What to Look for in a Camping Carpet

man in blue tent with camping mat

If you want to make an extra-cozy campsite, bring along a recycled plastic outdoor camping mat.  Use your mat inside or outside your tent, as a sitting area, or a gear storage area.  Camping mats protect your expensive camping equipment from dirt, rocks, and debris.

RECYCLED MATS FOR CAMPERS

After you select your campsite, it’s time to set it up into a functional, livable, comfortable area. In fact, this is one task is monumental to enjoying your time outdoors.  As you look around the campground, you may notice other campers are using plastic outdoor mats around their campsites.  These are colorful and sturdy outdoor plastic mats, which are typically woven from polypropylene plastic straws, have been growing in popularity. It’s no wonder why; plastic camping mats make campsites look ‘put together’ and also add a feeling of comfort.

The reason these plastic mats are so popular is because they are so incredibly useful around the campsite.

You can put them inside your tent – like a camping carpet – and they protect the floor of your tent from cot legs or anything else that might create a tear.  The plastic camping mats also filter sand and dirt, keeping grime to a minimum inside the tents, and keeping your gear clean.

Directly outside the tent, these plastic camping mats act as a landing spot for dirty shoes, clothing, and gear – before they come inside.  During rainy or winter conditions, the plastic mat will protect against mud, snow, and ice.

In addition, many campers have “garages” to their tents – an extra covered area that is outside their main sleeping area.  The plastic outdoor mats are perfect for the base of these gear storage areas — keeping your camping gear protected from the ground.

If you’re ready to invest in one or more plastic camping mats, there are a couple of key aspects to look for.

2 girls lying on camping mat at campsite

QUALITY, STURDINESS, AND DURABILITY OF YOUR CAMPING MAT

Its no secret, just about anything you want can be purchased for absurdly low prices from either a big-box store or online.  However, buyer beware: insanely low prices generally go hand-in-hand with poor durability, questionable manufacturing processes, and environmental impact.

If you are in the market for a quality plastic camping mat that is built for seasons of use (not just one camping trip), you’ll need to look for a plastic mat with HEAVY-WEIGHT WEAVE.

The main indication of a quality plastic outdoor mat is the weight of its weave.

Plastic Camping Mats are manufactured by weaving long straws of polypropylene.  Companies who don’t tell you the weight of their weave are generally using the cheapest, lightest weight weave possible.  The result is a mat that will snag, tear, and rip easily.  (Don’t even THINK of getting something like this if you have a dog with you – their nails will rip it apart).

Look for plastic outdoor mats woven with a weight of at least 350 grams.  The higher the weight, the thicker the mat.  For mats that you intend to use inside your tent as a carpet, we recommend 450-500 weight as these are soft and cushy and feel really nice on bare feet.

CAMPING MATS THAT ARE: LIGHTWEIGHT, PORTABLE, FOLD-ABLE

Besides weave weight for your outdoor plastic mat, you should look for mats that are fold-able and portable.  Folded mats are easy to pack and store making them superior to rolled mats for your camping gear.  The lighter the mat, the better, as you’ll be carrying it around.

Look for camping mats that come with a carry bag as well.  Besides being handy for – carrying the mat – the bags really help contain dirt and mud.  When you are packing up your campsite at the end of your trip, you don’t need to worry about all the dirt getting all over your vehicle.  Fold your plastic mat up, tuck it away in its carry bag, and deal with the mess later.

CAMPING MATS WITH UV PROTECTION

Even if you don’t intend to have your mat in full sun, over time the UV rays in the atmosphere can cause fading.  Higher grade outdoor camping mats are normally manufactured from polypropylene plastic that is coated with a UV protectant.  While this won’t completely stop the mat from fading over time, it will vastly prolong the vibrant colors and designs.

MOLD & MILDEW RESISTANCE, EASY-TO-CLEAN

One of the really incredible aspects of polypropylene is that it is naturally mold and mildew resistant.  Anyone who camps knows that keeping camping gear from dreaded rot is essential!  In addition, polypropylene outdoor mats can be easily cleaned without harsh chemicals.  Simple hose off dirt and allow to air dry.  Choose a plastic outdoor mat woven from polypropylene and you will worry less about damage from damp conditions.

CAMPING MAT DETAILS: EDGING, STAKE LOOPS (OR GROMMET HOLES), QUALITY OF WEAVE

Look for camping mats with 4-sided edging from thick fabric.  End edging should be sewn with thick thread and should be straight and professional looking.  You shouldn’t be able to see the edge of the mat plastic weave.

When deciding on the best plastic camping mat to add to your gear, look for stake loops or grommet holes.  Windy conditions can cause camping mats to go flying to the next campsite!  For safety and comfort, its best to tack them down with stakes.

Finally, look for camping mats with quality weave.  Cheaper, less-durable mats will have threads that are coming up, the weave of the mat will be uneven and pulling up, and you can get scratched from the sides of the mat where the plastic weave is cut irregularly.  Carefully inspect new mats for these flaws as they are indications of a cheaply made product.

DESIGN AND COLORS

Unbelievably, for the vast majority of plastic outdoor mats on the market – they are really unattractive.  A quick online search pulls up a variety of mats in muted colors with unappealing designs.  No reason to purchase an ugly camping mat.  Just keep looking until you find something that will add style and panache to your campsite!

PLASTIC CAMPING MATS THAT ARE ECO-FRIENDLY

Finally, and something that is very important, is choosing an outdoor plastic mat that is woven from recycled polypropylene.  Companies that choose to manufacture using recycled plastic waste are choosing to invest in our environment.

Quality-wise, there is virtually no distinguishable difference between mats manufactured from recycled polypropylene and those from new plastic, but the environmental impact is enormous.

In 2018, in the United States, only 9-11% of plastics thrown away were recycled – everything else ended up in landfills, in our oceans, and as litter.  As an avid outdoor enthusiast, having an option to purchase gear from recycled sources not only encourages more companies to use recycled materials, it makes a personal statement for the environment.

If you do a bit of research and purchase a quality camping mat, you should enjoy it for years!  These plastic outdoor rugs will improve the comfort and functionality of your campsite and you’ll be the envy of the campground!

Mountain Mat USA

Jennifer Hillberg is the Founder and Creator of Mountain Mat, LLC, the USA’s first 100% recycled plastic, reversible, outdoor recreation mat. As an avid outdoor recreationalist, Jennifer has hiked and camped in some of the world’s most remote places alongside her husband and three children. Learn more about The Mountain Mat Story.

pinterest graphic for blog post on buying guide to outdoor camping mats