Should you Pack a Sleeping Mat?


Let’s face it: being a Go! Girl requires hardcore beauty rest. Since we all sleep roughly 1/3 of our life away, even on the road, it is important not to neglect your shut eye time. So, let’s talk about the sleeping mat.

Most travel sites overlook this topic and assume they are a mute topic, a random piece of equipment reserved only for dudes camping out in Patagonia or Yosemite.

As you compile your list of “packing items” for that next big trip, we wanted to offer our breakdown of the sleeping mat so you can decide whether or not it makes the final cut. The choice is yours, girlfriend!

Why are sleeping mats used?

Sleeping mats are typically used for camping as they provide two critical things: thermal insulation and cushioning while on the ground. The Hush Blankets Team at Gotta Sleep also sells weighted blankets that can can help calm a restless body, reduce feelings of anxiety, and improve sleep troubles, they’re a perfect partner to go with your sleeping mats.

Obviously, with that being said, they make great companions if you are taking a trip into the great outdoors. They could also help you out in some common travel situations:

  • Your couchsurfing host failed to mention they sold their couch last week but they do have a lovely (cold) tile floor for you to crash on with a sleeping bag. Chances are, if you have already arrived at your host’s home for the night, you do not have alternate arrangements. Oh dear sleeping mat, we adore you!
  • You have opted for the “shoestring” travel budget and prefer showing up at hostels without a reservation. The hostel informs you that, since it is Friday night, all beds are booked. They do however offer that you can sleep on the common rooms’ floor for half the price as they have some nice warm blankets and a pillow. Bam! Cash in on the opportunity and indoor camp for the night—use that $15 for a nice dinner at the local restaurant tomorrow!

What are the different types of sleeping mats?

  • Inflating –Think air mattress but thinner. These sleeping mats require a power outlet, battery operated pump, or you could opt for the manually inflating mat. The big downfall to these is that they are similar to air mattresses in that they do not retain much of your body heat, so staying warm and cozy will be hard with just blankets. We like the RedCamp self-inflating air mattress which does not force you to plug in.
  • Foam—Pretty self-explanatory, these bad boys are thinner than their inflating counterparts but do not lose your body heat as much because the foam is dense.  They come in a variety of texture like the ol’ stand by“egg carton” style, etc. We like this simple version from Therm-a-Rest, available on Amazon.
  • Bells & Whistles— These days, there are even sleeping mats that self-inflate with a pillow and armrest.

Where do I buy one and how much does it cost?

  • Sleeping mats are a breeze to purchase before you set off on a trip. Websites like and are great places to start or you can visit your local outdoor outfitter to get a professional’s opinion for your needs and wants.
  • Prices for these gems have a very wide range and are dependent upon what you will use it for. A very basic foam pad will cost around $15. However a brand name, self-inflating air pad runs about $50. This high price is because it is made out of a similar material that is used to aid in home insulation. Therefore, GGG recommends using a sleeping mat with these bells and whistles only when you are setting out to do some serious backwoods/alpine camping.
  • If you want to purchase a sleeping mat on the road try to do it in a major city where you will have more choices and reliable brands. You might be surprised to know that places such as Guatemala City do have a North Face and Columbia store inside one of their prime shopping centers.

Other travel/household uses for a foam sleeping mat

  • Padding for a runner rug that you buy for your hallway
  • A decadent support pad for your dog’s kennel
  • Yoga practice mat
  • Quick fix for when you are in between homes and need to sleep at a friends
  • Rolled up, it serves as a weapon of self-defense against intruders (provided you know Krav Maga)

Questions to ask yourself before buying a sleeping mat

Where am I planning to sleep most of the time on my trip? Indoors or outdoors? How big is my pack and which type of mat can I accommodate? If camping, in what season for that part of the world? This will largely determine the type/quality of the mat you will use.

Have you taken a sleeping mat with you on your travels? Did you use it? Share with us!


About Author

Traci is a bold New Yorker who loves taking her empire state of mind global. She holds a degree in International Business, and bleeds humanitarianism. Traci spent a semester in 2007 living in Italy and bouncing around Western Europe. In the past 3 years she volunteered at a homeless shelter in California, worked construction in New Orleans, and moonlights as a bartender everywhere she goes. She recently completed an epic 7 month backpacking trip through Central and South America and spent a month road-tripping the East Coast. Check out her personal blog at Based out of: New Orleans, LA

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