The Sea to Summit Ether Light XT combines thick, cushy air sprung cells and a warm 3 season appropriate insulation to create a cozy sleeping mat that works in warm or cool conditions. This is my review:
The Ether Light XT is a 3 season sleeping mat with a 3.2 R value thanks to embedded Thermolite HL-1 insulation. It utilizes air sprung cells, essentially small baffles of air, to create a soft, pillowy surface. It features a one way inflation valve, a quick deflate purge valve, a fine tune deflate button, and includes a “pillow-lock” system for securing pillows. It comes in various widths, lengths and variations, but the one tested here (regular) comes in at 21.5″ wide at the shoulders, 72″ long, 4″ thick, and packs down to 4.5″ x 9.5″. It weighs 17.3 ounces and retails for $199.
Comfort wise, the Ether Light XT is great. The air spring cells create a very convincing mattress like feel that does an excellent job of distributing body weight across the surface while also creating loft and cushion to allow the shoulders and hips to depress into the volume of air. This emulates what springs and cushions do, without the mass and weight penalty of it all. Normally, I find myself with somewhat stiff or even sore shoulders after sleeping on an air mat, but this pad provides enough depth and conformity to allow the spine and shoulders to relax into a fairly natural position, even while side sleeping. Back and stomach sleeping are especially comfortable here, with the cells providing even support and cushion, without feeling like a bumpy surface. It’s quite excellent to sleep on in general.
The warmth of the pad is good, and I can recommend this down to about 40 degrees F (about 4.5 degrees C). The insulation is a synthetic hollow fiber that’s attached inside and does a solid job of providing warmth across the surface. However, the large baffles do create slightly cooler zones than the rest of the pad, which can be noticed when used below my recommended temperature. When it comes to warmer season use, it regulates fairly well. It isn’t so hot that summer use is out of the question, while cool Fall and Spring nights feel great, even when paired with a quilt.
Pack size and weight is pretty good, considering the thickness, comfort level, and the true to size cut of the mattress. There are certainly lighter pads out there, but few provide the level of comfort that this one does. It folds down into a reasonable stuff sack that comes in at about 4.5 x 9.5″. I’ve found it to pack smaller by just folding it up and laying it against the spine of my pack, but either way is certainly an option.
Durability of the mat is fairly standard. The materials have been improved over their previous designs and have a nice feel to them. The welding has been very consistent and I’ve not noticed any odd wear or tear on the materials. The fabrics are rather thin and hold up well with normal use, but care with pointy objects around the mat should be taken, in particular. I have a few Sea to Summit matts at this point and I have developed a minor leak in each, but this is over many years use and they’ve all been easily field patchable and have continued to be reliable afterwards, which is very important. The included patch kit is of great quality and takes just a few minutes to use, and cures without having to wait to use the pad again.
Inflation and deflation is absolutely painless here. The stuff sack doubles as an easy to use inflation sack. The sack unfolds, connects to the one way inflation valve, and opens up to capture a large amount of air. This is done with either a quick puff air directed into the opening, which opens it up like a sail, or by pointing the opening it into the wind which in turn gathers air flowing into it. This captures a huge volume of air, which can then be trapped by quickly rolling the top down. Squeeze the inflated sack down to force the trapped air (with a bit of practice) into the pad and it inflates it in about three repetitions. I can inflate this pad in about 30 seconds without using my lungs, which allows the pad to be filled without dumping damp breath inside, which helps preserve the insulation inside. I do wish the inflation sack was a bit wider, but it does fine as is and makes great use of the stuff sack, which otherwise I wouldn’t even carry.
The Ether lite XT is a great sleeping pad. It’s a little heavier than other pads in the range, but justifies this by providing exceptional comfort, a wider and thicker, plusher sleeping surface, and embedded insulation that works quite well in most seasons. It packs up small enough, is incredibly fast and easy to set up and deflate, and holds up well when taken care of. If comfort is a top priority, but weight still matters, this is an excellent option.
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