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12 essential tips for sleeping outdoors

Check out this awesome infographic from Thermarest with tips for getting a good night’s kip in the great outdoors.

Thermarest - sleeping well outdoors

Click here to see the full Thermarest range from facewest.co.uk

Image courtesy of Cascade Designs: www.cascadedesigns.com/therm-a-rest/blog/how-to-sleep-well-outdoors-infographic

Pro Review – Arc’teryx Alpha FL 30 and 45


Pro Reviewer:


“When I first saw the new Alpha FL 30 and 45 packs from Arc’teryx, I have to admit to being a little excited. They looked just like the minimum fuss, alpine climbing packs I had been waiting to see someone produce. But did the performance match the looks?”

Arc’teryx Alpha FL 30 Pack – light, simple, tough and streamlined. Perfect for alpine climbing. Here seen in use on the Schmidt Route, Matterhorn North Face.

FL stands for Fast and Light. Move freely and quickly with the minimum of equipment. For me the perfect pack for alpine climbing or any climbing for that matter, should be light, simple, low profile and durable. I don’t want lots of other features and pockets that add bulk, weight and faff. Luckily the Alpha FL 30 pack has none of these. In fact it doesn’t even have a lid.

Arc’teryx say:

“Alpha FL packs were created for climbers and alpinists who want a light, durable and highly weather resistant pack that is pared down to be as simple as possible. No extraneous straps or parts. To save weight and provide the climber with easy access to contents, the traditional top lid has been replaced with our RollTop™ closure and an external security pocket. The RollTop™ provides a weatherproof seal, extends the packs volume and when not needed tucks inside the pack for quicker access. External lash points can be used to attach tools, crampons, extra layers, helmets, sleeping pads, etc. Shoulder straps are soft-edged and carry extremely comfortably with heavy or light loads.

Ultralight and fast, highly weather resistant and alpine strong, the Alpha FL 30 is for built for climbers. An intense focus on the realities of moving fast on rock and ice led to this versatile, streamlined pack that combines leading edge fabric technologies, performance focused design and a confident simplicity.”

In order to see if the Alpha FL pack does what it says on the tin, I’ve tested it to the max. Multipitch alpine rock routes, classic north faces, ridges, 4000m peaks, UK trad, scrambles, it’s been up them all!

Arc’teryx Alpha FL 30 Pack – on test, Matterhorn North Face, Switzerland.

Firstly, the Alpha FL 30 is not a huge pack and those of you that like to take lots of extra kit, just in case, may find it too small particularly if you are carrying bivi kit as well as a full rack of climbing gear. There is a 45 litre version available too though. Arc’teryx say that the FL 30 pack is actually only 23 litres unless you have the roll top lid fully extended, but due to the fact it’s essentially a big stuff sack with rucksack straps and slightly more voluminous at the bottom, I think it feels bigger than that. A lot of it depends on how good you are at packing I suppose, but I managed to get my share of the climbing kit, food, stove and my personal bivi kit in the FL 30, with only axe, crampons, bivi pad and helmet on the outside which is not bad for a small pack. I am quite good at packing, having years of experience when it comes to knowing what I do and don’t need and the safety margins. Others may take more or even less.

When carrying the Alpha FL 30 pack with a full load it felt comfortable and stable on my back, with the simple waist belt and adjustable chest strap helping things along nicely, and easily providing enough comfort for a pack of this size. Due to the back being covered in the same fabric as the rest of the pack, it does get a wee bit sweaty when working hard, particularly when approaching alpine routes for the valley floor or UK summer cragging. It is all a question of balance though. This is a minimalist pack and whilst it feels far from flimsy, it still only weighs 0.575kg.

The simple drawcord and roll top closure system work well and keep all your gear secure and protected from the elements. Whilst not being 100% the Alpha FL 30 is the closest thing I’ve found that is also tough and not heavy. When the pack is not overfilled just roll the roll top down further and pull the draw string tight. When you need extra space the roll down system allows it. No extra weight or bulk.

Simple roll top and drawcord closure for easy access. Two haul loops allow secure attachment at belays etc.

As I said earlier, the fact that the main body is so simple means it is easy to pack and unpack. I did find the small front zipper pocket made packing the main inner a little bit awkward as it tended to bulge inward rather than outward, but this was only an issue when the pack was really full. But this was the only minor issue I experienced with the pack at all.

