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If you’ve ever gone backpacking with your significant other, you might have noticed that sleeping systems designed for two are hard to find. Even 2 person tents, with their single doors and cramped spaces often feel like they are designed for a solo hiker who wants extra space for their gear. While sleeping bags are sometimes made to be zipped together, lashing 2 sleeping pads together can be awkward and uncomfortable. The problem is even worse if the couple is using a 2 person quilt. Gaps between the sleeping pads allow cold air from the ground to creep up under the quilt and reduce its effectiveness. Enter the Exped Synmat Hyperlite Duo. This sleeping pad is the lightest 2 person mattress currently available. As far as I can tell, it’s the only one designed with (lightweight) backpacking couples in mind. My husband Paul and I carried the Synmat HL Duo for our PCT thru-hike last summer, which gave us ample opportunity to put this pad to the ultimate test.
MSRP: $280 (regular) $300 (long)
Pad Type: Air Pad
Weight: 2 lbs 0.1 oz (regular length), 2 lbs 9.1 ounces (long length)
Length: 72 inches (regular), 77.6 inches (long)
Width: 41/32 inches (regular), 51/40 inches (long)
Thickness: 2.8 inches
*We use the regular length pad. I’m the taller one at 5’9”.
This pad is comfortable! Some hikers can handle sleeping on closed cell pads for months on end, but I am not one of these people. I find them horribly uncomfortable. On the Appalachian Trail, Paul and I each slept on a self-inflating mattress. They made it through the trail without issue, but I still dealt with a lot of hip pain and limbs falling asleep. It wasn’t until we switched to the air pad that I realized how much my quality of sleep had been suffering. I got much better rest on the PCT with the Synmat.
One nice feature of the Synmat HL Duo is that there are 2 distinct air chambers. This allows each person to fill the pad as firmly as they would like without affecting the other person. It also means there is much less transfer of motion if one partner is moving around a lot. It also means that if one side gets leaky, there is only one unlucky sleeper until the pad is repaired.
This pad is warm. Paul and I used it in conjunction with our 2-person sleeping quilt. I never felt cold from below, even with snow and temperatures down to the teens.
Although the sticker price isn’t exactly cheap, it is still competitively priced. 2 regular length NeoAir XLites will set you back about $340, so the Exped comes out cheaper. 2 short NeoAir XLites will cost around $260, which is just slightly cheaper.
The Synmat HL Duo is pretty light, but I would like to see some options for shaving off a few more ounces to make it a truly ultralight option. Let’s compare this setup to a couple using 2 Neoair XLite pads lashed together. (The Neoair is probably the lightest and most widely used and air pad among thru-hikers). 2 regular length pads lashed together will come out to about 26 ounces, or 6 ounces lighter than the Synmat HL Duo. In other words, the Synmat HL duo adds 3 ounces per person compared to Neoairs of the same length. Going to short Neoair pads saves even more weight, bringing the total to 18 ounces, or 14 ounces lighter! I would really like to see Exped offer a shorter option of the Synmat Duo for some extra weight savings. As for now, I think the added warmth and comfort of the 2 person pad is worth the few extra ounces we each have to carry for it. In the meantime though, I wouldn’t call this pad hyperlite.
It takes a lot of lung power to blow this pad up, another reason why I would like to see a shorter version of this pad. I find myself lightheaded afterward. Since there are 2 chambers, sometimes we each blow up half. There is also the schnozzel pumpbag, which can be used to blow it up if you don’t mind carrying a little extra weight to save your lungs. (It can also minimize condensation inside the pad). I’ve seen others use it but never tried myself.
Air pads have one major drawback, and that is they can leak. An airpad is the most comfortable mattress to camp with, but a deflated one might be the worst. We did get a small puncture on Paul’s side of the mat after a poor location choice for cowboy camping (sleeping under the stars with no tent). However, with a little water and a little searching, we found the hole and patched it right up with no further problems.
I love our sleeping pad. It’s cozy, comfortable and warm. We can cuddle under the quilt without worrying about cracks between sleeping pads, or we can move apart for some more personal space. The price is competitive and the pad is easy to repair in the field. I wish there was a lighter option out there, but for now this is the lightest 2 person mat there is, so we’re sticking with it. If you regularly hike with a partner, and especially if your sleep system is a 2-person quilt or 2 bags you sometimes zip together, this pad is awesome.
While on the CDT, one of the internal baffles broke, making the pad still functional but a little lumpy. Exped has a 2 year warranty, so I sent them an email and they replaced the pad for free, shipping it to us along the trail. Even if they hadn’t replaced it, I would have bought a new one, because we enjoy it and have used it heavily. But it is an added bonus when a company stands by their products and provides excellent customer service.