MT500 trekking mattress

How to choose the best mattress for camping or bivouacking

A camping or bivouac mattress, an inflatable, self-inflating or foam mattress? Are you confused by the choice? Read our guide which will help you make the right choice and find the right mattress so you can enjoy a good night's sleep during your rural getaway.

There are 3 main criteria for choosing a mattress: weight, type of mattress and insulation. Transporting and installing a super thick, inflatable mattress in your tent is completely different to setting off bivouacking with your home on your back, going wherever adventure takes you. Whether you prefer camping or trekking, we'll guide you in your choice, helping you find a mattress that gives you that sleeping-on-a-cloud feeling.

Weight, a major criterion when trekking

The first criterion when choosing your mattress is weight.

In fact, if you're planning on going trekking with your mattress in your backpack, it's essential to choose a model that is as light and compact as possible. The low weight will help minimize the weight of your backpack and the compact size will reduce the amount of space taken up by the mattress. A trekking mattress also fits more easily into a bivouac tent compared to a thick, inflatable camping mattress which may rub against the tent wall. Some mattress models are, for example, narrower at the bottom to make them even more compact. And there's no need for a pump for this type of mattress. They're either made from foam or self-inflating. Everything is carefully calculated to avoid extra weight or unnecessary bulk !

Conversely, if you're going camping or are looking for a mattress for sleeping indoors, you can opt for a camping mattress where weight doesn't really matter too much. These mattresses are generally thicker, wider, and more comfortable, like a real bed! Normally they need a pump to inflate them. They are rectangular in shape and offer enough space for people who tend to move around a lot in their sleep ;). They are ideal for large camping tents. Some models are available in different widths: 70, 120 or 140 cm.

What type of mattress should you take camping?

Do you prefer trekking? What type of bivouacking mattress is best for sleeping in a tent?

If you go bivouacking, carrying your tent, mattress and sleeping bag, we recommend that you choose a lightweight model. Trekking mattresses, also called floor mats, are relatively thin and narrow so they can easily fit inside a trekking tent which has less space. You can find the weight of our Forclaz trekking mattresses, as well as their dimensions and volume when "packed", on their product page, so you can prepare for your trek beforehand and optimize the space in your backpack.

Did you know ? Decathlon's Forclaz trekking mattresses have the added advantage of featuring anti-slip silicone patches. Their function is to prevent the sleeping bag from sliding during the night and stop you from slipping from your comfortable mattress onto the cold, inhospitable floor while sleeping.

What type of mattress should you take camping?

Do you prefer camping? What type of mattress will help you sleep well in your tent?

If you are setting up camp in a fixed location, we recommend that you choose a comfortable camping mattress! Camping mattresses are heavier but thicker. They can normally accommodate one to two people. Which will save you money if you regularly go camping as a couple. The deflated, folded dimensions of Quechua mattresses are shown on our product information sheets to give you an idea of how much space they'll take up in your car (and to avoid any "Impossible" mode Tetris-style packing on the day of departure, with friends and family looking on and giving you tips.)

Did you know ? Decathlon's 1-person camping mattresses have been designed so that they can be joined together to form a double mattress. This means that you can go off on your own with your 1-person mattress or go camping together, twinning your mattresses so you can sleep in the same bed (without falling into the crack between the two mattresses in the middle of the night.)

Types of mattress: inflatable, self-inflating, foam

Foam, self-inflating or inflatable: there are several different kinds of mattress for camping or bivouacking. Each type has its advantages and disadvantages in terms of bulk and comfort but also installation time (to inflate or not to inflate...that is the question!)

What type of mattress should you take camping?
What type of mattress should you take camping?

One of our famous 1- or 2-person inflatable camping mattresses

Inflatable mattresses are designed for campers as you generally need to carry a pump to inflate them. They are normally thicker than other mattresses so you feel as if you're sleeping in a real bed. In fact it's the air inside the mattress that provides the comfort.

The advantage of this model is that you can inflate it to your preferred comfort level - "soft", "medium" or "firm". However, be careful not to over- or under-inflate these mattresses. They can also be inflated with an electric pump if you don't fancy using your arms and legs, and a manual pump. Some mattresses are equipped with a "Seconds" valve which inflates the mattress in just a few minutes, thanks to the venturi effect which accelerates the flow of air into the mattress.

What type of mattress should you take camping?
What type of mattress should you take camping?

Foldable, foam mattresses so you can set out on your trek with a light heart and a light bag

If you're going trekking, it's better to choose a foam mattress which will be ultralight, and easy to fold or unfold, and carry on your backpack. It looks a little like a gym or yoga mat but its high-tech features take it to a whole new level! Although you may be sorely tempted to set off with that foam yoga mat, gathering dust in the corner of your sitting room, remember this mat won't protect you from the cold!

