Best Ways To Maintain Camp Mattresses, Pads, and Mats

White woman tying her shoelaces while sitting in tent during camping on summer day

Key Points

  • Cleaning your camping bedding prevents bacteria and keeps your bedding comfy and durable.

  • Sleeping bags are usually machine washable, but bedding like air mattresses, cots, sleeping pads, and mats require specific cleaning routines.

  • Creating a regular cleaning routine for your bedding is quick and easy for even the busiest schedule.

Any good outdoorsman knows taking care of your gear is as important as taking care of yourself on your outdoor adventures. Properly maintaining your gear is the best way to have reliable, quality gear that lasts a long time and to avoid spending a fortune replacing it. This includes your outdoor sleeping arrangements.

No matter what type of bedding you prefer when you camp, cleaning and storing your outdoor bed correctly is important to prevent damage or risk of being worn down. You may think that because you don't rely on your sleeping set-up to climb mountains or scale cliffs, it's not as important to maintain as other camping gear, but that's not the case.

Getting sufficient sleep, even when camping, is as important to your health as drinking enough water. A July 2023 study by the Arizona Association of Foster and Adoptive Parents (AZAFAP) displays how sleep deprivation, especially if it starts during childhood, significantly affects a person's cognitive abilities. This can be dangerous when you're exploring outdoors. If a threat arises with weather, natural hazards, or run-ins with wildlife, you need to be aware and prepared to react.

The best way to get a good night's sleep is to have a comfortable, reliable sleeping layout. Whether it is a mattress with a camping pillow, a pad, or a mat, a great way to ensure your bedding lasts is to keep it clean and store it properly. Failing to do this can degrade the material, make it feel uncomfortable, or result in parasites, mildew, or mold.

If you want to do the most to maintain the integrity of your bed, the first step is to read the manufacturer's care instructions to be sure you have the proper resources to clean it.

How to Clean Your Outdoor Sleeping Bed

Each type of outdoor sleeping bed has specific requirements for proper care. Some cleaning solutions are compatible with some beds, while others are not. Pay special attention to your bed's materials and consider how often you use it. As a general rule, clean your bed after every use. If you don't use it often, clean it at least once a month to keep the material in top condition.

Some outdoor sleeping options, like sleeping bags, are machine washable, making their care routine simple. Be sure to store them somewhere dry and dark. Other outdoor beds have particular cleaning, drying, and storage requirements.

Here are the cleaning routines for each type of outdoor sleeping bed:

How to Clean, Repair, and Store a Camping Cot

By following these cleaning, repair, and storage tips, you can extend the lifespan of your camping cot by ensuring the fabric is as strong as the frame.

To clean your cot the right way:

  1. Remove any debris: Before cleaning, remove dirt, leaves, and other debris from your camping cot. You can achieve this by using a brush or a vacuum cleaner.

  2. Spot clean: For stains or spills, spot-clean the affected areas with mild soap or a specialized fabric cleaner. Gently scrub using a sponge or a soft brush, then rinse with clean water. Avoid saturating the entire fabric portion because it wears the material down.

  3. Air dry: After cleaning, allow your camping cot to air dry completely before storing or using it again. Avoid using a dryer or exposing it to direct sunlight, as it may damage the fabric or frame.

To properly repair your cot:

  1. Inspect for damages: Regularly inspect your camping cot for signs of wear and tear, such as loose screws, torn fabric, or bent frame components. Address these issues promptly to prevent further damage.

  2. Reinforce weak areas: If you notice weak areas, reinforce them with fabric patches, adhesive tape, or additional stitching. Replace damaged or missing parts, such as screws or straps, to ensure the cot's stability and safety.

To properly store your cot:

  1. Clean and dry: Before storing your camping cot, make sure it is completely clean and dry to prevent mold or mildew growth. Follow the cleaning steps mentioned earlier if necessary.

  2. Disassemble if possible: If your camping cot is collapsible or modular, disassemble it using the manufacturer's instructions. This saves storage space and prevents structural damage during storage.

  3. Store in a dry area: Store the cot in a dry, well-ventilated area. Storing it in damp basements or moisture-prone areas can cause mold and mildew.