The outer bungee system covers a multitude of tasks from compressing the pack when it isn’t full to storing items of clothing or lashing your crampons. It also features a very neat and simple ice axe attachment system which is easy to use, secure and also works with modern hammer and adze-less tools.

When climbing with the pack on, it carried like a dream, achieving that crucial balance of not interfering with my harness, not catching my helmet when I look up and being narrow and slim enough that it didn’t interfere with climbing chimneys and narrow couloirs. Streamlined sums it up nicely!

The fabric used on the Alpha FL 30 and the way the whole thing is constructed, is quite special. It is built using the Arc’teryx developed, “N400-AC², a unique nylon fabric that sheds weather. PU coated inside and out, the fabric is water, snow and even air-impermeable. The RollTop™ closure shuts out the elements, and the seams are taped to complete the seal.” This fabric really is light, tough and weatherproof. It feels really burly to touch but then is also very light. Even after months of abuse, I haven’t managed to put a single hole in it. A nice touch is that the inner PU coating is purposefully white to aid visibility when looking into the pack.

Other features include a HD80 foam back panel to provide support and comfort, but also give the pack some structure. This works well and also stops and bulky or pointy objects pressing into your back. All closure features and straps are glove friendly and the pack features 2 haul loops for attaching a haul line when things get too tricky or clipping it into belays.

Overall rating: ★★★★★

All in all the Alpha FL 30 pack from Arc’teryx is pretty much the perfect climbing pack, particularly for technical alpine routes. It is simple, streamlined, easy to pack, tough and weatherproof. It has all the features you need, and none you don’t. Some might find it a bit small for UK trad or winter use, however there is a larger 45 litre version available too. I really like the roll top closure, sleek profile and simple ice tool attachment. Mine has had a lot of use so far but doesn’t look like it has! A great mix of light, simple and bombproof.

Climbing Gear Reviews are an independent reviewer of climbing, skiing and mountaineering equipment. Fronted by Kevin Avery, a trainee IFMGA mountain guide and former Gear Editor at UKClimbing.com, alongside Yorkshire based MIA Dave Sarkar, they provide completely honest and 100% impartial reviews. Click here to see their page.

Arc’teryx Alpha FL Features:

  • AC² Nylon 6 ripstop fabric
  • Mini ripstop 6,6 in primary and extension collar
  • No Stays
  • Burly Double weave
  • Hypercell foam laminated shoulder straps
  • Waistbelt – 40mm Nylon webbing

Full Arc’teryx Alpha FL 30 description here.

Full Arc’teryx Alpha FL 45 description here.

In case you missed it

We run down the best of our Facebook and Twitter pages this week.

The Trad Climb flow chart:


This list (despite it’s lack of Facewest staff!):
The 50 Most Adventurous Men by Men s Journal


Another winner from Danny MacAskill:

(Click the date to watch)

Posted by Danny MacAskill on Tuesday, 12 May 2015


Stu’s latest review:

And finally…

A dog on a skateboard!!

Pro Review – Salomon Fellraiser


Pro Reviewer:
Stuart is co-owner and buying director at Facewest. Stuart has 20 years experience of mountain and endurance sports. He is now in the very fortunate position of being offered lots of kit to test from a host of brands. Although he does not often test the long term durability of many products, having a high turnover of kit allows some great comparisons (like changing jacket mid run to compare breathability and comfort). The ultimate accolade for any product is that stays an everyday item long after it has been fully tested.

The Salomon Fellraiser is an off road / soft ground fell shoe. It can be used as a one shoe does all off roader or as a perfect training shoe to complement a racing shoe.

The Fellraiser has a 45 well spaced lugs on the sole giving great grip on wet grass and mud. A reasonably thick midsole for a fell shoe to give plenty of cushioning with a 6mm drop from toe to heel. The Fellrasier uses the Salomon Quicklace system which features a cord lock and little pocket on the tongue to stuff your lace into one done up, which I think is excellent. Weight wise the Fellraiser is 335g for a size 10, about 10% heavier than the FellCross. The Salomon website lists the weight as 290g (lighter than FellCross) but that’s just plain wrong. The Fellraiser features a reasonable amount of padding as you would expect, both in the tongue and heel cup areas, the upper is a breathable and fast draining mesh. There is a fairly protective rand and toe box, not as protective as the FellCross but more so than the X-Talon. The fit is very middle of the road which suited me well. Definitely a wider last than the S-Lab shoes and very much like an inov8.

