Rating: 5 / 5
I recently my pad from Bender yesterday and have to say I am impressed. The seams and sealing is very consistent, straight, and even. My custom pad used the standard 70d fabric and is 24" wide, 60" long, and 3.5" thick with some 6 oz of down with the total weight coming in at 21.5 oz with an inflated size of 23" x 59". This is replacing both my short and regular length exped downmat 7's that weighed 20.4 oz and 28.5 oz respectively (without the pump-sacks). I decided on this length based loosely on the measurement from the floor to the top of my shoulders and will put my pack under my head to help elevate my stuff sack pillow. I wanted a wider pad and expect the extra width this new pad provides to help with cutting down on drafts during quilt use, as I tend to toss and turn throughout the night. I do not strap my quilt to the pad but often use some elastic straps that I made to keep the quilt wrapped around me while still allowing for all my moving around. This width also allows for laying on my back while having my elbows and arms stay on the pad without having to clasp my hands across my abdomen. For reference I am 5' 9" and 170lbs with a shoulder girth of 51"
The fabric had a much softer hand than I expected and is certainly much lighter than the fabric on the other insulated pads I have used in the past. It doesn't seem to be any more noisy than other mattresses and certainly less than a neo-air. I deliberated over the 30d fabric but glad I went with the heavier 70d. He also has a 200d for those that tend to be harder on gear or use little to no ground cloth under them. The 200d is probably more like the fabric used on the exped downmats which are 170d or 190d as I recall. The pad seems to be quite a bit more "bouncey" than my previous pads but I don't think it will be a problem. Some of this is due to the fact that the pad is 3.5" vs the 2.8" of the exped mats. Moreover, the Kookabay pad even though it is 4" wider uses 2 fewer chambers across the width. I am not sure what the baffles are made from but in earlier posts Bender had mentioned that he had been experimenting with sewing mesh to strips of nylon and then heat sealing the strips to the top and bottom. If mesh netting, that could also contribute to a little more stretch or bounce. Based on the way the pad inflated it appeared that air moved across the chambers as much as it did from end to end, suggesting that perhaps mesh netting had been used. When I tried to feel through the fabric to help determine the material being used, I could not tell if there was a seam or not. If I were to construct one myself I would use the 30d nylon for the baffles not wanting to field test the long term durability and reliability of the netting or the sewn connection between the two, while still minimizing weight. Perhaps Bender can shed some light on this.
The pad inflated great but I must admit that I had a difficult time getting it to deflate. The valve used appears to be a nylon material and is a simple barbed hose fitting with some mesh netting stretched across the internal end to keep down from escaping and a screw on cap with a gasket that has been attached with silicone. The down pods act as a very effective one way valve against the mesh and with the pad fully inflated and the cap removed, it took nearly ten minutes to deflate and I had to keep folding while laying on the mat. I did find that if I put my finger in the valve and moved it around, it seemed as though I could get a faster flow.
A plus to the slow deflating is that the down should stay better put in the chambers and not want to move toward the valve end. There is no mechanism for keeping the down from migrating from one chamber to another which will happen over time and there isn't enough down in the mat to keep it in place based on friction alone as is the case in a slightly overfilled sleeping bag chamber. A thin strip of open cell foam could be placed at either end and attached via the heat sealable cover. Not only would this keep the down from migrating, but it would eliminate the slow deflation by not allowing the down the clog the air valve. This would come at the expense of some weight and bulk but it wouldn't be more than an ounce. At the very least, if a small block of foam could be cut into a triangular shape and placed in the corner where the valve is located, it would significantly reduce the deflation time and add negligible weight or bulk and allow for better integration of the more typical pad valve that would integrate with all the pump sacks available on the market. If he goes into full time production I am certain he could get a very competitive price on the valves.
The only other finishing touch would be to radius cut the corners slightly but it isn't a big deal - just a nice touch on a great pad. I had a Stephenson's DAM many years ago and this pad is a much more commercialized product.
All in all a very impressive pad from the ever growing cottage industry. I will be out this weekend testing the new pad and a new 14oz quilt. It may seem a bit odd to be combining a 14oz quilt with a 21.5 oz pad but it makes perfect sense to me. ;-)
Update...The pad worked great and I found the most comfort with it filled at perhaps 60-65% full. In 4 nights on the pad I woke up and turned to the other side/back just a couple of times each night. Much less than I do at home!
The pad was very warm and I noticed no difference between it and the Exped 7's I have been using. The coldest it got was 27f so not quite cold enough to really tell yet.
Other than it was in fact a bit more comfortable due to the extra width and cushioning depth. I did notice that when I got near the edge of the pad I had a tendancy to want to roll off but that is more a function of the low air fill I am using and not a problem with the pad.
I am a happy camper... 4 extra inches of width, 12" of length, less bulk and a more comfortable nights sleep for just 1oz.