Posted by in Gear Categories: Camping and Gear tests.

Travel light or sleep easy? We tell you what to look out for when buying your next outdoor mattress.

A selection of the camping and hiking mattresses we tested.

A selection of the camping and hiking mattresses we tested.

How to buy a mattress

Weight: Most important for hiking. Determine carrying capacity and buy to suit.
Comfort: It’s subjective. The only way to find the right one is to lie on it in the store.
Warmth: An industry standard rates warmth on a scale of 1 to 5 (R-value). Not all brands have one. We included it where available.
Packing size: For hiking, consider the size of your backpack. For camping, consider your transport and terrain – foam is bulky but won’t puncture, inflatables are compact but delicate.


Five of the best hiking mattresses

Generally, anything below 600g and a packed size smaller than 30cm x 20cm is good for hiking.


1. K-Way Air Lite Mattress – Best in Class


K-Way Air Light Mattress.

Weight: 580g
Inflated thickness: 6 cm
Packed size: 30 cm x 12 cm diameter
Dimensions: 183 cm x 51 cm

Sleep on it: This inflatable is impressively compact and comfortable for a hiking mat. The shiny covering makes it a bit slippery when paired with a sleeping bag, but the thick, soft cushioning really gave me a great night’s sleep. It took a little longer to inflate than the others tested here and the bright colour tends to show the dirt, but it was by far the most comfortable hiking mat I tested.


2. JR Gear Standard Mummy Mat


JR Gear Standard Mummy Mat.

Weight: 740g
Inflated thickness: 3,8 cm
Packed size: 30 cm x 28 cm diameter
Dimensions: 183 cm x 51 cm

Sleep on it: A tapered top and bottom shave weight on this inflatable but, on the whole, I found it a little thin. It has an R-value of 2,5, the polyester ripstop fabric is hardy and the anti-slip bottom keeps it in place.

For a great winter option, try the impressively thick JR Gear Traverse Core Standard Mummy. It’s 8,9 cm thick, weighs just 579 g, has an R-value of 5 and costs just R200 more than the Standard Mummy.


3. First Ascent Hiker Light


First Ascent Hiker Light Mattress.

Weight: 450 g
Inflated thickness: 2,5 cm
Packed size: 26 cm x 15 cm in diameter
Dimensions: 183 cm x 54 cm

Sleep on it: If you’re serious about counting kilos, this is your guy. It’s quite thin but compact, quick to inflate and the lightest hiking mattress here. The dark material won’t show dirt. It also comes with a puncture repair kit.

Looking for a thicker option? The First Ascent Comfort Light Sleeping Mat is 3,8 cm thick and costs R899, but at 810g it’s almost twice the weight of the Hiker Light Mat.


4. Therm-a-rest Ridgerest Classic


Therm-a-Rest Ridgerest Classic Mattress.

Weight: 400g
Inflated thickness: 1,5 cm 
Packed size: 51 cm x 20 cm
Dimensions: 183 cm x 51 cm

Sleep on it: Most foam mats are the same, but the ridged design give this one increased comfort and warmth. It’s also thicker than most foam hiking mats and has an R-value of 2,6. It’s the best foam mat we tested, but is relatively pricey. It’s durable, lightweight and won’t puncture but its bulky pack size means it will have to be strapped to the outside of your backpack.


Five of the best camping mattresses

Here (for the most part) comfort trumps packed size and weight. However, one important element not to overlook is the size of your tent. Consider overall length and how much space will be left after your mattress is inside. If you’re looking to sleep two people, for example, buying one double mattress might be better value for money than buying two singles.

Also read: the eight things you need to build a budget camping kit


1. Checkpoint Roll-Up Mat


Checkpoint Roll-Up Mat.

Weight: 3kg
Inflated thickness: 6,5 cm
Packed size: 65 cm x 36 cm diameter
Dimensions: 190 cm x 65 cm

Sleep on it: It’s slightly narrower than the other foam options featured here and though it’s a good thickness, it had more give and less cushioning than the rest. It’s compact, easy to pack and will work just fine for slighter, smaller campers on short stays but for larger people or long camping trips it may start getting a little uncomfortable.


2. Intex Camping Mat


Intex Camping Mat.

Weight: 1,6 kg
Inflated thickness: 20 cm
Packed size: 30 cm x 24 cm
Dimensions: 195 cm x 70 cm

Sleep on it:  The tufted fabric top means bedding is less likely to slip off and the vinyl bottom is intended to better prevent punctures. Intex inflatables have been around for many years and are reliable and budget-friendly but can be a mission to inflate. Consider buying a 12-volt electrical pump. R299,


3. Carmaquip Medium Self-Inflating Mattress


Carmaquip Medium Self-Inflating Mattress.

Weight: 3,6kg
Inflated thickness: 6 cm
Packed size: 65 cm x 22 cm diameter
Dimensions: 195 cm x 65 cm

Sleep on it: Developed by Orange River guide Marius la Cock, this durable self-inflating mattress is waterproof and very comfy. A non-slip layer keeps you from rolling off and a heavy-duty foam lining keeps punctures away. Also available in small and large.


4. Natural Instincts Roll-Up Mat


Natural Instincts Roll-Up Mat.

Weight: 1,9 kg
Inflated thickness: 6,5 cm
Packed size: 70 cm x 35 cm diameter
Dimensions: 180 cm x 70 cm

Sleep on it: It’s a good thickness and very comfortable for a foam mattress. Made from washable, heavy-duty canvas, it rolls up, making it easier to pack than fold-up foam mattresses.

A conventional three-division Natural Instincts fold-up mattress is available for R715.


5. Tentco Single Three-Division Fold-Up Mattress


Tentco Single Three-Division Fold-Up Mattress.

Weight: 3 kg
Inflated thickness: 6 cm
Packed size: 70 cm x 60 cm
Dimensions: 195 cm x 70 cm

Sleep on it: You can’t go wrong with this classic. It’s durable, waterproof and wears well. It’s bulkier to pack than the roll-up and inflatable options but it’s a good length, will wear well and is a great price. It’s the mattress my family and I have relied on for years.

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