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What makes a good ground mat?

Lifecraft

John McDouall Stuart
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I'm thinking that a ground mat is actually one of the most important aspects of shelter, to keep you dry if the ground is wet, and to stop the ground sucking the heat out of your body.

I was laying out in the back yard on a beach towel near a little fire. With the right clothes on I could handle the breeze and the cold air, but the ground really was taking the heat out of me regardless of having plenty of clothes on.
I ended up going back inside (instead of sleeping outside) because the ground was so cold. I would have used one of those cheap plastic/rubber bed mats to fix that issue but I didn't have one with me. And I'm trying to think of something else I can use as an insulator which is less bulky.

In some places it's possible to make a ground mat type thing out of plants but I want one I can take with me.

I heard about using the plastic sheeting builders use to waterproof houses, so I'm thinking of trying that. I'd imagine they'd be ideal for keeping you dry but no idea what level of insulation they'd provide.

There's rubber ground mats at the disposals store, but I don't know how good they are.

I can use a cheap tarp but they fall apart and I hate the sound they make when I move around on it (especially when sleeping).

What does everyone else use as a ground mat?
Any ideas about what materials can be turned into a ground mat?

I don't really care so much about it being soft, just able to keep me dry and insulated from the ground a little bit.
 
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Wentworth

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Tyvek won't insulate you. It makes a good groundsheet though.
There are a number of natural materials you can make a portable sleeping mat from. They don't insulate as well as ccf however.
Look into R value for sleeping mats.
What have you previously been using as a mat?
 

gelandangan

Rüdiger Nehberg
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If you are at home or car camping, a piece of large cardboard box make good ground insulator.
It will even out the ground from twigs and pebbles and also give great insulation against cold ground.
Afterwards it can be used as fire starter :)
 

Lifecraft

John McDouall Stuart
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The building material your thinking of is tyvek but I'm not sure how good it is. I think a lot of people like it for tarps.

I'd like to get a good, compact, light fabric hiking tarp, but for now I use a cheap one.
Maybe I should look at whether tyvek would be suitable for a tarp. I'm not sure how heavy it is.

What have you previously been using as a mat?

When car camping I have my swag with me. It's a bit of luxury when it comes to camping because it's got a thick comfy mattress, but the whole thing is bulky, and not suited for carrying too far.

When I can't use the swag I've been using one of those cheap thin foam mats you see at all camping stores, on top of a cheap tarp.
I lent that mat to someone and didn't get it back, so I'll be buying another one I think.

I'll probably swap the tarp for something else (to protect me from damp ground) and keep using one of those cheap foam mats (for thermal protection).

Maybe that tyvek stuff with a mat on top of it, or the rubber ground mat from the disposals store.

If you are at home or car camping, a piece of large cardboard box make good ground insulator.

That's a good thing to remember in case I need it. There's always cardboard around somewhere.



Ultimately I'd like to put together a light bushman's swag/bed roll. Just the various layers (ground mat, sleeping map, blanket, and tarp/cover, or something like that) which I can roll up (possibly with some gear inside) and attach to my backpack, or even use as my back pack.
I just need to funds to buy all the lightweight gear, or to make it myself.
I tried doing that with the cheap tarps and cheap foam mat and it was just too bulky. The tarps and mat don't really roll up very compact.

I also want to look at getting a hammock, but I like the idea of having both a ground setup and a hammock setup for different occasions.
 
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maysfire

Russell Coight
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I carried a 5' x 2' 6" piece of bubble wrap rolled up on the outside of my rucksack when backpacking in Europe and the UK a few years ago.Was light to carry, water proof and not bad as insulation and cost me nothing..I used to fold it up to make a cushion on wet grass etc or use it as sleeping mat of sorts in the lite weight tent I carried...from memory the air beads in it were about 5ml in diameter and were a bit flatter by the end of 18 months of travel...was a bit younger and fitter in those days ...would like a bit more padding now.. come to think of it I HAVE a lot more padding now...atb Paul
 

kiwibro

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I bought a yoga mate from big w. For 19 dollars I have a ground mat that actually make me hot. Failing that you could take a thin waterproof material make a sleeping bag shape and stuff it with leaves till its about 6 inches thick. Still light weight and the insulation is everywhere. I have one in my bob. Silny is the way to go I think.
 

infotechcoder

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I bought an inflatable mat from Anaconda for $10 (on special). It is the orange inflatable pool toy variety. For cheap and nasty, it really does work and I have six months use without a single repair. It packs much smaller than the foam mats, gives more comfort than a foam mat, but is in the moderate weight range at 800 grams. I intend on replacing it with a $200 variety (with down filling) when I have more money.
 
