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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.