•   
  •   
  •   
 

When An Exped Sleeping Mat Fails…

September 5th, 2012 24 comments


About a year ago, we reviewed our Exped sleeping mats. Our mats are still going strong, after about 75 nights of use, but we’ve also recently heard from several cyclists who complain of these mats failing.

Shane is cycling across Africa. His experience is a good example of the problems that are sometimes encountered with Exped mats on extended tours. He’s recently suffered 2 Exped failures. With the first mat, the down stuffing came loose.

Exped Failure

This is the first downmat that launched its down all over my tent in Uganda. It was still usable but a pain to deflate. Nights used: about 50. -Shane

Exped Failure

This is the second mat after 150 nights (it started failing after around 100 nights). It’s not very nice to sleep on. Now I have a Z Lite and I’m finding it no worse to sleep on than the broken Exped. I hope I get used to it! -Shane

The fact that inflatable mats fail is nothing new, and not specific to Exped mats. When we first started bike touring, we had Thermarest Prolite Plus mats. They too developed faults after about 6 months of steady touring.

Both Exped and Thermarest offer generous warranties on their mats so failure isn’t too much of a problem if you’re close to home and can easily claim on the warranty from your nearest dealer or camping shop.

On an extended tour, however, a failing sleeping mat is a hassle. You might not be able to get a replacement at all, or you might suffer heavy customs charges if a mat is sent to you. That’s why we always say that the longer your trip, the stronger the case for getting a solid foam mat such as the Z Lite.

Some people, like Shane, find the Z Lite a bit spartan to sleep on. We personally don’t mind it at all but then we like a very firm sleeping surface, even at home. As with anything, it’s a personal choice and every cyclist will have to find the right balance between durability and comfort for themselves.

Just keep in mind that if you have an inflatable mat that it’s not invincible. Keep your eyes out for any sign of failure and have a back up plan to get a new one, if you’re far from home.

Taking the phone number and email address of your local camping shop or dealer might not be a bad idea for extended trips. It’s perhaps also worth asking what service they could provide in the middle of a tour.

Would they send you a new mat, no questions asked, or would you have to send the old one back and twiddle your thumbs in a far away land waiting for the new one to arrive?

Dreaming of a Bike Tour? see our Survival Guide
What Next?
Related Pages
 

23 Responses to “When An Exped Sleeping Mat Fails…”

  1. Tara and I experienced both of these failures with our Exped DownMats during our 2009-2011 tour. Exped was quick to replace them without question, but we switched to Therm-A-Rest and sent the replacements home.

    Fast forward to the summer of 2012–we started using the DownMats for short campouts. Both of them have already failed after less than 10 uses. It’s too bad they are so dang comfortable because it’s clear they still aren’t durable.

    http://journal.goingslowly.com/2009/10/exped-downmat-vs-therm-rest-toughskin.html

  2. Whoops, wrong link there above. Here is the correct one:
    http://journal.goingslowly.com/2009/06/exped-downmat-9.html

    • David Iliff says:

      Hey Tyler, I’ve been wondering from way back when you first published your Exped Downmat vs Therm-a-rest journal entry… you said you got Therm-a-rest ‘Toughskins’?? I’ve never seen this model of mattress available anywhere. Is it a discontinued mat, or is it known under a different name now?

      I did find this:
      http://www.webtogs.co.uk/Thermarest_ToughSkin_Regular_Self_Inflating_Mattress_101118.html

      … which suggests it’s discontinued, and it doesn’t seem to match the specs of any current model mattress. It’s a bit heavier than a Trail Pro but has an R value of 3.8 compared to 4.8, which I guess would be attributed to the thicker skin and less foam insulation? As a follow up, how did your Toughskins fare throughout the rest of your trip anyway?

      • Heya David! The mats have been discontinued, though I’m not sure why. One of the pair delaminated in Lithuania, but we were able to pick up a free replacement at an outdoors store there. The other (and it’s replacement) is still going strong. I think the take-away from every article about long term off-the-beaten-path travel is that inflatable mats are a bad choice unless you’re willing to deal with the eventual and seemingly inevitable failures.