The FellRaiser is a good everyday fell running shoe. It balances grip, weight, protection, comfort and durability nicely to give a shoe that you are happy to wear everyday and won’t fall apart in 3 months. For the less obsessed competitor it would be fine for races but does make a great combo with the S-Lab FellCross.

Salomon Fellraiser

  • Open mesh upper
  • Protective toe cap
  • Sensifit
  • Quicklace system
  • Fell running last
  • Lace pocket
  • Tongue cover
  • Injected EVA midsole
  • EVA shaped footbed

Colour: Black / Methyl Blue
Weight: 330g

Full Salomon Fellraiser description here.

Brand New Suunto Core Models

Introducing the Ultimate Black, Azure Crush, and Graphite Crush.

A great watch for general outdoor and mountain use, the Core is the best selling wrist top computer from Suunto and is now the flagship of their outdoor range, all featuring an altimeter, barometer and compass. Add to those features a number of timers, a memory function, storm alarm and depth meter and you have a complete outdoor adventures tool.

Feature Summary:

  • Barometric Altimeter with start from zero function
  • Smart switching from altimeter to barometer mode
  • Storm alarm and weather trend indicator
  • Cumulative ascent/descent and recording logbook
  • Water depth measuremant down to 10m
  • Compass with semi automatic calibration and a digital bearing
  • Multiple watch, date and alarm functions with dual time and countdown timer
  • Sunrise/Sunset times for over 400 locations worldwide
  • Digital thermometer
  • Scratch resistant mineral glass face
  • Backlight
  • Menu based user interface in English, German, French and Spanish
  • 30m water resistance
  • User replaceable battery


Ultimate Black
The Suunto Core Ultimate Black has a sleek and clear look with all black housing and strap. It has a negative face and a black, shaped rubber strap.


Azure Crush
The Suunto Core Azure Crush has an black aluminium housing with with a sleek looking negative face. The azure blue rubber strap gives it a smart yet strong coloured finish.


Graphite Crush
The Suunto Core Graphite Crush has a clear and simple look with black aluminium housing and stylish contrast blue characters. It has a positive face and has been finished off with a smart looking Graphite rubber strap.


Get 10% off any one of these new Core models by clicking here.

Pro Review – Lowe Alpine Alpine Attack


Dave from Climbing Gear Reviews puts the redesigned, lightweight, fully featured Lowe Alpine Alpine Attack through its paces.

“The new Alpine Attack ticks every box for the modern alpinist; a lightweight, durable, clean design capable of carrying ice tools, skis and heavy loads in comfort.”

The Lowe Alpine brand has been making a great comeback recently since being bought into the Equip UK fold. It never really went away but was beginning to look a little jaded and tired. With new investment, a new design team and some great athletes the newer kit is taking its place amongst the great brands once again.

The Lowe Alpine Alpine Attack is a fully redesigned pack and is the lightest pack in the Attack series. The awesome Andy Cave has had some input into the design so you can be sure it’s designed with climbers in mind. It is a fully featured climbing pack and is plenty big enough for all mountain adventures, from cragging to ski mountaineering and everything in between. I found the Alpine Attack more than big enough for every situation I tested it in from winter climbing to popping down the climbing wall. The pack can be extended to 45 litres with the large extended skirt and the floating lid and that makes it more than enough for adventures that need an overnight stop.

The Alpine Attack in climb mode
The Alpine Attack in climb mode.

The Alpine Attack is made from Trishield ripstop fabric with a special silicone treatment that offers even more resistance to wear and tear. The fabric certain felt tough and I could feel the ripstop nature of it, the silicon treatment made the fabric slippery over rock surfaces when thrutching up chimneys and also proved useful when it rained as it provided a good DWR treatment. The removable lid was made from Trisheild fabric and a tough panels at the front a back. The lid pockets were great, plenty big enough for all sorts of kit, the top pocket had a glove friendly zip tag and a key clip. I could easily fit gloves, hat, energy bars, guidebook plus more. The inside pocket of the lid was great for stashing my phone, wallet and other valuables. I would have preferred the key clip to be in the inside pocket. I can understand that when you get back to the car you may not want to open the lid to access your key but I feel that I am accessing the top pocket regularly and that the inside one has my valuables in it and is less likely to be opened through the day.

