Kevin Callan
Credit: Kevin Callan

What a perfect time of year to repair some camp gear! Rivers are in flood, my local lakes are still frozen and I’ve become completely bored binge-watching Netflix.

My first job this past weekend was to fix all my leaky air mats. I guess I could go back to the days when I used one of those blue foam pads. At least they can’t spring a leak. But the sleep systems that fill up with air are far cozier.

I own seven different air mats in total. Yep. Way too many air mats. Of course, I could have far worse addictions in life. Having to many restful shapes and designs to sleep on while in the woods doesn’t seem to be that much of an issue for me. Having them leak, however, is a dilemma. 

When a self-inflating mattress springs a leak, it’s usually impossible to figure out where the puncture is. You can squeeze the air out and listen for a tell-tale hiss. But for the best results, blow the mattress up, lather on a good coating of warm water and dish soap and then watch for air bubbles. Once you’ve found and marked the leak, follow these instructions:

  • Boil a pot of water.
  • Clean the damaged area with an alcohol swab from your first aid kit.
  • Open the valve on the mattress.
  • Most self-inflating mattresses come with their own patch material (a strip of Duct Tape is a good short-term substitute). Cut the patch, making sure it’s at least triple the size of the hole and has rounded edges to stop it from peeling off.
  • Glob on a liberal amount of Seam Seal to the puncture area.
  • Place the patch on the adhesive and then set the pot of boiled water on top to act as a quick sealer.
  • Leave the pot on the patch until water cools.

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