I’ve had an Aerobed single mattress for a few years now and it’s a firm favourite, most often used at home and dragged out when we have visitors. It’s so quick to put up and down, and tough enough to last after many nights being shoe-horned into a corner between bookcases. So when they offered me a chance to test their Pakmat, which is billed as a portable airbed for places where an electric pump would be impractical, I jumped at the chance.
The first thing you notice is that, unlike any other mattress, the Pakmat is packaged in a sturdy plastic tube with an enormous green handle on it. It’s like an elaborate Coke bottle carrier and makes the whole thing seem rather industrial.
But separating the tube it becomes evident that the Pakmat inside is actually no bigger (when compressed) than a full size self-inflating mattress, and it’s more a perception of the tube being unweildy than a reality. It is roughly the same volume as my other self-inflating mats when they’re packed down.
The Aerobed valve is a clever thing, and what makes them stand out from competitors. It’s got a huge, spring-loaded valve with a twist-on cap (tied to it, so it can’t be lost) that’s positioned on the top at one end so it’s easy to get to even when the mattress is laid out inside a tent.
The packaging tube, once empty, becomes a unique pump which fills the mattress to ‘over-firm’ in 50-60 pumps, and under 2 minutes. It’s easy to use and suitable for elderly or children to master easily. If you over-fill the mattress (which I have done, every time), you can let out a little air as you lay on it, simply by pushing the valve. It’s really simple and effective, and far easier to fine-tune a good night’s comfort than most other mattresses.
The packaging tube/pump doubles as a handy place to keep a dry pair of pants on a wet night.
The Aerobed Pakmat is 67cm wide and 2m long when inflated, so it’s amply big enough for wide and tall campers. Indeed, I recommended one to a friend who is 6ft something and broad and he loves it. It also inflates to a whopping 15cm thick, which combined with a judicious use of the valve can mean a blissful night’s sleep on your back or side.
What the Pakmat is not though is a winter mattress. Like all plain airbeds, when the ground is cold it won’t offer you any decent amount of insulation – a foam filled mattress is better for that – and you’ll need some sort of insulated groundsheet or blankets underneath you. In summer though, it’s perfect.
Construction of the mattress is in TPU-coated fabric, which is strong and abrasion resistant, and doesn’t smell like a PVC mattress does. Aerobed’s manufacture quality seems consistently good, and a check of the welds on my Pakmat reaffirms this.
SUMMARY: The Pakmat is a handy solution for car-camping and sleepovers. It’s a little heavy for backpacking. Quality of manufacture and ease of use are excellent, but as with all airbeds it isn’t suited very well to winter camping. In warmer months it is, however, a superb night’s sleep.