Our beloved Exped DownMat 7 Pump DLX has started to spit feathers out the deflation valve.
At first it was just a little bit and I blamed our Alpkit down sleeping bags since they were losing some feathers slowly too. But since the job of packing down the beds often falls to Peli, she was more in the know than I was.
When we knew that we were about to live on these mats for a few months (maybe years) to come, we sent them back to the UK distributors, Lyon Equipments, for a good old check over. The mats came back with the all clear from their testing, and we set off on our tour thinking all was well in the state of Exped.
But, after nearly two months of constant use, my mat started to spit feathers fast when it was deflated. The glue which holds the feathers back from the exit valve was gradually deteriorating and letting feathers through, which entirely clogged up the valve. At first it was only one of the panels, but it soon spread to four of them, which made deflation very difficult. I had to clear feathers out of the valve area and even then the air was expelled very slowly through the clogged mass of down. If there was any weight at all on the mat when we popped open the deflate valve, we had a feathery fountain in our tent.
We are not sure why this is happening, Deano who is cycling towards Australia as I type, has had the same problem.
We contacted our dealer, who then contacted the distributors to arrange how to fix this. It was not just one of our mats that was suffering, the other one looked like it would “pop” at any moment too, only 1-2mm glue on one tube appeared to be holding, compared to 10-12mm on the other.
Our dealer got back and told us that there are two new mats on the way – hurrah for the Exped five year warranty. Unfortunately we had to pay steep customs charged in South America (over £100 for two mats), but at least we now have a new bed. The new versions are called Exped Downmat 7 LW. Let’s hope that Exped have finally figured out how to solve the problem of the escaping feathers, since autumn is here in southern Chile.
The new mats do appear to be better quality than the ones that failed. The fabric: feels nicer against skin, thicker and stronger. The valves: these are much softer and easier to open and close. The old ones were stiff and hurt the fingertips to close. The pump: it felt much faster to pump the mat up, and took in more air at each pump. It could be that the foam in the pump is still new, our old ones have been used very often during the three years we’ve had them. The packsack: it is still a bit of a bugger to roll the mats down to a size that make it easy to to put into the packsack, but they are of thicker material and the stitching is reinforced where our original packsacks had a weakspot.
Thanks again to our dealer, Andy, our new Exped Downmat 7LW arrived a few days before us. See, it is possible to send stuff to Chile! This time we use ParcelForce, who passed them to FedEx, who then used Turbus Cargo to get our mats to us. It initially worried us that three companies had their fingers in the works. But, no repeat of the nightmare of DHL, just good simple customer care from FedEx. Unfortunately, as I mentioned above, we still had to pay the Chilean customs fee at nearly the price of a Downmat.
A quick side note: Exped mats are noisy! They have a certain squeaky sound to them as they move around against the tent groundsheet. We’ve noticed it especially since using them in our Hilleberg tent. Other campers have come up to us asking, “Do you have Exped DownMats? We’re sure we heard them creaking in the night”. This doesn’t bother us, but it may be a factor to bear in mind if you’re a very light sleeper!