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Camping Thinking about sleeping mats

David

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Moissac to Santiago Spring 2005 was the first foray.
Hi all - this a spin-off to the "thinking about tents" thread ... it looks like tenting will become more popular when the Camino opens, the hope being that refugios will allow distancing pilgrims to put up tents; in their gardens, on their forecourts, etc, for a reduced fee - allowing access to the facilities .. (so a free-standing tent then)

... but what to sleep on? ... seems like veteran thru-hikers have stronger or fitter bodes than old and achey pilgrims like me so I thought it would be great to hear personal experiences with various sleeping mats..

What are the basics? Comfort, weight, pack-down size? Solid or self-inflating?

With thrifty head on I bought a cheap Silentnight inflatable - big and heavy! and although it works 'well', it seems pretty uncomfortable to me and after a couple of nights I get really achey so I think we may need to throw out our budget conscious thoughts here ;) .... lots of 'best sleeping mats' sites out there but what about doing our own?

Your mat - what are you? Young and fit? Old and achey? How comfortable is it in the middle of a tired night? What does it weigh? How small does it pack down? What did you pay? Was it worth the money? What mats have you got rid of to get the one you have now? Why?

Just want to say that I know nothing about this .. I have researched online and they ALL say they are the best mat .. so ... this isn't about me or what I should take but for all of us, we need to know! Especially we amateur (and probably ancient) campers who would prefer a big sprung mattress (in a hotel) so, please, tell us! :D
 
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pelerine

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Norte 10, Primitivo 13, Plata 14+15, Salvador 16, Torres 17, Portugues 18, Mozarabe 19
Hello David!

My info is rather dated: ten years ago(!) I walked from home (northern Brittany) following the coast to Santiago/Finisterre. It took me three months to the border with Spain during which I did a fair amount of camping. I had what was then the lightest mat I could find. Thermarest, self-inflating, folding very small. I found it very narrow - falling off it every time I turned over. However I was so tired that I quickly went back to sleep every time that happened. Was I glad to find real beds in the albergues from Irun onwards!!!

At the time I was 70 and not being younger now, I would not consider sleeping on a mat now. Now I come to think of it, I did sleep on the floor once on a ferry without a mat placing my Thermarest inflatable cushion under my hip. This worked perfectly well - no question of falling off a mat.....

PS The inflatable mat was very expensive, I remember. Unfortunately I do not remember any details, neither size folded up, nor open, nor weight, nor price. Will have a look in the internet now.
 

easygoing

Camino Sharon
Camino(s) past & future
I have walked the Camino Francis 7 times, twice in 2017 and 2018. (2019)
This mattress is what this 74 year old thru hiker uses. Yes more expensive but light and compact. Before this mattress was invented I never slept through the night without waking up with hip pain. If weight is a concern there is a newer one a few ounces lighter. And I would weigh the discomfort of carrying a heavier pack against the initial purchase price of this light mattress. And perhaps as you mentioned you'd be able to camp on the grass at a reduced rate. But after they're hard season I would be prone to paying the full rate this year until they all recover.
 

dougfitz

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Spain: Mar 2010, Apr 2014, May/Jun 2016. Norway/Sweden: 2012, 2018. Other: 2011, 2019. CP (tbc)
I am currently using the Exped Synmat UL 7M, an inflatable that weighs in at about 475 gm in its packing pouch and with a repair kit. I also use the larger Exped air pillow, about 100 gm packed. At the time I bought them, there weren't that many options, but that has changed and it appears to me there are several good alternatives on the market.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Portuguese 2018
Camino Ingles, Caminos Muxia and Finisterre 2019
@David I will be interested in the responses to this thread. I know you have done research online. There is a comprehensive explanation for UK shoppers at https://www.ultralightoutdoorgear.co.uk/choosing-a-sleeping-mat-i207
I am trying to get my head around r-values and the idea that women usually need a warmer level of insulation because they sleep cooler. I'm not that sure I do sleep cooler, however the sizing might suit me better.
Even on the one website with the one make of sleeping mat the weights are sometimes excluding the bag and sometimes no mention is made about the bag 🤷‍♀️
And I thought it was just tents that would be complicated 😅
 

David Tallan

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances (1989 and 2016), Portugues - from Porto (2018)
As CarolamS alludes to, one of the things to consider with sleeping pads is how well they insulate you from the cold ground - the "R-value". R-value of at least 2 is recommended for 3-season backpacking, 5 for backpacking in winter. Another consideration is the length. Some are full length, others are a bit shorter to reduce weight.

The same video that I drew the previous recommendation from (full gear list for someone new to through-hiking for under $500) recommended the Sleepingo inflatable.
 

Dromengro

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
SJPdP - Leon 1984
Frances (2021)
@David as you have a trailer and probably not too concerned about bulk I'd go for the original closed cell foam which is the lightest, cheapest and most durable option. You might even have two for around the same weight as a self inflating. They come in different thicknesses from thick military to thinner foil backed, even yoga mats can be used. It could be cut down a bit to save bulk. Guaranteed 100% to last and can be put under the tent to protect the groundsheet from sharp stones.
My partner has to sleep on a mattress for comfort but we've not had much luck with the cheaper range of self inflating ones, no matter how careful they've never lasted long, once only a couple of days and almost impossible to fix, even more expensive ones that we have been given or found haven't lasted either, so she is loathe to spend a lot of money on the top of the range ones and like you say, they all say they are the best so hard to decide. Heavy airbeds have lasted a bit longer but are not really practical for backpacking, usually need a pump or if built in adds even more weight. She had to buy a cheap beach lilo for € 2 once as an emergency measure, however surprisingly it lasted out longer than almost anything else.

