Author Topic: Need A Decent Camping Mat  (Read 852 times)

Need A Decent Camping Mat
« on: July 17, 2018, 10:41:03 am »
I'm looking around for a good quality camping mat that's comfy, yet easy enough to carry around. I've owned some in the past that just weren't up to scratch, so would appreciate any recommendations :)

I also had an idea to get some foam cut to the right shape. That way I know exactly what I'm laying on. Has anyone tried that?

Thanks in advance

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Re: Need A Decent Camping Mat
« Reply #1 on: July 17, 2018, 12:07:28 pm »
Common or garden foam isn't much good on its own.
Air is what does the insulation, your weight squeezes all the air out when you lie on it, so you need it to be quite thick for warmth as well as comfort, it's (very) bulky to carry, and it soaks up water.

The generally used options are:

Closed cell foam
In this, the bubbles in the foam don't connect with each other. Since your weight doesn't squeeze out the air, it insulates well, and you need less thickness for comfort. It's still bulky to carry, so it's normally limited to 9-12 mm thick, which takes the edge off the ground but isn't as comfortable as inflatable mats.
Light and relatively cheap, fairly indestrucible

Self inflating mats
Self-inflating mats are normal foam with a nylon cover bonded to the outside to keep the air in. Comfort is fairly good, depending on thickness. Light versions are about 1 inch thick, which is OK for back or front sleepers, but side sleepers may find a hip touching the ground. Thicker versions are available, and give good comfort, but are quite a lot bulkier to carry than the thinner versions, which fold in half before being rolled. Light mats also often have the foam core perforated for lightness, which reduces the insulation enough that they can feel cold in winter.
Can puncture, and can delaminate, with the cover separating from the foam core to give a big bubble. Punctures can be patched, but delamination requires replacement.

Lightweight air beds
Just like a lightweight version of a lilo. Comfort is good, insulation is poor, so they are summer only.
Can puncture (and be patched), or the baffles separating the separate "tubes" can fail, which generally renders the mat unusable.

Insulated air beds.
The same as above, but with internal insulation in the form of down, synthetic fibre fill, or multiple baffles to prevent air movement. In the case of down, an additional failure mode is down leaking out through the valve.
Usually relatively expensive.


Insulation varies from "not winter" to "arctic". Insulation values are usually given as "R-values", which may be in archaic US units (BTUs, square feet, deg F, hours), or SI units (Joules, sq m, Deg K, seconds). The conversion factor is 5.7, with US units coming in the 2 to 7 range, and SI units in the 0.5 to 1.3 range.
I find that about 2.5 (US) is usable in zero degree weather, but is noticeably cool, but not so cool I don't sleep.

The main brands are Thermarest (Closed cell foam, self-inflating, or multiple baffle insulated air beds), and Exped (down or synthetic insulated air beds). Both provide good warranty replacement schemes in case of failure, but that's not much good until you get home. There are other relatively new brand that don't yet have a lot of user feedback (eg Sea to Summit), and many cheaper versions, most commonly the self-inflating mats.

FWIW, I use Thermarest Neoair (baffled insulated air mat)
My short original (now Xlite) is marginal for winter, but a short version rolls up to the size of a 750 ml bidon. The full length Xtherm is warm, but a fatter roll (~15 cm dia)

quixoticgeek

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Re: Need A Decent Camping Mat
« Reply #2 on: July 23, 2018, 01:13:52 am »
<snip>

FWIW, I use Thermarest Neoair (baffled insulated air mat)
My short original (now Xlite) is marginal for winter, but a short version rolls up to the size of a 750 ml bidon. The full length Xtherm is warm, but a fatter roll (~15 cm dia)

I used an Exped Synmat 7 UL (baffled insulated air mat (Synthetic fill)), for about 5 years before the slow puncture I couldn't seem to find got too annoying, and I forked out on a Exped Down Matt 9 HL Winter, which is wonderful to use, it's 90mm thick, filled with down, and really comfy. It's quite bulky, it fills a single 5l dry bag on my front fork, but I only take it if I'm expecting -5°C or below. The rest of the year I have an Exped Synmat HL, which is a 70mm thick synthetic fill mat. Both of my newer mats are the tapered design, which saves weight and bulk. I'm one of those weirdo bike packer types (as well as Ultra light backpacking), so weight and low bulk are important to me. Being 1.7m tall, and a side sleeper, I seem to fit these mats perfectly.

A common complaint about the Thermorest NEOair mats is they sound like a crisp packet, which can be annoying for people you're camping with. The exped mats aren't silent, but they are quieter.

Ultimately, you pays your money, you makes your choice.

J

PS If you go the exped route, the pump bag they include with the mats is invaluable, Stops you blowing moist, bacteria laden breathe into the mat that then grows inside it. Well worth having.
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Re: Need A Decent Camping Mat
« Reply #3 on: July 23, 2018, 04:15:52 am »
If you're going to go the closed cell foam route, the ThermaRest Z-Lite is an excellent option. Folding it up is faster than rolling up a regular foam pad, and you can partially unfold it if you just want something to sit on. The bulk is a nuisance on a bicycle, but it is manageable.

Sea to Summit is a relatively new brand, as andrew_s mentioned, but so far everything they do seems to be very good quality. The store I work in has been selling loads of them this year, I haven't heard any bad reports yet. All the Sea to Summit air mats come with a pump bag, which is every bit as invaluable as andrew_s says. Mold growing inside the pad after it's blown up by mouth is apparently a cause of pinhole leaks. The Sea to Summit pump bags are very nicely made.

Re: Need A Decent Camping Mat
« Reply #4 on: July 25, 2018, 01:32:17 pm »
If you're going to go the closed cell foam route, the ThermaRest Z-Lite is an excellent option. Folding it up is faster than rolling up a regular foam pad, and you can partially unfold it if you just want something to sit on. The bulk is a nuisance on a bicycle, but it is manageable.

Still a bit p'ed off that I didn't pick one of those up for a fiver in a closing down sale a few years ago. I think I had doubts about the bulk, but if you saw the way I pack these days/what I carry, that was a daft objection.

Re: Need A Decent Camping Mat
« Reply #5 on: September 03, 2018, 08:43:15 am »
If you're going to go the closed cell foam route, the ThermaRest Z-Lite is an excellent option. Folding it up is faster than rolling up a regular foam pad, and you can partially unfold it if you just want something to sit on. The bulk is a nuisance on a bicycle, but it is manageable.

Still a bit p'ed off that I didn't pick one of those up for a fiver in a closing down sale a few years ago. I think I had doubts about the bulk, but if you saw the way I pack these days/what I carry, that was a daft objection.

We have the z-lite sit mats. They are really warm, in a slightly peculiar way. I would like a Z-lite mat to put under my exped mat in winter. I currently use a decathlon foam mat for that which works very well. As a side sleeper with a big bottom, I find thin thermarests and foam mats impossibly uncomfortable, but they work for some people.
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