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Aussiepom

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If you want cheap and light, go with the CCF, (closed cell foam), foam camping mats. Only 103g, when cut to size, and robust, however, they are bulky when rolled or folded.

If you want minimal bulk when packed, try the Thermarest Neolite Xlite inflatables. 3/4 length version is 231g incl stuff sac and repair kit. Tiny when packed and more comfortable than CCF, but downside is cost. Also, they can of course get punctures.

Everything is a compromise, so choose according to your own priorities and budget.

P.S. Those weights are as measured on my scales, not just manufacturers figures, which can sometimes be a bit optimistic.
 

wameron36

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For a ground sheet I use a section of builders film cut to about my size with a small flap off the side to keep a few little bits and pieces on without loosing them in the dirt. It'd pretty tough stuff and I've only put a few small holes in it over the many times I've used it.

For a ground mat I use one of those cheap closed cell foam roll up mats. Cheap and light, although a little bulky.
 

DavoAnth

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Being a hammock camper these days I fortunately don't need a ground mat. But going back to my ground dweller days, I experimented with a few. I picked up an army surplus rubber backed mat years back, and that served really well under a thermal rest. I also experimented with tyvek, based on some aussie and overseas bushcraft reviews, but found it very noisy and with next to no insulation capability. I have a good mate who has spent 20 years using a rectangular off cut of thickish garden plastic, that he will double up as a tarp if it rains, and he swears by it (this is in the tropics where insulation isn't as critical as for the southerners). It is important to appreciate how waterproof equates to insulation - a thin waterproof sheet will keep you dry but still let the ground suck the warmth from you. I also know a guy who just carries a basic waterproof groundsheet (in the dry season) and who just spends 10 mins throwing a couple of inch thick layer of leaves / ferns etc down as his insulator layer, and lays his bag or silk on top of that. Your environmental conditions dictate your requirements, just a matter of experimenting and imho going with the set up that works with minimal weight and bulk.
I'm thinking that a ground mat is actually one of the most important aspects of shelter, to keep you dry if the ground is wet, and to stop the ground sucking the heat out of your body.

I was laying out in the back yard on a beach towel near a little fire. With the right clothes on I could handle the breeze and the cold air, but the ground really was taking the heat out of me regardless of having plenty of clothes on.
I ended up going back inside (instead of sleeping outside) because the ground was so cold. I would have used one of those cheap plastic/rubber bed mats to fix that issue but I didn't have one with me. And I'm trying to think of something else I can use as an insulator which is less bulky.

In some places it's possible to make a ground mat type thing out of plants but I want one I can take with me.

I heard about using the plastic sheeting builders use to waterproof houses, so I'm thinking of trying that. I'd imagine they'd be ideal for keeping you dry but no idea what level of insulation they'd provide.

There's rubber ground mats at the disposals store, but I don't know how good they are.

I can use a cheap tarp but they fall apart and I hate the sound they make when I move around on it (especially when sleeping).

What does everyone else use as a ground mat?
Any ideas about what materials can be turned into a ground mat?

I don't really care so much about it being soft, just able to keep me dry and insulated from the ground a little bit.
 

Walker

John McDouall Stuart
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I'm a 'ground dweller' (tent), so have a large piece of poly-tarp that I usually place INSIDE the one-man tent. Onto this I place either a Thermarest 3/4 mat or a Karrimore closed cell mat, or both, depdending on the conditions e.g. K-mat for temperate/hot climates, T-Rest for temperate winter, both for snow. Also, if the walk is over 3 days in temperate conditions only use the K-mat (lighweight).

The function of placing the poly-tarp inside the tent means that any moisture (leak or condensation) will flow down to the tent floor keeping me and the gear dry - always ensuring the ground where the tent is placed is well cleared of debris so the tent floor remains in okay condition.

The poly-tarp is a bit heavy, but is also used as an emergency shelter, or, if it's raining at lunch time and there's no cover I string it up to protect us from the conditions - this is very rare though.

Also, the 3/4 mat idea is, in snow or wet conditions ones feet don't need to be protected by a mat in a tent (high quality down sleeping bag), and the rucksack is placed inside the tent under the feet to keep them off the tarp. (The last thing you want in a blizzard or storm is having ones gear blow away, or traipsing outside to retrieve something from the rucksack.)
 

Blake

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Good idea for a thread. I have an Exped Down mat I use not and then. Its well made and keeps me warm but has the same issue that alot of mats have...for me at least which is width. I like to spread out when I sleep so I always struggle to get comfortable. Since switching to a hammock a few years ago this hasn't been an issue but when I use the mat again it always pops up.

Exped make a wider model but the weight and size starts getting up there. What would be really cool would be if someone made a down or synthetic down mat which was wider at the torso and thinner at the legs!
 

