stretchers vs. self inflating mats

Submitted: Monday, Mar 21, 2011 at 10:28
ThreadID: 85132 Views:16478 Replies:12 FollowUps:13
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Hi All,

I'd like some feedback from the people that have travelled with kids, namely the simpson crossing in July.

I have an issue.....I have 3 kids. I was planning on using fold up stretchers for this trip (30 days with 20 set-ups/pack-downs).

Main reason from the stretchers was to get off the cold floor, but have since been told that self inflating mats are better for insulatng against cold floor than stretcher. Have used self inflating mats before, but not stretchers, so I have no experience.

Another issue, If i get the stretchers, I have to look at a new tent, becasue 5 stretchers will not fit in the Oztent RV-5, even with the tag-along attached (I tried on saturday....FAIL).

All feedback is appreciated.

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Reply By: Member - Mark (Tamworth NSW) - Monday, Mar 21, 2011 at 10:52

Monday, Mar 21, 2011 at 10:52
You must have a very good self inflating mattress. I can feel the cold ground on a "$80 on special self inflating mattresses", that I don't feel on a stretcher off the ground. My self inflaters partially deflate overnight though.

Never had the opportunity to test a Thermarest brand though and my 90kg would result in a lot more deflation than a child would. You have to ask are your kids squirmers, would they wriggle off a self inflating mattress during the night.
Not crossed the Simpson, but have travelled to Dalhousie and central Oz in July though, on nights down to -3. My teenage kids slept on stretchers.

Deflating a self inflating mattress takes longer than packing up a strecher, though setting up the reverse is true. Occupy about the same amount of space.
AnswerID: 448821

Follow Up By: taps - Monday, Mar 21, 2011 at 11:07

Monday, Mar 21, 2011 at 11:07
Mark, never thought about the "wriggling". They are indeed wrigglers, and in the past they have shifted off mattresses.

The new oztrail and roman stretchers are set up and dismantled in about 15 seconds. they're brilliant.

I am swaying towards the stretchers, but I'm then left with the new tent option.

Oztrail have a new touring tent that's suitable, but pack's down to 900x800x120.
with an 80L waeco fridge in the back of the cruiser, there's no room for that size, and on the roof, I'd have put stuff on top of the tent.

I saw the southern cross tent, most impressed until I found out the price.....$2K plus, and more with the awning. We don't do enuf travelling to justify spending that much.
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Reply By: Hairy (WA) - Monday, Mar 21, 2011 at 11:17

Monday, Mar 21, 2011 at 11:17
I dont reckon you can beat swags if your going to be setting and packing up so often.
My kids use stretchers if we're setting up for a couple of nights , but if its just 1 night they use swags.

AnswerID: 448823

Follow Up By: taps - Monday, Mar 21, 2011 at 11:20

Monday, Mar 21, 2011 at 11:20
Mine would be scared.

there's a few night's where we'd be setting up for a few nights, like at Dalhousie.

I'd be fine in a swag, but the mrs wouldn't be keen either. This will be her first touring trip, so I have to make it "comfortable" for her, to be given the green light for future trips.
FollowupID: 721077

Reply By: nick b - Monday, Mar 21, 2011 at 11:18

Monday, Mar 21, 2011 at 11:18
Gooday Taps ; i use a self inflating mattress in my swag ,as i have crook back , works well , so kids should have no problems . i send about $ 80 on it . but as mentioned it WILL get very cold that time of year . when i camped up there i would make shore i had plenty under me , a extra mattress i would think would work well .
good luck
Cheers Nick b

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AnswerID: 448824

Reply By: Member - Jack - Monday, Mar 21, 2011 at 11:19

Monday, Mar 21, 2011 at 11:19
My wife and I use self inflating mattresses and find them comfortable enough to have taken them around Oz on our big lap. Our Roman sleeping bags (-5 degrees) have loops at the back that can go over the mattress and thereby 'tie' the bag to the mattress, so that you do not slide off. This may help with the wrigglers.

I am unsure what you meant by the Oztent 'tag-along'. My RV4 has the peaked extensions and side panels, and when that is put up will fit another 4 adults in some form of comfort. They may prove to be an option.