Personally as a hardy highlander, mostly wild camping I never take anything as I find it far more comfortable without, I find they make me ache, make noise, and move around or I fall off or slip down the tent if on a slope. If it's cold or in winter on snow then I stuff clothes or rucksack under me. I'd rather carry the weight of extra clothing than a mat.
However campsites can be as hard as concrete, and also you might find yourself on actual concrete or gravel, and I have on occasion used cardboard and newspapers but probably not practical if moving on every day.
 

good_old_shoes

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Francés ('15, '19)
Via Coloniensis ('16)
Trier-Nancy + Le Puy-Fisterra ('17)
Aragonés ('18)
For me, as long as it's not way beneath zero degrees Celsius, it will always be the thermarest Z-lite... good old closed cellfoam, folded not rolled. Light, versatile, durable. It's a classic, still popular with thru-hikers, apparently.

R value about 2.2, 410 grams (bit more or less depending on which year's model). If you're a short person you can cut off the last three segments and use them seperately as a seat/cushion for sitting down on cold, wet benches.

When really cold in winter you can use a foam mat plus an inflatable. If the inflatable leaks at least you still have some degree of insulation left.
 

pelerine

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Norte 10, Primitivo 13, Plata 14+15, Salvador 16, Torres 17, Portugues 18, Mozarabe 19
PS The inflatable mat was very expensive, I remember. Unfortunately I do not remember any details, neither size folded up, nor open, nor weight, nor price. Will have a look in the internet now.
PS to my PS: have measured my mat - it is rectangular 50 x 200 cm, and weighed it - 400 gr. It folds in three parts lengthwise, thus making quite a small package. However looking at the Thermarest website there is not anything like it. The lightest mats being very narrow at the foot end do not look comfortable?
 

Helen1

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
London to Santiago (2014)
Narbonne to Oloron (2015)
Camino Portugues (2016)
Sentier Cathar (2017)
In my teens/20s a foam roll mat probably about 200g. Costs around £5
Usually used wild camping on soft surfaces, goes anywhere, even as a teenager I sometimes got hip pain. Used in the snow and I was fine. Great thing is you can put these on any surface without worrying, great to sit on heather, wet surfaces, etc.

In my 30s a thermarest a women’s prolite mat 670g. Current RRP £109.99. Water bottle kind of size.
Comfortable, quiet, really robust, doesn’t cushion really lumpy ground (fine on gravel/campsite type ground), not slippy. Good all-rounder especially on a bike.

In my 40s a thermarest women’s neoair 354g. Current RRP £169.99. Coke can size
It does cushion lumpy ground if you get the air level right, it's narrow and you can fall off it, noisy when you turn over but not as bad as some. I’ve not punctured it but I’ve been careful with it - I suspect it's more robust than it looks. Not noticed the end being narrow. Has worked well in the snow and hot temps.

My friend (60s) who feels the cold has a down inflatable Exped mat, not sure of the model but a synmat duo is similar and that’s RRP £239.99, It was v comfy and warm (but also totally fine in hot temps) but you also have to take a pump to inflate to stop the down getting mouldy (or something like that). I also have a £20 Gelert self-inflating mat, 1040g, fairly robust but has dodgy seams that have needed fixing, same size as a foam roll map, wouldn’t recommend!

Bear in mind last year’s models are usually sold for a discount and women’s models often get much larger discounts. I think it pays to watch a number of websites and think about when they might have 25%+ off sales during holidays which combined with first time order discounts can make the expensive models more affordable. The expensive equipment tends to keep its value and you can sell it on afterwards if not needed.
 

KinkyOne

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
I'am not perfect, but I'm always myself!!!
They are selling mats for men and mats for women??? What a hoax :D :D :D

Sorry but I wouldn't know because I'm still using my foam (roll) mat which I bought back in 1987 in Athens (because it was wider at 68cm than the rest) for less than a beer in the pub.
 

Albertagirl

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances (2015); Aragones-Frances (2016); VdlP-Sanabres (2017); Madrid-Frances-Invierno (2019)Levante
I have the same mattress as Helen1, a woman's Thermarest NeoAir 354g. It is compact, lightweight, and comfortable. But it was expensive, needs to be blown up, and is subject to punctures. I haven't had any punctures yet and it comes with a puncture kit. I had very little choice, as I was shopping in the recommended camping store in Banff, having had to return from a very uncomfortable first night on the trail when my previous Thermarest mattress had the nerve to leak on me after only about 20 years' use.
 

dougfitz

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Spain: Mar 2010, Apr 2014, May/Jun 2016. Norway/Sweden: 2012, 2018. Other: 2011, 2019. CP (tbc)
They are selling mats for men and mats for women??? What a hoax :D :D :D
@KinkyOne, I thought that you might like this extract from the product description of one such mat:
Perfect for side sleepers, the extra height of this mat lets hips sink deeper into it without touching the ground.
 

