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Reviews > Sleep Gear > Pads and Air Mattresses > Exped Synmat 7 > Test Report by Ralph Ditton

UPDATED REPORT: 29th March, 2008

OUTDOOR RESEARCH EXPED SYNMAT LT 7
REVIEW BY: RALPH DITTON

INITIAL REPORT: 16th November, 2007
FIELD REPORT: 26th January, 2008

                                                   
logo on mat
                                                                            Logo on mat

Personal Information

Name: Ralph Ditton
Age: 56
Gender: Male
Height: 1. 76 m (5 ft 9 in)
Weight: 71 kg (156.5 lb)
Email: rdassetts at optusnet dot com dot au
City: Perth. Western Australia. Australia

Backpacking Background
My playgrounds are the Bibbulmun Track and the Coastal Plain Trail. I aim to become an end-to-end walker of the Bibbulmun Track. I am nearly there as it is 964 km (603 mi) long. My pack weight including food and water tends to hover around 18 kg (40 lb) but I am trying to get lighter. My trips range from overnighters to five days duration.

                                                         OR Exped SynMat
                                                                      OR Exped SynMat

Product Information
Manufacturer: Exped AG
Manufacturer's URL: http://www.exped.com
Year of manufacturer: 2007
Made in: Taiwan
Model: SynMat LT 7
Colours: Terracotta/Charcoal
Outer Material: Polyester surface fabric.
Insulation: 150g/m² (4.4 oz/yd²) Texpedloft Microfibre.
Listed weight: 830 g (29 oz)
Measured weight: 800 g (28 oz)
Listed weight of stuff sack: 20 g (0.7 oz)
Measured weight of stuff sack: 20 g (0.7 oz)
Listed total weight of mat and stuff sack: 850 g (30 oz)
Measured total weight of mat and stuff sack: 820 g (29 oz).
Listed rolled size: 19 x 14 cm (7 x 5.5 in)
Measured rolled size: 22 x 13 cm (8.6 x 5.1 in)
Listed inflated size: 178 x 52 cm (70 x 20 in), thickness 7 cm (2.8 in)
Measured inflated size: 185 x 54 cm (72.8 x 21.3 in), thickness 7 cm (2.8 in)
Listed dimensions 178 x 52 cm (70 x 20 in)
Measured dimensions (deflated): 186 x 65 cm (73.2 x 25.5 in)
R value: 4.9
Temperature: Down to -17 C (1 F)
Warranty: Limited 5 year warranty against defects in material or workmanship.
                 Such warrantable defects will be replaced or repaired at no charge.
MSRP: US $85.00

Product Description / Initial Impression
I received the SynMat LT7 (herein after known as the mat) on the 13/11/07 in good order without any visible defect.
The mat was folded into threes and rolled up in the provided stuff sack. Attaching to the draw cord was a a promotion card showing the manufacturer's products sporting a bar code for the mat, two sets of instructions, one in English and the other in French.
                                                                                                              
                                                         instructions
                                                                                         instructions

The English version was very easy to understand with some of the headings that are useful such as "Usage: Inflating SynMat" and "Tips and Tricks". To complete the trifecta was a small tube of Exped Textile Glue and two patches. One of the patches was of the terracotta colour and the other patch was charcoal in colour. They both measured roughly 90 x 130 mm (3.5 x 5.2 in) in size. The glue's net weight is 5 g (0.176 oz) and it is made in Taiwan.

                                                         repair kit      
                                                                                                 repair kit

What was noticeable straight away was the dual valve system. There is a valve in each of the corners at one end. They are unlike any other valve that I have had experience with before. They have a bayonet type of locking/unlocking. Just a ¼ turn is needed to completely open or close the valve. I found that when I was fiddling with the valves I had to make sure that when closing the valve that I pushed against the spring to ensure that the valve was compressed as far as it would go and then twist it a ¼ turn to lock it into place. If I did not use enough pressure to push against the spring and I turned the valve, it would pop open again letting air escape. There are two white lines on the valve system. One is on the cap and the other is on the shaft. When they are aligned the valve is closed and when separated it indicates that the valve is open. The white lines can be seen in the photo below.

