“ Brand: Hi Gear / Type: Sleeping Mat - Inflatable „
I now own 2 camping mats which are both of a very cheap variety, the first one I bought at Argos and I hadn't been that impressed with it. The second one I won in a competition and it was the Hi Gear Camping Foam Mat, I hadn't done my research so I thought that Hi Gear was an expensive make and so expected this mat to be noticeably better than my Argos one.
The mat is made from dark blue foam and looks and feels pretty much identical to my Argos one, but the product description for this mat seemed to suggest that it had a lot more benefits. My experience of the features of the mat are as follows;
Non-Absorbant - This is true, I used this for a whole weekend of camping and it hadn't been the dryest of weekends but still the mat didn't get damp or soggy.
Thermal Insulation Properties - The mat did offer some extra warmth compared to having not had the mat but it wasn't exactly super warm for me and I was still shivering on the cold night time.
Waterproof & Washable - It definetely seems to be water proof since it held up very well over a wet weekend, but I can't comment on how washable it is since I have only wiped it clean myself.
Lightweight - This is very true, it is extremely light and therefore easy to transport around which is good. The mat also rolls up for storage but I have to say it wasn't the easiest task trying to roll the mat back up!
Comfortable - Not at all, the mat is so thin that I may as well have been lying on the ground.
So basically, the mat offers a small amount of extra warmth but in terms of making a softer surface to lie on, this mat isn't up to the job. After having a look on the internet, the mat actually only costs £5.99 so silly me for thinking it was a good expensive brand. Not such a great competition win for me after all!
I maintain my opinion that these camping mats aren't a camping necessity, next time I go camping I am taking an airbed instead.
A mat like this is designed to be a hybrid between the uncomfortable but light foam roll mats and the bouncy, heavy and hard to inflate air beds. Being called self inflating is a poor choice but its a marketwide problem with a few breaths it should be fully inflated.
When choosing an mat a number of topics need to be taken into account all of which counteract each other. A comfortably designed mat will be wide, long, thick and insulating, whereas one designed for expedition will be the opposite whilst trying to conseve the insulation rating.
This mat is trying to cover all grounds. At 5cm thick it should be comfortable enough for most campers, the 180cm length should be fine for all but the very tall and the 50cm width is substantial but not the biggest out there. At just over 1kg it certainly isn't the lightest mat with these specs but for short walks it shouldn't be too noticable over the market leaders which come in at half this weight.
It performs well as an insulator and i've never had a cold night with one using it in 3 seasons, if you're car camping it can be used with a foam mat for extra comfort and insulation.
The material isn't a non slip type so if you are a wriggler or on sloped ground then you may find yourself off the mat but i've had this issue with all mat's and a carefully position bag will keep you in place.
The main issue i've had with this/these mat's is the quality of construction, the first i bought leaked quite badly so i returned it for another, the second has a small leek but lasts overnight so i wasn't too bothered to take another trip to get it replaced. It seems it's a bit hit and miss.
At £16 this is a great price for those trying out camping or someone on a budget. In an ideal world i'd have a comfort mat and a lightweight one but this serves well to meet both needs in some aspects as long as it doesn't leek.
I'm going to throw it straight out there - I hate camping. Don't get me wrong, it's not that I have a phobia of nature or that I hate being outdoors. The truth is I hate how uncomfortable camping is in terms of sleeping. I am yet to find a comfortable sleeping mat/air bed type device which genuinely allows me to have a good night's sleep. A mat is generally too hard and ineffective at offering any support, while an air bed starts off promisingly (if not a bit too bouncily) only to have deflated completely by the morning. Thus, when I spotted the self-inflating camping mat in Go Outdoors, I thought that this would be the perfect compromise between the two options, and could potentially offer me the good night's sleep I had been looking for on a camping excursion.
In terms of carrying this mat around when rolled up, it can't be faulted. It rolls up neatly into a stuff sack, and has two elasticated straps in order to keep the mattress in a compact rolled up state. Weighing around 1.23kg, it is light enough to be carried in a backpack, and thus is ideal for being carried on hikes. Measuring 183 x 51 cm, the mat is generous enough both in width and length to accommodate a person lying upon it. To put it in other words, I'm 5'9 and found that the length was plenty enough so that my feet were not dangling over the end of the mat.
Anyone who's had to pump an air bed will testify to how annoying and tiring (for me at least) using a manual pump to inflate your air bed can be. I find putting up a tent hassle enough! So, being the lazy being I am, a self-inflating device sounded very appealing. When I first rolled out the mat on the floor of the tent, I realised that there was a valve at the end of the mat which, presumably, would allow the mat to be self-inflated. However, no instructions on how the self-inflatable part of the mat worked were included. Therefore, when I unscrewed the valve, and waited for the mat to self-inflate, I was disappointed and worried that I had done something wrong when I realised that not much had happened with regard to air inflating the mat. It appeared that the mat had inflated somewhat, but not noticeably in my opinion. Granted, the depth of the mat only claims to be 5cm. However, prodding the mat, I was not satisfied with the way my finger sank into the mat, without there seeming to be any significant resistance. Immediately I became worried that the mat would not offer me enough support on my back and sides for a good night's sleep, and so I blew into the valve to try and give it a bit of extra inflation. However, the way the mat is designed meant that the air I was blowing into the mat was almost immediately escaping once I'd stopped blowing. My initial optimism for this product was dwindling fast with the approaching night.
Unfortunately, in terms of comfortability, my worst fears were realised. I found the mat to be little different to sleeping on a standard mat, and could not honestly say that the 5cm of depth gave any real support to my body. I woke up many times during the night to find that my shoulders would be in agony from having slept on my sides with little support. Needless to say, I was achy and grouchy from my restless night the next day. What had appeared initially to have been a great product in the store was little more than an overpriced disappointment.
I paid about £25 for the mat from Go Outdoors (I had an 'Up to 50% off' voucher, so it may be more expensive now). While this not be on of the pricier mats on the market, I cannot help but feel I'd parted with too much money for a product that essentially did not live up to its claims. I would have rather have paid £5 for a foam mat, as I'm sure I'd have found little difference.
If you've read this far, then I think you will have realised by now that this is not a product I would recommend. I was thoroughly disappointed with the self-inflating feature, as I do not feel that it was effective enough to provide a sturdy base on which to sleep without a bit of manual help from my part. That aside, the quality of sleep I got from the mat was the most important aspect to me, and it let me down completely. This is definitely not for those who would spend a week or so on a camping holiday, as you would be in agony by the end of the week. I would also not recommend it for a casual one night camping event, as there are far cheaper options on the market, which would probably give you an equally bad night's sleep. Bottom line - avoid!