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Holes in sleeping mat - normal?


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Hey all,

My (almost brand new) sleeping mat started losing air about a week or two into a month long backpacking trip. First I thought I might be at fault for not checking the ground thoroughly enough at one time or another (the mat was always in direct contact with the ground, no tent or similar), but a "bathtub test" revealed the holes to be all located at the seams between the segments of the mat, where sharp stones and similar objects wouldn't reach anyway. I found about a dozen small holes in the first quarter of one side alone.

The placement and multitude of the holes leads me to the question if I may have mistreated the mat in any way I'm not aware of, or if it's simply a matter of low-quality production?

Further, what would you recommend me to do: Fix the holes as best I can, or invest in a new mat?

I appreciate your help!

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Michael aka Mac

And so it begins,  the infamous Murphy's Law...

One of but many reasons I was asking you about the gear you bought was to help to prevent certain situations like this one.  Hopefully, lesson learned...

What you are experiencing Alex is one of 5 things, and this is true for everyone. 

1) you are overweight and blew the seems ( since you're not lets go to option 2)  

2) Although it may be brand new to you, it may have been sitting on a shelf in the sun     or hot warehouse for many years and began to deteriorate.

3) Poor workmanship on the seams.

4) If not self inflating, and you actually pump or blow air into it,  it was given too much air (overfilled) and seams  blew.

5) Ur just SOL and got a dud.

Some of the things in the Backpacking Checklist i linked included  Duct tape, tent repair kit, tent floor protector. Within these kits you have the means to do some patchwork.

Another possible solution is using a can of Tire Flat Fix. This is what one uses when they get like a nail in their tire. Just open the valve to mattress, insert tube tip of can into it and empty the can.  This should help seal up some of the wholes inside of it in addition to using sealers on the outside.

Now to answer your question... Your pad, although u can do some patch work on it,   is  Toast, finished, done, Hasta La Vista Baby... The above will buy you some time until you get a new pad. ( when u get home u may be able to get either your money back or a replacement pad for this item)

Now although an air mattress is more comfortable, things like this can happen.  A foam mattress pad on the other hand , does not have this issue and can be used with or without an air mattress. The more money you spend on a well known brand, the less likely this will happen. 

If we discussed what you were buying ahead of time I would have suggested  getting a self inflating air mattress pad that had separate tube structures so that if one was punctured, the remaining inflated isolated tubes would keep you above ground. They have multi layers and seems too.

Last, don't forget why i mentioned bringing a X-large Leaf garbage bag with you, as in a situation like this, you can fill it with leaves and grass and soft material to raise you off the ground in your tent. Never sleep directly on leaves and grass without a barrier of plastic,  there are an assortment of rather tiny bugs etc.  that house in this vegetation.

Just remember, the higher off the ground you are the warmer, and more comfortable your pad will be. Some self inflating air mattress also have foam layers for added comfort.

If you go the foam pad route, thicker is better for a good night's sleep. You also guaranteed not to go through this again.

as a reminder

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 6/10/2022 at 8:56 PM, Michael aka Mac said:

One of but many reasons I was asking you about the gear you bought was to help to prevent certain situations like this one.  Hopefully, lesson learned...

Lesson learned, and feeling appropriately chastised for my hubris. Will (hopefully) do better next time round...

Point #4 (overfilling) gave me pause, and a slightly bad conscience. That wasn't something I'd been aware I should be careful of, so it might really be at least partially my fault. Again, mistake noted for the next mat. I just wrote to the manufacturer to see if I can get a refund, so fingers crossed for that.

Mac, I'm curious: Why do you recommend a self-inflating air mattress? From the resources I checked, a normal insulated air mattress (such as the NEMO Ultralight Insulated Sleeping Pad that was recently reviewed here) seems best suited for my needs. Why do you endorse the self-inflating ones?

Anyhoo, I'm a couple of lessons smarter now, so thanks for your help. Cheers!

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Michael aka Mac

You are not being chastised,  I am only trying to indicate that one does not need to reinvent the wheel,  all they have to do is ask someone that knows.

I personally have countless mattress pads, self inflating pads, and several actual air mattresses.  Camping equipment is a personal thing, and what is best for one might not be great for another.  When it comes to someone like yourself going on their 1st big adventure, I try to suggest gear that is easiest to use, and that is the least likely to break down or have mechanical failures.

Point 4 of possible over inflating is not going to happen with a self inflating mattress pad.  You wont have the scenario where your hand/foot pump fails, or your battery operated air pump going dead with no spare batteries on hand.  I can attest to the fact that some of my self inflating mattress pads are still intact and self inflates some 20 years later.

The only 100 % reliable pad would be a pure foam pad. No inflating, no pump needed, no huffing and puffing to fill, just place on ground , unravel that's it.

Which is best for you?  Honestly I am not sure I am not you, but for me, if doing your trip,  my 1st priority would be comfort ( I have a bad back) so a thick pad.