  3. Doug W. says:

    Wow. That’s really crazy. I had never heard of Exped until last year’s review and we bought two SynMats based on the recommendations here and a comparison of stats vs Thermarest. I really hope this problem is limited to the Downmat and not the Synmat. We’ve only used ours ten nights so far, but are hoping to get solid use out of them in a RTW trip coming up. Fingers crossed and thanks for the update!

    • friedel says:

      We are still happy with ours but thought it was good to let others know about the problems other cyclists have been sharing with us. As we said in the original review, we would be wary of taking them (or any inflatable mat, for that matter) on an extended tour. Any inflatable mat is prone to failure – fine if you’re close to camping shops and places where you can easily receive a replacement but a pain if you’re somewhere more remote. Make sure you have a ‘backup plan’ in place!

  4. Derek P says:

    Ive had nothing but problems with my Kathmandu Self Inflatable mats. First one died in 3 nights, second one hit the bucket on night number 6. Switching to a foam pad soon.

  5. Richie Finger says:

    Last year on my trip to Turkey my downmat lx leaked down when inflating. And yes it’s a pain to deflate. When your camping in a farmers field it looks like youve killed one his chickens by the morning.
    When I got back exped did offer me a replacement straight away saying that the valve issue had been addressed. It would seem this is probably not the case.
    I’m just about to go on 2 year tour so I shall be giving the z mat a look.

  6. Len says:

    I have the Xped, just like the one in Shane’s picture. I bought it at REI here in Colorado and haven’t had any problems with it at all, fact I love it. I used it last year for the Tour d’ Afrique trip, Cairo to Capetown for 4 months and it was about the only thing I had that didn’t fail. Zippers on my Neva tent both failed after only 30 days but at least I got great sleep every night on the Xped. I only recently took it with me on a cycling trip for 5 weeks through through Colorado and Wyoming into Yellowstone and absolutely no problems at all.

  7. Not good to hear :-/ I will be using my Exped Synmat7 LW extensively while I cycle tour NZ, Tas, Aus, then further afield. Will have to make inquiries on a possible back up plan on shops stocking the mat down-under.

    I have used the Z-lite while camping in the UK. It might not a get a puncture ect…But nor did I get comfortable nights sleep. Do not find it man enough for an extended time. 1 or 2 nights at the most.

    I am though using a chair kit on the Exped. Firstly; having a chair, secondly; more material protection for the mat, thirdly; I read it also gives good structure to the mat. We shall see? I will add on here in due course, if that is the case.

  8. we had our exped downmats replaced after the valves failed and down came pouring out on deflation. this year we havent used them too much due to very poor weather. we still have our original Thermarests which are about 20 years old and work but now in our 60′s we need a bit more thickness which the expeds give.

  9. I am on my second Exped Synmat UL 7S. Mine failed with the channel coming un glued as per the second photo. The retailer I brought mine from, Mainpeak got me a replacement whilst I was on the road.

    I do notice that the replacement has new graphics and hoped it had appropriate design changes. Wishful thinking?

    • Martin Kuster says:

      Same thing just happened to my 2 year-old Synmat Ul 7 on a trip in Greenland. At first only on 1 channel over a length of 5 cm and within a couple of nights I basically had one half of the width as one big bulge. It took about 10 years with a Therm-a-Rest to get to the same stage.

      • Martin Kuster says:

        Exped did replace it under warranty. The replacement did last one year: On the first day of a 14 day Norway trekking trip it developed a small hole on the upper surface which I manage to fix with the supplied glue. Then delamination (maybe influenced by UV radiation through tent walls?).

        I do not know whether I should go back to selfinflatables or a NeoAir?

  10. Cemal says:

    Hi everyone,

    Still trying to make a decision with regards to sleeping matts, I’ve used Thermarests and found them OK to sleep on; but recently tried out an exped synmat ul 7 and found it to be a lot more comfortable and half the weight.

