Can you get packable and comfortable when it comes to camping mattresses and pads? We’ve been testing the most promising options. We especially like self-inflating camping mats…does that make us lazy?!
Self-inflating mats aren’t the lightest or most packable, but they can save some effort and offer more comfort.
We’ve huffed and puffed and tossed and turned and now we know what works (and what lets us down). On our wishlist;
- A camping mat that rolls up fairly small – preferably self-inflating
- Comfortable enough for long trips
- No shiny plastic-like surface for sleeping bags to slide off
- Reliable valves
Far too many supposedly self-inflating mats still need a LOT of blowing up after the valve’s done all it can. Far too many have sharp edges that rub the fabric and eventually cause a leak. To be fair, that can be years down the line, but there are much better options.
Here are our favourite comfort camping mats – tried and tested.
- Size: 183cm x 64cm (regular rectangle)
- Packed size: 18.5cm x 64cm
- Weight: 1840g
- Price: Around £140
- Size: 183cm x 56cm (regular rectangle)
- Packed size: 12cm x 23cm
- Weight: 920g
- Price: Around £100
You may not have heard of this company, but their mats are fantastic…and fairly affordable. They also look like no mat you’ll have seen, especially the ultra lightweight ones made of holes!
We’ve added it to our recommendations for hammock and bivvy camping.
For comfort, the best choice from the Klymit range is the Static V Luxe.
They’re super light and the V-shaped baffles keep air in place for a more restful sleep. This one is around 7.5cm deep and well-insulated. They’re not self-inflating, but the company promise it’ll take just 10-20 breaths!
There are insulated and doubles available too.
- Size: 193cm x 76.2 cm
- Packed size: 11.5cm x 20.5cm
- Weight: 765g
- Price: Around £95 (prices for the whole range start at around £30)
The first thing you notice with the Exped mats is that they seem a cut-above many of the high street brands in the choice of materials and quality of manufacture. And you certainly pay for the difference!
The mats inflate themselves through a single flat valve (there’s a second valve for deflation) and have foam strips inside to increase the comfort.
It takes 24 hours to get the mat fully inflated the first time it comes out of its carry-bag and a bit of puff helps the process.
A tip we’ve learnt over the years: if you’ve got the space, leave your self-inflating mat semi-inflated (you can fold it in half to take up less room) rather than keeping it scrunched up in its bag.
Exped also make a huge range of other camping mats that come with mini pumps or have built-in pumps.
The built-in pump versions are not so great if you need to inflate them on an unstable surface, such as in a car). There’s a knack to pumping, but watch one of their videos for instructions (and a laugh). Comfort is excellent.
The Synmat 9 details are:
- Size: 183cm x 52cm (M); 197cm x 65cm (LW)
- Packed size: 22cm x 17cm (M); 27cm x 16cm (LW)
- Weight: 915g (M); 1155g (LW)
- Price: Around £100
The Comfort range includes single and double mats ranging in thickness from 5cm to 10cm.
Then there’s the mighty Megamat range (pictures below). These are more like guest-beds than travelling mats, with edge-to-edge comfort and a 10cm height.
We tried the Comfort LW 10
Exped’s LW models have a Velcro strip along the side so that two mats can be joined together.
Fantastically comfortable and warm. Slightly tricky to deflate and get back into the bag, and you pay for the quality!
- Size: 197cm x 65cm
- Packed size: 72cm x 18cm
- Weight: 2500g
- Price: Around £135
Robens make some very robust and sensibly-designed camping gear (we love their tipi tents, for example). Their mats are great too.
The Comfort camping mat range offers thicknesses of between 5cm and 10cm and there are single, double and a ‘Grande’ extra-wide single to choose from.
The top material is fairly soft and slip-resistant and the self-inflation works with just one valve. These are slightly heavy and we weren’t so keen on the sharp edge of the valve inside the fabric, as this could wear through the fabric over time. The valves on the Exped and Sea-to-Summit are way better, but they’re nearly three times the price!
