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What to Look at When you are Buying a Self-Inflating Mattress

Look for Bonded or not Non-Bonded?

Bonded means the outside material is bonded to the foam inside. The foam doesn’t move around, the trapped air stays where it should and provides the insulation while the air keeps you off the ground.

Non bonded means the outside material is not attached to the foam inside. When you sleep on it, the air moves away from you, and you are lying on the foam – and that foam needs to be thicker or you will hit the bottom.

Ultimately you get what you pay for. The bonded is going to cost more, but will last longer and suit everyone. The non-bonded is not going to be as comfortable, is more suited to younger campers and will not be as durable, but it will be cheaper.

Look for Polyurethane not PVC

PVC is not as durable as polyurethane as it does not have the same degree of flexibility. In hot temperatures and low temperatures (<–10C) PVC is more likely to crack.

Look for Nylon/brass Valves, not Plastic Valves

Nylon/brass valves are going to give you a better seal than plastic.

Look for Soft Non-Slip Top

Air mattress with a shiny top tend to be slippery and you are likely to wake-up lying beside the mattress feeling very cold and stiff rather than getting a good night sleep on top.

Other Things to Consider are

  • The weight and pack-down size particularly if you are hiking.
  • Does a repair kit come with your mattress?
  • Thickness of the inflated matt. Whilst the thinner self-inflating mattresses are becoming more cheaper, it does come at the expense of weight and size so think about what you are buying the mattress for.
  • Length – you may want it to be long enough to have your legs on it. However, to save on weight and space, a three quarter length provides enough comfort for the main pressure points of your hips, knees and shoulders.
  • Width – wide is good, especially if you toss and turn a bit.

How to Care for Your Camp Mattress

  • Ideally store your mattress in a cool place; dry, clean and unrolled with the valve open.
  • Keep the air valve of the mattress open when the mattress is in storage. This allows the mattress to expand and contract and allows any moisture inside the mattress to gradually dry out.
  • Cleaning before storage will remove dirt and sweat to avoid mould starting to growing on the matt and causing it to smell and potentially becoming a health hazard.
  • If your mattress is not stored fully inflated, the foam or cells inside it may become crushed and become ineffective when you go to use the mattress next time as they may not expand to suck air in through the valve.
  • Don’t leave your mattress in the sun. The UV will affect the product performance and it may also fade. If the mattress is inflated, with the valve closed, and left in a hot place like a tent, the air will expand and can cause the product to de-laminate.
  • Inspect the area where you are going to be using/sleeping on your mattress. Remove any small rocks and sticks and anything else which may be sharp enough to puncture the mattress.

Keep it Clean

Sleeping bag inners are a great way of keeping your sleeping gear clean. They are easy to wash so you can use them to:

  • store your self-inflating mattress when it is open.
  • cover your self-inflating mattress if you want to sleep directly on it.
  • hop into the bag if you just want some light cover in warm weather.
  • use the inner bag to keep you extra warm and the sleeping bag clean.

If your Self-Inflating Mattress Doesn’t Inflate

By blowing air into your mattress you are introducing moisture into the inside of the mat, which may encourage mould to grow, or if you are in really cold conditions, that moisture could freeze. But if you do blow it up a little (and some mats don’t seem to inflate as much as you would like), ensure you leave valves open for a couple of days on return from your trip just in case any moisture is in there, and needs to evaporate. These mattresses are not designed to be inflated with an air-compressor or any other sort of inflator.

There's a Variety of Options Available

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Other Options to a Self-Inflating Mattress

  • A Camp Stretcher can be used on its own or with a self-inflating air mattress.
  • Closed Cell Foam Matt are cheaper and lighter, but is not as comfortable as a self-inflating mat.