Fully loaded showing the Headlockerlocker and Webcatcher system for securing ice tools
Fully loaded showing the Headlockerlocker and Webcatcher system for securing ice tools.

The lid was easy to remove if you feel the need to lighten the pack further. The stated weight of the pack is 1.22kg, the trusty CGR scales weighed the test pack at 1.132kg and with the lid removed it went down to 993g, so nice and light. I didn’t really need to remove the lid as I often climb with the lid tucked into the main body. I got around the lid strap dangling around at the bottom of the pack by bring it up and clipping it onto the haul loop. This worked a treat and was a great use of the brilliant Loadlocker buckle which is bombproof and always works, even with gloves on. The lid also had 4 Hyperlon loops in case you are so overloaded you need to stash your crampons on the top, there were also 4 sewn loops on the main body for shockcord lashing.

The whole pack had a nice, light feel to it and it was a great carry. The hip belt was easy to adjust and tighten with the Adaptive Fit system which means that you pull the straps toward you and not away. It’s not a new idea but it does work well and helps make the load carrying easier to adjust on the move. The hipbelt also had two gear loops as well as ice clipper slots so there are plenty of options for glacier work and skiing. The back stays were easy to remove and replace so you can take some weight out for normal day to day cragging and pop them back in if you know you are going to be load lugging. The back of the Lowe Alpine Alpine Attack was stiff enough without the stays for all the activities I tested it in, including winter climbing. In climbing mode I had full head motion and this was great as I’ve tested plenty of packs that fell short on this, the range would be limited however if the pack was fully loaded with the extended lid. And joy of joys the Alpine Attack has wand pockets – a handy addition for carrying ski stuff and poles as well as stuffing rubbish into them.

The shoulder straps were very comfortable and felt just right for my medium sized frame, they were easy to adjust tight and loose and the sternum strap was burly and had four bartacked adjustment loops. There are a full range of straps for getting the adjustment just right for extended carries. There are also hose straps on either side to locate your hydration hose if you use one.

A comfortable pack which is great for any mountain adventure
A comfortable pack which is great for any mountain adventure.

The haul loop was easy to grab and there are two extra ones on the front of the pack to help stabilise it if you intend to do a lot of hauling. The side compression straps also worked very well. The top one fully opened with a buckle to help strap skis in and cinch my ice axes with the help of the Webcatcher system. The system works like the Loadlocker buckle. Just undo the clips, fix your ice axes handle into the space, hook the buckle into the loop, clip the side buckle and cinch tight. It worked reasonably well but I thought it was awkward with gloves on, especially at the end of a tiring day. It was, however, a very secure method of attaching the axe handle to the pack. The head of my ice axe was attached using the Headlocker attachments, these are now well established and Lowe Alpine were the first company to use this system. It is very simple in use just pull the bar, feed it through the hole on the head of your axe and let it go. The bar turns and effectively traps the axe head to the pack. This works well with gloves on, is easy to use and very robust, a nice design.

Performance: ★★★★
Style: ★★★★
Value: ★★★★

In conclusion the Lowe Alpine Alpine Attack is a great all round, lightweight climbing pack. Versatile enough for any mountain adventure you are planning including hutting tours, ski touring and just general cragging. It has fast become my professional pack of choice and clients are always asking about it. Well done Lowe Alpine for redesigning a classic pack and making it fit for modern climbing.

Climbing Gear Reviews are an independent reviewer of climbing, skiing and mountaineering equipment. Fronted by Kevin Avery, a trainee IFMGA mountain guide and former Gear Editor at UKClimbing.com, alongside Yorkshire based MIA Dave Sarkar, they provide completely honest and 100% impartial reviews. Click here to see their page.

