Your sleeping mat is as important as your sleeping bag in keeping you warm. Here’s what to look for.
High-density open-cell foam, down-insulation or synthetic-insulation are the warmest mattresses. Air-filled mats are the coolest, but also the lightest. Antimicrobial treatments will prevent fungal and bacterial growth inside the mat, caused by moist breath (from inflating the mattress). Foam-filled sleeping mats are die-cut or horizontally cored to reduce their weight.
Fabrics and finishes
Fabrics are patterned and coated to provide grip so the user doesn’t slide off during the night. They are DWR-coated to provide water-resistance.
Shape and size
Most mats come in short, regular (or medium) and large sizes. They can be tapered to save weight, bulk and to make laying two mats side-by-side easier. Shorter, tapered modelsare perfect for summer camping. Winter models are full-length and likely to be insulated or have a reflective interior coating that slows heat loss. Prices vary depending on size.
Foam-filled mats are self-inflating – drawing air in as the mat regains its unrolled shape – but may require a few puffs at the end to reach the desired firmness. Synthetic and down-filled mats will come with a pump sack to ensure moisture from your breath doesn’t get inside. The easiest way to use these is to hold the pump sack 30cm from your face and blow into it, then force the air into the mattress. Air-filled models only need your lungs to inflate.
Store the mat in a cool, dry place, unrolled, with the valve open.
Generally speaking, the thicker a mattress, the warmer it will be.
Controls airflow in and out of the mat. Some mattresses have two valves; one used to inflate and the other to deflate.
A sleeping mat’s R-value (Resistance-value) measures its effectiveness at resisting heat loss. The higher the R-value, the warmer a mattress will be. Manufacturer’s used to independently test their mattresses, but now the international standard ASTM F3340-18 has been launched (although the standard is so new, not all manufacturers have completed testing yet).
The ASTM standard means mattresses are tested in the same way to achieve consistent R-values across brands. This will make it easier for consumers to properly compare and judge the warmth of various mattresses.
Here’s a basic guide to give you an idea of what to expect from each R-value metric (note, depending on how warm you sleep, you might need a higher or lower R-value than the grades here suggest):
- R1-R2: For summer use when day and nighttime temperatures are warm.
- R2-R4: Suitable for three-season use, including conditions where you might get a mild ground frost.
- R4-R6: All season use, including conditions where you might get a heavy ground frost.
- R6+: Below freezing air temperatures day and night with cold to frozen ground.
Therm-A-Rest NeoAir XTherm $499.99 (reg)
New wide opening WingLock valve, ThermaCapture lining traps radiant heat, baffling system with over 100 internal cells to trap air, pump sack, repair kit, ASTM-certified. R-value 7.2 Packed size 10x23cm Dimensions 51x183cm, 6.4cm thick Weight 430g. e.ampro.co.nz
Big Agnes AXL Air $324.99 (reg)
Double ripstop nylon fabric, heat-reflective technology, aviation-grade TPU lamination, single-port two-way valve, micro-release button for subtle adjustments, larger outer chambers prevent roll-off, interior antimicrobial
treatment, repair kit. R-value N/A Packed size 8x17cm Dimensions 51x183cm, 9.5cm thick Weight 272g. www.gearshop.co.nz
Therm-A-Rest NeoAirUberLight $459.99 (reg)
The lightest insulated air mattress available, new wide-opening WingLock valve, Triangular Core Matrix foam insulation, two-layer baffle construction, stuff sack and repair kit included, ASTM-certified. R-value 2.3 Packed size 9x15cm Dimension 51x183cm, 6.4cm thick Weight 250g. e.ampro.co.nz
Exped DownMat XP 7 $319.99 (med)
