Sunday, 24 July 2011

nemo zor ‘hyperlight’ mat

Warning: those of a sensitive nature, and those who don’t appreciate my occasionally rather crude sense of humour, are probably best off skipping down to the first sub heading. You have been warned.

Never have I ever found writing a review of a piece of outdoor kit so difficult. And it’s not that I’ve been lacking in opportunities to test this damned thing – I’ve slept on the Nemo Zor mat on the patio outside, in a tent on rocky ground, in a tent on grassy ground, in a tent on tussocky ground, in a bivi bag and in the house (ok I haven’t actually slept on it in the house, that would be silly, but I did spend a while laying on it).


My first Zor arrived in the post and thus I dutifully unwrapped it, keen to see what all the fuss was about. For a self-inflating mat the Zor certainly is light and it really does pack down incredibly small – so far so good, this was exactly what I was wanting…

I unrolled the bright yellow coil of mat onto the kitchen floor, taking note of the neat little stuff bag and the even neater velcro strap that Nemo supply for storing it (the strap is an especially nice and useful touch), I also laid aside the little packet of repair patches…

“Great! It’s huge!” I thought to myself as I admired my latest sleeping partner lying flaccid at my feet. Unfortunately I was to be bitterly disappointed a short while after I started to blow…

I really like the valve that Nemo are using – it’s a little bit like those child-proof lids you get on bottles of medicine, in that you have to push to unscrew or screw the thing up tight, but this cunningly means that you can simply push the valve closed between breaths, without having to tighten it up. A nice touch I thought.

“Mmm, it’s firming up nicely now”, was my next thought as I gently blew, my lips tightly sealed around the reassuringly solid valve stem. I decided to keep going, pumping until it felt really hard between my fingertips…

I like to think I’m a pretty accommodating sort of girl, willing to put in a degree of effort in order to see results. Unfortunately, no matter how strong the desire, sometimes things just don’t work out. Sometimes you will get let down…Basically, whilst inflating the mat out of the packet for the first time, one of the sections where there is a cutout in the insulating foam had allowed the two halves of the outer layer to stick together (being vacuum packed probably hadn’t helped). After I’d inflated the mat and proddled the stuck-together part, the dissolution of the union had lead to a tiny tear forming in one side. I didn’t really notice this at first, but upon attempting to sleep on the thing outside that night, it became readily apparent that I was going to have to dump my latest partner – he was a complete let down in the [bivi] sack.

Ok, in all seriousness, I wasn’t mightily impressed to find a brand new product managed to damage itself like that when I inflated it. I would have happily stuck one of the supplied repair patches on and made do, but upon looking at the patch kit I realised there was no glue supplied (I’m not marking Nemo down for this mind), and I had nothing that would do the job, so the mat went back and was replaced with another identical Zor, which happily did not self-puncture itself (well done Webtogs, great service as usual!) and the proper testing could begin at last.

The Specs

The Zor is wonderfully light, in fact I believe it is actually the lightest mat of its type around at the moment – an impressively small 405g for a full-length self-inflating mattress. I believe it’s closest rival is the Therm-a-Rest Prolite which weighs in at 460g for the ‘regular’ size (183cm long, same as the Zor).

It also packs down pretty damn small – only fractionally bigger than my friend’s Neo Air (which is an entirely different type of mat altogether anyway, but I digress).


Yes, before you ask, the bottle of wine was indeed the best thing to use for a size comparison. Please note I’ve made no real effort to compress it here either – just rolled it up quickly and whacked the strap round, it will go smaller if you really try

Nemo also make a short version of the Zor, which is obviously considerably lighter again, at 285g for a mat length of 122cm (so between 1/2 and 3/4 length depending on how tall you are).

The Review

Is it light?
Does it pack down tight?
Did I sleep alright?
Did it set the tent alight?
Was the price right?

I’ve already mentioned that the Zor is impressively light for what it is and it packs down lovely and small – both elements that make it ideal for lightweight backpacking use, and also adventure racing type stuff (unless you’re super hardcore and use bubblewrap or something daft like that). I used the Zor in the Saunders Lakeland Mountain Marathon a few weekends ago where I was really impressed at feeling able to carry a full length mat and be relatively comfortable, whilst still managing to remain within my own self-imposed pack weight and size limits.


