Reviews You Can Rely On

Exped SynMat HL M Review

A lightweight minimalist sleeping pad that doesn't quite stack up to the competition
Exped SynMat HL M
Photo: Backcountry
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Price:  $169 List | $169.00 at Backcountry
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Lightweight, grippy top surface, small packed size
Cons:  Colder than some, thin, narrow
Manufacturer:   Exped
By Brian Martin ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Nov 18, 2020
  • Share this article:
Our Editors independently research, test, and rate the best products. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Learn more
65
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#8 of 13
  • Comfort - 30% 6
  • Weight and Packed Size - 30% 8
  • Warmth - 20% 5
  • Ease of Inflation - 10% 9
  • Durability - 10% 4

Our Verdict

The Exped SynMat HL M is a functional sleeping pad that lags behind the leaders in ultralight insulated backpacking sleeping pads. Some redeeming features added in to complicate the decision making, but ultimately the low level of comfort offered by this pad overshadows many of the high points, such as its extremely light weight, small packed size, and cleverly textured and grippy sleeping surface. Our main gripe is how too narrow this pad feels and the easily collapsed side baffles, making it feel like it wanted to buck us off like an unbroken mustang.

Compare to Similar Products

 
Exped SynMat HL M
This Product
Exped SynMat HL M
Awards  Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award Best Buy Award Best Buy Award 
Price $169.00 at Backcountry
Compare at 2 sellers
Check Price at Backcountry
Compare at 3 sellers
Check Price at Backcountry
Compare at 2 sellers
$64.95 at AmazonCheck Price at Backcountry
Compare at 2 sellers
Overall Score Sort Icon
65
74
73
61
55
Star Rating
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Pros Lightweight, grippy top surface, small packed sizeSuperior warmth, small packed size, lightLightweight, warm for the weight, packs small, comfortable, versatileGreat value, wide, reasonably lightLightweight, affordable, great warmth adding supplement
Cons Colder than some, thin, narrowNarrow, expensiveExpensive, edges not as stable as other pad designsLow R-value, thinner than someBreaks down over time, dimples gather dirt and moisture
Bottom Line A lightweight minimalist sleeping pad that doesn't quite stack up to the competitionA true jack of all trades sleeping pad with a highly effective updated valve systemBig weight savings and great all around performanceOne of the best values in sleeping pads in a light and compact packageAn effective sleeping pad that offers decent three season warmth in a very lightweight package
Rating Categories Exped SynMat HL M Therm-a-Rest NeoAir... Therm-a-Rest NeoAir... Klymit Static V2 Therm-A-Rest Z Lite...
Comfort (30%)
6.0
7.0
7.0
7.0
1.0
Weight And Packed Size (30%)
8.0
7.0
8.0
7.0
8.0
Warmth (20%)
5.0
9.0
7.0
2.0
4.0
Ease Of Inflation (10%)
9.0
8.0
8.0
8.0
10.0
Durability (10%)
4.0
6.0
6.0
7.0
10.0
Specs Exped SynMat HL M Therm-a-Rest NeoAir... Therm-a-Rest NeoAir... Klymit Static V2 Therm-A-Rest Z Lite...
Weight 15.3 oz 18.2 oz 16 oz 17.5 oz 14 oz
Thickness 2.8 in 2.5 in 2.5 in 2.5 in 0.75 in
Claimed R Value 3.3 6.9 4.2 1.3 2.6
Length 72 in 72 in 72 in 72 in 72 in
Width 20 in 20 in 20 in 23 in 20 in
Packed Volume (L) 1.2 L 1.8 L 1.8 L 0.9 L 1.8 L
Breaths to Inflate 8-12 15-20 15-20 12-14 0
Type Air Construction Air Construction/Baffled Insulation Air Construction/Baffled Insulation Air Construction Closed-cell foam

Our Analysis and Test Results

If we were awarding the first pick in the inflatable ultralight insulated pad category strictly by weight, the SynMat HL would be the winner. It weighs in a bit lighter than our award winner at 15.5 ounces but lags in some other absolutely critical categories — mainly in overall comfort.

Performance Comparison


This lightweight minimalist sleeping pad lacked the overall comfort...
This lightweight minimalist sleeping pad lacked the overall comfort we look for in a sleeping pad we intend to use many nights in a row but would be a great addition to a lightweight kit.
Photo: Brian Martin

Comfort


The biggest hit to the overall performance for the Synmat HL is the lacking comfort. It isn't that the pad is too thin because it's actually on par with our award winner in thickness; the main detractors are how narrow the pad feels and how easily collapsed the sides are, making it feel even more narrow than it is. Our two main testers for this pad represent two wildly different body types. One is about six feet and 180 ish pounds, and the other five feet, four inches, and only weighing 115 pounds.

