Rating: 4 / 5
The French sporting goods chain Decathlon has expanded into a number of other countries in recent years including the UK, although I understand that they have closed their American operation. Decathlon shops are very much large warehouse style affairs, competing primarily on price rather than specialist features or materials. Nonetheless, some of their products are worth considering for lightweight hiking.
My old Therm-A-Rest 3/4-length pad, from before the days of die cut foam cores, is as comfortable and warm as ever it was but I rarely use it these days due to the weight. For the 2009 TGO Challenge walk across Scotland I planned to take a closed-cell foam mat until I saw mention of the Quechua (a Decathlon own brand) A100 on an Internet forum. The current price (February 2011) is £19.99 and it was a pound or two lower then, a real bargain assuming its performance was reasonable.
The size is 117cm x 50cm, comparable to other 3/4 length pads and more than large enough for me (six feet tall and moderately broad); Decathlon list the thickness as 2cm - about 4/5 of an inch - although mine is very slightly less than that without additional inflation. Regardless, on numerous wild camps and a couple of commercial campsites I found the thickness offered plenty of comfort, being supportive and warm. This was in May, with temperatures dipping to freezing or thereabouts, plenty of rain and some snow, which is in line with the recommended use. Decathlon helpfully list the packed volume on their website, 3.1 litres which is approximately 190 cubic inches. The mat fitted perfectly inside my GoLite Breeze frameless rucksack, partially inflated to provide some support. I had little trouble with the mat sliding around during the night but on a more slippery surface than the plastic sheet I was using that might be a problem. While not particularly slippy the A100 doesn't really "grab" or stick to a surface either.
Weight is listed at 380g (386g on my scales), around 13.4 oz, which is respectable if not exactly cutting edge in terms of ultralight gear. Where this pad succeeds, though, is in terms of performance for the price. I've had no problems at all with use and durability over the past two years, the mat inflating perfectly each time and showing no more penchant for puncturing than my Therm-A-Rest, although the valve does feel rather cheap, perhaps a long-term problem or something to consider in very cold temperatures where the plastic may fail. At less than £20 it's well worth considering for a comfortable night at a decent weight.