If you’re not familiar with the SynMat family of inflatable sleeping mats by Exped, the main thing to know about them is that they make for very useful lightweight and comfortable options for cold weather camping. That’s all thanks to their unique construction where lightweight synthetic fibres are laminated to the walls of the inside to protect you when you’re lying on cold ground.
Previous Synmat models have tended to come in at over £100, but this latest version called the Synmat 7.5 Basic is available at £75. There are cheaper insulated mats out there, like the Snugpak Bc Maxi Mat which you can get for below £50 at Webtogs, but it’s least a slightly more attractive price for the casual camper now.
The internal insulation is still there, all 160g/m2 of it, making it suitable for temperatures as low as -11C (R-Value is 4) and it’s just as comfortable as the other models in the SynMat 7 family, in fact you actually get 5mm of extra elevation with this. At 735g this ones lighter than the Exped Synmat 7 LW which weighs 1065g – that’s despite them both featuring the same 75D polyester materials – though it’s heavier than the SynMat UL which weighs 595g.
Related: Exped Synmat UL review
So what makes it cheaper then?
The most notable difference is that the SynMat 7.5 Basic doesn’t have the built-in hand pump that other versions have and this means it has to be inflated manually. In other words, you need to blow it up using your mouth. This will take at least 15 seconds so it’s not like there’s a lot more effort required. However, you could argue that inflation by breath will increase the likelihood of mould building up on the inside. If you want to avoid this, the solution would be to purchase one of Exped’s ‘pumpbags’ which you scoop air into before squeezing it into the mat.
The rectangular shape offers a bigger space to lie on in comparison to tapered mats – though many of those will be lighter to carry for that reason. It’s also worth noting that those who tend to move about in their sleep should find the lengthways tubes on this mat will work to their advantage. Mats with a widthways tube construction, like the Therm-a-rest NeoAir, tend to drop at the edges when too much weight shifts there, whereas the SynMat will stay firm.
In its stuff sack, the Synmat 7.5 doesn’t make for as small a package as some mats out there, but it’s by no means large either. There’s a small repair kit with patches and glue inside the stuff sack should that ever be needed.
OM writer Jack had a recent jaunt in the woods with the SynMat Basic 7.5. Over to him…
Jack Clayton, Outdoors Magic Writer
When you wake up after a bivvy bag night, in February, with frost on the ground around you the very fact you’re not dead / dying of hypothermia is probably down to one of three things: 1) The quality of your sleeping bag, 2) The quality of your sleeping mat, 3) The quality of your circulation and the sheer heat of your hot, hot, blood.
Putting aside sleeping bag and human biology for a second, I want to give a special shout out to the Exped Synmat 7.5 Basic Inflatable Sleeping Mat; a product which served me extremely well on a recent midweek microadventure mission in Epping Forest. Easy to inflate (and deflate for that matter), it elevated me comfortably off the cold earth and was a big improvement on my usual camping mat.
Demonstrating durability by standing up well to a number of jagged, pointy, sticks hidden beneath me, I was as high off the ground in the morning as I was when I settled down for the night. I was also impressed by how compact it was pre-rollout, and by how quickly and easily it could be deflated and packed away. When it’s cold out, and you’ve got places to be, the last thing you want to be doing is wrestling with a camping mat in the middle of a chilly forest, so hats off to Exped for making this as rapid to get away as it is to get up.
Essentially the best swimming pool lilo you’ll never actually take to a swimming pool, the Exped SynMat Basic 7.5 is an affordable, excellent, pick for someone looking to get outside their comfort zone and go wild camping whenever; wherever.
If you’re looking for more info on lightweight mats for backpacking, it’s worth heading over to view the results of our recent group test to find the best sleeping mats currently on the market.