Can you get packable and comfortable when it comes to camping mattresses and airbeds?
We’ve been testing the most promising options. We especially like self-inflating camping mats…does that make us lazy?!
Latest update: August 2020
Self-inflating camping mats may not be the lightest or most packable, but they save effort and can 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, but some airbeds are fast to to inflate with a good pump.
- Comfortable enough for long trips – so 5cm thickness and over
- 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 all our favourite comfort camping mats – tried and tested. We’ve picked a 5cm, a 7cm and a 10cm (where possible) from the best brands.
Sea-to-Summit camping mats
We’re blown away (!) by Sea to Summit’s mats. Apart from the price, they’re everything we could want in a sleeping mat. Comfort, very well-designed valves and a decent weight and pack size.
There are two ranges – self-inflating and airsprung cell – with a choice of rectangular or space-saving mummy shapes, thickness and sizes.
We’re not keen on their blow-up mattresses with integrated pumpbag (which folds into the stuffsack). They take too many puffs and we couldn’t see why it wasn’t easier just to blow into the valve. For lightness and quality, though, they’re hard to beat.
Top choice for car camping comfort
Ultimate 10cm comfort and extremely fast inflation thanks to the two-layer valve. This feels like a memory foam mattress and has deep sides so you don’t roll over the edge. The fabric is soft and smooth too.
The valve has also been designed so that when you deflate you’re not fighting against the air rushing in. Getting SI mats back into their bag can be exhausting, so finding one that doesn’t make you want to go straight back to bed is a big plus.
- Size: 183cm x 64cm (regular rectangle)
- Packed size: 18.5cm x 64cm
- Weight: 1840g
- Price: Around £150
Best for lightweight comfort
Same great valves and Delta Core construction that spreads the insulation evenly across the mat. A choice of green or blue.
- Size: 183cm x 51cm (regular)
- Packed size: 14cm x 26cm
- Weight: 650g
- Price: From £80
Best pick all round
7.5cm Static V Luxe
For comfort, the best choice from the Klymit range is the Static V Luxe. There’s also a Static V insulated version. They’re super light and the V-shaped baffles keep air in place for a more restful sleep. These are around 7.5cm deep. They’re not self-inflating, but the company promise it’ll take just 10-20 breaths!
There are lighter weight and double versions available too. Best of all? No crinkly crunchy noise when you roll over!
- Size: 193cm x 76cm
- Packed size: 14cm x 25cm
- Weight: 992g (non-insulated)
- Price: Around £90 (prices for the whole range start at around £30)
Superlight camping mats
Affordable and lightweight
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.
Outdoor Gear UK has a decent range of Exped mats, but there are occasional bargains elsewhere, so we’ve linked to those…apologies if prices change!
Light and packable
7 and 9cm Lightweight Synmats
Have a look at the Synmats with built-in pump. They come in different thicknesses, have great insulation and are very light. The Synmat 9 (shown here) weighs just over a kilo.
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.
We’ve avoided their Downmats because we think down should stay on ducks and geese.
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 £90
supercomfy quality and insulation
Best part (maybe) is that the soft cover is removable. Sleep well!
- Size: 197cm x 65cm
- Packed size: 25cm x 17cm
- Weight: 805g
- Price: Around £140
Like a bed
Robens camping mats
Robens make some very robust and sensibly-designed camping gear (we love their tipi tents, for example). Their mats are great too.
Top comfort at a reasonable price
Comfy right to the edge
Light with height. Pretty perfect
The range of Vango self-inflaters is enormous. Basically, though, you choose between the Comfort and Shangri-La, then the size (single, double, grande). Thicknesses range from 7.5cm to 15cm. We haven’t included the Odyssey range as it didn’t live up to our expectations. If you’ve used one and love it, please put us straight!
The valves on the Exped and Sea-to-Summit are way better, but those mats are more expensive.
Thermarest camping mats
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!
Fast inflation and very light
7.5cm Thermarest NeoAir Camper
The NeoAir Camper SV isn’t 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.
It’s also very lightweight, reasonably comfortable at 7.5cm thick and packs away easily into a generous 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.
- Size: 183cm x 51cm (regular size)
- Packed size: 14cm x 23cm
- Weight: 910g
- Price: Around £100
Best for inflation speed
Three sizes to choose from and 5cm of foam and air to keep you comfortable. What’s more, these mats have been updated for 2020 with Thermarest’s new Winglock valves for fast inflation and deflation.
- Size: 183cm x 51cm (regular, but L and XL available too)
- Packed size: 64 x 18cmcm
- Weight: 1.14kg
- Price: From around £70
Highly supportive to avoid those pressure point pains, the 7.5cm thick LuxuryMaps 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, and a bit firmer, which might suit some sleepers.
- Size: 196cm x 63cm (large)
- Packed size: 16cm x 66cm
- Weight: 1900g
- Price: Around £120 (regular)
More tried and trusted camping mats and airbeds
Best for value
As yet untried, but given that they’re only £35, weigh 500g and offer 5.5cm thickness, we had to include these Ecotek Hybern8 camp mats – especially as a couple of readers had recommended them.
They have an unusual hexagon design and the fabric comes with a lifetime warranty (whatever that means!). It’s a woven fabric, so less prone to give you slippery, noisy nights.
They’re not self-inflating, but the manufacturers claim it takes only 10 to 15 breaths to get them pumped up.
- Size: 188cm x 56cm
- Packed size: 25cm x 7.5cm
- Weight: 510g
- Price: Around £35
Great for options and price
7.5 and 10cm and Kampa Dometic Kip mats
A lovely design and a choice of depths, the new Dometic-branded camping mats really caught our eye.
Lightweight and packable
5.5cm Forclaz Trekking Mattress XL
This is an absolute bargain if you’re after a packable and light camping mat that still keeps you well off the ground. Our only quibble would be that the valves are a bit bulky, but at less than £35, hey!
- Size: 195cm x 60cm
- Packed size: 10.5 x 28cm
- Weight: 600g
- Price: Around £35
UK-made and affordable
Ultra cheap basics
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 £35!
How does anyone make and transport a product and get a profit out of that? It’s a question we asked Trail, who told us they buy in bulk from the Chinese manufacturer.
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: 186cm x 53cm
- Packed size: 20cm x 55cm
- Weight: 2440g
- Price: Around £25
And these really are mattresses. Outwell do self-inflating mats up to 16cm thick. You definitely won’t be carrying that in your backpack, but fantastic comfort (at a price) for long camping trips by car.
Choice and depth
5, 7.5, 10 and 12cm Outwell Dreamcatcher camping mats
A wide range of mats in single and double options from 5cm thick up to 12cm, and including some XL and XXL variants. There do seem to be some issues with the occasional leak around the valve, so make sure you test it out properly and buy from somewhere that offers quibble-free returns.
Dear but comfy
7.5, 12 and 16cm Outwell Dreamboat camping mats
The Dreamboat is a ‘3D’ camping mattress, meaning that it has sides rather than being flat. That makes for ultimate comfort, but also makes it bulky and weighty. Again, there are singles and doubles and a choice of 7.5cm, 12cm and 16cm thicknesses.
- Size: 200cm x 83cm (7.5cm single)
- Packed size: 75cm x 17cm
- Weight: 2.1g
- Price: Around £150 for the 7.5cm single
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!