If you review the regulations for any permitted section of river, pretty much all of them require having a floor for your kitchen as part of leave no trace practices. A kitchen floor in the river community is typically a thick mesh mat, called a sand mat, that keeps crumbs and microtrash from ending up on the beach. Shaking out your sand mat in the water keeps rodents from habituating around campsites and causing problems for those who will camp in the same spot after you. It also preserves the “5 second rule” to an extent if you drop something onto the ground while prepping ingredients!
So, since a sand mat is a required piece of gear on many trips, it’s a good idea to invest in one. There are actually quite a few uses for sand mats that I have discovered, and I regularly use them outside of rafting, so they have been an excellent gear investment!
The CGear Sand-Free Multimats and CGear Sandlite Sand-Free Mats are both great choices. Fine sand, silt, and dust flow through them like a sieve, it’s actually pretty amazing how well they work!
On many river trips, especially shoulder season trips where insects aren’t really a thing, it makes more sense to “sleep out” and forgoing the twice-daily cycle of breaking down and setting up a tent. When you ditch the tent, you quickly find out that you don’t really have a clean place to spread your gear out and such. An 8-by-8 or 10-by-10 CGear Sand-Free Multimat is just what you need to solve this problem. Throw the mat down, then your sleeping pads, and then you have about the same floorspace that you would in a tent around your pads to spread out without getting your clothes dirty or dust in your drybags!
Quick tip from personal experience: Set up your sleeping bag right before you go to bed when you are “sleeping out” to keep the spiders out! For some reason spiders seem to love unoccupied sleeping bags. Don’t worry, they definitely stay away while you’re sleeping… Sleep well 🙂
I also use my 10×10 CGear Sand-Free Multimat to cover my 20mm Ammo Cans in my Raft Frame’s drop bag bay, so I can rig my NRS Campsite Counter over the top and keep it protected from the rough edges of the ammo cans. This allows me to extend the deck surface created by my Canyon Cooler Prospector 103 Cooler to use my table as additional deck space for passengers during the day. I like this additional use. Now my required kitchen floor sand mat is a multifunctional item, not just another piece of gear I have to schlep.
I use sand mats off the river, too. My wife and I have a Ford Transit RV, the layout isn’t exactly conducive to carrying a ton of gear. Therefore, every piece of gear takes up precious space that is well planned out. For the RV, the CGear Sandlite Sand-Free Mat fits under the awning and accommodates a Big Agnes Woodchuck Camp Table and two Big Agnes Big Six Camp Chairs nicely.
The same mat provides a great place for lunch on the river when we pull over at dusty or sandy campsites. It serves as an awesome picnic blanket without the bulk of the larger sand-free multimats. If you are doing a small family trip, it will function as a kitchen floor if you are going for a lighter kitchen setup. Both mats do a good job of covering up sharp rocks, too, so you can walk around in the kitchen with bare feet.
The Sandlite Mats fold up super small and have a built-in hook & loop system to secure the roll when you aren’t using it. Having one handy means you can readily control the surfaces you come into contact with, which is pretty important to folks at the moment. Bring it to the park, beach, or to the summit of a popular mountain; they’re light enough and packable!
A friend of mine found an unconventional use for a 12×12 CGear Sand-free Multimat that is worth mentioning. She and her husband were converting a 15-passenger van into a small camper in Farmington, NM in the middle of July.
As you can imagine, it’s pretty hot and there aren’t a lot of places where they could park a van that offered shade. After trying to use a river wing for shade, they discovered that they were constantly at war with the wind. When they found themselves spending more time keeping the river wing in place than working on the van, they scrapped that plan.
They got inventive and rigged their sand mat up to some NRS Cam Straps and stretched it out as a sunshade! It provided the shade they needed for weeks without needing adjustment, and its weight combined with its mesh construction kept the wind from affecting it.
Sandmats are super easy to wash if they get muddy or your buddy over exaggerates a hand motion during a story and knocks the whole pot of pasta sauce onto the ground… Just wipe up what you can and go dunk it in the river and it’s good to go! The material does not absorb water, so just hang them up or drape them over a big rock and they dry very quickly.
We end up using our Sandlite Mat more regularly than our full-size 10×10 Sand-Free Multimat, but owning both has been important to our outdoor lifestyle. If you get one of these and like them, consider the CGear Sand-Free Tote Bags as well. They feature the same material as the mats and are perfect for drybox organization, and for keeping the trunk of your car clean when loading loose gear in at the take-out. We use ours quite a bit!
Have another use for sand mats we haven’t mentioned? Send us a photo and we will feature it on our social media – use #CKSOnline to be featured!
SYOTR – Jake Castle