We´ve blogged about self inflating mats before on the site, however with new products being released all the time we thought it would be good to create a small buyers guide.
Type : Three options, manual, self and solid. Manual you have to blow up yourself, self just open the valve to inflate and solid don´t inflate. As this blog is about self inflating mats we suggest to pick a self inflating mat, they are smaller, lighter and easier to inflate than manual inflating mats and much more comfortable than solid mats.
Thickness : The thinnest self inflating mats are around 2cm all the way to 10cm. As you would expect the thicker they are the more comfortable they are. However the thicker you go the heavier the mat, and the more space it takes up. The thinner the mat you also will be colder as you´ll be nearer to the ground. Often when sleeping outdoors the cold will effect you more from the ground than above and around you. Prices tend to be higher for the thicker models.
Before buying try to see the mat rolled up so you know how big it´s going to be when it´s not being used.
Length: It´s an obvios point but measure yourself and then check against the size of the mat, try to get one just slightly longer than yourself. You also need to check it´s going to fit in your sleeping compartment in your tent, lengthwise and widthways.
Some mats do come in a “short” version which covers your torso but not your legs, if you´re not too bothered about your legs these can be a good option as they are easier to carry.
Pillow : Some models such as the Vango Adventure 5cm standard include a raised pillow for your head. It´s great if you haven´t got a pillow already, however the feature does add extra weight and size.
Single / Double : Models are coming out now to cater for two people, pretty much the same as a single sleeping mat but double the width. Great if you like to snuggle at night and if you are the owner of a double sleeping bag. If you´re coming with kids you should be able to get three kids on the mat. Not great if you´re walking or backpacking as they are too big to attach to the back of a rucksack.