Whether or not you get a good night of sleep (or even just a series of small naps during the darker hours) on a backpacking trip has a real impact on how much you enjoy the experience. A comfortable sleeping mat helps with rest and recovery at the end of a long day of walking or biking, turning your multi-day expedition into an enjoyable undertaking, letting you push yourself on a personal challenge, rather than make an arduous slog back to civilisation.
So what am I looking for in an inflatable sleeping mat? Mostly I want to be able to have a comfortable night of sleep*, without my hips sinking through to touch the ground. I want to be able to move in my sleep without it rustling like I’m sleeping in an empty crisp packet. And I want it to be lightweight and packable for backpacking and bikepacking trips.
*I’m not expecting it to silence the cuckoo that starts to call from around 3am anywhere in Scotland where you can see a tree during May and June.
How I tested the Alpkit Numo
I tested the Alpkit Numo with a strenuous overnight camp on the living room floor, followed by a few cheeky bivvies in locations I won’t divulge as wild camping was not permitted. After that I took it as part of my kit to complete the TGO Challenge coast to coast crossing of Scotland in May 2019, using it for 10 of the 11 days I took to complete my route.
The Alpkit Numo is a compact and lightweight inflatable sleeping mat. The dimensions are 180cm x 48cm, tapering to 43cm at the foot, and it weighs in at just 375 grams (including the stuffsack and repair kit).
Once inflated it provides 8.5cm of cushioning. The mat is inflated by blowing through a single valve, and it’s claimed just 12 breaths will inflate the chambers sufficiently to give a comfortable fill.
The Numo is constructed from quite rugged-feeling TPU coated ripstop nylon, with some insulating hollowfill fibre in the upper part of the mat. With no foam inside, the Numo rolls up into a stuffsack giving a compact package 21cm x 8cm diameter (slightly larger than a can of cider, just a little smaller than a bottle of red wine).
Inflating the mat takes a lot of puff, and left me a little light headed after a long day of walking in the sun across Rannoch Moor, but it was pretty quick to prepare my bed for the night. The fabric and construction feels quite rugged and resistant to abrasion, but as an air mat, would be vulnerable to puncture by a sharp stone or twig.
The six large air chambers run lengthways on the mat, and the outer chambers are slightly larger to keep you quite central. The thickness of the mat means even side sleepers will be comfortable lying on it, and it didn’t rustle or crinkle during the night.
I’m really not so tall, just 1.67 metres (that’s 5’5.5″, and half is very important), so the length of the mat at 1.80 metres was perfect for me to sleep in my usual way like a sprawling starfish or the outline of body at a crime scene. If you’re much taller or broader, you may find it’s a little too short for you.
There’s some hollow fibre insulation in the upper part of the mat, but that’s all the Numo provides. However, I found it was fine during some frosty nights in early spring in Scotland, with the coldest temperatures dropping to around -5°C overnight. Any colder, or in snowy conditions, I’d try it in combination with a closed cell foam mat for additional insulation from the ground.
Two days before the end of the TGO Challenge, my mat developed a slow air leak that left me lying on the ground during the night, but thankfully insulated by the rum consumed in the Mason’s at Tarfside. Once I got home and located the leak, I was able to use the repair kit and a youtube film to patch the puncture, and so far, it’s still holding.
If my repair hadn’t worked, Alpkit offer a 3-year warranty to repair or replace the product, and have a repair station that can attempt a fix outwith that period.
Worth the money?
Absolutely. There’s no similar product available anywhere near as low cost as the Alpkit Numo, so though it’s not perfect, for backpackers on a budget, it’s ideal.
While it might be possible to find other inflatable mats that are lighter and warmer, there’s nothing else I’ve seen that matches the size and weight with the low price, making it a great budget option and a gateway into the world of lightweight camping.
The construction of the Numo feels like it would be quite resistant to wear and tear, and last well, but it’s also vulnerable to punctures that would leave you lying on the ground with no insulation. So with the caveat that care needs to be taken when locating your sleeping spot for the night, I would recommend it to backpackers and bikepackers for three seasons of expedition use.
Disclaimer: I bought the Alpkit Numo sleeping mat with my own money after all the bills were paid. This is my honest review after several months of use.