Gear Review: Aerobed Pakmat Camping Air Mattress

If you're going to sleep in the frontcountry, you might as well spoil yourself.

I’ll admit it: I’m genuinely envious of my friends’ full-sized air mattresses for car camping. They ridicule me for being masochistic, with my 10-ounce, 1/4-inch thick backpacking pad. Enter the Pakmat, which, although it’s too heavy for backpacking, offers five inches of plush comfort in a package that’s way smaller, lighter, and more manageable that other blow-up, car camping mattresses. In fact, it’s small enough (19x5x5) for airline travel: I tossed it in my suitcase for a weekend trip to the Rockies, and there was still plenty of room for my girlfriend’s hairdryer, tent booties, and sundry other gear.

To set it up, just unfurl the pad, secure the plastic pump (which doubles as a protective carrying tube) to the nozzle on the bed, and inflate it by sliding one section of the tube back and forth inside of the other. It took me a few minutes to figure out the nozzle system on the first try, but once I get the hang of it, I could set it up sans headlamp on a moonless night in about 60 seconds. Unlike most of the other Aerobed mattresses, there are no batteries required, just elbow grease.

As for comfort, it’s tough to go wrong with 5” of home-blown cushion. A caution to those of you with significant others; make sure their sleeping pad is as cushy as yours, or you’ll end up getting booted in the middle of the night.

Drawbacks: The pad lacks insulation, so don’t use it in temps below freezing. And be sure to pack your own patch kit (like this REI one), because it doesn’t come with one.

Bottom line: If you frequent the frontcountry, participate in assisted treks, or just like to be comfortable at basecamp, the Pakmat can satisfy your nocturnal needs.