Camping Sleep Mats Guide
Camping Sleep Mats Guide
If you are sleeping outdoors, a camping sleep mat should not be considered a luxury, but rather an essential piece of camping equipment.
Even if you will be sleeping off ground using some form of metal-framed camp bed, or maybe in a hammock, it is still a good idea to use a sleeping mat.
The prime purpose of the sleep mat is insulation, not cushioning.
Function over Comfort
The ground is a very good conductor of heat. It loses its warmth much quicker at night than the air.
Add to this the fact that the part of the sleeping bag between you and the ground has been compressed by your weight, and you can see that heat loss will be much quicker to the ground than to the air above you.
This is why a sleeping mat is so important.
A sleeping mat should not be confused with an air bed, or air mattress.
These can be very comfortable to sleep on, and should be considered a luxury.
Because the circulating air will tend to conduct the heat away, they are really only suitable for warm weather camping unless used with a sleep mat.
Types of Camping Sleep Mats
There are basically 2 types of sleep mat - closed cell foam mats and open cell foam mats.
Closed Cell Sleep Mats
These are made from blown foam (chemically blown or pressure blown), and basically consist of thousands of individual, sealed-in air bubbles.
They are very durable, lightweight and inexpensive (prices range from about £5 up to about £15).
Because the air bubbles are sealed, these mats cannot be compressed to any large extent, so they do tend to take up a lot of room.
They are waterproof, so you tend to see them strapped to the top or bottom of a backpacker's rucksack.
Open Cell Sleep Mats
In an open cell mat the air bubbles in the foam are linked.
This means that the air can be squeezed out (and water sucked in!), so to be of any use it needs to be contained in a waterproof and airtight shell.
This is how a self-inflating sleep mat is made.
They have a valve, which is opened when you want the bag to inflate. The foam inside expands sucking in the air.
(When you first use the mat, or after a long period of compression, you will probably find a few extra breaths will help this expansion.)
Once inflated, close the valve and the mat is ready for use.
To deflate, open the valve and slowly roll up the mat, being careful to squeeze all the air out.
Once rolled up, close the valve and tie with retaining straps or place into stuff sack.
Some self-inflating mattresses can be folded in half prior to being rolled up.
Although the packed volume will be about the same, this makes it easier to pack into your rucksack.
Self-inflating mattresses range in price from about £25 up to £80 or more.
Although more expensive than the closed cell sleep mats, a self-inflating mattress is certainly a good investment for the serious camper.