ProView – Exped FlexMat Plus
EXPED’s FlexMat Plus is closed-cell foam rectangular sleep pad that weighs slightly over a pound at 16.9 oz. It utilizes an accordion-style fold to collapse its 12-panel, 72’’ length into a single block that’s 20 ¼’’ by 6’’, making it the bigger version of this pad line. Like others in this category, it’s commonly strapped to the outside of backpacks, used as a sit pad for lunch breaks and primary bed for big-mileage trekkers. In the winter, closed-cell foam pads are proven ways to augment sleeping comfort because of their superior insulating properties.
Exped FlexMat Plus
Product Description: With a full 3.8 cm/1.5" of foam, FlexMat Plus is the thickest, most-comfortable closed-cell mat available. It is highly versatile for stand-alone use and will increase warmth and puncture protection for inflatable mats. The rapidly-deployed folding form makes setting up and striking camp a breeze.
Offer price: MSRP: $45.00 - $55.00
Exped is recognized for its array of guide-centric, practical, and hard-nosed outdoor products. The FlexMat Plus is no exception. The market for this type of pad is limited, however, as they primarily serve hard-core hikers and winter adventure travelers. But, it appears Exped was aiming to make a closed-cell foam pad that broke that barrier, an option for the casual backpacker that could challenge inflatable competitors.
Exped is recognized for its array of guide-centric, practical, and hard-nosed outdoor products. The FlexMat Plus is no exception. The market for this type of pad is limited, however, as they primarily serve hard-core hikers and winter adventure travelers. But, it appears Exped was aiming to make a closed-cell foam pad that broke that barrier, an option for the casual backpacker that could challenge inflatable competitors. While comfortable for its category, the FlexMat Plus actually weighs more than a few top-of-line inflatables, such as Sea-to-Summit’s 13.8 oz. Ether Light XT (regular size) and Thermarest’s NeoAir XLite (regular.) Granted, The FlexMat Plus is much, much more affordable, which helps make a strong argument for carrying one. It’s not as packable as its closest foam competitors, but it’s more durable and comfortable.
Closed-cell foam pads are akin to headlamps on a backcountry trip. Essential. Lightweight. Always at the ready. Tightly strapped to pack exteriors or symmetrically folded inside, they travel well and deploy instantly.
It wasn’t until through-hiking and fast-packing became things that these now-ubiquitous components of our gear bins reached mainstream trailheads. A category still dominated by Therm-a-Rest’s rollable RidgeRest and accordion Z-Lite, the portable, multi-purpose pads are now their own category of sleep equipment, and Switzerland’s Exped has entered the action with their FlexMat line of portable pads.
While the majority of users will fold and strap this kind of pad to the outside of their pack, I prefer to fold my Z-Lite in half so it slides into my pack, where it rests against the water bladder pocket. (I can’t in good conscience let my pack look like a Gold Rush-era prospector’s, so almost nothing is ever “lashed” to the outside of my pack.) However, the FlexMat Plus left me no choice—it ended up outside my Osprey Aether Pro during two different multi-day treks into Yosemite. At 6’’ wide when folded, it’s one inch larger than a standard Z-Lite.
I tested the FlexMat Plus as both a stand-alone pad and as an insulator under a very light Sea to Summit Ether Lite XT (R value: 1.2) and Klymit Static V2 (R value 1.3).
For winter camping, be aware of the height of your top-layer inflatable, because the 1.5’’ of foam support pylons on the FlexMat Plus can result in you sleeping almost a half-foot off of the ground. If you roll around a lot, pack a parachute.
Of course, it succeeds as an insulator. Without it, I could feel cool spots at every major point where my body applied pressured to the inflatables. Sliding it underneath made all the difference between feeling like I was asleep on a cooling vent and snoring until morning.
The FlexMat Plus is a great alternative to camp chairs. I brought it along on several day hikes as a break-spot comfort item, laying it out on smooth Sierra granite whenever possible.
Not to be forgotten when using closed-cell foam pads are their benefit to first-aid scenarios. Professional guides love these pad types for their ability to pad a splint, offer a bit of rigidity to a bone needing stabilization, and as an effective way to warm an exposure victim. They’re also great for quick comfort while an injured hiker awaits evacuation. The FlexMat Plus would be great to have along when things go from Type 1 to Type 3+ fun. Its size, rigidity, and added comfort make it a better option than its primary competitor in these niche use cases.
Closed-cell foam pads compress over time. Along the way, they reach the ideal point of comfort and packability. It usually takes several months of regular use, or longer if not part of one’s every-trip sleep system. I didn’t reach that point with the FlexMat Plus, but I’m confident that it will take longer than similar type pads, which speaks to its size and durability.
The Final Word
The FlexMat Plus is my first option for winter splitboarding and camping trips, where weight considerations are down the list of importance, far outweighed by comfort and warmth. In fact, this is where I think Exped has the most market potential for this product. Its size and comfort make it a bit much as a stand-alone fast-packing pad or shoulder-season insulator—there are simply too many lighter and more comfy inflatable alternatives these days. It’s also great for summer and fall day hikes, truck camping, and campfire comfort.
Exped’s FlexMat Plus, oddly enough, establishes another category of closed-cell foam pads, giving cold-weather outdoorists a warmer, only-slightly-heavier option than the same pad they carry in July and August.
About the Gear Tester
Craig is a full-time writer and backpacking/hiking guide living in Truckee, CA. He guides for Wildland Trekking in the Sierra and desert southwest and co-owns Pika Odysseys, a fledging wilderness wellness and experiences company. He's a fan of craft beer, good and bad coffee, and a not-so-mini Australian Shepherd named Ranger.