As a self-confessed cold sleeper , I’m often wrapped up like a dormouse in a burrow with wooly socks, long sleeve tops & bottoms and a hot water bottle. That’s just my home set up, let alone my wild camping packing where I’m far from my home comforts. Finding a sleeping mat that will genuinely keep me toasty warm, without encountering dreaded cold spots and a good thickness for basecamp comfort was a priority, with a good R rating and heat reflective technology for good night’s sleep in cold alpine mountain conditions.–
Ever been to Central Asia? If you asked a Western hillwalker to point it out on the map, chances are they’d struggle to locate the Fann mountains. Yet through an invitation from a tourism partner, I had an opportunity to try hiking in the mountains of Tajikistan, where once we left the surprisingly clean hustle of the capital city of Dushanbe, we took the 4WD up gravel and dusty tracks to get up close to the striking mountains that share a border with Uzbekistan. Nestled high in the alpine flora and fauna, temperatures were as high as 30 degrees in the daytime in the countryside, and as low as -5 degrees, even in the height of the summer. We were going to be using tents, and a mountain team with donkeys and a traveling kitchen and donkey team, supplied by Panjakent Intours, but were responsible for bringing our own sleeping bags and mats. A high alpine pass meant we would als be wearing down jackets and experiencing cooler weather in the evening. We were also camping below the North face of Mirali peak, a mountain criss crossed with seracs, snow and glaciers on the top.
Yet the Fann mountains also presented a picture perfect alpine location - predominantly warm temperatures in June, where the sun beat down on the a limestone mountain range that resembles Spanish picos up to around 2700m, before looking a bit like a bygone Austria 3000m with lush alpine pastures filled with donkeys, butterflies and alpine flora, and challenging scree slopes around 3700m and above, with deep Azore blue glacial lakes and snow topped mountain with Soviet era names and written with Tajik cyrillic.
The Rab Ionosphere 5.5 sleeping mat is the perfect mat for alpinists and mountaineers, as it's designed to be used in relatively rugged conditions. Thanks to the use of 20D Recycled Polyester outer fabric which protects it from nicks and scuffs, though those who feel more weary of damage or camping in rocky terrain may want to use it in addition with a foam mat underneath to protect further and for additional comfort .
A fluorocarbon-free DWR finish means there is no need to worry about the sleeping mat absorbing excess moisture. This is a bonus, as the sleeping mat minimises risk of absorbing spills and stain damage in the tent due to having a felted upper fabric. The material feels premium and is flexible enough to be rolled on the floor of a tent and stored away in the elasticated cover with a bit of manoeuvring, thanks to the compact and lightweight recycled Stratus™ material which is an inhouse recycled polyester material.
Storage is a bit fiddler - folding the mat into three helps to get it in a tight burrito-like roll so the orange stretch cover fits , which also contains a discreet mat fixing kit. By making sure the valve is off and open, excess air can be squeezed ,without any risk of it re-inflating, which can be an issue with other mats.
For inflation, the Rab Ionosphere 5.5 sleeping mat comes with a dry bag that can be used to help with inflation by wafting air in. For those who haven’t used one before, it's relatively straightforward and can als be used with a pump to make it even easier.
The mat is a winner thanks to having some of the warmest nights I’ve had in the mountains thanks to Rab’s unique TILT heat-reflective technology so that the heat loss was minimised to help maintain body temperature in chilly, alpine hostile weather conditions. I didn’t find myself turning much because the mat had a decent 8 cm thickness that provided ample cushioning for my back, and I found the mat long enough at the regular length at 183cm and 51cm wide ( I’m 5’5) though those with wider shoulders might prefer to go for the long wider version which adds 260g extra weight to the sleeping mat.
Overall, the Rab Ionosphere Sleeping Mat was a perfect compliment to a rugged and committing trip into the mountains. For me to enjoy sleeping in wild camping set ups, sleep is so important, so it was a no-brainer to bring it as it felt like a much needed essential piece of kit to ensure comfort and temperature control wasn’t sacrificed. I didn’t think at 700g it was that much heavier to have in my basecamp bag, and I preferred it to much lighter sleeping mats that have resulted in cooler nights sleep.
Weight: Regular 690g / Long Wide 950g
Sizes: Regular 183 x 51cm or Long Wide 196cm x 64cm / Thickness: 8cm
Repair kit included