As those of you who read my reviews are aware I am an 'outdorsy' person, I have been climbing mountains and trekking in my spare time for the last 4 or so years and currently have been spending some time in South America trekking in the Andes. So this all adds up to my knowledge of camping matts and beds.
To be honest I havent used a camping bed for some years now as well theyre big, clunky and heavy, not exactly great equipment for climbing. As a teenager I used some of the standard aluminium frame, canvas ones which I believe you can still get this type that are not X frame, for example the Highlander camp bed £13.58 from Amazon, is a perfect example. These beds are stable and 'do the job' but not much else, they do tend to feel alittle wierd at first to get into as you slunk into the canvas, kind of like a hammock. I think the X frame, a more recent development, looks a bit more high tech and stable, (Trail unisex single folding bed £28) - The poles are made from hard resin plastic and are slightly lighter to carry, but in terms of comfort, you still have only canvas. Now of course you can also get X frame plastic based beds with more comfy padded canvas based mattress. These are obviously a bit heavier but comfort is much greater, if I were to go camping I think I would take the extra weight for a better nights sleep (Put me up travel bed £50) - but their weight and comfort come with an added disadvantage of extra expensence, but in outdoor pursuits I find that if you can take the weight, take the cost because 'cheaping out', as I call it, always leads to a far less comfortable experience.
My experience of the last few years lies in blow up camping mattresses and I will just mention that if you are not a big hiker, camper, climber etc then blow up are very effective (see Kingfisher single air bed £9.78 Ebay), you only need a standard mattress that doesnt cost allot, maybe weighs a bit more , but looks thick and robust. Just watch out for sharp rocks that you may lay it down on, because even a tent shell may not protect it from sharper rocks, which may puncture it, or at the least you`ll feel a big bloody rock in your back all night. So I will focus on the more specialised 'roll matt's' for climbers, as this is my experience.
There are two brand names that spring to mind and that is Thermasrest and Vargo, both are good quality, on the light side and both carry out lots of research. The lightest, cheapest and most uncomfortable matts are the standard army foam matts, see Yellowstone Eva camping matt (£5.60 Amazon). They are not very comortable, most climbers take two if they can fit them onto their bags, but they are not longer the best as they take up allot of space on your pack. A good compromise is Thermarest So-lite Mattress which provides a bit more comfort, is more expensive £23 Ebay, but you can fold these up consentina style into rectangular folded matt which is very light. If you want Thermarest quality heat retention for extremely cold (season 4 +) conditions try the Thermarest NeoAir X therm, which is the best on the market, its not much heavier at 430 grams, and will provide you with an R value (the measure of heat retention from the groun) of 5.7 which is around 4-5 times better then the standrad thermarests. This represent the more specialist mattress and only mountaineers or serious hikers might want to look at it , especially at a price of £120 for a medium or regular size. If you would like a mid weight, mid cmofort, mid heat retention matt I would recommend Therm-a-rest prolite plus mattress which is a little on the expensive side at £55 Amzon, but its a mid-higher range mattress.
Vango also have an extensive range of outdoor gear, try the Vango self inflating trek matt £19.50 Ebay or the Vango Ultralite self inflating 3/4 rest matt, which is the more specialist, lighter version (£26.99 Amazon) but provides no comfort or ptrotection for your lower leg, so you might want to prop your legs up with your bag or other clothing.
I much prefer these to sleeping bags, that I made clear in my last review but nothing beats a hotel. When you're camping though, these will do. Difference for me is that with sleeping bags you use them to cushion you from jagged rocks or use them as cushions to sit on when reading a book so you don't end up with Spinal Cord Trauma or Ischial Tuberosity Pain. Sleeping bags can be used when using these but you don't need something tog 5000 to make it soft enough, therfore saving money on the thicker and more expensive bags.
These are a much more comfortable way to camp, they offer comfort where there is usually jagged rocks, they save money on expensive sleeping bags and make great sofa's. So the only downside is the cost of buying one in the first place, and a big enough tent to fit it in. These cost anything up from £15 for a good one, cheaper ones are usually plastic and have a suggested weight of 1 gram before they collapse completely. (exaggerated humour intended) Believe me I have tried.
The beds are very easy to set up once you've built it from new, you just pull out the legs and you're off. These are not ideal for space savers and wouldn't be recommended for people with small cars, small tents or anyone who struggles to put a simple peice of ikea furniture together, given that they don't come ready built from the box, you will need to do some bolting together before you can even prop them up. After that's done though they are easy to set up, as I said once built from new it's simple, if not just get someone else to do it!
These are for the long term campers too, just 1 night in a tent might not be worth lugging these things around for just one night but for a longer stay, perfect. I can do 1 night on the floor that's fine, 1 bad night a week is alright for me but any more and I bring these things along.
