Light, comfortable, versatile: inflatable sleeping mats
Thermal mats are available in a numbers of different variations. There are the traditional large air mattresses for use inside. Plus foam sleeping mats that can be rolled up, self-inflating sleeping mats and inflatable sleeping mats.
We will be talking about the latter. They are as light as foam mats but just as comfortable as self-inflating thermal sleeping mats. Their compact pack size makes them ideal for outdoor tours, setting them apart from simple air beds. What other advantages are there to the inflatable sleeping mat? Keep reading!
What qualities define a good inflatable sleeping mat?
As the name indicates, you have to inflate these sleeping mats manually. Their main advantages are their low weight, great comfort and small pack volume. Self-inflating sleeping mats tend to be quite thin and are always filled with insulating and stabilising foam that adds to their weight and increases the pack size. For anyone who wants to go on a tour with light packs and still appreciates the comfort of several centimetres of air between them and the ground should prefer an inflatable sleeping mat to a self-inflating one. However, they are not quite as well-insulated.
Most inflatable sleeping mats are very simple to use and can be inflated using a valve or a hand pump. The robust nylon fabric is usually reinforced at the bottom and often has additional non-slip coating. The mat is easy to fold and pack into your stuff sack. Accessories usually include a repair kit allowing you to patch the mat like a bicycle tyre if it gets damaged (tears or holes.)
Inflatable sleeping mats are very robust and last a long time. Remember to choose the size and type of insulation based on the dimensions of your tent and sleeping bag. There are mats with multiple air chambers and some with only one. They can be filled with hollow synthetic fibres or even down for better insulation. This has a very slight influence on the weight, but offers much more warmth.
Length and width tend to be based on standard tent sizes. They are often shaped like mummy sleeping bags. There are special variations - both in mats and in sleeping bags - for tall people or women. If you want more comfort and freedom of movement, combine a blanket-style sleeping bag with a rectangular mat. For greater comfort when out camping, add a suitable travel pillow to your inflatable mat by Exped, Therm-a-rest or Mammut!