Exped DownMat 7
Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $110
Great cold weather air mat.
I've had this air pad for three years, I've used it in temps from the high teens to the mid sixties.
This is probably one of the best pads for cold weather. even with my cheap 20-degree bag I've never been cold at night even when the temps dropped below 20 degrees. In higher temps it can be too warm to sleep comfortably. I had many nights when the temps were in the sixties that even just draping my sleeping bag over me I'd start to sweat.
It packs down to a little smaller the size of a football which is much nicer than a foam or a self inflating pad. it took a few tries to get it back into the provided stuff sack the first time I used it. Just needed to figure out how to get all the air out and roll it correctly.
At almost 2 lb, it's not as light as other options but most of them won't keep you as warm. If going out in cold weather it can actually be lighter and smaller than carrying two foam pads.
At first I thought the built-in pump was cool. The best way I can describe using the pump is like doing CPR chest compressions. It takes about five minutes of pumping to get the pad firm enough to lay on, usually more until you get used to pumping. After a long day hiking pumping can be the last thing you feel like doing. One of the quirks of the pump is sometimes when you are laying on it and move around it makes noise. It's not loud, just weird the first few times you hear it.
The surface of the pad is slightly textured to keep you from sliding around. its rough enough to grip the material of a sleeping bag but not enough to be uncomfortable to sleep on. It has a honeycomb pattern of some sort of rubberized paint to help with sliding. After a few trips it started to wear off, haven't notices any issues other then cosmetic.
Price Paid: $139
Last September we were headed to the Canadian Rockies for some hut-to-hut hiking.
I don’t sleep well, not even at home. Finding items to assist in a better night’s rest (amongst 30 strangers) became my mantra. In addition, I wanted all of my gear to fit “inside” my Marmot Eiger 36 for safer air travel. This meant updating my very old Therm-a-Rest sleeping pad.
Through online research, I whittled my candidates down to the Exped DownMat 7 and the Therm a Rest ProLite 4 Women’s. Then off I went to my local REI to go lay on them. After 1.5 hrs in the store, I still couldn’t decide. There were pluses and minuses to each. The DownMat 7 was $139 (includes stuff sack/pump). The ProLite was $90 (plus $13 stuff sack/self-inflating). I purchased both, the runner-up would be returned. At home I got out my sleeping bag, told my Fella I wouldn’t be in the “Big Bed” for the next few nights, and set up camp in the living room.
I chose the DownMat 7.
It’s 4 inches longer in length (I have an extra long sleeping bag, ALL of me fit on the pad)
It’s 1.3 inches thicker which made sleeping on my side more comfortable.
It did seem to provide more warmth between me and my wood flooring than the ProLite.
It’s 3 oz lighter.
It packed up 1 inch shorter making for a better fit inside my pack.
Even after practicing, over and over again, I don’t get the stuff sack pump to work the first time. Last weekend, after cross-country skiing out to the Bradley Hut in a heavy snow storm, I wished I’d had a self-inflator. It took several attempts to get the DownMat inflated. At one point I even lacked the confidence that I’d succeed. By the time I did, my hands were numb with cold.
I do think it’s warmer to sleep on and I know that I’ve slept better in the huts with it.
I still remember the air mattress I used while camping as a child. It was very bulky, heavy and required a 3rd lung to blow up.
Well, that air mattress is bag with a vengeance! And this time, it's even lighter, smaller and warmer than most self inflating mats.
The Exped 7 inflates to 7cm in height (as opposed to the Exped 9 which inflates to 9cm) and is incredibly comfortable as an air mattress should be. And thanks to its down fill, it's incredibly warm as well with absolutely no cold spots. Inflating the mattress can take some getting used to but once you get the hang of it, it shouldn't take more than 12 pumps with the bag. It may seem like a hassle since it isn't self inflating but it makes up for it with the ease of deflating/packing.
The only negative I can think of is the storage bag. It's fairly bulky due to the padding inside and it's a necessity since you don't want to be blowing moist air into your down filled bag. The bag adds bulk along with another point of failure but at least it can be used as a drybag due to the rubberized interior.
Price Paid: free
(This is an update to my original review from December, 2006)
I've had the DownMat for five years and though it's a great mat, to be honest, I've spent more time in my hammock than on the ground. To me, no mat can compare to the comfort of a hammock (admittedly when the temps aren't absolutely freezing.)
As far as sleeping mats go, though, the DownMat is great pad.
I had an interesting experience I wanted to share. On a trip this past May, the availability of trees was questionable (we were cycling on the coast) so I decided to take a tent and DownMat.
The first night in, I inflated my mat and heard a loud, "pop" when I lay down on it. I thought I had punctured the mat but it held air so I didn't worry about it and got a good night's rest.
The next day, I inflated my mat, lay down on it and heard another, "pop". This time, I looked at the mat and realized that I had blown three of the longitudinal baffles. Instead of a nice flat mattress, one edge was now about five inches thick (since the baffles were blown) which made if feel like I was sleeping on a hill. Not good.
After the trip, I called the folks at Exped and they were kind enough to replace my mat with a new DownMat. Kudos for backing up their product.
I must say, though, that I'm not enamored, with the new, integrated pump. I liked, the old, stuff sack inflater. The pad packed smaller; the sack worked fine; why mess up a good thing.
