Exped DownMat 9
By Raymond Estrella
March 06, 2006
Orange County, California, USA
6' 3" (1.91 m)
200 lb (90.70 kg)
I have been backpacking for over 30 years, all over California, and in many of the western states and Minnesota. I hike year-round, and average 500+ miles (800+ km) per year. I have made a move to lightweight gear, and smaller volume packs. I start early and hike hard so as to enjoy the afternoons exploring. I usually take a freestanding tent and enjoy hot meals at night. If not hiking solo I am usually with my wife Jenn or brother-in-law Dave.
Manufacturer: Expedition Equipment
Web site: www.exped.com
Product: DownMat 9
Year manufactured: 2004
MSRP: $ 149.00 (US)
Weight listed: 33 oz (940 g)
Actual weight 32.6 oz (924 g)
Size listed: 70 x 20 in (175 x 50 cm) Verified accurate
Thickness listed: 3.5 in (9 cm) Actual measured 3.75 in (9.5 cm)
Insulation type: 700 fill power Nocar-treated goose down
R-value listed: 8.0
Fill weight: 9 oz (250 g)
Packsack weight listed: 5 oz (150 g) Actual measured 5.4 oz (153 g)
Packed size listed: 9 x 6 in (23 x 16 cm) Actual measured 11.5 x 6.5 in (29 x 17 cm)
Warranty: Limited 5 year warranty against defects in materials, or workmanship.
The Exped Downmat 9, (hereafter referred to as the Downmat or the pad) is a down filled air mattress, intended for cold weather use. It is made of a “laminated, polyester fabric is UV and abrasion resistant, slip proof, and air tight”. (All text in quotations is attributable to the manufacturer).
The fabric is black in color on the top of the pad, and gray on the bottom. It employs “high-frequency welded construction” throughout. I can see no sign of stitching anywhere on the pad.
There are six air chambers running lengthwise through the pad. The chambers are roughly 3.25 in (8.1 cm) wide. Exped says that the “baffled chambers eliminate cold spots”, but my inspection of the pads show them to be vertical baffles. They line up directly over the welds on the opposite side of the pad. I would think that offset baffles would have been more efficient for prevention of cold transfer.
The chambers contain 9 oz (250 g) of 700 fill power Nocar-treated goose down. The “non-toxic Nocar-treatment stops the down from clumping and prevents mold from forming within the baffles”. When the pad is deflated I can feel the down slipping between the fabrics.
To either side at one end of the pad are screw open/shut “welded, dual valves for maximum airflow”. Inside of the pad at each end are 2.5 x 2 in (6.2 x 5 cm) blocks of foam. These are to help retain the down, and give a bit of self-inflation also.
Near the valves, the Exped name and flying goose logo is screen printed on the top of the pad.
The Downmat comes with an interesting storage sack called a pump-sack. With its roll top and buckle configuration it reminds me of the dry-sacks I use for kayaking. Indeed the printed materials say that the sack is waterproof. At the bottom of the pump-sack is a coupler that attaches to the "mouthpiece" of the valve by pushing it on. It is recommended that the Downmat not be inflated by mouth so as not to introduce moisture inside of the pad, where it could freeze and stay in place for the duration of the trip.
This is how the pad is inflated using the pump-sack: after the pump-sack’s coupler is attached to one of the air valves (the other being in the tightened, closed position), open the end of the sack. The pump-sack has a ring of foam rubber inside of it to help pop the sack open. Next, roll the top closed a couple of folds, trapping the air inside of the pump-sack. By placing pressure on the sack, the air will be pushed out of the sack, and into the Downmat. Repeat until the pad is inflated to the desired firmness. Exped says “Downmats can be filled with as few as 10 pumps”.
Along with the pad was sent a zipper-lock bag with 2 swatches of fabric to repair leaks or tears. No adhesive was sent, but a recommendation is given to use seam sealer with them for repairs. Here is a picture of the Downmat with the pump-sack connected to one of the air valves.