Embossed anti-slip top surface, 700-fill power down insulation, welded baffles, separate inflation and deflation valves, Schnozzel Pumpbag doubles as waterproof compression bag for sleeping bag or clothes, five-year
warranty, ASTM-certified. R-value 5.8 Packed size 15x23cm Dimensions 52x183cm, 7cm thick Weight 886g. www.bivouac.co.nz
Exped SynMat UL Winter $239.99 (med)
Anti-slip coating, inflation and deflation valves, welded baffles, microfibre insulation laminated to upper andl ower sides to maintain loft, thicker side cells to prevent roll-off, Schnozzel Pumpbag doubles as a waterproof compression bag, two-year warranty, ASTM-certified. R-value 5 Packed size 13x24cm Dimensions 52x183cm, 9cm thick Weight 654g. www.bivouac.co.nz
Therm-A-Rest NeoAir XLite $429.99 (reg)
New wide-opening WingLock valve, ThermaCapture lining traps radiant heat, Triangular Core Matrix construction to minimise convective heat loss, tapered design, soft-touch fabrics, ASTM-certified. R-value 4.2 (m), 5.4 (w) Packed size 10x23cm Dimensions 51x183cm, 6.4cm thick Weight 340g (m/w). e.ampro.co.nz
Klymit Insulated V Ultralite $269.95
Lofted air pockets, side rails prevent roll-off, Klymalite lofted synthetic insulation, inflates with 7-10 breaths, 20D polyester fabric. R value 4.4 Packed size 11.5x18cm Dimensions 51x183cm, 6.3cm thick Weight 450g. www.outfitters.net.nz
Big Agnes Q-Core SLX Insulated $339.99 (reg)
WRM HL synthetic insulation, offset I-Beams for stability, heat reflective, internal antimicrobial treatment, quilted top, double ripstop fabric. R-value 4.5 Packed size 11.5x19cm Dimensions 51x183cm, 10.8cm thick Weight 453g. www.gearshop.co.nz
Kiwi Camping Intrepid Single Air Mat $129
Push and pop inflation/deflation valve, stretch fabric sides, 40D nylon ripstop fabric with TPU coating, carry bag, repair kit. R-value 1.7 Packed size 12x28cm Dimensions 66x195cm, 9cm thick Weight 1200g. www.kiwicamping.co.nz
Kiwi Camping Rover Lite Self-Inflating mat $99
Self-inflating, compressible foam core, soft-stretch fabric, single valve, tapered design, repair kit, carry bag and compression straps included. R-value N/A Packed size 20x29cm Dimensions 55x183cm, 3cm thick Weight 900g. www.kiwicamping.co.nz
Kiwi Camping IntrepidLite Single Air Mat $99
Push and pop valve for inflation/deflation, 40D 310T nylon ripstop fabric, carry bag and repair kit. R-value 1.3 Packed size 10x23cm Dimensions 55x185cm, 5cm thick Weight 480g. www.kiwicamping.co.nz
Klymit Insulated Static V Lite $229.95
Klymalite lofted synthetic insulation, 10-15 breaths to inflate, v-shaped body mapping design for support, side rails prevent roll-off, antimicrobial treatment, 30D polyester fabric. R-value 4.4 Packed size 8x20cm Dimensions 58.4x183cm, 6.4cm thick Weight 555g. www.outfitters.net.nz
Big Agnes Insulated Air Core Ultra $219.99 (reg)
Three-season, larger outer chambers prevent roll-off, heat reflective technology, antimicrobial treatment, nylon ripstop fabric, aviation-grade TPU lamination, WRM HL high-loft synthetic insulation, high-volume valve, recommended for use to -9℃. R-value N/A Packed size 10x22cm Dimensions 63.5x183cm, 9cm thick Weight 710g. www.gearshop.co.nz
Macpac Self-Inflating Sleeping Mat $119.99
Full length, self-inflating mattress, diamond cored foam, top ripstop fabric with TPU coating, anti-slip coating on bottom, stuff sack and repair kit, ASTM-certified. R-value 4.3 Packed size 21x35cm Dimension 63x198cm, 5cm thick Weight 1560g. www.macpac.co.nz
Therm-A-Rest ProLite Plus $269.99 (reg)
Self-inflating, patent-pending diagonal-cut foam to reduce airflow, new wide-opening WingLock valve, stuff sack, ASTM-certified. R-value 3.2 (m), 3.9 (w) Packed size 15x28cm Dimensions 51x183cm, 3.8cm thick Weight 650g (m), 640g (w). e.ampro.co.nz
Klymit Insulated Static V $199.95
Klymalite lofted synthetic insulation, 10-15 breaths to inflate, v-shaped body mapping design for support, side rails prevent roll-off, antimicrobial treatment, 75D polyester fabric. R-value 4.4 Packed size 13x23cm Dimensions 58.4x183cm, 6.4cm thick Weight 709g. www.outfitters.net.nz