I called Exped up to ask about the new design and the rep told me, in so many words, that folks couldn't figure out how to use the stuff sack inflater so Exped dumbed it down with the integrated pump.
(I must add that I broke down and bought an Exped air pillow and it's great.)
Bottom line: I'm very pleased with Exped customer service and comfort of the DownMat, but I like the older, simpler design. As the saying goes, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. (And if you can't figure out how to use the stuff sack inflater, read the instructions - or stay at home!)
Price Paid: $129
As an aging camper who has rediscovered mountaineering I needed a warm pad that also supported my frame well so I could sleep easy. I hiked for years w/just a thin ensolite and then a Z-rest. Recently Therm-A-Rest has been great but I needed to sleep better, especially as I got into high altitude and potentially winter adventures.
The Downmat 7 is great! Very comfortable (2.5") and with an r-value twice that of a Therm-A-Rest. It only weighs a teeny bit more and packs down as small. A fast packer might choose something lighter but if you want good sleep in the mountains this will make it possible so you're rested for the next day's adventure.
Also, the pump bag works -- takes a few minutes but the added sleep is well worth it. The mattress itself is non-slip so my bag stayed on it. My next trip will involve 2 downmats and we are thinking of just taking one pumpbag to lighten up a bit. They say you can use the pumpbag as a pillow -- nice idea but it is noisy so I did my usual clothing pile wrapped in polarfleece.
I will not do another cool weather backpack or mountain trip without it and may convince my partner to lighten up on the car camping gear (ditch the Coleman air mattresses!).
Price Paid: $70
Over the past few years my Therm-a-rest(s) just weren't as comfortable as I'd like for a good night's rest. (Has global warming caused the ground to get harder????)
I'd seen the Expeds over the years and thought they were a gimmick. After a recent backpacking trip where I tossed and turned all night, I read a few reviews on the net and decided that a good night's rest might be worth the price. It was.
Try pumping the mat up a few times at home before you go out and you won't have any problems at all inflating the pad. Inflation is really quite easy and only takes a couple of minutes.
Your hiking buddies may roll their eyes when they see your Exped but once inflated, let them lie on it for a minute; you'll get the last laugh (and good night's sleep!)
Price Paid: C$125
I bought my Downmat 7 a couple of months ago and have just had the opportunity to use it this past weekend. I decided it was time to update my sad little blue foam pad with something a little more technical and, let's face it, useful.
I spent about two hours deciding between the Exped Downmat 7 short and the Thermarest Women's Prolite 4. Basically they were the same price when you added the cost of a stuffsack to the Prolite, but the Downmat is a lot thicker and supposedly warmer (higher R-value) which is important to me as I always wake up cold in the middle of the night.
The only "downside" of the Downmat is the short length I chose - the long one seemed unnecessary as I am 5'5" and typically sleep while hiking with my feet on my backpack, in addition to the significant added weight of the long mat which is also a lot heavier than the Prolite 4. However, if you can't get past the fact that your feet are not on the pad and weight is not a huge issue, then I would still go for the Downmat.
I did do some test runs at home before taking it out (just in case I wanted to return it for some reason!). All I can say after using it this weekend is that I'm in LOVE. After a tough 6 hour hike with a lot of elevation gain (read: every muscle was sore) I woke up the next day feeling GREAT. This pad feels more like a mattress than a sleeping pad; you will not notice any rock, bump or tree root underneath you. I did not slide off it at all even though the tent was on a bit of a slant (maybe something to do with the "tube" construction?) and I actually slept through the night without getting cold.
A nice feature is a simple thing - two tabs on one end that you can attach a pillow too which effectively lengthens the pad a little. As for pumping it with the stuff sack, it only take about a minute or two but I usually find that the sack pops off the mattress nozzle at least once which sets me back...still working on my technique there. And I have topped it off with a breath or two to fully inflate it although even when I didn't do this I didn't actually notice any loss of comfort.
Maybe I would be enthusiastic about anything better than the blue foam at this point but I stand by my decision and strongly endorse this pad for comfort and warmth.
Price Paid: $AUD 174
Brilliant. Incredibly warm, incredibly comfortable. Kicks Therm-a-Rest. You can choose to pack it in quarters - incredibly short but fat and dumpy - or in half which makes it longer, but thinner. Handy! Stuffsack makes a good pillow.
Inflation tip. Smash the pump sack hole onto the valve. Push real hard, and it'll sit much further on and not pop off during inflation. Don't bother to roll up the sack fully to pump it, just kind of roll it once and crumple it and pump. Works a treat.
Price Paid: $150
I was very impressed with the Downmat 7 and had used it on several extended ski mountaineering trips. The insulation worked very well preventing heat loss when sleeping on snow which was the whole point.
My friends were using Thermarests supplemented with closed cell pads (thinsulite), carrying two sleeping pads seemed to ad a fair amount of bulk, however weight was not significantly more.
Only one problem Downmat only works if inflated and if the valve fails (twice now, both times replaced by d/m) you are going to be sleepless until you get home. I could not figure out a way to repair or rig the broken valves in the field.
Price Paid: $169
I'm getting older and softer and this pad caught me up 10-15 years. A bit tricky at first to learn how to inflate, then it's GREAT. Light, compact and self contained. You'll love it.