                                                         valve with instructions
                                                                                                valve with instructions

The top of the mat is a terracotta colour and the material has a hexagon pattern whilst the base that is charcoal in colour has no pattern in the material. The hexagonal pattern, according to the manufacturer is to give just enough slip resistance to prevent sliding while still allowing tossing and turning.
The manufacturer states that the mat quickly self-inflates to about 30% and it is topped off by blowing air into it. Well, I opened the valves and left the mat for about fifteen minutes and it rose to the dizzy heights of 4 mm (0.2 in). When completely flat the mat has a thickness of 2½ mm (0.1 in). I blew it up by my mouth after closing off one of the valves. I let it stay inflated for half a day to possibly shake out any compression blues that the mat may be having. I then deflated the mat, rolled it to expel as much air as possible the closed the valves. One hour later I opened up both valves and let the mat try and pump itself up. I left the valves open overnight and in the morning nothing much had happened. It only got to 4 mm (0.2 in) again. I repeated the process and left the mat this time for a day and a half and still the same result. I always had to blow it up by mouth. The temperature inside the home averaged 19 C (66 F). The process did leave me a little dizzy from the blowing and yes, I am on blood pressure tablets. At no time was I able to achieve the manufacturer's stated inflation of 30% of potential. The actual valve has a diameter of 22mm (0.9 in) which is the largest size that I have seen on a self-inflating mat. There are three inlet/expel slots on the cap of the valve which I can cover easily with my tongue to block air from escaping when closing off the valve after blowing it up.
There are eight air channels that make up the mat. The two outer air channels ( one on each side) are 75 mm (2.9 in) wide and the remaining six are 61 mm (2.4 in) wide. According to the manufacturer, the synthetic Texpedloft Microfibre is laminated to both the top and bottom of the air channels. This is apparently to prevent compression of the fill.
Hanging off one of the valves is a piece of fabric that has illustrations of the open and closed valve. A pictorial set of instructions.
At the head of the mat ( where the valves are) there are two loops of material created by the bonding of the top and bottom fabrics. I suspect that these two loops are hanging points should I want to hang the mat up for cleaning, drying or airing purposes.

Expectations from the web
The biggest surprise I had was when I took the stuff sack containing the mat out of the box. It was so short in comparison to my self-inflating mat. Mentally, I was expecting a similar rolled height/length to mine. When I unrolled the mat I could see that it was folded into thirds which reduced the height/length. Apart from that, the colour was as expected along with the baffled air chambers and dual  valves so there were no surprises there. As mentioned above in the "Product Description / Initial Impression" there was no mention on the web of the very different characteristic of how the dual valves opened and closed. I am used to the screw up and down type to open and close.

Stuff Sack

                                                          stuff sack
                                                                                        stuff sack

The stuff sack is made out of 100% polyester which is the same material as the outer on the mat. The colour of the stuff sack is terracotta. The dimensions of the stuff sack are:- Length : 310 mm (12 in), Diameter : 150 mm (6 in), Circumference : 450 mm (17½ in). On the base of the stuff sack is a handle to assist in removing the stuff sack from the mat by grabbing the handle with one hand and holding the mat with the other hand and pulling the stuff sack away. The stuff sack has a drawcord at the opening that has a spring loaded toggle which locks into place. It is just a matter of squeezing the top and bottom of the toggle to release its grip on the drawcord and slide it to whatever position that I want, then releasing my fingers. It then locks.
Inside the stuff sack are two large labels. One starts off with the warning "Under penalty of law this tag not to be removed except by the consumer" and it then mentions where it all was made, that the product is non-flame retardant polyurethane foam. There is one interesting gem on it. Net weight of filling material: 170 g (6 oz).
The other label is written in English and French and it basically states what the make up of the material of the mat is. It is all 100% polyester with the coating 100% polyurethane. Both labels carry the address of Outdoor Research in Seattle.

