Camping comforts have come a long way over the years. Consider the plight of the early explorers, with land parties charting a course across our continent in search of water and other significant landmarks. They survived with simple comforts – a campfire at night and, at best, a tarp to ward off the morning dew.
These days, many swags come with an inbuilt mattress, either self-inflating or high-density foam to smooth out the undulations in the landscape and add some comfort for weary, aching bodies. RVs, too, are offered with different types of mattresses, with foam and innerspring being the most popular options.
A FOAM AFFAIR
Foam is more common in camper trailers, contributing to a lower entry price, with innerspring often an optional extra. Mattress height is a key limiting factor in this sector as many softfloor and hardfloor camper trailer designs can only accommodate a low form mattress. In these situations, a high density, thinner foam mattress is a popular choice and a local manufacturer will be able to fulfil any specific design requirements such as an unusual shape or a two piece mattress.
Some travellers have reported improved comfort levels by adding an egg shell layer to their foam mattresses – you can purchase these from places such as Clark Rubber. They are marketed as ‘comfort overlays’, available in a number of different densities and sizes. I tried a comfort overlay in a rooftop tent once, as the standard 75mm mattress didn’t measure up for my dodgy back, courtesy of three torn lower discs. The overlay was bulky and it had to be rolled up and stored outside of the tent cover, taking up valuable packing space. It offered improved comfort but it wasn’t anything special.
While foam mattresses or overlays may suit some people, many travellers will want an additional level of comfort. For some, it’s more about staying isolated from your partner’s restlessness. An innerspring mattress provides additional support to your body with better weight distribution than foam, offering anti-disturb properties. Roll around on foam and there’s a good chance your partner will roll with you, an experience less likely to be encountered on coils.
Camping innerspring mattresses are offered in a range of heights to suit both camper trailers and caravans, with the different heights controlled through layers of quilting or a thick foam pillow top. The slimmest mattress is generally 100mm for campers and 120mm for vans. Additional quilting can add a further layer, ranging from 120-140mm and a pillow top can range from 160-180mm.
Latex is another material sometimes seen in mattresses. I had a custom latex mattress built for our Track Topaz a few years ago. It was very supportive and a good compromise between comfort and softness, biased towards support. More recently, when we purchased our Pod Kwik Kampa 2, the latex mattress was no longer available, so we opted for a Re-creation Comfort innerspring mattress.
Like with other camper trailer mattresses, we were constrained by height, yet the cassette spring, foam box construction measuring 100mm does the job in providing a supportive and comfortable slumber option.
You really can’t compromise when it comes to a good night’s sleep. A decent sleep keeps you alert, awake and fresh to take on the day’s activities, which can sometimes include piloting the vehicle and van or camper on long journeys or across slippery tracks and unforgiving terrain. A comfortable mattress is simply an investment in your wellbeing.
See you on the trails.
The full feature appeared in Caravan World #539 July 2015.