A foam mattress, on the other hand, will offer insulation against the cold so you can enjoy a good night's sleep when trekking. Always make sure you check the R-Value of a foam mattress if you're sleeping outdoors. If the R-value sounds unfamiliar, we'll explain all about it a bit later in this article ;). Another option is a self-inflating mattress.

What type of mattress should you take camping?
What type of mattress should you take camping?
What type of mattress should you take camping?

Self-inflating mattresses, a compact and practical bedding option for camping or trekking

A self-inflating mattress consists of an airtight envelope glued to an open cell foam in which the air circulates. When you unfold the mattress, it fills with air, regaining its shape and thickness. One of the advantages of a self-inflating mattress is that it will normally self-inflate to around 60% just by leaving the valve open.

You will then need to blow up the rest yourself, so you can adjust the pressure to your desired comfort level. This will help save you time and breath.

Decathlon offers several inflatable mattresses specially designed for trekking which are still quite compact, unlike self-inflating, camping mattresses.

Is there a difference between floor mats and mattresses for camp beds?

Are you wondering if you need to invest in two different mattresses because you're going camping with your family as well as going bivouacking on your own or with friends (or vice versa)? your garage will quickly start to resemble the storeroom of an outdoor equipment store if, on top of a compact mattress and another softer, thicker mattress, you also have to invest in various other mattresses depending on whether you're sleeping on the floor or a camp bed!

If you also want a camp bed and a mattress, it's important to pay attention to the length and width of the mattress which mustn't exceed the size of the camp bed. The thickness depends on your personal preference (but be careful that you don't turn into the princess (or prince!) and the pea!) Some atypically-shaped trekking mattresses (not rectangular) may not fit certain camp beds so check the dimensions carefully.

Finally, if you want a comfort level similar to that of home bedding (I nominate the mattress/bed base combination), Quechua has an inflatable bed base that goes perfectly with the comfort mattress from the same range. An added advantage: they can be joined together easily, converting from a single to a double bed. They also make a great extra bed when you have guests to stay.

Mattress insulation:
what is the R-value?

You can find out how much insulation your mattress provides by checking its R-Value. To find out the R-value of a Decathlon mattress, you just need to go to the "Product advantages" section on the appropriate product page.

The "R-Value" is the measure of thermal resistance. It measures the capacity of a mattress to retain body heat or prevent heat transfer to a cold floor. The higher the R-Value, the better the insulation provided by the mattress.

It's important to note that your sleeping bag has no effect whatsoever on the R-value. Bear in mind that R-Values can be combined; this means that you can use two mattresses and add their R-Values.

All our mattresses are tested in accordance with the ASTM F3340-18 testing standard. This standard allows you to measure the r-value and, therefore, the insulation performance of the mattress. It's used by all manufacturers so gives you the option to compare different brands of mattresses.

What is the R-Value used for?
• R-value from 0 to 1.9: Hot season (summer) only
• R-value from 2 to 3: 2 or 3-seasons (spring-summer-autumn)
• R-value from 3 to 4: 4-seasons
• R-value of 4.5 +: 4-seasons and extreme conditions (glaciers, Arctic and sub-Arctic regions, and high altitude).
Did you know? Camping mattresses often have a higher R value than an equivalently priced trekking mattress.

Additional advice to increase the R-value
Place a survival blanket under your mattress to optimize the thermal insulation of your camping or trekking mattress.

What type of mattress should you take camping?

What mattress quality do you need for a good level of comfort?

Not all inflatable mattresses are designed for camping or bivouacking.

The quality of materials used, and the way in which the different parts are assembled, should give you a good indication of the overall quality of the mattress. Above all, avoid choosing a mattress designed to be used as an extra bed at home rather than to withstand the camping or bivouacking experience. Select a mattress made from durable, hard-wearing materials which won't deflate during the night on contact with a misaligned stone. In fact, although it's physically impossible to have a mattress that never deflates (remember party balloons which always end up deflating although they seem completely airtight); this mattress should last several nights before you'll need to top it up to maintain your preferred level of support. Of course, you need to make sure you choose the right ground to pitch your tent and arrange your mattress.

Opt also for an inflatable mattress that has been tested for durability: you'll then know the minimum number of inflation/deflation cycles for which the mattress has been certified. This figure can vary from several dozen to several hundred cycles! For bivouacking or itinerant camping, opt for a mattress certified to withstand a higher number of cycles. This criteria will be less important if you're staying fixed in one campsite, where you'll have to inflate your mattress once on arrival and deflate it once when leaving.

Which materials are the most comfortable?

We don't all react in the same way to materials. Some people really don't feel comfortable lying on top of a plastic-topped mattress rubbing against a polyester sleeping bag. Others aren't particularly bothered by this. If this kind of detail is important to you, opt for a high-end sensory experience with a mattress covered in a velvet effect fabric, for a soft feel that will make all the difference. We also recommend trying out mattresses if there's a showroom. Forget the absurdity of the situation and go with friends; lie down on the mattress and, most importantly, roll over to check if it "squeaks", makes "creaking noises" or if it's quiet. In fact, in addition to the sense of touch, sound will also affect your user experience, and the experience of campers in neighbouring tents.


