First impressions & test Of Exped Synmat 7 UL mat

Anyone who has followed my blog recently will know that my POE Peak Elite regular sleeping mat sprung two separate leaks on 2 occasions pretty much in the same place.  Fair to say that I decided to send back my mat. I know however some outdoor bloggers who had no problems with this mat, particularly those with the ¾ length size.

My understanding is that the POE Elite regular is not available until the autumn although there may be the odd one still out there. I think this is due to a bad batch, as a number have been returned.

I still maintain that the mat when it stayed up was comfortable and excellent for the weight.  I am not however prepared to continue to take the risk of it springing further leaks, so I have gone for an alternative mat with a weight penalty, but I hope more reliability.

This mat I decided to go for is the Exped Synmat 7 UL, which was my second choice when I looked to move away from the TAR Prolite. I only rejected it because it was heavier than the Peak Elite.

Exped Synmat 7UL sleeping mat (pad)

Here is a quick rundown of the statistics :

Size : 182 x 52 x 7 cm (71.5 x 20 x 2.8 inches)

Packed size measured by me: 28 x 10 cm (11 x 3.5 inches)

Claimed weight: 460g (16.2 oz)

Actual weight of purchased product:  465g (16.3oz) with stuff sack and repair kit 483g (17 oz)

R value: 3.5

Temperature rating – down to -4C (24.8F)

Cost: £82.82 for regular size.  Purchased from Facewest

This is the lightest synthetic filled mat in the Exped range.  The mat comes in corn yellow (gold) on the top side and grey underneath.  Only one slight problem with that colour – it immediately attracted thunder flies to the mat as soon as I got it out of the stuff sack when outside.  As with other Exped mats, the Synmat has two one way valves, one for inflation and one for deflation. The valves are flat so they don’t protrude, ensuring their protection and a comfortable sleep.

Showing Inflation & deflation detail

The mat is filled with 60g/m2 of a synthetic micro fibre insulation which is laminated to the mat walls  preventing movement of the material.  Exped claim that this will allow for improved loft.

The outer surface is brushed polyester which seems to prevent slippage of the mat on the groundsheet (groundcloth) and also the sleeping bag on the mat.

Brushed Polyester 20 dernier fabric

The Synmat is a lightweight air bed which needs to be blown up. I assume because of the insulation, I found it took longer to blow up by mouth than the POE Peak Elite mat I previously had.  This I found made me a bit dizzy by the time I had fully inflated by mouth.  For that reason and that you can grow stuff inside mats if you inflate by mouth, I purchased a mini pump for the product – a special order product from Facewest.  This has made inflation very easy and weighs very little at 49g (1.7 oz),  packs up very small, taking virtually no space up in your pack.

Exped mini pump with repair kit

Initial inspection of the product shows a high level of quality, but in fairness, I thought that of the POE Elite Peak mat when first taken out of the stuff sack.

First night sleeping:

I pitched my Power Lizard UL tent in our field and slept overnight with the mat. I also used the Exped inflatable pillow and Alpkit Pipedream 400 sleeping bag.

Exped mat and pillow with Alpkit Pipedream 400 sleeping bag

The mat is every bit as comfortable as POE Peak Elite mat and maybe a bit more because it does not taper at the bottom of the mat like the Elite. There is a weight penalty for not being tapered (plus more insulation) of 147g (5 oz). There is not much I can do about this, as the Regular Elite mat does not seem to be available until  the autumn or not at all – depending on which version of the story I have been told or read on various websites

When sitting on the mat, you do not feel the ground so readily as the POE Elite mat, so this is a bonus point.  The mat does not seem to move about on the groundsheet (ground cloth) and I had no problem with my sleeping bag slipping off.

Inflation & Deflation

To inflate, take the mat out of the stuff sack unfold the mat and blow into the inflate valve (on the grey/gray) side of the mat. Make sure the deflate valve is shut. You can also use the mini-pump as shown by using you hand or foot (if you have room) to inflate the mat.

