Welcome! Ultralight backpacking is my passion, and keeping up on new technologies, gear, and techniques relevant to UL backpacking is what floats my boat. I'm always looking for the lightest, most functional gear to improve a lightweight or ultralight backpacking kit, and report my impressions and field testing results here. For hikers wanting to keep up on the latest and greatest ultralight backpacking gear, this is a good place to hang out. Also, there is a lot of information here (and on our informational website Southwest Ultralight Backpacking) on useful techniques and backcountry etiquette -- food for thought for hikers wanting to lighten their load and their impacts.

My goal for Ultralight Insights is to understand, test, and report on new technologies and gear of interest to lightweight and ultralight backpackers. It's a passion after all, so we just plain enjoy talking about it. I hope readers will add their own wisdom and comments, respond to my questions, ask their own questions, and correct me if I get something wrong. Happy hiking! Will

Thursday, January 28, 2016

GEAR REVIEW and My Favorite Gear #6: Exped SynMat HyperLite Sleeping Pad

By Will Rietveld

The Europeans call it a “mat”, we call it a sleeping pad. Whatever you call it, a comfortable and warm sleeping pad (or mat) is frequently at the top of our list of luxury items. Indeed, a good night’s sleep is important for recovery on multi-day backpacking trips, so many ultralight backpackers opt for a comfortable pad. The extra benefits justify the few extra ounces.

The Exped SynMat HyperLite is one of the lightest, full-length, insulated, most comfortable sleeping pads to be found, and lands on my list of favorite gear.

Exped SynMat HyperLite Mat in an enclosed tarp shelter camped at 12,500 feet in Southwest Colorado.

Specifications and Features

Exped (www.exped.com)
SynMat HyperLite Mat
72x20.5x2.75 inches
Manufacturer specification 12.3 oz, measured 11.9 oz (pad only)
Mummy shape, 20 denier polyester fabric, welded seams, microfiber insulation, flat one-way valve design for easy inflation, stuff sack and repair kit included
$169 (size Medium tested) M-wide and L-wide versions available


I tested the Synmat Hyperlite in size Medium, which is the lightest size available.

The pad is made of 20-denier polyester and is mummy shaped to save weight and provide adequate durability.

Lofted microfiber insulation is laminated to the top and bottom inner surfaces, providing lightweight, efficient 4-season warmth. The R-value is 3.3, which is sufficient for the shoulder seasons, but a bit low for winter camping (for that Exped has the SynMat WinterLite with a 4.9 R-value and weight of 14.3 ounces).

The pad is extra thick (2.75 inches) and has a baffling system for uniform support.

The pad has a flat inflation/deflation valve on the bottomside. The one-way valve makes it easy to inflate the pad (I counted 25 blows to fully inflate it). To deflate it the small plastic tab is inserted into the valve to hold it open while you press the air out.

Field Testing

I tested the Synmat Hyperlite on several backpacks in the Southwest Colorado mountains, Utah canyon country, and the Grand Canyon in Arizona.

What more can I say: this pad is really, really comfortable. It is also easy to inflate/deflate, its warm, and I had no problems with punctures, even while camping on rocky ground in the Grand Canyon. It also works well with a quilt, as shown in the photo.


Yes it weighs about 5 ounces more than a lightweight ¾-length sleeping pad, such as the Therm-A-Rest NeoAir Short. However for that extra 5 ounces you get a full-length, thicker, more comfortable pad. Honestly, it’s hard not to take this pad on a backpacking trip. Many ultralight backpackers allocate a few luxury ounces to a more comfortable sleeping pad for a better night’s sleep, and as I get older I am slipping into that category.

For comparison, the Therm-A-Rest NeoAir X-Lite size Regular is 72x20x2.5 inches, weighs 12 ounces, R-value is 3.2, and cost is $160, so the specs and cost are comparable. Both are good pads; I would personally choose the Exped.

1 comment:

  1. Did you ever feel that the pad is a bit narrow? This is the common complaint that I hear. Maybe going with the wide version would solve this?