Sleeping soundly and comfortably whilst camping is the most important thing to ensure the rest of your holiday runs smoothly, so choosing the right Self Inflating Mat for you and your family is vital.
Although there are several other alternatives out there ( the more traditional Airbeds and Folding Camp Beds are still very common options ), Self Inflating Mats ( or SIMS ) have become very popular in the last few years due to their ease of use and durability.S
So what exactly is a self inflating mat and how does it work?
It’s a layer of foam encased in an airtight shell with a valve attached ( the double versions usually have 2 valves ) The mat comes rolled up tight, to use it, simply open the valve, the foam will then naturally expand and suck air into the mat. When it’s fully inflated just close the valve and you have a comfortable, insulated layer to sleep on.
If you prefer a bit of a firmer sleeping surface, simply blow into the valve to inflate it a bit more. This may also be needed the first time you use the mat as it may need a bit of encouragement on first use due to having been packed tightly from the factory.
Why should I get one of these over an airbed?
Some people prefer an airbed because of the height it gives you off the ground, however the main advantage of a SIM is that you don’t need a pump, which makes it quick and easy to put up. Also, if it’s chilly, you will be sleeping on a layer of foam which provides insulation from the cold ground, as opposed to an airbed where you are essentially lying on several inches of cold air between 2 thin layers of plastic.
Which thickness SIM should I buy?
Self inflating mats are available in various thicknesses. The thicker you get, the more insulated it will be, however the pack size will also be larger. Thicknesses range between 2.5cm and 15cm, so depending on your storage/transport space and your budget, you have a fair amount of choice.
A 2.5cm or 3cm mat is ideal for summer use, The smaller pack size makes it easy to pack in or strap to a rucksack, they’re also ideal for kids to use for camping or sleepovers. If size and weight is paramount then there are 3/4 length mats available, great for trekking or for stuffing in your bag when you have to hike miles from the car to the festival.
For most family campers travelling in a car or a van, if pack size is less of an issue and you are prepared to spend a little more to ensure you’re not lying counting sheep all night then there are luxury 12cm and 15cm options available. The double options of these thicker luxury items feel more like a luxury mattress to sleep on, and although they clock up at over £200, if you have trouble sleeping whilst camping or have a bad back, one of these could be the difference between camping heaven or camping hell!
A couple of years ago when these luxury SIMs first came out from Vango and Outwell, here at World of Camping we were a bit hesitant to bring many in as we wondered if people would spend so much on a mat. However they sold like hot cakes and ran out early in the season, we underestimated how much people value a good night’s sleep!
The majority of campers tend to go for the mid range options which as well as having a good balance between pack size and depth are pretty reasonable in price. For example the Outwell Sleepin Single 7.5cm Self Inflating Mat and the Vango Comfort 7.5 Single Self Inflating Mat both coming in at less than £50 each.
Will one of these fit in the back of my campervan?
Many smaller campervans such as VWT4s and VWT5s and various other van conversions will use rock n roll beds or have bed areas narrower than a double mat. Vango have thought about this and produced a narrower double called the Vango California Mattress Self Inflating Mat . This mat is 100cm wide so is the perfect solution for many with a small double bed space in the camper.
How do I pack away my Self Inflating Mat?
It’s easy! Just open the valves, then roll the mat from the opposite end, towards the valves. Roll it tightly, take your time ( if you rush it you’ll end up doing it twice! ), kneel on it to keep it squashed down as you roll so you can get it as compact as possible. Mats will either come in a carry bag or with straps with which to keep it tightly wrapped for the journey home. Mike from Outwell demonstrates this perfectly in the video here….
How to roll up a self inflating mat | Innovative Family Camping - YouTube
How do I know the dimensions and pack size of these mats?
Just click on the ‘Specifications’ tab in the listing on the World of Camping Website where you will find dimensions of the unrolled SIM and pack sizes listed.
As always, if you have any queries at all just drop us an email or give one of our team a call on 01209 203220. Monday – Friday 9am – 5pm.