MikeyC

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF - September 2016
CF - April May 2017
Shikoku - October 2017
Kumano Kodo - October 2017
CF - 2019
I'll vouch for the comfort of Thermarest self inflating mats. We have only used them for camping thus far though we have taken the Thermarest pillows on the Camino.
The deciding factor in buying this brand was from reading the blogs of the much missed Kat Davis who took a Thermarest on many of her walks.
 

David

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Moissac to Santiago Spring 2005 was the first foray.
I had a look at the solid ones but coo - they are big packed down!

Consensus seems to be coming down to the inflating type and Thermarest brand so far. but which one would be best for pilgrims generally, and which one for budget pilgrims?
 
Camino(s) past & future
Frances (14), Portuguese (15), Le Puy (17), Ingles (17), VDLP (18), Lana (18), Madrid (19) + more
(I have zero affiliation with Thermarest, I just use their products!)

I really like the Thermarest inflatable mattresses. They are lightweight and very comfortable. Downsides are the expense and being prone to puncture. I've had to submerge mine in a bathtub on a couple occasions to locate and patch holes. Also, some models are noisy - like a bag of chips rustling.

The Thermarest Neoair mattresses come in different sizes depending on the model: Long, Regular, Women, Short and Regular Wide. I have owned the Regular, Women, and Short.

If you really want to save weight, use the short model. The short model is only torso size so most people's legs and feet will hang off the end. I place my shoes and empty backpack under my lower half to raise them up to the level of the mattress. Yes, it can be uncomfortable - but I got used to it. I usually sleep curled up in the fetal position anyhow. The advantage of this model is extreme weight savings.

I have owned mattresses in all four temperature ranges:
Uberlite.................... 2.3 R-value
Xlite .......................... 4.2 R-value
Women Xlite.......... 5.4 R-value
Xtherm.................... 6.9 R-value

The Uberlite is warm enough for me for three-season camping. When there was snow on the ground, it was a bad choice. The Xtherm is super warm and more durable than the other two models. However it is also the heaviest. The Women's Xlite model is a bit warmer, so if you aren't tall (6-inches shorter than regular) it is a good pick.

For those who prefer foam mattresses - the Thermarest Z Lite SOL is a favourite with ultralight backpackers. It is super durable and folds up into an accordion shape. It weighs 14 ounces and has an R-value of 2.0.

With expense - Thermarest introduced a new valve system on their inflatable mattresses this year called Wing-lock. The older model mattresses are in the process of being cleared out on a number of websites. Look around and you might score a deal!

I added a sad photo of my 6.6 ounce Short Uberlite mattress. Somehow the upper baffles delaminated after a year of use. I need to send it back to Thermarest to see if they can replace it. I had a very uncomfortable week sleeping on it!

mattress.jpg
 

NorthernLight

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Le Puy to Santiago via the Frances 2012-2013. EPW2015
Aragonese & Frances 2016
Burgos to Muxia 2017
I would think that outside of winter, early spring and late autumn, insulation wouldn’t be necessary?
Somehow the upper baffles delaminated after a year of use.
Judging by the photo, the delamination gave you a neck pillow!
 

Helen1

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
London to Santiago (2014)
Narbonne to Oloron (2015)
Camino Portugues (2016)
Sentier Cathar (2017)
I would think that outside of winter, early spring and late autumn, insulation wouldn’t be necessary?
Depends how tough you are and how much weight you want to carry! For me, 100% necessary partly for the warmth but mostly for the comfort.
 

NorthernLight

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Le Puy to Santiago via the Frances 2012-2013. EPW2015
Aragonese & Frances 2016
Burgos to Muxia 2017
Depends how tough you are and how much weight you want to carry! For me, 100% necessary partly for the warmth but mostly for the comfort.
Does the warmth insulation actually contribute to cushioning comfort? I recall sleeping on an air mattress during a camping trip, and getting cold as the mattress had no insulation, but it was comfortable enough otherwise.
 

dougfitz

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Spain: Mar 2010, Apr 2014, May/Jun 2016. Norway/Sweden: 2012, 2018. Other: 2011, 2019. CP (tbc)
Does the warmth insulation actually contribute to cushioning comfort? I recall sleeping on an air mattress during a camping trip, and getting cold as the mattress had no insulation, but it was comfortable enough otherwise.
I am interested in this as well. My simple understanding is that the aim is to reduce the rate of heat transfer from the body to the ground, ie not letting the heat out. It's like walking on a stone floor compared to carpet - they can both be at the same ambient temperature but in bare feet, the stone floor will always feel colder because the stone transfers heat more efficiently. It is cooling your feet down quicker than carpet might. All this goes to how long it takes to get uncomfortably cold during a cold night. Higher R-value mats should delay this.

For me, the question of comfort relates to how well one can get the surface to conform to the contours of one's body. I can remember sleeping site selection when I was younger and using thin, closed cell foam mats. It was always better to find a spot that had a natural hollow for one's hips than have to dig one out. When car camping, I always used those heavy, rubberised fabric air mattresses. I would never have carried those hiking, but the new generation of lightweight fabrics makes products like the Exped mat that I am currently using a reasonable choice.
 
D

Deleted member 67185

Guest
I thought I'd share some basic insights into sleeping on the ground outdoors when using a Pad or an Air Mattress.

