Sea to Summit Ether Light XT Insulated - Women's Review
Cons: Expensive, heavier than the NeoAir XLite
Manufacturer: Sea to Summit
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Our Analysis and Test Results
Our favorite product from Sea to Summit's women's line is one of our favorite products of all and takes our Top Pick Award. The Ether Light XT has plush features, like a one-way valve and stuff sack pump for easy inflation. All Sea to Summit's sleeping mats come with an attachment system for their proprietary pillows as well, a bonus. We think the extra ounces you'll be carrying will be made up for with quality night's sleep on the trail; not to mention the quality of sleep of your tent-mate because you won't be sleeping on a bag of Sun Chips.
With the implementation of new R-value testing standards, the Ether Light has been downgraded from a 4.2 R-Value to 3.5, which puts it right in the middle of the pack in terms of warmth. If paired with an extra piece of foam insulation, you can stretch this model from early spring to late fall and stay comfortably insulated from the cold ground.
Sea to Summit has added extra insulation to its women's model (the men's has a 3.2 R-value). They use "Thermolite," which is a high loft fiberfill material, which seems to pack down very small but has excellent insulating qualities. We wonder if these pads should be stored uncompressed so as to not permanently compress this insulation's loft.
For a lightweight backpacking pad, we are pleasantly surprised by how comfortable this product is and awarded it our Top Pick for comfort because of that. Its ample four-inch thickness kept us elevated well off the ground, but we also didn't feel like we were on a boat. The Ether Lite has different chambers than other air pads that feel more stable and not like you're going to roll off of it.
Sea to Summit has figured out how to make a light, warm, air mattress that is also more than two inches thick, without using a space blanket material to reduce the crinkling noise those pads are prone to. Its materials are quiet because it uses a different type of synthetic insulation — not a space blanket material.
We also appreciate the thought that Sea to Summit has put into the shape of their women's pads. These mats are oval-shaped and wider at the hips, making them feel wider in general and more comfortable, not like you're precariously teetering on top of your mat. The men's versions are more of a triangle shape; wide at the shoulders and tapering down, which makes a lot of sense.
Not the most durable of the bunch, the Ether Light's 40 Denier materials are still pretty durable compared to most light backpacking pads. We have discovered a slow leak in our Ether pad, but we suspect that was because we camped on poky rocks one night in the backcountry, not a particularly smart thing to do with a delicate air mattress.
The Ether Light XT is reasonably durable as far as we can tell. Sea to Summit's valves also appear to be durable, as they're plugs you can pull out or push in, with no twisting required. We appreciate that all Sea to Summit models come with repair patches for punctures and an extra piece for the one-way valve in case you lose it.
The Ether Light falls behind in this metric, weighing 15 ounces. It's not the lightest product of the bunch, but also far from the heaviest.
We wish the Ether Light could shed a few ounces. Weight is a fundamental metric for a backpacking pad, and we believe that the Ether Light is a compromise between that ultralight product, and getting a good night's sleep. It is still less than a pound, and it's worth the extra weight. We did notice that the included stuff sack (that also acts as a pump) weighs two ounces on its own. If you're counting ounces, we would leave that at home to save weight, even though it's convenient not to have to blow it up with our lungs, especially at altitude. You can slide this rolled-up pad into a jacket sleeve to protect it from pokey things in your pack instead.
Still a small package compared to most, the Ether is not the smallest of the bunch.
Because this sleeping pad has substantial insulation compared to ones with the smallest packed size, it doesn't pack down quite as small.
You can reduce bulk (as well as weight) by leaving the included stuff sack at home.
Sea to Summit's products are high quality, and they also come at a high price. The most expensive product in this review, the Ether's hefty price tag gave us pause. If you're feeling like treating yourself, the Ether is a decent value because of all the reasons we've outlined above. If you're looking for something geared more towards car camping or short backpacking trips, we'd recommend checking out our Best Buy Award winner or other top-scoring models that ring in for less.
We love this sleeping mat. It wins our Top Pick Award for Comfort because it is more featured, comfortable, warm, and quieter than most of the competitors we tested. It is slightly heavier than the top model and more expensive, but we're willing to overlook these small blemishes in exchange for that very comfortable night's sleep in the backcountry; your hiking partners will also thank you for a quieter night in the tent.The Ether is an excellent choice for backpacking. It's light enough for any trip, long or short, but maybe not the best for something like ultralight fast-packing. The Ether Light XT Insulated will provide you with quiet, quality sleep out on the trail. You can stretch the seasons of this warm pad from early spring to late fall; pair it with a foam pad like the Z-Rest, and it's good through the winter.
— Jessica Haist