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Insulated sleeping mats for camping

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Anyone got any experience of these? Specifically, the Exped SynMat and Mountain Equipment Aerostat mat seem to be the market leaders, but I'm getting a bit overwhelmed with which to pick Confused

Currently, my only mat is a roll up foam doofer that cost about a fiver back when I was in Scouts Laughing It is about as comfortable and warm as a concrete slab, and I'm too old for that crap.

Most use will be spring/summer/autumn but possibly at altitude so it could get a bit chilly. I'm tending towards synthetic over down as it won't matter so much if it gets wet and I probably don't need the extra insulation from down. That said, I am small and female, so apparently we do need a bit more warmth, so I'm not certain.

There are also a couple of different inflation methods, and different fabrics available. The regular size will be fine. Lighter is better if I have to carry it up a mountain. I should probably get a new sleeping bag too, but first things first.

Anyone tried them out?
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Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Go B&B, it's the future Toofy Grin
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Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
If you're moving from a foam mat you'll find anything a massive improvement. But the you're going from literally a fiver to £150-£200. I lead expeds all over the world and whilst I've not used every type I've seen most and it is very much personal preference and requirement as they are mostly very good and I've never had clients who've had issues with any decent mats (plenty of issues with those who've gone cheap). If you think you'll be in the UK and rain then synthetic is best but for the alps or altitude then I'd go down every time, same as for sleeping bags when you get to that point. There will be someone along who will swear by synthetic every day as it is personal preference, I've both and the difference is negligible to be honest if you compare like for like rating.
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@spyderjon, people around here seem to like sleeping outside. I'm not entirely convinced, but that may be partially down to cheap, old equipment. Also, it's warm and doesn't rain as much as the UK Toofy Grin

@RobH2017, my mate lent me his down mat last time we were out (probably coz he didn't want to listen to me shivering all night, rather than any sort of chivalry Laughing ) and it was massively more comfortable than my old mat. I've found synthetics online for about £95-£130 and down for about £150. Unlikely to be camping in the UK, more likely to be in the Alps in Austria and Italy, so warmer, drier but prone to fast-moving storms.
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It's obviously up to you but I'd spend the extra money and go Down. Unless you get caught out or are using it for several weeks at a time it shouldn't get wet/damp in the way you do in the UK with 24/7 drizzle in the hills.
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might be worth having a word with the people at www.facewest.co.uk. They are very kind and knowledgable, and their prices are sharp. They will ship to Austria.
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Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
@RobH2017, Thanks for the input.

Obviously, I then had to go and weigh my sleeping bag to see what I'm wasting there – 2.25kg could come down by half with a down bag... so that's another £250. And my rucksack leaves me with bruised hips and back so that ought to go too...

It's a good job I can't realistically obtain new ski boots until September Shocked
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After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
I have spent 9 months travelling, sometimes camping with a full length thremarest which I purchased in 1999. At that age I found it to be very adequate on most surfaces. I still have it today, and it still works. I have also purchased these cheap blow up beds, and they keep leaking. I can never get a full night sleep on them before they deflate with a slow leak. The thermarest on the other hand has had no such problems, and because it has foam inside it would still be fine without being inflated.

Being 20 years older now, I am much fussier about beds and sofas. Really like my current latex reflex foam mattress with no springs (I am a side sleeper usually).

I would still use the thermarest if camping, but I rarely go camping these days.

The great benefit is the air cushioning, and the thermal insulation from cold ground which was quite useful in a Banff camping ground (-5C at night, and Elk wandering around the campsite making mating noises early in the morning), and Glacier national park in Canada, but other than that never really tested in cold weather camping. Yes, I did see bears there. Several sightings, crossing roads with cubs, digging in to garbage trolleys, etc. No food kept in tents, leave it in the car. No garbage around camp site. Moose too!
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@Scarlet, I used the 9cm Exped Downmat for a trip to Baffin Island a few years back and it is head and shoulders the most comfortable thing I have slept on outdoors (and beats a large number of indoor beds too!) - can't comment on the Synmat as haven;t used, but I was very happy with the Downmat - way (waaaay) lighter and more compressible than my old expedition Thermarest.

