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Reviews > Sleep Gear > Quilts and Blankets > Outdoor Research Exped MultiMat > Test Report by Kurt Papke

Exped MultiMat Sleeping Pad

Test Series by Kurt Papke

Initial Report - September 25, 2008

Field Report - January 10, 2009

Long Term Report - February 24, 2009

Addendum - March 9, 2009

Tester Information

Name: Kurt Papke
Age: 55
Gender: Male
Height: 6' 4" (193 cm)
Weight: 220 lbs (100 kg)
Email address: kwpapke at gmail dot com
City, State, Country: Minneapolis, Minnesota USA
Backpacking Background: mostly in Minnesota - have hiked all of the Superior Hiking Trail and Border Route.  Preferred/typical  backpack trip is one week.  Dayhiking in Michigan, Wisconsin, Utah, Colorado and Oregon.  Mostly Spring/Fall seasons.  Comfort-weight hiker: I try to carry as few items as possible, but do not go to extremes to reduce weight of items carried.  Hammock camper: always looking for ways to stay warm on the bottom.

Initial Report

Product Information

Manufacturer: Exped
Year of manufacture: 2008
Manufacturer website: http://www.outdoorresearch.com
Listed weight:
Measured weight (with stuff sack):
19 oz (540 g)
19.54 oz (554 g)
Listed dimensions:
Measured dimensions:
79 x 39 x 0.12 in (200 x 100 x 0.3 cm)
77.5 x 39.25 x 0.12 in (197 x 100 x 0.3 cm)
Listed thermal resistance:
R-value of 1.2 (unfolded)
Color tested:
Terracotta/charcoal
Size tested:
Available in one size only
MSRP: $38 USD

Product Description

Exped Multimat on ground beneath hammockThe Exped MultiMat is an EVA closed-cell foam pad designed for use as a picnic/seating pad, tent carpet or light sleeping pad.  Its length is approximately equal to a typical sleeping pad, and its width about double, allowing it to be used for two people, or folded in half along its length for additional insulation for one person.  The mat has ripstop nylon on one side (the nylon can be seen in the photo at left - the mat is on the ground beneath my hammock) to protect the foam.  The mat is waterproof.

MultiMat in sacThe mat can be folded in half and rolled up tightly, and comes with stuff sack.  See photo to the right.  When rolled into the sack, the dimensions for packing are roughly 20 x 4 in (51 x 11 cm).

Initial Impressions

Quality of materials and "fit and finish" of the mat are excellent.  I could find no instances of poor workmanship, foam defects, missewn seams, nor frayed threads.  Uniformity of color across the mat surface was good.  The mat is easily removed from its sack, and equally easily rolled up and restored to the sack for packing.

I have two primary intended uses for the MultiMat:
  1. As a sitting pad at sporting events and for snowshoeing.  Having a sitting pad when snowshoeing is a real comfort - sitting on a snowy/icy spot is very cold and can result in a wet posterior.
  2. As ancillary bottom insulation in my hammock shelter.  My Hennessey hammock and its SuperShelter undercover can be seen in the first photo above.  Keeping warm from below is a major challenge in cold, or even cool weather when hammock camping.  My goal would be to use the MultiMat to augment my current insulation components.
MultiMat in SuperShelterPictured in the photo at left is the MultiMat inserted in my hammock: above the SuperShelter undercover, but below the hammock itself.  The large gray area to the right is the bug netting of the hammock, the orange is the mat, and just peeking out on the left is the edge of the undercover.  In this configuration the mat makes a "sandwich" between the undercover and the hammock.  The goal is the undercover will hold the mat snugly against my backside while sleeping, but I will not be directly on the mat so it will not move when I toss and turn (I do that a lot).  In this first configuration, the mat is complete unfolded, so I have only a single layer of insulation.

This is how I began my first night in my backyard with the mat, and remained this way until about 3:00 AM.  During the night the temperature dipped to about 50 F (10 C).  I was wearing mid-weight Polartec Power Dry long underwear tops and bottoms, and used a down mummy sleeping bag rated to 30 F (-1 C).  I began the evening using the bag as a quilt, but after an hour or so switched to the mummy configuration as my backside was chilly.  I was warm enough when sleeping on my side, but chilled when I slept on my back.

MultiMat inside hammockAt 3:00 AM I removed the mat from the sandwich, folded it in half along its length, and brought it into the hammock itself.  See photo at right.  This doubled the thickness of insulation beneath me and assured no air gaps between me and the pad.  The tradeoffs were that now I had a much narrower pad where my shoulders extended beyond the edges, and I had to deal with keeping it from sliding out beneath me.

This configuration was quite a bit warmer, but I did suffer from cold shoulders when sleeping on my back.

My first impression of the pad is that indeed it can be successfully used as bottom insulation in a hammock down to 50 F (10 C), but with some compromises.


