PSA: Yet Another Exped SynMat HL Matt Failure
Sep 30, 2019 at 8:47 pm #3612225
Faux Post One
[….. can now be edited]Sep 30, 2019 at 8:48 pm #3612226
Exped SynMat HL Winter
11,000’, 27°F, night one of six , …..bam-bam! Baffle blown from head to foot.
I’m done with ExpedOct 1, 2019 at 12:15 am #3612247
Me too. A valve failure on my original UL, which they replaced.
Then the baffle blew on the lightly used replacement, just beyond the guarantee period.
They seem to have lost the plot. There are better alternatives now.Oct 1, 2019 at 12:21 am #3612249jscottBPL Member
@bookLocale: Northern California
Any chance that altitude was a factor?
Night one of six…oof. Was it still functional for insulation at least?Oct 1, 2019 at 12:55 am #3612252A DBPL Member
When was this originally purchased? I think they made some changes in 2016 or 17.Oct 1, 2019 at 1:18 am #3612255
AD – It was purchased before 2016.
Jeffrey – Altitude had nothing to do with it. I pump to just 3/4 full to get uniform support along the length of my body. It was noticeably cooler after it blew. Probably de-optimized the insulating batt arrangement. I use a removable folded CCF pad in the back pocket of my pack. I was glad to have it.Oct 1, 2019 at 2:33 am #3612256Dan DurstonBPL Member
@dandydanLocale: Canadian Rockies
I’ve had a couple pop but all pre-2016. It seems they fixed the problem around then.Oct 1, 2019 at 2:42 am #3612257
Night one of six is rough. How much use had it seen before? Will Exped replace it?
Supposedly Exped fixed this issue a year or two ago. I’d be interested in hearing if anyone’s 2018 or 2019 Synmat HL pads have blown a baffle.
I’m not sure what a better alternative to the Synmat HL Winter would be. What other pads have a R-value >= 5 at that weight? The Thermarest XTherm does. Klymit Insulated V Ultralite is close.Oct 1, 2019 at 3:17 am #3612259Cameron MBPL Member
@cameronm-aka-backstrokeLocale: Los Angeles
Every time there is a go-round on this site about mattress failures, Thermarest usually comes out looking pretty good compared to Exped, Big Agnes, etc. Still true?Oct 1, 2019 at 7:25 am #3612268Jim CBPL Member
@jimothyLocale: Georgia, USA
This summer, I had a baffle failure on my older Synmat HL. It was long out of warranty, but I contacted them anyway and they replaced it with a brand new mat.
So their products may have (had?) issues, but their customer service is excellent. It’s worth contacting them.Oct 1, 2019 at 10:10 am #3612270
Thermarest usually comes out looking pretty good compared to Exped, Big Agnes, etc. Still true?
I recently had to replace my Exped UL due to a failed baffle, as I mentioned above, and did some research on this. Most suppliers are using the same low-end welding technique, which is simply not reliable on wispy fabrics. If you google around you see plenty reports of Thermarest failures.
But the Sea to Summit Ether Light Insulated is causing a bit of a stir in the industry. They claim to have researched the baffle issue in depth and selected a higher end fabric and welding technology to address it. They are claiming zero baffle failures to date which is impressive if true, because it’s been a big seller. They also have a very well designed valve with all parts replaceable in the field.
Chris Townsend chose it for his TGO Challenge walk and called it “amazingly comfortable”. The manager and half the staff at my local supplier have switched to it, as had the sales guy at my mail-order supplier. They all raved about it.
I got the women’s version, which has a decent R of 4.2. It’s the new Editor’s Choice at OutdoorGearLab.
I find it FAR more comfortable than the NeoAir, and much quieter too. The air-cells mean that it’s stable right to the edge and the depth means that side sleepers still have insulation at the hip. This means that for me it’s sleeping warmer than the R would indicate, as I got cold hips on other mats. It’s designed for women, but as a somewhat thick-set man the unusual lozenge shape means that I can finally sleep on my side without my knees overhanging the edge, which makes more difference than you’d think, and I still have space for my shoulders. The stability and width means that I haven’t fallen off it yet, in contrast to the Exped.
Not the lightest mat, but StoS claim that they can’t go lighter without compromising the strength of the weld and the quietness of the insulation. And it does feel robust. For me, the modest additional weight is worth it for the reliability, quietness, warmth and standout comfort. I find that I’m sleeping right through the night without interruption – something I haven’t experienced before in 50 years in the hills.Oct 1, 2019 at 4:20 pm #3612298
Thank you Geoff for that information. It helps me a lot. I see a S2S Ether Light XT in my future.