Lowe Alpine Alpine Attack Features:

  • Trishield Grid fabric
  • Double headlock axe attachment system
  • Stowable hipbelt
  • AdaptiveFit harness
  • Lash points
  • Front zip with chin guard and wind flap
  • Elastic cuffs
  • Alloy LoadLocker buckles

Colour: Black/Tangerine
Weight: 1.22kg
Volume: 35 + 10L
Back length: 46cm

Full Lowe Alpine Alpine Attack description here.

Suunto Updates

Suunto Ambit 3 Peak

Updates for Ambit 3 software, Smart Sensor HR and iOS Movescount App.
I haven’t connected my Ambit 3 to my PC for a while but did so today. A mandatory update followed and I noticed that the iOS app also updated last week.
The summary of the updates is more language support, better battery life, Bluetooth HR for the app plus some bug fixes.
Battery life has been increased from 16 – 50 hours (depending on GPS accuracy) to 20 – 200 hours. I’m not sure if that’s due to better software or just the actual results for battery life being better than expected and originally stated. Either way it’s welcome news.

Previously I found the sync between the Ambit 3 and the app to be a bit buggy and prone to hanging but today it worked first time with no glitches. Hopefully the app will not crash as much now.
The App will now link with Bluetooth Heart Rate devices. Suunto always said it did (or would) but I have never got it to work before now (although I haven’t tried for quite some time). Once I paired my Suunto Smart Sensor with the app I was told that there was a software update for the HR belt as well, so I updated that too. You should be able to pair any BT heart belt with the app as it’s the same protocol. I also paired my Suunto Smart Sensor belt with a TomTom Runner GPS watch today with no issues at all which suggests it would work the other way around.

There is also the expected release of the Android App.
This was posted by Bertrice fron Suunto 4 days ago

“the Android App will be released in Open Beta and we are hoping to get it out next week.
This is because to launch the first version of the Android App we need to update the whole ecosystem (including software of Ambit3 watches and the latest iPhone version of the app) and we’re currently waiting for the App store approval to move forward with this process.”

A quick look on play shows no results for movescount so far…

So if you are an Ambit 3 owner or use the app for fitness tracking then go ahead and update your devices. Android users continue to not hold your breath.

HUGE Clearance Deals


To make this Bank Holiday that bit more special, we’ve got loads of HUGE clearance deals now available at facewest.co.uk!

At least 40% off clothing





Packs on Sale


Ski Equipment Sale


Facewest’s ‘How To’ – Choose A Sleeping Mat

See also: Sleeping Mat Comparison Chart, a direct comparison between every mat we stock.

At Facewest we stock a large range of mats in three brands: Thermarest, Exped and Sea to Summit. I’ve tried to keep this article as short and simple as possible without missing any important information, this has proved difficult as our sleeping mat range is so large; there really is something for every situation.

Before we look in more detail about what’s available it’s important to know that a sleeping mat is the single most important part of your sleeping system to keep you warm. Tests have shown that you lose 3 times as much heat to the ground (conduction) as you do to the air (convection), so it is more important than your sleeping bag. Also, your sleeping bag insulation is compressed under you and is less effective than when it is properly lofted. This will further reduce the insulating properties of your sleeping bag against conduction. The second thing a mat does is make you comfortable enough to sleep. It’s no good being warm and having a stone in your shoulder blade.

Warmth (R Value)

The warmth of all our mats are measured by a universal measurement, the R Value, so we’ll look at this before going into more detail about the mats available. The higher the R Value number the warmer the mat is. The reason we give an R Value, rather than a temperature rating, is because a temperature rating is very subjective to both the person and the conditions. The table below gives a rough indication of what you can expect from a mat in terms of insulation. Please be aware that this should only be used as a rough guide as there are a huge number of influencing factors which cannot be accounted for.

R Values      Lowest Suitable Temperature      Season
Less than 1                       10°C +      Summer
1 – 2.5                         0°C      2 season
2.5 – 4                        -5°C      3 season
4+                 -5°C and colder      4 season

Where mats have an R Value higher than about 6 it is usually because the thickness and construction of the mat is there for comfort, this has the side effect of excellent insulating properties. Unlike if you were to use a sleeping bag designed for extreme cold in summer, a mat with a high R Value won’t make you too hot at night in warm weather, it just means less heat will be lost to the ground. There’s no disadvantage to having a high R Value to your mat.