That said, the ‘did I sleep alright’ element does need some discussion. No, I didn’t sleep alright during the SLMM, but that was nothing to do with the mat – my badly sprained ankle and seized up knee meant that I just couldn’t sleep because of the pain. The other times I’ve used the Zor have always been in a more relaxed ‘backpacking’ type environment, so either in a bivi bag or in a tent, and whilst it’s been ok and I have managed to sleep on it, I can’t say I’m in love with the Zor if I’m brutally honest. It’s just too thin – you have to inflate it to be really quite hard, otherwise you tend to bottom out through it, and the solidity required in order to not bottom out is almost as hard as the ground would be anyway. But of course you are being insulated, and on grass the discomfort levels are significantly reduced. It could just be that I’m getting soft – my lovely thick heavy duty therm-a-rest just feels so much more plush (but then it would do – it’s much thicker and much heavier).

Ok that was a load of waffle, I must apologise. I have mixed feelings about this mat – most of the time I’d like to be more comfortable and would probably choose to carry something thicker and heavier, BUT for the times when weight, and more importantly for me, pack size are critical, the Zor is actually fine – the only thing beating it being the ultra uncomfortable but effective custom cut down 3/4 length closed cell foam mat I use on Alpine climbs.

Did it set the tent alight? A bizarre question you might be thinking. ‘What on earth does she mean? Is this some kind of deep spiritual introspection or something?’. No. It is a very literal question, that has only been raised after an alarming incident in a tent on the summit of Cadair Berwyn…

Seeing your world suddenly lit up bright blue when you move any part of your sleeping bag across the surface of your camping mat, is a some what shocking experience (pun fully intended). I’ve never seen anything like it, honestly – it was mad! I could slide up and down (imagine rubbing a balloon on your jumper to make your hair stand on end), then move my fingers close to the mat’s surface and there would be huge bright blue sparks of static arcing everywhere! Super fun, but not a little disconcerting. Admittedly I haven’t recreated the experience yet – I’d been waiting and hoping to make a short video but haven’t quite gotten round to it. I just hope that you can’t set fire to a down sleeping bag using the static electricity generated between it and the mat…(I had been wondering where the name ‘Zor’ had come from, and I can’t help but think it’s quite apt considering the product’s electrifying nature).

(No, it didn’t actually set the tent alight, but it was certainly a bizarre sight.)

Finally, is the price right? Well that all depends on what you’re willing to pay for what is actually the lightest, full-length, self-inflating sleeping mat of this type available on the market. Frankly I think the price is fine and well in line with everything else out there (£79.99 at time of writing).


All in all the Zor is a great bit of kit, far more comfortable than a closed cell foam mat, light weight and packs down lovely and small; just don’t expect 5* luxury – at only 2cm thick there is a definite knack to getting the comfort level right, and some people may well find it just too thin to ever really get a comfortable night’s sleep. I like it though for the most part, and I will continue using it whenever I don’t want the extra weight, bulk and hassle of my old squidgy therm-a-rest.


The link bit

You can buy the Nemo Zor from Webtogs here:

You can browse other mats here:


  1. Nice write up! The whole 'super light mat' market is a little crowded now isn't it? I'm looking for a new mat option myself, but I don't think you've inspired me to sprint out my door for the 'Zor' (Hey, I'm liking this mats rhyming qualities at least!)

    With my experience of the 'DIM' mats (De Inflate Mat) I'm still leaning back to some sort of foam option in which no 'breathing/pumping/watching with fingers crossed that it inflates' is required.

    Thanks for the review as I've now put an imaginary line through the 'Zor'...

  2. Thanks Greg, I don't mean to put anyone off this mat, as I said in the review I will keep on using it - it's just so nice to pack down. Can't help but wish for a super thick uber mattress much of the time though (I'm definitely getting soft, although for Alpine climbing I'd still choose closed cell foam every time - the consequences of a punctured mat being too dire to risk).