Exped Ultra 5R Sleeping Pad Review

Exped Ultra 5R Sleeping Pad Review

The Exped Ultra 5R Air Mattress is a lightweight inflatable sleeping pad that’s three inches thick and has an R-value of 4.8. It contains synthetic insulation, instead of reflective films, which makes it very quiet to sleep on, and is covered with a durable 20d polyester non-slip fabric. The pad has a pair of flat stemless valves for inflation and deflation and vertical baffles that are designed to keep you from rolling off the pad at night. The Ultra 5R is available in three mummy and three rectangular sizes including a regular width, a wide width, and a long and wide pad. All six sizes are priced identically so you can pick the size you want without having to sweat a higher price point. The Ultra 5R is also bundled with a large 45L inflation sack/dry bag called a Schnozzel (a $40 value, also available separately), which can be used as a waterproof pack liner.

Specs at a Glance

  • Type: Air mattress
  • R-Value: 4.8 (4-season capable or 3-season for cold sleepers)
  • Size Tested: Rectangular, Medium
  • Weight: 20.3 oz (20.3 oz actual) plus 0.6 oz for stuff sack
  • Baffles: Vertical
  • Cover fabric: 20d polyester made from 100% post-consumer recycled plastic
  • Valves: 2, flat
  • Inflation sack: Yes, doubles as waterproof pack liner, weighs an extra 2.0 oz (actual)
  • Available shapes: Mummy, Rectangular
  • Available dimensions: Long Wide (77.6 x 25.6 x 3″), Medium: (72 x 20.5 x 3″),
    Medium Wide: (72 x 25.6 x 3″)
  • Packed size: 12.2 x 5.1″

Dimensions

The Exped Ultra 5R air mattress is 3″ thick and is luxuriously comfortable to sleep on. This is a good thickness to mask uneven ground, including smalls rocks and roots if you have to lie on top of them. The pad has vertical baffles that are slightly higher along the sides to keep you in the center of the pad at night without being obtrusive. I tested a rectangular medium-width pad which is 72″ x 20.5″, but the air mattress is also available in six variations, as listed below.

StyleSizeDimensionsWeight
RectangularM72 x 20.5 x 3 in20.3 oz
RectangularMW72 x 25.6 x 3 in23.1 oz
RectangularLW77.6 x 25.6 x 3 in24.7 oz
MummyM72 x 20.5 x 3 in15.7 oz 
MummyMW72 x 25.6 x 3 in18.9 oz
MummyLW77.6 x 25.6 x 3 in19.0 oz 

The one thing missing from the Ultra 5R is a way to connect a pillow to the pad so it stays in place at night, like the velcro-based system offered with Sea-to-Summit air mattresses including the S2S Etherlight XT pad. That would be a great enhancement if offered with the Exped pillow line. It really makes difference in comfort and sleep quality (take it from someone who slept with a bunched-up down jacket as a pillow for years.)

The Exped Ultra 5R pad is covered with a 20 ripstop polyester fabric for added durability.
The Exped Ultra 5R pad is covered with a 20 ripstop polyester fabric for added durability.

Insulation

The Ultra 5R has synthetic insulation laminated to both the top and bottom of each baffle to prevent cold spots. This makes the Ultra5 a very quiet pad to sleep on, unlike Thermarest’s NeoAir Pads, which can sound like your sleeping on a bag of potato chips to your tent or shelter partners if you move around at night.

The Ultra 5R comes with a 45L inflation sack called a Schnozzel that can be used as a waterproof pack liner.
The Ultra 5R comes with a 45L inflation sack called a Schnozzel that can be used as a waterproof pack liner.

The Ultra’s synthetic insulation is laminated to the baffles in a way that makes it impervious to bacteria and moisture from your breath should you opt to inflate the pad by blowing into it. But the pad can also be inflated with an included 45L waterproof stuff sack, called a Schnozzel, which can serve double duty as a waterproof pack liner. I’ve used a Schnozzel as a pack liner/stuff sack pretty extensively (See Comparison of Five Ultralight Backpack Liners) and it’s also compatible with the flat valves of other air mattress vendors, including Sea-to-Summit.

The Ultra 5R has an R-value of 4.8 which is good for winter use down to zero degrees Fahrenheit (-18C) making it a viable choice for 4-season use or 3-season use if you sleep cold. It should be noted that Exped helped spearhead the adoption of the new sleeping pad R-value standard that lets consumers compare the warmth of sleeping pads from different manufacturers using a common scale, so this is an R-value you can actually trust, rather than a number pulled out of the air by some marketing or sales guy. We also publish a list of all of the sleeping pads available today that are rated with the new R-value standard in our 2022 Sleeping Pad R-Value Directory.

