We use a 'Xlite Die Cut Open Cell Foam', the air pockets in open-cell foam are inter-connected making it an excellent cushioning material and gives the mat its self-inflating characteristics. It also gives us a 30% weight reduction over regular foam while still supporting your weight, provide insulation and pack down small. The foam also features high resilience, anti-mould and bacteria resistance. We make this even lighter by die-cutting X-shaped holes that reduce the insulation slightly and reduces the weight significantly. This 'foam technology' means that our new mats are more resilient, quicker to inflate and will support your weight a little more when not fully inflated.

Deflating news

There is nothing clever about deflating these mats, you open the valve and sit on them until all the air is squashed out. Actually we recommend rolling them from one end towards the valve end, otherwise, you will be sitting in your tent all day. The better you are at squeezing out the air the smaller the mat will be. Our Dozer features a twin-valve design allowing faster inflating and deflating speeds.

Remember folks these are not airbeds, an airbed is great for floating around the ocean, but a self-inflating mattress is great to sleep on. Don't get the two mixed up!

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