Looking after sleeping pad in the bush
“Dreaming permits each and every one of us to be quietly and safely insane every night of our lives.” William C Dement
Back home, clean off any dirt, insect repellent, sunscreen or anything else that has stuck to the pad using a damp cloth. If left on long-term, these can cause damage to the material, particularly if chemicals such as DEET have been used in the insect repellent. For stubborn stains, use biodegradable soap. Once a season, do a complete clean of sleeping mat to remove body sweat and dirt, as they can transfer to a sleeping bag and compromise performance. Follow manufacturer’s instructions for washing. With inflatable sleeping pads take care to ensure the valve is closed with cleaning, drying the inside is tricky and it should not need cleaning.
After cleaning, dry sleeping pad thoroughly (but avoid prolonged periods of direct sunlight), and open the valve. Take care to dry both the interior and exterior of the sleeping pad. Interior moisture can lead to mould and degradation of the material. To dry the interior is to use a hair dryer on a low setting to partially inflate the sleeping pad (deflate and repeat a few times).
For long-term storage, follow instructions specific to your sleeping pad as some need to be inflated (e.g. therm-a-rest©), while others can be left deflated (e.g. neoair©). In general, self-inflating pads should be stored semi-inflated for good air circulation, whereas air pads should be stored loosely and not folded along the same crease lines each time. Choose a cool, dry place that isn’t susceptible to extremely hot or wet weather.
Repairs at home
Repairing sleeping pads at home is far more luxurious than fixing them in the field. You can focus on getting the job done well, with the right gear for long-lasting results.
If you can’t find a hole, try filling a tub or bucket with water and add a drop of dishwashing detergent or soap. Inflate sleeping pad as much as possible and splash a small amount of water onto the surface of the pad. Look out for tiny bubbles to appear from where the leak is. If you still can’t see bubbles, try gently squeezing the pad. Dry the area thoroughly with a towel, and mark the leak by drawing a circle around it with a marker pen. It is possible to have more than one leak, so keep looking even after you have found the first leak.
After finding the leak(s) then follow the instructions on the patch and glue. Some adhesives need time to dry before applying the patch (this is called curing), while others don’t need a patch at all. In general, make sure that the patch covers at least 1 cm surrounding the hole, but follow specific instructions by the manufacturer. Fixing leaks on a seam can be more challenging, so take extra care to patch well.