We tested the Comfort single 7.5cm.
- Size: 60cm x 200cm
- Packed size: 64cm x 20cm
- Weight: 3000g
- Price: Around £40
For mattress-like comfort, the Shangri La mats come in 10cm or 15cm depths and in single and double for around £200. The one shown here is 15cm deep – the deepest we’ve found. At the time of writing, the best price we found (£150) was at Winfields Outdoors – apologies if that’s changed.
Thermarest invented the self-inflating mat, so they ought to know what they’re doing. They certainly do know when it comes to the amazing Speedvalve!
Thermarest sent us a NeoAir Camper SV to test. Not self-inflating, but wow! Actually, when we read the instruction to blow five or six times a distance from the huge opening, we laughed…a lot. How could that possibly work? In fact, it’s the fastest to inflate and deflate that we’ve ever used. Costs around £100.
It’s also very lightweight, reasonably comfortable at 7.5cm thick and packs away easily into a generous sized stuffsack. As with many Thermarest (and other lightweight) mats, however, the one problem is the fabric. It rustles as if you’re sleeping on greaseproof paper. That aside, an amazing fast and comfy mat for backpackers.
Thermarest comfort mats
The most comfortable in the range is the bedlike MondoKing 3D, with its 10cm thickness. The L version (there’s an XXL too) still weighs only 2.5kg.
Dreamtime, with 8.6cm of comfort, (two sizes) are a bit heavier at more than 3kg, but we like the protective mattress idea. Extreme comfort and pretty good on self-inflation (just a couple of extra breaths for more firmness). Not cheap at £175-ish.
The 7.5cm thick LuxuryMaps, which come in regular, large and extra-large sizes. They’re a good compromise between portability and comfort. The internal foam varies in thickness so that you get support where it’s needed without adding unnecessary bulk and weight.
We tested the large, and liked the single valve with its nicely rounded inside – no sharp edges to wear through the fabric. Comfortable, lightweight, but a bit harder than the Exped, which might suit some sleepers.
- Size: 183cm-196cm long, 51cm-76cm wide
- Packed size: 16cm x 53cm to 17cm x 79cm
- Weight: 1500-2300g
- Price: From around £95
Trail Outdoor Leisure is a new name to us, but they make exceedingly cheap self-inflating camping mats, ranging from 2.5cm to 10cm in depth, and ranging in price from…£10 to £25! How does anyone make and transport a product and get a profit out of that? It’s a worrying question. They’re basic in design, and a little heavy, with a shiny surface and a single valve, but they seem fast to inflate and the 10cm one we tried was comfortable. They are a little narrow (at 50cm), so wouldn’t suit larger bodies. The integral straps make them easier to pack away.
- Size: 180cm-50cm
- Packed size: 25cm x 55cm
- Weight: 2440g
- Price: Around £25
Don’t buy a Duvalay
Just out of interest, we also looked at the Duvalay memory foam mats with built-in duvet. Sadly, we weren’t convinced. We tried a 4cm three-season weight version (around £120) and found the cover a bit cheap and scratchy. Our main problem, though, was that we couldn’t see an advantage in building the duvet and foam into one product.
In fact, we thought it just made it hard to get the cover on and off for washing. But, people do seem to love them, so we’ll accept that tent campers perhaps aren’t the market. They’re really intended to soften an uncomfortable bed, and for that you do need to opt for the more expensive, thicker mattresses.
Do buy a travel pillow
The best travel pillows we’ve found are these memory foam mini pillows, with breathable, zip-off bamboo covers (you still need a pillowcase, mind). Two for under £22 and absolute comfort. They pack away fairly small, but give good support and retain their shape.
TOP TIP for ordinary airbeds
If you do have a mouth-blown airbed, save yourself some time and effort. Once you’ve blown some air into it, roll it down from the valve to the other end (making sure you’re not letting air escape out of the valve). This moves the air to the foot end. That way, you won’t have to blow air all the way down to the bottom. Clever, eh!