Sea to Summit Ether Light XT Insulated Sleeping Pad Review

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Sea to Summit makes some of the most comfortable sleeping pads on the market. New in 2019, the Ether Light XT Insulated is their lightest and thickest insulated sleeping pad yet. This new model incorporates the comfortable “air sprung cells” we love from their other pads with a lofty 4-inch thickness to prevent bottoming out. With an R-value of 3.8 and a durable build, the Ether Light will be a great fit for most 3-season backpacking trips. There’s also a women’s-specific version that has an R-value of 4.2 for those who tend to be chilly at night, and if you’re mostly a summer backpacker, there’s a non-insulated Ether Light XT as well.

Want to see how to Ether Light stacks up against the competition? Check out our 10 Best Sleeping Pads list.

Quick Specs

  • MSRP (Regular size): $189.95

  • MIN TRAIL WEIGHT (Regular size): 15 oz.

  • R-VALUE: 3.8

  • DIMENSIONS (L x W x H): 72 x 21.5 x 4 in.

  • PACKED SIZE: 4.5 x 9.5 in.

  • SIZES: Regular, Large, Rectangular Regular Wide, Rectangular Large Wide.

  • PRODUCT TESTED: We tested the Regular size (72 x 21.5 x 4 in.)


Ether Light Xt insulated pad Photo Gallery

PROS

INCREDIBLY COMFORTABLE - The Ether Light is dot-welded to create “air sprung cells” that are designed to mimic a pocket-spring mattress for soft support that cradles the body in a way baffles can’t. The Ether Light is comfortable like Sea to Summit’s popular UltraLight Insulated sleeping pad, but it's twice as thick and cushy. That extra thickness means you won’t bottom out or feel uneven ground underneath the pad, for a good night’s sleep on any terrain. Very slight side rails (sides are higher than center) help keep your body centered on the pad and make sliding off less problematic. The Ether Light is a touch (1.5 in.) wider than average regular size sleeping pads, but the difference isn’t very noticeable. You really might appreciate a difference in width however, if you get one of the rectangular versions, which are 25 inches wide (5 in. wider than average).

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RELATIVELY WARM - Most insulated sleeping pads are in the 3-4 R-value range unless they are highly-insulated and made for 4-seasons. The Ether Light has an R-value of 3.8, which is on the higher end of the 3-season spectrum and definitely keeps the chill from the cold ground at bay effectively. In our experience, the Ether Light would be a good 3-season pad with plenty of insulating value to protect users on most shoulder seasons trips (spring and fall). For those who need a little more protection, the women’s-specific version is little warmer (R-value 4.2) as well as a little wider through the hips and a few inches shorter. For those that only backpack (or bikepack) during the summer months, Sea to Summit’s non-insulated Ether Light XT might be a better option, as it’s 3 oz. lighter but only has an R-value of .8.

DURABLE - The Ether Light feels more durable than the average lightweight sleeping pad due to it’s 40D face fabrics (compared to 15-30D on many pad models). The ripstop nylon used in the Ether Light was chosen for its ideal balance of weight to durability. Though all inflatable sleeping pads have their breaking point, the Ether Light is built to be tougher and last longer than other pads. And just in case anything does puncture your pad, Sea to Summit includes a repair kit with self-adhesive patches for easily fixing punctures in the field, plus a spare silicone one-way valve insert. 

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PUMP SACK INCLUDED - Since the Ether Light is such a thick sleeping pad, it takes a lot of lung power to inflate it. Thankfully, Sea to Summit includes a pump sack that’s sewn into the stuff sack to make inflating the pad much less cumbersome. The pump sack still requires you to blow air into it, but it makes each breath far more efficient. We can inflate the regular-size Ether Light easily with about 3 breaths using the pump sack, which really saves some energy. The pump sack also minimizes the amount of moisture that goes into the pad with your breath, which is especially useful on cold-weather trips when condensation is likely to freeze.

