5 Personen in einer Fabrik schauen bei der Produktion zu.

Product advice

Exped: quality, not quantity

Portraetbild Moritz
Editor, 4-Seasons
© Fotos

The Swiss brand Exped is a byword for high-quality, innovative outdoor equipment. Three members of the Transa team visited Exped’s key production site in Taiwan, accompanied by the company’s founders Heidi and Andi Brun.

The display above the door leading to the next carriage reads ‘253 km/h’. We’re sitting in a bullet train heading from Taipei to Taichung. It takes the THSR around 50 minutes to travel the 170 kilometres from Taiwan’s capital to the second-biggest city on the western coast of this island nation. And by ‘we’, I mean Stefan Roggli (hardware buyer), Madeleine Krieg (Transa customer service), Jürg Knupper (sales advisor at Transa Zurich) and I, the 4-Seasons editor. We’ve travelled to Taiwan to spend ten days exploring this island off the coast of China. On the agenda for today: inspecting Foamtex’s production facilities, where the Swiss company Exped has its sleeping mats manufactured. Exped founders Heidi and Andi Brun are also on site, as they happen to be in the region anyway, and will join us on the tour.

Collaboration among equals

‘Lots of our innovations wouldn’t have been possible without Foamtex’s technical expertise,’ explains Andi as we walk through the manufacturing hall. The Bruns met Foamtex’s management in 1994, when the Swiss firm was looking for someone to manufacture self-inflating sleeping mats. ‘Foamtex’s roots are in mechanical engineering, which is why they’re so good at finding technical solutions to make our product concepts a reality,’ enthuses Andi. They work together as equal partners, even though Andi’s innovative ideas often present major hurdles for the team in Taiwan.

  • Three people on a bullet train in Taiwan.

    Travelling on a bullet train – at up to 253 km/h.

    Photo © Moritz Schäfer
  • Nähere Betrachtung einer Produktionsmaschine

    Insights into the workflows.

    Photo © Moritz Schäfer
  • Zwei Personen umarmen sich

    Exped founder Heidi with a member of the manufacturing team.

    Photo © Moritz Schäfer

‘It’s crazy how much manual labour goes into each mat, despite all the machinery,’ says buyer Stefan as we watch workers cutting fabric. The atmosphere in the manufacturing hall is one of happy concentration. The workspaces are bright, safety standards are complied with and the halls are spacious. Suddenly, a worker jumps up from her station and approaches us, waving happily. She gives Heidi a hug: they know each other already. ‘This friendly way of dealing with manufacturers is typical of Andi and Heidi’s approach,’ says sales advisor Jürg, who himself spent six years at Exped as a product manager. ‘The way they interact with people is quite similar to how we do things at Transa,’ adds Madi.

Exped products

We’re now standing in front of the laminating machine, where a plastic film is attached to the outer fabric to make it airtight. These materials don’t cost much to buy ready-made from suppliers, but these suppliers usually just place a layer of coating on the outer fabric. To meet Exped’s quality standards, though, the company opted for lamination years ago and Foamtex developed this machine themselves. This is typical of Exped: quality and functionality are the top priority, with design and marketing coming in second place.

A small pump sack that posed a huge challenge

We’re then shown the company’s latest investment: a huge system to clean manufacturing emissions. Foamtex is leading the way when it comes to environment protection, too! Before we head back to Taipei, we’re offered a cup of tea. Andi and the Foamtex bosses talk about the early days of their collaboration. You’d be forgiven for thinking it was a gathering of old friends: ‘Can you still remember that whole saga with the pump sack?’ asks Andi. The Taiwanese roll their eyes, laughing. Back then, Andi wanted a packsack that could be used to inflate sleeping mats. The concept may well sound basic, but it’s extremely challenging to manufacture. However, as so many times before, Foamtex and Exped worked together to find a solution: the pump sack, now available from basically every manufacturer. Andi and Heidi have always been keen to develop innovative, high-quality projects – and they had this same goal in mind when they established Exped 40 or so years ago. They found the perfect partner for this task in the form of Foamtex.


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