Self-inflating foam-filled mats are either very thin or quite heavy. An air-filled mat can be much thicker and lighter, but the design usually suffers from internal air circulation, which can make it a cold mat to sleep on. Pacific Outdoor Equipment have attacked this problem by affixing strips of a thin layer of synthetic insulation (which they call 'Zonal Air Loft Thermo insulation') to the inside of the top surface. The theory is that there will be enough of a thermal gradient across the insulation that the cooling due to air circulation will not be significant.
In order to minimise the weight of the mat, they have only applied the insulation to a (large) central diamond region, as seen in the photo here. As that is the area where most of your torso lies, the idea is reasonable.
We tried to measure the thickness of the insulation layer with a micrometer, but this was not really successful. It came out to about 0.6 mm (0.024") - but that was fully compressed by the micrometer and not a really meaningful result. (The fabric itself came out to 0.3 mm thick for the two layers, which is quite thin!) When the mat is in use and the top surface warms up, it seems that the insulation layer does relax a bit and fluff out. You can actually feel it fluffed up. That is normal - but even so the layer looks very thin. POE do not specify the width of the insulation strips, and we did notice some variation in this width between mats. The variation was not large enough to worry anyone, however.
POE claim a size of 51 x 122 x 6 cm for the 2/3 mat; we measured it as being 47 x 123 x 8 cm inflated fully, but this was with no load on the tubes. You will not get this thickness when you lie on the mat! The reduction in width is due to the way the tubes blow up: it is a bit wider at lower inflations. At reasonable inflation we found that a thickness of about 44 mm was a very generous estimate over a broad area. Blow the mat up too hard (to get greater thickness), and it gets a bit uncomfortable. Measure the clearance between your hips and the ground at a comfortable pressure and it will be much less. Even so, it is thicker than the average layer of foam.
We ended up with four mats between us (see below as to why), although one was supposed to be a hand-made prototype. The dry weights were 307 g, 317, 374 g and 371 g. POE claim 306 g on their web site. POE explained that it was probably due to a mistake in the factory: they have two very similar fabrics, with the lighter one meant to be used for these air mats and the heavier one for Dry Bags. They think the wrong roll of fabric was used in this case. This means you might want to check the weight of the mat when you are buying it to see what you are getting.
The mats seem quite air-tight: one was inflated fairly hard and left for a week indoors. There was little or no apparent loss of pressure.
- Technical Details
- Field Testing
- Sliding Around
- Possible Improvements
- Specifications for 2/3 length mat
# WORDS: 2020
# PHOTOS: 8