Review: Exped SynMat UL 9
By William Hanson (live2hunt), Rokslide Moderator
Your rest is your recovery and few places is this more important than when you are expending enormous amounts of energy in pursuit of your quarry in the backcountry. Most have used less than spectacular sleeping pads in the past and suffered through the poor night's sleep and shoddy performance as a result. In my quest for better sleep, I decided to give Exped's SynMat UL 9 a try. Exped is based in Zurich, Switzerland, a hub for mountaineering and therefore good mountaineering gear. After a few seasons of use, here are my findings: (If reading just ain't your style, then click here for a video review on the Exped UL 9)
The UL 9 comes in two sizes: medium and long-wide. The medium is 72" long × 20" wide × 3.5" thick and weighs 21.9 oz. The long-wide is 77.5" long × 26" wide × 3.5" thick and weighs 28.6 oz. The pad boasts an impressive R-value of 6 and has a claimed comfort rating of -25 degrees.
It is a rectangular pad constructed with lengthwise baffles. The aircells at each edge are slightly thicker giving the surface a slight cradle shape intended to help the sleeper to stay on the pad and not slide or roll off as easily. The top and bottom materials are 20 D Polyester with a TPU polyether film laminate and are hydrolysis resistant with a brushed feel. The top has an embossed honeycomb texture that helps mitigate slipping.
The UL 9 is insulated with 200 g/m² Texpedloft Microfibre that is laminated to both the top and bottom to eliminate loss of loft which is a common problem with synthetic insulated sleeping pads. Exped uses separate flat valves to inflate and deflate the pad. These are much lower profile than traditional valves. There are several pump options and of course it can be inflated by mouth. The pad comes with a stuff sack, a repair kit, and instructions.
The SynMat's Inflationa and Deflation valves
According to SynMat's website, they now include the Schnozzel Pumpbag/Drysack with your purchase. This is great as two years ago when I bought my SynMat at CampSaver.com, I had to buy the Schnozzel seperately for another $40. The Pumpsack does triple-duty. First, it allows you to store the SynMat and other gear in a waterproor dry-bag. Second, when empty, it easily inflates your SynMat (this also eliminates breath moisture from entering the SynMat that can degrade the materials over time.) It's also much faster than filling by mouth. At 2.1 ounces with a five-year warranty, it's a sensible option.
SynMat's Schnozzel Pumpbag runs triple play as a pump, dry bag, and shower
Finally, (although I didn't test it) there is also a shower head adapter for the Schnozzel Pumpag. This could come in handy for extended backcountry trips or when trying to control scent in the backcountry. At 1.2 ounces, that's a lot of function for the weight.
The Schnozzel with shower attachment attached
I've had the opportunity to use the UL 9 in a variety of circumstances and climate over the past two years now and can say that it has performed quite well for me. This pad is easily the most comfortable pad I've ever slept on hands down! In fact, I sleep better on it than I do in my bed at home. I had very little issues with slipping unless I was on a hard incline and I'm sure that was due more to me tossing and turning than any inferiority in the pad surface.
I did have a little an issue with the pad wanting to slide off the ground cloth when the ground wasn't quite level, but that was easy to fix with some strategic gear placement and probably because the Tyvek ground cloth is fairly slick itself. I did not have any -25 degree weather to push the claim comfort rating to its limits, but I have had it down to -5 with a 10 mph wind chill using my Enlightened Equipment Revelation Quilt and found it more than sufficient. Even my wife (who is a cold sleeper) found it to be warm enough at that temperature.
The flat valve system is a little odd but I found it far sturdier than traditional valves and they allow for micro tuning for individual firmness preference. It packs down to about the size of a 1-liter soda bottle, which is good but not spectacular. It is an ultralight pad so extra care should be taken to protect the more fragile materials. With that said, I've never had a leak. This pad is certainly not for everyone as it is one of the pricier synthetic pads on the market (around $150-$200, but shop around as they've come down in price) and it's not the lightest. To me, that's an acceptable trade-off for a good night's sleep.
In summation, I think the Exped SynMat UL9 is a very good option that I have been pretty happy with. On hunts where I place my comfort and sleep as a priority and I'm willing to sacrifice a few ounces, it will be in my pack.
*Update, Exped emailed me shortly after the review went live and wanted readers to know that they've added GripSkin to the sleeping surface. This further minimizes slippage between the sleeping bag and pad.
You can ask William questions or discuss this article here.