Boasting an impressive 10cm of plush, stable loft, the Sea to Summit Ether Lite XT Insulated is quite simply the most comfortable camping mat we’ve ever slept on.
- The most comfortable mat on the market
- Integrated pump in stuff sack
- Not quite as warm or durable as some rivals
The Sea to Summit Ether Lite XT Insulated sleeping pad scores highly when it comes to practicality for a variety of outdoor adventures thanks to its competitive weight and pack size. It’s small enough to take backpacking, wild camping and even bikepacking.
Handily, everything you need also comes in one little package – the included stuff sack has an integrated pump bag, which makes inflating the mat quick and easy (as does the well-designed valve).
That saves time and effort but is also likely to preserve the life of the mat, since using your breath to repeatedly blow up sleeping mats can introduce moisture, which over time can lead to bacterial growth, as well as mould and mildew.
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When inflated, the regular mat has fairly generous proportions, measuring 183 x 55cm. It tapers slightly towards the feet but offers plenty of room at the hips and shoulders. If you need more or less room, it’s also worth noting that the mat comes in small and large sizes too.
In addition, there is a women’s version, which is contoured to give additional room at the hips and torso, with a slight taper at either end (which actually makes it a good option for side sleepers of any gender too). It also has a slightly higher warmth rating than the standard version (3.5 as opposed to 3.2), reflecting the fact that women generally sleep colder than men. Still, an R-value of 3.2 is plenty warm enough for three-season camping, suitable for temperatures down to freezing or just below.
In terms of construction, the Ether Lite XT differs from most other mats in that it has neither vertical nor horizontal baffles. Instead, it uses interconnected, insulation-filled cells that are dot welded for stability – a bit like a pocket-sprung mattress. This means that each cell conforms to your body shape, making the mat feel softer and more comfortable.
In the field
We tested the mat on a backpacking trip in the mountains of Snowdonia, where it absorbed all the lumps and bumps of the Carneddau range. As side sleepers, we often find thinner self-inflating mats uncomfortable and closed-cell foam mats intolerable – frequently waking up with stiff shoulders and sore hips.
If that sounds familiar, the Ether Lite XT is likely to be a revelation. It’s easily the most comfortable mat we’ve ever slept on, even beating premium pads from Therm-a-rest and Exped in the comfort stakes. That’s largely down to the innovative construction and the very plush inflated thickness of nearly four inches.
Of course, other mats are available of similar girth, but few feel as stable as this one, since its cells do not have the same tendency to collapse as conventional baffles. Nor is it noisy or crinkly, even when you shift position during the night. That’s something your tent buddy or campmates might thank you for.
So, what’s not to like? The first thing to point out is that it isn’t the lightest or most packable pad available, although it’s certainly competitive in the field of lightweight backpacking mats. But if you’re looking to go as light as possible, there are better options – though the compromise will likely be in either warmth or comfort (or both).
Secondly, the Ether Lite XT is not the most durable mat around. But it’s still reasonably tough, and provided you take care of it, this mat ought to see you through plenty of adventures – and if it does develop a hole or leak, a repair kit is supplied with the pad. In terms of outright warmth, it is in the middle of the pack.
Dedicated winter mats will be warmer and could be a better choice for those who will be camping at high-altitude or in sub-zero conditions with snow on the ground. And lastly, it is at the premium end of the market in terms of price. But then, it’s arguably a price worth paying for a good night’s sleep, wherever you camp.
If you are a lightweight backpacker or wild camper that prioritises comfort above all other considerations, you can’t do better than the Ether Lite XT Insulated.
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