|Value for money:
|Fitness for purpose:
|Weight & Packsize:
Price when purchased (July 2014): £99 (including Schnozzel pump bag)
Price now (September 2015): £60 - £100
For the lightweight backpacker comfort used to be governed by the weight we were prepared to carry and indeed the space available in our bags. Various manufacturers have launched self-inflating, foam cell and other fancy technology in order to combat this problem, but few have managed it with the style and elegance than Exped. With a reasonably hefty price tag for what essentially is a glorified air bed is the SynMat worth the expense and does the level of comfort reflect this?
When I was looking around for my sleeping mat I only found two real contenders, the Exped SynMat UL and the Therm-A-Rest NeoAir XLite. After test-lying both the decision was ultimately an easy one as the sound of movement on the NeoAir would keep me awake all night. Imagine lying on a bag full of old crisp packets. While I'm not a light sleeper myself I could foresee the arguments to be had with fellow campers. Where the NeoAir creates its insulation through air trapped in an empty crisp packet like foil interior the SynMat relies on synthetic fibres. Subsequently the SynMat is slightly larger in pack size, packing down to roughly the size of a 1l Nalgene bottle with a little practice. At 450g plus a few grams for the ultra-light Schnozzel Pump Bag which acts as a pump for the mat you won't break your back with the weight.
Once inflated the mat provides a 183cm long, 52cm wide, 7cm thick surface with continuous inflation along the seams. For a side-sleeper like me this means pure comfort as there are no non-inflated parts of the mat which can be found on other tube-design mats and even the SynMat UL 5 range. With a R value of 3.3 the mat should keep you warm and comfortable down to just below freezing. Having slept in that temperature range I would personally consider the mat for temperatures touching the negative double digits - but I am a "warm blooded" person to begin with.
Unlike the standard SynMat with its 5 year warranty the SynMat UL only comes with 2 years. This is due to the reduced abrasion and puncture resistance of the Ultralight version. Thankfully I have not had any experience in dealing with punctures, so while the included repair kit looks complete and the instructions seem easy to follow I can't comment on its suitability. One negative aspect I have noticed is the underside of the mat being very slippery. On even the slightest slope you will find the mat easily slipping to the lowest point. A couple of rubber or silicone strips on the underside could easily fix this without greatly increasing the weight. Although the problem exists on the upper side as well it is far less noticeable due to the weight of the individual creating enough friction on the mat to stop them from sliding - very light users may struggle here though.
For me the mat has made a great change to the way I camp and wild camp. Before I would not really look forward to the night and considered it a chore that got in my way between days out. Now I know I can get a comfortable night sleep, wake up relaxed for the next day and make the most of my day out. Even after a year of heavy use the mat has not developed any faults and a few stains from spilling my coffee aside still looks like new. A definitive downside is the price and really I would not suggest this mat to people who only camp occasionally. This is indeed true for any sleeping mat costing more than £30 not covered by a lifetime guarantee. But for those who wild camp regularly, are looking for comfort from home with money to spare or simply more money than sense (read: gear junkies) this is the perfect mat to own and show off.