Even the five footers lamented on how difficult it was to find a comfortable sleeping position with how narrow the pad was. Our six-footer engulfed the pad, shoulders, and arms hanging off when lying flat on his back. While the pad footprint wasn't quite adequate for our testers, the bottom line is this pad was far more comfortable than a closed-cell foam pad but lags behind the top pads in this subcategory of ultralight backpacking inflatables.

Compared to other pads, the Hyperlight lacked plushness and was a...
Compared to other pads, the Hyperlight lacked plushness and was a bit narrow even for our small-sized gear testers.
Photo: Brian Martin

Weight and Packed Size


The highlight of this pad was how little it weighs and how tidy a bundle it packs into. At 15.5 ounces, it is lighter than our award-winning top pick for ultralight pads (by about .5 ounces) and retains a decent R-value. The weight is impressive considering this pad utilizes a synthetic filament for insulation, which makes for crinkle-free insulation vs. our award winners aluminized crinkle fest insulation.

The packed size is equally impressive to the overall weight. Utilizing synthetic insulation typically adds a lot to a pad's bulk, but the SynMat HL is highly packable and about the size of a standard Nalgene bottle and able to crush down even further without compromising the loft of the insulation inside.

15.3 ounces is impressive considering the pad claims a 3.3 R-value.
15.3 ounces is impressive considering the pad claims a 3.3 R-value.
Photo: Brian Martin

Warmth


While the SynMat HL does carry an R-value of 3.3 from Expeds testing and a universal ASTM value of 2.9. A few factors outside of the R-value that we found detracted from the overall warmth of the pad, though it did a decent job of keeping us warm enough. The narrow footprint and waking frequently having our feet or arms off the pad significantly detracted from staying warm through the night. Additionally, for a three-season pad, we have been struggling to stay warm during chilly fall nights. As a fair-weather sleeping pad, we found the warmth to be adequate, but ultimately, we found ourselves supplementing this pad with a closed-cell pad underneath to make it through cold (mid 30 degree) nights.

Even our smaller sized testers felt the Hyperlite was a bit too...
Even our smaller sized testers felt the Hyperlite was a bit too narrow at the foot and was challenging to stay on during the night.
Photo: Brian Martin

Ease of Inflation


Exped has the inflation side of sleeping pads dialed — their Schnozzel pump sack is the best sack we have tested. The SynMat HL holds such a small volume of air it is filled with two full Schnozzel loads of air. When we hurry, we can unpack and inflate this pad in less than one minute, which is wildly fast compared to some of the other pads. While inflation is a snap, deflation can be a bit more frustrating as the HL only utilizes one valve for both inflation and deflation. The pull tab is utilized to keep the one-way valve open while packing the pad. Yes, this is one extra step, but ultimately it wasn't too much frustration and works well.

The small volume of air needed to fill the Hyperlite made for...
The small volume of air needed to fill the Hyperlite made for extremely fast inflation. Two full pump sack loads almost completely filled the pad.
Photo: Brian Martin

Durability


Throughout our multi-month testing period, we didn't encounter any issues with durability, as the pad has not developed any leaks or issues of any kind. Some aspects are noteworthy; however, that may indicate additional care needs to be taken with this pad. First, the inflate/deflate valve is often in contact with the ground, potentially allowing debris and dirt into the one-way seal, which would certainly cause a slow leak. The other concern is the thin 20d fabric used throughout the pad, which feels fragile. Using a ground cloth of some sort and being very picky with where this pad is pitched is critical. While the past generation of this pad proved fragile and only carried a two-year warranty, the updated HL carries a five year warranty and has an abundance of reviews online remarking about its multi-year longevity.

While this pad does feel feathery and potentially vulnerable, we...
While this pad does feel feathery and potentially vulnerable, we didn't encounter any leaks or issues with durability. It's important to note our testing period lasts a few months and not the multi-year length of time needed to highlight overall longevity.
Photo: Brian Martin

Value


This is a tough one. When stacked up side by side with our award-winning pad, which is quite similar, the SynMat HL isn't a great value. While it is a touch lighter, it's also more expensive and less comfortable and warm. If the comfort rating was just a bit higher, the price of this pad could be justified, but as it is, we feel like the overall value is a touch lacking.

Conclusion


The SynMat HL M is a decent sleeping pad that is surprisingly lightweight. The synthetic insulation is quiet and packable, which we did enjoy. The biggest fault is the poor comfort offered by a relatively expensive sleeping pad. If going ultralight but having an inflatable pad is a must, give this pad a throughout look, but there may be better options available that suit your needs.

On a final note, the textured fabric did an excellent job and...
On a final note, the textured fabric did an excellent job and keeping us from sliding down the pad while on a gradual slope. If only it were wide enough...
Photo: Brian Martin

Brian Martin