I have been camping all my life. When I was young, each summer we would head off down to Devon for a two week holiday in a tent. I used to love those summers. Now I'm almost 30 and I still enjoy camping. In my experience there are two kinds of camping you can do, wild camping or luxury camping. I have done both in recent years. Wild camping is using the minimal amount of equipment, pitching your tent somewhere in the wilds of Scotland and basically roughing it. The luxury version is where you are on a site next to your car, there is plenty of room to take luxuries and things that will make your camping experience more comfortable. One of these such luxuries is either a camping bed or mat.
One of the things I don't like about camping is the sleeping. I am a terrible sleeper and if I'm not in my own bed I really struggle. So comfort is something I really do look for when it comes to going to bed. Sometimes I have used a very basic camping mat. This basically rolls up and can be attached to your rucksack. All it really consists of is a piece of foam. You can pick one of these up for around £5. They do a basic job but when it comes to comfort they are pretty low on the scale. You could also invest in a more robust camping mat. These vary in price from £10 to going on for £100. The more you spend the better the quality. These camping mats are light and the top range ones are quite comfortable.
Then if you have the option of taking as much equipment as you like, you have the option of taking a camping bad. I have tried a few of these and must confess I'm not overly keen on them. The idea is they lift you off the floor where it can get damp and cold, so this is a plus point. However, I am yet to find one that is really comfortable. They are often made of stiff canvas and they tend to be a little narrow. One I tried kind of sunk in and left me feeling very uncomfortable. You can often pick a cheap camping bed up for around £15 but if you are looking for a decent one I would suggest paying quite a bit more.
When we were kids we always used to have air beds. These are quite comfortable although I'm not a fan of them now I'm older. They take a bit of getting used to when you sleep on them as they are a little bouncy. They also require quite a lot of effort to blow up, unless you invest in an electric pump which makes the job so much easier. The problem with air beds though is that they tend to pop. They may last a while but sooner or later you will find that they start going down.
To be honest, in more recent times when I have been camping on a site I have taken a different approach. I have made my tent into a little boudoir. I basically put a thin sleeping mat on the bottom, then place over it a duvet, then a sleeping bad or two, then lie down and sling another duvet over the top. The fact is this takes up a lot of space in the car, but if it fits in I find this is a very comfortable way of doing things.
Different people tend to like different things. If you are new to camping you may want to try a few different ways and see which suits you best and which you find the most comfortable. Camping really is a wonderful experience and it is so much better if you can get a good night sleep.
You need to be a fairly hardy soul to go camping in this country at this time of year and yet, properly equipped to stay warm, there is no reason why you cannot enjoy yourself.
That said, most of us consider camping to be a fair weather occupation and I'm no different in that respect. My early camping experiences were great fun and part of the fun was just deciding on the spur of the moment to go, not having anything other than the most basic of equipment and just doing it! Oh the impetuosity of youth!
Now however, I am a much more sensible and boring fellow and not for me those uncomfortable miserable wet cold nights that we used to pretend was all part of the experience. No, I like my comfort. We do not have a caravan, but we do occasionally like to go camping for a weekend and have gathered together a very modest collection of items which together help to make the experience a positive one.
Coming only second in importance to being close to a pub, is the overriding need to be comfortable when the time comes to bed down for the night. At this stage I'll take it for granted that only a fool would camp without having a rainproof tent and a sewn-in groundsheet as it doesn't matter how comfortable your bed is if you are soaking wet.
When we rough-camped in the Whitby area we had great fun, including waking up to find we had pitched our tent perilously close to the edge of a cliff (so make sure you get to your chosen location well before it gets dark). We had bought those thin sleeping mats as we thought they would be easy and light to transport. I have to say that they were a disappointment. They might be OK on a nice flat springy meadow but they didn't help at all when we found we had a big tree root underneath the tent - funny how you seldom notice those when you pitch your tent! We found the mats to be too hard and it was also very draughty so close to the ground - make sure you lick your finger and stick it in the air to test the direction of the prevailing wind before selecting which way you want to face - it does make a difference.
More recently we went to the Lincolnshire coast, albeit in much nicer weather and in a less exposed site and had a much more pleasurable weekend. The change we made was to take fold up camping beds to use instead of the camping mats. I had two in the barn loft which had been bought the previous year at auction and used only occasionally thereafter, so once we dusted them off, tested them out and removed the spiders, we packed them in the back of the truck and off we went.
Much much better.....
- You were off the ground and out of any draughts
- You were off the ground and no tree root was able to dig into your back
- Although not sprung, the canvas moulded itself according to the weight of your body and no chance of falling out
- Comfortable for sleeping - to a greater extent than I thought would be the case.
