Around camp, keep the pad away from fires, stoves, and abrasive surfaces, and minimize its exposure to ultraviolet rays and DEET-based insect repellents.
Give a self-inflater plenty of time to puff up. Open the valve and unroll your pad as soon as you get to camp. By bedtime it should be nice and cushy, requiring only a few puffs to cap it off. Try to minimize the amount of air you blow into a pad. Your breath carries spit and water vapor, and moisture ultimately breaks down even the sturdiest foam. After each outing, a quick sponge bath will remove encrusted dirt. Allow ample time to dry, and store the pad unrolled with the valve open. Closing the valve may trap moisture inside and cause mildew.
Because self-inflaters occasionally succumb to sticks and sparks, always pack a good repair kit. Small holes patch nicely in the field, but a quarter-size puncture or a large tear requires factory attention or a replacement. Slap on duct tape only as a last resort in the field because it leaves a gooey residue that inhibits permanent repair.
To fix a punctured pad, the following "hot pot" method works best:
- Set a quart of water to boil in a flat-bottomed pot.
- Wipe the pad clean and saturate the area around the puncture with water. Let the pad air dry.
- Open the valve. This is very important because you can ruin a pad if you try this repair with the valve closed!
- Squeeze a liberal amount of Seam Grip (or any generic contact cement) into the exposed foam, work it into the material, then spread a thinner coat around the hole.
- Once the water boils, peel the backing from the patch and smooth it over the puncture.
- Place the hot pot over the patch and leave it for at least 30 minutes. The heat-sealed bond should hold permanently.