Exped SynMat UL7 air mattress review

August 28th, 2014

Before the start of this trip, I decided to upgrade to the Exped SynMat UL 7 air pad.


I had been using one of those cheap blue foam pads, and while that provided good insulation, it was bulky and uncomfortable.  I decided that a nice, thick insulated air mattress would make my trips into the backcountry (and stays in the frontcountry) considerably more enjoyable.  I was all set to buy the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir, but then I got scared off by some reviews questioning its durability and noting how it made lots of noise while in use.  That’s when I learned about the Exped UL7.

The features of the UL7 were enticing: almost 3″ thick when inflated, an R-value of 3.1 (about as good as my closed-cell-foam mat), a weight of 16 oz., and a packed size of about a liter and a half.  The only downside was the price: about 30 times more expensive than my old mat.  Nonetheless, I pulled the trigger, and a few days after it arrived it had its first night on the trail.

Exped SynMat UL 7 air pad / mat, shown with the optional Exped Pillow Pump

That first night went well, and I’ve now used the mat on more than a dozen additional nights.  Here are my impressions.

The good

  • Warm. Very effective at providing insulation from the cold ground.
  • Durable. Even though I’ve spent nights on lots of sharp gravel, the mat hasn’t developed any leaks.
  • Nifty inflate/deflate valves.  The inflation and deflation valves are one-way devices, so the mat is really easy to inflate and deflate.
  • Comfortable. It’s thick enough that even a side-sleeper like me feels great.
  • Light and small. It meets expectations, and it’s easy to get back into its stuff sack thanks to the one-way deflate valve.

Close-up of the inflate and deflate one-way valves on the UL 7 SynMat

The bad

  • Absorbs water. I’ve noticed that the mat absorbs water, such as when it touches condensation in a tent or has wet clothes resting against it. I’m concerned about mold growing inside of the mat, but I have yet to observe any.
  • Slides easily. My sleeping bag stays in place on the mat, but the mat itself slides easily on tent floors.


This is a great mat.  It’s light, small, and comfortable.  Yes, there is some added puncture risk from using an air mat instead of foam, and yes, it’s expensive, but the added comfort on both the trail and in camp make it worth it.  If you’re in the market, I highly recommend the Exped SynMat UL 7 air mattress.

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