For what it’s worth – Exped will be sending me a new mat, no questions asked, no details needed.
My mat was made in 2015 (Lot 5110, with 5 being the year of manufacture). Supposedly major changes were implemented in mid-2016. (it is notable that no changes since 2016 were mentioned.)Oct 1, 2019 at 5:12 pm #3612302Tipi WalterBPL Member
Back in November 2013 I got dropped off for a 19 day backpacking trip in the Snowbird Creek backcountry of NC and of course I had my fancy and expensive Exped Downmat—a seemingly perfect winter pad.
On the first night of the trip it blew a baffle (see pic) and I had to cancel my planned route down Snowbird Creek and detour on foot 12 miles to a Thermarest cache I had “buried” under a big log—because I wanted to sleep comfortably for the next 18 days.
Here’s the Exped baffle blowout. It keeps getting bigger making it unusable. Despite Exped’s great replacement warranty—it means nothing in the field.
After the 12 mile detour to reach my Thermarest cache—I bury the sorry Exped (on left) and pick up a ratty but usable Thermy Pro Lite pad for the rest of the trip.
Pro Lite saves my butt.
The Exped debacle taught me a very important lesson—Always assume your inflatable sleeping pad will fail on a trip and always have a Plan B and a Plan C.
I currently use a Thermy Trail Pro pad which is an inflatable—with these two backups—A Solar ccf pad rated at 3.5R which can be doubled for chest/torso/waist to achieve 7R. AND I now always carry the smallest NeoAir pad they make and while not yet used it’s part of my backup plan just in case. The NeoAir with the Solar pad offers both ground insulation and comfort.
Here’s the NeoAir—Oct 1, 2019 at 5:28 pm #3612307
I used the S2S Ether Light XT for 9 nights in August. It was quite comfortable, seemed warm and robust…but I found it to be quite loud when rolling over or moving around. Not crinkly like a NeoAir, but like rubbing two balloons together. Other than the noise, it’s a pretty ideal pad. I think S2S has the best valve design around.Oct 1, 2019 at 5:43 pm #3612311pesticidefreeBPL Member
@sleepingLocale: The Cascades
I’m also a big fan of the StS Etherlight XT pad. Like Geoff I got the women’s version for the extra width. Fabulously comfortable pad.Oct 1, 2019 at 11:01 pm #3612336
John – I know what you mean about the noise, but I’m not experiencing it much any more.
Either it reduces as the pad breaks in, or I’ve intuitively developed way of turning that doesn’t trigger it. Either way, I find it much less of an issue than the NeoAir, which I really can’t live with.Oct 1, 2019 at 11:28 pm #3612339
I’m not sure what even causes the noise with the Ether Light XT. At home on my carpet wearing my office clothes, it’s almost completely silent. In my tent wearing baselayers, it’s noisy. I use a 1/8” foam pad underneath for puncture protection – maybe that’s the source. Might have to experiment.Oct 2, 2019 at 1:26 am #3612356Todd TBPL Member
@texasbbLocale: Pacific Northwest
I recently had to replace my Exped UL due to a failed baffle, as I mentioned above, and did some research on this. Most suppliers are using the same low-end welding technique, which is simply not reliable on wispy fabrics.
Did you look at the damage? When my Exped blew its baffle(s), the welds were not involved at all. It was the webbing material itself that failed:Oct 2, 2019 at 8:28 am #3612379
Todd – I haven’t cut mine open as I’m still intending to try and get a replacement.
I’m simply passing on what StoS told me when I chatted with someone on their technical team. They decided to rethink construction from the ground up and concluded that blown baffles are mainly caused by the combination of a low end welding technology and fabrics that are too light to take the weld reliably. And as you say, the actual material used for the baffles is also a point of failure. So they used a different type of baffle, a different weld technology, and a fabric specifically selected to take the weld reliably.
Their new pads use spot welds and a pair of TPU straps that run from top to bottom instead of a continuous baffle. This reduces the amount of material in the baffle system, and also enables them to make the pad thicker. They paired this with a 30d/40d fabric, which they say is the lightest that will take a reliable weld. To quote their bumph:
Our TPU lamination is applied through a process unique to the medical and aeronautical industries. Extrusion lamination is more durable, consistent and enables us to use our own TPU recipe. It is vastly superior to roll-to-roll lamination, which is used in most other outdoor products at present and can suffer from delamination issues.
