Best camping mats 2020: perfect for mountaineering and backpacking too

From self inflating camping mats to the humble camping roll mat, rest assured there's one here to help you sleep and relax when camping, mountaineering or backpacking

Best camping mats that are perfect for mountaineering and backpacking too
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The best camping mats are a varied breed, with a rich array including self-inflating camping mats and the more humble camping roll mat. Such a high level of choice might seem bamboozling at first, but it gets pretty simple pretty quick once you start thinking about the conditions you'll be sleeping in and how you'll be carrying gear.

So whether you want a self inflating camping mat to sleep better when wild camping, or a streamlined roll up mat to help you find comfort when mountaineering or backpacking, you're in the right place here.

The best camping mats are different to more substantial camping beds, which makes them more versatile in certain situations. As such, they attract vastly different prices. Self inflating camping mats are usually towards the top end of the price scale, with foam based camping roll mats at the other. 

As with all outdoors gear, you get what you pay for. So if you're going on a big backpacking or mountaineering trip and want a camping mat to help you sleep better so that you recover faster and get re-energised for the next day, a cheap foam roll mat won't cut it. 

On the other hand, if you're just looking to get your head down comfortably enough for a couple of night's at a summer festival, and therefore don't need maximum insulation and support, a basic camping roll mat is fine.

Camping mats: our expert pick

  • Camping mats mainly break down into two categories: inflatable and foam (closed cell) mats. Inflatable camping mats either have foam inserts that 'un-squash' when unrolled to inflate the mat, or they require lung power (or a pump, usually included with the higher-end models). Foam mats simply unroll as you’d expect.
  • Although there are excellent mid-range options that work wonders in a variety of outdoors scenarios, in our opinion none comes close to the Therm-a-rest NeoAir XTherm. We've tested it on numerous occasions and say it's the best because it's astonishingly well insulated and comfortable. Not to mention it comes with a lifetime warranty, and Therm-a-rest gear has an excellent pedigree.

Best camping mats: the Klymit Static V2 Camping Mat in Green inflated inside a tent during wild camping

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The best camping mat for your needs

The main use for a camping mat is to keep you insulated from the ground, which even in summer is pretty chilly and can conduct heat away from your body sharpish. That's no fun at 3am, and can lead to a bad night's sleep where you keep waking up from the cold, even if you're sleeping in one of the top tents for camping.

Comfort aside, the season you’re using a camping mat in dictates just how much insulation you need to stay warm, which should make your decision about which one to buy easier. 

Self inflating camping mats, inflatable camp mats and foam camping roll mats each have different characteristics. These will be the starting point for your buying decision, depending on what you need your chosen mat to do. 

Foam mats are pretty bulky even when rolled up, but they are light and can be strapped to the outside of a rucksack for carrying hands-free. They're almost indestructible too, but don’t offer a particularly plush mattress-esque snooze and only limited insulation from the ground.  

Inflatable camping mats are a far more complex beast, as the various materials and construction make a huge difference to the insulation they dish out – yes, even from two mats that look very similar. As usual, the cheaper the mat the less insulation you’ll probably get. Always check the R-value. 

Unsure what an R-value is? It references a camping mat or sleeping pad’s ability to retain your body warmth during the night. So the higher the R-value, the warmer and more insulating it’ll be, and the better you will sleep. Many things affect a camping mat’s R-value, including the material and construction.

Best camping mats to buy now

Best camping mats: Thermarest NeoAir XTherm

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1. Thermarest NeoAir XTherm Inflatable Camping Mat

This camping mat is incredible for all-seasons hiking

Reasons to buy
+Featherlite weight+Great for winter warmth

The Therm-a-rest NeoAir XTherm offers premium insulation at a premium price, knocking out an epic R-rating of 5.7 and weighing in at a featherlite 430g. This makes it the best camping mat  for winter or higher altitude walking adventures, where weight and warmth are big factors. 

You’ll need to blow it up to reach its full 2.5inch depth, which will take quite a few puffs, and being inflatable it is at risk of puncture if treated badly (a repair kit is included). 

As with the other NeoAir mats, the material does rustle when slept on, so a tolerant tent mate is a must, or at least get them to pack some quality earplugs. 

Best camping mats: Vango Thermocore Camping Mat

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2. Vango Thermocore Inflating Camping Mat

This DofE special should help fussy sleepers snooze better

Reasons to buy
+Built-in pump+Very robust

The Vango Thermocore is a sizeable beast, not only in weight but also in width, hitting 55cmx185cm. Part of the reason for this impression is the vertical walls. It's intentional design feature so that you get more surface area to snooze upon (good news for squirmy or wriggly sleepers). 

This gorgeous camping mat incorporates many of the features of much more expensive mats, with a stuff sack that doubles as a pump. A hollow fibre core adds warmth without compromising compressibility, and Vango's ‘quiet fabric’ delivers a rustle-free snooze.

