EXPED SYNMAT 7 LT
TEST SERIES BY TIM TESSIER
November 11, 2007
Greensboro North Carolina
6' 2" (1.88 m)
200 lb (90.70 kg)
Backpacking Background: I hiked as a child with my father and started hiking with my now 16 year old son 8 years ago. We now routinely take 20 mile (32 km) weekend hikes (2 nights) approximately once a month year round. Additionally, we take one, 5 - 7 day extended trip each summer. Most of our hiking is done in North Carolina, southern Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky, and West Virginia. We go regardless of weather so we have experience in all types of conditions. We do not tend to travel very light, my typical pack weight is 25 lb (11.3 kg) exclusive of food.
PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS
Field Report - February 7, 2008
Long Term Report - March 31, 2008
Manufacturer: Exped AG
Year of Manufacture: 2007
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.exped.com
MSRP: US $85.00
Listed Weight: 28 oz (794 g)
Measured Weight: 28 oz (794 g)
Dimensions: 70"X20" (178 cm X 51 cm)
Dimensions in stuffsack: 9.5" X 6" (24 cm X 15 cm)
Inflated Thickness: Approximately 3.5" (8.9 cm)
Other details: The Exped Synmat 7 LT (Synmat) is an inflatable sleep mat with a synthetic lining bonded to both the top and bottom of the mat. The lining is designed to help the mat partially self-inflate, and to provide additional insulation. The mat is rated to provide an R value (measure of insulating properties, or thermal Resistance Value) of 4.9. This rating would compare very favorably to foam pads of the same thickness or weight.
The product features a 5 year warranty against defects in workmanship or materials.
|Deflated Mat, Inflation valve at corner|
The Synmat came to me in a simple cardboard box, rolled in it's stuffsack. There were 4 items attached to the drawstring on the stuffsack. These include a 4-color tag that shows the products sold by Exped, as well as the bar-code for this item, instructions in both english and french, and a repair kit for the mat. The repair kit consists of a square of the fabric from the top of the mat, the fabric from the bottom, and a tube of adhesive.
|Inflated View, both valves at bottom|
My first impression of the Synmat is that it is very lightweight. I unrolled it and noticed that it is very thin when deflated, measuring less than 1/4 " (.64 cm). There are two inflation valves, which are opened by twisting 1/4 turn and pulling out, and closed with the reverse motion. Both of these valves are found on the same end of the mat.
The mat is constructed of a laminated polyester shell with a lining of Texpedloft Microfibre. The mat is divided into 8 separate air chambers each of which runs the length of the mat, each of which is divided by baffles much like a sleeping bag. These baffles are designed to prevent cold spots and add stability to the mat. All seams are high-frequency welded. The top of the mat is a pleasant orange color, the bottom is a charcoal gray. They are designed to be anti-slip to minimize sliding downhill in an uneven campsite.
The stuff sack is made of the same polyester as the top of the mat. The stuff sack has a black braided drawstring with a clasp. The other end of the stuff sack has a fabric loop attached bearing the Exped logo.
READING THE INSTRUCTIONS
The instructions are found on the hang tag, and are printed in plain black text on white paper. There are two separate instruction tags, one in english and one in french. The instruction tags are not "universal" meaning that they are not designed to cover several products. The instructions are instead only for the Synmat 7 LT. They are quite detailed, especially for a product such as this that many would consider low-tech.
The directions cover a number of topics including inflation/deflation instructions, care and cleaning instructions, and detailed product information. The instructions are clear, well illustrated, and very informative.
I was very pleased with the quality of the instructions.
TRYING IT OUT
As I unrolled the mat I looked carefully at the seams. They are uniformly straight and seem to be very well made. Then, per the directions, I opened both valves and laid the mat out flat. According to the instructions it is supposed to inflate approximately 1/3 of the way and then you top it off by closing one valve and blowing into the other.
I checked it after 30 minutes and there was very little inflation. I checked it again after 1 hour and it was inflated by approximately 1/2 " (1.27 cm). This is contrary to the directions. I finally, after an hour, gave up and closed one valve and inflated it the rest of the way by blowing into it. When full it was approximately 3" (7.6 cm) thick. This lack of self-inflation may be due to the fact that the mat had been stored rolled in its stuff sack since the date of its manufacture. The directions say that it should be stored unrolled. I will report later whether this has made a difference.
