With a view towards walking The Ridgeway in May [yes, I’m actually going to do it, this year], I recently started looking back over the kit I intend to carry with me. Much of which was purchased between 2016 and 2017.
I’d like to share some thoughts on the self-inflating sleeping mat I currently own, before I speculate upon potential weight and space-saving improvements.
This is the OEX Compact 4.0 self-inflating sleeping mat. As far as I can tell, it is sold exclusively by Go Outdoors in the UK, which is where I purchased it in July/August 2016.
Like most mats or ‘pads’ of its kind, it stows in to a roll-top dry bag, with additional loops for the secure fastening to the straps on many rucksacks. A pair of elastic straps help to maintain the item’s compact form, whether it’s to be tucked away or removed.
It’s dead-easy to unroll and by loosening the valve near the head of the mat, the act of self-inflation will quickly begin. In less than two minutes, the job will almost be complete. Diamond-shaped ‘grips’ help to prevent your sleeping bag from sliding off, during the night.
Some sources suggest that self-inflating mats are best store ‘inflated’ when not in use and that this can help them to fully inflate quickly on days where they’re required.
As with many other mats of this design, I do find I have to add a few final puffs of my own breath in order for the mat to achieve a level that I find comfortable.
When I bought this item, the very first thing I did was set it up in my living room and lie on it. Within minutes, I was asleep and without meaning to nod off!
I’m 6ft1in tall (1850mm) and my chest measures 38in. For me, this mat is a comfortable size. Although, in the photo [screenshot] above, the mat was not fully inflated.
Folding the mat away is quite straightforward, once you know how and I have YouTube to thank for this.
I start by releasing the valve and tightly rolling the mat from the toe end. As I reach the pillow-end, I tighten the valve.
Then, I return to the toe-end and, with the valve secured and not allowing any air to pass in or out, I fold the mat in half across its width and begin rolling tightly once more, towards the head.
Once I’m about 10in away from the end, I hold on to my roll and release the valve, before rolling tightly until the end. I’ve found this to be a great way of exhausting any unwanted air otherwise trapped inside.
I like this sleeping mat. It is by far the most comfortable one I’ve used, with its 40mm thickness. It’s easy enough to setup and roll-away. Comes with a secure dry bag and also, a puncture repair path. For the money and, a good eighteen-months after purchase, I still feel it represents very good value for money. Ideal for anyone travelling with a car.
From a backpacking and ‘overnighter’ point of view, I would rather having a sleeping mat that’s more compact in its size. This one is slightly larger than my two-season sleeping bag. On its own, the mat will fill the sleeping bag compartment on the bottom of my 65lt rucksack.
I have no concerns about the weight. There is also the argument that it may be worth carrying a bit extra, for the sake of comfort and a good night’s rest.
I moved on to this from a couple of inexpensive foam roll-mats. I’m keen to leave those behind and may even give them away on Freecycle. They can be difficult to roll properly and, at only 8mm thick, a light sleeper like myself is going to struggle to settle adequately.
I am hoping to purchase something more concise in its pack-size.*
Shorter self-inflating mats (around 1200mm long) are quite common today and I see them as a viable option. At only 25mm thick though, I am concerned that it may not provide enough for me. I could place a roll mat of some sort underneath, which could help to protect the inflated mat from a risk of puncture and improve upon the thermal insulation value.
Overall, I still regard the OEX Compact 4.0 as a very good purchase for general camping. Most preferably, when a car (or 85lt rucksack) is involved. For backpacking, I will keep my options open for something more compact and packable.
Dimensions: 1800mm x 570mm x 40mm
Pack Size: 320mm x 200mm
*OEX have created a 3/4 length 2.5 self-inflating sleeping mat. I recently looked at this in store and, side-by-side, I found that the pack was about the same length as the 4.0 model and probably only 15mm less in diameter.
I found this hugely surprising. Not only is the mat 25% shorter but it’s only 25mm thick… With that in mind, I think I would stick with the 40mm pad and save some money. Pack-size, for me, is a very important factor. I’ll write about my other options in another post.