Test Plan

During the test period I will attempt to use the mat in a number of different configurations with my hammock:
  1. Alone as described above
  2. With a space blanket to assist with radiant heat loss
  3. As an adjunct to the open-cell foam pad supplied with the Hennessey SuperShelter
  4. With both the open-cell pad and a space blanket for very cold conditions
During the Long Term Report period (December through January) I will also use the MultiMat as a sitting pad while snowshoeing.  If I do some winter camping with my tent, I will explore the use of the MultiMat as auxiliary insulation beneath my Therm-a-Rest.

I will attempt to assess:
  • Usability: how easy is it to pack and unpack?  How much do I have to wrestle to get it into, out of, and retained in my hammock?
  • Reliability & robustness: how well does the mat survive abrasion?
  • Functionality: how effective is the insulation?  Does it keep my underside dry?
  • Aesthetics: what does it look like after 4 months of wear and tear?  Do I still like the color at the end of the period?  How easy is it to keep clean?
  • Multitasking: do I find multiple purposes for the mat, especially on the same trip?
This concludes my Initial Report on the Exped MultiMat.

Field Report

Test Conditions

Multimat did not fit into daypackI intended to carry the MultiMat with me on a 10-day October vacation to Utah and Colorado where I planned some dayhiking, but as I prepared for my departure I found that the mat does not fit into my daypack.  It is too tall to fit, as can be seen in the picture at left.  Bummer.

Hammock setup on the SHTAfter returning from Utah, I immediately left on a 4-day backpacking trip along the Southern end of the Superior Hiking trail in Northern Minnesota from October 13-16.  This trail section varies in altitude from 650 to 1200 ft (200 to 365 m).  The terrain is forested with granite outcroppings.  Temperatures ranged from a high of 60 F (16 C) to a low of 28 F (-2 C) at night.  A picture of my hammock set up at the Split Rock River is shown at right.  Though it cannot be seen in this view, the MultiMat is inside the hammock undercover.


I also used the MultiMat multiple nights in my backyard, from October 19-22, also in my hammock.  During this time nighttime temperatures ranged from 40 F (4 C) to 29 F (-2 C).  Winds were light during this test.  I did some more backyard testing on December 3rd and 4th in preparation for a winter backpacking trip.  Nighttime lows were 7 to 9 F (-14 to -13 C) with humidity in the 70-90% range, winds were light.  During this testing the MultiMat was used with the SuperShelter pad and a "space blanket", placed beneath the SuperShelter foam pad, resting on the SuperShelter Undercover.

Note: The SuperShelter foam pad is of Open Cell Foam (OCF) construction and fitted to the hammock bottom.  It is fairly thin, about 1/4 inch (6 mm).  It attaches to the hammock ridgeline with two elastic loops which hold it snug against the bottom of the hammock.  The Undercover is a silnylon under-hammock layer also held in place by two elastic loops.  It supports the foam pad and protects the insulation from the elements.
Frosty MultiMat
Next use was December 8-10, 2008, a 3-day trip to the Superior Hiking Trail along the Beaver Bay to Penn Creek section.  Temperatures ranged from a low of -2F (-19 C) to a high of 15F (-9 C).  Winds were generally calm, but during one night gusted to 16 mph (26 kph) creating a wind chill factor of approximately -20 F (-29 C).  Elevation ranged from 750 to 1250 ft (230 to 380 m).  This was clearly a winter camping outing, and I used the MultiMat primarily for under-insulation in my hammock.  I thought I would use it more on breaks and in camp, but I found it more of a hassle to drag it out than to just sit on the ground or a log.  The mat acts as a vapor barrier - note the frozen condensation in the photo above taken in the morning after a night under my hammock.

During this trip the MultiMat was used in a "sandwich" configuration, with the MultiMat on the bottom, the SuperShelter open cell foam pad and space blanket on top, and other insulating materials layered between the two pads.  These other materials included a down jacket and a Polarfleece pullover.

How I used the MultiMat

Folded MultiMatIn order to get maximum insulation I first tried folding the MultiMat along its long dimension, and again in the short dimension as shown at left.  In the picture there is some rolling of the mat at the bottom of the picture, but this was not an issue when held down by my body weight or the hammock.

These folds are natural as this is how the hammock was packaged in the stuff sack, so that mat "wants" to be folded at these locations.


On the matMy position on the mat at night can be seen in the photo at right.  With the two folds, I have four thicknesses of the mat beneath the upper part of my torso, two thicknesses beneath the lower part of my torso, and nothing below my knees, similar to a 3/4 length mattress.  I also tried reversing the up-down orientation to get more insulation under my low back and butt.