I lay down on the mat and curled up on my side as I will when going to sleep in my tent. I was immediately struck by how comfortable the mat was and how nicely it cushioned me. I am confident that this mat, due to its thickness will smooth out those bumps caused by rocks and roots underneath. This combined with the insulating properties should provide a very comfortable nights sleep. This will, of course, be the main emphasis of the testing to follow.
After testing this I rolled it to put it back in its stuffsack. It easily rolled up into a nice tight profile that slid easily into the stuffsack. After testing how well it fit into its stuffsack I unrolled it for storage, per the manufacturer directions.
I will be using the Synmat extensively through the fall and winter months here in the Southern Appalachians. I will only occasionally set up camp in snow but will frequently sleep on frozen ground. This will thoroughly test the insulating properties of this mat.
We are planning several weekend trips and a four day 35 mile trip in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park during Christmas week. This will thoroughly test this mat's insulating capabilities. I will test it for sleeping obviously, but also for lounging in campsites and sitting on while preparing food and visiting by a campfire.
I won't intentionally test the patch kit but will keep it handy should it be needed.
This mat appears to be extremely well made and an excellent product. It seems to offer a very satisfactory weight to warmth ratio. The self-inflating feature appears to be overstated but may improve with use.
I look forward to thoroughly testing the Exped Synmat 7 LT.
Field Report - February 4, 2008
I have used the Exped Synmat for a total of 5 nights in the field. This use has been in trips to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina, Mount Rogers National Recreation Area in Virginia, and Pisgah National Forest also in North Carolina.
We camped at elevations ranging from 2,200 ft (671 m) - 5,200 ft (1585 m) in overnight temperatures ranging from approximately 50 F (10 C) - 25 F (-4C). In all cases we camped in wooded campsites on compacted soil. As you would typically find in this type of campsite, we frequently deal with roots and stray rocks under the tent floor. As expected, on at least three separate nights we set up camp on frozen ground.
The Exped was folded per the instructions and placed in its stuff sack for packing. The small size allows me to easily pack this inside my pack, rather than having to be strapped on the outside. I also found that the weight was very reasonable, particularly when measured against the comfort offered.
I found that the self-inflating feature of the mat did not improve with time. I would routinely lay the mat out in the tent for approximately an hour prior to laying my sleeping bag out on it. It would self-inflate by about 1/2" - 3/4" (1.3 cm - 1.9 cm) but the rest would be up to me. Per the directions I would close one valve, and blow into the other until the mat had reached the desired level of firmness.
Being able to determine a degree of firmness in a 2 lb. (.91 kg) mat was striking. On my first night on the Synmat I failed to close a valve properly. I woke up in the middle of the night with a certain sinking feeling, and an awareness that the mat was not really providing total support. I crawled out and, kneeling in the vestibule of my tent, I blew it back up.
The next night I made sure and blew the mat up good and tight and double-checked the valves. I laid down to sleep and rolled over on my side as usual. After about an hour of sleep I awoke to a sore and uncomfortable hip. I rolled over to the other hip and went back to sleep and awoke an hour later in the same situation. This time I woke up enough to figure out what the issue was. I had inflated the mattress to the point that it was way too hard. I reached up and cracked open one of the valves and felt my hip sink gently into the 3" (7.6 cm) of cushioning. According to the literature you lose a little insulation this way, though I never noticed if I did, even on sub-freezing nights. If I want a soft bed, I can have one, even in the middle of nowhere. Now that I have figured this out I sleep as well in the woods as I do in my bed at home. I have never been able to say this on any other sleep mat I've ever used. I have stopped bothering with my old custom of lying down on the floor of my tent before we staked it out. This was done to check for roots, rocks, sticks, or other protrusions that would be uncomfortable in the night. Now, I simply roll out my Exped and inflate it properly. I watch for sharp rocks to avoid puncturing my tent floor, but no longer worry about comfortable sleep.
Insulation has been exemplary as well. The Exped has made my sleeping bags perform better. With less thermally efficient mats I get cold from the bottom up as I squirm in my sleep and either displace or compact the insulation in the bottom of my sleeping bag. With the Exped Synmat I don't get cold from the bottom up any longer.
The grippy fabric keeps your bag on top, and keeps the mat in one place in your tent. One night I set it on a noticeable slope and the next morning everything was still in exactly the same place inside my tent.
Packing up in the morning is no problem. I simply open up both valves and fold the mat in thirds. I then roll it up tightly and slide it into its stuff sack. The entire process takes about 3 - 5 minutes.
