We were excited to see that Sea to Summit has rolled out a comprehensive line of high-quality, women's specific sleeping mats. We were especially intrigued to discover the Ether Light XT, which seemed exceptionally light and warm for such a thick and comfortable looking product. We were not disappointed, and the Ether has become our favorite new backpacking product, stealing the Editors' Choice Award from the NeoAir XLite Women's. With a few little extras that put this product a neck ahead of the former winner, we love the shape and comfort of this pad, not to mention the quiet materials that elicit zero crinkling space blanket noises. We were willing to overlook the Ether's few extra ounces penalty in exchange for a more comfortable, peaceful sleep, and extra warmth for those chilly spring or fall nights.
Sea to Summit Ether Light XT Insulated - Women's Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Comfortable, quiet, lightweight
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 new women's line has turned out to be our favorite product of all and takes our Editors' Choice award. It is slightly warmer and much more comfortable than the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite and has more 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.
On the warmer end of the pack in terms of warmth, the Ether Light XT has a cozy 4.2 R-value, meaning you can stretch this model from early spring to late fall and stay comfortably insulated from the cold ground.
Slightly warmer than the average lightweight sleeping pad, Sea to Summit has added extra insulation to its women's model. 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. The Ether Light is only .3 R-value warmer than the NeoAir XLite, but not as warm as the luxurious REI AirRail Plus, which has an R-value of 5.2 - the warmest we tested.
For a lightweight backpacking pad, we are pleasantly surprised by how comfortable this product is. Its ample four-inch thickness kept us elevated well off the ground, but we also didn't feel like we were on a boat. This metric tipped the scales for us when deciding if the Ether Light should steal the award from the NeoAir.
We love the NeoAir; it's so light and small, making it an excellent choice for backpacking (however, the reality is that it's still not that comfortable, and it is noisy). You do get used to the noise, and it does seem to diminish over time, but it often leaves you feeling self-conscious when sleeping next to someone and you want to move around.
The Ether Light has solved that problem! Its materials are quiet because it uses a different type of 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 are 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.
The Ether Light XT is reasonably durable as far as we can tell and slightly more durable than the NeoAir's delicate 30 Denier materials. 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 the NeoAir 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. As it stands, it's the third lightest product in this review after the NeoAir's unbeatable 11.8 ounces, and the Sea to Summit UltraLight, which only weighs .4 ounces less, but comes in a slightly smaller package.
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 we think 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 like the Big Agnes Q Core SLX and NeoAir, it doesn't pack down quite as small.
You can reduce bulk (as well as weight) by leaving the included stuff sack at home.
We think this is a great choice for straight up 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 Women's 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.
Sea to Summit's products are high quality, and they also come at a high price. The most expensive product in this review, the $200 price tag made 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, the REI AirRail Plus Women's. The NeoAir also retails for $40 less.
We love this sleeping mat. It stole the title of Editors' Choice from Therm-a-Rest's NeoAir because it is more featured, comfortable, warm, and quieter than the NeoAir. It is slightly heavier than the NeoAir 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.
— Jessica Haist