Placement in the hammock: during the Initial Report period I either laid directly on the MultiMat, or placed it just beneath my space blanket.  During the Field Report period I found that I could more easily position the mat beneath my OCF pad and above the Undercover, and the Undercover held the mat sufficiently close to my body to provide good insulation.

The evening of October 21 I tested the MultiMat in the bottom of my hammock with no folds, so only a single layer of insulation underneath the OCF pad.  The rationale for this configuration is when I sleep on my side, my knees and butt get cold because they are pressed against the uninsulated side of the hammock.  With the MultiMat fully unfolded, I found that it covered the entire width of my hammock bottom giving me full protection.  From this point on I used the MultiMat solely completely unfolded to provide maximum coverage.

In the early December backyard testing on the second night (December 4th) I added a down jacket and a Garlington Insulator (garbage bag stuffed with light materials) between the MultiMat and the OCF pad.  This greatly increased the warmth against my backside.

These pictures show use of the mat with the nylon top facing up.  In practice, I found I achieved greater warmth with the mat placed upside-down with the nylon on the bottom, and lying on the EVA foam pad.  This also prevented other insulating materials from slipping against the pad.

Observations

  • In both my backyard and Superior Trail uses I found that my backside was much warmer than normal when using the MultiMat.  When I rolled over onto my side, I could tell from the sensation in my knees or butt when I was off the edge of the mat.
  • With the MultiMat fully unfolded the cold problems with the knees and butt in a side-sleeping position was alleviated, but it seemed like I was not quite as warm when laying on my back due to fewer layers of the mat beneath me.
  • The MultiMat can be used to "sandwich" other insulation materials between it and the hammock bottom.  When placed with the EVA foam facing up, I found that additional insulation items "stuck" to the MultiMat nicely and would not move around.
  • The MultiMat was easily deployed in my Hennessey hammock by slipping it into the Undercover beneath the OCF pad.  I found it stayed nicely in place during the night despite my tossing and turning movements.
  • Packing: though it did not fit into my daypack, I had no problems stowing it in my backpack.  I was able to quickly remove the mat from its stuff sack, and quickly roll it up and re-insert it into the sack for packing.  During winter camping I needed to strap the MultiMat onto the back of my pack, which worked well.

Summary

The MultiMat is an effective adjunct to other bottom insulation for use in hammock camping.  Used alone its temperature range is limited, but in conjunction with the SuperShelter it allowed me to sleep comfortably warm down to the freezing point.  When used as a "sandwich" where additional insulation is placed between the SuperShelter pad and the MultiMat, it can be used as part of a deep winter sleeping system that rivals the performance of a down underquilt at much lower cost.

I did not find it as useful for casual sitting and breaks as I thought I would.  It just seemed like more of a hassle than it was worth to unpack it and remove it from the stuff sack, and then repack it after the break was over.

Likes:
  1. Effective insulator and vapor/water and wind barrier.
  2. The substantial width of the MultiMat makes it an effective insulator of an entire hammock bottom.
  3. Easily removed and restowed in the supplied sack.
  4. Flexibility of the mat - I could easily fold into different configurations to get more insulation where I wanted it.
  5. The color makes it easy to see the mat at night.
  6. Nylon ripstop on one side and EVA foam on the other allowed me to choose whether I wanted the "sticky" side or the "slippery" side up.
Areas for improvement:
  1. Perhaps modify the sack size and factory folding to do two folds along the long axis to allow the mat to fit into smaller packs.  Of course I could fold it this way myself, but then it wouldn't fit into the stuff sack.
This concludes my Field Report for the Exped MultiMat.

Long Term Report

Test Conditions

Dates:
January 11-13, 2009
February 12-14, 2009
Location:
Superior Hiking Trail near Finland, Minnesota
Porcupine Mountains Wilderness, Michigan Upper Peninsula
Altitude:
1322 ft to 1726 ft (400 m to 525 m)
778 ft to 1600 ft (237 m to 490 m)
Temperatures:
High of 15 F, low -27 F (-9 C to -33 C)
Highs around 30 F (-1 C), nighttime lows around 15 F (-9 C)
Terrain:
Forested with lakes and rivers
Forested with lakes and rivers.  The trail was along an escarpment with some steep grades.

Observations

Multimat strapped to packThe January trip was the first time I strapped the MultiMat to my pack as shown in the photo at left.  The mat is attached vertically with two compression straps on the right side of the pack.  This packing strategy worked very well.  The mat was accessible for use when taking a break, didn't take up space in my pack, didn't snag on brush, and was held very securely.


Multimat as sit padWith fast and easy access to the mat, we did use it as a sit pad on a break as seen in the photo at right.  The mat was very comfortable and warm, but as the photo clearly depicts the mat had a tendency to curl up at the ends.  We had a tough time getting it to not roll up all by itself.

I stored the mat for several weeks during this test period in the stuff sack.  The curling is likely due to not storing it flat.


