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.
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.