For some, insects and creepy crawlies are just an inevitable part of the camping experience and many don’t really bat an eyelid. For others however, spiders, flies and mosquitos in and around the tent can be a reason for real worry, or even a reason to not even go in the first place!
Whether it’s your blood type, your diet, what you’re wearing or some other factor, some people are just more appealing to insects than others, these reasons are largely a mystery, but if you’re one of those people you will know all about it!
There are various products available that may help or be of interest, including – The Lumi Mosquito Light hangs in your tent and fries the bugs. Mosquito Hitting Swatters are like little tennis bats. There are also Mosquito Nets to go over your bed or just to go over your head in the form of a Head Net! These will help you along the way but there are plenty of other things that can be done to keep the little critters at bay.
For this reason World of Camping have put together a list of hints and tips to try and make your camping holiday about you and your family enjoying the great outdoors as opposed to be scared to go out in it!
Get a tent or awning with a sewn in groundsheet. If they can’t get in, they can’t get you!
Your pitch – Avoid wet areas and places with tall grass as insects and bugs tend to love these. If you’re camping abroad mosquitos can be a particular problem, so although that spot on the bank of the lake may look tempting, maybe think again!
Try and find somewhere with a bit of a breeze. You don’t have to camp on the edge of a cliff but the most sheltered spot in the shade may also be appealing to flying insects
Use citronella candles around your camp area. The oil is supposed to work by masking scents that are attractive to insects. This is a scientific talking point and not everybody agrees it works, some swear by it though and it won’t do any harm, and it smells nice!
Zip the tent up when you are inside or outside to try and keep creepy crawlies and insects away
Be hygienic – Keep the camping area clean. Bin food containers, dispose of leftover food and take rubbish directly to the campsite bins
Clean up any food or drink spillages swiftly to prevent insects swarming around. Wasps inparticular love a fizzy drink!
Pack insect repellent. There are numerous sprays you can buy or a quick online search will come up with a host of natural concoctions. A lot of sprays can be used on clothing instead of direct on the skin if you don’t like the thought of rubbing it on your skin.
Wear long sleeved shirts and trousers, especially after dusk. You may feel it’s too hot to do so, but this is the time when the mosquitos come out, so if you’re spending the evening sat outside the tent,wrap up.
Tuck your trousers in your socks. Your kids probably think you’re uncool anyway, so prove them right with this little fashion move! If the mozzies can’t get in, they can’t bite your legs!
Some insects are apparently more attracted to dark clothing. Make the mood more Summery by keeping your clothes in lighter colours and keep the bugs away at the same time.
Go fragrance free – smelly perfumes, creams and deodorants can attract the bugs, so try and use the fragrance free options for camping.
Eat the right food. Again, there are scientifically unfounded claims, but plenty of individual reports that eating garlic and Marmite (high in Vitamin B) can repel mozzies. Don’t overdo it on the garlic though unless you want to repel humans aswell……
So you packed your caravan away in storage, on your drive or down the end of your garden at the end of September after your last weekend away when the chills started to come in, now the evenings are getting lighter it may be time to start thinking about preparing it for that first outing of the year.
To make sure you and your family are safe and happy for the season in your home from home it’s best to give it a full check up, therefore we recommend you examine;
Water and damp can be a major enemy to the humble caravan.
Start by giving it a good airing on a nice clear day. Check the walls to see if there are any soft spots or suspicious stains or mould. And check for black marks around the windows and doors.
If you spot any of these symptoms then working through a few steps should help towards sorting the problem out
Wear suitable clothing – waterproof gloves, overalls and a face mask (for those nasty fumes)
Firstly, make sure you wear suitable protective clothing – overalls, gloves and a face mask would be a good start
Mix a simple solution of warm water and washing up liquid
Wash the affected areas with a cloth and scrubbing brush if necessary
Dry the area once the mould has been removed
Add a solution of 1 tablespoon of clove oil to 1 litre of water in a spray bottle, this should help prevent the mould from reappearing
Put your awning up before your first outing too. These can get mouldy too over the winter. Give it a clean and a spray with some mould inhibitor
Hopefully you will have drained your caravan’s water system before winter. However it’s best to make doubly sure and get rid of any musty smells. We recommend you re-sterilise, flush and refill the tank so you start the season off afresh.