Other than the first night, when I did not properly close the valve, the mat has never lost a bit of air that I didn't intend for it to. Over Christmas break my son-in-law slept on it for 4 straight nights in the living room floor of our house and we would simply stand it in the corner during the days. After 4 days it was still fully inflated. I made a point of asking and he said that he never had to add any air to it.
Quite simply, the Exped Synmat 7 has revolutionized sleeping in a tent. It is like having one of those fancy Sleep Number beds in my pack. I can make it soft and cushy, or firm as I like. The construction is thick enough to allow me to leave it plenty soft, yet I won't be on the ground. This is especially important to someone like me who sleeps on their side. I never felt any cold coming up from below at all, even when camp was set up on frozen ground.
The mat has been totally reliable, never losing any air in the night. It's small size and light weight help it pack and carry easily.
I believe that this mat is an outstanding value for anyone who wants to get a good night's sleep in the woods.
Things I like about this product:
1.) The outstanding comfort it provides for sleeping in a tent.
2.) The fact that (so far) it has been totally dependable.
3.) The small size and light weight allow it to fit easily in a pack.
Things I don't like about this product:
1.) The self-inflation capability is overstated.
I want to thank Exped and BGT for the opportunity to test this outstanding product.
This concludes my Field Report. Please check back in April 2008 for my Long Term Report.
Long Term Report - March 31, 2008
Through the early spring months I have continued to use the Exped Synmat. It has been on frozen ground in 20 F (-7 C) in the Shining Rock Wilderness Area on western North Carolina. It has been in a campground on a gravel tent pad and then in a backcountry campsite on a leafy forest floor in Cumberland Gap National Historic Park in Kentucky. It spent last weekend in an Appalachian Trail shelter in Mount Rogers National Recreation Area while a fierce rainstorm roared outside and the temperature dropped to 38 F (3 C). All in all, I have spent 5 more nights on the pad since my Field Report. In every circumstance, on every surface it performed admirably.
I continue to be impressed overall with its combination of comfort and light weight. Additionally, it seems to be impervious to rough wear as we, my son and I, sat on it to cook and eat dinner while it was on a rocky surface. It did not show the slightest mark when we were finished. I also used it on frozen ground, as stated above, on an uneven, root-filled campsite. The pad insulated extremely well as I did not feel any cold seeping up from below and when we moved the tent in the morning the ground was still frozen underneath my pad.
|Sitting in comfort on frosty ground|
The valves close securely and stay closed. Sometimes if I find that I have over-inflated the mat I will reach up and hold the base of the valve with one hand. I'll open it with the other for just a second or two. This will release enough air that the mat will become soft and more comfortable to my personal taste. I can always close it securely and once closed it stays closed.
The Appalachian Trail shelter afforded me the opportunity to test the mat on a dry, hard, wooden floor. Again, the Exped came through as I slept comfortably on a solid wooden surface that offered absolutely no give. After sleeping through a comfortable night I carried it down out of the loft and, folded it in half, making a make-shift chair with it leaned against the wall of the shelter. I sat contentedly inside the shelter watching it pour rain outside while I sipped my coffee comfortably inside. Again, the mat performed perfectly.
The durability of the mat seems to be more than adequate as well. I have rolled it up and re-packed it in my bag after every use. It still looks and feels just like it did the day I got it. There are a few marks on it where I have spilled one thing or another on it but there is no visible wear and tear on the mat at all. This, despite the fact that I have pulled it outside and sat on it next to the fire many times in the morning or evening while fixing and eating a meal. It packs neatly in the bottom of my pack and the stuff sack is large enough to allow me to easily get the mat in and out, while containing it to a small enough size that it does not take up too much room in my pack.
In all cases I have been utterly and completely unable to find anything to quibble about with this outstanding product.
The Exped Synmat 7 is an outstanding product. The comfort/weight ratio is beyond compare. It rolls up small and fits easily in my pack. It weighs less than other competitive products. The thick mat and insulated design makes it ideal for all but the very coldest weather camping on snow or below 0 F (-18 C) temperatures.
This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.
Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
I guess the final proof of my impression of this product can be summed up by this fact: I purchased a second one to give to my son, and hiking buddy, for his 17th birthday next month!
I again want to thank Exped and Backpackgeartest.org for the opportunity to use this outstanding product.
This concludes my review of this product.
Read more reviews of Exped gear
Read more gear reviews by Tim Tessier