Note: There are also a sub-catergory of pads called 'self-inflating' foam pads, but I won't include them in the discussion, as they are generally better served for car camping applications. . .they tend to typically be heavier and less manageable for packing in a backpack. And yes, I am familiar with the current models, and have used a few of the lighter ones.

My preferred mattress, currently, is a Nemo Tensor air mattress. It took some time doing direct comparisons with other Air Mattresses to decide that it was the one I was most comfortable with. More on that issue below.

1591217663359.png


Cushion and Insulation??? We Don't Need No Stinkin' Cushion of Insulation.

When first starting to backpack, I used no pad or mat(tress) at all, just a ground cloth. My body was young, dumb, and able to sleep through the night with no-padding/no-insulation from the heat-sucking ground. Padding? Haw!!! We dug a shallow depression for the hip, and another for the shoulder, and that was that.

On To Pads

Then I took up climbing. . . rock and ice-related climbing. With mountaineering came the snow fields to sleep on. That's when a closed cell foam Pad called Ensolite entered my vocabulary. Thin, not much cushion, impervious to water absorption if exposed, non-compressible but very flexible and rolled up nicely to attach to the outside of the backpack. Ensolite was also heavy, due to the denseness of its closed-cell construction.

When another type of closed-cell Pad arrived, "The Blue Foam" (my name for the still available Pads at most big-box stores and Decathlon-type stores 'camping' sections) it was a bit stiffer to roll up, but was much lighter. But with that lightness came eventual compression of the foam, and the foam was far more fragile. Because it was much lighter and cheap, it was a simple matter to replace at a much lower cost than for the heavier and far more durable (but less cushiony) Ensolite.
1591215578932.png
Tip: Just as you can do using ONLY a ground sheet, you can pound or scrape slight depressions into the ground at the shoulders and hips before laying down the pad, to help with with comfort.

About 6 years ago, I decided I had enough with 'pads'. I had used many types and models by this time, including several of the crop of thermapad-Zfolded-accordion pleated ilk, like the one below. None were ever really comfortable to me. They did keep the ground from vampiring up my body heat, and they were a lighter option. . . seemingly.

In truth, at an average of 14 ounces/397 grms, they weighed a bit more than my current Nemo air mattress, and were far less comfortable. And they did not compress down for the backpack. What you see below, is as small a footprint as you get with many of these, when packed down for a hike. It pretty much has to be attached to the outside of a backpack.

1591214208873.png

OMG!!!! How Could I Have Been So Young And Dumb??? Answer: Technology Does Change.

I have now evolved into using Air Mattresses. I've used a few models, and while they can and will eventually develop punctures, they are surprisingly very tough critters. I've been using the same one, now, for over 1,600 miles / 2670 kilometers of all terrain backpacking.

Way back when, there were two types of air mattresses:
  1. The rubberized canvas-fabric kind. They could survive normal campsite environments. . . but weighed tons, and packed down to the size of a small suitcase.
  2. The plasticized-vinyl types. These are the variety that was found in backyard swimming pools and at lakes. They were much lighter (still weighed over a pound), and packed down nicely. BUT their durability was non-existent and would puncture at the sound of harsh language or a stern glare.
Fabrics and plastics and coating technologies of today are like Star Trek technology compared to the yesteryear of (as Spock once said) using styluses and clay tablets as writing devices. As with all things involving today's lighter weight gear and clothing for backpacking, air mattress technology has evolved, and our backs and knees benefit.

My Nemo model weighs just over 12 ounces, and sneers at normal wear and tear. Yes, I do carry 0.5 ounces worth of a repair kit. If a repair needs to be made to keep my air mattress airtight, it is easy to do and the repairs are sturdy.

Air Mattresses deflate into small, compressed bundles. They tuck away nicely into a backpack's outer pocket or into the main bag. Personally, I keep mine inside the same stuff sack (0.3 ounces/ 8.5 grms) that I keep my tent in, unless the tent was packed wet. If that is the case, I roll the mattress into a tight bundle and stow it in a side pocket.

Two years ago, I discovered I no longer want to blow up my mattress by lung-power. So now, if taking my air mattress (which takes only 10 big breaths to fill tightly) I also take this device, that weighs about 2.3 oz /65 grms including the 2 AAA batteries.

1591229660916.png 1591229696234.png 1591229720777.png

There are also stuff sacks which can be used as 'air pumps', but I personally dislike their usability finickiness. Plus, there is very little gained, in terms of lightness, by using a stuff sack pump vs my powered pump.

Air Mattresses Are Not Your Bed At Home

You probably have already figured out, intellectually anyway, that there are no Air Mattresses or Pads for use with camping when backpacking, hiking, or walking Camino that will mimic the mattress you sleep on at home.

If that thought has not occurred to you, then let me be clear: There are no Air Mattresses or Pads for use with camping when backpacking, hiking, or walking Camino that will mimic the mattress you sleep on at home.

Insulation is provided with both Air Mattresses and Pads. Air Mattresses have models with varying degrees of added insulative foils which can increase 'R' value; this is in addition to the fact that they already isolate your body from direct contact with the ground itself.

