Sleeping mats are an essential but often undervalued part of your camping equipment. Prices may start at just a couple of pounds, but the old adage “you get what you pay for” is often as true with sleeping mats as it is for any outdoor equipment – economise on your sleeping mat at your peril! A good night’s sleep is central to your enjoyment of any outdoor experience, and is especially important if you are planning to be out for an extended period, for example on one of our 7 or 14-day self-guided wilderness canoe tours in Sweden. Poor sleep will not only affect your mood, but you may feel tired and listless, be more sensitive to cold and may also find your judgement is impaired. In this article we take a look at the different types of sleeping mat to help you choose which is most suitable for your camping holiday in Sweden, whether you are timber rafting through the forests of Värmland or trekking in Sarek National Park in Lapland.
In a previous article on choosing the right sleeping bag, we discussed that temperature ratings for sleeping bags are often calculated on the assumption that they will be used in conjunction with an appropriate sleeping mat. Your sleeping mat should not only cushion and support your body for comfort but also insulate you from below and is an essential component in keeping you warm while you sleep. Three times as much heat is lost by conduction (i.e. from your body to the ground) as from convection (from your body to the surrounding air). There are a number of factors to consider when choosing a sleeping mat, for example:
- How much the mat weighs and how small it packs relative to its comfort and insulating properties.
- Whether you prefer a firm mat or a softer one.
- Whether you will be using your mat only during summer or year-round.
- What kind of mat you prefer (self-inflating, non-self-inflating or closed cell).
- Your budget and how regularly you intend to use your sleeping mat.
To self-inflate or not to self-inflate? Self-inflating sleeping mats: A self-inflating sleeping mat has a layer of foam which is contained within an airtight shell. To inflate the mat, a valve is opened drawing air into the foam. After a few minutes, the mat is fully self-inflated and the valve can be closed. When packing, you open the valve and expel the air by rolling the mat and then close the valve to stop air re-entering. Thermarest is probably the most well-known brand for this kind of sleeping mat (and they can even be converted into a chair!).
Non-self-inflating sleeping mats: Non-self-inflating mats, as the name suggests, must be inflated by the user. Air-only mats are unlikely to provide sufficient insulation for any use apart from summer camping, but non self-inflating mats may also be filled with down or synthetic insulation and are then much warmer. Though the mats themselves tend to be thicker than self-inflating models, as they do not have a foam layer inside they may weigh less and pack down smaller. Bear in mind when inflating your sleeping mat that the moisture in breath can be damaging – water vapour may over time begin to rot the material inside. Some models allow you to use the sleeping mat storage sack as a bellows to avoid getting moisture from your breath into the mat.
Closed cell sleeping mats: This kind of mat does not inflate, but is simply a piece of foam. Budget priced mats tend to be of this design, but are generally best avoided as they are likely to have poor insulating properties, provide little support and may rip and mark easily.
However, good quality closed cell mats, such as the Thermarest Ridgerest, are also available.
Many Nature Travels holidays in Sweden feature wild camping, one of the great joys of the outdoors. While your sleeping mat is central to your enjoyment of your holiday, it is not always necessary to bring your own. On some of our experiences, such as our guided sea kayaking tours, camping equipment including high quality sleeping mats is included, while for other experiences, for example many of our self-guided canoe tours, it is possible to hire a sleeping bag package including bag, liner and sleeping mat as an optional extra. Whichever option you choose, we wish you sweet dreams and a very enjoyable time camping wild in Sweden!
The Nature Travels Team
(Nature Travels clients receive a discount of 15% for purchases both online and in-store with Cotswold Outdoor – details are given in booking documentation. ).