The pads has separate inflation and deflation valves.
The pad has separate inflation and deflation valves.

Inflating the Ultra 5R with the Schnozzel is very quick and only requires a few bagfuls of air. If you do decide to blow it up by mouth, the intake valve seals after each breadth so you don’t lose air while inflating it. Deflation is also easy because the pad has a dedicated OUT valve and most of the air rushes out as soon as you open it. Both valves are flat and stemless, which improves durability because there’s nothing sticking out to break. Packing the pad away is equally easy. You simply pack fold it once lengthwise, roll it up with the Schnozzel and pack it in the included stuff sack. It’s a snug fit but it’s not hard to pack.

The pad and schnozzel are quit emanageable in size when packed.
The pad and Schnozzel are quite manageable in size when packed.

The rectangular medium pad I review here weighs in at 20.3 oz, the Schnozzel weighs 2.0 oz, and the stuff sack weighs another 0.6 oz. I’ve listed the weights of all of the Ultra 5R pad sizes above for comparison. As mentioned previously, these are all priced identically regardless of size or type, which I think is a spectacular benefit for consumers.

While this 20.3 oz pad isn’t the lightest weight backpack air mattress available with this R-Value, I think it’s a pretty compelling size and value if you want a thicker 3″ pad. Pad thickness is a huge factor in air mattress comfort, and its hard to explain the comfort difference between a 3″ or 4″ pad and one that’s thinner. Comfort is tightly associated with sleep quality and not to be sacrificed lightly in the name of weight savings. Live and learn.

Exped Ultra 5R Sleeping Pad

Comfort
Ease of Inflation
Warmth
Weight
Durability
Packed Size

Warm and Bombproof

The Exped Ultra 5R air mattress is a durable and warm backpacking sleeping pad that's packaged with a Schnozzel for ease of inflation. It's 3" thick and very quiet to sleep on with an R-value of 4.8 making is suitable for 3+ season use.

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If minimum weight is important to you you can also get the Ultra 5R in mummy size that is 15.7 oz with the same 4.8 R-value. It’s worth noting that the mummy Ultra 5R pad is also significantly less expensive than the NEMO Tensor Alpine Air Pad, which is its closest competitor in terms of weight and R-value.

Sleeping PadTypeThicknessWeightR-Value
Sea-to-Summit Ether Light XT ExtremeAir4.0"25.6 ozR=6.2
Exped Ultra 5RAir3.0"20.3 ozR=4.8
NEMO Tensor Alpine AirAir3.0"17 ozR=4.8
NEMO Tensor UL InsulatedAir3.0"15 ozR=4.2
Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLiteAir2.5"12 ozR=4.2
Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Xlite Women'sAir2.5"12 ozR=5.4
Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XThermAir2.5"15 ozR=6.9
Mountain Equip Aerostat DownAir2.8"20.4 ozR=5

Simplified Product Naming Scheme

Exped simplified their sleeping pad product line naming scheme this year to make it more understandable to consumers. They now offer three series of backpacking pads:

  • Model: Ultra (ultralight), Versa (versatile), and Dura (durable).
  • In two shapes: Mummy and Rectangular
  • In multiple R-values (it varies by model – for example 1R, 3R, 5R, and 8R)
  • Three dimensions: Medium: (72 x 20.5 x 3″), Medium Wide: (72 x 25.6 x 3″), Long Wide (77.6 x 25.6 x 3″)

Exped’s Ultralight line of pads is recommended when weight and pack size are important; the Versa line offers value and ease of use, while the Dura line is recommended when durability is vital. Being Exped, there are a LOT of different versions  (SKUs) available and you might have to hunt around to find a retailer that carries the one your want since few will carry them all.

Recommendation

Exped has always made excellent insulated air mattresses that are warm and bombproof in terms of durability and this new Ultra 5R air mattress is completely consistent with that tradition. The Ultra 5R is thick enough to protect you from roots and rocks if you have to camp on a poor campsite while providing warmth in cold weather. It’s covered with a durable polyester fabric made from recycled plastic and rolls up compactly. I think Exped’s new pricing model is very favorable to consumers and that the Ultra 5R is a good value, especially if you want one pad you can use year-round.

Disclosure: Exped donated this pad for review.

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21 comments

  1. Exped has always made really high quality sleeping pads. Nice to see them at REI now. But that new pricing model is simply brilliant!

