The Vertex / Delta Hiking / West Hikers inflatable mattress seems to be everywhere on social media these days, thanks to a pretty determined advertisement campaign. These obscure companies claim to have created nothing less than “the ultimate camping mattress for outdoor enthusiasts”.
Comfortable, durable and warmth, all at a very decent price. Yet independent reviews are nowhere to be found. “The most comfortable rated mattress ever”, or just clever marketing? I put it to the test.
I purchased my Vertex sleeping pad in Canada in October 2019. Since then, it has seen sporadic action in Egypt, Sudan and Saudi Arabia. I used it to bivvy in the desert, sleep in our tarp tent, in Sudanese “hotels” and on an overnight ferry. That amounts to a total of approximately 50 nights.
I always slid a yoga mat underneath to avoid poking a hole. When I could, I stored it with the valve open to chase away the humidity brought in by my breath. Most of the time, however, it remained packed in my bag. During the day, I systematically deflated it partially to avoid any excessive pressure built-up.
Coming from a self-inflating Prolite Plus mat, this is one of the more comfortable pads I have used so far. But some of the specs advertised on the website seem quite optimistic. Vertex pretends to sell a 50 mm / 2 in thick mattress. It’s more like 30 mm / 1.2 in on average if you consider the many grooves.
The built-in pillow is an interesting idea, but I find it way too thick and hard. I usually end up using a piece of clothing as headrest instead.
This camping mattress claims an R value of 4.2, which puts it theoretically in the 4 season category. I haven’t pushed it under 5 °C / 41 °F in the desert, and frankly I wouldn’t risk it. The countless grooves create a large number of cold spots where there is nothing between your body and the ground but a thin layer of fabric. Since air is what isolates you from the ground, I don’t see how this design could possibly excel in wintry conditions.
My doubts are accentuated by another major design issue: the valve easily pops open when the mat is fully inflated. For instance, when sleeping on the floor of a ferry boat between Sudan and Egypt, it repeatedly deflated without warning.
To prevent this, I have to inflate it as little as possible on harder ground. But air sleeping pads like the Vertex must be completely inflated for optimal insulation. So on snow you’d basically have the choice between being cold and having the valve potentially pop on you. Not exactly ideal…
Bulk & Weight 5/5
The Vertex pad’s weight and small packed size are its greatest assets. With the provided storage sack, the mat takes as much room as a small water bottle and weighs less than half a kilo / 1 lbs. 474 g / 16.12 oz on our scales to be precise. It’s splendid. Then again, that’s fairly average for a modern inflatable camping mat.
Bulk When Inflated. Inside the tent, it’s a different story. This mat cannot have been designed for people who share a small hiking tent. Once inflated, it’s wider than most trekking pads and the rectangular shape is far from optimal. The humongous pillow is larger than the rest of the mat and encroaches on my partner’s space.
Quilt Users. Since I use a quilt instead of a regular sleeping bag, I rely on elastics and clips to secure it to my sleeping pad in colder conditions. The Vertex is too wide, and simply lacks the rigidity to accommodate the attachment system efficiently.
Materials. The fabric is thin. Not unlike most high-end lightweight sleeping pads, one might argue, but the overall product feels cheap. The dual-layer nylon used to build this mattress is not that bad, but claiming “ultimate resistance” is far-fetched.
I haven’t pocked a hole in it yet, although religiously supplementing the Vertex with a yoga mat certainly helped. Having to use a second pad to protect it does somewhat defy the point of an ultralight set-up, but that can be said of fancy pads too.
The fabric is water repellent, but gets stained easily by greasy substances such as sunscreen. I noticed that the fabric has static properties that attract sand and dust like no other mat I have used before. This could cause abrasion while packed. Using a wet cloth helps.
Poor Valve Design. I had to eventually retire my Vertex mat because the valve started popping open every now and then when I slept on hard ground.
It’s not broken, it’s not faulty, it is simply poorly designed. The valve consists of several tightly fitting plastic parts. So the only thing keeping your mat from deflating is a bit of friction. There is nothing, no O-rings or other mechanism, to secure the valve once the pad is pressurized. I weigh about 54 kg / 120 lbs, for those who wondered.
Ease Of Use 4/5
Inflation. The website says it takes only 5 to 10 breaths to inflate the mat. Make that at least 10 to 20. At the very least. Deflation is as quick as promised though and takes a short second. Wonderful, as long as it was intended.
Packing. Very easy to pack, since the air is not retained inside in any way. As mentioned before, what might take a moment is cleaning the mat to make sure you don’t accidentally pick up small rocks. The provided stuff sack is loose fitting. Simply fold in 4 and roll!
Another interesting topic. I have seen the Vertex mat advertised at different prices last year, but always on sale. When I acquired mine, it was going for 47.50 USD after a whopping 75% discount. Its current retail price on the web is 79.99 USD, marked down to 39.99 USD. Fascinating. And for the DeltaMattress clone from Delta Hiking, the list price of 100 USD is reduced to 50 bucks. Bargain? Really?
And it gets better. A cursory glance at Aliexpress, the Chinese online retail giant, reveals that the Vertex, the Delta Mattress, the West Hikers’ and all its siblings are nowhere near as unique and groundbreaking as you are led to believe. For example, the suspiciously identical-looking Widesea pad, for 20 bucks, also doubles as a swimming pool mattress, which might finally explain the ridiculously sized pillow.
The 30-day post-delivery guarantee is also not exactly revolutionary. But that’s often the risk to take with cheaper gear from unknown companies.
That being said, I recently contacted Vertex Hiking regarding the sudden deflation issue. Their customer service offered to send a replacement if I provided them with pictures showcasing the defect. I am still not sure of how I am going to photograph a valve failure, but that should be an interesting challenge!
Vertex / DeltaMattress / West Hikers Sleeping Pad:
The Vertex, Delta Hiking and West Hikers marketing teams might sing high praises. But when put on trial, the verdict is clear with such an unreliable valve system. This mat simply doesn’t deliver. That exactly the same product keeps appearing under different names with the same aggressive social media marketing raises some questions too. OK, dropshipping has been around for a while, but this is not exactly ethical, to remain polite.
If you are after trimming your load down to the minimum and still need a reliable sleeping pad, I cannot recommend the Vertex mattress. I know, it’s disappointing… I also wanted it to be the next big thing! While traveling, carrying the right piece of equipment is crucial. It’s probably the only one that you will have access to. Don’t hesitate to invest a little bit more into something that will otherwise end up in a junk yard in a matter of months. Or have a look at more durable budget alternatives.