This is an illustration from the uninsulated pad, so the baffles are visible:
The spot welds mean that even if a single weld did fail it shouldn’t propagate along the whole pad, leaving it functional till you can finish your trip, unlike the Exped which can fail catastrophically.
You can see this baffle system through the valve, and it does look pretty robust. As I said above, they are claiming no reported failures in the field, and I didn’t find anything on the web to contradict this.
Using straps instead of continuous baffles creates a kind of sprung pocket construction that is remarkably stable – you don’t get any collapsing at the edge of the pad. With the Exped or NeoAir I tend to end up on the ground a lot. In a couple of weeks using the Ether I haven’t been off the pad once, so the stability really does seem to make a difference – you’re effectively getting a wider pad. And as a bonus, it’s pretty comfortable too, acting like independent pocket springs on a domestic mattress.
They seem to have put the same care into the valve design, which also looks more robust than the Exped, and unlike the Exped is easily repaired in the field with the comprehensive kit provided.
The optional pillow lock system really does work and enables you to position the pillow wherever you want at the top of the pad, eliminating another pain point.
And they chose a quiet form of insulation, even if it is a touch heavier.
The 4.2R on the women’s versions is higher than the NeoAir and is fine for 3.5 season use – especially as the extra thickness of the pad helps reduce that cold spot for side sleepers where the hip sinks into the pad and ends up close to the cold ground. And paired with a closed cell mat it’s a high enough R to cope with hard winter conditions, making it a year-round pad. As Roger repeatedly reminds us, decent insulation from the ground makes more of a difference than some people seem to appreciate.
As someone who geeks out on kit design, it’s great to see a company making a sincere effort to improve the state of the art – this really does seem like a better way to make a pad. If they are right about the causes of failure, with present technology going ultra-light with the pad is going to come at the cost of unreliability – as we can see with the recent thread on the UberLite, where one vlogger and her mum experienced a double failure in a single night. Pad failure is a real pain, especially on a long unsupported leg in cold country. For me, the extra weight is justified in return for the added reliability, stability, warmth and comfort. But then again, I’m getting old and soft – not everyone will agree.Oct 5, 2019 at 6:18 pm #3612732Michael SSpectator
I have two Exped SynMat HL M pads purchased in 2016 as well as two Exped DownMat HL M pads purchased the same year. All mats have seen heavy use in environments ranging from Sonoran desert, High Sierra, and Cascade and Olympic mountain (below tree line as well as alpine). No problems with pads whatsoever.
I was concerned about reports of chamber rupture problem and visited Exped headquarters in Tacoma, WA; they said problem resolved by end of 2015 and if I had a problem they would replace pad without question.
I purchased DownMat pads first and found them too warm for temperatures above 40 degrees Fahrenheit. The SynMats are perfect for summer and are very resistant to puncture, even in the desert. The DownMat HL M, at 16.9 ounces (2.1) ounces for the inflator pump) has an R value of 7.0 and is to warmest pad I have ever used and I am a cold sleeper (I will use a Western Mountaineering degree bag at temps of 30-40 degrees). I have never been cold using this pad even at temps below zero degrees while sleeping on snow.Oct 7, 2019 at 5:50 am #3612920Dan DurstonBPL Member
@dandydanLocale: Canadian Rockies
Geoff: I appreciate that S2S info. It can be hard to tell hype from innovation but it’s looking promising with S2S’s EtherLightOct 10, 2019 at 1:59 pm #3613339
So many of the bigger companies seem to simply churn out me-too products. It’s rare to see real innovation, but I think there’s a good chance the EtherLight will be a bit of a game-changer. I was impressed by the number of industry insiders I spoke to who had switched to using it – they all felt the improved technology justified the small weight penalty.
Though for occasional users I guess the industry can get away with using unreliable technology, because it may wall hold up to a couple of weeks use per year. So in terms of commercial success it’s hard to know how customers will value a more reliable pad when it costs a bit more. Time will tell – I hope it stays on the market because it’s my favourite pad by far.
In areas like shelters where setup costs and runs are relatively modest, it’s possible for an indie producer like yourself to make an impact. But I suspect that pads require a lot more up-front investment for R&D and production, so we rely on the mainstream brands. So respect to StoS for making what appears to be a sincere attempt to move things forward…
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