Get a comfy night’s sleep on your next camping trip by packing the lightweight Exped SynMat UL (ultralight) sleeping mat, designed to take up as little space as possible in your pack. We put it to the test to see how it matches up to the rest of the best camping mats on the market. Here's our Exped SynMat UL camping mat review.
Note: before you buy, be aware there are several versions of this mat, so check R rating and dimensions to be sure you're getting the one that meets your needs.
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Exped SynMat UL camping mat review: design and features
The Exped SynMat Utralight is, as the name suggests, a lightweight mat at just 450g, thanks to being a fully inflatable design. While we’ve tested out some lighter mats, we haven’t met many more compact mats than this – the Synmat packs down to about the size of a one litre water bottle, so it’s easy to transport.
The version of the SynMat we tested out has an R rating (the measure of how warm and insulated a camping mat will keep you) of 3.3, which is ample for spring, summer and autumn use. For winter expeditions we’d recommend choosing a mat with a higher R rating of above four or five.
This isn’t the only incarnation of the SynMat available – a warmer version, the original SynMat, weighs almost double at 850g but offers an R rating of 4.9, making it more suitable for winter camping than this Ultralight three season version. A ‘wide’ version of the mat is also suitable for anyone who prefers more space at night, and doesn’t add on too much weight at 535g.
Exped SynMat UL camping mat review: performance and comfort
While the SynMat is a three-season mat, it does work hard to keep you warm in low temperatures, lifting the sleeper high off the ground with seven centimetres of width when inflated, which is great for further insulating you from the cold. When inflated firmly, we found the SynMat very comfortable to sleep on all night, never deflating and holding you in place even if you do toss and turn, or prefer to sleep on one side.
The rectangular shape and curved surface of the mat hold you nicely in the centre of the SynMat – so there’s no slipping off the side in the middle of the night. We also liked how quiet the mat was on test – many mats crinkle irritatingly every time you move, but the SynMat is pleasingly stealthy.
Where the SynMat is less than perfect is when it’s time to stuff it back into its dinky stuff sack – it takes a bit of trial and error and some tight squeezing to fold the mat into three, then roll it snugly enough to squish it into its storage bag. Once you get the hang of it, though, the packing process isn’t too stressful. And it’s worth it for how small and compact the packed away mat is, fitting into a water bottle pocket or easily finding space in smaller backpacks, or a bike pannier.
Our other concern is that the mat’s surface material doesn’t feel super strong and sturdy– you’ll need to avoid using the mat on sharp rocky ground to avoid tearing, although a small repair kit is included in case the worst does happen when you’re halfway up a mountain.
Exped SynMat UL camping mat review: verdict
Highly packable and portable, Exped’s SynMat UL is great for wild camping and backpacking – as long as you stick to using it in three seasons. Where it stands out from the pack is in the comfort it offers by keeping you off the ground and snugly in place all night, and in how quiet it is, which is ideal for light sleepers. If you like its comfortable design, there are other versions of the SyMat available.