    I’m off on an extended tour of the americas next year and need something a little more durable than the synmat ul, so its either the synmat 7 or synmat 7.5 basic.

    I’ve read a few reports of the Synmat 7 delaminating, and thought that this might be because the baffles aren’t fulling glued down, but have a gap to allow for the synthetic material. I noticed that the synmat 7.5 basic model has fully welded baffles making it less balanced and I assume less comfortable but perhaps less prone to this delaminating…..

    Anyone have any experience with the synmat 7.5 basic model?

    Cemal

  11. Vicky says:

    Unfortunately, we too have had serious problems with our Exped mats failing on our extended cycle tour. See our write-up here: http://www.woollypigs.com/2012/05/review-spitting-feathers-exped-mat-five-year-warranty/

    The mats were replaced, but we had to get them shipped to Chile which cost us the price of the mats! And here in the US the replacements are starting to spit feathers. This is a good reminder that it’s time for us to get onto Exped again and see if they can let us have replacements from a local store, such as REI.

    As someone said above, it’s a shame they’re so comfortable. We can’t imagine sleeping on anything else, despite their failings.

  12. Vicky says:

    Just a quick update following my recent comment above. I contacted Exped in Washington and they’ve been very helpful in immediately offering to replace the mats. And, they sent a FedEx pre-paid slip so we won’t incur any shipping charges. I asked how we might avoid this issue happening in the future (down appearing through the deflation valves), and they recommend to keep the mats clear of heat sources and out of direct sunlight, which may cause the breakdown of interior welds. We’ll be updating our review once we’ve used them for a couple of months in New Zealand.

  13. sz says:

    The potential down spitting was the main reason I chose the SynMat over the DownMat, because its non-woven fabric insulation eliminates this issue by design.

    Too bad that closed cell pads are not nearly as comfortable, have much less insulation and are huge when packed.

  14. Andy Welch says:

    I used the Exped Downmat and it lasted a lot longer over a year at least, but then it got a puncture and I found it a pain to try to fix, so ditched it for a Thermarest.

  15. Granville Roberts says:

    My SynMat Ultralight 7 started to fail before the end of a 20 night camping trip last summer, the fault was progressing down the length of the mat, similar but not as bad as in Shane’s photo, but getting worse each night. Fortunately I was finished before it got too bad. It was exchanged OK by the supplier but they needed clearance from Exped, which took about a week, so it would have been very convenient if I had still been travelling.

    Given the comfort, weight and bulk issues with the alternative, I opted for another Ultralight, I am not going to sit on the end of the new one like I did with the last one. Not sure I would want to rely on it if I was going to anywhere remote.

  16. After using my Exped a lot through-out New Zealand and Tasmania last year she is holding up very well.

    One thing though that I feel the mat has benefited from is I’ve always used a cover. This one was a chair kit. The chair kit bits I removed as I did not really use and it has stayed on the mat ever since. Works perfectly.

    I see now Exped do a cover for their mats. I’d advise on using them. Firstly; it makes for an even more comfortable mat and secondly; it seems to help to keep the tubes/baffles? firmly in place.

    https://www.flickr.com/photos/reallyusefulbicyclejourneys/8570956444/in/set-72157633032826324

  17. Richie Finger says:

    Ah Exped! The customer service used to make up for the failed product but not any more.
    I’m currently in Sri Lanka. About 2 months ago my replacement Downmat 9 started to leak. The original one had the faulty valve/feathers coming out problem.
    It would be flat by morning. I put it in a bath and found that the weld/glue on the valve had come unstuck. It took over a month from contacting UK distributor to get an answer from exped HQ. They then sent me a washer and some glue that never arrived. I now have the second shipment and I’m trying this solution. I will see how it goes.
    I’m definitely going to try a different brand, when I return to the UK in August.
    I’ve been travelling 18 months and used the mat about a quarter of that time.
    Customer Service seemed totally unbothered by my problem.
    It was very good when the first mat went.

    I have no idea what CS is like with other brands so I might come back here saying how good exped is after all!!

Leave a Reply