A comfortable sleeping mat is the foundation for a good night’s sleep in the backcountry. And after a long day hiking on the trail with a heavy pack on your back, a good night’s sleep is essential to recovery. EXPED aims to provide that for backpackers with its new Ultra mats. The brand designed them to deliver maximum comfort while being as small and light as possible.
EXPED clearly has lightweight backpackers and thru-hikers in its crosshairs with its Ultra mats. In designing them, EXPED used a customer matrix analyzing two important factors — use and warmth. With that data in mind, the brand set out to design an ideal sleeping mat with ratings from 50 degrees above zero, down to 40 degrees below zero.
The result: a pad that works for campers who consider pack size and weight the number one priority when hitting the trail. In addition to creating a warm, lightweight mat, EXPED leveled out the price for the new mats in the United States. So now, each style of mat is the same price, regardless of the dimensions.
With the backpacking season right around the corner, we put the new EXPED Ultra mats to the test. With as much research and development as EXPED put into these performance-driven mats, there had to be something to them.
In short: The Ultra series of sleeping mats by EXPED is created specifically for lightweight backpackers looking to save space and cut ounces. The Ultra 7R version I tested was not only light and compact but also extremely warm and comfy, combing two priorities for hikers into one small bag. EXPED’s special Downmat technology and wide range of sizes make this lightweight and compact Ultra sleeping mat a great option for thru-hikers and ultralight backpackers.
- EXPED Ultra 7R
- Size MW
- Length 72"
- Width 25.6 "
- Packed dimensions 11" x 5.5"
- R-value 7.1
- Temperature -20 deg. F
- Weight 27.9 oz.
- Foot width 25.6"
- EXPED Ultra 3R
- Size MW
- Length 72"
- Width 25.6"
- Packed dimensions 12.6" x 5.5"
- R-value 2.9
- Temperature 20 deg. F
- Weight 18.3 oz.
- Foot width 25.6"
- Schnozzel pump-bag
- Bulky to repack
EXPED Ultra 7R Mat Review
Camping With Cushion
The EXPED Ultra mat is pretty straightforward. It includes the sleeping mat, packsack schnozzel pump-bag UL, and a repair kit. The packsack includes a little pouch internally where you can store the small repair kit easily. That way, there’s no fear of it falling out or being lost in case you need some on-trail repairs.
I was able to inflate the mat in less than 5 minutes using the included schnozzel pump bag. A lot of sleeping pads and mats include inflation bags like this. They help save your lungs and keep moisture out of the mat. And I found that EXPED’s version of this worked well.
The mat has two separate valves for inflation and deflation. To inflate, simply hook the schnozzel to the flat input (inflation) valve and let it fill with air. Then, roll it up, forcing dry air into the mat. Unroll the pump bag, fill it with air again, and repeat until the mat is full.
I am a relatively big guy and found the mat quite comfy when fully inflated. I could lie on my back or side and there was still a solid inch of air between me and the ground.
Weight, Noise, and Durability
If you are the type of backpacker who counts ounces, then the EXPED Ultra might be exactly what you’re looking for. The EXPED Ultra 3R clocks in at under 20 ounces and is made with recycled 20 D ripstop face fabric. The warmer 7R version maxes out at 30 ounces for the long wide mat — not bad for a pad this comfortable.
With a sleeping bag on the mat, it is not too noisy or slippery, either. Some sleeping mats and pads make enough noise to wake you up every time you change position. Not so with the EXPED Ultra 7R, and that helps immensely to get a good night’s sleep.
The mat is also durable. It’s made from a recycled 20 D ripstop polyester Oeko-Tex 100 certified. The super-compact and ultralight sleeping pad is ideal for long-distance hiking, trekking, alpinism, and even bikepacking. Compare it directly to some of our other favorite backpacking sleeping pads.
The heart of the new Ultra series is EXPED’s Downmat and Synmat technology. The warmth rating of a sleeping pad is known as the R-rating. The higher the rating, the warmer the sleeping pad will be.
EXPED offers 1R to 7R and above, depending on the conditions campers will be sleeping in. The 7R Downmat Technology includes 700 cubic inches of down insulation combined with 3.5 inches of plush air cushion.
Depending on the R-value, this also transfers to maximum warmth retention to keep you elevated above the ground. The pad has air chambers from the top to the toe that provide comfort, warmth, and durability.
The 3R Synmat Technology includes Texpedloft insulation. That’s welded into the air chambers of the pad on the top and bottom. This transfers to 2.7 inches of air cushion that helps keep campers warm and comfy.
The 3R is ideal for three-season use. The 7R that I tested would be warm enough to use year-round, and even for camping in the snow thanks to that Downmat Technology.
While both the 3R and 7R pads provided ample warmth and cushion, the beefier 7R mat was more difficult to repack in the storage sack easily. Based on it being a little larger, it took a little more patience and muscle to get it rolled up and back in the small stuff sack.
However, EXPED is on to something with its sleeping pad technology — even if they can be tricky to repack. These mats are a great mix of comfort, warmth, and weight.
EXPED Ultra Mats: Conclusion
The EXPED Ultra series of mats are a solid choice for weight-conscious hikers looking for a mix of warmth, cushion, and compactness. The series comes in an array of sizes and R-values, which is nice for various conditions and preferences.
The outer chambers are thicker than the internal ones, meaning that the mat holds me firmly when I lie on it and helps prevent rolling off while asleep. The schnozzel bag is a great, easy way to fill the mat with air and keep moisture out of it. It can also double as a dry bag as needed, which is nice.
All of the EXPED mats are also carbon neutral. That’s a huge environmental bonus, earning these products sustainability points. The only drawback to the Ultra series is the price point — $150 to $230 depending on the R-value. They are not inexpensive mats, and the higher R-value can be a bit tougher to repack.
Aside from that, these mats are ideal for backpackers looking to cut weight, but not comfort or car campers concerned about space.