Yes, pads CAN offer even more insulation, but here's the thing: If legally camping and sleeping outside on Camino, or if I am backpacking during the three seasons of Spring, Summer, and Fall, high levels of ground insulation is not the primary focus. You are not going to be sleeping on snow and ice and frozen tundra at below freezing temperatures.

The primary issue is comfort. What will allow you the best chance of getting all of the rest, and the recovery sleep your body needs in order to function properly and to be alert for the next morning's walk. This is important for your continued health on long-distance walks. Continued fatigue will dramatically increase the risk for illness and injuries as the walk continues over the many days you are on your feet and carrying a backpack.

First decision: What sleeping platform am I most comfortable with for a good night's sleep. For some, a pad will be sufficient. For others, a pad will not provide enough cushioning.

So my recommendation is to start with pads. All sorts of pads, from the least expensive Big Box Store blue foam style pad, to the far more expensive and technically advanced thermarest style pads.

Try to get a good representative sample to try out at once. If purchasing for a tryout at home, make sure they can be returned for refund. If doing this at an outdoor store that has a good inventory selection, have the sales clerk lay out all of the pads you want to try out onto the floor and next to each other.

For either tryout style, wear clothing that is as close to that which you would wear on Camino for sleep. And make sure you have an adequate representation of the sleeping bag to lay on top of the pad as well.

If the tryout is in the store, make sure you are mentally prepared to steel yourself. You will be laying down on the floor, in full view of other customers, while you take your time with each pad. Laying on your back, on your side, on your tummy. .. . you will lay in each position, with each pad, for as long as it takes to figure out if it is comfortable enough for a night's sleep.

Some pads you will reject immediately as you can tell in a nanosecond that it ain't working. Others will take a bit longer, as you try to work out whether your first impressions of comfort will carry over to a long night's sleep.

Oh, and Take Note: For me, I am going do this at home, NOT at the store. Steel myself as I will, I am still an introvert and do not like being a spectacle. I do not need to overhear a kid say, "Mommy why is that man laying on the floor, wiggling and moving like that?"

When you finally arrive at a candidate for Best Pad, consider how you will carry it with your backpack. Most likely, it will be fastened to the pack's exterior, so make sure you know how you can achieve this with your pack. Consider existing cords and ties already attached to your pack. Loops or attachment points where you could thread a cord or strap onto the pack. Consider in what way your ability to access your backpack's pockets and bag is affected by a pad that is attached. Consider the final footprint of the backpack with the added dimensions - - can you move with full awareness of your pack size, in a shop full of glassware, without knocking stuff about?

Now, set your Pad candidate aside, and go on to Phase Two: Air Mattresses.

Remember how you tried out various Pads? Do the same thing with Air Mattress. But here is the Big Difference: Air Mattresses take a bit more checking out in order to get a final Love Match. All you really want to do at this point, is to roughly determine if you are a Pad Person, or if you are someone who needs additional cushioning from an Air Mattress?

Is a Pad sufficient for comfort? Does it meet your usability needs? Is it easy enough for you to pack and carry? If so, than you can rest well on a Pad.

IF you decide that you are best served by an Air Mattress, then we must continue on.

The Quest For The Golden Fleece

Choosing a Pad is fairly straight forward compared to an Air Mattress. Once you have made the decision to go with an Air Mattress, you need to determine which Air Mattress is best for you.

Wait. You thought that SHOES were the only thing that requires an individual fit? Excuse my smile.

Do you remember how much consideration went into choosing your bed mattress at home? It is no different for an Air Mattress for carrying. When you decide to sleep on the ground with an Air Mattress, there is no one size, one model, one construction method, one usability fits all.

When I chose my Nemo Tensor model (there are a few versions), it was in comparison with 8 other Air Mattress models from among several companies. I inflated all of them, set them on the ground in my family room, then spent the next three days laying on them off and on.

The easy part was determining what the minimum dimensions I needed: Length and Width. The current Mattress is 'full-length', rather than hip-length or short-length. It is also 'regular width' (20") rather than Narrow, or Wide.

Why the different choices? Exactly! Using the smallest dimension you are comfortable enough using translates into lighter weight and more compact size for packing. What will work for you, is an individual fit and feel type of thing.

I used to use a hip-length, and then would put my backpack under the lower legs. But nowadays, my knees appreciate the support from a regular length mattress.

Air Mattresses use different types of construction for baffles. Air chambers (baffles) that go horizontal, or vertical, or chambers that are constructed in a 'quilt' type pattern are among the majority styles.

Various Air Mattress models, when fully inflated, are at different thicknesses off of the ground. Do you need 3" or 2" to keep your shoulders and hips from pressing against the ground?

Then there is the Roll Off Factor. How easy is it to roll of the mattress while sleeping? You wont hurt yourself if you do, but it is irritating as frozen snot to have to keep wiggling yourself back onto the pad or Air Mattress. Two factors come into play here (aside from the dimensions of the Air Mattress itself).

The first is the ability to keep the Air Mattress slightly deflated. Air Mattresses are not only uncomfortable when tightly inflated, but they act like a trampoline, too. So how much can you deflate the Air Mattress while still having comfortable support?

The second is the construction of the Air Mattress. Some folks benefit from Air Mattresses that have outside support in the form of a slightly bigger baffle. The theory is that it acts like a guard rail. How practical the actual application of such a feature is up to the individual. I find them non-essential and an impingement against my shoulder.