Hazard warning - don't use it for family camping and let small children anywhere near it as it may meet an untimely end (who would have thought so much down would fit in such a small space!!!!
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I've spent substantially more than a year of my life on various camping mats and the synmat 7 is an excellent blend of comfort, warmth and light weight. I'd definitely get the schnozzle pump bag with it; it's a great dry bag for your sleeping bag and clothes, and inflates the mat without introducing moisture. At least when I bought it, the synmat was lighter than the down equivalents.

The caveat that gets overlooked with most of the modern ultralight mats is that they are all relatively noisy vs the older mats.

My personal favorite is still the gossamer gear night light foam mat but they don't make a full length version any more sadly. Soft, light, warm, cheap, indestructible. The dream combination.
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@Bigtipper, these down and polartec mats are significantly thicker than the Thermarests of 20 years ago, but I’m not sure they were around at the time. I couldn’t have afforded either, and as a drunken teen probably wouldn’t have noticed anyway Laughing

@offpisteskiing, nice! Though the 9cm might be more mat than I need, I think the 7 would be adequate. No kids or pets, so I just need to stay off sharp rocks.

@snowdave, the don’t all seem to come with a pump bag, which seems odd. ME have their own version, but I’m not sure how the others work. I spotted that the synthetics were lighter, too, but it isn’t a huge amount. The ME down mat is still under 800g I think. It feels like down ought to be lighter.
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And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
@Scarlet, My Synmat is about 400g, so half that weight. Usually I'd agree that down should be lighter, but the construction technique of bonding the insulation to the top and bottom of the mat might mean that it fills the void even more effectively than down.

My wife & son are also huge fans of the the Exped inflatable pillows. I'm fine with a fleece under my head.

I did a 2700mile/153 day hiking trip in 2005, and about the only area in which gear today is any better (i.e. lighter/stronger/cheaper/higher performance) is with the sleeping mats. Nothing else (tent, sleeping bag, clothes, backpack etc.) is, IMO, any better today than in 2005. Some stuff is actually, for me, worse than 2005-era gear.
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@Scarlet,

I’ve got a Exped SynMat 7 M(with the integrated pump). Great bit of kit, warm and very nice to sleep on compared to a foam mattress.

My eldest kid has started camping with me and I’ve purchased a Thermarest Neoair All Season Wide last year and that is so much more comfortable and warmer compared to the Exped.

They weigh and pack down roughly the same but the Thermarest is so much better at supporting my body weight (90kg) due to the baffles running horizontally compare to vertically on the Exped. I would feel the ground laying on my side on the Exped.

We do a bit of winter camping (down to -5c) and we always use an inflatable pad with a foam pad (Thermarest Z lite Sol). Doubling up increases the R Value and if the inflatable pad punctures/loses air over night we’ll still be insulated from the ground.
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
@Spoon, like this https://www.bergzeit.at/therm-a-rest-neoair-all-season-sv-isomatte-large/ ? Interesting, you say that as it's slightly thinner at 6.3cm vs 7cm. Also about the baffle direction – I wouldn't have expected it to be so significant. I assume it has some kind of synthetic insulation in there (Thermarest could learn a thing or two from ME regarding tech specs!)

snowdave wrote:
I did a 2700mile/153 day hiking trip in 2005, and about the only area in which gear today is any better (i.e. lighter/stronger/cheaper/higher performance) is with the sleeping mats. Nothing else (tent, sleeping bag, clothes, backpack etc.) is, IMO, any better today than in 2005. Some stuff is actually, for me, worse than 2005-era gear.

