OK so you're interested in the Balloonbed, but you have some nagging doubts.
- Surely the balloons burst?
You'll get very few failures if you follow our inflating and knotting advice and treat them with a certain amount of respect. These modeling balloons are seriously strong and treading on one part will push the air away from under your foot and simply stretch the elastic membrane elsewhere along its length. Also, when you lay on the mat your weight is transferred across several supporting compartments so each one doesn't take very much weight.
Another issue with the balloons is that you do get the odd weak one due to the vagaries of the manufacturing moulding process, these will burst either when you try to inflate them or when you first sit on them. For this reason we always advise users to take a couple of spares.
For more information on this issue go to our page Extra Advice on the Information tab.
- What are the Balloonbed's main advantages
It's light to carry - only 100g. It also packs away very small - around 250ml - 1/7 the size of a small piece of carry mat - it will fit in the palm of your hand. It's comfortable to lie on - even more so than a normal air bed because the balloons mould to your shape better. It gives greater insulation than a carry mat.
- Balloonbed sounds too good to be true - what are it's drawbacks?
We like to think of the balloonbed as being one step up from a thin foam pad or bubble wrap.
It takes a while to set up - the first time you do it'll probably take you around 10-15 minutes but with practice a lot less than this.
They are not bomp-proof! You need to treat them with a little care - although you can stand, sit and jump on them, you need to bear in mind that they are only made from balloons.
It's best not to use the balloonbed as soon as you get to overnight camp for sitting on outside or lounging around in the tent. It's really designed for sleeping on. It's best to use your sleeping bag for ground insulation whilst brewing up and cooking in your tent.
- How does the Balloonbed compare with a Therm-a-Rest® Mattress (Cascade Designs, Inc.)?
The two versions of the Balloonbed available so far are not designed to compete with a Therm-a-Rest® mattress in terms of ease of use and durability. Therm-a-Rest® matresses are designed for constant heavy use in situations where weight and bulk aren't too big an issue. Balloonbed is light and small when packed away and was designed specifically for the needs of an 'adventure racer' who knows that weight and bulk can seriously impair race performance.
As with all things there is a certain trade-off in terms of performance. The Balloonbed is light and packs away small but it takes a little time to assemble and you have to treat it with a certain degree of care. Therm-a-Rest® mattresses are relatively heavy and bulky when compared with a Balloonbed but are easy to assemble and can take a great deal more abuse.
If the Balloonbed was as durable as a Therm-a-Rest® mattress then nobody would ever buy a Therm-a-Rest® again - we're working on it.
- Why are the mats small and not full-size?
The mats are designed for adventure races and not the family camping trip. If they were any bigger they wouldn't fit into the majority of the lightweight tents that are now available. We have found that both mats are long enough for most people needing insulation from their shoulders to their knees.
- Aren't the balloons difficult and time consuming to inflate?
Blowing up the balloons doesn't take very long - about 20-30 seconds for each one. The first time you set up the bed it may take you about 15 minutes but after a while you develop a knack for tying knots and using the pump. Anyway, isn't it worth a little extra hassle for such great weight and bulk savings and having a good night's sleep?
- I'll be so knackered when I get to overnight that all I'll want to do is flop into my tent and rest - I'll doubt if I'll have the energy or inclination to fiddle about with balloons!
If you've ever been kept awake at 'overnight' by being cold or having a numb side then you'll know why the Balloonbed makes so much sense. Spending a bit of extra time on setting up a warmer and comfortable bed will give you a better night's sleep and enable you to be more competitive on day 2. You may find that you enjoy the event more too. One Polaris competitor actually thought that the extra time spent was a good thing - you need something to do at overnight.
- What's the difference between the two types of bed?
You should read the 'Two types' link on the Information tab first really. The main difference is that the Mark2 Balloonbed is about an inch (2.5cms) thicker than the Original Balloonbed as it uses fatter balloons. It is more comfortable but the drawbacks of it are: when you've run out of the balloons we supply you with you will probably need to buy some more from us as they are not very easy to get hold of; and it's also quite high so you might fall off it more easily if you wriggle a lot at night, it also creaks when you turn and feels less stable than the Original. The Original Balloonbed uses standard modeling balloons that are widely available from newsagents, novelty / toy shops. etc.
- Can I inflate and tie the balloons with cold hands?
It's not easy fiddling about with balloons and tying knots when you've got no feeling in your hands. We recommmend you don't inflate the matress until you decide to sleep on it. By then you'll have eaten and had multiple hot drinks. Your hands and fingers will have warmed up by then surely!
- I'm a 'big' bloke - will the mat support me?
We started producing the Mk2 balloonbed specifically for larger users - some people were 'bottoming out' on the original. It's not as stable and takes longer to inflate. It has to be said though, (it's only common sense really) that the heavier you are the more pressure you are putting on the balloons and the more likely it is that the balloons will fail.
- Can I blow the balloons up without a pump?
Well... you might be able to but I can't. Magicians who make animals etc. from them seem to have super-human lungs and inflate them in a couple of seconds. Ordinary mortals like you and I will need to use the pump provided (included in the weight and space statistics). You do develop a skill in using the pump after a while - if you hold it on the floor and press up and down with the palm of your hand rather than using your fingers the balloons go up much quicker.
- Why did you develop the Balloonbed?
That's an easy one - we were fed up with cold uncomfortable nights on the KIMM and Polaris and came up with the idea and a friend said "Can you make me one?" and then that friend told another a friend and said "Can you make me one?" and then a ................
- Can we copy your idea and make one of our own?
You'd have to spend quite a lot of time experimenting with something that works well - we've spent months refining the mat to where it is now. Also, the special rip-stop nylon is pretty hard to come by and expensive to buy in small quantities. Why waste your time figuring it all out - you should be training anyway!