Aerobed Pakmat

The Aerobed camp mattress inflates with a hand pump, and requires no batteries, so it makes your car camping trip a bit more eco-friendly.
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Long known for its queen-sized mattresses with electric or battery-powered pumps, Aerobed is making a foray into a more eco-friendly alternative designed with campers in mind. The Pakmat is a camp mattress made of phthalate-free polyester material, and it stores in its own hand pump case.

While many backpacking pads and inflatable mattresses weigh 1 to 2 pounds, the Pakmat leans more toward the car camping ilk since its total package is nearly 4 pounds. The mattress alone is more than 2.5 pounds, while the two-piece, tube-shaped pump is close to 1.5 pounds. There are luxury camp mattresses from industry players that weigh anywhere from 3 to 7 pounds and, admittedly, have seen more trunk time than trail time. Some of those have cushier materials and self-inflating capabilities, which can give them a bit more cache than the Pakmat.

Aerobed’s mattress is composed of a polyester material and does not have any extra cushioning material. Once inflated, the mattress has a ridged pattern and internal horizontal channel bed construction that provides body support and helps make the mattress more comfortable to sleep on. The material and construction also proved to be sturdy when we jumped on it.

The hand pump is a two-piece cylinder with a valve on one end, which locks in place to the inflating nozzle on the mattress, and a handle on the other end. The tube has illustrated four-step directions on how to use the pump to inflate the Pakmat, primarily showing how the pump nozzle expands out and attaches to the mattress.

Unfortunately, getting the two pieces dislodged from each other was a bit of a wrestling match if the latches weren’t unlined just right. Also, holding the cylinder to pump it is a bit tricky. When pumping, the in and out action of the pump was not very smooth and stalled occasionally if we didn’t have a good grip. Rather than being able to pump the handle with one hand and hold the cylinder base with the other, we found the cylinder was too wide for smaller hands to get a solid grip. We improvised a bit and held it between our thighs and found that stabilized it for pumping.

While Aerobed’s packaging says it can be pumped in about 60 seconds, we found that to be optimistic if one can’t get a good grip on it. Actually, it usually took us two to three minutes to inflate the mat, but we thought that was still an acceptable amount of time.

Also, if a backpacker wanted to use the Pakmat on a backcountry trip, but ditch the pump, it could be inflated by mouth in a pinch. But there are a couple drawbacks. First, the nozzle is flush with the mattress and it’s hard to keep a consistent grip on it with your mouth. Second, it takes a heck of a lot of breath, and time, to fill up the mattress (which is 6.5 feet long), but if you want to shed nearly 1.5 pounds of pump, it can be done and makes the mattress much more compact.

Once we had it pumped up and settled in for a night’s sleep, the Pakmat was fairly comfortable. At more than 6 feet in length, it’s versatile for a variety of heights -- and at 26 inches wide, it can also accommodate a range of body widths, too. At 5 inches high, we liked the extra clearance off the ground -- similar to what you get from a larger air mattress -- and something you don’t normally encounter with a lot of camp mattresses. Also, we didn’t slip and slide off it during the night -- always a plus to aid in a good night’s sleep.

The pump also has four illustrations on the side showing how to release the air, roll up the mat and fit it back in the container. The mattress nozzle has a small flap inside it, so when it’s time to deflate, it can be pushed out of the way, and air is expelled quickly. Actually, this was one of the very few mattresses we’ve used that allowed us to remove all of the air. After being rolled up, it stores in the pump cylinder, which locks and becomes a carrying case with a handle. We thought we’d be wrestling to get the rolled-up mattress into the case, but found it slipped in with clearance to allow the second cylinder piece to slide in place and lock together.

Kudos to Aerobed for devising an alternative pumping system that doesn’t need electricity or batteries like the majority of its products. While its eco-friendly mindedness is a plus, we see the Pakmat as a compact and more portable alternative for car camping, rather than a mat for backpacking…unless you’re looking for ways to strengthen your back muscles by carrying extra weight.

SNEWS® Rating: 3.5 hands clapping (1 to 5 hands clapping possible, with 5 clapping hands representing functional and design perfection)

Suggested Retail: $99.99

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