You can sleep Directly on the Ground in your sleeping bag, Use a Yoga Style Mat, a Blow Up Inflatable Mat or a Self-Inflating Camping Mattress. The choice you make is going to have a massive effect on the amount and quality of sleep you experience. In an effort to pursue the best night’s sleep available, we conducted a trial.
Sleeping with No Mat at all.
Sleeping directly on the floor or groundsheet of your tent inside your sleeping bag is an option, if you are young and don’t carry a lifetime of aches, pains and injuries. I did it myself for many years, and it can be bearable when you’re young and injury free. However, it is a last resort for most people, and I personally wouldn’t even consider it now.
Using Yoga Style Sleeping Mats.
I used one of these for my whole 22 years in the Marines, as well as on countless Camping Trips with friends and Family over the years. To be brutally honest, it is much better than “No Mat”, but not exactly a luxury. Why didn’t the Self-Inflating Camping Mattress exist back then? Damn.
I actually wasn’t even aware that there were alternatives to Yoga Mats until 4-5 years ago. Around that time, we started to see other types of “Inflatable Mats” popping up amongst the DofE Students we were taking out.
The topic was “Hot” at the time, but I chose to stick with what I knew, my tried and tested Yoga Style Mat, like the Slow Adopter of Innovation (Dinosaur) that I am. What a missed opportunity!
These New Style of Mats came in two distinct styles, Inflatable Mattress and Self-Inflating Camping Mattress. They have numerous options available for sale, I think just to confuse the uninformed buyer. Everything varying from Length, Thickness, Weight, Method of Inflation, Thin or Thick Material, as well as a quite astonishing Price Range from around £20 to well over £100!
Inflatable Sleeping Mats
I personally had only spent 2 nights sleeping on one prior to trialling them. Again, it was a massive step up in comfort from the old Yoga Mat, but there were also a few potential drawbacks, such as how much effort it took me to blow up by mouth. Around 30 to 40 full breaths. The fact that the air moved around a lot when I moved around, and, something I didn’t have a problem with, but that was on my mind throughout the night was punctures. Some of them are pretty flimsy looking.
Being a conscientious bunch here at Teal Gecko, we decided to go out and buy a few different ones to trial. Here’s some of the ones we tried (there were others not worth mentioning), and our thoughts on them. As these are our personal opinions only, we won’t give the brand names of the Mats we bought and trialled.
Trial Mat 1.
The first style of mats we trialled were inflatable with varying types of pocket systems built into them to prevent “rolling about” on them as the air moved whilst moving during sleep.
Comfortable to sleep on. The numerous air pockets and separate pads prevented the air from moving around as much as a different style that I had previously slept on.
Incredibly Lightweight and Small to pack away.
Took a lot of effort to blow up. We could have used a pump, but that would have been extra kit to carry.
Material didn’t appear very durable. We were worried about potential punctures, as being only air filled you would basically be on the floor.
To be fair we didn’t get one.
This one was quite Narrow and my feet hung off the bottom.
Pretty Expensive at £35+ for what materials appeared to go into making it, and I would be wary of how many Camping Trips it would last for due to it’s seemingly very thin material.
Trial Mat 2
Lightweight and Small.
Fairly Comfortable, better than Yoga Mat, but not as comfortable as the Mat above.
Took a lot of effort to blow up by mouth.
Prone to bursting!
All in all, we bought four of this exact style Mat one after the other.
Only this Silver one pictured survived being laid on more than once by me.
The other three came apart at specific joint areas as you can probably see from a selection below of our numerous photos on the matter.
We had lengthy discussions with the Seller in an attempt to get one that didn’t burst so that we could trial it properly. He was sympathetic, but still refused to give a refund or replacement. Great customer service!
I weigh just over 14 Stone, 92 kg. Their answer was “It’s not meant for someone of my weight”. Weight (and I’m not Fat! LOL) isn’t mentioned anywhere in their literature. So, lesson learned. If it looks really flimsy, it probably is. Moving swiftly on…..
Trial Mat 3
Similar in style to Trial Mat 1, as we kind of liked it, but Mat 1 had a few drawbacks. We approached a manufacturer direct on this one as we wanted to address Mat 1’s weak points. We asked for the following: A more Heavy Duty material, for the Mat to be made longer and wider, and for it to have our Logo on it, just to see what it looked like.
Lightweight and Small.
Wide enough, Long enough and Strong enough to fit a normal size and weight person. (Me).
Waterproof Material (This wasn’t specified on other models we bought, so they could have been waterproof).
Takes a lot of effort to blow up by mouth.
Fairly expensive at around £ 32.
Trial Mat 4
In a change of direction we also ordered ourselves a Self-Inflating Camping Mattress. Personally, not only had I never slept on one, but I had never touched one or seen one close up before.
It Self-Inflates, hence the name “Self-Inflating Camping Mattress”! Not even a single puff of air required, which I was surprised about.
Lightweight at around 1 kg and similar in dimensions once rolled into it’s carry bag as a Yoga Mat.
Incredibly comfortable to sleep on due to it being foam filled.
Heavy Duty, Durable Material. Less chance of punctures.
Fairly expensive at around the £30 mark.
(Update, I have had the same one for a couple of years now. It has been used regularly and is still like new, no punctures, scuffs or fading. So £30 seems like a bargain in hindsight).
Although it is Lightweight, not as Light or Small as the Inflatables.
Our Conclusion on Sleeping Mats
Obviously I am writing this with a view to it being “me” doing the sleeping. But, I’m sure my views are aligned roughly with most Campers and Hikers.
- Sleeping on the ground is out. Unless someone invents an affordable time machine so I can camp prior to my injuries.
- Yoga Style Mats are now a last resort only.
- Inflatable Mats have their benefits. If you are looking to keep weight and size down to a minimum, then providing you pick one up made from a durable material, they are a definite option. The comfort is there, certainly with the pocket system types. My only worry would be their durability.
- Self-Inflating Camping Mattresses IMHO are the way ahead. The comfort is second to none. I’ve certainly never been more comfortable in bed camping as I was whilst trialling this one. They are Lightweight but Heavy Duty and Durable. They are Foam Filled, so if you were to get a puncture, you would still be lying on the foam (can be patched too). They also are small and light enough the be carried on Camping Expeditions and Hikes.
We were so impressed with the performance of the Self-Inflating Sleeping Mat that we decided to make it our first, of hopefully many products.
Check out the Sleeping Gecko Self-Inflating Sleeping Mat Details Here: