I was camping recently and someone was complaining that they were finding it hard to sleep, as their new self inflating mat was much more slippery than their old foam one.

Is this a real effect, and why does it occur?

Is it a general feature of self-inflating mats vs foam, the particular design, a factor of age, or are they just imagining things?

To be fair we were camped on a fair slope, but no one else had this problem (or at least didn't complain about it).

  • Compared to what? Normal inflating ones or solid (none-inflating) ones?
    – user2766
    Commented Aug 13, 2014 at 14:05
  • From personal observation (N=3) I find the old self-inflatable pads from the 1990's the least slippery. And new cheaper pads a lot more slippery then new higher priced pads.
    – Ivana
    Commented Nov 18, 2022 at 11:28

3 Answers 3


I think the reason for this difference in slipperiness is purely a factor of surface material. Most foam pads have a tacky surface finish. Inflatable pads, on the other hand, usually have a sturdy synthetic fabric as the surface. Fabric on fabric (sleeping bag on inflatable pad) will stick less than fabric on foam, unless the fabrics have been treated somehow.

This is a legitimate effect to notice. I'm sure that somewhere on the internet you can find a coated inflatable sleeping pad, however the gain of friction on your pad will then come at the cost of additional weight.


At the risk of sounding like a grumpy old person it seems like EVERYTHING is slipperier than it used to be. I'm not sure if new stuff starts slippery and gets less so, or if things are now made more slippery. But I have bought a new tent, new sleeping pad and new sleeping bags this year and between them - I had better set up on 100& level ground. I used the sleeping bag as an underpad on a cottage bed this weekend, fully unzipped, and have never moved around so much in a bed as I did on this sleeping bag's interior surface.

I suspect that the same chemistry that makes a fabric lightweight and soft (so it can fold very small) while still strong also makes it slippery (think plastic compared to cardboard.)

  • 3
    Strips or dots of silicone seam-sealer applied to the tent floor or sleeping pad can help with this.
    – requiem
    Commented Aug 13, 2014 at 19:11
  • 2
    @requiem better than seam sealer, use the anti slippery dotting liquid intended for home knitted socks. Should provide you with more friction for the same weight.
    – rumtscho
    Commented Aug 13, 2014 at 20:25

I think it's not the material or fabric on the top it's more the shape of the pad.

The most self inflatable pads are fully flat and even on top. The most other pads aren't flat because they have chambers. This gives a uneven surface of the pad.

So my conclusion is: You have less friction with the inflatable flat pad because of the surface structure, even with the same top fabric.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.