Camping season is here, and many of us are splashing out on accessories designed to crank up the comfort. But we’re not talking about cashmere throws or silk sleeping bag liners – just well-made camping essentials that provide a greater level of comfort without breaking the bank.
One of the best examples is the humble camping mat – a single- or double-size sleeping surface that has either a foam core or an internal cavity, which can be inflated with just one or two breaths of air, or has a self-inflating function.
These mats are much thinner than air beds (we’ve yet to find one with a depth greater than 10cm), which means they’re ideal for campers who are travelling light. They don’t require pumps, and most single camping mats will slip easily into a small backpack – double ones inevitably take up more space, but most models are backpack friendly, too.
So, which features should be at the top of your hit list when it comes to the best camping mats? Models with two valves (camping mats with an inflatable core have a valve that needs to be uncapped in order for the self-inflation process to begin) will inflate and deflate in less time, so if speedy deflations are a priority, opt for a double-valved design. Most valves require a simple twist, although a growing number of camping mats have push-button valves, which are less fiddly to operate.
If you’re in the market for a self-inflating mat, we recommend one that comes with a pump sack. This is a thin, lightweight sack, which can be filled with fresh air (rather than air from your own lungs), and can then be attached to the mat’s valve if you wish to top up the air. Why do this? Because the moisture in our own breath can result in the formation of mould inside the camping mat, which shortens the mat’s lifespan.
How we tested
We love camping, and we’ve spent more nights sleeping in the great outdoors than we care to remember, so we know exactly what to look for when it comes to camping mats. We spent hours inflating and deflating our camping mats, testing everything from air capacity and valve efficiency to each mat’s stashability and how easy it was to tweak its rigidity. Who knew sleeping on the job could be so exhausting?
The best camping mats for 2022 are:
- Best overall – Vango dreamer 5 double: £96, Vango.co.uk
- Best double camping mat – Outwell sleepin 10cm double self inflating mattress: £94.99, Outdoorworlddirect.co.uk
- Best for support – Berghaus single self-inflating mat: £110, Gooutdoors.co.uk
- Best for comfort – Vango shangri-la II 7.5 grande: £145, Vango.co.uk
- Best for innovation – Vango trek pro 5 standard: £56, Vango.co.uk
- Best premium camping mat – Snowpeak inflatable mattress 2.5: £295, Snowpeak.co.uk
- Best for cold nights – Nemo tensor insulated regular sleeping mat: £179.99, Ultralightoutdoorgear.co.uk
- Best for ease of use – OEX traverse self-inflating mat: £25, Gooutdoors.co.uk
- Best for single sleepers – Hi-Gear dream 5 sleeping mat: £50, Gooutdoors.co.uk
- Best for stability – Kelty galactic si sleeping pad: £58.95, Amazon.co.uk
- Best mummy-style sleeping bag – Kelty cosmic air mummy sleeping pad: £36.95, Wildbounds.com
- Best foam camping mat – Charles Bentley single camping mat: £10, Argos.co.uk
Vango dreamer 5 double
It was love at first sight when it came to this self-inflating double camping mat. It looks ridiculously thin, but provides a level of comfort we’d simply never expect from a camping mat of this thickness. Our theory? The comfort stems from two things: the top-quality, closed-cell insulation inside the mat; and the presence of a durable cover, which felt insanely soft to the touch.
Inflating is simple, thanks to the mat’s two valves – simply give one a twist to start the self-inflation process. This mat is also incredibly easy to use, and comes with two added extras, which we actually used: a well-designed stuff sack and a repair kit.
Outwell sleepin 10cm double self inflating mattress
Best: Double camping mat
Our favourite thing about this mat? The dividing line down the middle, which made it much easier to argue our case when one’s sleeping partner encroached onto our side of the mat. We’re joking, to be clear, but the central crease did have one distinct advantage – on solo camping trips, we could fold the sleeping mat over for double the comfort.
This mat’s enhanced depth (it’s listed as 10cm, although in reality it comes in at a little under) makes it one of the thicker camping mats on the market, although we were pleasantly surprised by how little room it took up after it had been deflated. And this is something that’s really easy to do, thanks to the AFC valve, which is unique to Outwell mats – to inflate the mat, you simply pull the valve open, rather than unscrewing it.
Berghaus single self-inflating mat
Best: For support
This is one of the largest single camping mats we’ve come across – not just in terms of width but depth, too. The thick material, dense foam core and rigid sides made for a sturdy, supportive sleeping platform, and there’s none of the wobbliness associated with air beds. We’re big fans of the valve, too – simply pop open the cap then push open the internal disk to kickstart the inflation process.
Its larger size means this isn’t really a camping mat to slip into your backpack – for us, it’s a mat we’d chuck in the car and use on single-campsite trips, rather than ones that involve hiking from site to site with bedding on our back.
Our top tip? It’s not the easiest one to deflate, so we recommend starting the process by kneeling on it, then slowing working your way along the mat, using your knees to squeeze out the air as you go.
Vango shangri-la II 7.5 grande
Best: For comfort
One of the most luxurious sleeping mats we’ve come across, this one’s packed with fantastic features, whether it’s the soft-touch elastic yarn for unbeatable comfort, the cyclone valve for Ferrari-fast inflation and deflation, or the vertical walls, which provided a more stable base (and a height of seven centimetres) without sacrificing comfort.