Aside from the 'guard rail', it is the overall construction style of the baffles which can affect how easy it is for one person to roll off the Air Mattress.

During my tryouts, I went did direct comparisons for only two Mattresses at a time. I would pause when laying in each position -side or back- long enough to get a good feel of the comfort and movement of the mattress. I would lay on my back to sense how much Roll-Of-Ability there might be. Then I would set aside the one I liked least. Then I would compare the 'winner' of that heat, to the next candidate.

I continued until I had a winner. Then I would do a new round to recheck my findings. I did not care which mattress won, only that it was as comfortable as I could find among the candidates.

Next in another post: Techniques for using an Air Mattress for best outcome.
 
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D

Deleted member 67185

Guest
Does the warmth insulation actually contribute to cushioning comfort? I recall sleeping on an air mattress during a camping trip, and getting cold as the mattress had no insulation, but it was comfortable enough otherwise.
No, not directly in terms of absolute comfort. When directly in contact with the ground, you are needing to prevent Conduction of your body heat. A Pad will do this best because of the encapsulation of closed micro cells in the foams. Highly insulated Pads will also layer in insulative foils (think of those emergency mylar foils), and will increase absolute thickness for increasing R values.

With Air Mattresses, the issue is not so much conduction as it is Convection. An Air Mattress effectively separates your body from the ground, but the large air chambers allow convection currents to flow that vampire body heat away.

Air Mattresses frequently incorporate insulative features to interrupt loss of body heat. Many use various foils laminated to the interior fabrics. One of the biggest complaints by some consumers for this is that some mattresses, until used for a bit, can produce a low level crinkly noise when shifting on the mattress. That is not much of an issue today.

Some Air Mattress incorporate small amounts of 'fluffy stuff', like synthetic down, into the air chambers. The amount that needs to be used are quite modest and are fairly unnoticed in terms of packability.

For three season use, most Air Mattresses will perform fine with regard to body heat conservation. In colder weather, if I use an Air Mattress, I will also take a blue foam Pad and lay the Air Mattress on top of the Pad.
 

David

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Moissac to Santiago Spring 2005 was the first foray.
@davebugg - fab posts!! - So ... tell me if I am wrong (or if anyone else has tried this), but it seems that carrying both an inflatable mat and a closed cell mat could be interesting ... lay closed cell mat down as an insulating 'first line of comfort' base and then lay the inflatable on top? Or would this be overkill?
 
D

Deleted member 67185

Guest
@davebugg - fab posts!! - So ... tell me if I am wrong (or if anyone else has tried this), but it seems that carrying both an inflatable mat and a closed cell mat could be interesting ... lay closed cell mat down as an insulating 'first line of comfort' base and then lay the inflatable on top?
You can do that. I do it for winter camping and backpacking.

Air mattresses made by most of the manufacturers, have models that come insulated and non insulated. For most three season use R values between 2 to 4 work well. . above that and they can be too warm for spring thru early fall weather. In fact, you can find air mattresses which are so well insulated they can be too hot for all but winter weather.

So when looking at specifications, look for a stated R value.

If for whatever reason, you feel the need for supplemental bottom insulation, a lightweight, mylar emergency blanket can be put on top of your mattress, underneath your sleeping bag. It weighs a lot less than a closed cell foam pad, and is a lot easier to carry :) And don't forget, you have some type of jacket that can also be placed on top of the air mattress so it sits under your upper body core.
 

RENSHAW

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
2003 CF Roncesvalles to Santiago
2/4 weeks every year on CF reaching Burgos or Leon. Hospitalero San Anton June 2016.
When I camped for a few days the last thing I wanted to do was travel with a huge sleeping mat rolled up and strapped to my pack. On reaching De Los Padres Albergue in Puenta la Reina I casually asked the Hospitalero if someone had left a sleeping mat behind. He led me to a room with multiple cupboards and opened up each one - there they were , hundreds of orphaned mats. I took one and made a donation , then a week or so later I left it at another albergue.
 
D

Deleted member 67185

Guest
When I camped for a few days the last thing I wanted to do was travel with a huge sleeping mat rolled up and strapped to my pack. On reaching De Los Padres Albergue in Puenta la Reina I casually asked the Hospitalero if someone had left a sleeping mat behind. He led me to a room with multiple cupboards and opened up each one - there they were , hundreds of orphaned mats. I took one and made a donation , then a week or so later I left it at another albergue.
I share your aversion to strapping gear to the outside of my backpack. Some things, like crampons and an ice axe are exceptions, but not much else. Below are a couple of pictures giving comparison of the footprint of a pad and an air mattress in their packed state.


That is a 1/2 liter water bottle next to my rolled up air mattress. Easily fits into a backpack or in an exterior pocket.

1591268718670.png


A closed cell, accordian folded Pad.

1591269754505.png
 

zinco

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Winter 2015/6
I really like this one from decathlon
FORCLAZ TREKKING INFLATABLE MATTRESS TREK 700 AIR XL - YELLOW
1591270732623.png
Super light/easy to blow up and comfortable.
 
