That's a matter of debate. I brought along a self-inflating short mat, but I never used it because I always got a bed. However, many Euro folks had a foam mat. The ones I walked with reclined on their pads during breaks on the trail. It was a good way to keep from getting dirty or poked by sticks/plants while resting (they worked great in fields of harvested wheat/grain, with all those hard stalks). I was afraid to use mine in the same way because I figured it would puncture. If I go back, I'd leave the self-inflating pad home and bring a foam pad instead. :arrow:
Posted elsewhere on a parallel forum (not pilgrimage-to-santiago), I copy this exactly as posted:
Ps. Had a wonderful time on the camino during he months of August and September. It isnâ€™t that crowded. Everywhere new albergues opened up. There is space enough for everybody. I met lots of wonderful people. I guess in altogether 4 months I spent walking or biking the Camino so far, I didnâ€™t get a bed only about 4 or 5 times, although I love to walk in the afternoon into the sunset and tend to arrive late. So I slept on my mat in the patio of the albergues. So what?
I walked in august last year and needed a mat just once....but without it I would have bedded down on a stone flag floor, which would have been pointless basically.
Sleeping mats do two things; they stop heat being leeched out of your body into the ground and they give you a little more comfort. Given how utterly crucial a good nights sleep is in those conditions I would say its worth the investment if you travel to the camino in the summer months. I put it on the list of things I "hope i dont need but am very glad I have if needed!" Same as a first aid kit...pointless weight if you dont need it, absolutely crucial if you do.
For a great - and I do mean GREAT - budget inflatable have a look at the Slim AIric by Alpkit. Only on their website, no retailers for this..however...we got TWO (in a deal) for £42.50 and I would argue they are as good as the high end thermarests. In fact that one night I had on it was one of teh best nights sleep I had.