When it comes to camping, I have always neglected the air mat. If I’m backpacking, I’ll leave the air mat at home while I gripe to myself “it’s not real camping if it’s not a bit uncomfortable!”. When I’m car camping at a music festival or just with some friends, the air mat is the last thing I think to bring. I have worked for years to convince myself that a little yoga mat is all I need to sleep comfortably.
Boy was I wrong!
I have been sleeping on the Redfox Air Mat Large over the last month and have yet to miss out on a good night’s sleep for being uncomfortable. During this month I have been in a variety of different camping situations using the air mat, here is what I have to say:
The Air Mat Large inflates to around 3 inches thick which allows for it to contour to my body. It can be fully inflated making it stiff for people who prefer a stiffer bed or left at about 90% inflation, giving it a softness I dream about after a long day of kayaking. Also, the head compartment is larger than the rest creating a built in pillow, which is almost as comfortable as sleeping with a real pillow (if you use to pillows to sleep though, I would recommend bringing at least one).
One thing that had always turned me off about air mats is the time it would take to inflate them. One of the glowing benefits of this one is that there is a built in hand pump in the pillow. This hand pump is essentially a sponge contained in the pillow chamber that pushes air into the mat as I compress it with my hands. When I release, the sponge inflates drawing air in from outside. Blowing up the mat from completely empty to completely full takes me a maximum of 3 minutes and I am never dizzy afterword because I don’t have to use my lungs at all! When you first buy your air mat, I would recommend opening and inflating it simply because it has likely been rolled up its whole life and the pillow will take a minute to regain its natural shape.
To deflate the Air Mat Large, I have no toils whatever with fitting a partially inflated mat into a tiny bag. I simply open the two valves at the feet and the mat deflates almost instantly. The mat deflates so quickly because, unlike a Thermarest, there is no foam in the body that will continue to hold air (more like an air mattress). The body chamber containing only air also means that this mat will roll up much smaller and easier and also be lighter than a Thermarest. When rolled up and in the bag the tube is about 18” long and 4” in diameter.
I first started using this matt while sleeping on a plywood structure built into the bed of my truck. Seeing as it was March in Colorado, the outside temperature would have been about 35 degrees. I had absolutely no form of insulation other than a half inch of plywood underneath me and I hardly even noticed. Since I have arrived in the Northwest, I have spent several warmer nights as well as several wetter nights on this mat and I have always felt sufficiently warm from underneath. Since there is so much air contained the mat, my natural body heat will keep the air warm, thus insulating me. However, this same principle will apply when sleeping on cooler ground: the cold ground will cool the air in the mat just as much as my body will heat it, making the mat feel cool underneath. The remedy for this is simple: I lay a yoga mat underneath to insulate from the cold ground.
This mat is designed to maximize comfort while minimizing bulk, which makes it great for longer trips or backpacking. Because it is made of essentially two fabric layers and little else, it may be less durable than an all-foam mat, for example. In my case, while driving the mat had gotten caught between my bike and the plywood structure, rubbing a small hole in one side. Luckily, Redfox includes a patch kit with each mat! I simply cut out a patch, slathered on the glue, waited for two hours and the mat was good as new. There is plenty of fabric enclosed in the patch kit to do up to five small patches.
I would recommend the Air Mat Large for a great comfortable sleep in just about every camping situation I can think of.