If you are anything like me, you enjoy a good night’s sleep after a long day of travel. Therefore, it’s important that you have a quality sleeping mat to help you stay comfortable all night long and keep you warm during the cool, dark nights.
In this article I will be reviewing the Exped DownMat7 sleeping mat – a warm, winter sleeping pad that can be used for camping, backpacking, bicycle touring and a whole host of similar outdoor activities. If you’re looking for a way to sleep well and feel at home while camping for either short or long durations, The Exped DownMat 7 might just be the sleeping mat you’ve been looking for!
There are a number of different sleeping mats to choose from, but for the traveling cyclist, size, weight and durability are of utmost importance.
After having used several different low-priced sleeping mats in the past I spent several months shopping for a high-quality sleeping pad in both the United States and Switzerland before finally purchasing an Exped DownMat 7 Pump sleeping mat. The mat cost me 179 Swiss francs (or about $155 USD) – much more than I have ever spent on any other sleeping pad in the past. However, I wanted something that would not only keep me comfortable during my months of long-distance bike travel, but something that would last for years to come.
Would the Exped DownMat 7 hold up to my expectations? Would it really be as comfortable as it claimed? Would it keep me warm in cold winter environments? And would the mat truly survive years of hard use?
Keep reading in order to find out!
The three main reasons I decided on this particular sleeping mat is because:
1. The mat compacts down to a very small size and easily fits inside my panniers (something you can’t do with many of the larger, less expensive form and Thermarest-style sleeping mats)
2. When inflated, the mat is 2.8 inches (7 cm) thick, which not only makes it more comfortable as I sleep, but gets me way up off the ground and helps me to stay warmer on cool nights.
3. I do an incredible amount of camping in which I am required to sleep on the ground… and after years of using inferior products, I decided it was finally time to get the best sleeping mat possible.
The thing that really sold me on this particular sleeping mat is that in one particular sporting good store in Switzerland they actually let me test the available mats on a bed of rocks. Yes. A bed of rocks!
You put a mat down on the rocks and them climbed on top of the mat, just like you were going to go to sleep. When I tested a thin Thermarest mattress, I could still feel the rocks underneath my back. It felt pretty good, but I could still feel the rocks.
Then I tried the Exped mat and I couldn’t feel a thing! It felt incredible. I felt like I was floating in a pool of water… and I was sold!
Other Great Features
Beside the fact that the mat compresses down to such a small size and is thick enough to eliminate any jagged rocks that might be sitting underneath you, the Exped DownMat 7 Pump has a couple other cool features worth mentioning.
1. The first is that the mat is actually lined with down. As the product says on its label, “Super light 700 fill-power goose down traps air beneath your body, decreasing the heat-robbing effect regular air mats have when lying on cold ground. Down’s superb compression factor allows the DownMat to pack comparably with other air or foam pads, and inside the tough, UV- and abrasion-resistant polyester fabric, a Nocar treatment prevents molding and clumping.” (The company also makes a mat made of synthetic material. The synthetic mat is a bit cheaper, but also a little heavier.)
2. Additionally, the mat has a built in air pump that is to be used during the inflation process. The benefit of pumping the air in with your hands versus blowing it in with your mouth is that blowing air in with you mouth introduces moisture to the mat and this moisture can actually make you cooler at night while you sleep (in addition to causing damage to the mat itself, as I will discuss at the end of this review).
3. The mat is easy to deflate and fold into its stuff sack. There is a large valve opening at the end of the mat that simply siphons all the air directly out of the mat when you roll it up in the morning. Folding the mat into its stuff sack is equally easy.
4. Finally, the mat comes with a 3-year warranty, so if there is any sort of defect in the mat, the company will replace it at no additional cost (I’ll talk more about this in just a moment). And in case something does happen to the mat while you are out on the road, your Exped purchase comes with a patch kit as well – just in case!
Exped has a number of different sleeping mats to choose from. They all come in different shapes and sizes, but here are the specs for the DownMat 7 Pump.
- Size: 178×52 cm / 70×20“
- Thickness: 7 cm / 2.8“
- Weight: 835 g / 29 oz
- Packsack: 140 g / 5 oz
- Packed: 19×15 cm / 7×6“
- Fill Weight**: 170 g / 6 oz
- Temperature: -24°C / -11°F
Does The Exped Hold Up Under Heavy Use?
Update: The information below was added to this review on February 10, 2013.
After nearly three years of use, my Exped sleeping mat suddenly developed a rather large problem. The problem was that two of the seams holding the middle of the mat together came unglued and this caused two rather large bulges to appear near the foot of the mat.
I was about the take off on a year-long bicycle tour in Europe and Africa and my sleeping mat now had a giant bulge at the bottom of it near my feet. Not good!
I considered taking the mat with me on the trip despite the obvious defect, but at the very last moment I decided to contact Exped and see if they could help me out. I emailed the company and received a speedy response asking me to send them photos of the sleeping mat and a few basic details.
When Exped saw the pictures I sent them, they told me that even though my warranty period was officially over… and even though I had bought the sleeping mat in a different country… and even though I no longer had the original receipt for the product, they were going to send me a new sleeping mat. Their only request was that once the new mat was delivered, I was to take a knife and officially kill my old mat. They didn’t want me to try and sell the damaged mat or let it continue to exist in the world. So I promised to stab it once my new mat was delivered.
