Sleeping mats, or sleeping pads (whatever you prefer to call them) are undoubtedly a vital piece of gear for backpackers. They not only act as your bed/ mattress when sleeping in the backcountry, but they also play a pivotal role in keeping you warm during colder nights by insulating your body from the ground.
Sleeping mats are especially a big deal for long distance thru-hikers; when sleeping outside for months at a time, you're going to want a comfortable, yet lightweight mat. I didn’t have a great sleeping mat at all when I was on the AT; it was a used Thermarest I had purchased from a consignment shop.
I couldn’t even tell you what model of Thermarest it was, but it got the job done. Not good, but not bad; I thought that’s all I really needed out in the backcountry. After completing the trail though, I realized upgrading my sleeping mat was the next gear adjustment I’d be making.
Companies like Thermarest, Sea-to-Summit and Nemo basically dominate the market when it comes to sleeping mats. When I was asked if I wanted to test out a sleeping mat from Exped, I was intrigued. I had originally planned to get a Thermarest one like almost everyone else, but I decided to give the Exped a shot.
I’m definitely glad I did; this mat exceeded my expectations. Do we have a new competitor out on the market? Read on to learn more about my thoughts on the Exped Ultra 3R.
Exped Ultra 3R/ 5R Sleeping Mat Specs
- M: 72" L x 20.5" W
- MW: 72" L x 25.6" W
- LW: 77.6" L x 25.6" W
- Face fabric: 20D recycled ripstop polyester Oeko-Tex® 100 certified DWR-free
- Insulation: 60 g/m² Texpedloft microfiber bluesign® certified
3R Temperature Rating
- Thickness: 3"
- R-Value: 2.9
- Packed dimensions
- M: 5.1" x 10.6"
- MW: 5.5" x 12.6"
- LW: 5.5" x 12.6"
- M: 16.4oz
- MW: 18.3oz
- LW: 19.7oz
5R Temperature Rating
- Thickness: 3"
- R-Value: 4.8
- Packed dimensions
- M: 5.1" x 12.2"
- MW: 5.9"x 13.4"
- LW: 5.9"x 13.4"
- M: 20.3oz
- MW: 24.3oz
What I Loved About the Exped Ultra Sleeping Mat
This was the first thing that stood out to me right away. The second I rested my back on the Exped, I had my expectations exceeded with how cozy I’d be sleeping on it. The sleeping pad is quite thick, keeping you high off the ground and sort-of giving it an air mattress feel.
This is my first time using a full-body length sleeping pad, and man is it a game changer! This has to be one of the comfiest pads on the market. You’ll have to try it to believe it.
This is the only sleeping mat that I am aware of that doesn’t require you to blow into it to set it up. It features an air bag that you collect air with, which is then used to fill the mat up with air.
It’s super quick and easy; just a few rounds or so of pushing air into it will do the trick. It’s much better than having to huff and puff your way to comfort after a long day, especially at altitude.
Exped claims that saliva can seep into a mat when blowing it up with your mouth, thus taking away the durability and lifespan of the mat. Who knew!?!
Lightweight and Compact
I tested out the 3R Medium pad, which comes in at a very comfortable 16.4 ounces — certainly light enough for me. There are lighter pads out there on the market for those who are looking to save every ounce possible.
But I feel Exped hit the nail on the head with the design of its pads; the perfect balance between ultralight and comfortable. I’m more than happy to carry a few extra ounces to ensure a good night’s sleep, which was not hard to come by with the Exped. The Exped also packs down small and won’t take up much room at all inside your pack.
$149.95 is a very fair price for this product in my opinion. It’s not the cheapest mat on the market, but it is cheaper than most of its competitors, including Thermarest and Sea to Summit. This is one deal I’d consider a ‘bang for your buck’.
Not only are Exped pads made with DWR-free, recycled fabric, they are also certified carbon neutral by myclimate. As the outdoor industry becomes ever more accountable for its role in climate change, it’s great to see products like this one being made — best-in-class performance paired with environmental stewardship.
What I Didn’t Love About the Exped Ultra Sleeping Mat
I have to be honest, there really isn’t a whole lot that I don’t love about the Exped. But if I had to be nit-picky…
- I found it a bit difficult to release all the air out of the mat at times, which made storing the mat in its stuff sack slightly difficult. It has taken me more time to release all the air out of the mat and store it than it takes me to set it up. Maybe I just haven’t found the proper method yet?
Good To Know
Exped Ultra Mats come in a variety of sizes and degree ratings, including small, medium, medium wide, long wide, and long extra wide. There is a shape and size for everybody! (GGG carries the medium, medium wide and long wide.)
Exped backpacking pads also come in a variety of temperature ratings, or R-values, including 1R, 3R, 5R and 7R. Purchase a 5R or 7R for those colder nights on trail, or purchase a 1R for those warm Summer evenings in July. (GGG offers the 3R and 5R options, which are ideal as ‘everyday drivers’ — in other words, the sleeping mats that can handle the variety of conditions a thru-hiker or avid backpacker would encounter).
- Exped also features duo mats on their site for 2-person sleeping accommodations
Remember the name: Exped Ultra Sleeping Mat. These sleeping mats are ultralight, extremely comfortable, and compact; all for a very reasonable price, too. I have already recommended this product to a handful of friends.
Max is a runner, hiker, and outdoor adventurer based in the Hudson Valley region of New York. In 2021, upon graduating college, Max pursued a long-time goal of his and thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail. When not working, Max enjoys spending his free time running on local trails and exploring the mountains of the East Coast with friends and family. You can follow along with his adventures on his Instagram: @max_kiel_trail