Testing Locations
The following are the main areas that I hike in but I do vary it with walks with the Perth Bushwalking Club when a particular backapck trip catches my eye that is off the beaten track.
Bibbulmun Track : Sea level to 585 metres elevation (0 to 1,920 ft). Within this region I backpack along old forestry roads, sandy tracks, and purpose built walking tracks.
Daytime temperatures will range during the testing period, from a minimum 6 C to 43 C (43 F to 109 F) during November 2007 to February, 2008. Overnight temperatures on average during late spring to mid summer range from 3 C to 31 C (37 F to 87 F). The high minimums always happen in February, our hottest month
Prickly Bark campsite on the Coastal Plain Trail is roughly 80 m (262 ft) elevation. The trail from the eastern terminus to the campsite is a sandy track that is mostly flat with a steep climb up a sand dune over the last half a kilometre (0.31 mi) to the campsite.
Daytime temperatures can range from 9 C to 45 C (48 F to 113 F) during  November 2007 to February, 2008. Overnight temperatures on average during late spring and mid summer range from 2C to 28 C (35 F to 82 F).
Snow does not occur in the areas that I hike, just heavy frost with occasional fog with low dew points causing condensation.
The areas that I hike in have kangaroo ticks, huntsmen spiders, various species of snakes and many prickly bushes that shed leaves with needle like spikes such as the Parrot Bush (Drydrandra sessilis).
A sweep of the ground before pitching my tent and laying my sleeping pad down is a must to avoid obvious puncture objects.
Other locations will present themselves with the Perth Bushwalking Club as they put out a monthly activity list and I will be participating in overnight bushwalks with them as I am now a member.

Testing Conditions
 It
is now well into our spring and we are still experiencing some unseasonably very cool nights and mornings with a low of 6 C (42 F) and a high of 12 C (54 F) till about 8am, then it gets progressively warmer to an average high of around 24 C (75 F) during the day. However, we have been experiencing some days in the very high 20's (68 F+). In November and December the average overnight temperatures regularly range from 8 C to 16 C (46 F to 60 F) and the day time temperatures can reach a maximum of 34 C (93 F).
 The dry season starts in October with hardly any rain until March. There will be the odd drop but it does not count as far as dam levels go because it soaks straight into the ground. The evenings will still be cool with humidity ranging from 20% to 70%. Combined with still nights there will be condensation inside tents.

Likes
  • Small rolled compact size. Less space taken up in my backpack.
  • Soft feel of the material.
  • Very comfortable to lay on. My hip bone is off the ground as I sleep on my side.
Dislikes
  • Does not inflate on its own  anywhere near as stated in the manufacturer's information.
  • The valves have a tendency to pop open immediately if I do not properly lock them into position when closing off the valve.
Summary
Overall I am impressed with the mat and I am excited about the very small packed size that can be achieved. Space inside my backpack is at a premium. Sadly I am one of those people who must fill up the backpack but I am getting better. I am using the extension collar less and less. The R rating looks impressive, however as we are moving into summer the ground does not get that cold but at Prickly Bark where I do a lot of camping the ground is sand so it does lose heat quickly. I like the idea of being supplied with a repair kit but I am in no hurry to test the effectiveness of a patch. In fact, I hope to never puncture the mat. Been there, done that trying to find a leak at night.

This concludes my Initial Report. The Field Report will be amended to this report in approximately two months from the date of this report. Please check back then for further information.

FIELD REPORT
26th January, 2008

I have taken the Exped Synmat LT 7 on two backpacking outings during this phase. The first was an overnighter to a campsite on the Coastal Plain Trail. I slept in the simple three-sided timber and iron sleeping shelter in early December. The average overnight temperature was 12 C (53 F) and the elevation is 71 m (262 ft). I slept on the sleeping platform with a groundsheet under the mat for protection and to help in keeping it clean. As no pillow pump was supplied I had to supply my own and inflate the mat by blowing my breath into it. This only took a few minutes to inflate the mat to my satisfaction. The mat was not blown up hard, as I like a bit of softness when I lay on it. This way, the mat can then mould itself to my body in whatever position I toss and turn.

The second backpacking trip was a four nighter traversing the Nuyts Wilderness where elevations as far as sleeping went ranged from sea level to 53 m (174 ft). Average overnight temperatures were in the range of 12 C (53 F) to 20 C (68 F). Three of the nights I slept in a tent and for the one night I slept in the inner of the tent pitched on a sleeping platform of a simple three-sided timber and iron sleeping shelter at Long Point.
I did not use any protection under the mat. All that was between the mat and the ground/sleeping platform was the floor of the tent which is made out of silnylon which is a very thin piece of material.
On the first night of the trip we camped in an old quartz quarry and I was very worried about puncturing the tent floor and sleeping mat but that night passed uneventful. Like a good scout, I did have the repair kit in the backpack but it never saw the light of day.
                                                           
                                   quartz gravel pit
                                                                             quartz gravel pit

The above photo shows the base that the tent was set up on.
I did not feel the stones under the mat when I fully laid on it. The only time that I felt stones was when I sat up to get out of the tent, or when I sat on the mat to get into the tent, after removing my shoes with my feet over the doorway of the tent. Even then the stones did not feel too rough on my bottom. The ground was still warm when I went to bed but cold the next morning. My sleep was very comfortable and I do toss and turn. I must admit that I was very surprised at how comfortable the night sleep was as I was half expecting a puncture and/or some deflation through the valves. None occurred.

