It’s very much a first world problem but… I’ve lost count of the number of camping mats that I have bought and used over the years. I tend to swing from expensive mat (usually a Thermarest) to cheap mat (own brand Go Outdoors etc…) and back again. The issue I’ve had with Thermarest mats – especially on the long trips that I have undertaken – is that they develop blisters which make it almost impossible to have a comfortable night of ‘sleep’*. I suspect that I am overinflating them. The cheaper mats are just air and they can be quite cold.
(*’Sleep’! I wish… My experience of nights in the tent are usually better described as ‘rest’ punctuated with short periods of slumber. I get up at the point where I am fed up of trying to make an effort to go back to sleep.)
But camping mats are essential. I made the error a few years ago of not taking a camping mat with me when I went on a trip to climb Cadair Idris in Wales. (You can watch the video here.) We camped near the summit of the mountain and I ended up ‘sleeping’ on the cold ground. I consider it to be a near-death experience. Camping mats are NOT an option…
When I was cycling last summer, my Thermarest, predictably, blistered and when I returned to the UK I threw it away. At Easter I will be going camping for three nights in Wasdale in the Lake District (with the same friend from the Cadair Idris trip) and I need to buy a replacement mat. I asked Twitter for advice…
Here’s my original tweet and the replies that followed:
Mr Harris has had similar experiences to me by the sounds of things:
Have had some spendy disappointments in the past (Thermarest, Exped) – happier now with the more robust (for an unexpectedly small weight/packsize penalty) Decathlon Forclaz MT500 [£44.90] series. (Short in summer, long in spring/autumn).
I’ve had an original Thermarest 3/4 length since the late 1990’s and it’s never let me down. But, being tired of seeing new kit and not having warmth under my whole body length was getting too much, so I’ve gone for an Alpkit Cloudbase which on all first impressions seems great.
I’ve a Cloudbase, TBH I can’t recommend it. Doesn’t feel like it’s any insulation whatsoever and really, really difficult to get all the air out to pack it. It is comfy, light, small (when eventually airless) and cheap though.
Martin S points out that Ecotek plant trees for every mat that’s purchased and Richard Hutchinson loves his SeaToSummit mat although he admits it doesn’t pack up small. Richard Cropper thinks the SeaToSummit ‘Ether Light XT’ – £235 – is great. I assume by the name it is probably a version that does pack up smaller. The SeaToSummit mats are also recommended by Apache on the Drops.
I would avoid Exped. When they work, they are great but I find that they fail too often. Really annoying on a long trip. Their after-sales service is excellent but I would prefer to not need it.
However, Callum James has no such reservations:
Look no further than the Exped Synmat HL. Light, easily packable & very warm. No crinkly noise when fidgeting about. Mine’s been on many bikepacking trips & I rate it very highly!
David Key sent a link for the Tensor Ultralight Insulated Mountaineering Pad but at £219 I think I might leave that to the mountaineers. This mat is also mentioned by Cameron Sinclair; indeed it was so good, his wife nicked it.
…happy with SeaToSummit Eherlite XT insulated [£195] – warm & deep for [an] old side sleeper. Pumpsack & instant deflate valve great. Probably Exped next time… but only if they have the big valve & pumpsack.
Inflatable are by far the comfiest but most faffy and puncture prone. Exped are great if you don’t like Thermarest, but all the brands are pretty similar and pretty good. The early Alpkit mats were very unreliable but that was a long time ago (10yrs+!).
He also adds a link to his review of camping mats on his own website, The Next Challenge:
Well, I did ask… Feel free to add your own thoughts below.
LATEST CYCLING EUROPE POSTS:
- The Cycle Touring Festival 2023: Next weekend!
- 20 Is Indeed Plenty… Although Some (Men) Might Take Persuading
- The Cycling Europe Podcast: Episode 075 – Craig Fee – Cycling Into The Unknown
- Episode 075: Craig Fee – Cycling Into The Unknown
- The Impact Of Data Analytics On Sports Betting
Since 2009, CyclingEurope.org has established itself as a valued, FREE cycle touring resource. There’s now even a podcast, The Cycling Europe Podcast. If you enjoy the website and the podcast, please consider supporting the work of CyclingEurope.org with a donation. More information here.
Catch up with The Cycling Europe Podcast: