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Hands-on Gear Review
Exped SynMat 7 Review
Cons: Heavy, bulky, pump adds weight, difficult to fine tune inflation level
Bottom line: We loved sleeping on this pad, but did not enjoy how it weighed down our packs.
The Exped SynMat 7 is an insulated air construction sleeping pad that is quite comfortable. This was one of our favorite pads to sleep on and gave us many good nights of sleep. It also has an internal pump, which is a nifty feature though most testers found it unnecessary. However, the benefits of this pad are offset by its heavy weight. For general backpacking trips, our testers preferred higher scoring lightweight pads like the Q-Core SLX. Both of these pads are nearly as warm as the SynMat but weigh a lot less.
If saving weight is one of your top priorities, go for the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite, the ultimate ultralight sleeping pad that shaves weight without reducing comfort or sacrificing too much warmth. For multi-day winter trips, opt for the impressively warm and remarkably light Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm.
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Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
This contender is a warm and comfortable pad, but it was too heavy for us to fall in love with it.
Over the course of this review, our lead tester neglected to sleep on his bed and instead opted to sleep on all the sleeping pads in this review. The SynMat 7 quickly became one of his favorites, earning a comfort score of 8/10. This air construction pad with vertical baffles was more comfortable than other pads with similar designs because the ridges between the baffles are so shallow. The vertical baffles of this pad also prevent the edge collapse issue found in horizontally baffled pads like the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Venture. As a result, this design makes the Synmat 7 feel wider than its competitors. One downside of vertical baffles is that they can feel bouncy when you move your feet, especially when the pad is underinflated.
The rectangular shape of this pad gave it an edge over the Therm-a-Rest XTherm and the Therm-a-Rest XLite, which both feature a tapered design. If you're looking for maximum comfort, look at the Sea to Summit Comfort Plus Insulated.
The SynMat has an R-value of 4.9, making it plenty warm for winter use. None of our testers complained about being cold on this pad.
Weight and Packed Size
The SynMat 7 is by far the heaviest pad we tested, weighing in at a whopping 30 ounces. It is twice as heavy as the Editors' Choice-winning XTherm. The integrated pump is novel but adds unnecessary weight. Though it isn't the lightest pad around, it should be noted that it is best suited for winter anyway and is about the same weight as an average summer pad combined with a foam pad.
Many of our testers feel that 30 ounces is better spent on combining two sleeping pads like the Therm-a-Rest XLite and Therm-a-Rest Z Lite SOL. This combination will be more versatile, warmer, and gives you redundancy should one pad fail.
When packed, it takes up about four liters of space. This is pretty bulky and much larger than any other air construction pad. The self-inflating REI AirRail 1.5 packed down a little smaller than the SynMat (it also earned a better score and costs less).
Store this pad by hanging it with the valve open. Keeping the pad stuffed will compress the synthetic insulation and reduce its ability to keep you warm.
Ease of Inflation
Practice your CPR and inflate this pad at the same time! While you can practice mouth to mouth on nearly any sleeping pad, the integrated pump in the SynMat 7 allows you practice your compressions before going to bed. Within about a minute the pad will be resuscitated to a nice thick size!
While the integrated pump was nice, we found it more difficult to fine tune the inflation level than other pads. Deflation, however, is as simple as pulling a tab that releases all the air. Unfortunately, there is no way to let the air ease out - this valve is all or nothing. The Sea to Summit Ultralight and Sea to Summit Comfort Light have a similar valve to the SynMat but they both have a small release valve that you can use to fine-tune the inflation while you're on the pad (this is especially key for making adjustments in the middle of the night without waking up your partner). Because of the valve's shortcomings, we ended up over- or under-inflating the pad.
The SynMat 7 is constructed with the most durable materials found in any inflatable sleeping pad we tested. This is the best pad if you frequently sleep directly on the ground and are wary of punctures. While testing, it should be noted that we managed to delaminate one of the vertical baffles, such an issue was covered under warranty. Upon anonymously reporting this to Exped, they simply requested pictures of the issue (followed by a picture of us destroying the old pad). Then they shipped us a new pad free of charge. A Google search for this issue turns up some results, but at least Exped's good customer service is a prominent theme. Based on the feedback from our reviewers, we expect this pad to have a great lifespan and think that it will withstand pricks and pinholes better than most other inflatable pads. At the very least, you can be reassured that you're buying a pad from a company that stands behind its products.
The SynMat 7 is best used for expedition style winter camping. It is also comfortable enough for extended car camping or to let a guest sleep on the floor.
For $130 this pad seems fairly expensive for what you get. While we liked the integrated pump, it adds weight that is unnecessary in a sleeping pad for backpacking. Many other pads that we reviewed scored higher and cost less. We can't say that this pad presents a very good value.
This contender was a joy to sleep on but a pain to carry. It is neither lightweight nor super packable and for this reason, it scored poorly in our review. We appreciate that it's made with durable materials and think that it's a good pad if you do a lot of car camping but still want a warm pad in the winter. It is great for winter base camping, but we prefer other pads that are just as warm but much more versatile.
— Jeremy Bauman
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