Walken’

Powder River’s Appalachian Trail Journey from Georgia to Maine 2008

Gear Review: Exped Downmat 7 Pump vs. Exped Synmat 7 pump

I recently got both of these sleeping mats, and while have not had a chance to test them extensively in cold weather, I wanted to provide a comparison between the two in all other aspects.  The two mats are nearly identical in all aspects except the filling, which of course affects the insulation value.  Both mats are extremely thick inflatable air matresses with internal insulation, which are rated for winter temperatures.  Both are the new models with the integrated pump on the side of the mat.  Exped is a Swiss company that is sold through Outdoor Research here in the U.S.  Here are the basic stats:

Exped Downmat 7 Pump

Weight:  31.7 oz (listed)  31.05 oz (actual)

Stuff Sack: .6 oz (listed) .65 oz (actual)

Size: 70×20″

Height: 2.8″

Rvalue: 5.9 (-11°F, according to the tag)

Fill: 6 oz. 700-fill goose down

MSRP: $150

Exped Synmat 7 Pump

Weight: 31.6 oz (listed) 31.8 oz (actual)

Stuff Sack: .6 oz (listed) .65 oz (actual)

Size: 70×20″

Height: 2.8″

Rvalue: 4.9 (1°F, according to the tag)

Fill: 4.4 oz/sqy Texpedloft Microfibre

MSRP: $100

As you can see, there is very little difference between the two mats other than warmth and price.  They both inflate in the exact same way using the built in pump, and once inflated are the same size, thickness and have the same non-slip materials on top and bottom.  Laying on them, I cannot discern any difference in comfort, when temperature is not a factor.    The Synmat is a rust orange color on top and grey on the bottom, while the Downmat is black on top and grey on the bottom.  The quality is very high, and all seams look impeccable.  When rolling them up, the Synmat seems to go flatter and the internal insulation does not seem to add any bulk to the deflated mat.  The down in the Downmat is detectable when you squeeze the mat between your fingers, and when rolling it up it adds a slight amount of bulk.  That being said, I was easily able to roll both mats up to very similar sizes, with the Synmat being very slightly more compact.  They each come in identically sized stuff sacks.  It is worth noting that the Synmat I have has a different valve system for deflation than the Downmat.  The Synmat has two corner valves very similar to those found on thermarests, which can either both be used or just one used.  When the mat is folded lengthwise and you are rolling it up, the air escapes easier through the two valves.  However, once completely rolled up the valves stick out from the pad.  If you have folded the pad lengthwise just once and rolled it, (about 10 inches wide) the two valves will stack up on each other and add about an inch of bulk in that one spot.  If you have folded the pad into thirds lengthwise, they nest better.  The Downmat has just one deflation valve, which is a flat plastic plug that is flush with the pad and located in the center at the top of the pad.  This valve does not seem to let air out as efficiently, though that hardly matters as the air will get out anyways when you roll it up.  If you want to fold the mat just once and then roll it, you will need to shift the fold to one side slightly so it is not right on the valve.  If you are folding it into thirds, it works a lot better and will roll up flush.  There are no threads on this valve, you just push it down until it clicks and it seems to be very secure.  I should note that I have seen pictures and video of the Synmat with this same style of plug instead of the two valves, so they must be changing over completely to this style.

Inflating both of these mats is an identical process, so I will speak generically here.  You are not supposed to use your breath to inflate them, as that will introduce moisture to the inside of the mat, which in the case of the down mat will ruin the insulating properties of the down.  (I do not know exactly why the synthetic mat has this limitation, but it too comes with a pump so I won’t ask questions)  If you unroll the mat, open the valves and let it sit it will inflate very slightly, giving you a head start.  There is a section of one of the side panels on the pad(s) about 13 inches long that is bulkier than the rest of the pad.  It has its own plug-style valve, and when you open that valve it will automatically take in air and regain its normal shape.  Whatever that bulkier material inside is, it is there so that it can regain its shape after each pump, always sucking air in from the outside through the plug.  You put one of your palms over the hole to cover it, and your other hand covering as much space as you can along the pump section.  When you depress, the air in the pump chamber goes into the rest of the mat via an internal one-way valve.  When you release, the pump chamber again fills with air and you repeat.  It is much like CPR.  It takes about 2 minutes, and you need to have enough room to be on your knees next to the pad while doing this.  This could be tricky if you have a small tent, it is muddy next to your tent or you just have limited space in general.  I can imagine a thousand instances where I would much rather just unfold a z-rest and be done with it, or have the versatility of a 1 inch self inflating air mat, or just the simplicity of a similar thickness air mattress that you can blow up by mouth.  However, none of those options provide the warmth of this mat, so I imagine it would be worth it.  When you are done inflating the mat and close the plug, you will then notice that the pump chamber itself is much flatter than the rest of the mat.  If you feel where it says “integrated pump” near the top of the chamber you will be able to feel the one-way valve underneath.  Squeeze this, and it will let air back into the chamber to equalize the pressure, and the pump chamber will fill out.  This same valve can be used to let air out of the mat to adjust for comfort, which is a great way to let out just a little air at a time.

There is one more feature that both mats have, and that is attachment points for a pillow near the top.  I have used the Synmat two nights, and can attest that it is very comfortable and warm.  I cannot confirm the Rvalue or temperature rating given by Exped, but I am willing to assume it is correct.  On the tag they explain the testing process, which describes an identical process for both mats:  “Standard testing measures the heat flow resistance by placing the mat between upper and lower plates at 40° C and and 25° C, respectively.  With a room temperature of 20° C and a relative humidity of 65%, the amount of heat needed to maintain a constant difference in temperature (of the plates) is measured in electrical Watts.” At the very least I am confident that the difference in Rvalues between the two mats should be accurate, since they are tested the same way.

I will be keeping the Downmat and selling the Synmat, since all other things seem to be equal.  The extra warmth rating will give extra peace of mind, even if I never take it to -11° Farenheit (in fact, I hope I don’t!)  I am not sure what it means when a mat is rated to 1° F.  Does that mean it keeps you alive down to that temperature, but you might be cold?  Or does it mean you will be comfortable at 1°, but chilly at 0°?  I would rather just have the buffer, and that way this mat will take care of all the winter camping needs I should ever need.    Also, down will supposedly last longer than synthetic material, although I’m not sure that is something that is actually noticeable or not.  At 2 pounds, this mat will be strictly on cold weather duty.  There are much lighter and less bulky options for summer, although I’m sure I’ll miss the Downmat the second I leave it home.  I wish I had some field experience with the mat to report on, but for now I just wanted to get a detailed look at both of these mats up so people can compare.  I will update this as soon as I take it out.

3 Comments»

  Kornel wrote @

Thanks for the review!
I’ve been looking for a comparison of these two sleeping pads and you helped me decide to get the DownMat 7.

  Angela Holland wrote @

Excellent review, very helpful thank you. I need a mat that will pack into my sea kayak for expeditions. I think I too will go for the DownMat if it’s almost as small as the Synmat as I really feel the cold.

  Rudy wrote @

This is good information, another use for the pump is to warm you up! As you will more than likely be using these mats during cooler temps.

I to, use my Downmat 7 most of the year, in fact I can use/carry a lightweight sleeping bag as the insulation in the mat makes up the difference.

Also, the mats are no longer sold by OR. There are dealers throughout the US who sell most of the Exped products. I get all of my Exped gear from windedbowhunter.com


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