Last year before the first wild camping trip and I had a trolley full of outdoor gear a top-notch sleeping mat unfortunately wasn’t at the top of the list. Other things like base layers, mountaineering boots and a decent sleeping bag were.
Then last week the time came to replace my ‘virtually-just-a-yoga-mat’ sleeping mat and get something better. BG had bragged about his Therm-a-Rest since the first camp we went on together and to be honest that’s what I had planned on getting but then an impulse quick look in the nearest Blacks led me to something better; the Exped Synmat UL 7 M.
I hadn’t planned on it being better, but it turned out to be the best impulse buy of 2016.
The most obvious improvement on the last mat was the size that it packed down to. From carrying a massive rolled up ‘yoga mat’ that took up a lot of essential room in the backpack to a mat that when rolled up to the size of a water bottle (or 24x9cm) was a novelty. So much more room in the pack, which is especially what I had in mind for the Tour du Mont Blanc in the summer.
The material is thin. So thin. I was dubious that a material so thin wouldn’t just burst like a balloon once I sat on it. I guess that’s crazy modern technology for you, all 460g of it. Light as a feather.
So on to the main thing; comfort. I don’t know whether it’s just because I’ve made do with something far less superior for so long but this mat is amazing. From being able to sit comfortably inside a tiny two man tent while eating camping food without having a numb bum or the ground digging into your hip, to lying down and feeling like you’re sleeping in an actual bed, this mattress was like a tiny bit of rolled up camping heaven. Had it not been for the relentless gales/winds on the side of Nab Scar on New Year’s Eve that kept us awake I am sure I would have had the best night’s camp sleep I’d ever had.
One of the benefits of the Synmat UL 7 M is that it isn’t coffin shaped. I like that I’m not restricted in how much room I have for my legs, and being only 5’2 tall the mat felt enormous at 72″ in length and 20.5″ wide. There was no sliding off the mat thanks to the air cells on the side being thicker than those in the middle. GENIUS.
And I am afraid to say but BG thinks this mat is better than his! And he’s difficult to impress.
Another genius part of the design is how easy it is to inflate and deflate. There are two valves, the inflation valve prevents the mat from losing the air you’ve just blown into it while you take another breath. The mat is very easy and quick to blow up. The deflation valve lets the air out very, very quickly making the mat easy to pack away, especially in the cold and windy conditions we were on last weekend. It just saves so much time compared to trying to deflate that enormous ‘yoga-mat’ I had being using.
The Synmat UL 7 M has now made it on to my essentials list. I do not know how I lived without it and I’ve only had one cold night on it, so if it lives up to this then the Tour du Mont Blanc should be very comfortable.