Exped Synmat XP 9 Review
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Our Analysis and Test Results
While the weight and packed size of the Synmat 9 are negative attributes that are worth taking into account, it is likely impossible for a sleeping pad to be as warm and comfortable without this extra heft. If it was possible, we have faith that the Swiss engineers at Exped would have taken over the particle accelerator at CERN and discovered some anti-gravity particle that would make their sleeping pad weigh nothing.
Our testers rarely experience deep uninterrupted sleep while out in the backcountry. There are unquestionably many factors that come into play when considering the causation of sleep quality. That being said, the Synmat does an excellent job of mitigating potential irritations that it can control. The Synmat 9 was generously plush, wide, and long. When inflated properly, our side-sleeping testers noted absolutely no bottoming out, a common issue with thinner pads.
The ability to shift from back to side sleep without contacting the ground is critical for sound sleep. Shifting sleep positions illuminated another highlight of the Synmat 9. Compared to other sleeping pads, we noticed almost no noise as we shifted; some insulated sleeping pads can be excessively crinkly when the user shifts around. This can be a massive annoyance to both the sleeper and those attempting to sleep next to them.
The regular length and width Synmat 9, at 77.6in x 25.6, was the longest and widest sleeping pad we tested. Our 5'11" tester appreciated these dimensions as he could sleep comfortably and never feel that any part of his body was sliding off the pad. Finally, the polyester fabric top of the Synmat 9 was just grippy enough to keep us from slipping around when we pitched our camp on a mild slope. Exped's attention to detail paid off, as it was one of the most comfortable sleeping pads tested.
Weight and Packed Sized
The version we tested weighs in at 38.5 ounces; this may sound extreme when considering some of the extremely lightweight offerings on the market today. First, consider that we tested the LW version of the Synmat XP 9, which weighs about 10 ounces more than the still generously sized M version. So if you're less than six feet tall, you're probably looking at the same pad we tested with all of the plush benefits for about 28 ounces. At this weight, the Synmat XP 9 is a true powerhouse.
The packed size of the M and LW versions of the Synmat XP 9 are 9.1 in x 5.9 in and 9.1 in x 6.3 in, respectively. If light weight and small packed size are at the top of your list of attributes you look at when purchasing a sleeping pad, this one probably isn't what you're looking for. Exped has sacrificed a significant amount in the weight department to make an extremely comfortable and warm sleeping pad. That said, for an expedition worthy sleeping pad, the Synmat 9 does come in at a respectable weight and packed size.
After sleeping multiple nights on the cold hard ground with nothing but the Synmat 9 between us and the almighty, we can safely say it has fantastic insulation. If the feeling of cold leaching through the ground into your achy bones is one of your greatest fears like it is ours, the Synmat 9 is a great solution. The 6.0 R-value (-13 degrees Fahrenheit) is achieved through microfiber filled air chambers. While we didn't cut our pad open to fact check Exped, they state that each chamber has microfiber welded to the top and bottom, which forces it to loft when the pad is inflated. Our testing revealed a total elimination of the ice-cold back and hips we have experienced when sleeping on cold hard ground without an insulated pad.
Ease of Inflation
As the Synmat 9 was the largest pad we tested, our initial thought was that the inflation process would be difficult and time-intensive; this was not the case. The included Schnozzel Pumpbag (yes, it's really called the Schnozzel) is now one of our favorite sleeping pad pump bags. The Schnozzel is extremely thin and light but can hold a large volume of air. During our time trial inflation test, we would average between two and two and a half minutes from completely packed to completely inflated.
Throughout our numerous controlled tests and use of the Synmat 9 in the backcountry, we never had the Schnozzel pop out of the inflation valve even when we were getting a little agro and really Schnozzeling the heck out of it. Additionally, the one-way inflation valve on the Synmat 9 didn't allow any backflow and decoupling the Schnozzel didn't result in any air loss. Finally, it's worth noting, the ultra-thin denier material of the Schnozzel allowed us to simply re-open the pump bag to capture another gulp of air. There was no dramatic flailing of the pump bag to capture air, which is a huge bonus.
Several components come into play when considering a sleeping pad's overall durability. The valves/inflation system, fabric thickness, and seam lamination quality. While many ultralight sleeping pads utilize fabric thicknesses of 20-30 denier, the Synmat XP 9 opted for a beefy 75 denier polyester then laminated it with TPU polyether film. This may sound like overkill, but if you have spent years of your life in the outdoors as our testers have, you will no doubt have an experience wherein your sleeping pad developed a leak, and you found yourself sleeping on cold hard ground night after night. While all of the sleeping pads we tested proved to be respectfully durable, none could compare to the burly construction of the Synmat XP 9.
Exped also backs up their burly construction with a five-year warranty on the Synmat XP 9 something that only makes sense if they know they are making a quality product or if it's a McDonald's quantity over quality situation, which the Synmat certainly is not.
Value is always a tricky subject, as dollars can mean different things to different people. Our experience with the Synmat XP 9 was worth every penny we spent on it. Really the only thing that should keep you from considering this sleeping pad is if you are looking for something ultralight and packable for a big thru-hiking mission. The fact that the Synmat 9 can cover so many potential uses also boosts its value. From car camping to big expeditions, you will appreciate the warmth and comfort. For the price, you get great build quality, durable materials, a five-year warranty, and a great night's sleep.
The Exped Synmat XP 9 was the only sleeping pad we tested that we would really consider bringing on a long expedition far away from civilization. The true four-season capabilities, durable design, and sleep quality we received were unrivaled in our field of competitors. The fact remains that this is a heavy sleeping pad, which makes it ill-suited for trips where every gram counts.
— Brian Martin