Also, give your fridge a once over with some fresh water and bicarbonate of soda for a nice freshen up.
Also be sure to check the wheels and tyres of your caravan. Make sure all bolts are tightened correctly, the tread is legal and the tyres are inflated to the correct pressure.
Your gas system and bottles will also need checking over. Exchange your bottles for refills if necessary. Check your regulators are in working order and check all gas hoses for cracks and replace if necessary.
You should be ready for the road. Have a great season in your Caravan!
Part of the fun of a camping trip and staying self sufficient is cooking your own food. Done responsibly this is no more dangerous than it is at home, but there are a few dangers to look out for to make sure you get no more ill side effects than indigestion from eating too much home made chili!
If you’re cooking on site, under no circumstances do so inside your tent, and if you’re cooking outside do so well away from your tent, even using a covered porch area has it’s risks.
Carbon Monoxide is invisible, you can’t smell it or taste it. You don’t know it’s there. It’s produced when fuels like petrol, gas or charcoal are burned incompletely. This may be as a result of an appliance being faulty or just as a by-product of it’s normal function. Barbecues are the worst culprits and will produce carbon monoxide even when they are working well.
What are the symptoms?
Carbon Monoxide poisoning can cause various symptoms. Headaches, dizziness, nausea and vomiting, weakness, drowsiness, and continued exposure can lead to death. Disposable barbecues, because of their portable nature, are most often the cause of incidents occurring.
Sadly there have been many cases of people dying on campsites after using disposable or small portable barbecues. Not necessarily from using them inside the tent, even leaving a smouldering bbq in the porch of a tent can be extremely dangerous as harmful gas falls and hugs the ground where people are sleeping. So even if you have used a bbq and think you have put it out completely, don’t chance it. Completely extinguish the fire, then dispose of the ash safely away from your camping area.
These things are perfectly safe when used and disposed of properly so don’t be put off using them. Just be sensible when you do and there will be no cause for concern.
Never take a barbecue inside a tent, awning, motorhome or caravan. Even after it looks like it’s gone out – Take a few minutes to extinguish it and dispose of it responsibly. If you need to heat the tent, buy an electric heater and use electric hook up, otherwise, wrap up warm!
Never cook inside your tent or awning
Never use a fuel-burning appliance ( Gas or Petrol ) to heat your tent or awning – Unless you have a permanently fitted purpose built heater fitted (and approved) into a caravan or motorhome
Keep your tent vents open to keep air moving – This will help if somebody is cooking outside or close to your tent, especially wise in situations like music festivals where camping can be extremely packed in and cramped
Have gas appliances in motorhomes or caravans regularly serviced
Take a Carbon Monoxide alarm with you – Think of it like a life jacket. you probably won’t need it but it’s peace of mind and it could save your life
Although barbeques are worst, there is still a risk from cooking with a gas stove inside a tent or awning. It may be raining outside, but many campsites have designated covered areas to cook in. If not, wait until the rain stops, or put a coat on and get one of the kids to hold a brolly up over the cooker , it’s all part of the camping experience.
What if I don’t want to get wet?
Alternatively, and increasingly so, there are more and more Event Shelters popping up on campsites across the country. Many people take these along to cook under or just to use as communal areas when there are 2 or 3 groups of friends camping together. They usually have open or removable sides so can be used safely as a covered area to cook under. Click here for some examples.
Tarps are another good, and inexpensive option to provide some outside cover to cook under and are handy to have around to provide cover and shelter in all kinds of camping and trekking scenarios.
What about my wood burning stove in my tepee tent?
There are some tents which are designed to be able to used in conjunction with a wood burning stove. The Robens Outback range of Tipi tents are a good example of these. These tents have a stovepipe port built in so that purpose built stoves like the Denali Tent Stove can be used and any smoke and fumes are flued safely out of the tent so are fine to use. It’s still advisable to use a Carbon Monoxide Detector for security and peace of mind though.