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Sea to Summit Ember II Review
Cons: Way too narrow, foot box doesn’t fully close, no collar draw cord, pad straps come unclipped easily
Bottom line: This was the lowest rated bag in our ultralight test, and it wasn’t even close.
The Sea to Summit Ember II is a quilt that opens up into a fully flat blanket, but does not seal up into a fully enclosed mummy style bag. It is rated to 25F-35F, but is not suitable for temperatures anywhere near that cold, and should only be used on the warmest of summer nights. It was the lowest scorer in our review, by a very wide margin, and was one of the very lowest scorers in almost every individual metric, with weight being the lone exception. For reasons we will describe briefly below, we do not recommend this bag, and think that it needs a wholesale redesign to be effective for any other use than as a blanket.
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Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
To say that the Sea to Summit Ember II was a disappointment would be an understatement. We have reviewed many items by this company in the past here on OutdoorGearLab, and in general have found them to be high quality and well designed. In this very review we awarded the Sea to Summit Spark I a Top Pick for Insane Packability, giving props for what is truly an innovative and unique design. We tested the Ember II on an overnight ski trip in the Weminuche Wilderness of southwest Colorado, sleeping on dry ground on a night with a low temperature of around 35F, certainly above freezing. This is at the upper limit of the Ember II's stated temperature range of 25F-35F, but wearing all of our clothes (which was a lot, we were on a ski trip) we shivered all night, slept none, came down with a nasty head cold, and ultimately bailed without attempting our intended objective. The numerous design flaws became readily apparent to us during this experience, especially in comparison to the other 10 ultralight bags we tested for this review. Suffice to say we would not recommend this product, but will describe our beef below for anyone who cares to read.
The Sea to Summit Ember II was the lowest scorer in our comparison ratings, as shown below:
Despite its temperature rating of 25F-35F, we had no choice but to give this the lowest score for warmth. It uses 12 ounces of 750+ fill power down, arranged in both vertical and horizontal sewn-through baffles. However, this quilt is far too narrow to wrap oneself up in, and attached to a narrow 20-inch wide sleeping pad, it barely reached around, and left tons of open draft points. Unlike the Feathered Friends Flicker 40 UL, there is no draft collar at the neck, or even a neck draw cord at all! You read that right, there is no way to tighten, or even button, this quilt around your neck. Also, the foot draw cord, meant to close off the bottom into an enclosed mummy-style foot box, ala the Enlightened Equipment Revelation 20, does not enclose the feet at all, it leaves them totally open, as after pulling the cord, there are no zippers, buckles, or buttons to close off the foot box vertically. In short, this is a narrow blanket, and cannot be sufficiently wrapped around oneself, or around a pad, to seal cold air out.
Our size regular quilt weighed 19.6 ounces with the included adjustable pad straps, and the nice compression stuff sack that was included weighed an additional 1.9 ounces. We love how this bag came with a compression sack, and that it packs down smaller than every other product in this review save for the Spark I. Its weight put it right in the middle of the review, roughly similar to the Zpacks 20 Degree, but is really its only redeeming quality.
We have already mentioned how the foot box does not close up, there is no way to cinch, buckle, or tighten around the neck, and that it is too narrow to wrap around oneself. It does come with pad straps that button into place and are adjustable, but we found that fastening this quilt around our narrow 20 inch wide pad made it so tight and constricting on top that we could only lay on our back and not move. When we did move, to roll over or sleep on our side, the buttons unsnapped because the fit was so tight, and we couldn't re-attached them without getting out of the bag and flipping the pad over. This was a totally untenable system that left us cursing and freezing cold. The most comfortable quilt in our review was the Sierra Designs Backcountry Quilt 700.
As you can imagine, since we found the quilt to be so small and the features to be so poorly designed as to be basically non-functional for any other purpose than as a blanket, we would have to call this the least versatile design in the review. The most versatile was the Feathered Friends Flicker 40 UL, which was our Editors' Choice Award winner.
The super rad and tiny included compression stuff sack was the best feature of this bag. We have already mentioned that the pad attachment system was super hard to adjust, very tight, and came undone easily in the middle of the night, completely failing to keep one insulated. There is no neck draw cord, which is a serious bummer. It is not possible to create an enclosed foot box, another huge bummer. For a quilt with awesome features, we again point you toward the Flicker 40 UL, or the Patagonia 850 Down Sleeping Bag 30, which had the best features on a mummy bag.
Sea to Summit recommends this quilt for backpacking or bike touring. We don't think it is worth purchasing for either. They also make an Ember I and an Ember III, which have lower and higher temperature ratings, but use the same flawed design. Regardless of what you intend to do, check out some other product from Sea to Summit instead, or any one of the higher rated ultralight sleeping bags in our review.
This quilt retails for $250. We would not recommend spending that money on this product.
The Sea to Summit Ember II is a down filled quilt that performed miserably in our field testing. It was by far the lowest scorer in this review, and is not a product that we would recommend to anyone, for any reason that we can think of. We look forward to seeing this item redesigned to fix the myriad issues addressed above, and hope to test a more worthy quilt from Sea to Summit in the future.
— Andy Wellman
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