How to choose the right sleeping mat for your adventures
Whether you’re a hiker, car camper or mountaineer, there are three key criteria when choosing your sleeping mat—Comfort, Warmth and Weight + Size.
Sleeping mats are one of the most important pieces of gear in your camping arsenal. Even ultralight backpackers have learnt the cold, hard way that saving a few grams isn’t worth missing out on sleep.
After all, restless nights sap all the fun out of exploring the outdoors. And on more technical expeditions, being tired can be a huge liability.
Here’s everything you need to know to choose the best sleeping mat for you. One that will protect you from the lumps and bumps of the trail and insulate you from ground temperatures.
Comfort is the one thing you can’t measure and yet it’s going to make all the difference on the trail. A mat can be lightweight, pocket-sized and ward off bears, but if it’s uncomfortable, you won’t be getting much sleep.
Sleep can be hard to come by in unfamiliar conditions, so consider what you need to get comfortable enough to doze off.
It’s all relative, of course. For some, comfort is a sleeping mat with firm pressure. For others, it’s about fabric feel or having extra room to spread out.
Our take on comfort is that your mattress should be supportive, stable and adequately insulated. From there, let your personal preferences guide your choices on fabric feel, size and thickness.
Air Sprung Cell sleeping mats
Our award-winning Air Sprung Cell mats have been designed to offer incredible comfort in a lightweight package.
Instead of the typical baffle construction, our Air Sprung Cell Mats are constructed using a dot-weld pattern. This creates a matrix of interconnected chambers that support your body, much like a pocket spring mattress. They won’t wobble or become unbalanced when you roll over in the night.
EASY INFLATIONAfter clocking up miles on the trails, the last thing you want to do is breathlessly blow up a mat. Beyond the head spins, it’s also a sure-fire way to introduce bacteria and moisture into the mix. We’ve added an antimicrobial treatment to our sleeping mats but it’s still best practice to avoid the risk altogether.
All our Air Sprung Cell mats have an Airstream Pumpsack integrated into the base of each stuff sack. Harnessing the Bernoulli effect, this handy pump can inflate your mat in a couple of breaths—with minimal effort and condensation.
Self Inflating Sleeping Mats
Using a combination of air pressure, foam and soft fabrics, self-inflating mats are reminiscent of a traditional bedroom mattress. In fact, our Comfort Deluxe S.I. can give your bed a serious run for its money.
While Air Sprung Cell mats are the lighter choice, our Delta Core process has made self-inflating mats lighter and more packable.
Adjust the pressure
Whether you prefer a firm or soft sleeping surface, our multi-function valve will make you your mat pressure is juuust right. Simply press the orange button until your desired pressure is achieved.
Even with the best sleeping bag and choicest liner, you need a sleeping mat to insulate you from the cold. Ground temperatures, which can be much colder than the air, can quickly sap your body heat. This could lead to anything from broken sleep to cold related injuries.
To determine how much your sleeping mat can prevent heat loss, we look to its R-value (resistance value).
All Sea to Summit mats are independently tested to the industry standard ASTM F3340-18. This standardised testing produces consistent R-values across brands, making it easier for you to compare sleeping mats before buying.
MAT TESTING + QUALITY CONTROL
Sea to Summit Mats undergo the following quality control before being released:+ ASTM F3340-18 standard at an independent laboratory
+ Overinflate testing for 24 hours to ensure structural integrity
+ Destruction testing (this is a fun one)
+ Batch number assignation—for quality control purposes
Unlike sleeping bags, it’s hard to assign temperature ranges to sleeping mats. There are many factors that affect your sleeping temperatures—air temperature, wind chill, ground temperature, frost, moisture levels, your sleeping bag, gender (women sleep a few degrees colder than men), sleeping bag, sleeping liner, your caloric intake and more!
That being said, we’ve developed the below R-value guide to help you choose a mat with the right R-value. Where any of the above factors might make you sleep colder, choose a higher R-value to compensate.
Want to find out more about the new R-values? Visit our FAQs page.
WEIGHT + SIZE
Your mat needs to be light and compact enough to be transported where you need to go. It’s not a huge concern when you’re travelling by car but it matters a lot when you’re on a backpacking adventure. There’s only so much you can cart around on your back.
When inflated, the size of your mat matters—because hanging off the edge is going to create cold spots. And once your temperature drops low enough, it’s difficult to raise it. Insulation only retains heat, it doesn’t generate it.
For this reason, our Air Sprung Cell mats are wider than most out there, 55cm in width versus 51cm from other brands. We’ve also included different shapes and sizes throughout both our Self Inflating and Air Sprung Cell mats to accommodate different sleepers. Our women’s specific mats, for example, have been made narrower in the shoulder and wider from the hip-to-knee, to accommodate a typical woman’s build and their tendency to sleep on their side.
Perhaps a tapered ‘mummy’ shape will do the job on your minimalist trip, or maybe a wider rectangular mat is more your speed. Just remember—it pays to carry a few more grams if it makes the difference between a night spent shivering and a successful slumber.
In the past, the thicker a mat was, the heavier it was. But with the introduction of sleeping mats like our Ether Light XT series—which offers 10cm (4”) of cushion—and Delta Coring, that’s changed dramatically.
More on Delta Coring
Due to their heavier weight, self inflating mats used to be relegated to car camping trips. But new processes like Delta Coring have greatly reduce the weight and bulk of S.I. mats.
Delta Core and Delta Core-V removes 40-20% (respectively) of the PU foam in our S.I. mats to minimise weight and packed size whilst retaining support and insulation in core body zones. Body mapping determines which process is suitable for each mat and different end-users.
There’s a world of design detail to consider when it comes to sleeping mats but if your mat meets these three key criteria covered—comfort, warmth, weight + size—you’re well on your way to a great sleep outdoors.
Of course, there’s a lot more to your sleep set-up than a mat, which is why we talk a lot about sleep systems here at Sea to Summit. How your sleeping bag, sleeping mat, liner and pillow work together is going to determine your overall warmth and comfort level.
We developed our Sleep System Finder for this very reason. Designed to match you up with your perfect sleep system, it takes into consideration factors like physique, trip conditions and personal preferences to take the guesswork out of choosing your sleep set-up.
Photo credits: Feature image, first image and last image by Marc Daviet.