There are one or two downsides, which were of less importance to us:
- These are single beds so no snuggling up to your partner to keep warm
- No chance of a bit of 'how's your father' for the same reason - careful about any lighting in the tent if Nooky is contemplated!
One option we haven't yet tried is the inflatable beds but now that we have these and because we only go camping when the fancy takes us, we're going to stick to these lightweight camping beds. They take up a bit more room in the vehicle but since we never go hiking with rucksacks on our back, the convenience of the roll up mats were never really a sensible option for us in the first place so they remain largely unused.
Many moons ago we had a spectacular fold up camping bed that had to be constructed out of a series of poles and parts when we needed to get it out and use it. The canvas top of our camping bed was almost army issue in terms of its appearance and had a green canvas topper in an olive green army surplus colour that made it look very rough and ready.
When we wanted to use it we had to put it together, as we didn't have the space to keep it made up and ready to go. This was very awkward and inconvenient, as it was really time consuming to have to get all the bits of metal and fabric out of the bag they came in and fit them together.
I honestly have no idea what was paid for our olive green and metal pole camp bed, but I can say that it lasted for years. It was a hand me down from a family member and we gratefully took it as we wanted it for use when we had guests (poor devils). It also doubled as a bed for kids sleep overs, where again it may not have been easy to set up, but did provide entertainment for the kids as they helped to build it.
The way the bed worked was that it had a top canvas cover with a set of stitched channels running around the perimeter of the canvas with cut outs every now and then so as to allow for the metal poles to be inserted into the canvas. Once all the poles were in place and fitted together the leg sections could be slotted on and at this point just being able to get that far was a triumph.
These types of camping beds have no springs, no fancy padded bits and there is nothing to provide extra comfort other than a thin sheet of canvas. Even so when you sleep on one of these camping beds, the firmness that the canvas gives is actually not to bad for the back muscles. Having slept on the bed myself in the past I have to say I had a good nights sleep and didn't have any problems with the canvas dipping in the middle which you can sometimes get with cheaply made camp beds.
Even though our camp bed in a bag worked well enough it still took up a bit of room when in the carry bag and over time the canvas degraded to the point of us having to replace it. What we bought instead was a simple Campingaz single air bed. These are very easy to use and can ready for a guest to sleep on within 10 to 15 minutes once inflated. They can be cheap to buy and can range from £8.99 up to £15.99, depending on when and where you buy from.
These types of air beds have comfy flock style top coverings that make for a nice soft and warm sleeping surface. They make great guest beds and can be used with a sleeping bag or a duvet, sheets and pillows if needed. We have had our air bed set up with both options and its worked well enough. The air bed has an internal support system that stops dipping towards the middle of the bed to give a more comfortable sleep position.
The length of the bed is 6ft, the width 2ft 4 inches and its 7 1/2 inches in depth. The air bed weighs no more than 3 kilos so its easy to transport and get out/ put away when needed. Once the bed is inflated it stays that way reasonably well and I feel is a better option than our old style camp bed. As these types of items are very handy for use when we have guests I have to rate them highly so I feel they ought to get 5 stars.
Most people new to camping probably won't have one of these, but I find it is essential to a good nights sleep and that is a good quality camping bed. You could have a nice thick sleeping bag, or wear plenty of layers, but the ground will always be cold and so you will be too. A camping bed creates a space between yourself and the ground which means you will be able to get warmr quicker, and also stay warm throughout the night.
Another advantage to a camping bed is that it is much more comfortable than sleeping on a cold, hard surface. Sleeping mats offer little protection from the firmness of the cold ground, and a camping bed allows you to be comfortable whilst sleeping.
My experience of camping is that very early mornings mean a good nights sleep is essential, and there are few comforts better than a camping bed whilst out in the elements! The only time you really spend in your tent is when you are sleeping, and I am yet to find a better piece of equipment for a good nights sleep than my camping bed. I paid around £25 for my bed and I think it is definately a price worth paying.
Some people think that camping is about giving up all your home comforts, but with a camping bed you will be able to stay warm and comfortable and ensure a good nights sleep. I wouldn't be without my camping bed, especially if it is for more than one night.
My family and I go camping quite a lot, generally around 5 times and year, and have been doing so for years. Over that time, we have learnt that a decent night's sleep can make a huge difference to our camping trips and we have come a long way since we first started!
Back before we had kids and I was less fussy, I could make do with just a roll mat, a long piece of foam usually about 1cm thick that gives a little bit of protection from the lumps and bumps of the tent floor. It wasn't long though until a few freezing cold nights meant that this was not enough - I used to wake up with numb limbs from lying on the hard mat and a few times the cold from the ground had seeped through the mat and even in a sleeping bag I was freezing. Although basic sleeping roll mats are cheap (around £5) they aren't perfect, and on cold nights I've cursed them.
