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OR - Exped SynMat UL 7 S - Bob Dorenfeld

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  • geartest7000
    Editors, For July I ve got a review of a sleeping pad. Will upload HTML when site is back up to normal... Meanwhile test follows below. ~Bob Exped SynMat UL 7
    Message 1 of 2 , Jul 6, 2014
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      For July I've got a review of a sleeping pad.
      Will upload HTML when site is back up to normal...
      Meanwhile test follows below.


      Exped SynMat UL 7 S

      Owner Review By Bob Dorenfeld
      July 5, 2014

      Tester Bio
      Name:     Bob Dorenfeld


      I'm an active hiker, snowshoer, skier, and backpacker.  Home base is the
      Southern Colorado Rockies, where I'll hike from 7000 ft (2100 m) to
      above treeline, with desert trips to lower altitudes.  Six to 12 miles
      (10 to 20 km) daily is my norm, with elevation gains up to 4000 ft (1200
      m).  Many of my backpack trips are two or three nights, other trips are
      longer, and I usually carry about 30 lbs (14 kg).  My style is
      lightweight but not obsessively so - extras like binoculars, camera, and
      notebook make my trips more enjoyable.

      Email:     geartest(at)sageandspruce(dot)net
      Age:     56
      Location:     Salida, Colorado, USA
      Gender:     M
      Height:     5' 6" (1.68 m)
      Weight:     140 lb (64 kg)

      Product Overview

            Manufacturer:    <http://www.exped.com/usa/en/contact-usa>Exped LLC
            Website:  www.exped.com <http://www.exped.com>
            Year of manufacture:  2013
            MSRP:   US$155.00
            *Low Temperature Rating:*  25 F (-4 C)
            *Specified Thickness:*  2.80 in (7.11 cm)
              *Measured Thickness:*  2.8 in (7.1 cm)
            *Specified Length:*  64 in (163 cm)
              *Measured Length: * 64 in (163 cm)
            *Specified Width: * 21 in (53 cm)
              *Measured Width: * 21 in (53 cm)
            *Specified Weight (Mat Only):*  14 oz (397 g)
            *  Measured Weight* *(Mat Only):*  14 oz (397 g)
            *Measured Weight* *(Mat + Sack):  *15 oz (425 g) 
            *Optional accessory:  *Schnozzel Pumpbag UL M

           SynMat UL 7 S


      The Exped SynMat UL 7 S is a very lightweight air-filled sleeping pad,
      utilizing an insulating synthetic fill of 60 g/m² Texpedloft
      microfiber.  The yellow top is 20 D Polyester, TPU Polyether Film
      Laminate, with a honeycomb embossed pattern, and is water repellant.
      The gray bottom is the same material but without the honeycomb pattern.
      There are two valves at one end of the bottom, one for inflation and one
      for deflation; both valves use self-sealing thin flexible flaps to aid
      inflation, and both have sturdy hinged snap-in plastic caps to seal the
      air in and keep the dirt out.  Eight tubes run lengthwise, and the two
      outermost tubes are slightly higher (about 0.5 in (1.3 cm)) and wider to
      provide a "fence" to help keep the sleeper from rolling off.  With an
      R-value of 3.10, Exped rates this pad to 25 F (-4 C). The SynMat comes
      with a repair kit (stored in its own pocket inside the stuff sack) of
      instruction sheet, tube of cement, and ample patch material in both mat
      colors.  I measured the packed stuff sack at 3.5 x 10 in (9 x 25 cm),
      slightly larger than a 1 L water bottle.  Exped warranties the SynMat
      for two years against factory defects.

            Field Performance   

      This SynMat is a new item for me this 2014 season, purchased in
      February, and first used on a three-day backpack trip to the Utah
      Canyonlands in April.  Since then I've camped with this sleeping pad for
      a total of 10 nights, all inside my tent.  This is my first experience
      with an air mattress, as up to now I've always used some kind of foam or
      inflatable foam for backpacking.  At  64 in (163 cm) long, this mat
      accommodates my height of 5' 6" (1.68 m) very comfortably, since I'm
      never stretched out completely.  So far I've been out in nighttime
      temperatures from 25 to 42 F (-4 to 6 C), in conditions ranging from
      still to windy, dry to rainy.  With the pad, at different times, I've
      used two down sleeping bags: one rated to 20 F (-7 C) and another rated
      to 40 F (4 C).

      The SynMat slips out easily from its stuff sack, and unrolling and
      unfolding it takes just seconds.

      Inflating the SynMat is easy for me - it completely fills with 12-15
      full breaths, and I found that my lips fit well around the nozzle to
      contain almost all of each breath into the pad.  In the left photo
      below, the orange inner flap is deflation, and the green is inflation.
      The right photo below shows the two outer rigid covers closed.  The thin
      inner flaps effectively keep air from reversing out of the mattress
      while I'm taking another breath, and if they get pushed inside they're
      easily nudged back out with a fingernail.
        Open valves closed valves

      I like a firm pad, so I always inflate to just about full capacity.
      (See photo in Product Overview showing the SynMat fully inflated.) 
      Exped makes an optional inflation pump, the Schnozzel Pumpbag UL M,
      which they recommend for easier inflation and to prevent accumulation of
      moisture from one's breath inside the mat's tubes.  I opted not to get
      the pump right away since I have no problem using my breath, and there
      is a way to expel extra moisture (see Maintenance below).

      Unless there's a leak (described in Punctures below), there's normally
      no significant deflation by morning. However, there was the one time
      that I inflated my SynMat on a very warm 80 F (27 C) afternoon and got
      up the next morning to 35 F (2 C) and found the pad perhaps one-fourth
      deflated due to air contraction; however, there was still plenty of
      support for comfortable sleeping.