Thermarest, Exped or Sea To Summit?

Both are great brands making some quality sleeping mats, however the philosophy behind their designs is a bit different. Rather than go through the differences I’ve outlined the range of mats on offer from each below.


The 3 series’ below are how Thermarest have chosen to categorise their range.  The information below will give you an idea of the options available from Thermarest.

Fast & Light series

These are the lightest and most compact mattresses in the range, they are aimed at those whose primary need is something lightweight and highly packable. Inevitably this will be at the expense of comfort and/or durability though they are still infinitely better than the ground. These mats are ideal for those who are prepared to sacrifice comfort at night to make their days easier.

Trek & Travel series

These are versatile mats which are designed to be light and packable enough to carry with you, but at the same time don’t compromise too heavily on comfort, warmth and durability. These mats are ideal for trekking, backpacking and lightweight camping trips.

Camp & Comfort series

These mats provide the ultimate in comfort and warmth, they are heavy and large and so not suited to carrying with you on a daily basis. They are ideal for car camping or even as a spare for overnight visitors to your house.

Thermarest Mat Types

Within each series there are 3 types of mat: NeoAir mats, self inflating mats and closed cell foam mats, these offer different levels of performance and price within each series.

NeoAir Mats These are the lightest mats and offer the best warmth and comfort to weight ratio, however they do tend to be more expensive. They work by trapping air between thin baffles. The various models feature different thicknesses, materials and constructions to reflect heat and trap air in different patterns providing varying degrees of warmth and stability. They do not self inflate and must be inflated by the user or a pump (sold separately). Due to the lightweight nature of these mats they should be looked after as the fabrics used are not as durable as other heavier mats.

Self Inflating Mats These mats are durable and are reasonable priced, though they are not the warmest, lightest or most packable available. The different mats have different thicknesses and varying amounts of foam cut into different patterns to provide different levels of warmth and comfort vs weight. They work by having foam sandwiched between the airtight shell of the mat. When the valve is opened the foam expands, drawing air into the mat. It’s important to note that the self inflating feature that the foam provides is actually secondary to it’s insulating properties. This means that the self inflating feature of these mats depends on the type of foam and how much of it is used inside the mat, for example the Mondo King uses a lot of dense foam which will expand quickly causing the mat to inflate quickly. The Prolite, on the other hand has a carefully cut and shaped amount of lightweight foam which will take a while to expand. All these mats will still need a few breaths to make them fully inflated.

Closed Cell Foam Mats These are like the traditional ‘roll mat’ which you might have camped on in scouts. There’s a bit more technology to them than a basic roll mat as Thermarest have designed the peaks and valleys of these mats to provide a specific level of warmth and comfort. These mats are very lightweight, tough and cheap though they are not particularly comfortable or warm, they also don’t pack up very small. Below is a table which shows each mat in it’s type and category. As you go down the table the mats get more comfortable. As you go across the table the mats get heavier. You can replicate these results on the webpages by choosing the Thermarest series and using the filters on the left hand side of the page to show only one mat type.

  Fast & Light series      Trek & Travel series      Camp & Comfort series
Closed Cell Foam Mats
  • Z Lite Sol
  • RidgeRest Classic
  • RidgeRest SOLite
  • RidgeRest Solar
Self Inflating Mats
  • Evolite
  • Prolite
  • Womens Prolite
  • Prolite Plus
  • Womens Prolite Plus
  • Trail Scout
  • TrailLite
  • Womens TrailLite
  • BaseCamp
  • LuxuryMAP
  • MondoKing
NeoAir Mats
  • NeoAir Xlite
  • Womens Xlite
  • NeoAir Xtherm
  • Xtherm Max
  • NeoAir Venture WV
  • NeoAir Trekker
  • NeoAir All Season
  • NeoAir Camper
  • NeoAir Dream

The final point to consider is how warm you need the mat to be, the mats in the table above are arranged with the highest R Value (warmest) mats at the bottom of their box and the lowest (least warm) at the top.


Exped have 4 series’ of mats in their range. If you’ve decided that an Exped mat is for you then the first thing to do is to select the series which best suits your needs, these have been briefly outlined below. If you’re not yet sure on an Exped mat then reading the information below will give you an idea of the options available from Exped.