How to Clean, Repair, and Store an Air Mattress

Following these cleaning, repair, and storage tips extends the lifespan of your air mattress and ensures a comfortable sleeping experience when you camp.

How to correctly clean your air mattress:

  1. Inflate and deflate: Fully inflate your air mattress and then deflate it to remove any debris or dirt. Use a handheld vacuum or a soft brush to gently remove dust or particles.

  2. Spot clean: Spot clean stains and spills with mild soap and water. Use a sponge or a soft cloth to gently scrub the stain, then rinse with clean water.

  3. Air dry: After cleaning, leave your air mattress to air dry before storing or using it again. Ensure it is completely dry to prevent mold or mildew growth.

How to repair your air mattress:

  1. Check for leaks: Regularly inspect your air mattress for leaks by inflating it and listening for any hissing sounds or feeling for escaping air. Apply soapy water to the mattress and look for bubbles that indicate a leak. Repair any leaks with a patch kit or adhesive made for air mattresses.

  2. Patching holes: Patch holes and punctures with a patch kit. Follow the manufacturer's instructions to properly seal the holes and ensure airtightness.

How to properly store your air mattress:

  1. Clean and dry: Before storing your air mattress, make sure it is totally clean and fully dry to prevent mold or mildew. Follow the cleaning steps mentioned earlier.

  2. Fold or roll properly: Some air mattresses are foldable, while others must be rolled. Refer to the manufacturer's instructions for the recommended folding or rolling technique. Avoid creasing or putting excessive pressure on the mattress during storage.

  3. Store in a dry, cool place: Find a dry, cool area to store your air mattress. Avoid storing it in damp basements or areas prone to high temperatures to prevent damaging the material.

How to Clean, Repair, and Store a Sleeping Pad or Mat

By following these tips, you can lengthen the lifespan of your sleeping pads and mats, ensuring a comfortable and reliable sleeping surface.

To clean your pad or mat:

  1. Shake off dirt and debris: Remove loose dirt and debris before cleaning the sleeping pad or mat.

  2. Spot clean: For stains or spills, use a mild soap and water solution to spot-clean the affected areas. Gently scrub the stain with a soft brush or cloth, then rinse with clean water.

  3. Air dry: After cleaning, allow your sleeping pad or mat to air dry completely before storing. It must be completely dry to prevent mold or mildew.

To effectively repair a sleeping pad or mat:

  1. Inspect for damages: Regularly inspect your sleeping pad or mat for punctures, tears, or leaking valves.

  2. Patching holes: Use a patch kit for pads and mats to repair any holes or punctures. Follow the product instructions to effectively seal the holes.

How to store a sleeping pad or mat safely:

  1. Clean and dry: Before storing your sleeping pad or mat, make sure it is clean and fully dry to prevent mold or mildew.

  2. Roll or fold properly: Depending on the type of sleeping pad or mat, roll or fold it per the manufacturer's instructions. This saves storage space and prevents damage during storage.

  3. Store in a dry area: Find a dry, well-ventilated area to store your sleeping pad or mat. Avoid storing it in damp areas that promote mold and mildew growth.

How to Prevent Wear and Tear

Aside from cleaning your bed properly, the best way to make it last is to be careful not to damage it when using it. This requires proper use and inspecting your environment for things that could damage it. Each bed type is different and requires you to focus on different things that could damage it.

Here's how to protect your outdoor bed:

Camping Cots

There are a few measures to take to prevent damaging your cot. First, avoid placing sharp objects or heavy items on the cot that could puncture or tear the fabric. Place a protective cover or tarp under the cot when setting it up on rough or abrasive surfaces. Follow the manufacturer's weight capacity guidelines to avoid overloading the cot — especially when piling the kiddos on the camping cot as well.

Carefully fold or disassemble the cot to prevent bending or breaking any components. When not in use, store the cot in a dry, well-ventilated area to avoid moisture damage or mold growth.