Since then we have tried various camping beds and sleeping mats to different degrees of success. I've had a camping bed collapse on me in the middle of the night, dumping me onto the floor, and I've had nights where I've taken so much bedding with me that it's felt like I've almost been in a proper bed. Currently I use a self-inflating Vango sleeping mat which gives me a cushion of air to sleep on, and I've found this to be very good, and even better when used with lots of blankets and a sleeping bag of course.
The trick is to get a balance between comfort and the amount of room taken up by your sleeping gear. If you have plenty of room in the car then I don't think there's anything wrong with allowing yourself some creature comforts and taking along a blow up air bed. Similarly, if you have lots of room in your tent, or are going for a longer camping trip, an actual camp bed which is raised off the ground could be the best choice for you. Being raised off the ground keeps you warmer in general as there's no close contact between the cold floor, but make sure you get a stable bed to ensure a wobble free night!
All of these items have the added bonus of being able to be used at home if you find yourself with house guests in need of a bed, so they're not just useful for the odd camping trip!
Just like to add my two pence worth on the subjuct of sleep mats. My wife and I do a lot of camping and fell walking and until recently we used an inflatable double matress whilst in the tent.
What a pain in the botty this was! Always deflating and suffering from horrendous condensation problems that ended up with a wet sleeping bag in the morning.
It couldn't continue so we bit the bullet and invested £100 for 2 thermalite self inflating sleep mats off the internet. what a super decision this proved to be, take the mat out of its carry bag, open the valve and before your eyes it will inflate itself, you then close the valve and thats it, job done.
At first looking at the thickness of it (perhaps an inch and a half) I thought there was no way it would be comfortable to sleep on. How wrong I was, its so much more comfortable than a 8 inch thick double airbed!
When you want to pack it away, open the valve and roll it up then close the valve and it stays rolled up.
Drawbacks? Well they are a bit bulky but other than that worth every penny.
In a word, Thermarest! These are the best invention since someone clever though "ooh why don't I put something soft between me & this rock I'm sleeping on!!) I've had one for 4 years now & they are just the best - loads of friends have bought them on my recommendation!! They cost about 50 quid now - not bad seeing as I've had hundreds of what would have otherwise been uncomfortable nights on mine!! Something you might not know: the more you have underneath you the warmer you'll be, obviously because the cold ground just leeches the heat from you - these things make all the difference!! Now available in lots of sizes as well as a super lightweight & luxury version (for those lushes amongst us!), they also come in full length & three quarters. Newer versions have a special non slip coating on one side to stop you sliding down that slope you pitched your tent on (or so you know you're not moving when the whirling pits close in!!). Top tip, don't blow em up too hard (yes they are largely self inflating!) as this makes them harder to stay on. Don't worry if you puncture, repair kits are readily available! There is a chair kit availble for these (sit in it as well as sleep on it!) & a joining kit for those looking for the double bed option! (requires 2 thermarests).
'Flocked' Cover Mattress From Index: Do you go camping, or perhaps have friends round to sleep-over every now and then? As they say in some surveys, - if you can answer yes to either of these, the read on, because I’ve just made a purchse which will be of interest to you. I first got the idea of buying one of these great air-beds from my daughter-in-law (sweet girl) My other half and myself spent the night in my son’s new house, just to give it the once over as it were . . . Anyway, I was wondering what we would sleep on when Caroline brings out this folded up air-bed and a foot pump! “Oh my God,” I thought “. . . she doesn’t expect us to sleep on that, does she?” Well, she did and we did. It was one of the finest nights rest that I’ve ever had! It is Royal blue and fleecy on top, like real matress, and soo comfortable. Caroline tells me she chose it specially for us coming! Think I’ll have to have a re-think about my daughter-in-law, maybe she doesn’t hate me after all. ;-) She told me where to go . . . to buy one the same as it . . . so I did. Now, if we go away camping next summer . . . there will be a summer next year, I just KNOW ther will . . . we can take this air-mattress, It says in ther Index catalogue, that it’s got special “tubular cells", for even weight distribution” . . . don’t you know . . . then again . . . might that mean - Caroline thinks I’m fat? I’ll ask her next time I’m through there! GG
Having written recently about the virtues of Kyham Quick erect tents, one dooyooer pointed out the hassle of still having to inflate an air bed to ensure a good night kip. There are at least two alternatives to the normal air bed scenario. The traditional camping mat - usually made of closed cell foam - which is light and not too bulky, but not too comfortable either, or the self inflating range of mats made by Thermarest. These wonderful mats are available in a range of sizes and weights, from short thin ones for "real" mountaineers, to long fat ones for those that need a little more suppport for their mature bones. I have opted for the full length version which is 28mm thick. This gives me ample comfort, excellent insulation from the ground, and still rolls up small enough for easy transport on my bike.