Winter Camping Tent

How to Choose the Right Winter Camping Mat

Is your plan to try out winter camping for the first time this year? You already bought the equipment needed for this type of activity: tent, mummy sleeping bag and portable heater. However, you’re missing an important piece in your kit: the camping mat. Learn more about the three types of camping mats and their features.

 

Thinking of going camping during the cold season? Check out our Winter Camping Guide for more tips on mattresses, winter tents, and how-to techniques.

Essential for a good night’s sleep, the camping mattress comes in several forms: foam, self-inflated and air filled.

 

Foam camping mat

Materials & thickness

They are usually made of closed-cell foam and it is approximately 1.3 cm (0.5 in) thick.

Advantages

These mattresses are very lightweight and can be easily stored on the side of your backpack. In addition, some are silver coated which reflects body heat.

Moreover, in terms of pricing, foam mattresses are the most economical. However, if it’s very cold (-18°C), it’s recommended to pair it with an insulated mat.

Disadvantages

A little less insulated than the other two types, foam mattresses tend to tear if you hang them on trees or rough surfaces. Simply avoid dragging your mattress, and most importantly, avoid hanging it off of tree branches.

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Air-filled camping mat

Materials & thickness

The exterior is made of high strength ripstop nylon or polyester. They can sometimes include a layer of interior insulation (aluminum, synthetic or down).

It is approximately 5 to 8.8 cm (2 to 3.5 in) thick.

Advantages

These mattresses are highly compressible and require less storage space than the other two types of mattresses (practical if you carry them in your backpack). They are also probably the most comfortable of their kind.

Disadvantages

Obviously they must be inflated before their comfort can be enjoyed. This usually takes a few minutes. If you plan on buying one, be sure to pre-assemble your tent before inflating the mattress so that you won’t be affected by gusts of wind or bad winter weather.

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Self-inflating camping mat

Materials & thickness

The exterior is made of highly resistant Ripstop nylon or polyester, and the interior is made of open-cell foam. Some mats also include a layer of aluminum or down that insulates from the cold, providing even more heat.

It is approximately 8.8 cm (3.5 in) thick or more.

Advantages

Easy to use and place, you simply lay it on the ground and the cells that make up the mattress fill up with air and expand. Most are made with aluminum plates or an integrated synthetic down layer that maximizes heat levels. Self-inflating down mattresses also have the advantage of making less noise when you move.

Disadvantages

Since they are a larger option, they are not designed for expeditions. However, they are perfect for occasional campers.

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Pro tips

With these tips, you are now ready to go to parts unknown and spend the night under the stars. If you know the exact temperature of your outdoor destination, you can purchase your mattress accordingly based on the temperature index. For example, if you plan to camp in temperatures below -15°C, a mattress with an index of 3.5 will suffice. However, for colder temperatures approaching -30°C, you will need a mattress with an index of 4 and more.


The thicker your mat, the greater the distance between you and the ground, which means you will be less cold. This is an important piece of information to consider before your purchase. Take the time to look at all the different models available from brands such as Thermarest, and Sea to Summit, and assess whether the thickness is large enough to protect you from the cold.