My next night was on a sleeping platform at Long Point. This was a very straight sleeping arrangement, inner tent, sleeping mat and sleeping gear on a level smooth surface. Absolutely no dramas at all.

                                    Long Point campsite
                                                                     Long Point campsite

The next two nights was at the same location, Thompson Cove. The tent was pitched on a slight gradient with the head end higher than the feet end. The ground was covered in short grass and small ground covers. The ground was moist but not wet. If I knelt on the ground my pants at the knees would get ever so slightly damp after a few minutes. Moisture did not come through the bottom of the tent and wet the mat.
                                   Thompson Cove campsite
                                                                    Thompson Cove campsite
My tent is the yellow one at the rear and the ground gradient can be seen. My head was at the high end.

Blowing up
I had to be careful not to be blowing the mat up like a bull at a gate because I suffer from high blood pressure and I am on medication for it. Once when I blew it up very quickly, I became very giddy and dizzy. I put this down to my medical condition. When I took my time to inflate the mat by blowing it up, I suffered no ill effects. I estimate that it took about two minutes to bring the mat up to my desired firmness.

Warmth
As it is currently summer I was not looking for extra warmth but a good insulator from the ground and this mat provided this. I was not able to feel the heat from the quartz stones and cool dampness from the ground. One day we had a rest afternoon so I laid directly on the mat with the sleeping bag pushed to one end and I stripped down to my jocks as the afternoon was around 28 C (82 F). I had a comfortable few hours sleep in the afternoon and did not perspire onto the mat, nor did the mat make me feel hot and sticky. Most impressed.

Length
The inflated length of 178 cm (70 in)  and width of 54 cm (21 in) is very generous for my build. I had plenty of leg space when stretched out and could curl up into a foetal position very comfortably without bits hanging over the sides. I had to bend the mat slightly to get it inside the door of my tent as I inflate the mat outside the tent. My hips do not touch the ground when I lay on my side which I greatly appreciate. It is so comfortable.

Valves
The valves have not given any trouble when I open or close them, nor have they come open accidentally when I have bumped gear against them inside the tent. I tend to place gear around my head for easy reach such as a headlamp, water bottle  and extra clothing should I get cool during the night.

Packing up
This operation is very easy. I open up both valves and roll up the mat to expel as much air as possible. I then close off the valves so no more air sneaks in and repeat the process until I trap any remaining air at the valves end. I then open the valves and complete the rolling for the last bit to expel the air. I then close off the valves, fold up and put it in the stuff sack. The stuff sack fits very neatly inside my backpack down near the bottom alongside my sleeping bag. They are both the same height.

Envy factor
When my backpacking companions saw me inflating my mat they immediately saw that it was very different to their self-inflating mats and examined it. They were all impressed with the light weight and how thick the mat is when inflated and could visualize the comfort that I enjoyed compared to their comfort level. Needless to say, questions were asked.

This concludes my Field Report. The Long Term Report should be completed in approximately two months time. Please check back then for further information.

LONG TERM REPORT
DATE: 29th MARCH, 2008


Testing Locations.
Since my last report, I have only been able to test the mat over seven days and five nights which was made up of three trips. One trip of two days was to the Coastal Plain Trail. The temperatures during the hike on the two days fluctuated between 35 C to 40 C (95 F to 104 F) and the humidity was averaging 60%. The overnight time temperature averaged 18 C (64 F). Ultra Violet index ranged from 9 to 10 which is very high. Elevations ranged from sea level to 
71 m (262 ft) and the terrain underfoot was very dry loose sand.
My second trip was also two days and one night which took place on the Bibbulmun Track around the Murray River campsite. Temperatures during the hike ranged from 28 C to 33 C (82 F to 91 F). Overnight temperature was around 15 C (59 F). Humidity I estimated was around 70% judging by the amount sweat on my clothes. Elevations ranged from 143 m to 280 m (467 ft to 919 ft). The Ultra Violet Index peaked at 9 which is very high. In the morning the area was blanketed by mist.
My last backpacking trip was at Easter at Greens Island. This was for four days and three nights. Temperatures during the day ranged from a chilly 10 C (50 F) to a high of 28 C (82 F). Overnight temperatures on average were around 8 - 10 C (46 - 50F). It rained for two of the nights.
I scrubbed a number of solo walks during this period as the daytime hiking temperatures were in the very high 30's and low 40's C (100 to 111 F). The days were cloudless with a very high Ultra Violet Index ranging from 11 to 14 which is in the extreme range.

