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Good sleeping pad


Oct 15, 2005
I found this Exped Downmat 9 Pump Deluxe Sleeping Pad on MEC web site. I need your opinion on this, or any good pad. Comfort and warmth is a consideration. I'm not planning winter camping, just three seasons of kayaking on the west coast.

Thanks for all your replies.
Total overkill, I think. I've been using a Therm-a-rest Trail Lite as my sleeping pad for backpacking and kayaking for several years now. It self-inflates in about 3 minutes, and is plenty warm if you have a decent sleeping bag. I even spent a night up at Garibaldi Lake in December last year in -15 degree conditions and it was fine.

It rolls up in to a nice tight bundle, and if you get one of the Cactus Creek or Therma-a-rest bags for it, it keeps it held together quite well. It stuff right in to the tip of the bow of my kayak when paddling.

Costs $56 at MEC
greg0rn said:
I found this Exped Downmat 9 Pump Deluxe Sleeping Pad on MEC web site. I need your opinion on this, or any good pad.
Does not seem like your style, Greg. At $230, it is almost three times the cost of the style which has served Becky and me well for many years, similar to this one: http://www.rei.com/product/797486 Look for one designed for a "base camp" or similar if yiou want real comfort (= thicker), whether Thermarest or a knockoff. The thinner, lighter ones for back packing may not meet your needs.

We used the latter style for several years, but the upgrade really increased our sleep-time happiness. In fact, the 24 inch wide one we use now even fits inside an MSR Hubba!
I've been considering one of those or the synmat (synthetic insulation instead of down) in the"7" model for my yak trips. I switched from a therma rest to a Big Agnes air mattress a year or so ago in order to go more compact. The air mattresses are about the same diameter as self inflators but half the length. As my trips edged upwards in length I found I needed more space in the boat so decided to try out the BA and have been happy with their compactness but unhappy with two aspects: the inflation valve is horrible, lots of resistance which makes blowing it up a pain. And also had my first pad develop a slow leak (first night of a week long trip!) which was undetectable and therefore unrepairable. I replaced it through REI (I'd only buy it through a retailer with a bulletproof return policy) but still have been wondering if I should try out the exped ones. I've tried the built in pump and that seems great and would relieve me of the inflation annoyance but not sure if it would be any more durable. And the price; OUCH!

Oh yeah that first BA air mattress sprung a leak without even having been outside of a tent, very light use.

So my recommendation would be a 25" wide, at least 2.5" thick self inflator if space doesn't matter or perhaps the exped if $ doesn't matter.


I've also had bad luck with the REI brand self inflators. One sprung a leak and I was surprised to find that a 1.5" x 2" section of the nylon cover was passing air, yup bubbles comings right through! Luckily the patch kit worked even though the solvent based glue melted the nylon patch, just the thick layer of glue sealed it enough to last the week. In the future I'd just go right to my stash of aqua seal or seam grip for the repair.
I second what Dave said. For the cost, you could buy 2 or 3 Thermarests of different styles for different applications. Need one for backpacking? Get a lightweight one. Kayaking sleeping on a rocky beach? Basecamp will do. Still need extra comfort? Bring both.

I bought a BA insulated air core 5 years ago. I bought it to save space and it packed well. Never had a problem with it though I get tired of the deflation drill each morning in order to fit it back into it's bag.
My first-hand experience has been limited to Thermarest pads and foamies of all sorts. I mostly use a Thermarest ProLite 4( which is now Prolite Plus). It's been good to me for the last 3(?) years. Pro Lite family can be folded in half and then rolled up,most others are too thick for it. Result is very compact.( I always roll it up,close valve, unroll,fold in half length wise, roll up tight and let air out when i'm close to having it all the way rolled up). The lighter Prolite (old Prolite 3?) I didn't find as comfy,though lighter and more compact...
ThermaRest Trail Lite gives a very similar sleeping experience and is cheaper and may well be a bit tougher, and wider at the feet,but takes up more space and is a bit heavier.
I usually also bring some sort of a light/short foamie as a backup insulation in case of thermarest failure and a bit extra comfort. The yellow 5mm evazote pads are good for that. Or a cut down Z-lite (the accordion folding type foamie), which also make good lounging pad on the beach or at camp. depends on the boat and available space.
I know someone who had a Big Agnes airmat and hers leaked from day one(and encountered several other people with the same problem)
The purpose of a sleeping pad is to keep you from warming the surface of the planet with your body when you are lying on it.

A secondary purpose is to cushion your body from the roughness of the ground. This is usually not an issue except if the ground under the tent is lumpy stones.

The other factors are size and weight for transporting around. Then there are matters of durability and ease of field repair.

For insulation values you look at the R rating. On bare surfaces down to zero Celcius, R1 is enough. You get R1 from blue ensolite, the $10 pad at Canadian Tire. I think Ridgerest is R1.5.

You can improve the insulation value by putting down a reflective thermal blanket.

MEC has a luxury map thermarest with an R6.8. That is the highest R Value I've seen for a thermarest.

According to MEC, the Exped downmat 9 that you are asking about has a value of R8. Wow. As the MEC article states it is meant for sleeping on snow. Overkill by quite a lot for sea kayaking. It's meant for use in places like Mount Logan.