The highest point the Downmat was used was in the White Mountains, in the Bristlecone Pine Forest (California). I was at 10,600’ (3,180 m) elevation. For the past two winters this pad has been used 8 days in this area, between 7,500’ (2,250 m) and the previously mentioned 10,600’. The coldest temperature in this area was 9 F (-13 C) I also used this pad on Mount Shasta, where it got down to 13 F (-11 C). Our camp was at Helen Lake at 10,000’ (3,000 m) elevation. It has been used in the Lundy Lake area, near Lee Vining California, and at Round Valley near San Jacinto on 7’ (2.1 m) of snow, also at a low of 9 F (-13C).
All use was in a tent, on top of snow. I have never used it directly on the ground.
I purchased the Exped DownMat 9 in October of 2004. As soon as I got it I read the instructions and tried it in my living room.
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The instructions say that it takes 5-10 pumps to inflate the pad. On my first try it took me 20 pumps to inflate the pad, twice the high number given. I have tracked the pumps needed to inflate it on every trip I have taken it on. The lowest number of pumps needed has been 17. The average is 21. I have found that I need to use my mouth to add at least one final bit of air into the pad to get it full. The pump-sack does not get the pad full enough for my liking, and lets a lot of air escape before I can get the valve closed.
Because the pump-sack must be connected at the end of the sack, and it needs to be fully stretched out to inflate properly, this places me outside of the tent to inflate the Downmat. While this is not a problem most of the time, if it is windy or worse yet snowing, it can be a pain. I recall an afternoon in blowing snow that I was very jealous of my brother in law quickly inflating his ProLite and tossing his RidgeRest on top and calling it a deal. I was stuck outside taking an interminable amount of time (it seemed) to get my pad inflated.
(At the time of this writing, I see that they now offer a hand/foot pump for use inside a tent.)
It was very comfortable to lie on, seconded by my 5-year-old daughter, who wanted to have it for slumber parties. (The thought of a bunch of kindergarteners jumping on it makes me wince).
This comfort has proven to be the case in the field for the past two years also. I love the cushiness of this pad. If it did not weigh so much, I would take it on all of my hikes. I have owned nine other pads. (Three of which I still have). This pad blows them all away in the comfort department. It justifies the expense of the pad in my eyes.
The fabric it is made of grips fairly well. While using most of my bags I have not had problems with sliding off of it when the tent is on an incline. One of my cold weather bags, a Mountainsmith Cypher does slide on it. It is more a reflection of the Cypher’s microlight fabric shell than a deficiency of the Downmat.
At 70 in (175 cm), the pad is a bit short for my taste. I wish that it was available in a longer size. I place my closed-cell foam sit-pad, and my fleece pants and jacket at the foot end of the Downmat to make up for the lacking length. If it were 78 in (195 cm) I would find it perfect.
It has proven to be fairly durable, although I only use it on snow or ice, so it does not get subjected to very much abuse. I have never had it leak, and it does not even have to be “topped off” before I retire for the evening, the way some of my other pads do.
And it is very warm. Before I bought this pad, I would use a Therm-a-Rest GuideLite pad with a Z-Rest on top of it. The Downmat takes up less space, (always at a premium when winter hiking) and is warmer. I have never felt the cold coming through this pad while inflated. But when I am getting ready in the morning and let it deflate, I can sure feel my legs get cold once the now air-less down compresses under me.
It deflates very fast with both valves opened, and rolls up easily. I fold it in half and roll it up towards the valves, pressing the residual air out as I go. Once rolled up it fits into the pump-sack easily. I have found that if I do not close both of the air valves before inserting it, the pad will swell enough to make removal difficult the next evening. This is caused by the pad inflating during the day, and swelling tight against the sack. I have never noticed any down exiting the pad along with the air.
I am very happy with the Exped DownMat 9, and plan on using it for many winter trips to come.
Pros: Warm, very comfortable, deflates quickly, low packing volume.
Cons: Slow to set up, takes twice the time/pumps listed to inflate, expensive.
Read more reviews of Exped gear
Read more gear reviews by Ray Estrella