There’s no way around it: a self-inflating sleeping mat is an absolute must on every expedition or trip in the mountains. Not only are self-inflating mats very packable, but they’re extremely comfortable as well. In contrast to a normal sleeping mat, self-inflating ones weigh only slightly more. Plus, they have a bit more to offer than their non-inflating counterparts.
But, how do self-inflating sleeping mats work? What kind of models are there? And finally, what should you keep in mind when caring for and repairing them? In the following, we’re going to answer these questions so that you can find the right mat for you!
How self-inflating sleeping mats work
Although the term self-inflating sleeping mat may sound somewhat complicated, their basic function is quite simple. On the inside of the mat, there is a special kind of PU foam. This foam has open cells. When rolled up, the foam is extremely compressed. Once you roll it back out, the foam expands. When you open the valve, the sleeping mat literally self-inflates because of the vacuum created by it having been compressed. Air is sucked in from the outside into the pores of the foam. Of course, after the mat is completely inflated, the valve should be closed to prevent any air escaping when you lie down on it.
How to regulate the amount of air in your mat
Since some people like their mattresses firm and others soft, you can regulate the firmness and thickness of a self-inflating sleeping mat. As ground conditions can vary, this option is a very useful one to have. In order to get more air into the sleeping mat, all you have to do is blow air through the valve or through a mouthpiece. However, when inflating a mat with your mouth, keep in mind that the air you breathe into the mat can lead to a build-up of moisture and bacteria, which can eventually end up ruining the mat. This is due to the fact that mildew can form on the interior, which can have a negative impact on the foam and the insulating properties. But, mildew is not the only downside. The moisture can also end up freezing in low temperatures, thereby reducing the insulation capacity of the mat. And, believe me, that’s no good.
If you have a mat with foam and down insulation, such as those from Exped, you should make sure that no moisture gets in the mat at all, since it would cause the down to stick together and lose its insulating properties.
If all that sound pretty terrifying and you’d like to keep moisture out of your mat, there are various ways to inflate them without using your mouth. For example, there are integrated pump systems or those involving the use of the mat’s stuff sack as a bellows. The systems vary from brand to brand.
If you like your mat softer, all you have to do is let as much air out through the valve as you want.
How to store your sleeping mat when not in use
When you wake up – hopefully after a good night’s sleep – you’ll usually want to get things going as quickly as possible. To pack your sleeping mat down as small as you can, you’ll have to let all the air out. You can do this just as you would with an air mattress. Just fold the sleeping mat two to three times and then open the valve. As a result of the pressure applied to the mat by your folding it, air will be released through the valve. After doing this, close the valve and roll the sleeping mat up, starting at the foot of the mat. This will cause the rest of the air that is left in the mat to accumulate at the top. When you open the valve again, this air will be able to escape as well. When all the air’s out and the valve is closed, you can store the mat for transport. Oh, and it’s best to keep the mat rolled up during transport. When transporting or carrying the bag, you should definitely use the stuff sack to provide it with enough protection as well.
Self-inflating sleeping mats in different thicknesses
As you can imagine, the thickness of a sleeping mat can have a major impact of the its overall comfort. Mats usually have a thickness of anywhere from 3cm to 10cm. Mats with a thickness of 3cm are really only suitable for shorter trips, as they offer little in terms of comfort. What they lack in comfort, though, they make up for in their extremely small pack size! Much more comfortable are mats with a thickness of 4-6cm. When combined with a high-quality sleeping bag, a mat like this can give you all the comfort you need for a good night’s sleep! Even more comfortable, however, are sleeping mats with a thickness of 10cm or more. The obvious downside to these mats is their much larger pack size.
How to clean and repair your sleeping mat yourself
Since sleeping mats are used exclusively on hard and rough surfaces, it’s not at all rare for them to get torn or scratched up. Even if your mat’s been reinforced and you’re super careful, there’s really no way around this. It’s annoying, I know, but fortunately these minor battle wounds are easy to patch up yourself. Most sleeping mats come with a special repair kit you can use when you find a tear in your mat. The kits usually consist of patches for the top and bottom as well as a special adhesive to secure the patch to the material. That way, you can seal up holes and tears in the mat’s material with a few easy steps and go along your way without missing a beat!
Cleaning a sleeping mat is just as easy. Since sleeping mats are used exclusively outdoors, cleaning your mat regularly is a must, especially if you want it to last. To do so, all you have to do is wipe your mat with a cloth and a mild household cleaning agent, but make sure to do so when the mat is inflated and the valve is closed. Then rinse off the residue thoroughly. To prevent the growth of mildew, be sure to let the mat dry completely before deflating it and rolling it back up. If you follow these simple directions, you’ll be able to enjoy the comfort of your self-inflating sleeping mat for a long time to come!
If you have any questions about self-inflating sleeping mats, feel free to ask our experts in customer service. They are available during the week from 9 a.m. till 4 p.m. and can be reached by phone at 03 33 33 67058 or via e-mail.