By Tom Newberry
This past spring/summer I’ve been testing out the Exped Synmat Hyperlite and so far I am thoroughly impressed. It has been durable enough to withstand bivying in North Wales, warm enough on Kilimanjaro and light enough to carry in my pack on 8 day treks.
On inflation, the 20 denier, next to skin comfort fabric feels soft and inviting whilst also seemingly tough for a lightweight airbed. The length-ways baffles and 7cm thickness gives the mat a lilo feel. Some people don’t find baffles comfortable, but in my view they do provide superb comfort and protection even on rough, uneven-ground. If you were being pernickety the baffles can be a slightly squeaky when you move around on the mat, but this didn’t effect my sleep in the slightest. The anti-slip Grip-Skin honeycomb patterned helps you stay on your mat instead of playing slip and slide in your sleeping bag. However, the Synmat HL’s heavily tapered design makes it relatively easy for a restless sleeper’s legs to fall off during the night, so those who are less concerned about minimising weight or who wriggle around during their sleep may prefer a more forgiving rectangular design. Whilst those on the broader side, may want to take a fairly minor weight and wallet hit by investing in the Wide version, which is 13cm wider at the shoulder.
At 365g, the Synmat HL is one of the lightest full-length insulated mat on the market. The micro-fibre synthetic fill is laminated to the upper and lower sides, maximising loft when inflated. The fill and 7cm inflated thickness provide three-season warmth down to -6°C. The added warmth allows for a thinner sleeping bag to be used, thus saving further weight. When combined with a warmer 4season bag, I’ve slept soundly in temperatures down to -11°C. As with any mat, putting clothing underneath will boost the cumulative resistance to conductive heat loss.
As an added piece of ingenuity, Exped includes the 'Schnozzel Pumpbag'. This inventive dry-bag allows you to instantly inflate the mat without using your own breath thus removing the tiresome act of blowing up your mat at the end of the day. A bonus at altitude. Using the bag also protects the inside of the mat from moist air and it will help extend the life of the mat by keeping the inside dry and thus mould-free. The bag also doubles up as a lightweight dry bag, and makes an excellent extra waterproof layer of protection for your sleeping bag. Deflation was as simple as inflation. There were no issues with trying to get the last of the air out but care should be taken rolling the mat back up if you’d like to fit it easily back into the snug stuff bag.
It’s worth bearing in mind that, as with most lightweight gear, reduced weight and pack size can come at the expense of durability. The mat's 20 denier outer fabric is less substantial than the nylon used on other pads, as such I will be treating the Synmat Hyperlite with a little more care. That said, if the worst does happen then Exped have included a repair kit. I have used the SynMat throughout the summer, sometimes directly on the ground (no tent), thus far without any tears or pin holes. Exped guarantee this model for two years as opposed to their standard five years, so that should tell you something. As such, don’t over estimate durability and take extra care when inflating the mat outside your tent.
The Hyperlite’s main selling point is the mat’s minimal weight and small pack size; Exped claim it is “the world’s lightest mat at its warmth and comfort levels” with which I’d probably agree. While it isn't the best for casual camping, the Hyperlite is an excellent mat for lightweight backpacking, alpine climbing, multi-day treks and even throwing into your travel pack "just in case". It is competitively warm for the weight and the 7cm thick baffles make it comfortable on any terrain. The narrow tapering at the foot reduce weight further and allow it to be used in small tents but makes it less roomy than alternative models.
Pros: Ultra lightweight and compact for a 3 season mat. Comfortable on any terrain. Clever inflation system.
Cons: Heavy taper maybe too narrow for restless sleepers. Care needed to repack in to its snug stuff sack. Squeaky baffles may annoy your tent buddy.