Sunday, 21 May 2017

Repairing leaky Exped Synmat UL7

After 2 wild camps and with a slow sinking feeling I had to come to the conclusion that my sleep mat definitely appeared to be leaking. However, being the engineering sort that I am (read cheap here), I prefer (where possible) to repair things rather than just replace them. A quick Google revealed quite a few descriptions and guides all over the internet (including an Exped one) but I thought that I’d document my own real life go at it to prove that if I can do it, anyone can.

Materials required...

1, leaking sleep mat.

2, A bath or if in the hills a lochside, lochan or even a large puddle would do.

3, A way of marking the hole or puncture.

4, Some seam grip or textile glue (usually supplied with the mat).

5, Gloves or a lollipop stick/spatula.

6, Talcum powder.

First I ran a bath about 2/3rds full so that I could get the mat submerged, taking care to remove all sharp objects (like Louise’s tweezers) as we don’t want to be making any more holes in the mat. Next I inflated the mat until it was quite firm and then starting at one end, submerged part of it under the water, taking my time to visually inspect it, looking for bubbles and listening carefully for any hissing. As the hole may be very small the bubbles might be very slow so make sure to check both sides of the mat. A good tip here is to wipe a bubble away while it is still under water and watch to see if it reappears.

When I got to the foot end of the mat on the bottom side I found a small but steady stream of bubbles near the corner. I made sure to check the rest of the mat just in case there was more than one puncture. Once I found the puncture I marked it using a biro so that I could locate it again later.

Once the puncture was identified I deflated the mat slightly so that there wasn’t really any internal pressure but enough air to keep both sides of the mat apart. I then dried off the mat with a towel and also used Louise’s hair dryer around the puncture itself as I was pressed for time and wanted to be sure that it was thoroughly dry before using any glue/adhesive. Be careful if doing this and definitely don’t use the heat setting as I suspect you could damage the bonding on the interior and potentially de-laminate the mat.

Wearing gloves I then applied a large pea sized blob of the Exped textile glue supplied with my mat but any textile glue would do. Exped themselves even state that Mcnett’s Seam Grip is also perfectly fine to use. The gloves probably aren’t 100% necessary as a small brush or spatula (lollipop stick) would work fine I imagine. I had the gloves at my disposal though and decided to just use my gloved finger. I quickly massaged the glue into the fabric ensuring that the puncture was well covered and that had covered the area of about a 50 pence piece with the pinhole in the centre. As per the Exped instructions I then left the glue to “go off” for about 10 minutes before applying the next coat.

While I was waiting I made sure to screw the cap back on the tube of glue and ensure the air had been pushed out. After about 10 minutes I checked that the glue was tack free and then applied a second coat, this time applying the glue to an area just a little wider in diameter than the first time. After another 10 minutes it got a third and final coat. I then left the mat alone for a few hours to let the glue really dry before giving it a dusting of talcum powder to try and prevent it sticking to itself when packed or stored with the added bonus that my mat should now smell quite pleasant.

I then gave the mat a few more pumps so that it was firm enough to hold its own shape and stand up against the wardrobe (away from any heat sources, direct sunlight etc) where I could leave it so that the glue could properly cure overnight. Exped say that maximum bonding strength is achieved after 8 hours. My mat has now been standing up against the wardrobe lightly inflated since Thursday afternoon (3 days ago) and still appears to be just as firm. I’ve not slept on it yet to properly test but will report back after my next wild camp.

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