The hurrieder I go, the behinder I get. (Lewis Carroll-Alice In Wonderland)

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Follow Up By: taps - Monday, Mar 21, 2011 at 11:25

Monday, Mar 21, 2011 at 11:25
Jack, the tag-along is a new thingy they've come up with. It attaches to the from the annexe and give a further 1.9m of covered space with the proper floor, but, as you'd already know, the ends drop down at such a steep angle, there's not much room for stretchers. Self inf mats are ok here, but I'm a little worried.

How long does it take you to set up the RV4 with the sides and front ???

Lats time I did it, It took me close to 40 minutes....go to woe
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Follow Up By: Member - Jack - Monday, Mar 21, 2011 at 16:15

Monday, Mar 21, 2011 at 16:15
If we do the full setup with the fly, both sides and the front panel, it would take about 10 minutes, all 'pegged down'.

But my wife and I have had plenty of practice, having 'Oztented' our way around Australia. We only do the 'deluxe' setup if we are staying for a couple of days.

Just need a bit more practice.


The hurrieder I go, the behinder I get. (Lewis Carroll-Alice In Wonderland)

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Reply By: Member - DickyBeach - Monday, Mar 21, 2011 at 11:23

Monday, Mar 21, 2011 at 11:23
Having used both I'd go with the stretchers BUT make sure the OzTent floor is strong enough that the stretcher legs won't puncture it.

AnswerID: 448826

Reply By: Wilko (Parkes NSW) - Monday, Mar 21, 2011 at 11:52

Monday, Mar 21, 2011 at 11:52
Hi Taps,

I use stretcher beds in my RV5 (only 2 though). They are far superior to self inflating mattress IMHO and I get up in the morning and actually feel like Id had a decent nights sleep lol.

The stretchers dont damage the floor of the RV5 but I do put mats down to be sure to be sure

Cheers Wilko
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Follow Up By: Tenpounder (SA) - Monday, Mar 21, 2011 at 12:21

Monday, Mar 21, 2011 at 12:21
Perhaps I am old a soft, but I don't think in terms of 'either or': a self-inflating mattress on a stretcher is sheer bliss for me.I either set this up in the tent, or else replace the swag mattress with the self inflating one, and use this combination with the stretcher. I too have a bad back, and I really like the balance of support and insulation I get.
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Follow Up By: Wilko (Parkes NSW) - Monday, Mar 21, 2011 at 16:12

Monday, Mar 21, 2011 at 16:12
I should have said I put my swag on the stretcher,

Cheers Wilko
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Reply By: Member - Trouper (NSW) - Monday, Mar 21, 2011 at 12:17

Monday, Mar 21, 2011 at 12:17
With 5 in the family you will always have a lot of gear to assemble and dismantle.My wife and I with a six year old travel the bush often usually only one nighter stops which can be painful but we use stretchers and Roman self inflators and we all sleep well. the stretchers are the type that you hold either end and push them together and thats it put in the bag and away you go. Its the matresses that take the time to deflate.

AnswerID: 448830

Follow Up By: Member - Trouper (NSW) - Monday, Mar 21, 2011 at 15:24

Monday, Mar 21, 2011 at 15:24
It is also very nice to be able to sit on the edge of your 'bed' to put your shoes on.

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Reply By: Pushy - Monday, Mar 21, 2011 at 12:29

Monday, Mar 21, 2011 at 12:29

In my opinion in think a good quality self inflating mattress would be a far better insulator than a stretcher however, the stretcher would be more comfortable.

Also you should not be looking for the mattress or stretcher to keep you warm, the sleeping bag should do that.

We do a bit of light weight camping and hiking and have slept in a tent at Cradle Mt in -5 temp with good sleeping bags and ultra thin Thermarests and slept like a log.

Maybe you can do a mix with you and the Boss on stretchers and the kids on self inflating mattresses. If you wear them out during the day they will usually sleep through a cyclone.