D

Deleted member 67185

Guest
I really like this one from decathlon
FORCLAZ TREKKING INFLATABLE MATTRESS TREK 700 AIR XL - YELLOW
View attachment 76355
Super light/easy to blow up and comfortable.
I think we need to be careful in saying things like 'super light'. For its insulative R value, which is on the low end, it is on the heavier side of the scale compared to many other similar sized air mattresses that have higher R values.

BUT. . . it is half the cost of some of the light weight models. So if durability and usability is good, and its fit and feel match the needs of the individual user, it may be well worth a try out.
 

camino.ninja

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances 5 6,16,17,18,19,20
Primiti+Salvador 19
Portug. 17,18,20
Catalan 17
Norte 17
Plata 18
Hi all - this a spin-off to the "thinking about tents" thread ... it looks like tenting will become more popular when the Camino opens, the hope being that refugios will allow distancing pilgrims to put up tents; in their gardens, on their forecourts, etc, for a reduced fee - allowing access to the facilities .. (so a free-standing tent then)

... but what to sleep on? ... seems like veteran thru-hikers have stronger or fitter bodes than old and achey pilgrims like me so I thought it would be great to hear personal experiences with various sleeping mats..

What are the basics? Comfort, weight, pack-down size? Solid or self-inflating?

With thrifty head on I bought a cheap Silentnight inflatable - big and heavy! and although it works 'well', it seems pretty uncomfortable to me and after a couple of nights I get really achey so I think we may need to throw out our budget conscious thoughts here ;) .... lots of 'best sleeping mats' sites out there but what about doing our own?

Your mat - what are you? Young and fit? Old and achey? How comfortable is it in the middle of a tired night? What does it weigh? How small does it pack down? What did you pay? Was it worth the money? What mats have you got rid of to get the one you have now? Why?

Just want to say that I know nothing about this .. I have researched online and they ALL say they are the best mat .. so ... this isn't about me or what I should take but for all of us, we need to know! Especially we amateur (and probably ancient) campers who would prefer a big sprung mattress (in a hotel) so, please, tell us! :D
If you are tired enough you can sleep on anything. But a good old puncture free solid foam mat is probably what you want. Have a look at Therm a Rest. Or even something lighter.
 
Last edited:

Dandabika

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Completed GR65 (2016)
Hi all - this a spin-off to the "thinking about tents" thread ... it looks like tenting will become more popular when the Camino opens, the hope being that refugios will allow distancing pilgrims to put up tents; in their gardens, on their forecourts, etc, for a reduced fee - allowing access to the facilities .. (so a free-standing tent then)

... but what to sleep on? ... seems like veteran thru-hikers have stronger or fitter bodes than old and achey pilgrims like me so I thought it would be great to hear personal experiences with various sleeping mats..

What are the basics? Comfort, weight, pack-down size? Solid or self-inflating?

With thrifty head on I bought a cheap Silentnight inflatable - big and heavy! and although it works 'well', it seems pretty uncomfortable to me and after a couple of nights I get really achey so I think we may need to throw out our budget conscious thoughts here ;) .... lots of 'best sleeping mats' sites out there but what about doing our own?

Your mat - what are you? Young and fit? Old and achey? How comfortable is it in the middle of a tired night? What does it weigh? How small does it pack down? What did you pay? Was it worth the money? What mats have you got rid of to get the one you have now? Why?

Just want to say that I know nothing about this .. I have researched online and they ALL say they are the best mat .. so ... this isn't about me or what I should take but for all of us, we need to know! Especially we amateur (and probably ancient) campers who would prefer a big sprung mattress (in a hotel) so, please, tell us! :D
Hi, I've used the Thermarest NeoAir XLite for years. It has an insulating R value of about 4 and mine is a short, ultra lightweight at 8 ounces. I've used it on some of the hardest, blue plastic covered, cold albergue mattresses, concrete floors, ground, airport floors etc. It is the cat's meow. It packs really small and it is easily inflated by mouth with about 8 good breaths. Most of the experienced long distance walkers that I know use this matress also. Have a look here; https://www.thermarest.com/sleeping-pads/fast-and-light/neoair-xlite-sleeping-pad/neoair-xlite.html
 
Last edited:

ken2116

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Someday. But have hiked the Sierra and the Pyrenees.
@davebugg - fab posts!! - So ... tell me if I am wrong (or if anyone else has tried this), but it seems that carrying both an inflatable mat and a closed cell mat could be interesting ... lay closed cell mat down as an insulating 'first line of comfort' base and then lay the inflatable on top? Or would this be overkill?
Combining pad and inflatable is exactly what we do. The inflatable for comfort and the pad for deflation insurance (happened about twice in 10 yrs of backpacking, but still....) and insulation in winter. Our first inflatables lasted ~ 10 yrs and 100+ nights before failing when the coating got brittle, pretty good. I'm an active 74yr side sleeper with sometimes severe back problems. Have tried many ~ 2.5in. thick inflatables on store floors and concluded that comfort-wise they're very similar when used partially deflated - I lie on my side and bleed air until my spine is level and hips and shoulders are just off the ground. Used this way I can't tell the difference between quilting styles or price. We chose less fancy Big Agnes models, but others probably would have been fine. The "stuff sack" inflation system fills them in 4-5 cycles - quick, easy, no moisture. Just about any light weight closed cell model will do for the pad, am currently using a ridged roll up type though "blue foam" is fine, hip length is sufficient for insurance. Incidentally, this is the most comfortable sleeping system for my back and becomes my "regular bed" when things are bad.
 