Down Filled Sleeping Mats or Downmats

These get their insulation from being down filled. The properties of down allow them to be very light, warm and packable, if quite expensive, they are ideal for cold weather camping and expeditions. They are not self inflating and, due to the down filling, should be inflated by pump, not breath. They all come with either an inbuilt or external manual pump.

Synthetic Filled Sleeping Mats or Synmats

These use a microfibre filling for insulation. They are not as warm or packable as the Downmats, but they are cheaper and offer a competitive option to similar Thermarest mats. There is a large range available in this category and you can find anything from a lightweight expedition mat to a large super comfortable camping mat. They are not self inflating and must be inflated by the user, some come with a pump. All are compatible with an Exped external pump which is sold separately.

SIM Mats

These are Self Inflating Mats. As with the Thermarest self inflating mats they use foam to self inflate and will do so to a varying degree. They will usually need a few breaths once the self inflation has done it’s job to get them to a reasonable firmness. They are reasonably light, comfortable, packable and warm, and though they are comparable in price and performance to the Thermarest offerings the range is not as comprehensive.


These are a traditional airbed style mat, they offer comfort and durability at a low weight and a good price. They are not warm as there is no insulation in them. They are ideal for summer backpacking on a budget.

The Exped Mat Types

Ultralite or UL in the name indicates mats which are made with the lightest fabrics. They do not have a built in pump and need to be inflated by the user either by breath or external pump (all downmats come with a pump). They are ideal for expeditions or those who value weight over durability and cost. They do need looking after as the lightweight fabrics used are not as tough as the heavier fabrics in the other mats.

Lite in the name indicates mats which are made with lighter weight fabrics. They compact down well and offer a good compromise between the ultralight mats and the pump mats. They are ideal for backpacking, trekking and general camping.

Pump in the name indicates that the mat comes with a built in manual pump, this adds weight to the mat, but saves having to carry an additional item, the pump may freeze in very low temperatures. These mats are made with the most durable fabrics and are good for basecamp or for those who want extra durability at the cost of additional weight.

MegaMat & Comfort mats are made for comfort, they have a soft face fabric and are made from heavy and durable materials. They are ideal for car camping or as a guest mattress at home.

The Number in the name of any Exped mat refers to the thickness of the mat in cm. The thicker the mat the more comfortable it will be.

Sea To Summit

All the Sea To Summit mats use small pockets of air which they call Air Sprung Cells to provide an adjustable and stable mattress. They believe that this is makes for a more comfortable mat than the traditional baffle construction used by Exped and Thermarest in their non foam mats. This method of construction does give a consistently high level of comfort across the range, however their mats are a bit more expensive and slightly heavier than those they compete against.

All Sea To Summit mats use 40 denier ripstop nylon as an outer fabric, so the different mats do not feature different levels of durability or fabric weight. They are not self inflating and can be inflated by breath or a manual pump (sold separately). The range is described below.

Comfort in the mat name means that the mat features a high resolution 2 layer air pocket construction, this is split into 2 further categories of Comfort Plus and Comfort Light.

Comfort Plus indicates that the 2 layer construction covers the whole area of the mat and has more air pockets per square metre. This means that the mats are very comfortable to use and each layer is independently filled and adjusted. It does make them quite heavy and not the smallest to pack down.

Comfort Light in the name indicates that the 2 layer construction is only in the torso area of the mat and doesn’t extend to the head and leg areas. This is a good compromise between a high level of comfort and keeping the mat fairly lightweight.

Ultralight in the mat name means that the mat features a single layer of medium resolution air pockets. These mats remain comfortable as they still use individual air cells, but they are lighter and more packable the the two above.

Insulated (as you might expect) in the mat name means that the mat has insulation added to the air pockets for warmth. These mats also feature a reflective layer inside the cells to reflect heat back to the user. Mats without this are therefore not insulated and rely purely on the air pockets for warmth, just as the Exped Air Mats do.

Not convinced or don’t like the traditional sleeping mat and sleeping bag combination?

Have a look at Thermarest’s other Sleep Systems and Luxury Cots.

If you need any more help in choosing a mat then please give us a call on 01943 870550 or drop us an email: sales@facewest.co.uk