Sunday, 13 February 2011

On Winter Sleeping Mats (An Unexpected Newcomer)

I had intended this to be a comparison of the Big Agnes Insulated Air Core and the Pacific Outdoor Equipment Peak Elite AC. For reasons which will become clear in due course, this post is now more an analysis of both those mats in comparison with (without wishing to give the game away) the SI mat which I view as better than both in winter conditions - the Pacific Outdoor Equipment Peak Oyl Mtn.

We slept on Yewbarrow at around 450m. Temperatures hovered around the 0C mark and heavy rain and persistent, strong wind made for an uncomfortable night. In truth, it was not cold enough to warrant a 4-season mat, but I tend to sleep cold and even at 3-4C, I have found the short Neo Air I normally use to be a little chilly. As a consequence of the failure of my bag to deal with the condensation in the Akto, we sadly only had one night in the fells, spending the other in Keswick. I did not get a chance to test the Peak Elite AC as I used the Big Agnes IAC that night. However my companion used the Peak Elite and reported on it the next day whilst we sat in a Keswick taproom, imbibing - in fact, we discussed all our mats that day because my brother in law had arrived with his brand new POE Peak Oyl Mtn. The Peak Elite AC was considered to be very comfortable, easy to inflate and use, and more than warm enough for the conditions. Nothing more could be asked of any mat and my Initial Analysis of POE Peak Elite AC can be found here. It performed as expected and was not too delicate (at 33 denier) to cause concern to him about puncture. I'll do a more thorough review after some more time in the hills with it.

The Big Agnes IAC also performed sufficiently well to justify its existence. It was warm enough, comfortable and did the job I needed it to do. On balance, I would probably have preferred it to be longer and it's here that the Peak Elite AC beats it. In winter, I would probably choose the Peak Elite AC over the Big Agnes IAC but this is a feature of the length/weight balance rather than warmth.

Peak Oyl Mtn
However, as POE have revitalised their range for 2011, the newcomer SI mat is the Peak Oyl Mtn (not the older Peak Oyl Aero Mtn, which is heavier by some distance). Vital Statistics, according to POE, are as follows:

  • Bio-mapped stuffed diamonds increase warmth to provide a good night sleep in cold conditions;
  • 40% Bio-based foam lessens the environmental impact by using a rapidly renewable source;
  • Durable, abrasion resistant 50 Denier DRS Recycled P.E.T nylon fabric;
  • Diamond die cutting reduces weight and pack size;
  • Insulated bermed side rails keeps you in the saddle to prevent waking up half on half off;
  • 550g for the regular version (we weighed it without its stuffsack and it was not the marketed 690g at all, but this is explained below); and
  • A thermal R-rating of 3.5 on the legs and 5.0 on the Torso. 

For reasons that arise as a consequence of the manufacturing process, and the variable composition and density of the foam used, our example of the Peak Oyl Mtn weighed less than advertised but with the same insulating and supportive properties. The weight quoted, I am told by POE, is the maximum weight the Peak Oyl Mtn will be.

My conclusion is that the sure winner of the three, most effectively balancing weight with effectiveness, must be the Peak Oyl Mtn. It's warmth is better than the 4.4 of the Peak Elite AC. It is extremely durable but, if it punctures, you'll still have some insulation regardless - perhaps enough to keep you safe if not comfortable. It packs down to a much smaller size than billed by POE too - it is not far off the Peak Elite AC and Big Agnes IAC. It is very comfortable indeed, according to my brother in law, and very warm. Sure, the Peak Elite AC is lighter, but the Peak Oyl Mtn is a true 4-season mat. For winter, it is simply the better choice in my view.

There are a number of new mats hitting the market for Winter 2011 - a new Neo Air, a new Exped Synmat as well as forays into the mat world for companies that hitherto have not made mats. It'll be interesting, but at the moment, the Peak Oyl Mtn balances weight with functionality in a very intriguing way.


  1. Good to see that POE are addressing the weight issues they had in the past, it was common to find that mats were as much as 100g more than suggested.

    The Peak Oyl Mtn looks very good, I had a Peak Oyl Lite which I really liked but it was much heavier than suggested which was a disapointment. I much prefer SI mats over InsulAir mats, the thing that set the Peak Oyl Lite apart from the rest of the SI herd was the air chamberrs down both sides (referred to as 'bermed' by POE) In the end I sold it on due to the weight.

    If I found a Peak Oyl Mtn at 550g I'd be tempted apart from the fact that I have enough mats as it is.

  2. This one actually belongs to my brother in law but he, I and the chap I normally head into the hills with tend to pool our kit. I prefer SI mats too but they tend to be heavy. At anything under 600g, a 5.0 183cm mat is worth looking at for winter.

  3. It looks a perfect shape to me and R5.0 under 600g. Great
    I had been waiting to hear a review on the new Vaude Norskken mat but i like the look of this one.
    I won’t be investing in one just yet though but a very interesting post and one to keep in mind for later in the year.

  4. Very interesting. I'm going to look around for one to buy in the states. What does the Oyl Mtn weigh? Did you say?

  5. The misted weight is 690g for a regular but for reasons PoE explained to me to do with the variable densities of the insulating foam that will always be the maximum weight - ours was 550g! With no reduction in comfort or insulation!

  6. The misted weight is 690g for a regular but for reasons PoE explained to me to do with the variable densities of the insulating foam that will always be the maximum weight - ours was 550g! With no reduction in comfort or insulation!

  7. Where can I buy one of these? Me and my friends are going to camp soon and I need a durable bag to sleep on.