With the 2008 Everglades Challenge looming, I'm reassessing some of my gear - nothing major - and probably primarily to make life a wee bit more comfortable while 'out in the wild.' First up is my sleeping mat. Probably a mixture of age and a slightly dodgy left hip, exasperated by lying on many a hard surface, I traded in last year's REI Lite-Core 1.5 (another trade up from a slightly thinner Thermarest) for the absolute ultimate in decadence - the Exped Downmat 7. While slightly more expensive (okay, a bit more than slightly), nothing can beat a good night's sleep after 14 to 16 or more hours' paddling. And I'm finding the ground's getting harder every time I pitch a tent.
The Exped is pretty awesome - stuffed with 700-fill goose down insulation and 889mm (3.5") thick! It rolls down (sorry, bad pun) to only slightly more than the Lite-Core or Thermarest, and weighs not much more. Inflating it takes only a minute or two - it's not self-inflating. Because of its inner down, you can't inflate it by mouth - quite ingeniously, its stuff bag doubles as a bellows. Clip the bellow end of the stuff bag on to the mat's valve, let the bellows bag fill with air and roll it, forcing air into the mat. Repeat. As there are two valves on the mat, it pays to have the other one closed while inflating ;). The second valve is for running hot air through the mat, if you happen to get moisture inside it.
I've laid my body out on this on the floor at home, and have almost threatened to move out of the family bed - can't wait to try it in the wild!