Exped Synmat UL 7

Exped Synmat UL 7 for size comparison

My first thought when Dan ordered two of these Exped Synmat UL 7s, was the high price. I couldn’t believe that what is essentially a blow up bed could cost so much. I wanted to say, “Are you a man or a mouse?” Who was I to ask such a question? The woman who went camping without a sleeping bag and practically froze to death in the night. “It’s a warm country, we won’t need sleeping bags.” I reasoned.

But that was a long time ago. I soon realised that a good night’s sleep makes the difference between spending the following day as an angel from heaven or the devil from hell.

The material is soft, strong and absorbent. (Sounds like a review for toilet paper.) This is nice because if your skin touches the mat, you don’t stick to it, and drool will not pool. Any drips from condensation will be sucked into the fabric. The downside of this feature is that dirt sticks to damp patches and you may need to clean the mat on occasion. I’m still finding fine Saharan sand when I unroll the mat. I give it a few spanks and puffs of dust rise from the weave.

A few huffs and puffs into the inflate valve will have it filled in less than two minutes. Just remember to close the deflate valve. I’ve come up with a method of inflating the mat that simulates the Exped Schnozzel, my version costs nothing and takes only a couple of minutes to make. The instructions are here.

I weigh about 60kg and like to set the air to the stage where I can sit on the mat and my bum almost touches the ground. Too much air and I feel that I’m lying on a brick. It’s all a matter of personal comfort.

I’m only 5’2” (size S) is full length for me. Although it looks narrow, I’ve never fallen off. During the night, there are no annoying squeaks. I’m a side sleeper when swaddled in a down bag, starfish when I’m not. I sleep soundly on the Exped even at sub zero temperatures. If you find yourself on a bit of a slope, you may slide down the mat during the night. I did, though I have a tendency to do this in a regular bed as I like my feet to dangle off the end.

Deflation is quick and easy with the deflate valve. When rolling, roll towards the valve so that you can expel as much air as possible. It fits easily into its stuff sack when you do this.

This is the only sleeping mat I’ve used, so there are no comparisons from me. I’ll update this review with any new findings over the next year.

UPDATE: February 2015
What happened? The mat was flat when I woke up so I assumed – thorn. I’d been bivvying with the mat placed directly on the ground. The ground was hard, with thousands of tiny stones and spines from sharp spiky plants. I’d made every effort to sweep the worst of it away with a palm frond (ever mindful of the expense of replacement), yet I was convinced I had a puncture.

Not once, not twice, but thrice examinations later and the leak could not be found. I tied a string to the puller so I could identify the failed mat, but decided I may have made an error so I blew up the healthy mat too, to be sure. The dodgy mat flopped and was indeed the one I’d identified. I followed all instructions contained in the repair kit including putting it in the bath.

Exped synmat UL 7 - finding a leak

The instructions for making a temporary repair gave me a right old giggle. ‘A fast temporary repair to get you through the night’. Well, several nights passed before I discovered the fault, so I’ll not bother with that method – EVER!

Stuart, one of the organisers of the WRT (Welsh Ride Thing) and BBRT (Bear Bones Reliability Trial) kindly suggested:

Might not actually be a puncture, could be the valve. Wipe a bit of spit round the valve inserts before you put them in, then give them a little twist / rotate them once they’re fitted in place.

I’m delighted to report that this worked a treat and was sleep tested during a night on the Isle of Wight.

Thanks Stuart, much appreciated. Mwah!

Note: Stuart has advised that HUX from the forum gave him the tip in the first instance. Thanks HUX. Mwah to you too.


Meraid Griffin

Freelance writer, adventurer and public speaker. Descibed in the Sunday Times as a ‘modest explorer’. Nothing modest about me.

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