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: March 2021
All our reviews at Campfire Magazine are independent and honest.
In a hurry? If you don’t have much time using the links below to quickly find our favourite camping mats for you. You can be assured we only choose the best products…
PRETTY MUCH LIKE A BED!
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.
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.
Best for lightweight Comfort
At just over 5cm thick, this is one for smaller packs. It’s still comfortable, though. It comes in small or regular sizes and is a tapered shape to keep weight and pack size to a minimum.
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
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. Perfect for car camping.
- Size: 183cm x 64cm (regular rectangle)
- Packed size: 18.5cm x 64cm
- Weight: 1840g
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!
Best Pick All Round
For comfort, the best choice from the Klymit range is the Static V Luxe. There’s also an expensive 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)
Affordable and Lightweight
Comfortable and under £75, which isn’t bad for such a techie piece of camping gear. How could you not want a camping mat with “sleeping bag reservoirs”!
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.
Lie-flat valves for comfort and durability
Light and Packable
Have a look at the Synmats with built-in pump or ‘schnozzel’ pump. They come in different thicknesses, have great insulation and are very light. The Synmat 9 (shown here) weighs just over a kilo.
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)
Like a Bed!
Then there’s the mighty Megamat range. These are more like guest-beds than travelling mats, with edge-to-edge comfort and a 7.5cm or 10cm height. Weighty and pricey, but superior comfort.
Robens make some very robust and sensibly-designed camping gear (we love their tipi tents, for example). Their mats are great too.
They use what they call a Peak Valve, a flat valve designed to make it quicker to inflate/deflate and to adjust the firmness. Some of their mats come with Primaloft insulation to keep you warmer on cold camps. What’s surprising about their mats is that there are so many to choose from with between 8cm and 11cm of sleeping comfort.
Vango self-inflating mats
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 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 their valves!
Ultimate Comfort in an SI Mat
The Therm-a-Rest Trail Pro is possibly the thickest self-inflating mat that actually works for backpacking and gear-light camping.
At more than 10cm deep, it’s very comfortable, but it weighs very little. Plus the winglock valves make it ultra-quick to inflate and pack up again.
It’s also insulated enough to be a year-round mat. The regular size won’t be big enough for larger folk, so opt for the regular wide.
- Size: 183cm x 51cm (regular)
- Packed size: 28cm x 22cm
- Weight: 820g
Highly supportive to avoid those pressure point pains, the 7.5cm thick LuxuryMats 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
It's a bed!
The Mondoking is BIG. And it’s supremely comfortable. It’s described as a 3D camping mat because it has gusseted sides so there’s a mattress feel about it and you don’t roll down at the edges.
The updated Mondoking has a ridged top, twin-lock valve and fabulous insulation.
- Size: 196cm x 64cm
- Packed size: 66cm x 26cm
- Weight: 2kg
Fast Inflation and Very Light
There’s 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)
- Packed size: 64 x 18cmcm
- Weight: 1.14kg
More tried and trusted camping mats and airbeds
Great for options and price
A lovely design and a choice of depths, the Kampa Dometic-branded camping mats really caught our eye.
There are doubles and singles. Best for a balance of comfort and pack is the Comfort+ 7.5 at just under 3kg and the Luxury 10 (below).
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!
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 (5cm deep version)
- Packed size: 50cm x 15cm
- Weight: 1.6kg
There’s a double and a single in these 2020-range Sleepin mats. And they’re remarkably affordable. The valves won’t win any innovation prizes, but a decent balance of comfort and price.
- Size: 183cm x 63cm (single)
- Packed size: 66cm x 18cm
- Weight: 1.9g
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 £20 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!