Impressive. My knees were shot after a 4-day hike, and that was when they were 20 years younger! I think my stuff is mostly pre-2001 (I don't do a lot of camping, or didn't in the UK anyway) but it's also more of a financial upgrade as well as a tech improvement, and in most cases the two go together.
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Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
@Scarlet, That’s the one. There’s no insulation material in the pad just some kind of reflective foil arranged in a way that reflects body heat back a bit like a space blanket. It’s works very well. I spent a lot of time researching and trying (the limited range) in stores before I decided. My main criteria was 4 seasons versatility and more comfort than the Synmat. I opted for the wide version at 63cm compared to 50cm of the standard version. There was a weight penalty of 200g compared to the standard version but for the extra width and comfort it was worth it.

You want to look at your sleeping pad and sleeping bag as a system. Once you know what sleeping pad you need/want, you can build your sleep system around it. Most sleeping pads will have a R-value rating, the higher the number the more insulating the pad will be.

My sleep system now consists of the following :
Thermarest Neoair All Season Wide pad (820g)
Thermarest Z-Lite Sol foam pad (410g)
Mountain Hardwear Ratio 32 bag (0c, 850g)
Mountain Hardwear Ratio 15 bag (-9c, 1.14kg)

It’s a versatile system where I take what I think would be suitable for the conditions;

For summer trips >10c I’d take the Neoair with the Ratio 32 bag (1.67kg).
Trips with temperatures between 0 and 10c I’ll take the Neoair with the Ratio 15 bag (1.96kg).
Trips where it’s below freezing at night but plus during the day, I’ll take the Neoair and Z-Lite pads with the Ratio 15 bag (2.4kg).
Full winter trips I’ll take it all (3.3kg).
Not the lightest but comfortable so I can get a good night sleep.

Baffle direction is a personal preference. I wouldn’t have known the difference if I didn’t have both pads. Best to try if you can as it is very subjective.

https://www.outdoorgearlab.com/topics/camping-and-hiking/best-sleeping-pad
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 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
I’ve got an exped down 9cm extra long (I’ve actually got two) Its fantastic. Interestingly I have been using it in the warm weather and one of the internal baffles failed. It has a 5 year guarantee and its in the process of being replaced by the manufacturer.
Not cheap but worth it for comfort and warmth.
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@Spoon, thanks for the detailed response. It sounds like you’re covered for all eventualities there! I have still got the cheap rollmat, so I guess I could use it under the inflatable if I don’t need to walk far. It won’t be as good as your Z-lite, but it might be ok.

@jbob, two? Is that for when you’re feeling particularly princess-like? Laughing
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Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
@Spoon, those setups, whilst very comfortable, strike me as quite heavy for the conditions. My wife (small and slim, feels the cold!) and I both find that the synmat 7ul without any extra mat, plus a 400g fill down bag is very comfortable to -10, and too warm above freezing. The total weight of that is just under 1.1kg with a PHD bag, or still under 1.3kg with something less pricey like an alpkit pipedream 400.

Our backpacking trips involve 2 pre-teen kids as well, so I have to obsess about weight as I carry a disproportionate amount of it. As a family our total gear weight for 4 people (backpacks, all clothes, tent, sleeping bags, stove etc) is only about 17kg, for gear comfortable to -10c.
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@snowdave, I agree my setup could be lighter and I probably could push my lightest setup to lower temperatures but for now I’m happy with the weight/comfort/cost balance for my usage.
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@Scarlet, it's worth bearing in mind that R-value quoted is not always to ASTM F3340 as this is a new standrad and everyone is catching up.

As you probably know, the mat does two things, comfort and insulation. Comfort is best tested by lying on them however you prefer to sleep and seeing how they feel. Sea to Summit normally win out on comfort, but at the expense of weigh normally. Insualtion wise, it become more important the colder the ground is,.. Summer camping there is little to beat the Neo Air (if you can cope with the crinkly sound) but for shoulder/winter it gets a lot more complicated.

I've got the ME Downmat with an r value of 5 but an ME "Good Nights Sleep" rating of -40 degC. Total overkill for nearly everything I use it for but very comfy and I'm never cold!
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