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Sea to Summit Comfort Light Insulated Review
Cons: Not lightweight, expensive, not as comfortable as smoother pads
Bottom line: Supportive, warm, and quite small, this model is built for winter backpacking or multi-day skiing trips.
The Sea to Summit Comfort Light Insulated is a fairly warm pad with a new and unique design. With an R-value of 4.2, this pad is warm enough for cold weather use. The AirSprung Cells provide a lot of support and help prevent the edge collapse issues of horizontally baffled pads. This product provides a lot of support and a decent level of comfort; however, we didn't like it as much as our Editors' Choice winning Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm, which is 5 ounces lighter, warmer, and a little more comfortable. The Sea to Summit UltraLight is the lightweight, uninsulated cousin of this pad and we liked it more because it packs down super small, is just as comfortable, weighs 8 ounces less, and is $70 cheaper.
RELATED REVIEW: The Best Sleeping Pads of 2017
Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
The Sea to Summit Comfort Light Insulated is a good pick if you're looking for a supportive pad for cold weather camping. It didn't score as highly as others; overall we think it is a good pad it's just not a great pad. Many people will love the supportive AirSprung Cells because they feel more stable than other air construction designs.
For performance-driven backpackers, this pad is comfortable enough for short and long treks alike. The 331 AirSprung Cells perform as advertised and completely eliminate the bouncing sensation often experienced in horizontally or vertically baffled sleeping pads. This cellular design makes for more supportive edges than the sleeping pads in the NeoAir series. Some testers found this pad as comfortable as the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite and XTherm, but many complained that the pad felt lumpy. Our testers constantly found smooth surfaced pads more comfortable than those with unique baffling or dot welded designs. While the Comfort Light feels very supportive, it just wasn't as cozy as the smooth surfaces of the NeoAir sleeping pads or the REI AirRail 1.5. Reviewers also complained that this pad, and its Sea to Summit UltraLight little brother, were too "loud." While other pads like the XLite are crinkly because of their baffling and reflective barriers, the Sea to Summit pads we tested make squeaking noises likely attributed to the surface fabric. Whatever the case, this pad is noisy.
Many people dread inflating their sleeping pad at the end of the day. While this pad isn't self-inflating like the Therm-a-Rest EvoLite, the Comfort Light uses a really unique one way valve construction that it is super easy to use and deflates on command. If you accidentally over-inflated your pad and want to let some air out for comfort, just tap on the center of the valve and let tiny bits of air leak out. Of all the pads we tested, we liked this valve design the best. The video below shows the same valve on the UltraLight pad.
Because the individual cells are so supportive, we think this is a terrific pad for people who find traditional air core pads too bouncy or unstable. This pad feels as solid and stable as a self-inflating pad. Overall, we give it a comfort score of 6/10.
Our scale put the Sea to Summit Comfort Light Insulated at just over 20 ounces. For a traditional winter sleeping pad, this weight is pretty respectable. However, it is still a full 5 ounces heavier than the Therm-a-Rest XTherm, which is warmer and more comfortable. The Comfort Light is on par with many competitors, but doesn't hit it out of the park in the weight category.
The Sea to Summit Comfort Light Insulated has a stated R-value of 4.2, making it warmer than most of its competitors in this review, but not as warm as the Editors' Choice winning Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm that has an R-value of 5.7. Because it uses synthetic insulation in each cell, the real world warmth of this pad will be less influenced by convection heat loss (generated by a person's tossing and turning throughout the night) than other air construction pads like the XTherm.
To learn more about how sleeping pads keep the cold ground from zapping all your heat, be sure to read our How to Choose The Best Sleeping Pad article.
The Sea to Summit Comfort Light Insulated retains heat in four ways. First, synthetic insulation fills each of the Comfort Light's 331 AirSprung Cells thus trapping air and reducing convective heat transfer. Second, the cells themselves are somewhat isolated from each other (we call this "structural insulation"). Third, a layer of reflective material bonded to the underside of the top layer of the pad bounces radiated heat back to the sleeper (similar to the way Therm-a-Rest NeoAir pads work). Fourth, if you use the pad in conjunction with a typical sleeping bag that is filled on the bottom (the alternative being something akin to an ultralight down quilt), your sleeping bag will loft into the space created by each dot weld, thus trapping air and reducing convective heat loss.
Unfortunately, the dot weld cavities are also a potential downside because they increase the surface area of the bottom the pad (this is a bad thing in terms of heat retention). When you sleep directly on snow, the bottom of each weld cavity is completely filled with snow. At the footbed, the dot welds connect the top and bottom of the pad. This means that each dot weld is a small, uninsulated cold spot. Thankfully, on the torso section of this pad, the dots on the top are offset with the ones on the bottom to mitigate this problem. If you plan on supplementing this pad with a closed cell foam pad (like many people do in the winter), you should consider putting the foam on the bottom rather than the top to decrease the Comfort Light's contact with the ground. Another problem with the pocketed design in the snow is that each cavity collects snow that will need to be completely brushed out before using the pad. The last thing you want is a wet sleeping bag. For warmth, we give this pad an 8/10.
When used in the summer, our testers all slept very warm on the Comfort Light. We wouldn't hesitate to use it for three-season backpacking trips and would gladly use it in the winter sleeping on snow as long as we had some sort of tarp or tent between the pad and the snow.
When rolled up, this pad takes up a little more space than a standard Nalgene water bottle. The synthetic insulation is the biggest reason this pad doesn't pack down smaller but it still packs much smaller than self-inflating pads and is certainly small enough to put inside your pack.
The top and bottom of this pad are made with 40 denier ripstop nylon making it plenty durable for normal uses. If you constantly bivy on rocks or sticks, you might consider placing a small piece of nylon or Tyvek underneath. When leading backpacking trips for the summer, our clients used and abused this pad and didn't have any durability issues even when they used it to float down a lazy river.
The Sea to Summit Comfort Light Insulated is a good pick for lightweight travel in the winter and for those who want a really supportive pad. It is best suited to performance-driven backpacking and isn't our favorite for car camping.
For $170, this pad isn't the best value out there. For summer camping, we think that the UltraLight version that costs $70 less is a terrific value because it is super lightweight, packs ridiculously small, and is just as comfortable as the Comfort Light Insulated. If you've got the big bucks to shell out for a $170 pad, then we recommend, just saving up another $30 and purchasing our Editors' Choice winning Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm.
The Sea to Summit Comfort Light Insulated is one of the warmest products in our review and will work well for cold weather camping. It is pretty comfortable and very supportive without a large weight penalty. If you don't mind sleeping on the bumpy, dot welded design, you will likely find this pad more comfortable than traditional air construction designs. It packs fairly small and doesn't weigh that much more than several other pads with the same R-value. Overall, it is designed for lightweight trips in cold places and it works well for that purpose.
— Jeremy Bauman
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