I don't agree with one of the other posters regarding packing up a self inflating mattress. If you pull the plug a few minutes before you get up they will already be deflated and you can roll them up in a few seconds.
AnswerID: 448831

Follow Up By: Crackles - Monday, Mar 21, 2011 at 17:47

Monday, Mar 21, 2011 at 17:47
Even the best quality sleeping bags compress under body weight and will let cold in from below. As a minimum a 10mm closed cell foam mat is all that's needed to stop the cold coming through although a quality self inflating mat (not air mattress) will be even better adding some comfort.
Roll up in seconds...........unlikely. Realistically 1 minute each & about on par with a stretcher.
Cheers Craig.....................
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Reply By: Member - Ian W1 (QLD) - Monday, Mar 21, 2011 at 13:17

Monday, Mar 21, 2011 at 13:17
I'd definately go with a GOOD QUALITY self-inflating mattress. I was 'sold' when the sales guy asked me for my set of car keys which he placed under the mattress and then asked me to lie on the mattress and tell him where the keys were! Couldn't! We've camped across the Simpson when below freezing at night and outback Qld in similar temps and with a good sleeping bag had no problems at all. They are smaller and lighter than a stretcher and only take moments to rollup in the morning and even less to rollout at night.
AnswerID: 448834

Reply By: roger ramjet - Monday, Mar 21, 2011 at 19:01

Monday, Mar 21, 2011 at 19:01

no. 1 -Try these.
Exped SynMat 7 PUMP DLX Sleeping Mat

Best thing I ever bought for camping.
R value of 4.9. - If you hunt round Google you'll find that you need close to R5 to stop body heat loss to the ground. Sleeping bag is a secondary.
There is nothing else on the market (including thermarest) which comes clsoe to these snuggly mattresses.
And you can get away with a lighter sleeping bag if you use a well insulated mattress.

no.2 - thermals.

enjoy !
AnswerID: 448869

Follow Up By: Member - Mark (Tamworth NSW) - Monday, Mar 21, 2011 at 19:33

Monday, Mar 21, 2011 at 19:33

I second Mr Ramjets comments.
The greatest heat loss occurs via conduction when your body touches the ground. Spend your money on good ground insulation first, sleeping bag second.
IF you can get a self inflater which keeps you off the ground all through the night, they will probably be very good. With my penny piching ways I haven't bought one yet, that is why I recommended stretchers to you.
I've camped with swags, backpacking self inflaters and stretchers, in and out of tents down to -5 over the years, but I haven't tried some of these products as Roger suggetsed above or the highly commended Thermarests.
Beanies and sleeping bag liners are also great ways to keep minimise radiant heat loss, but most of all try to cut down on lying on the ground with a self inflater which has gone down.
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Reply By: Rob! - Tuesday, Mar 22, 2011 at 11:19

Tuesday, Mar 22, 2011 at 11:19

I have found that when using stretchers in the cold you also need an insulating layer underneath you. Astretcher by itself will not keep you warm. So I see your choices as being either, an insulating matt only or a stretcher with an insulating matt.

I have both and use them as the need arises. If I want to do lightweithg camping, to save on space, and am not camping in one place for long, I use my thermarest. If we are staying longer (usually during the queensland summer) I put the kids on a stretcher and we use a double foam mattress.

The stretcher for the kids has it's advantages. One is that they don't roll out of bed. The second is that you can put some gear underneath the stretcher if you're short of storage space in the tent. If we were going somewhere cold I would buy those blue, roll-up sleeping matts that you can buy for $10-15 (as thermarests a fairly expensive). Before the thermarest days, I used those for hiking and they were more than adequate.

The problems with stretchers is that they are heavy, bulky to pack, and I find it longer to put them up and down then the thermarest.

The good things about the thermarests is that they are light and folg into the size of a large coffe mug. ...and they're warm and comfortable (to me anyway). I bought my thermrest about '92 or 93 and it's just now showing signs of old age. It doesn't inflate as quickly now and needs an extra four or five breaths to top it up. (these breaths also put moisture into the matt and increase its pseed of degredation) However, I feel I have got my money's worth of all those years.

If you can't afford a thermarest, which are now around the $200-$250 mark, then I'd go for the blue $10 matts I mentioned before. My experience has shown me that everything else in between those two is rubbish and a waste of your money.

