The Best Sleeping Mat for Bike Packing

For bike packing you need a light small inflatable air mat to sleep on.

A good mat is not only for comfort but also for warmth. Our trips normally get a bit chilly so I look for something 3to4 seasons in terms of thickness and insulation, comfort is a secondary bonus!

It seems we have bought and tried a few different brands and styles of inflatable mat over the last few years:

Here you can see the thickness, length and width of three of the best mats I will discuss, they vary quite a lot:

1. Decathalon Forclaz (The red one above) 550gm £29.99

We bought this in Istanbul Decathalon after another brand of mat failed on us. It is robust, small but heavy. It is good to about -5 but not enough insulation below this.

After extensive use it has held its air well. It is a good all rounder, not the smallest nor the lightest but for the money a good option. 4/5 stars!
Here is the air nozzle with an effective valve built in:

2. Alpkit Numo 412gms £40

The black one in the picture, this looked like a good option however ours started leaking air after a few days use. I think it is the design around the nozzle much like the issue with the Karrimor one below but this one went much more quickly. The air nozzle is similar hard plastic and when rolled and folded it seems the fabric wore and leaked around it.

Good weight, and packs small. Not as warm as the Decathalon, I’m mat not sure how the ratings compare but you could tell the difference when it got below freezing at night. I think it is to do with the gaps between the air chambers and the fabric itself.
Overall had the potential to be good but we keep meaning to send it back and test a second one under warranty. Not impressed until we test another unit. 2/5 stars.

3. Therma Rest Prolite 320gm £80 but reduced on the link.
This is a self inflating style mat with a sort of foam inside to help inflation. It relies on being small and thin to save weight. Packs a bit bigger than the others here but not much. The big advantage is the durability. This is a trusted and tested design and ours is 5 years old now and just as good at holding air as when new.
We don’t use it much as it is less comfy and not as warm as others. Not being full length also means the sleeping bag is on the floor and prone to getting wet more in a tent. 3.5/5 stars as expensive and not that warm or comfy but does what it says it does!

4. Karrimor XLite 350gm £20 RRP usually less

This was the smallest and lightest mat we used. In packs tiny and weighed little. It last on average 20 nights! We had two go at similar time. They wear round the air nozzle it seems and can’t patch them, but at the price they are disposable almost, but not sustainable! I put a link into Gelert one that looks similar as the Karrimor one which is now discontinued but suspect it is heavier and bulkier. However there might be some still kicking about if can search ebay etc. Similar in warmth to the Alpkit but probably the least warm of the cylinder based air mats. 3/5 Stars due to fact they last 3 weeks and it’s the lightest and smallest at a very low price.

5. Therma Rest Neoair Xlite 350gm £130 RRP but cheaper on the link.

This is the big orange/yellow one and was used for three weeks in Tibet and in temperatures cold enough to freeze the water bottles in the tent porch. So pretty cold then! It is warm, robust for the weight and very small to pack not the very smallest but similar to the Alpkit and smaller than the Decathlon one. It is also super comfy with a thicker size than the others on test. The foil inside effectively reflects heat back too. The V1 of this a few years back was incredibly noisy and crackly in use, whenever you moved it woke everyone else up! Now the fabric is softer to touch and much quieter. (not silent though). The air nozzle looks the same as the Alpkit and Karrimor but is importantly different, it is on a curve of the mat not a square corner so wears better and also there’s has decades of Therm-a-rest testing behind this design.
It is as small and light as anything else available that is as long and warm. Shock horror, the best product is also the most expensive! 5/5 stars as does what it says and is the best at everything here except price.

Conclusions
All these pack down to a good and really quite similar size I would do it and take a picture but it was a lot of effort so take my word there’s little difference in size! The weights very from impressive at 320gm to reasonable at 550gm. The warmth is not a direct correlation with thickness but the Neoair is by far the warmest and thickest/comfiest when inflated.
For me I think I would go for the Decathalon if you’re on a budget if not then the Neoair is the best of its kind on the market. It’s not cheap but if two of the Alpkit ones fail on you then your almost on the same money spent, I’m glad we invested in the Neoair and hopefully we’ll have it for a few years yet. It also is warm enough for sleeping on snow, something we do each year when on splitboarding tours.

4 Comments
  1. Have you tried a Sea To Summit one? Meant to be very comfortable. Not as light but guess it makes them more durable? And still pack small.

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    • To be honest they’ve never appeal. The spec numbers never look as good for similar spend. The relative weight v warmth (R value) is lower than therma rest, so assume the design is just not as efficient as it’s more complicated. Can’t see it being any more robust either as similar fabric. Would be interested to test out one though.

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  2. Hey Ed, we need to get an Exped Synmat HL to you at some point… maybe at the Adventure Cycle Festival? 😉
    http://www.exped.com/international/en/product-category/mats/synmat-hl-m

    Nils

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    • Hi Nils That would be great, always keen to try something else out.

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Any thoughts or questions?