Use in the Field
On each occasion that I used the mat, I slept in a single person tent. To inflate the mat, I would kneel at the doorway with the end of the mat containing the valves protruding out of the tent. This is a change from my Field Report where I inflated the mat outside the tent. I found that the mat picked up dirt and brought it inside the tent. I would then inflate the mat with my mouth through one of the valves, making sure that the other valve was closed. Once I forgot to close off the other valve but after a few puffs I realised my error. I have to take the blowing up by mouth slowly due to my high blood pressure. If I rush it I get a bit giddy. It takes me around two to three minutes to inflate the mat to the hardness that I desire. It takes around twenty four big puffs to inflate the mat. Once inflated I then insert the rest of the mat inside the tent. There is no room for me to get inside the tent and try and inflate the mat without bending/creasing the mat. This bending/creasing causes a barrier making it extremely difficult for the air to pass by to get to the other end of the mat. To deflate the mat I do it inside the tent as it is not so critical if a bend/crease occurs as I can force the air past it when rolling up the non valve end. I like to fold up the mat inside the tent to keep it clean instead of doing it outside in the dirt and floor litter from vegetation.
On each and every night I had a trouble free sleep without falling off the side of the mat as it was nice and wide. Nor did I suffer from sore hips because of the lovely depth of the mat. The only time I could feel the ground under me was when I sat up on it. My buttocks would feel what was under me. The insulation of the mat was wonderful. I did not feel any cold coming up from the ground through the mat even though I could feel it when my arms rested on the silnylon floor of the tent.

                                             tent and mat at Greens Island
                                                                                         tent and mat at Greens Island

For the three nights at Greens Island, I left the mat inflated inside my tent so it was subjected to the temperature variations during the day. Of an evening prior to going to bed when I pushed on the mat, I sensed that the mat had deflated ever so slightly so I would give it three or four puffs from my mouth through one valve. It made the mat firmer. It could just be a psychological thing but it made me feel better. There is definitely no slow leak through a fracture or seam that I am aware of.

Valves
The valves still remain trouble free in that they do not unlock during use. Sometimes it takes a few goes to lock down the valve after I have inflated the mat. This could be that I may be too quick in trying to lock it down and not making a proper connection. When I do it slowly it locks down the first time. The two valves are very robust but I wonder if two are really needed. I tend to just use the one with the valve instructions tag hanging off it. The only time I unlock the two valves is when I am deflating the mat and when it is stored under my bed at home.

Repair Kit
I am pleased to announce that it is still securely encased in the plastic bag that it arrived in. The Exped Textile Glue tube has had no reason to be extracted from its plastic bag. Fingers crossed that no punctures are encountered in future use.

Bonzer points
  • Small and compact.
  • Excellent comfort.
  • Insulates very well
  • Lightweight.
Not worth a brass razoo

I could not find anything that I did not like about this mat. It is all positive.

Summary
Outdoor Research has come up with an excellent product that gives comfort when laying down on it. With my old self-inflating mat I would wake many times during the night as my hips would get sore and I needed to turn over, plus it is a lot narrower than this mat. When I wake during the night when using this mat it is to have a drink of water and/or attend to a nature call. At no time have I suffered any aches or pains from the use of this mat. I am happy to announce that this mat has replaced my existing self-inflating due to the lightweight, small packed size (very important inside my backpack) and comfort level. As mentioned above, I do question the need for two valves. The mat remains in very good condition with no signs of wear or use.
This report concludes the series of reports and I thank Outdoor Research for making this mat available to test.


Read more reviews of Exped gear
Read more gear reviews by Ralph Ditton

Reviews > Sleep Gear > Pads and Air Mattresses > Exped Synmat 7 > Test Report by Ralph Ditton



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