Attach mini pump to the inflate valve

Use hand or foot to inflate

To deflate, open the deflate valve, fold the mat over and push the air out intially with your knee.

Once most of the air is out, fold the mat into thirds lengthways and roll up to expel the rest of the air.

fold into thirds so it will fit into the stuff sack

Roll up to expel the rest of the air from mat

Exped Synmat 7 UL mat with mini pump on left and air pillow on right

Conclusions

Initial testing suggests that the Exped Synmat UL 7 is a very comfortable mat to sleep on, it weighs a bit more that POE Peak Elite but is not tapered so there is less likelihood of the your legs coming off the mat. Inflation is easy with the mini-pump and deflation is simple as well. It is rated down to -4C, so will serve me well for most of my backpacking requirements.  In the winter I have the Exped Down mat 7 for temperatures below this. Further trips will confirm the suitability of the mat.

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27 Responses to First impressions & test Of Exped Synmat 7 UL mat

  1. alan.sloman says:

    I may be being a bit dense here, Mark, but if you have the Exped Downmat 7 (which i have too) why do you bother with the Synmat 7?

    I use my NeoAir in the Summer and my Downmat7 in the winter. Is it just the weight thing?

  2. Martin Rye says:

    Having seen one in use I have to agree they are very good. Thing is I don’t get the pump or pillow pump. Wast of time and rucksack space for me. But it is all down to personal preference.

    • Martin it is just preference. I just found it difficult to blow up so I went with the mini pump- it is not that big – size of your fist. May be I should not smoke those Woodbines 25 years ago 🙂
      Mark

  3. Alan – my original idea was replace the TAR Prolite with something lighter and smaller pack size. So I went with the POE mat, which had been a problem I did not go with a Neo air as I had read a number of reports that the horizontal tubes are uncomfortable. Since I cannot get a replacement for the POE as they are not importing them anymore,I went with the Synmat 7 UL as the next lightest on wish list. ( which is not the same as the ordinary Synmat) the Synmat 7 – do you mean this ? or did you leave out the UL in your comments ? is twice the weight of the Synmat 7 UL and has twice as much insulation 120g/m2 as opposed to the UL with 60g/m2. Am I making any sense? In other words the line up from Exped is
    Synmat7 UL – 460g with 60g/m2 insulation down to -4C
    Synmat 7 – 860g with 120g/m2 insulation down to -17C
    Down mat 7 (which you and I have for winter – 860g with 170g/m2 insulation down to -24C

    So with UL and my Down mat I can cover all seasons.
    Mark

  4. alan.sloman says:

    Thanks Mark – What a splendid reply! I get it now. It was the UL bit that I missed.

    I find my NeoAir incredibly comfortable – in fact more so than my Exped Downmat7- but obviously not as warm. I find that the smaller lateral double depth triangulated tube system is far more supportive than the longitudinal tubes of the Downmat and less intrusive to my comfort.

    I suppose its down to personal preference.

  5. Thanks for the detailed review Mark. I have a POE Peak Elite AC Regular which has served me well without problem so far this year. I prefer the longitudinal tubes of the POE/Exped to the design favoured by the NeoAir so it is good to know there is a decent alternative in case I run into any trouble with the Peak. So far, even on a somewhat rocky pitch in the Cairngorms a couple of weeks ago, it has performed perfectly. I have that wee Exped pillow and consider it pretty much essential for a good night’s sleep – clothes in a stuff sack just don’t seem to work for me…

    • HI Nick, thanks for dropping by. Hopefully your POE Peak Elite will be fine. I and a number of others I think got a bad batch by the sound of it. Pity it was a great mat for the weight.
      Mark

  6. Alan Rayner says:

    Hi Mark,
    That looks a neat mat and i think the Exped valves are brilliant. The outer covering is also first class. The weight to warm is also very good.
    Just to balance things out i hate my Neo Air and Sheila has ditched hers too for the Trangoworld foam/air mat. I just find the NA so uncomfortable and finding a pillow which suits it is also a problem. I have tried all sorts and still get a stiff neck. I cannot afford to change it yet but i will seriously consider this Exped when i do. Thanks and good review.

