Is it possible to have an light-weight sleeping mat that’s easily packable and still delivers high on the comfort scale? Mattie was keen to investigate, so we chucked the Zorali ultralight insulated sleeping mat his way to find out.
When I’m hiking or bikepacking, I’m a wannabe minimalist. A weight-weenie in the making. I’ll forgo all types of comfort in an effort to lose a few grams. Extra jacket, forget it. Afternoon snack, why bother. Gloves, nah she’ll be right.
I don’t know why I’ve got this perceived notion that lighter is better. But I’m finding it hard to break free. Even when I’m car camping I try to keep it simple. When my wife tries to add an extra pillow, a comfy chair, or a whole box of cornflakes, I always resist. And you know what, I’m nearly always uncomfortable. Often a little bit hungry. And frequently wishing I’d leveled up my camping gear with a bit of extra comfort.
I’ve recently given in, and I now take a double self-inflating mattress whenever I go car camping. Even if it’s just me. I’ve started to luxuriate in the extra comfort and space, it’s been a real game-changer. I don’t even feel guilty about it.
But since testing the Zorali ultralight insulated sleeping mat, I’ve become confused. It’s like Darth Vader’s trying to persuade me back to the dark side. Could this mat deliver big-mat comfort in an ultralight package? I not-so-secretly hope so.
Arguably the most important aspect of any sleeping mat, the comfort factor is a bit of a personal one. I’m a side sleeper, with bony hips and knobbly knees, so most camping nights are spent a little on the left, a little on the right, and back again. Toss, turn, sleep, repeat.
Unlike most ultralight sleeping mats, this black and silver bad boy from Zorali looks comfy from the get-go. Fully inflated, it rises triumphantly from the tent floor, plumped up like a well-fed Christmas turkey. The Zorali sleeping mat is about 1cm thicker than much of its ultralight competition, boasting an impressive 6cm of depth. This may not seem like a whole lot, but try placing this mat side by side to a competitor; I reckon I know which you’d rather sleep on.
This extra thickness, coupled with a wider and plumper ‘pillow’ section, delivered high on the comfort scale and kept my bony hips well away from the frosty ground beneath. Which meant there was less of the tossing and turning, and more of the sleeping.
Putting it simply, the Zorali ultralight insulated mat looks just like a sleeping mat should. Its rectangular shape and horizontal stitching doesn’t scream high-tech and innovation like some of its rivals. Instead, it offers a classic, stylish design, with clean lines and tough 40D nylon material. One of the design touches I really appreciated was the slightly larger and plumper pillow section of the sleeping mat. It was only slight, but it helped keep my noggin a bit more horizontal, ideal for a side sleeper like me.
Zorali has used a one-way valve for inflation, which means you’re pressing your mouth up against the valve and giving it a good old-fashioned blow-up. It’s been taking me between 18-20 good breaths to fully inflate the mat, which takes a couple of minutes and had me pausing to inflate my own lungs a few times along the way. This is definitely a bit more of an effort compared to sleeping mats that include inflation sacks, and kinda seems like a big deal. But when you look at it objectively, it’s a couple of minutes extra blowing, not much over the course of a camping weekend.
Similarly, deflating the mat and rolling it up is a little trickier, as you need to keep the valve open with a finger, while wrangling the air out of the mat for roll-up. Again, not a huge problemo, but certainly a point of difference to mats with a multi-function valve.
The Zorali ultralight insulated sleeping mat weighs in at a fairly competitive 740g. This is a little heavier than some of the mats out there, but this extra weight is reflected in its additional depth and length. The sleeping mat is a luxurious 204cm long, which is great for the taller bods and helps keep your toes from dangling over the end.
Packing away into its stuff sack, the final roll is a bit wider than some, but it’s also shorter. So you’ve got a pack shape more reminiscent of an avocado than a carrot. It’s certainly no trouble finding space in a backpack, bike bag, or car boot for this easily stowable, insulated mat.
The Zorali ultralight insulated sleeping mat is one comfy beast. While it may not be the lightest of the ultralights, or the techiest of the techies, it’s small enough to make the cut on overnight hikes and comfy enough to be thrown in the back of the car, even when size isn’t an issue.