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Reviews > Sleep Gear > Pads and Air Mattresses > Exped Synmat 7 > Test Report by Andrew Buskov


Synmat FrontOutdoor Research
Exped SynMat 7 LT

OR / Exped's Lightweight version of the DownMat Air Mattress
Andrew Buskov

Initial Report: November 17, 2007
Field Report: February 5, 2008
Long Term Report: March 31, 2008

Tester Biographical Information

Name: Andrew Buskov
Age: 32
Gender: Male
Height: 5 ft 9 in (1.75 m)
Weight: 214 lbs (98 kg)
Email: Rescue(at)Corridor9(dot)net
City, State Zip Madisonville, Kentucky  USA

Backpacking Background:

I started backpacking and quickly became hooked on the outdoors, hiking various environments from the green mountains of the Appalachians to the barren desert of Arizona. I enjoy the solitude of deep backcountry and prefer colder weather and snow. I’m moving toward becoming a light weight hiker, but am still safety conscious and want to be as prepared and comfortable as possible. My goal is to get my pack weight between 15 to 20 lbs (6 and 9 kg), but right now I'm hovering around 25 lbs (11 kg). Additional information about the author can be found at http://www.corridor9.net.

Product Information:


Item: Outdoor Research SynMat LT 7
Manufacturer: Outdoor Research
Website http://www.outdoorresearch.com/
Year of Manufacture: 2007
MSRP: $85.00
Actual Weight: 1 lb 13.0 oz (.82 kg)
Listed Weight: 1 lb 13.3 oz (.83 kg)
Mat & Stuffsack Weight:1 lb 14.1 oz (.85 kg)
Color: Terracotta / Charcoal
Size Tested: 20" x 70" x 2.75" (51 x 178 x 6.9 cm)

SizeProduct Overview:

Described as the lightweight version to the DownMat, the SynMat 7 LT is the regular version of OR's lightweight air mattress. This four season air mattress has a light weight lofted microfiber insulation that provides comfort from the cold ground below, dual air valves for quick inflation and easy deflation, and a polyester surface that is said to help prevent sliding during the night while providing resistance to scratches and punctures. At 1 lb 13 oz (without the stuffsack), and compressing down to about the size of a standard wide mouthed Nalgene bottle, this mattress brings the possibility of bedroom comfort to the backcountry without a lot of weight or consumed pack space. This mattress also won the 2006 German Outdoor Magazine Editor's Choice Award.

Initial Impression:

This item arrived in good condition, complete, and very neatly packaged within its stuffsack. Included in the packaging was a stuffsack, repair kit, and hang tag, and miscellaneous paperwork. After I removed the mat from the packaging I weighed it and checked for damage. I was immediately impressed by how light this item was. At almost 10 oz (.28 kg) less than my other insulated air mattress, it was easy for me to feel the difference just by holding it.

LogoAfter drooling over how light the SynMat LT was I simply had to test it out. It was only after I removed it from the stuffsack that I remembered that this air mattress had dual air valves. Even though it seemed obvious that I'm supposed to blow air into one of the valves I decided to read the instructions to see exactly how the second valve benefits me and what, if any, special procedures would be best to use for inflating a dual valve air mattress. As with other standard foam filled air mattresses, the directions first stated to unroll the air mattress, open both valves, and leave undisturbed so it can partially self-inflate to around 1/3 the total volume. After about 10 minutes I decided to close the valves and see exactly how much air was in the mattress. After rolling the mattress, forcing all the air to one end, the air mattress seemed to have the 1.3 air volume that the manufacturer talked about. I continued inflating it until it was fully inflated and tried it out.

When I first got on the pad it was a bit soft. I thought I had blown it up completely, but apparently not because my hips, knees, and shoulders were hitting the ground when I was laying on my side. I'm not sure if lying on it for the first time stretched it out a bit or what but I needed to inflate it more to get the maximum firmness out of the mattress again. It was easy to notice the extra firmness the second time I lay on top of it. This time I wasn't able to feel the ground beneath me at all.

