No sleep system is complete without a sleeping mat – it’s as important as the sleeping bag in ensuring you stay warm and comfortable through the night. Choose a mattress based on the temperatures you most often camp in.
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 all 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 there might be a mild ground frost.
- R4-R6: All season use, including conditions where there could be a heavy ground frost.
- R6+: Below freezing air temperatures day and night, with cold to frozen ground.
Foam-filled mats are self-inflating, drawing air in as the mat regains its unrolled shape. Synthetic and down-filled mats will come with an inflation sack to ensure moisture from your breath doesn’t get inside. Air-filled models only need your lungs to inflate.
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.
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.
Shape and size
Most mats come in short, regular (or medium) and large sizes. They can be tapered to save weight and bulk and to make laying two mats side-by-side easier. Shorter, tapered models are perfect for summer camping while winter models will be full-length. Prices vary depending on size.
High-density open-cell foam, thermal heat-reflective linings and down or synthetic-insulation are the warmest mattresses because they slow convective heat loss into the ground. Air-filled mats are less warm, but they are also lighter.
Therm-A-Rest NeoAir XTherm NXT $599.99 (reg)
This latest XTherm is warmer and 20 per cent thicker than previous models. Instead of insulation, it uses a patented reflective barrier technology which enables four-season warmth without added weight or bulk. There’s a WingLock valve for quick inflation/deflation and a pump sack. Packed 11x23cm Dimensions 51x183cm, 7.62cm thick R-Value 7.3 Weight 439g. www.ampro.co.nz
Therm-A-Rest NeoAir XLite MAX NXT $599.99 (reg wide)
This is a year-round rectangular camping mattress with reflective heat-trapping ThermaCapture technology. Its Triangular Core Matrix construction minimises convective heat loss and is five-times quieter and 20 per cent thicker than previous models. Packed 13x28cm Dimensions 64x183cm, 7.62cm thick R-Value 4.5 Weight 510g. www.ampro.co.nz
Big Agnes Rapide SL Insulated $479.99 (reg)
This is a three-four season mattress with offset I-Beam construction for multi-directional support providing stability and comfort. There’s a cushioned, quilted top and a durable double ripstop fabric, PrimaLoft Silver insulation and a warmth-trapping heat reflective barrier. Inflation sack included. Packed 11x22cm Dimensions 51x183cm, 9cm thick R-value 4.2 Weight 539g. www.gearshop.co.nz
Big Agnes Zoom UL Insulated $479.99
A three-four season air chamber mat with two layers of heat-reflective film for lightweight insulation. It’s made from recycled nylon with O-Beam internal construction that minimises weight and provides stability and comfort. There’s a single-port dual-function valve and an inflation sack. Packed 10x20cm Dimensions 51x183cm, 9cm thick R-value 4.3 Weight 397g. www.gearshop.co.nz
Klymit Insulated Static V Lite $279.95
Lighter and more compressible than the Static V, with synthetic insulation and V-shaped chambers and side rails for support and comfort. Deep welds allow sleeping bags to fully loft beneath the sleeper for improved thermal comfort. Packed 8x20cm Dimensions 58x183cm, 6cm thick R-value 4.4 Weight 564g. www.outfitters.net.nz
Klymit Insulated Static V $259.95
The body-mapped shape and patented V-shaped chambers of this pad combine to maintain comfort and minimise air movement that can impact insulation. It features Klymalite synthetic insulation and dynamic side rails that centre the user. Packed 13x20cm Dimensions 58x183cm, 6cm thick R-value 4.4 Weight 680g. www.outfitters.net.nz
Big Agnes Divide Insulated $399.99
An insulated three-season air chamber mat using Thermolite insulation and a heat-reflective, warmth-trapping film. There’s I-Beam construction for stability and comfort, recycled ripstop fabric, high-volume dual valve and an inflation sack. Packed 11x22cm Dimensions 51x168cm, 9cm thick R-value 4 Weight 624g. www.gearshop.co.nz
Therm-A-Rest ProLite Apex $359.99 (reg)
A self-inflating mattress with a continuous layer of StrataCore thermal foam nestled between alternating ridges of air to provide warmth-to-weight value. WingLock valve for quick inflation/deflation. Packed 17x28cm Dimensions 51x183cm, 5cm thick R-Value 3.8 Weight 630g. www.ampro.co.nz
Therm-A-Rest UberLite $599.99 (reg)
This is claimed to be the lightest insulated air mattress available. It packs compactly and has a Triangular Core Matrix construction that utilises two stacked layers of triangular baffles which create a stable surface and minimise heat loss. There’s a WingLock valve for quick inflation/deflation and a pump sack. Packed 9x15cm Dimensions 51x183cm, 6.4cm thick R-Value 2.3 Weight 250g. www.ampro.co.nz
Exped Ultra 3R $279.99 (med)
This is a light, compact mattress for use from spring through to autumn. It’s made with a recycled 20D ripstop fabric and has synthetic insulation. Features include 7cm-thick chambers, which are fatter at the sides to prevent roll-off, and large FlatValves. A pump sack is included. Packed 11x23cm Dimensions 52x183cm, 7cm thick R-Value 2.9 Weight 465g. www.bivouac.co.nz
Klymit Static V Luxe SL $349.95
This extra wide, long and thick pad has raised V-chambers creating support at key pressure points and side rails to prevent roll-off. Deep reservoirs between the V chambers maximise sleeping bag loft and warmth. A slight taper at the foot trims weight. Packed 18x23cm Dimensions 69x198cm, 9cm thick R-value 1.5 Weight 590g. www.outfitters.net.nz
Therm-A-Rest ZLite SOL $159.99
A compact and durable mattress that packs away accordion-style. It features heat-trapping dimples with a reflective ThermaCapture coating to capture radiant heat. Packed 13x14x 51cm Dimensions 51x183cm, 2cm thick R-Value 2 Weight 410g. www.ampro.co.nz
Kathmandu Lansan Light Air $164.98
A light and fast-to-inflate summer-use air mattress that packs to the size of a water bottle. It has baffle construction to better support a user’s weight and is DWR coated for water-resistance. Packed 10x19cm Dimensions 55x185cm, 5.5cm thick R-value 1.2 Weight 460g. www.kathmandu.co.nz