Undermanager

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Madrid (x2)
VDLP
Salvador
Primitivo
Finisterra / Muxia
Lana

A think a Thermarest Z Lite Sol is a good choice for a camino. It's only about 400g, 20mm thick so definitely comfy and better than a roll of foam by a long way, can be used as a seat, cut up a bit to fit you if you want to shave even more grams off, doesn't get punctures and insulates you from the cold. It's bulky, so if you are trying to sneak on a plane without paying the extra for luggage, you might get caught out :), but it does easily strap to the outside of the rucksack - just check your rucksack cover in advance if you want to cover up in a rain storm. Variations at between £30 - £50 make it a good cost compromise, and lots of people rate them.

Spain being Spain, the ground can be thorny, stony and hard, so I really don't think the blow up mats are a good choice. I had two before getting miffed at punctures on a walk - you don't want to be trying to find a micro hole in the middle of a walk, or fixing punctures. The cheap blow-up mats on Amazon aren't worth the money either in my opinion - you need to be spending upwards of £100 to get something that might not puncture within a few days.

Some good reviews on YouTube ...
 

Richard Smith

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances 2016
Kumano Kodo 2014
Sleeping mats or mattresses do 2 things :-
1. Insulate your body against the heat loss to the ground and moisture from damp ground. Remember your sleeping bag will compress to nothing underneath your body and offers virtually no insulation.
2. Provide some padding for comfort. If you are in the wild you can find some soft ground or gather some bracken but at well used campsites the ground can be so hard it is hard to drive tent pegs in. Church porticos and concrete sheltered areas are good if you have sufficient padding.
When I was a teenager I slept on a groundsheet made of rubberised fabric. Quite heavy when I look at it now.
In my 20s-40s I used the yellow closed cell mats. They weigh almost nothing but you have to find a place to strap them to the outside of your pack, when that is solved no problems. They never puncture and every one I have bought still works. I tested the blue mats and if you press your finger into them the hollow stays there for a long time, the yellow ones don't create a hollow at all. No colour prejudice - but don't buy one if your finger can make a dent that lasts.
I now use and have owned various inflatable camping mattresses. I prefer the 3.8 cm thickness rather than 2.5 because I feel it on my hip bone (I am a side sleeper). If you are in the wild you can scrape out a depression for your hip but not in camp ground/on concrete. I chose the 3/4 length to save weight. For legs I cut one of the yellow foam mats in half for my wife and I, she doesn't need it but I do in cold camps. Some people use their empty back pack for leg insulation but I havn't solved this yet with my Osprey EXOS with it's frame and back netting. The two half mats of course roll up as one, so only one of us carries them, and it is no problem. The 3/4 length mattress is small and light enough to go in each back pack.
After a few years the inflatable mattresses perish. I have only had one puncture in use, but when that happens no sleep. The half-cut yellow mat would serve as a backup if needed for the upper body.
BTW some inflatables are super slippery under your sleeping bag, if possible check these together. It interrupts sleep if the mattress keeps twisting out from underneath. Also if you test them in the camping store, even thin commercial carpet can make them feel better than in actual use so err on the plush side if you can.
For David who uses a trailer, I assume weight is an issue but bulk is not. If so try two yellow closed cell mats and see if they meet your needs.
 

Paladina

old woman of the roads
Camino(s) past & future
CF, primitivo & del norte (2017); VdlP/Sanabres, ingles etc (2018), Mozarabe etc (2019), tbc (2020)
I use a Thermarest women’s ProLite mat, more affordable and less susceptible to punctures than the NeoAir X-Lite. By placing it inside a bivvy bag - Goretex army surplus for use in Ireland, siltarp-type for the Camino - there is no chance of rolling off it. It’s portable and perfectly comfortable, but I’m no fairy-tale princess discommoded by a pea.
 

camino.ninja

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances 5 6,16,17,18,19,20
Primiti+Salvador 19
Portug. 17,18,20
Catalan 17
Norte 17
Plata 18
Let me add a suggestion. The Multimat Superlite is only 190 grams (175 striped down) and is warm enough for summer in Spain.

 

henrythedog

Loved and fed by David
Camino(s) past & future
Frances 2017, 2018, 2019, Ingles 2018, (Madrid 2019 partial - retired hurt!) (more planned)
Let me add a suggestion. The Multimat Superlite is only 190 grams (175 striped down) and is warm enough for summer in Spain.

Ever tried a balloon bed at only 100g?

I’ve still got one from my past mountain marathon events.

They rely on having lots of time in the evening to blow the balloons up. (This is serious!)


You get a good nights sleep and everyone else keeps warm laughing.
 

camino.ninja

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances 5 6,16,17,18,19,20
Primiti+Salvador 19
Portug. 17,18,20
Catalan 17
Norte 17
Plata 18
Well
Ever tried a balloon bed at only 100g?

I’ve still got one from my past mountain marathon events.

They rely on having lots of time in the evening to blow the balloons up. (This is serious!)


You get a good nights sleep and everyone else keeps warm laughing.
Well that sounds like a party 😂
 
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David Camping on the Camino de Santiago 155
OLDER threads on this topic
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