Although the Thermocore Camping Mat packs down reasonably well, the weight is quite significant, partly due to the heavier materials used. But if you’re looking for a robust all-rounder for general camping, this is well worth a look.

Best camping mats: Yellowstone Insulated Foam Mat

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3. Yellowstone Insulated Camping Roll Mat

The best camping mat for festivals and adventuring on a budget

Reasons to buy
+Super-cheap+Pretty durable

Although any of these camping mats will do a fine job in any outdoors sleep scenario, sometimes you want the cheapest possible tool for the job. That's especially the case when it comes to festival camping gear

Yu also don’t want anything complicated in that type of situation, which is where the fuss-free Yellowstone Insulated Foam Mat absolutely smashes it. Under a tenner and idiot proof (unroll, lie down), this camping roll mat is not only extremely wallet-friendly, but also handy for any other casual camping occasion. 

Indeed, paired with a more expensive inflating camping mat and this will make a decent temporary bed for very little cash. Just remember to use it foil side up for maximum insulation and protection from the ground.

Best camping mats: Klymit Static V2 Camping Mat

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4. Klymit Static V2 Camping Mat

The best camping mat for all-round adventuring

Reasons to buy
+Quilted design for comfort+Fine for summer use

The Klymit Static V2 is an all-rounder even in all-rounder company. More flexible than a Thermarest, very keenly priced, and extremely packable, this is a real contender for a mat that does it all. 

The main disadvantage here is the R-Value, a mere 1.3, but for summer use that’s perfectly decent, and a quilted effect will see you keen to sink into it every night. 

That quilted effect has other benefits too, with larger side rails designed to centre you in the pad and keep you snoozing comfortably all night long. A Lifetime warranty and patch repair kit round out an impressive package that weighs in well under a half-kilo (471 g).

Best camping mats: SeaToSummit Ether Light XT Insulated Air Camping Mat

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5. SeaToSummit Ether Light XT Insulated Air Camping Mat

The best camping mat for backpacking

Reasons to buy
+Lightweight and easy to pack+Pump doubles as a drybag

The SeaToSummit Ether Light XT is an excellent lightweight backpacking mat. The interlocking pod-quilt style construction will roll up into a tiny packsize, it weighs a mere 425g, and still has an R-Value of 3.8 to boot. 

Not only that, but the provided drybag (handy in itself for showery days on the trail) doubles up as a pump, so you can chat while you get your bed for the night prepared. That pump will also add years onto the life of the XT, as you’re not filling it with moisture-laden breath each time you blow it up. 

Best camping mats: Snugpak Air Mat

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6. Snugpak Travelite Camping Mat

The best camping mat for easy inflation

Reasons to buy
+Built-in foot pump+Wipe-clean design

This air mat from Snugpak is a touch of luxury at a very attractive price point. Even with it’s palatial size (183cm x 62cm x 2.5cm) it still only weighs in at 630g, so still very portable, albeit heavier than dedicated mountaineering camping mats. 

Because it’s literally all air, the mat packs down relatively well, and conceals a hidden surprise: a foot pump. No blowing like the proles for the lucky owners of this mat, simply position a foot near the valve and pump away – basecamp luxury awaits.

Team it with a lightweight sleeping bag for warm weather adventures, or a heftier all-seasons sleeping bag for true comfort and warmth at night.

Best camping mats: Therm-a-Rest Z-Lite SOL Mattress

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7. Therm-a-Rest Z-Lite SOL Mattress

Best camping mat for mountaineering

Reasons to buy
+Super-small pack size+Surprisingly comfortable

No camping mat list would be complete without the game-changing Therm-a-Rest Z-Lite. The egg-box style dimpled foam not only gives you the maximum comfort, but also folds down smaller than you’d believe. 

It is also totally and utterly indestructible, short of dedicated chopping up or incineration, thus ideal for rough-and-ready mountaineering.

Sure it packs down to something about the size of a house brick (and weighs a reasonable 410g), and might not be feather-bed comfy, but it is keenly priced and deservedly popular. Double it up with a more expensive self inflating camping mat for the ultimate outdoors snooze.

Best camping mats: Alpkit Cloud Base

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8. Alpkit Cloud Base

This camping mat will take up very little room in your backpack

Reasons to buy
+One-way valve retains air+Repair kit included

The Cloud Base is a bit of a hidden gem, with design cues from the Ether Light, a lighter weight, but at a fraction of the price. It is a slimline 5cm thick when inflated, and Alpkit doesn’t give an R-value, so expect this to be two/three season at best.

However, the canny winter camper can simply place a cheap foam mat underneath, resulting in the cheapest and most robust winter arrangement around. 

There’s no foam in the Cloud Base, so it will need inflating, but it has a one-way valve for the job, so if you run out of puff the puff doesn’t run out of the mat while you recover. 

The lack of foam means it packs down very small indeed (about the size of a drinks can), making it ideal for summer hiking and similar bulk-defeating exploits. The stuff sack comes with a repair kit included, and for under £50 notes it’s rather appealing.