The level of inflation affects the comfort

So, don't over-inflate your mattress! For your comfort and to make your mattress last longer, it is important to inflate it to a moderate pressure. When you are sitting on the inflated mattress, you should feel the floor near your buttocks. Once you lie down, the air will disperse beneath your body, providing optimal comfort. What's more, an over-inflated mattress will feel too "hard" and in the end you'll feel uncomfortable. On the other hand, an under-inflated mattress won't provide adequate support for your body and you won't sleep as well. If, when sitting on your mattress, your bottom feels too close to the ground, inflate it a little more.

Did you know?The length of your mattress can vary by around 10% depending on how much you inflate it! So, don't panic if your mattress seems a couple of inches too short; it's just a small variation caused by over-inflating and is not a manufacturing defect.

What type of mattress should you take camping?

What type of camping mattress is suitable for children?

No matter how hard you look, whether on-line or in-store, you won't find any outdoor retailers selling "mini mattresses" for children (although that would be super cute). When it comes to overall comfort, the most important thing is that your child has the right size sleeping bag. The greater the volume of air to heat, the more energy the body will use to keep warm and the more likely you are to get cold during the night. So the more room there is inside the sleeping bag, the harder it will be for your child to keep warm. That being said, the size of your mattress is not as important. If you go camping once a year, you may as well go and buy a 1-person mattress which your child will then be able to use for many years to come.

Another option for budding campers planning to regularly pitch their 2 Seconds tent at the bottom of the garden, is to use a suitably sized sleeping bag with an integrated mattress, like Quechua's kid's 2-in-1 sleeping bag "Sleeping Bed Junior."

When it comes to babies, all we can do is recommend that you to speak to a paediatrician who will advise you on the best type of travel bedding for sleeping safely outside the comfort of your home.

What type of mattress should you take camping?
What type of mattress should you take camping?

Self-inflating trekking mattresses: should you buy or rent?

Ultimately, the best mattress for your adventure can change depending on your destination. In fact, it can also depend on the season; what's more, if you've been persuaded to go bivouacking rather than camping this year, your current equipment may not necessarily meet your new requirements. Perhaps you want to try another type of hiking but don't know if you'll carry on next year...
Decathlon has attempted to address this as part of its effort to make all types of hiking and sport, in general, accessible to everyone. We offer a product rental service and even full kits so that the only thing you need to think about is enjoying the countryside (rather than reading 10 articles comparing trekking or camping mattresses, or creating a double-entry Excel spreadsheet etc.) What's more, as you'll be renting, you won't need to find space at home to store your equipment during the rest of the year ;).
If you're tempted by bivouacking, we offer a bivouac kit with a tent, sleeping bag and, of course, a mattress for two or three people. Prices are charged per day so as to reflect, as accurately as possible, your actual usage.

Kids camping mattress

Tips

What should you do the first time you use a new mattress?
It's similar to using a traditional mattress. When a mattress leaves the factory, the air inside has been sucked out by a machine so it fits into its pouch more easily. That's why it's important to inflate them a first time before you set off. Before using a self-inflating mattress for the first time, unfold your mattress and leave it for 24 hours on a flat surface with the valve open then inflate it and leave it, for 24 hours with the valve shut, under pressure.

How do you repair an inflatable mattress?
Are you worried that your mattress will puncture and suddenly give out in the middle of your holiday? The good news is they can often be repaired! Repair kits, despite their modest appearance, may save your night. Always remember to pack one in advance. In fact, some inflatable mattress are sold with repair kits while others are not. Moreover, depending on the materials used to design the mattress, not all repair kits are compatible with all mattresses. Remember to check the "Technical Information" section of the product sheet for Decathlon inflatable mattresses to find out more about looking after and repairing your mattress.

What type of mattress should you take camping? What about bivouacs?

Agathe

Camping lover at Quechua

We also recommend the following:

5 tips to ensure you're never cold in your sleeping bag - teaser

5 tips to ensure you're never cold in your sleeping bag

The "comfort" temperatures shown on Quechua sleeping bag covers are defined by standardised European tests. However, sensitivity to cold varies greatly depending on the individual and the weather conditions.
How do you choose your camping pump - teaser

HOW DO YOU CHOOSE THE RIGHT PUMP TO INFLATE YOUR MATTRESS OR YOUR TENT?

Find all of our advice on how to choose an inflation pump for your mattress or camping tent.
How to use your inflatable mattress correctly  - teaser

How do you use your inflatable mattress correctly?

To guarantee that you sleep better and extend the lifespan of your mattress, find our advice on how to use and care for your mattress.
How to choose a sleeping bag

How do I choose my sleeping bag to sleep well while camping?

Your sleeping bag is your best partner for a good night's sleep. Discover our advices to choose the model which corresponds best to your expectations.