Mickldo

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Good idea for a thread. I have an Exped Down mat I use not and then. Its well made and keeps me warm but has the same issue that alot of mats have...for me at least which is width. I like to spread out when I sleep so I always struggle to get comfortable. Since switching to a hammock a few years ago this hasn't been an issue but when I use the mat again it always pops up.

Exped make a wider model but the weight and size starts getting up there. What would be really cool would be if someone made a down or synthetic down mat which was wider at the torso and thinner at the legs!

I just bought an Exped Down mat off Bloozz (Thanks Bloozz) and although it just turned up and I haven't spent a night on it yet it is out on the floor right now, you know, testing it:;): I too spread out when sleeping but it looks to me, so far at least, that it should be big enough for me. Especially in my sleeping bag. That is one thing I hate about sleeping bags in general and especially mummy style bags, the restricted leg movement. In warmer weather I just spread out the bag as a quilt and then I can spread out my legs. It may be an issue being narrow but I find I don't usually care if my legs hang over. Cold weather though I toss and turn with restricted legs so the mat being "not large" isn't an issue for me.

Can't wait to head bush and test it out for good.
 

Mickldo

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I should have added above that I do most of my camping at the moment in my MSR Hubba Hubba tent so it has a built in floor so it doesn't matter if my legs come off the mat and I spread out a bit. That being said I am looking for a ground mat/ footprint for my tent so that I have a bit of an extra layer available under the tent as it is a bit thin. Also when I do some ultra light weight hiking and go for a minimalist set up I can just use the ground mat/ footprint and my tarp. I was thinking tyvek but I am following this thread to see what other people recommend.
 

Cam

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Currently I use a thick and strong emergency blanket as a ground sheet and stick a Kathmandu sleeping pad (I may replace as it is heavy and bulky as these things go) on top. The specific type of emergency blanket I am carrying is no longer made, but the SOL utility blanket looks close (and is my proposed replacement when my current blanket eventually wears out). The SOL actually has grommet holes too, which is a nice touch.

The blanket has the advantage that it is insulating in and of itself, is waterproof, and can be used as a signalling device, improvised tarp, or (funnily enough) an emergency blanket :) as well as just being a ground sheet.
 

thejungleisneutral

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As an improvised and highly portable solution, I've packed a surplus arctic sleeping bag liner with local bracken, grass or dead leaves and used it as a palliasse mattress. Depending on how full it is stuffed on the day (night), it provides great insulation although it tends to be a little lumpy. This technique is not conducive to "leave no trace", but as conservationist Milo Dunphy in The Rucksack Bushwalker and Camper suggests, removing a small amount of bracken does no real harm.
 

Adrian

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Great thread.

This is a question that has been bugging me for a while now, the reason being which one to buy, as once one is committed to buying a mat it better be bloody right as they're too expensive to get wrong.

Ive had issues with air mattresses in the past draining the heat out, so unless things have changed i won't be getting one any time soon.

I saw a U tube clip by Chris Caine showing what kit he carries and he had a thermarest self inflating mat to under his divvy bag as the mat was less important than the bag and it protected the bag from any punctures.

I was issued an air mattress when I was in the reserves some time ago and never remember using it for a few reasons so i must of just been on a thickish grey rubbery ground sheet in a winter weight sleeping bag under a hootchie and i can't remember any problems... I am a lot older now and had heaps of practise at sleeping in warm, dry, comfortable diggs, so the thermarest will be the one i think unless I see a reason on here to go a different way.

Thanks to all for any hints about this.
 

Bloffy13

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Go the CCF. Cut it to length from your shoulder to your knees.
This can then be placed inside your pack to give it shape and take away the need for a bulky, heavier roll.
Makes it easier to pack stuff away too.
When you pull the mat out, put your pack down as a pillow, kick a hip hole (not too deep), place your mat down just slightly under the pack and your sleeping bag on top. Once you remove your boots, tuck your socks into the boots to keep bugs out (remember to turn inside out in the morning) and lay them top to toe on the ground where your legs will be. Should be a good night's sleep.
Something I've tried only once, but seems to also work well for others on the net, is to open your sleeping bag out quilt style except for from the knees down, pull the sleeping bag over you then snuggle down directly on the mat and tuck the edges in under the mat a bit. The theory is that your body weight compresses the bag's filling and loses it's ability to insulate. By lying directly on the mat, it makes your sleeping area slightly wider with no loss of insulation. If you have a raincoat, lay that outside down on the ground from your knees to your feet with part of the coat tucked under the mat. This will keep the foot of your sleeping bag from getting wet from the ground and provide a small amount of insulation.
Put your feet in the sock end of the sleeping bag zipped to the knees and you should get a reasonable nights sleep.
Hope that helps
Cheers
Bloffy
 
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