I use a thicker than normal, long thermarest for hiking and kayaking in all conditions. I bought it so long ago that I don't remember the R value though I think it is around R4. I'd use my ridgerest for anything but camping on snow however it is too bulky for my kayak and my backpack.
One of my pads is a "Therm-a-rest Luxury Camp Large" (http://www.rei.com/product/734466), an old 2007 model. It has an R-value of 7.0. I've slept on snow on a Therm-a-rest with less R-value and it more than did the job. Aside from the extra comfort the Lux Camp provides, one thing I like about it is the fleece covered top. It grips my sleeping bag well and is more comfortable against my skin if I sleep partially out of my sleeping bag. It's harder to repair though... Mine has developed leaks and is headed back to Cascades Designs as I don't wish to attempt the repair.

I have the older “7” (?) model and having a bad back I have found it very good…..HOWEVER…….the inflation process can be frustrating as you can only use the carry bag to inflate and the valve does not stay connected a good deal of the time…so it can be a 15+ minute job to inflate properly …..and you are clearly told not to use anything else to inflate under pain of ruining the down loft……I believe the newer models have improved the valve connection and you should make sure that is the case as it’s a very expensive product.
For strictly "distance from the hard ground", nothing I've found beats the Feathercraft sleep mats. Sadly, they quit making them earlier this year. If you could find a used one on Craigslist or similar I'd highly recommend one. While it doesn't provide much R value, the 6" of space between a tired back and the hard ground makes for a decent sleep.
I have an Exped 7. I bought the Mark 1 and it developed 6 leaks over about a one month period during an expedition a couple of years ago. The problem was a design fault near the valves. They have been through at least two re-designs since. It was replaced for me with a Mark 2 (now superceded) but on my last trip I elected to take my old Thermarest simply because it is trustworthy.

The Exped is much more comfortable than the Thermarest on hard ground. The trick with both is not to overinflate them.

Although I have not tested the Exped Mark 2, my impression is that the Thermarest is more robust.

My Exped packs down slightly smaller than the standard Thermarest.
I have used therarests, and current use either a Big Agnes Insulated Air Core Mummy for lightweight/size, or a first generation Exped 9. Both are fantastic. I don't think I can go back to uncomfy paper-thin foam pads ever again.

For the record, I do have a random deflation issues with the Big Agnes. Though, I am not sure it is actually deflating. Several times I have set it up, and it is still filled full in the morning. And several times I have filled it up and had it half-empty by the morning. Either the valve itself is leaking slowly (and tightening it up randomly seals it) or there is something else going on. I have a sneaking suspicion that the mat isn't actually loosing much air, but air/ground temperature changes are having an effect on the air density in the mat, and making it seem like it looses air. If that makes sense.

The Exped (old style) uses a stuff sack with a little valve to act as an inflation pump. Kind of a pain. But it works.

To those who cry about the inflation/deflation times. You are in camp, what else are you going to do? Seriously though, I have timed it, and I don't think it really ever takes much more than 5 minutes to inflate either of these. I think the inflation/deflation times issue is largely psychological.

They both weigh a little more, but, at least in the case of my Big Agnes, it rolls down into something the size of a can of soda. In addition, it has enough thickness to act as a little mattress, making sleeping on rough ground very easy. That alone is worth the little extra weight in my book.
I had the deflation issues to over night with Thermarests and others. It was never a leak, just the change in air temperature over night.
I have the Exped "7" deluxe. IT WAS WORTH EVERY PENNY and then some!!!!!!!

I have slept on canteloupe size boulders with this thing and got a good night's sleep. I have dragged it about everywhere. I like the way these mats wrap up really small as well.

Mine has a built in pump to blow it up which you can use your hands or a foot to blow up (I can't kneel so I use one of my big feet :mrgreen: ). I also have a second hand down one that is really small that I like to use for my hammock. The down one is SUPER warm and I am not sure I would like this in a tent... it makes me sweat at night, but that is in the warm season.

I can't stand sleeping cold or waking up with sore hips - this mat has made all the difference in the world for my getting a good night's sleep. :big_thumb
I have the exped 7 have used it 2 seasons it is a great peice of gearand takes up less space than the thermarest very happy with it just don't over inflate
Thanks to all for detailed responses.

Some paddlers have good reports about the Exped Deluxe Pad. That convinces me to spend hard earned MEC gift certificates on it. Will comment after my first campout.
I used a borrowed Exped Downmat 7 for a short time in Afghanistan earlier this year. My impression is that it's phenomenally comfortable, lightweight, warm, and packable. Unfortunately, it's also much more fragile than most sleeping pads.

The new design means you no longer need to do the stupid bag inflation thing; the pump is now built into the pad. I'm planning to buy an Exped myself for camping. I really can't say enough good things about it. Just make sure you baby it as much as possible or it won't last.

Having tried a lot of pads and an Exped, I like to segregate the two functions of a pad, comfort and warmth. For the comfort part, I like an old school rubberized cotton air mattress from Capital Iron. These are cheap, extremely comfortable (3 inches of float), have a very low packing volume with the air removed, and are relatively indestructable compared to many of the other airmats around, including my EX-ped, which developed unfixable pinhole leaks and was rendered useless after about a year of careful use. Air mattress are are nicely cool in the summer and have built in pillow elevation. In winter, I use a closed cell foam on top of the air mattress, getting the warmth part of the equation to add to the comfort part. This is a cheap, and extremely comfortable "binary" solution, considering the number of airmats that all developed leaks, either pinholes which were undetectable, or around the valves (Mec versions). It's hard to find these rubberized cotton mattresses anywhere except Capital Iron these days. I take a lightweight pump as well. Much faster to pump up than an Exped. Comfort is a must, warmth is optional depending on the season.
what kind of lightweight pump are you using chris ?

As I found the only down side is blowing up the mattress is a pain