  2. Bill in Roswell GA

    Philip, excellent detailed review. I appreciate itwhen you take time to fill in the details. I do have a few questions – is this your new GoTo pad or the S2S Ether XT? Is that packed size closer to Nemo Tensor or Ether XT? Both having a lower R value.

    And for readers that are REI members w current 20% member coupon, get one now while in stock. REI had a few MSR Freelite tents in the new UL version yesterday, now sold out. Small supplies in the new economy don’t last long!

    • I still use an S2S Etherlight XT for my personal use for 3 season temps when I’m not in a hammock. I like the 4″ thickness. I’ll have to look up the exact packed sizes but the S2S and the Exped are more comparable than NEMNO’s pads which pack up small, because they have reflective foil inside (like Thermarest NeoAirs pads) and not synthetic insulation. I don’t think the difference is all that big though.

    • Any idea how it compares in comfort to the old Exped Synmat HL?

      • All exped inflatable pads are pretty much the same in terms of comfort and desigs going back for years. The side tubes are a little higher to keep you on the pad and the middle tubes are slightly firmer for support. I imagine that was the case with the synmat HL. I know it was for the synmat winter and the downmat 7 I owed at one time.

  3. If I remember right, these seem lighter than the previous Synmat pads but same fabric and higher R value. Is that correct? And if so, any idea how they achieved it? More or less same size and weight and R value as the Tensor Alpine as well, which seems impressive given synthetic vs aluminized insulation. Maybe I’m missing something.

    • It’s hard to compare them to the old Synmats because the R-value standard and method of measurement changed. A lot of old R-values went up as a result, which the exception of Klymit’s pads where they all basically went down. I don’t know what Exped did or if they did anything to change them. Although the naming scheme is a million times easier to understand.

      • I certainly agree on the naming scheme. Being a wide pad user, the pricing scheme is nice too. Good thinking on the change in R value standards, maybe that is coming into play. I’m still impressed with the weight (maybe I shouldn’t be). I thought the Synmats were heavier than other pads with the foil designs, yet spec wise it seems very similar to the Tensor Alpine, at least in LW.

  4. Does the Exped valve have a micro-adjustment feature (the little button in the middle of the valve that you push to release small amounts of air)? That’s a deal-breaker for me if it doesn’t.

  5. None of the three companies on your list carries the Mummy version of this pad?

  6. Bill in Roswell GA

    Note: I requested Philip’s permission to post this quick first look.

    After reading Philip’s timely review during REI member rewards time, I looked it up and amazingly my local REI just got stock in! I went to the store to check it out and found the Ultra 5R AND the 3R! The 3R rectangle is R2.9 – Nemo Tensor is R2.5. Reg Wide weight is 20 oz, same for both. But the 3R is $150, the Tensor reg wide is $180. I had a good dividend and member 20% coupon begging for a comfy summer pad (summer weight 1tradeoff carrying no winter clothes).

    The 3R inflated to sleeping psi (so it conforms to you) with just 2 bags of air. I tried a bit of a third bag but the pad was too full for comfort. No outings yet, but I took an afternoon nap on it. Very comfortable for a side sleeper. The oversize outer tubes kept the edge from collapsing when my derriere tested it while asleep. I’ve tested a Tensor and liked it, but my old Xlite @ R4.2 was fine. I must say the 3R “feels” wider than Tensor – totally subjective. But to get amazing comfort for only $150 in any size is revolutionary!

    • You didn’t need permission – really.

    • The 3R feels wider because of its design: the longitudinal tube design when acutally weighted down by your body will spread out at least 1-2 inches in comparison to the unweighted inflated pad width – a fact nobody talks much about but easily is felt. The same does not happen with square tube design or intermittend seam pattern design mats.

      Editor: The commenter works for Exped.

  7. How does it compare in comfort to the Exped Synmat HL?

  8. Have you been able to use it for an extended time? I’ve been looking at purchasing one, but saw reviews on how they’ll eventually deflate after using for a few months/year.

  9. Thanks for the excellend review, however here some corrections from my side:
    – Yes you can connect Exped’s pillows to the pads: all have side loops to connect some strap or cord which runs around the mat, so the pillows stay put.
    – the synthetic insulation is not laminated to the baffles, but to the inssides of top and bottom fabrics of the mat. This ensures that the synthetic insulation even after years of use (as well known from synthetic sleeping bags) does not collapse, but stays put and delivers constant R value performance.

    Editor: The commenter works for Exped.

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