CircumferenceThe construction of the SynMat LT seems to be quite sound. All the seams are high-frequency welded which provides for the strongest method of joining airtight fabrics. I didn't find any air leaks or tears developing around and of the welded sides. According to the documentation, the insulation is laminated to both the top and bottom of the mattresses air channels. This could explain why I didn't feel any insulation moving around while rolling or unrolling the mattress.

Inflating the mattress takes roughly 2 minutes when inflation is started immediately after removing the air mattress from the stuffsack. However, inflation decreases down to approximately 1.5 minutes if the air mattress is allowed to partially inflate. Deflating the SynMat LT is extremely quick and simple due to the dual air valves. I opened the dual air valves and began to roll the air out of the mattress with little resistance at all. Just from comparing my previous air mattresses, I'd say that the SynMat LT deflates in roughly half the time. To me this is a great achievement over the roll and wait method of deflating my other air mattresses.

I'm looking forward to getting out in the field with this SynMat LT. I'm curious how well this lightweight mattress will hold up to other air mattresses that I have owned. I would like to thank BackpackGearTest.org and Outdoor Research for allowing me to participate in this test series.

Field Report: February 5, 2008

Field Locations:

I was able to use this air mattress twice during this test period. Both nights came about in the Land Between the Lakes region of western Kentucky. The land is fairly flat with an elevation average for this area around 400 ft (122 m) above sea level. While the temperature was not bitterly cold, it was a bit chilly during this trip. The afternoon temperature was roughly 50 F (10 C), but the early morning temperature dropped to roughly  31 F (-.5 C).  There was no precipitation this trip though, so while it was cold, it wasn't dangerously cold.

Performance:

I hadn't been able to get much overnight time due to really nasty weather and other circumstances. I'd been looking forward to sleeping on this mat since I'd received it, but was still a bit skeptical taking this out in the field with me during this testing period. While the numbers showed that the SynMat LT was thicker while still weighing less than my previously used air mattress, I was still concerned about how my back would feel after a night in the cold.

There are many differences between the SynMat 7 and any other self-inflating or air mattress I'd ever tried before. The first difference I noticed was the fact that the SynMat 7 packs so much smaller than anything I'd ever owned. In all reality, the included stuffsack serves as more weight and bulk than actually being useful in my situation. The size of the stuffsack is much bigger than the smallest compressed size of the air mattress. When I rolled up the SynMat 7 as tight as I could and inserted it into the stuffsack, I still had enough room in the stuffsack to put a 1 L (1.06 qt) wide mouthed bottle such as a Nalgene. This to me wasn't very useful, and while there was a nice little pocket to store the patching materials, I found the best situation for me was to find another place to store my patching material and leave the stuffsack at home.

I ended up using a bit of Velcro tape with a clasp that I received with a self inflating mattress I purchased a few years ago. This held the SynMat 7 closed without adding the additional bulk from the stuffsack. Because this setup gave me a nice small bundle that was only slightly larger than a 1 L (1.06 qt) wide mouthed water bottle, I was able to pack this in a number of little nooks and crannies that were available in my pack. In the end I placed it down at the bottom next to my sleeping bag. Being able to relocate this air mattress to a lower spot in my pack, when it was previously occupying a spot closer to the top of my pack, allowed me to have more room at the top of the pack for things I may need to access more quickly like rain gear or a jacket.

The question still remained though; will I be sacrificing comfort for packability? I had initially felt the ground when I first tried this out in my home during the initial testing phase. I was worried that this would be the case on the hard ground out in the field. I had planned on staying at shelters during this trip, and while they were "shelters" they were the lowest form of the word I've ever experienced. The shelter consisted of a half piece of culvert piping with a rock bed for a sleeping area. Thankfully they used river rock instead of scree though.

During this trip I was using my Big Agnes Lost Ranger sleeping bag, so the air mattress slipped inside the back panel of the sleeping bag. Setup was quick and easy, and as with most other air mattresses it's simply a matter of blowing a few minutes of air into the valves. I placed the SynMat 7 into the back panel of the Big Agnes and flopped on it for a bit of a rest. Because I had fully inflated the air mattress, I didn't feel the ground or the rocks through it. I also didn't have a problem sliding off the mat during the night, but this was obviously due to the integrated nature of the Big Agnes sleeping bag. I plan on using this with a different bag on other trips in the future, in addition to trying this out in a hammock.

