Updated: Apr 2, 2022
Sleeping on the hard ground all night is a painful experience that most hikers have experienced at least once before but finding the right mat for you to get a full night sleep can be hard and especially when trying to keep it light and compact. Sea to Summit have tried to make finding a mat that works for you as easy as possible by having a wide range which includes ultra-comfy all the way to ultralight but the Ether Light XT Insulated mat sits about in the middle of this group of high quality mats.
So what is this mat all about?
Well as we said above this mat sits in the middle of the comfortable mats and the lightweight one and this gives quite a few advantages. I am someone who personally doesn't like to compromise on comfort very much but this also goes for my comfort while hiking during the day. If my pack weighs too much I will find myself feeling pretty average at the end of a day when I should be feeling accomplished but this mat somehow does a great job of remaining light while compromising little on that comfort for my sleep which is another thing I don't like to hike without. Weighing 490g for the mat, it is certainly not too heavy but when inflated it feels as if it should weigh almost twice as much and this is all thanks to the Extra Thick (XT) part of the mat which makes it perfect for me to get a full nights sleep.
The insulated part of this mat is also not forgotten as it uses the Sea to Summit Air Sprung Cells to create that layer that is 10cm thick between you and your warm sleeping bag and the hard, cold ground. The fact that I can get comfort, insulation and lightweight all in one is just amazing to me and made me get one of these for myself. Another one of my favourites when hiking is another Sea to Summit product, the Aeros Hiking Pillow which smartly locks into the anti-slipping pillow groves that sit at the end of your mat, personally this is a great feature as when using other mats this was a problem that commonly annoyed me.
So just how easy is it to set up?
Well one of my major gripes with mats I have owned in the past it the fact that at the end of a long day of walking I would be expected to nearly pass out trying to inflate a mat to about half full. Of course this is an overexaggerating but still I find this to be quite annoying and finally this mat gives us a real solution. Though others in the past have tried to proclaim self-inflating mats are the solution, this often required time, time you simply don't have when you turn up at a campsite after the sun has already set. So this is where the design of the Sea to Summit Ether Light becomes real smart, at one end (the orange one) you will find the mat which you can take out and open the valve to start inflating. At the other end (the grey one) you will find a stuff sack which once filled with air from running it through the wind or around the campsite can be attached to the valve and force air through to the mat, inflating it in less than half the time. This solution is by far the smartest I have seen yet to this unique problem but it is important to remember that this little system adds an extra 54g so it's not all positives even if it is well designed.
What about packing it away?
Well this is one thing that does bug me a little because when you are packing it up it can take several goes to get it small enough to fit back into the bag. Sometimes you will open the valve, roll it up and try put it in only to find a little pocket of air left in some far corner of the bag which means you need to take it out again and redo it. From what I can see the reason behind this problem is the fact that the valve sits just a little too far from the edge of the mat meaning it gets blocked when rolling it up. Though this is a small little problem it can take up valuable time when trying to set off early for a long day of walking and nobody wants to be slowed down by their gear.
What else does this mat have to offer?
Well onto of it's great design which has given me many nights of good sleep so far, the mat also comes with some patches and even extra one-way valves to help you make sure it lasts the long haul. I have been pretty rough in my testing, jumping on it, bending it and trying my hardest to break it but it has held up very well, but I'm sure on some long adventures or rough campsites might one day do some damage and that's why having some repair patches and spare valves is so good. Even if it doesn't happen often the peace of mind knowing I won’t spend half my hike on the hard and uncomfortable ground is great.
Another thing to note if you didn't know already is that the mat comes with a split system, multifunctional valve which can be opened at one level to the one-way inflation valve and then opened to a second level to release the air from the mat.
Even though for this review I used the standard regular size, you should also note the other sizes that this mat comes in to help you best get the mat that suits you. The mat comes in a Small, Regular and Large in the slightly curvy version and the Regular-Wide and Large sizes on the rectangle version.
So what are my final thoughts?
Well I can suggest this mat enough, everything from design, weight, comfort and value for money is just great with this mat and you can tell they have put time and effort into making this design perfect for hikers. I personally think I will struggle to go back to my old thin mat as it just doesn't provide anywhere near the comfort this one does and that has made it well and truly worth the investment. If you can I would definitely say go out and get one because you won’t regret it but rather your body will be thanking you by making that walk just a little bit less painful.
For this review I used the Sea to Summit Ether Light XT Insulated Mat – Regular which costs $299.99 AUD, if you’re looking at buying this mat first make sure to look at other websites and brands to find the cheapest and the best one for you so you are not left out of pocket, most major outdoors retailers will have their own range let alone the other mats Sea to Summit offer so make sure to see what they have got before you go out and buy.
Written by Josh Welch