The best bit? The mat’s still extremely stashable, and will easily fit into backpacks. We also loved the compression strap system. Yes, it resembles a dog harness, but key to its design is a quick-release buckle system, which keeps the mat tightly rolled up when not in use.
Vango trek pro 5 standard
Best: For innovation
This camping mat, which has a mummy profile, is made from recycled TrekEco Fabric, so it’s a great option for campers keen to take an eco-friendly approach to their camping trips.
The embossed surface has just enough ridging to prevent what we’ll refer to as “sleeping bag slippage,” but not enough to impact the comfort level – thick material and a mattress-like softness ensured we slept like a baby.
We’re big fans of the valve design, too – most valves need to be unscrewed but this one has a clever push-button design.
Snowpeak inflatable mattress 2.5
Best: Premium camping mat
Yes, this is expensive, partly because it’s made by Snowpeak, a Japanese company known for their insanely luxurious, hi-tech camping mats. But there are other reasons for its hefty price tag. First up, the surface is wonderfully, ridiculously soft, and we loved how the storage case doubled as a pump sack for occasions when we wanted to add a tiny bit of extra air once the self-inflation process was complete.
We also appreciated the dual valves, which allow for quick and easy inflation, while Velcro strips on the side enable campers to stick two mats together for extra comfort.
If you’re looking for a premium camping mat on which to splash some cash, you’re unlikely to find a better candidate.
Outwell dreamcatcher single 5.0cm
Best: For kids
- Weight: 1.9 kg
- Dimensions: 195cm x 60cm x 5 cm
- Packed dimensions: 32cm x 20cm
Simple to use and perfectly comfortable, this super durable self-inflating foam mat is ideal for younger campers. The springy foam keeps you warm in spring and summer conditions, and the simple valve system makes it easy to set up and pack down and to keep topped up with little puffs of air on longer trips. Outwell specialises in family camping, and this mat is designed to fit in its tent bedrooms – so, while it can travel anywhere, it’s most at home in a family tent where its tough finish can withstand almost anything your trip can throw at it.
OEX traverse self-inflating mat
Best: For ease of use
This wallet-friendly camping mat, which has a mummy profile, has a single valve and took under a minute to self-inflate. It had a thickness and firmness we weren’t expecting, given its low weight and depth (just 2.5cm), although for this reason, it’s probably not the best option if you’re likely to be sleeping on uneven ground. That said, with a weight of just 97g, it’s a great option for campers planning on travelling light.
The ridging on the surface kept our sleeping bag in place without sacrificing comfort, and the soft brushed-polyester surface helped ramp up the comfort.
Hi-Gear dream 5 Sleeping mat
Best: For single sleepers
This self-inflating sleeping mat, which inflates to a depth of 5cm, has one of the softest surfaces we’ve come across, and a smooth, bump-free design, which definitely aided our journey to the land of nod. It’s also incredibly durable, with a wonderful thickness that not only absorbs ground heat but cushions lumps and bumps.
A minor downside is the weight, which comes in at 2kg, making it more suited to campers staying in one place, rather than those hiking from site to site. That said, if comfort and ease of use is a priority (we’re also huge fans of the chunky valve, which is super easy to grip), this might just be the sleeping mat of your dreams.
Kelty galactic si sleeping mat
Best: For stability
This is a great self-inflating camping mat for single sleepers – although perhaps not one suited to restless ones, due to its slightly narrow profile. Rigid sides and soft-touch fabric cranked up the comfort, while the two valves were incredibly easy to operate.
It’s not the most compact of sleeping mats, which is why we’d recommend this for campers who won’t be lugging their kit from one site to another. That said, it was incredibly easy to deflate and stash into its accompanying stuff sack, and you’ll struggle to find a more reasonably priced sleeping mat that offers this level of comfort.
Kelty cosmic air mummy sleeping pad
Best: Mummy-style sleeping mat
When we first saw this camping mat, we were certain that the individual air pockets – designed to ramp up its insulating properties – would prove an issue when it came to comfort. Not so. We were delighted to discover that this is one of the most comfortable mummy-style camping mats we’ve come across.
It inflates incredibly quickly, too – partly thanks to a wide valve – and the material has a thick, rugged feel, which meant we weren’t worried about accidental punctures when lying on stony ground.
It doesn’t have insulation, which is why we’d recommend it for warmer weather, but the upside is that it’s incredibly light, weighing just 454g.
Charles Bentley Single Camping Mat
Best: Foam camping mat
There’s definitely a time and a place for traditional foam camping mats, and this one’s a great option if you’re keen to reduce your weight while not being overly bothered about comfort.
This single size number is the lowest weight of all the mats in this round-up – just 0.2kg – and the integrated straps made it a breeze to roll up and attach to our backpack. Being notoriously messy campers, we loved how the straps were attached to the mat, too.
The verdict: Camping mats
Vango’s dreamer 5 double gets the gold star – it comes with plenty of useful added extras (it’s the only one in this round-up that came with a repair kit) and offered a supreme level of comfort and insulation.
Outwell’s sleepin 10cm double self inflating mattress is a brilliantly versatile camping mat, which is designed for two people but has a fantastic design that makes it a great option for solo sleepers keen to crank up the comfort. Finally, Berghaus’s single self-inflating mat gets a special mention for the innovative design, which results in a wobble-free sleeping platform, and one that’s a breeze to inflate and deflate.
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