Exped Synmat 7
£88 from Amazon.co.uk
I came across this by complete coincidence when carrying out hours of research on each part of my kit, and I’m glad I did.
I’ve tried a few sleeping pads, after realising my 10 year old, thin foam pad just wasn’t doing me any favours. This pad is thick and warm, comfortable, reasonably quick to inflate, quicker to deflate, and packs up into a snug little bundle.
It’s amazing how much difference a good sleeping pad makes – not just in terms of padding (I sleep on my side, so need something which is thick enough to support me). Even during the relatively warm tour in Japan, the ground at night could get wicked cold, and the filled pad made an amazing difference. Suffice it to say the ground will be even colder during some sub-zero nights in Europe.
The Synmat, as the name suggests, has a synthetic filling, which means that it’s a tad heavier, but a lot easier to maintain – my concerns were that with sustained use, in hot and humid climes, the moisture inevitably getting into a down filled pad would cause it to deteriorate. Even in colder climates the condensation build up in a tent always leaves moisture as a threat to any equipment.
It’s also got an innovative pump system (which is akin to giving CPR). It’s really easy, so if you’re pumping for more than a minute or two, you’ve not closed the valves properly (I had a very hot and bothered first experience of this!).
The advantage of this again though is the fact that you’re not blowing your own hot wet breath into the mat, but instead filling it with the “fresh” outdoor air.
For more info visit Exped.com
The alternatives to this that Stu and Craig bought were the Thermarest Neo Air and Prolite. Although the Neo Air is lighter, it doesn’t offer the same warmth (that and he bought a short, so that only his torso was on the mat). The Prolite is
Update from the Road: About 2 weeks into the trip I started to have that sinking feeling… My pad had a leak. Although I’m sure the puncture happened before I even left on the trip, it was still infuriating as it got progressively worse. By the time I reached Budapest, I was having to wake up in the middle of the night to reinflate it. Annoyingly the hole was so small that it was impossible to find (despite several bath-dunking attempts while at Grandma’s place), and so I was resigned to getting a new one. Luckily Jo managed to bring one out to me in Budapest, and I continued to have many nights of trouble free sleeping from then on.
Annoying that the leak occurred, but still the most comfortable mat I’ve ever slept on.
Very good insulation
Rolls up tightly
Quick to inflate/deflate
Rather durable, and still provides a level of comfort even with a small leak
A little bulky
A little heavier than others