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Self Inflating Mat Guide

Advice For Buying, Using & Storing Self Inflating Mats

It is quite common for our customers to spend a great deal of time and often a great deal of money choosing the best sleeping bag they can. What is often overlooked, yet equally important is the surface you will be sleeping on. A great deal of body heat can be lost overnight if you are not sleeping on a suitable surface.

self inflating mat buyer guide - Thermarest

How They Work

Self inflating mats are made up of an airtight outer fabric, usually with an open-cell foam filling. As you unroll the mat, air is drawn in through the valve forming a comfortable insulating layer to sleep on. The thickness, density and cut of the foam filling play an important role in how insulating the mat will be.

unrolling and inflating a self inflating mat the structure inside of a self inflating mat rolling up deflating a self inflating mat


To inflate you mat, simply remove it from its stuff bag, unroll and open the valve, as you do this, air will start to fill the mat. Before you do this, make sure that the ground on which you are putting the mat is free from thorns or thistles so you don’t puncture the mat. Leave the mat for around twenty minutes and you should find that the mat has inflated.

After this time, you may find that the mat is still not as firm as you want it to be to sleep on. If this is the case, you can top up the air in the mat by blowing into the valve. If you are using the mat for the first time, you may need to blow into the valve to help start the inflation process.


Once you have hopefully enjoyed a good night’s sleep, it is time to pack away your mat. To start with, open the valve on the mat, then start rolling from the other end of the mat. As you roll, the air inside the mat should be pushed out of the valve.

Once you get to the end, close the valve and unroll the mat again. This time, roll the mat up with the valve closed. You should end up with a small amount of air trapped at the end by the valve, which you can easily open and squeeze out. By making sure you have got the last of the air out of the mat, fitting the mat into its stuff sack shouldn’t be a problem.


When your mat is not in use, it is beneficial not to store it packed away in its stuff sack. The best way to store your mat is unrolled with the valve open. The best place to store you mat is somewhere warm, dry and out of the way, such as under the bed or behind a wardrobe or couch. By storing the mat in this way, you help preserve the foam filling and make the inflating process quicker.

If you are leaving your mat in a tent during the day as you go out and enjoy the hills, it is worthwhile leaving it with the valve open. During the course of a hot day, the inside of a tent can get very hot, and in those conditions, the air inside the mat will expand and can put considerable pressure on the mat’s valve and seams.


When choosing a self inflating mat, an important consideration for many of our customers is how warm the mat is going to be. It is not as simple as going by how thick the mat is; what the mat is filled with is really important in determining how warm it will be. A cheaper mat might be very thick, but the foam inside may not be very dense, thus the mat will offer a low level of insulation. Conversely, a better quality mat may be thinner, but filled with denser foam, thus offering a high level of insulation.

Thankfully there is an easy way of telling how warm a mat will be. Most mat manufacturers state the 'Warmth Resistance Value' (R-value) of their mat. This is a numerical figure determined by a laboratory test. The higher the R-Value figure, the more insulating the mat will be.

Explore self inflating mats ideal for expeditions or mats suited to family camping trips to find the perfect fit for your outdoor adventures.


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