The air mattress was pretty comfortable throughout the night. I only woke up once during the night feeling the rocky ground through the pad and this was due to a divot I'd dug into the rocks with my knees while sleeping on my stomach. In addition, my back didn't hurt as much as I thought it would when I woke up in the morning. I always wake up with some pain in my back, but to date I can't say that this was any worse than I have experienced on my other air mattress. I was a bit cold during the night also, but I can't attribute this to the mattress at this point. There was a lot of draft through the culvert and I kept feeling cold air entering the head of the sleeping bag no matter how cinched up I made it. I will evaluate the cold feeling more in the future when I can get more field time.

Long Term Report: March 31, 2008

Field Locations:

During the Long Term Test phase I was able to use this air mattress a total of 3 additional times. All three nights were in the Land Between the Lakes Recreational area. The land is fairly flat with an elevation average for this area around 400 ft (122 m) above sea level. The temperatures this time were a bit colder than before. The high for this trip was roughly 56 F (13 C) but the cold for the last night reached down to 21 F (-6 C). Luckily there was no precipitation during this trip either.

Performance:

Since no one wanted to join me on my Mammoth Cave trip, I decided that a nice walk along the North-South trail in LBL would do me good. For 3 nights, I was able to walk at a leisurely pace and enjoy the scenery along the lake. I decided not to take the hammock this trip and stay in shelters instead due to the cold temperatures and blowing wind that was forecast. Once again, the shelters had rock floors, and were nothing more than half culverts covering the rocks, but at least it was smooth and flat, and offered a good deal of protection from the wind.

When packing, I decided again to leave the stuffsack at the house. While it is nice to have while car camping or something, the fact of the matter is it's simply too bulky and not an effective containment system for the Synmat 7. I chose the Velcro strap again to more effectively compress the air mattress. I also decided to leave the repair kit at home this time and figured if I did develop a leak, I could easily cut my trip short and head home if need be. Throughout the entire testing period I have tightly rolled the Synmat 7 trying to get it down to as little a package as possible. In the beginning I was worried that this might cause a problem with the down shifting, but I have yet to experience this issue.

Setup is still as easy as can be. I have found that if I let the mattress sit with the valves open right after I unroll it there doesn't seem to be as much back pressure when I am inflating it. I usually leave it sitting with the valves open for 5-10 minutes and this usually does the trick. In addition to the field testing I thought I had better try this mattress out with a standard sleeping bag at least once since I was primarily using my Big Agnes with the integrated air mattress pocket. I got out my 38 F (3 C) Montbell and laid it on the mattress while I took a bit of a nap one day near the house. I found that I didn't slide off the mattress near as much as I thought I would. I also didn't slide around on the tent floor that much either. Keep in mind that my nap was only 2-3 hours, and thus not an entire night of testing, but I feel confident that I will be able to stay relatively stable on this mattress in the future.

In the end, I have found that the Synmat 7 keeps me relatively warm down to roughly 15 F (-9 C). I haven't been able to test it in temperatures below that so I'm not really sure how low the temperature can be and still have a comfortable sleep. In addition, I haven't really found an upper limit yet either. Unlike my other insulated air mattress, sleeping on the Synmat 7 in temperatures around 60 F (15 C) was not as hot as I thought it would be. I will definitely be using this well into the summer months.

In all, I am very pleased with the Synmat 7. It has given me good nights of sleep, proven to be easily packable, and durable on the rocky ground. Having two valves allows for quicker deflation and an easier way to adjust the firmness throughout the night. There really aren't any negatives that I can think of as I have had wonderful nights sleep throughout the testing period.

I would like to thank BackpackGearTest.org and Outdoor Research for allowing me to participate in testing the Exped Synmat 7.

Read more reviews of Exped gear
Read more gear reviews by Andrew Buskov

Reviews > Sleep Gear > Pads and Air Mattresses > Exped Synmat 7 > Test Report by Andrew Buskov



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