These were also the coldest conditions in which I used the mat.  On the second night of the hike we had the coldest night in Minnesota in 4 years.  I used the MultiMat as I had before on the bottom of my hammock undercover, but this time I augmented the insulation with my down sleeping bag to keep my back warm.  The EVA foam was facing up and did a great job of keeping the bag in place all night long.  Many hammock campers are curious about how much insulation and warmth the pad contributes in this situation, but I didn't have a means of measuring it.

Strapped to pack bottomOn the Porcupine Mountains trip I strapped the MultiMat to the bottom of my pack as shown in the photo at left.  This made it a bit more susceptible to snags while bushwhacking, but it was out of the way when accessing water bottles, etc.  This is my preferred way to carry the mat.

Once again the mat was used both nights as under-insulation in my hammock and performed beautifully.  The temperatures were a bit warmer as described in the Test Conditions table, so I didn't need to augment it with the down sleeping bag, just my down jacket.

Both nights on this trip were pretty breezy.  I have no way of measuring it, but the trees were bending pretty well and my tarp was flapping in the wind.  The MultiMat was impervious to the wind and I never felt a draft on my back.


Summary

The Exped MultiMat was useful both as a sit pad for snowshoeing breaks, as well as an adjunct for my under-hammock insulation in extreme cold.  It attaches nicely to the outside of a backpack.  It has held up very well over the test period.  It is very durable.  It does not look any different at the end of the test period than it did when it first arrived.

After being rolled up for several months the "memory" of the mat causes it to roll up at the ends all by itself.  If I pressed it for an extended time in a flat position, it would likely straighten out.

This is a great piece of gear for backpackers looking for a multi-use mat.  It is light enough that I don't mind carrying it for day use to provide a soft, dry spot to take a break.  It is perfect as a adjunct insulation beneath another mat in cold conditions.  I wish I had the opportunity to use it beneath me while sleeping on the ground, but unfortunately during the test period I camped only in my hammock and did not have the opportunity to use my tent.  I do intend to continue to use the MultiMat after the test period is over, as I've grown to like it.

Addendum

After I filed the Long Term Report on the Exped MultiMat I had an opportunity to do some winter camping/backpacking where sleeping on the ground instead of a hammock was expected.  Since I was not able to test the mat in this mode during the test period, and since multitasking is what this mat is all about, I thought it was important to add the results.

The trip was on March 6-8, 2009.  The destination was the Eagle Mountain area of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness of northern Minnesota.  This was a bushwhacking trip, with the initial portion along the Cascade River channel to the base of Eagle Mountain.  Altitude of this portion was from 1700 to 1850 ft (520 to 565 m).  From there we summited the north face on snowshoes to its peak of 2300 ft (700 m).  This is the highest point in Minnesota.

Temperatures were warm, and the sun was shining during the day for most of the 3 days.  Nightly lows were 15 F  to 25 F (-9 C to -4 C).  Temperature at the time of departure, 6PM March 6, was 35 F (2 C), but it was much warmer during the day causing a lot of snow melt.

The result was very damp conditions both nights from the moisture coming up from the melting snow.  We "cowboy camped", so we had no tent nor even a tarp to keep the moisture out.  I was using a sleeping bag rated to 0 F (-18 C), but both nights required wearing my down jacket in my bag to keep from shivering in the damp cold.

The first night we camped on the frozen surface of the Cascade River.  Here's a photo of my companions setting up camp at 10 PM:
Setting up camp on the Cascade River
We all had Therm-a-Rest ProLite 4 self-inflating mattresses on top of a space blanket.  In addition, the one woman in the group had a Z-Rest, shown in green in the above photo.  The two campers at the top of the photo also had a ground sheet beneath their space blanket to protect it from the sharp snow crystals.  Ken, at the bottom of the photo, had a ruggedized space blanket where the silver mylar was bonded to a stiff backing.

My configuration was a sandwich of the MultiMat, space blanket, and ProLite 4:
Mat sandwich
As can be seen from the photo, I use the MultiMat with the foam side up to prevent sticking to the wet snow and to minimize slippage.

This was a very effective on-snow camping combination.  My backside was warm at night, and it was very comfortable sleeping on the mat sandwich.  The MultiMat also helped prevent dampening my sleeping bag on the damp snow when I inevitably slid off my ProLite pad while tossing and turning.  I can highly recommend this combination for campers wanting to sleep directly on the snow and not carry a ground sheet.

It was a bit of a hassle deploying and packing the space blanket, and had it been windy I might have had problems keeping it down while setting up and breaking camp.  I could certainly have taped the space blanket to the MultiMat if necessary.  This trip makes me wonder if there is not a market for the MultiMat with the silverized mylar bonded to the foam side!

Many thanks to Outdoor Research and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test this product.


Read more reviews of Outdoor Research gear
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