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PILLOWLOCK SYSTEM - Dealing with a pillow that slips and slides out from under your head all night can be really annoying and can lead to poor sleep in the backcountry. Sea to Summit solves the problem with a simple, but effective way to connect the pillow to the sleeping pad. The “pillowlock system” consists of 4 small velcro patches that adhere to the pad and stick securely to the fabric on the back side of compatible Sea to Summit Aeros Pillows (not included). Our favorite pillow in the Aeros line is the Aeros Premium Pillow. For more about pillows, check out our Best Backpacking & Camping Pillows list.

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QUICK & EASY DELFATION - The valve system on the Ether Light is one of the best on the market. Its high-volume dump-valve allows the pad to deflate quickly and the silicone one-way insert that nests inside of it makes it easy to inflate and make adjustments with or without the pump sack.

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CONS

HEAVIER - Sea to Summit claims that the weight of the Ether Light is 15 oz., but it came in at 16 ounces on our scale, and that doesn’t include the stuff/pump sack. The stuff/pump sack adds another 2.5 oz. bringing the total weight up to 18.5 oz., which is 3.5 oz. more than the stated specs. That said, 18.5 oz. still isn’t too bad for a cushy air pad, but we wish this disclosure was a bit more obvious. The Ether Light is certainly still very reasonable for backpacking, but it’s quite a bit heavier than a sleeping pad like the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite or UberLite, which weighed 12.5 oz. and 8.9 oz. respectively on our scale, including their stuff sacks.

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A TAD BULKIER - The Ether Light is fairly compact and good for backpacking, but it’s not as compact as the NeoAir XLite or UberLite, though some of that bulk comes along with the pump sack that’s included. The Ether Light isn’t the lightest or most compact pad on the market, but if a thicker, more plush pad is what you’re after, the warmth and comfort might be worth looking past the extra space/weight it takes up in your backpack.

SLIGHT RUBBERY FEEL & SOUND - Sea to Summit claims this is their quietest sleeping pad yet. It’s true, the Ether Light doesn’t have the same crinkly sound that some pads do (like the NeoAir XLite), but it does make some rubber-squeaking noise when you move around on it. A little noise doesn’t bother us much though, and all backpacking air pads make some noise. If you’re a really light sleeper and want a pad that’s pretty quiet, check out the NEMO Tensor Insulated Pad, which is one of the quietest pads we’ve tested. Another small warning is that the surface of the Ether Light has a somewhat plasticy feeling when it comes in contact with bare skin. If you like to sleep with your shirt off on warm nights, this might not be the best option.

EXPENSIVE - With an MSRP of $189.95, the Regular Ether Light XT is one of the most expensive pads on the market, and other size/style options of this pad are even more expensive (up to $240). The included pump sack does add value, but other top-of the-line ultralight sleeping pads have MSRP’s ranging from $160-$180 and we like some of their features a bit more, even though they’re less expensive. If you’re looking for other solid options, check out the UberLite, XLite, and Tensor on our Best Sleeping Pads List. We think the price of the Ether Light is a bit steep, but it is a really thick, comfortable, and durable pad, so it will still be a good value if you put it to good use on the trail.

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Bottom Line

Sea to Summit’s Ether Light XT Insulated Sleeping Pad is undeniably warm and comfortable, with a thickness that’s much more cushy than the average backpacking pad. It’s well-designed with a few features that make using it really convenient, like the “Pillowlock system” that keeps your pillow in place and a great valve for quick and easy deflation. The Ether Light is quite expensive, but the included pump sack adds to its value and makes the pad easier to inflate. The Ether Light is a really nice cushy pad, but it does have some downsides, including being a bit heavier and bulkier than the leading lightweight backpacking pads. Also, we find the Ether Light can be a tad noisy as you shift in the night (similarly to other pads), and its surface can feel a little plasticy against bare skin. That said, when warmth, durability, and comfort are your main priorities and you really want a sleeping pad that will make you feel like you’re on your bed at home, the Ether Light XT is a great option for 3-season trips.

Want to see how the Ether Light XT Insulated Sleeping Pad compares with other sleeping pads? Check out our list of the 10 Best Backpacking Sleeping Pads to get the inside scoop on products we’ve tested and used in the backcountry.


More Information

A good night’s sleep is really important in the backcountry, and we hope this review helps you get some rest out there. If you like this review, you’ll probably like this other popular CleverHiker content.

 


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