Expert Review: Exped DownMat HL Winter Sleeping Pad
This review is my honest opinion of the sleeping pad, which I purchased with my own money in May of 2018.
About this Review: This review is my honest opinion of the sleeping pad, which I purchased with my own money in May of 2018.
The Exped DownMat HL Winter Sleeping Pad is designed for winter backpackers of any skill level. It’s light enough for backpacking but can be used by car campers looking to cut down on bulk. While it was warm and comfortable, the durability was lacking. The baffles blew out in only two or three uses, leaving it unusable.
About the gear
- Model: 2018 Exped DownMat HL Winter Sleeping Pad
- Size: Wide, Long
- When I bought it: May 2018
- Days tested: 7 days
- Total pack weight: 1.65 lbs (26.5 oz)
- When used: Twice while hammock camping and once for tent camping
- Where I’ve used it: Backyard in two overnight trial runs and on the STS (Susquehannock Trail System)
- Seasons I’ve used it in: Winter and summer
- Height: 6’1”
- Weight: 195 lbs
- Experience: +40 years car camping, +15 years backpacking
How it performs
What I was looking for
I was looking for:
- A winter sleeping pad with a high R-value. Typical “thin” (1”-1.75”) pads have R values around R 3 or less. For winter camping I hoped to improve that.
- A comfortable sleeping pad. Something to keep me more elevated off the ground than the traditional self inflate pads that are typically less than 2” thick.
- Lightweight to use for backpacking. Self inflate pads can be over 3 lbs without having the additional insulation of a winter pad.
Why I chose this gear
It measures 2.8” thick when inflated, keeping me well off the ground. Even sitting/lying in odd positions with weight on my hip/knee, I couldn’t feel the ground. It weighs in at 1 lb 10.5 oz, thanks partly to the down insulation, which puts the R-value at 5.9. At the time, it was one of the warmer sleeping pads.
What I love about it
- Weight: At only 1.65 lb (26.5 oz) is lighter than my REI Trekker 1.75” self-inflating pad by almost half (51.2 oz). It is easier to inflate, more comfortable, and has a higher R-value.
- Insulation and R-Value: The pad uses goose down to provide an R 5.9 value, which is fairly high for a pad of this size/weight.
- Comfort: The 2.8” thickness keeps me off the ground and not poked by lumps, roots, or rocks.
- Shape: The rectangle measures 77.6” x 25.6” and is suitable for tall and side sleepers.
- Noise: Since it relies on down and not Mylar for insulation, it is fairly quiet, unlike the crinkling candy wrapper sound from the latter.
- Ease of use: The pump bag makes it easy to inflate. I just attach the bag, fill it with air, roll up the opening, and squeeze. There is no chance of hyperventilating after a long day of hiking.
- Backpacking: Weight is the enemy of every backpacker. The DownMat is fairly lightweight for a high R-value mattress, which keeps base weight lower.
- Car Camping: The Exped DownMat is almost as thick as a cheap bedroom air mattress without the weight and has more insulation and in turn keeps the bulk of gear down.
- Mountaineering: The DownMat keeps me off the frozen ground on cold nights.
- Thru-Hiking: While not the lightest pad in the world, it’s not as heavy as the self-inflating pads. I have not thru-hiked with this in my pack - I chose a thinner pad and colder rated sleeping bag, but it could be used for thru-hiking if this is one of your “comfort” items. For example, it can certainly be used for thru-hiking the A.T. but only in the beginning and end of a traditional South to North starting in GA. If I were to start in North Bound A.T. hike in February or earlier I would consider it. I'd likely want to ship it home for the summer months. With temps near 80* and humidity at 60% at night, you really don't want to be any warmer.
Issues I’ve encountered
- Durability: While using this pad, one of the baffles separated, turning two chambers into one and causing a lump through the center. I don’t over-inflate my pads or jump/flop on them. At this point, while annoying, it was still usable. On a week-long hike on the STS in 2020, another baffle blew out, leaving the pad as seen in the picture below. This rendered it completely useless.
- Packability: I gave packability an average rating, as the DownMat compresses better than a self-inflating pad but not as much as a backpacking air mattress.
- Versatility: Versatility is a 3, because with the down (and higher R value) it's really meant for cooler weather.
Favorite moment with this gear
While “field testing” this sleeping pad I purposely tested this pad in the backyard on cold February nights. The first night was around 25 degrees Fahrenheit with little wind while in a hammock (REI Quarter Dome). The second time a couple of weeks later was about 20 degrees Fahrenheit with approximately 20mph winds, also in the hammock. Both times it kept me warm using a 40 degree Fahrenheit sleeping bag and mid-weight thermals. I was warm all night long on both occasions.
Value for the money vs. other options
It is well priced. I paid less for it than my Therm-a-Rest NeoAir UberLite. The UberLite is, as the name suggests, much lighter but also much thinner and noisier. The REI Trekker 1.75 Self-Inflating Pad is far more rugged but weighs nearly twice as much.
To be fair on the durability, I never reached out to Exped on the blown-out baffles since it had been a couple of years since I purchased the pad and then finally used it. However, assuming it was a one-off defect, it’s a good product at a reasonable price. I would recommend it to other people.