      Deflating and packing the SynMat is also easy.  I just pull off the
      deflate cover, turn the pad around to the bottom end, and fold it over
      onto itself 3-4 times to get most of the air out.  Then I lay it out
      flat again, fold it in thirds lengthwise (bottom towards me, so the
      deflate valve is uncovered at the other end), then roll it up tightly,
      expressing the remainder of the air.  At this point the pad is a small
      enough package to easily slip into the stuff sack.


      I like my SynMat - I find it more responsive than a foam or air-foam pad
      for relaxing after a long day's hike and when sleeping, and it provides
      more cushioning against the occasional unavoidable small rock or tree
      root under my thin tent floor.  However, an air mattress like this one
      does not provide much comfort for sitting - the air just moves to the
      sides.  I also like the full length to stretch out on, compared to my
      previous three-quarter length foam pad.  Although skeptical at first
      about the higher outside tube rails, they really do work for me:  I
      definitely feel them and don't roll off the pad as much as I would
      without them.  I'm pretty sure that the synthetic insulation in the pad
      has helped keep me warm when using a 40 F (4 C) down sleeping bag and a
      tarp tent that can be somewhat breezy at night.  The pad will retain
      most of its air until the next night, but I usually like to touch it up
      with a couple of full breaths for best comfort before laying down.


      Another nice advantage for me is the SynMat's small size when stuffed in
      its sack - I can slip it in my backpack's bottom compartment with the
      sleeping bag, pack rain cover, and other small items, leaving the
      outside of the pack unencumbered by a large rolled foam pad.


      I certainly didn't expect to be using the included repair kit so soon on
      just my second outing with the SynMat, but much to my surprise at the
      campsite I couldn't keep any air in.  Luckily I had an easy section of
      creek nearby in which to dip the partially-inflated mattress, and I
      quickly found four punctures right in the center of the top of the pad
      (see photo).
        Repair Repair kit
      The repair instructions (with kit, right photo) recommended a quick fix
      of smearing a small amount of cement on the puncture, letting it dry to
      the touch, then cutting from the included material a small rounded patch
      about 0.5 in (1.3 cm) across and sticking it firmly onto the cemented
      area (the patch prevents the curing cement from sticking to other
      objects).  I did this for each puncture and fortunately it did the
      trick, letting me have a good rest for the next two nights!  This is a
      field repair; for longer repairs, Exped says to remove the patch and
      apply three layers of cement on each small puncture, which I have since
      done.  So far, after about six more nights out, this repair method has
      held up perfectly.  According to the instructions, larger tears and rips
      can also be repaired this way but I haven't had the bad luck to have to
      do this (knock on air!).

      After getting home, I realized that the four punctures were courtesy of
      my cat, who'd been wandering around the garage and jumped up onto the
      shelf where I kept the folded pad.  The instruction manual even has a
      sentence warning about keeping the pad away from cats - advice now heeded!

      *Suitability for Backpacking*

      Of course, there will be trade-offs with an air mattress compared to
      other kinds of pads, especially foam.  Despite its light weight, small
      stuffed size, and comfort, I wouldn't bring this along on a
      long-distance through-hike because of its susceptibility to punctures
      and the inconvenience of having to stop and fix them, or of running out
      of (or losing) the repair materials.  However, for most of my 3-4 day
      trips I am happy to trade of bit of extra vigilance for a good night's
      sleep and a half-pound (220 g) savings in weight over my foam pad.  I'm
      careful about any sharp objects in my clothes or in the tent.  And,
      unlike foam-only pads, I never use the SynMat outside my tent on the
      ground.  The Exped model I'm reviewing here is the ultralight version in
      their product line - there are other models made with more durable
      materials that may be more puncture-resistant, but heavier.


      As I would for all of my gear, I never store the SynMat rolled and
      stuffed for longer than necessary - I keep it loosely folded on a shelf
      (high up away from the cat!).  Because using one's own breath introduces
      moisture, Exped recommends their Schnozzel Pumpbag accessory instead
      (this would be especially important for a down-insulated air pad).  I've
      seen it demonstrated at a retail store, and it's a nifty way to rapidly
      inflate the SynMat using hands only.  However, with a
      synthetic-insulated pad like the SynMat reviewed here, following Exped's
      suggestion I have blown warm air through the mattress using a hair dryer
      (on its lowest setting) into the inflate valve with the deflate valve
      held open (watching the heat output so it doesn't melt the plastic).

            Concluding Thoughts   

      I'm quite satisfied with my Exped SynMat UL 7.  Although it's priced
      near the top end of camping sleeping pads, it gets me a very comfortable
      night's rest, at light weight and in a small stuffed package that easily
      packs inside my backpack.  Despite the obvious fragility of it's being
      thin-skinned, for shorter trips I don't mind taking extra care to
      prevent my SynMat from the embarassment of punctures and leaks.  I've
      found that field repair can be pretty easy to do when necessary.


          * light weight
          * small stuff size
          * very comfortable
          * full length
          * easy to inflate, easy to deflate and roll up into stuff sack
          * field repair of punctures not hard and is effective


          * thin, delicate skin can puncture or tear if not vigilant
          * not very comfortable for just sitting on
          * best used only inside tent or on other smooth clean surfaces
          * high retail cost compared to other types of sleeping pads

       Reviewed By
      Bob Dorenfeld
      Southern Colorado Mountains
    • chcoa
      Thank you for answering the Monthly Call. Your review has been added to the Edit Queue. You will be hearing from one of our Editors very soon. Regards Jamie
      Message 2 of 2 , Jul 8, 2014
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        Thank you for answering the Monthly Call.  Your review has been added to the Edit Queue.  You will be hearing from one of our Editors very soon. 

        Jamie DeBenedetto
        Editors Team Director

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