Air Mattresses

To protect your air mattress, carefully choose where you set it up, avoiding sharp objects or rough surfaces that can puncture it. When inflating or deflating the mattress, avoid putting unnecessary stress on the seams or valves. Use a protective cover or sheet to shield the mattress from spills or dirt.

Where you store your air mattress has a big impact. Ensure the mattress is fully dry before storing it to prevent mold or mildew growth. Store the mattress in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight and extreme temperatures.

Sleeping Pads or Mats

The first step to protect your sleeping pad or mat is choosing a setup location free of sharp objects or rough surfaces that can puncture or tear it. Use a groundsheet or protective cover underneath to provide an additional layer of protection.

Don't place heavy items or apply excessive pressure on the pad. Wearing dirty clothes on the mat presses dirt into the material.

Carefully fold or roll the pad for storage, taking care not to crease or damage the material. Store in a dry, well-ventilated area to prevent mold growth.

Outdoor Beds That are Easy to Care for

These lists of dos and don'ts may seem overwhelming, but they are necessary to maintain outdoor sleeping beds. Fortunately, there are a few durable, easy-care bed alternatives to consider.

Care-Free Cot

The L.L. Bean Easy Cot is excellent for those seeking a reliable, easy-to-clean camping cot. This cot features a durable polyester fabric that resists stains and dirt, making it easy to wipe clean.

The cot's sturdy, lightweight frame provides strength and portability. The cot's simple folding mechanism makes setup and takedown a breeze.

The L.L. Bean Easy Cot's combination of durable materials, convenient cleaning properties, and user-friendly design provides a hassle-free camping experience for outdoor enthusiasts.

An Easy Clean Air Mattress

The SoundAsleep Dream Series Air Mattress is a top-quality air mattress that offers comfort and is incredibly easy to clean. It has a built-in pump for effortless inflation and deflation, and the puncture-resistant material ensures durability and long-lasting use. The mattress's waterproof flocked top can be easily wiped clean with a damp cloth or towel, eliminating extensive scrubbing or machine washing.

Its exceptional convenience and low-maintenance cleaning make the SoundAsleep Dream Series Air Mattress an ideal choice for either a hassle-free camping experience or as a guest bed at home.

Simple-to-Clean Sleeping Pad

The Therm-a-Rest LuxuryMap Sleeping Pad is an easy-to-clean sleeping pad that offers unparalleled comfort and convenience. Made with soft, durable materials, it provides a luxurious sleeping surface that is easy to maintain.

Its self-inflating design allows for quick and effortless setup, and the open-cell foam construction makes cleaning a breeze. Simply wipe it down with a damp cloth or sponge to remove dirt or stains. The removable cover is machine washable, ensuring it stays fresh and hygienic.

This simple care routine makes the Therm-a-Rest LuxuryMap Sleeping Pad the perfect choice for worry-free outdoor sleeping.

Maintain your Outdoor Pad, Maintain the Adventures

There's a lot to consider when selecting reliable, easy-to-maintain sleeping gear. Purchasing it is just the beginning. Routine maintenance is best for your air mattress, cot, or sleeping pad. The better you stick to a maintenance routine, the longer your gear lasts and the fewer trips you make to the outdoor gear store.

There's an Irish Proverb that says, "A good laugh and a long sleep are the two best cures for anything." The sleep experts at New Zealand's Te Whatu Ora Sleep Specialists say this proverb "rings true."

Dunedin (New Zealand) clinical sleep physiologist Nic Frame says sleep "is crucial to our wellbeing and survival. We know chronic sleep deprivation is associated with a lot of poor health outcomes, including increased risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and depression/anxiety. Even one night of sleep deprivation leads to a spike in stress hormones the next day, which can have an impact on many things like mood, concentration and appetite."

Just cause you're sleeping outside doesn't mean hygiene doesn't matter. Cleaning your stuff helps it last longer and provides a clean, comfy experience after a long day of adventuring.

After a long day of hiking, kayaking, or climbing, there's no better reward than sleeping it off in a clean and cozy outdoor bed. Upon your return, be sure to properly clean your sleeping bag and store your sleeping pad.

Find more gear maintenance tips like this at My Outdoor Gear.

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