2nd priority - fastest setup ( when going on a trip for a few days, having to spend an extra 5-10 mins to set something up, isn't too bad, but a 6 week trip equates to up to 7 hours of setup for a single gear piece (and you have other gear like tents , stoves, sleeping bags). 

3rd, durability, as I sure do not want to wake up in the middle of the night with a sore back and a deflated pad and the unfortunate reality that now I have to go back to town to either fix or replace it.

But then again, your young and at your prime while I am, well lets' just say not. You may be perfectly OK with just a pad.

& Alex, to make you grin from cheek to cheek,  I am in the process of getting an article I wrote published,  where a skilled and knowledgeable outdoorsman like myself ended up (and not intentionally) in the one environment that none of my gear would function (on an island with only sand as far as the eye can see).  Every piece of gear that I had  broke or malfunctioned.

I was informed by the Ranger that the federal land I was going to had trees and grassy areas, but when I got there, nothing but sand. I was already at the point of no return, and forced to stay the night, and I knew it was going to be rough, as the sand was going to be a major issue with the gear I had. If I only knew where I was going to be, I would have brought gear that was suited for that environment.

So Alex, it happens to the best of us...

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Points taken and acknowledged. Personally, my first priority is weight, and in the weight / warmth department, the regular inflatable mats have the self-inflating ones firmly beat (at least as far as I've seen so far).

Ease of set-up was not a huge issue for me, the mat I had took about a minute total to set up.

Durability is of course an issue (as I got to feel first-hand). The best mats in this regard are closed-cell foam mats, but their drawbacks are too important for me to buy one of those. Do the self-inflating mats offer an advantage over normal ones here?

All in all, I'm tending to getting another inflatable pad. My - severely limited - experience sleeping on them has been good overall (right up to the moment it started losing air, but let's disregard that for the moment lol). To limit the risk of that happening again, I'd pay the extra bucks to have a good name on it. Right now I'm tending towards the new NEMO Tensor pad; the review in TG magazine and a couple of others convinced me it's probably a good fit. Do you see a problem with that or have a better recommendation? If so, I'll be glad to hear it.

As to your story, I'm intrigued! Would you mind sharing some more details, or letting us know when the article is published?

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Michael aka Mac
41 minutes ago, Scodischarge said:

As to your story, I'm intrigued! Would you mind sharing some more details, or letting us know when the article is published?

Will definitely give a shout out when the article is published. It was kind of like being told to bring camping gear for summer in Death Valley, but they send ya to Antarctica. If I knew I was going to be in like a desert like environment, with sand as far as the eye could see, I would have brought my military desert surplus gear instead of my camping gear.   The zippers on the tents and sleeping bags are designed to handle things like sand getting in them, and are far less likely to wreck all the gear. Also would have brought a different radio, and stove  etc.  

But seeing that I was accidently mislead and misinformed about my whereabouts , I have forever since, for these past 20+ years, try to get the information I am searching for from multiple sources and multiple people. 

With that said, the Nemo you were looking at is an amazing pad, but if it were me, I would also look at other reviews of other pads from other websites and this website, and hopefully this will prevent you from having the same experience I had on that Island. 

"Water water everywhere and not a drop to drink" Lines from “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. ~A sailor on a becalmed ship, is surrounded by salt water that he cannot drink.


 Do the self-inflating mats offer an advantage over normal ones here?

No, not in this context.


the review in TG magazine and a couple of others convinced me it's probably a good fit. Do you see a problem with that or have a better recommendation? If so, I'll be glad to hear it.

Neither have a problem with that nor  do i have a "better" recommendation based on what I have tried/owned, thought tbh, none of my sleeping pads/mattresses are as quite expensive as that one, although all of my pads/mats combined cost significantly more then that Nemo.

Alex,  remember that the R value of mats are additive, meaning 1 mat on top of another mat increase their total R value  arithmetically. So in my case, I will use an ultralightweight pad in addition to mattress pad to reach the R factor rating desired.

Again each to their own, everyone is different with different focuses on their equipment, and how they use it.

MOST IMPORTANTLY ALEX,  I am proud of you man. I tip my hat to you with regard to your courage in this endeavor, the intense research you have done, and most importantly, your willingness to ask for help and advice from others.

Not everyone does even a fraction of your investigative research, despite the fact they should...


That is what I was preparing you for, the unknown... 

You are going to remember this for the rest of your life... Just don't skip a "once in a lifetime experience" while you are on the trip due to the detailed "budget" you set originally for this trip.  You may find an opportunity that arises that you may regret not doing... I went off my "path" in Zurich Switzerland, and decided to spend a day with a Ministers daughter who showed me around town, introduced me to her friends, then brought me later that evening to a concert hall-like establishment where her friend was playing the Cello with other musicians.

My original plans was delayed by a single day, but what I got from it was a lifetime of wonderful memories and life experience.  You may find someone like yourself on their own 'quest' and the two of you could either go your separate ways or join up and start an all new adventure...

God Speed Alex

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