Image of the April 2021 Wilderness Magazine Cover Read more from the
April 2021 Issue
Home / Articles / Gear Guides

2021’s guide to sleeping mats

Featured mat: Therm-A-Rest NeoAir XTherm ($499.99). Distributed by e.ampro.co.nz

Besides providing comfort, sleeping mats perform a vital function
by insulating you from the cold ground to slow convective heat loss. Find which best suits the majority of your trips.

Inflation
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.

Fill
High-density open-cell foam, down 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.

Valve
Controls airflow in and out of the mat. Some mattresses have two valves; one used to inflate and the other to deflate.

Thickness
Generally speaking, the thicker a mattress, the warmer it will be.

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 models are 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.

Storage
Store the mat in a cool, dry place, unrolled, with the valve open.

R-value
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. The international ASTM F3340-18 standard ensures mattresses are tested in the same way to achieve consistent R-values across brands. It makes 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:

  • 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 9 (regular)
With patented reflective barrier technology for four-season warmth but without the added weight or bulk of insulation, pump sack and repair kit, WingLock valve allows for fast inflation/deflation, ASTM-certified. Packed 10x23cm Inflated 51x183cm, 6.4cm thick R-Value 6.9 Weight 430g. e.ampro.co.nz

Therm-A-Rest NeoAir UberLight $459.99 (regular)
Therm-A-Rest’s lightest and most compact air mattress. Triangular Core Matrix providing support and minimises convective heat loss, WingLock valve allows fast inflation/deflation, stuff sack and repair kit included, ASTM-certified. Packed 9x15cm Inflated 51x183cm, 6.4cm thick R-Value 2.3 Weight 250g. e.ampro.co.nz

Therm-A-Rest NeoAir XLite $429.99 (regular)
A lightweight year-round mattress with patented reflective barrier technology provides warmth without the bulk and weight of insulation, Triangular Core Matrix construction minimises heat loss, WingLock valve allows fast inflation/deflation, ASTM-certified. Packed 10x23cm Inflated 51x183cm, 6.4cm thick R-Value 4.2 Weight 340g. e.ampro.co.nz

Big Agnes Insulated AXL $399.99 (regular)
PrimaLoft Gold Insulation with Cross Core traps and reflects body heat, two-way valve with micro-adjustments for fine-tuning, antimicrobial treatment, storage sack, replacement valve seal and repair patches. Packed 8x16.5cm Inflated 50.8x183cm, 9.5cm thick R-value 3 Weight 337g. www.gearshop.co.nz

Big Agnes Q-Core SLX Insulated $339.99 (regular)
Three-season mat with WRM HL synthetic insulation, offset I-Beams for stability, heat reflective, internal antimicrobial treatment, quilted top, double ripstop fabric. Packed 11.5x19cm Inflated 51x183cm, 10.8cm thick R-value 4.5 Weight 453g. www.gearshop.co.nz

Therm-A-Rest ProLite Apex $299.99 (regular)
Self-inflating mattress with US-sourced patent-pending foam, StrataCore construction uses a continuous layer of thermal foam nestled between alternating ridges of air and foam to reduce heat loss, WingLock valve for fast inflation/deflation, ASTM-certified. Packed 12x28cm Inflated 51x183cm, 5cm thick R-Value: 3.8 Weight 630g. e.ampro.co.nz

Klymit Insulated V Ultralite $269.95
Featuring lofted air pockets, dynamic side rails prevent roll-off, Klymalite lofted synthetic insulation, inflates with 7-10 breaths, 20D polyester fabric. Packed 11.5x18cm Inflated 51x183cm, 6.3cm thick R-value 4.4 Weight 450g. www.outfitters.net.nz

Kl ymit Insulated StaticV Lite $229.95
Klymit’s most popular mattress is rated for four-season use and features Klymalite lofted synthetic insulation, 10-15 breaths to inflate, supportive v-shaped body mapping design, side rails prevent roll-off, antimicrobial treatment, 30D polyester fabric. Packed 8x20cm Inflated 58.4x183cm, 6.4cm thick R-value 4.4 Weight 555g. www.outfitters.net.nz

Big Agnes Insulated Air Core Ultra $219.99 (regular)
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 10x22cm Inflated 63.5x183cm, 9cm thick Weight 710g. www.gearshop.co.nz

Klymit Insulated Static V $199.95
Four season mat with 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. Packed 13x23cm Inflated 58.4x183cm, 6.4cm thick R-value 4.4 Weight 709g. www.outfitters.net.nz

Sierra Designs Granby Insulated $149
A three-season mattress with baffled construction, synthetic insulation, one-way valve for easy inflation and deflation, wide-opening burrito-style stuff sack. Packed 10.2x25.4cm Inflated 51X183cm, 7.6cm thick R-value 2.1 Weight 570g. www.furtherfaster.co.nz

Backcountry pillows
For a better night’s sleep take an ultra-packable inflatable pillow with you.

Therm-A-Rest AirHead Pillow $94.99 (regular)
Inflatable core with an ultra-soft top, baffled air chamber for stability and custom firmness, brushed exterior for next-to-skin comfort. Removable polyester cover is machine washable. 158g. e.ampro.co.nz

Klymit Pillow X Large $79.95
Self-centring X design positions and cradles the head, inflates in one-two breaths, ultrasoft 30D stretch polyester fabric. 91g. www.outfitters.net.nz

Therm-A-Rest AirHead Lite Pillow $79.99 (regular)
Ultralight pillow that packs down to fit in your pocket. Provides 10cm of air padding, stretch fabric provides customised firmness. 58g. e.ampro.co.nz

Klymit Pillow X $49.95
Self-centring X design positions and cradles the head, inflates in one-two breaths, 75D bottom fabric, 30D top fabric. 55g. www.outfitters.net.nz