The importance of a tourist mat

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A tourist mat is that small element of comfort that any traveller can afford, including even those who carry a lot of equipment. Modern models are made as light and compact as possible, so there will be no problems with their transportation. It is only important to know where and what kind of mat to choose for maximum comfort.

tourist mat

Main purposes:

  1. Protection from the cold coming from the ground, because even in the highest quality sleeping bag, the insulation worsens over time. And a tourist mat is cheaper than a new sleeping bag.
  2. Protection against moisture, especially in case of moisture ingress through an open tent and condensation.
  3. Smoothing out bumps, which guarantees a more comfortable position both in the case of sitting and good night rest.

The last point on the list also suggests a variety of models in size and purpose. If you do not plan to stay overnight, then for a short outing into nature it is enough to buy a tourist seat pad: there are many parks and recreation areas, where such a little thing is a compact way to sit comfortably.

tourist seat pad

How to select a tourist mat based on the material?

Modern technologies make it possible to create products with minimum weight and dimensions, with all the technical characteristics necessary for a tourist.

How to select a tourist mat

Foamed polymers

There are three types of this material:

  1. Non-crosslinked polyethylene foam is the cheapest among all those on the market. It has large pores visible from the side. Available in a wide range of sizes and thicknesses. The degree of thermal insulation directly depends on the thickness.
  2. Foiled polyethylene foam reduces heat loss by reflecting infrared waves from the foil. You will find this travel mat material in almost any sporting goods store.
  3. Isolon, aka cross-linked polyethylene foam, is familiar to everyone in the post-Soviet space. There are differences in density. The standard size is 180x60x0.8 cm. It is better to select a mat for outdoor recreation with a 50-80 kg / m3 density.

Ethylene vinyl acetate is a fundamentally new polymer, also found with the markings such as EVA or evazote. It is head and shoulders above all the listed options in terms of thermal insulation and strength. It is usually produced in black and varies in thickness from 3 to 20 mm. This is the best choice for the cold season, although the product itself takes up a lot of space.

mat EVA

Inflatable mats

There is also a differentiation according to the type of outer shell material used:

  1. Rubberized fabric smooths out uneven ground well, has an average resistance to punctures, and is cheap. Ideal for the warm season, because it has a small level of protection from the cold.
  2. Models made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) handle uneven surfaces better. However, they are more prone to punctures. Free air circulation inside the product creates significant heat loss, therefore they are not suitable for winter.

If you are looking for a travel mat for a weekend trip or a visit to the nearest park, then you can safely take any of these options. You need to select more reliable equipment for longer trips.


Compared to the “foam”, self-inflatable mats practically do not take up space at all. But, as soon as you lay it out, you will get a ready-made place to sleep – comfortable and without pebbles crashing into your back. It will smooth out all the unevenness of the soil and is sufficiently resistant to punctures. It is light and has decent thermal insulation. There are lightweight options available with perforations, which almost completely eliminate the main drawback of this type of mats – their heaviness.

Self-inflatable mat

What kind of tourist mat to choose?

The final choice depends only on the operating conditions. The price does not matter a lot here, since the main thing of importance is the purpose of use. Therefore, focus on the appropriateness of the application than the budget:

  1. Those who go hiking once or twice a year do not need expensive equipment. A classic polyethylene foam option, selected in thickness according to the season, is enough. If you go hiking in the summer with a tent, and set it up on a soft surface, then a thin mat will suffice. Nonetheless, the thicker the mat, the more weight you have to carry.
  2. Inflatables are great for short trips where you also want to swim. These are great travel mats for camping and lazy stays in the water, plus they’re cheap, so you can save a lot of money.
  3. Self-inflating take up less space than regular foam ones. When unfolded, they guarantee a comfortable sleep even on an uneven and cold surface due to excellent thermal insulation qualities. However, be prepared to spend an arm and a leg on them.
backpack with a tourist mat

All in all, foam mats will be sufficient for short-term hikes not far from the city, whereas for long-distance multi-day hikes with camping, it is better to take self-inflating models.
Articles about a travel bag and best headlight flashlight will be useful.

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