5 Bits of Hiking Gear that Make Life Easier

Hiking Gear Tip #4 – Piece of Closed Cell Foam Mat aka “Foamie”

Closed Cell Foam Matt has multiple uses

My humble foamie (50cm x 35cm)

A very wise person once told me that everything in your pack should have more than one use. Well, I reckon it would be hard to find something in my backpack that has more uses than my humble foamie. Ah yes, with all the developments in sleeping mats over the years, the poor old foamie (CCF – Closed Cell Foam Mat) has copped a bit of flack and become the poor cousin to the schmancy inflatables that are around these days. Measuring 50cm x 35 cm (20″x 14″) and cut down from my first ever camping mat, here’s some of the uses I’ve come up with:

Closed Cell Foam Matt has multiple uses

Use 1: A seat – the obvious one!

1. A Seat – How many of us have memories of our grandmother saying, ‘don’t sit on the cold ground, you’ll get piles!’. Now, even though we’ve all proved that this was an old wives tale, just simply having a more comfy spot for morning tea whilst out hiking is enough to have me pack my foamie on both day hikes and extended trips.

Closed Cell Foam Matt has multiple uses

Use 2: A ‘flapper’ to get more oxygen into your fire

2. A Fire Starting “Flapper” – These make a great fan for getting more oxygen into the base of your fire when trying to get it going. Flap away! Check out my How to Light a Fire video for full instructions!

Closed Cell Foam Mat Other Uses Blisters

Ouch! A blister.

Closed Cell Foam Mat Other Uses Blister Protection

Cut a ring of foam

Closed Cell Foam Mat Other Uses Blisters

Encircle the blister

Closed Cell Foam Mat Other Uses Blisters

Attach Foam Ring – Fixomul is good





Blister Protection – Not so much a treatment, but a way of protecting a blister from further damage and helping alleviate pain if you need to keep walking on your blister… Simply cut a ring shape off the corner of your foamie and put it around the blister, then secure in place with something like Fixomul. Then, put your shoe back on and voila – no rubbing on your blister anymore!

Closed Cell Foam Mat Other Uses First Aid

Improvised Neck Brace – Foamie in Triangular Bandage

Closed Cell Foam Mat Other Uses First Aid

Improvised Neck Brace – Roll the Foamie inside Triangular Bandage


Closed Cell Foam Mat Other Uses First Aid

Improvised Neck Brace – With a smiling patient… just!

4. First Aid : Improvised Neck Brace – Out in the wilderness you need to be able to improvise when faced with injuries. By using one of your triangular bandages from your first aid kit, you can create a type of neck brace to support a casualty with a suspected spinal injury.

5. First Aid : Improvised Splint/Padding – Whilst not strictly rigid, a foamie can be used to help splint an injured limb, foot, hand/ankle or simply provide extra protection to an injury if you need to move the casualty. The other benefit is its insulating qualities to help keep the person warm.

Closed Cell Foam Mat Other Uses Pillow

Foamie: Providing insulation for pillow

6. Pillow Insulation – For all you tall people out there (yes, I’m one of you!) you may find that the standard issue sleeping mats are sometimes a bit short. I like to use my sleeping bag cover as my pillow (stuffed with my down jacket or spare clothes), however it needs that extra bit of insulation from the cold that comes up from the ground. Therefore, I use my foamie between the ground and my pillow for extra warmth. Toastie!

Closed Cell Foam Mat Other Uses Shoe Repair

Repair wear spots in shoes with a small cut out of closed cell foam

7. Shoe Repairs – Not that it should ever go that far before you update your shoes, but you can use bits of foamie cut to the right size to repair bits of your hiking shoes/boots. e.g. the ball of your foot might wear through or (more common) the lining on the inside of your shoes may deteriorate and cause a hot spot.

8. Extra Padding to Shoulder Straps – If you’re new to hiking and find yourself on an overnight or extended trip and your pack isn’t fitted or adjusted correctly, you may find the straps rubbing or uncomfortable. Try wrapping foamie around the straps for extra padding.

9. Keeping your water cool in Summer – Unless I’m saving space in my Macpac Tasman 45L and have stored the hydration pack inside the harness trampoline, I usually depart from packing tradition and keep my water bladder inside on the top of my pack. I wrap my foamie around it and it keeps my water cool throughout a hot day walking.

10. Insulating your Hydration Pack hose – I was super impressed a few years back when my friend Thorpie turned up on a walk in the middle of summer with the hose of his hydration bladder (ie. camelback) wrapped in a long strip of old foamie. Sure, some manufacturers now sell this type of thing commercially, but back then he was ahead of his time!

What about you? Do you have some other uses for old foamie that we can add to this list?

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  1. Dylan says

    Here’s a few more things I’ve used foam mats for over the years:
    – They are excellent as a seat, but not just so you don’t get cold, so you don’t get wet and dirty too!
    – They also make a great “door mat” for you to rest your feet on while you put your shoes on in the morning as you emerge from your tent, or while you put your shoes on again after going for a swim and don’t wish to get sand in your socks, or when you are putting your climbing shoes on.
    – If you have a less experienced hiker in your group wearing shoes that are inappropriate in size (or if you have one foot that is bigger than another!) you can use the foam as an improvised innersole to bulk out the shoe.
    – Draw a checker board on them for “Bush Chess”, checkers, tick tack toe, and more
    – They make canoe seats (and any crappy tour bus seats for that matter) much more comfy when you are stuck in the chair for a long time.
    – I camp with a 3/4 length thermarest style mattress, and in the night the foam pad goes beneath my cold toes
    Foam mats are in my Top 5 bits of hiking gear and they are so cheap and light! Cost:Benefit ratio is VERY high for this bit of my kit :)
    If I was a poet I am sure I would have written ode to the “foam bumpad” by now.

    • says

      Great ideas there Dylan to add to the list! Thanks for your thoughts. I really like the idea of bush chess or checkers. Nice one! Oh and have a go at the ode… I’ll kick you off..

      Oh sweet foamie bum-pad, your joys are too many to admire
      Your soft green hues and protective dues
      My bum, does so heartily desire.

      [Psst… that’s your cue]

  2. says

    I used to laugh at the ‘softies’ that carried their Foamies around in their packs. You’ve forever changed my mind. I’m off to add one to my hiking kit right now 😉

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