A warm and comfortable mat but needs protection to keep grit out of the grooves which will add to the (already high) weight and cost.
- Wide range of sizes.
- Packs fairly small.
- Slow to inflate and deflate.
- Grit gets into grooves and causes punctures.
- Punctures can be hard to find and repair.
This mat is essentially a lightweight airbed, with a moderate amount of synthetic filling to add warmth. To get the required amount of air into the mat you need to blow it in, as opposed to self-inflating Thermarests, although you can get a pump for this job. It would be handy if you could blow the thing up using a bicycle pump but this doesn’t seem to be possible. The valve for blowing up the mat is very wide, and a little awkward to blow into. You need to make a wide o-shape with your mouth and it is hard to avoid blowing saliva into the mat. The valve does at least look durable and I had no issues with reliability. However, it takes a fair amount of breath to blow the mat up. In addition, because there is so much air in the mat it takes a while to get the air out when packing the mat away.
The mat feels a little squishy and odd and is also rather noisy. I had no problems getting to sleep on it however and found it more comfortable than any other camping mat I have used. It also seems quite warm – although I haven’t used it in winter I had no problems with it down to slightly below freezing. Exped claim the mat is good for temperatures down to -17°C and although such manufacturer claims are usually optimistic I think the mat would be ok for four season use in the UK.
The SynMat is made of fairly tough, heavy material and looks quite durable. However, it is heavy at 850g for the medium size. Exped supply a puncture repair kit with detailed (and quite laborious) instructions. I took the mat on a four month tour of Europe. After about two months I noticed the mat was losing pressure and tried to find the puncture. Due to the deep grooves the mat has a very large and irregular surface area, making it quite a challenge to locate punctures. Eventually I located the source of the puncture by dipping the inflated mat in a lake and painstakingly checking every square inch while it was still soaking. The puncture turned out to be located on the top of the mat deep in one of the grooves, and proved almost impossible to fix completely. I managed to get the leaking down to an acceptable level but it wasn’t long before another puncture appeared, again in one of the top grooves. The grooves collect grit and it is difficult to remove without completely deflating and then cleaning the mat – a time-consuming procedure. I wasn’t able to fix the punctures fully. It was still possible to sleep on the mat, but I would wake up in the middle of the night to find it half deflated.
By the time I got back, the mat was out of the store warranty. Exped provide a five year warranty but I doubt this would cover repairs from punctures. Still, I emailed Exped to ask if there was any way to repair it. They never replied.
After my experience with the Exped I bought a 3/4 length Thermarest, which is less than half the weight of the SynMat. The SynMat is only slightly more comfortable and not enough to justify the extra weight and hassle. I find that using the Thermarest in conjunction with a 3-season foam mat gives as much comfort as the SynMat and the combination is lighter and much more convenient and reliable. The Thermarest is easier to inflate and pack and even if I get a puncture I have a foam mat for backup. Punctures should be much easier to find though I haven’t had one yet. The downside is extra bulk but I don’t find this a big problem.
I bought the SynMat in a sale for about £50 but the current price is nearer £100 which is quite expensive. I wouldn’t recommend it except for short tours because of the difficulty in cleaning it and locating punctures. Exped make, and indeed recommend, a protective cover for longer trips, but this puts the weight and price up even more. My recommendation for those seeking extra comfort is to use a lightweight 3/4-length Thermarest in conjunction with a full-length foam mat. The combination shouldn’t be any heavier or more expensive than the SynMat and you won’t have the worry about punctures.