  7. swanscot says:

    Interesting to see the range of air mattresses that are becoming available.

  8. GeoffC says:

    My M.o. is the same as Alan, NeoAir for summer and Downmat 7 in winter, but this seems a luxurious middle ground. I always inflate my Downmat by mouth and be done with it, I lost patience with the pump bag and decided to save some weight.
    These leaks that some of us have experienced really are strange, it seems we can’t detect any leak even with a submersion test, but they nevertheless deflate by morning.

  9. I think I will be able to use this mat in all but the coldest weather. I like you and Alan have a Downmat 7 which I use in depths of winter. The Synmat UL has a similar luxury feel to it as that of the Downmat, but not as warm. I think it is pretty good for the weight. I really hope that I don’t get leaks with this mat. I feel that Exped is at the top end in terms of quality so should be OK.

  10. northernwalker says:

    Hi Mark, Thanks for this. I am toying with the idea of getting one of these in the hope that it will be a bit more supportive and comfortable than my NeoAir… although I note with interest Alan’s comments. Given my creaking back, I’m always struggling to find a lightweight mat that is sufficiently comfortable. I realise I may be looking in vain, though.

  11. Mellon Stow says:

    Does anyone know by any chance how the Synmat UL 7 compares to something like the NeoAir Xtherm?

    • Hi and thanks for dropping by. I am afraid I don’t have any experience with this mat and I believe it is only just out. The cost is nearly double that of the Exped Synmat UL7 and about the same weight. However the Neoair has a R value of 5.7 compared to the Exped of 3.1. I would say from these figures that the Neoair is very much a lightweight winter mat. The Exped is suitable for 3 seasons. I hope this helps.

  12. Hello All,
    This is probably old news to you guys, but one reason that you feel the mat has deflated in the morning is that if you inflate it with warm air from your mouth it will decrease in volume as the air cools down during the night.
    ALL WELL !
    Carl in Sweden

    • Hi Carl thanks for dropping by. Whilst I agree that a mat can deflate in the night because the warm air cools down in the night. The reason my old POE mat deflated was, it kept springing a leak on the seams. I repaired, it deflated and by plunging in a bath of water I found another leak. The model I believe is not now available(does anyone know if this is the case?) and I understand a number had the same problem.

  13. Hi Mark, thanks very much for doing this review! I was just wondering if you could comment on the durability of the mat, now that youve had it for a while? Im debating between this and the Synmat 7, and while I would like to save the weight I dont want to be replacing it in a year! Also has your opinion of the mat changed at all?
    Regards,
    James

  14. zippety says:

    Hi Mark
    Sue and me both have these mats and were trying to decide if they should be grey side up or yellow side up. We assume yellow side up, but if you want to adjust the mat in the middle of the night, the valves are on the grey side…
    I have had a to repair an extremely small hole in mine (no idea how it got there as it was on the edge of the mat near the valves). That said, repaired with the kit and no problem.

    A word of caution, the deflate valve has a red (silicone rubber?) ‘flap valve’ and this came out – I suspect too much trying to help the deflation process. It is a complete and utter pig to replace – I left it until I got home and used the tip of a pencil to ease the moulded ball on the end of the central spigot of the valve into the hole in the housing. I guess replacement flap valves are available, but if you break the housing (heat sealed into the mat) I think it would be new mat time.

    Thanks for the great blog

    Stuart

    • Hi Stuart, thanks for dropping by and your kind remarks about my blog. Useful to know about some shortcomings of the mat that you have found. So far my mat is a good as new. However, I could well imagine that the rubber flap valve would be a right pain to replace. I will certainly keep an eye on it.

  15. I use Exped’s lightest non-insulated inflatable mat (air-mat) together with a regular foam mat under.
    This way I get the lowest weight combined with good insulation rate and excellent protection against
    damage.
    /Carl in Sweden

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