Having said that, I just recently bought a Mountain Designs self inflating matt. It was the last one of the previous year's model at their factory outlet store so it was only $35 (usually about $100 i think). I thought I'd give it a go. When I asked the guy working there how they comapre to a thermrest he semed to give me an honest reply. He said "It won't last as long". The kids have used the matt last weekend, but I haven't had a chance so I can't give you any info on its comfort level. The kids did wriggle off the matts which would be a pain if it was cold. The old thermarest were quite slippery but I think the new ones have an antislip top. Not sure if this helps with the kids staying on them. Maybe some strategically placed luggage will help them to stay on. I find the blue matts a lot less slippery.

Sorry for the long winded answer but there you have it.


AnswerID: 448939

Follow Up By: taps - Tuesday, Mar 22, 2011 at 11:39

Tuesday, Mar 22, 2011 at 11:39

Long winded is good, and so is the provided info. Thanks to everyone for your input.

I have those foam mats you mention, and I think I will go with the "both" option.

Roman also have stretcher cushions, which are $50 from Kanagaroo tent city ($75 everywhere else), which are both comfy and warm (but that was in the shop).

Going to stockton this weekend, So i'll get a couple of both, and try them out.

Once again, thanks for the input thus far.

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Reply By: Frances - Thursday, Mar 24, 2011 at 22:26

Thursday, Mar 24, 2011 at 22:26
Hi Taps, we are going to the Simpson desert with 4 of our kids in July and we are taking the Oztent RV-5 plus the tagalong for it. The 6 of us are sleeping on self inflating double beds (3 in total). We have good quality sleeping bags but to save on luggage we will be taking thermals instead of coats and will sleep in the thermals if need be. If we are still cold we will sleep with all the clothes we have on. I am focussing on keeping our load as light as possible and as compact as possible. I realise the self inflating mattresses will take up a huge amount of room in the pack rack but they are so damn comfortable it will be worth it. We are going to take a 75ltr bladder that will fit behind the back seat for water. We have had a long range fuel tank fitted to our patrol but am not sure yet whether or not we will still have to carry jerry cans for fuel. We won't be taking a fridge or esky as there is no room and we are removing one of the rear seats as our 5th child is not coming. We may see you out there!
AnswerID: 449168

Follow Up By: taps - Friday, Mar 25, 2011 at 10:06

Friday, Mar 25, 2011 at 10:06
4 that'll be a trip. how did you decide on whicj one not to take ???
I reckon you need an OKI or someting like that so you take the whole clan.

when will be doing the simpson crossing ?? we'll be there towards the end of our trip, around 11th to 15th coming from Dalhousie.

where did you get the water bladder from ?? I've been looking for one, but have only found 27 L ones.
FollowupID: 721520

Follow Up By: Member - Pedro the One (QLD) - Sunday, Mar 27, 2011 at 03:05

Sunday, Mar 27, 2011 at 03:05
Hi Taps ..........
A thought re; the stretchers/tents/mats quandary !!

Google in 'Kamprite Tent Cots' in IMAGES, and see what you think.

Image Could Not Be Found

I have just purchased one, set 'er up in the backyard, bunged the OzTrail self-inflating mat in and ................. HEAVEN ON A STICK !!! For me, anyway.

Could be a bit bulky for you ...... depending how many you'd use, I suppose, but worth a look.

A standard quality sleeping bag for the kids, a coupla $4 'windscreen sunshields' from your local cheapshop, plonk them silverside-up under the tentcots rubber mat to 'reflect the body heat back .................. toasty !!!!!
Or go the whole hog and get them their own self-inflatables ..???

Kids size, still quite large are about $140 each - solves both tent and bed problem in one.

Extremely well made and quite robust. Simple to put up - even a bloke can do it ??? And can be used as spare beds at home, for the unexppected sleep-overs, tent bit can stay down.

I'll be using mine out solo prospecting for several weeks ..........

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Follow Up By: Member - Pedro the One (QLD) - Sunday, Mar 27, 2011 at 03:14

Sunday, Mar 27, 2011 at 03:14
Taps ..........

What ages are 'the kids ?' Would make a difference to all the suggestions !
Forgot to ask before my post ..................

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