I stuck to my word too. When my new sleeping mat was delivered about a week later, I stabbed a giant hole in my defective sleeping mat and then threw it in the trash. Now I had a new sleeping mat for my European/African bike tour and I was singing Exped’s praises. My sleeping mat had cost a lot when I first bought it, but it was a great product (before the bubble) and the customer/warranty service was superb.
I took my new sleeping pad to Iceland, used it for a few weeks in England, France, Belgium, Netherlands and Germany too. Then, after less than three months of use, my sleeping mat bulged again! I couldn’t believe it.
While the bulge on my first mat had been down by the feet, the bulge in my second mat popped up right in the middle of the mat – exactly where my butt and/or lower back would be when lying down.
Now in Switzerland, just a few miles/kilometers away from the sporting good store where I had purchased my original Exped sleeping mat several years before, I contacted Exped once again and told them about my problem.
They couldn’t believe it… and frankly, neither could I. Although, I did have a theory as to why this same problem was happening over and over again. It was either a defect with the mat itself… or it was something I was doing to the mat on my camping excursions.
Exped said they would ship me a new sleeping mat, but they weren’t able to get it to me before I left Switzerland, so I had them ship it to me in Istanbul, Turkey and I made delivery of the product there. Once again, I took a knife to my defective Exped sleeping mat and threw it in the trash, while at the same time crossing my fingers and hoping that this new sleeping mat would not have the same problem that the first two mats had.
Problem Solved – NOT!!!
Update: The information below was added to this review on April 7, 2013.
I used my second new Exped DownMat7 for a few months while bicycle touring through Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania, Moldova, Ukraine and Poland. But as soon as I arrived in South Africa for a 3-month bicycle tour, I unrolled my sleeping mat and instantly discovered another large bubble – one again, smack dab in the middle of the mat. The one bubble quickly turned into two.
Now totally out in the middle of nowhere, I couldn’t contact Exped or purchase another new mat to sleep on, so I had to go for a week sleeping on an expensive sleeping mat with a very large bubble in the center of it. I tossed and turned all night long and rolled off the mat entirely most of the time. I now wondered how I was going to survive the next two months of camping in South Africa on this defective sleeping mat.
By this time, I realized that I was not the problem, but that the DownMat7 has a serious defect – a defect that causes the glue (or whatever it is that holds it together) to come apart over time and makes the mat utterly useless.
What Could Be The Problem?
Exped had a few theories about why the mat might be bubbling apart in the way it was.
They thought that the mat might have received too much exposure to the sun, and it was the heat from the sun that was causing the glue that holds the mat together to slowly come undone. But I knew that this wasn’t the case, because I was storing the sleeping mat deep inside my rear bicycle pannier. It was covered all day long with a thick, waterproof material. It stayed cool inside its protective shell and the sun rarely ever reached it. The sun and/or heat from the sun was certainly not the problem.
Exped also suggested that the mat was being misused in some way. Maybe I was using the mat as a wintertime snow sled? Or maybe I had inflated the mat and taken it in the pool with me? But again, I had done no such thing. I used the sleeping mat for one thing only – sleeping. I unrolled the tent at night, slept on it, and then rolled it back up in the morning and stored it inside my rear pannier all day long. I was certainly not misusing the sleeping mat in any kind of way.
In the end, neither I or Exped were ever really able to figure out what had caused my three previous sleeping mats to defect the way they did.
However, I do have a theory… and it has to do with moisture!
My theory is that the DownMat 7 Pump is simply not meant to get wet.
Just like a down jacket or down comforter is not good to get wet (mainly because it takes forever to dry), the Exped DownMat 7 sleeping mat should also never get wet.
Moisture from the ground and condensation that forms inside your tent at night can cause the bottom of the sleeping mat to get wet. This exterior moisture, and the moisture that gets inside the sleeping mat if you blow it up with your mouth (which I never did), is likely what is causing these Exped sleeping mats to bubble apart. Either that, or the mat simply falls apart after a short amount of time.
Inside the Exped manual that comes with the DownMat7 there is a sentence that says something to the effect of, “if condensation forms on the inside of your mat, use a hair dryer to dry out the product before further use.” I remember reading that sentence when I first received the sleeping mat, but also remember thinking how silly it seemed. If I’m backpacking in the wilderness (especially for months on end), when am I ever going to have a chance to dry out my sleeping mat with a hairdryer?
While I don’t recall any statement in the Exped product manual saying that you should NOT inflate the mat with your mouth, this sentence in the product manual about condensation forming inside the mat does show that the company was at least somewhat aware of issues caused by condensation and the down material found on the inside of the mat.
I also think that any moisture collecting on the outside of the mat (picked up from either the ground or the air) could be contributing to this bubbling problem as well.
Would I Recommend The Exped DownMat 7 Pump?
I review a lot of products here on Bicycle Touring Pro. Sometimes, a product is great and lasts forever. Other times, a product falls apart on the first use and I never give it a second chance. And on occasion, a product works wonderfully (like the DownMat7 in this instance), but then fails unexpectedly and I have to decide whether the product deserves a second chance or not.
In this case, the Exped DownMat 7 did deserve a second chance (and even a third). But now that the product has failed three separate times in exactly the same way, I can no longer recommend this product.
The Exped DownMat 7 is an incredible sleeping mat (when it works), developed by an exceptional company with some of the best customer service people I have ever had the pleasure of doing interacting with. Exped went above and beyond to help me out when my mat failed. However, I can not recommend this particular mat due to the obvious defects mentioned in this review.
Learn more about the Exped DownMat 7 sleeping pad by clicking this link… or visit www.exped.com for more information.