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#190258 - 04/18/15 02:52 PM Please help me choose between these two pads
bretttayl78 Offline

Registered: 04/18/15
Posts: 3
Hi all,

This is my first time posting here, and I appreciate any advice that can be offered helping me make a decision between the Exped Downmat UL7 vs Synmat UL7. I know the pads are quite similar, and I have having a difficult time deciding which is a more important attribute. The Symnat is 6oz lighter, while the Downmat has a higher R-Value (roughly 6 vs 3.) I do understand the concept of R-value (i.e. higher is warmer,) but I don't really have an appreciation for how it traslates to actual "degrees." I ordered the Downmat UL7 short and Synmat UL9 regular to compare, but they will both be returned. The UL9 is simply too bulky and the UL7 short is too short. They are both almost right, so I'm trying to split the middle.

Most of my hikes are roughly 20 mile weekends in the Midwest, trying to avoid the extreme apex of summer or winter, so my nighttime temperatures would range between mid 20's at the low end and 80-ish at the high side. The vast majority of my nights will be between 40-60 degrees, with a few exceptions on both ends of the spectrum. I have been using the old-style, maroon Big Agnes Insulated Air Core paired with a 30 degree BA Fish Hawk. I have found this to be plenty warm down to about 30. Anything under that can get a little chilly for me.

I'm upgrading a lot of my gear (for purposes of cutting weight) and I just purchased the Nemo Siren 30 quilt (which, while I haven't had a chance to trail-test it yet, I think I'm going to love it!) so I am looking for a complementary pad. If I knew that R3 would be warm enough, I would prefer the Synmat UL7 for the weight savings. The price between the two pads is close enough to be a non-factor. So the question is, which would I appreciate more given my environment, the extra warmth or saving 6oz?

By the way, I am not necessarily married to the idea of Exped. I'd be open to alternate brand suggestions. I'm actually awaiting a Nemo Zor to compare as well. It was designed to be paired with the Siren quilt, but I am already fairly sure I won't be a fan. Just wanted to give it a try.

And if anyone happens to know the R-value on the old maroon BA IAC pads, that would also be a tremendous help in my assessment of needs!

Thanks for any light that can be shed, and I hope you're having fun out there!


#190261 - 04/18/15 04:18 PM Re: Please help me choose between these two pads [Re: bretttayl78]
Glenn Roberts Online   content

Registered: 12/23/08
Posts: 1548
Loc: Southwest Ohio
I also hike in the Midwest, pretty much the same temp range as you, mostly in the Ohio River Valley region (Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana). My guess is that the R3 pad will work over most of that range, although at 20 degrees, the ground temperature will be the deciding factor: if the ground hasn't frozen yet, and you're not on snow, you will usually be OK. If the ground has already frozen for the season (say, January), the R3 might not be enough.

Having said that, my pad of choice is an R5 Neoair All-Season. There are other Neoairs with different weight/R-value combinations, and different shapes. (Mine is a touch heavy, but I like a rectangular pad because I'm a side sleeper.)

#190265 - 04/18/15 06:01 PM Re: Please help me choose between these two pads [Re: bretttayl78]
OregonMouse Online   content

Registered: 02/03/06
Posts: 6560
Loc: Gateway to Columbia Gorge
Having gotten cold on pads supposedly rated to 20*F (bought before they included R values in the specs), I got the Downmat. I definitely sleep cold and would like to be able to stay warm down to 10*-15*F. (I do most of my backpacking at high altitude, where snow can happen any month of the year and frozen ground can occur in late September-early October [larch season].)

If you won't be dealing with lower than mid-20s F or with frozen ground, you may be fine with the Synmat.

Edited by OregonMouse (04/18/15 06:03 PM)
May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view--E. Abbey

#190266 - 04/18/15 08:04 PM Re: Please help me choose between these two pads [Re: bretttayl78]
bretttayl78 Offline

Registered: 04/18/15
Posts: 3
Thanks to both for taking the time to reply. I think I'll end up going with the Downmat after all. When I see experienced posters such as yourselves say things along the lines of "You might be fine with the lighter pad" I think I'll err on the side of caution. I know there's not really a perfect solution, but this is one situation where I'd really rather not short myself. I'm making a few big changes all at once for the sake of lightening my load, and I don't want to get carried away. If I go this route, I've managed to get my big 4 pieces of gear down to 6lb 4oz. I should probably just be happy with that! smile

#190267 - 04/18/15 10:09 PM Re: Please help me choose between these two pads [Re: bretttayl78]
wandering_daisy Offline

Registered: 01/11/06
Posts: 2797
Loc: California
Why not just use the lighter R-3 pad for most cases, and then just add an underpad (like those blue closed cell foam pads that are very light) only for winter trips. No point in hauling extra weight year-round if your goal is to lighten your pack.

#190268 - 04/19/15 12:36 AM Re: Please help me choose between these two pads [Re: wandering_daisy]
bretttayl78 Offline

Registered: 04/18/15
Posts: 3
I did consider that option. It's certainly not a bad idea and I know it's common practice for a lot of folks. The CCF pads, though they are light, are a little bulkier than I want to deal with. What you're suggesting makes plenty of logical sense, but the idea of carrying two pads (even if it's occasionally) just seems, well, inefficient I guess. I totally see the hypocrisy that carrying too much pad the rest of the time is also inefficient, but for some reason that jives better with my mentality even though I realize it's less than rational. confused

BTW, after kicking the tires I decided that the Nemo Siren isn't all I had hoped it would be and it will be returned. Just put in an order for an EE Revelation quilt. Feeling like that's a better match for me.

Edited by bretttayl78 (04/19/15 12:40 AM)

#190271 - 04/19/15 11:16 AM Re: Please help me choose between these two pads [Re: bretttayl78]
bluefish Offline

Registered: 06/05/13
Posts: 678
My uninformed opinion, but that pad seems an overkill. Weight, volume and the possibility of damage if you leave it in a warm tent ( supposedly they don't like to expand in heat -damages the baffles- and the expense, unless you use it below 20 degrees F on a regular basis. Nice pad for winter, but I'd think twice if you're cutting weight. Throw a piece of Reflectix or a piece of SOL emergency blanket under your torso when it gets a little colder. They both work (use both, as I camp below zero F) and take up little room and add little weight.

#190387 - 04/28/15 11:35 AM Re: Please help me choose between these two pads [Re: bluefish]
BZH Offline

Registered: 01/26/11
Posts: 907
Loc: Torrance, CA
I agree with others, unless you know you are a cold sleeper the downmat is probably overkill. In my experience, ground temperatures in the midwest tend to be a bit warmer than the mountains. I think the topsoil holds heat (and probably even produces a bit of heat due to decay). That being said "too much" insulation won't make you too hot like it would if it was on top of you.

You are really not looking at that difficult of a temperature range and strapping a blue pad on the outside of your pack for bumper seasons isn't that big of a hassle. That being said some people like different brands of pads more than others. Tons of people swear by neoaires but they seem a bit crinkly to me. I know this by having tried one out at REI.

#190650 - 05/24/15 05:08 AM Re: Please help me choose between these two pads [Re: bretttayl78]
Honas Offline

Registered: 05/24/15
Posts: 26
I use the Nemo siren. I really like it but I think a fitted sheet is almost a must. It could be a good idea to use the saved 6 ounces of the synmat for the sheet...


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