I purchased Exped Synmat UL 7 S from Mainpeak in June 2011 for $108.00 dollars delivered. I must take this opportunity to thank Mainpeak for their excellent service in quickly obtaining this mat which was out of stock when I initially enquired. They were not only competitive on price but backed this up with good customer service and all was done online.
The sleeping mat. I have a small mat but it does also come in a medium size as well. The specifications for the Synmat SL 7 S are
Size: 163 cm x 52 cm 7 cm Weight: 439 grams packed. My weight packed is 413 grams. Temperature rating: – 4 C (R-value of 3.5)
The mat comes with a repair kit (handy with ultra-light gear which needs a bit more care and loving), a stuff sack and a two-year warranty.
The finish is very good with no obvious defects; I like the idea of a inflate and deflate valve and that the valves are flat (none of the Therm-a-Rest style valves sticking out); It is easy to blow up either via one’s own breath or using say the Exped pump pillow. I like the double use concept here; It is easy to pack down. A pretty simple straight forward two-step process and again the valve systems means you are not fighting the mat trying to self-inflate; It packs small as per the photo. To get an idea of the mat here a couple of videos from Exped.
Durability of my Exped Synmat UL 7 S
Well it is now March 2013 and I have used an Exped Synmat UL 7S since 2011. My first mat was in use until July 2012, so about a year of use where it got used less than 10 nights. In July 2012 I embarked on my Dreaming Tour which later became my Chasing the Dirt tour. My original failed within a night on the Chasing the Dirt tour.
The Synmat UL 7S which had only been inflated either by mouth or via an Exped Pillow Pump so it had never been over inflated. Also the mat is not left out inflated in the sun to over inflate.
With that out-of-the-way the Synmat UL 7S first failure was to de-laminate internally. What this meant was that one of the tubes running the length of the mat came away from the outer material leaving with me with a lovely hump running down the mat. Not the best for sleeping on! At around the same time the mat started deflating during the night. I would get to around midnight – 1:00 AM before I would need to inflate the mat to get through to sunrise.
In light of this I contacted Mainpeak who kindly arranged a replacement mat to be sent to Geraldton, a few days away. When I picked it up I sent my old mat back to them and carried on my merry way happy with a new Synmat UL 7S which had been replaced under warranty.
The this new mat survived around 25 nights of use before it starting deflating again. I coped with this doing the re-inflate dance in the middle of the night. Upon my return I took the map back to Mainpeak who had a go at finding the hole (I had tried without success). They managed to find one hole but the mat was still deflating so clearly there was at least one more hole or something else was wrong. I contacted Exped for advice/help and was initially ignored. A later follow-up email resulted in a standard response: one which completely ignored what I had told them about my experience. So with that I have decided to not purchase an Exped product again: Just not worth having to deal with their poor customer service.
For record I didn’t expect a replacement mat, but I did hope they might help me try to fix the mat, more so given the first one failed.
Anyway as I didn’t need a mat until touring season in 2013 I put it aside with the intention of purchasing a Therm-a-Rest or similar brand. I had heard reports of Therm-a-Rest at least helping out their customers so that was a step up on Exped.
Before shelling out up to $180 for a new Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Trekker, my planned replacement mat, I did a bit more searching on ideas to find leaks in Exped mats and I found a suggestion at the Backpacker forums which another poster said worked for them. The suggested idea to find a leak was to use warm to hot water; water at a temperature you can get your hand in so not too hot, but still hot.
Well blow me down it works! I filled the bath with hot water, as hot as I could stand it and put my inflated mat in and bingo within seconds there was the stream of bubbles. I had tested the same area before in cold water without any sign of the hole!
So a big thanks to the poster Dave Senesac for his suggested hole finding method.
With the hole located I applied a couple of coats of the Exped Textile Glue as advised in the instructions (they suggest three coats but) and a self adhesive patch for good measure.
Of course after doing that I found a Exped video which seems to suggest that one application of glue is enough. Also Exped mention in the comments to the video that McNett SeamGrip is a good alternative to their Textile Glue. I think I will get some in case future repairs are required.
Following the repair I left the mat inflated for a week or and it stayed nice and firm, so hopefully all sorted.
For the coming winter tour I have decided to add a length of Aortha EVA Very Low Density 3 mm foam to my kit. I could have gone with 2 mm in hindsight but anyway hopefully this length of foam will work out well in its dual role of being an underlay for the Exped Synmat UL 7S and as my new sitting mat. I saw a suggestion on the Bushwalk Australia forums to use a piece of EVA as a protection layer. My 3 mm length cut to be about 75 mm wider all-round than the mat is a little on the bulky side. It rolls up to around 12 cm x 44 cm and weighs in at 346 grams but I think with a bit of effort I could get it down to a nice squarish shape to fit into the panniers a bit better. A thinner piece of EVA, say 2 mm would have been a better choice with hindsight. Anyway I will find out in July if the idea works or not.
The product I purchased is Aortha EVA Very Low Density 3 mm Blue 200 cm x 100 cm from A. Algeo (Aust) Pty Ltd at a cost of $44.00 delivered.