The sleeping mat is an essential piece of camping equipment. It stops the ground from heating your body and provides more comfort than if you were directly sleeping on the ground. There are generally four types of sleeping mats available: self-inflating, closed-cell foam, air beds, and air mats. Each type is designed to excel in its area of camping. Consider what kind of activity you plan to use your sleeping mat for, and how it will be transported to your overnight destination.
Closed-Cell Foam Mats
Closed-cell foam mat is probably the most popular camping mat. Although they are bulky, they are durable and inexpensive. Because they are bulky, they can be stored outside of a rucksack and secured with lash straps to ensure that they don’t take up too much space inside your bag.
Although they don’t provide much comfort for those who sleep on uneven or rough terrain, they have excellent thermal properties that keep you warm and protected from cold floors. You can stack them with other mats to provide extra protection from cold temperatures.
Different brands use different thicknesses and levels of foam. Some also include reflective materials that increase thermal protection. Some foam can be rolled up while others have reinforced scores to make a ‘Z-shaped’ mat.
Self-inflating Camping Mats
The self-inflating mats are made from open-cell foam and are encapsulated with airtight fabric. The valve opens and closes to allow airflow into and out of the foam. They come in a variety of sizes and shapes, just like other mat designs. Some are bulky and are best suited for car camping. Others are better suited to multi-day backpacking and will take up less space in your rucksack.
These mats are more expensive than closed-cell foam mats due to the higher technology and materials involved. However, they are quickly becoming more popular because of their great comfort. After the valve is opened, the mat can be rolled out and the air is drawn into it to fill all the spaces. The air is trapped inside the valve by closing it. This creates a comfortable sleeping surface. You can take a few more breaths through the valve to get a firmer surface before closing it.
It is important to open the valve before packing away the mat. Once it has been compressed, roll it up tight to allow air to escape. It may be necessary to roll the mat up several times to remove all air. However, it should not take more than two rolls to make it compact enough to fit into the storage bag or straps.
Air mats are the lightest type and pack down very compactly. These mats are made of lightweight, durable materials. They can be inflated by blowing them up or using a compatible pump bag. This is often the best way to prevent moisture buildup.
They are light and compact and can be packed down easily. However, they provide a comfortable and thick sleeping surface that is ideal for uneven ground. To aid in thermal resistance in cold conditions, they often have reflective details and baffles.
Air beds are sturdy, large, and comfortable. Air beds are ideal for car camping, especially in milder conditions. To inflate, they will need a pump (electrical or manual). They can be used with regular bedsheets, quilts, and sleeping bags.
They aren’t suitable for cold weather backpacking, or small tent use due to their bulky size and lack of insulation. However, they are very comfortable and are available in single and double sizes.