As you begin reading this review, you’re probably thinking the same thing I did – it’s just a sleeping mat, how much better can it be than any other product on the market? Well, in my humble opinion, the Sea to Summit Ultralight is a quantum leap ahead of its competitors. Why? Read on and all shall be revealed…
The R&D Department at Sea to Summit has gone totally ape-shit with this wee beauty. First, let’s take a look at the egg-carton construction of the mat, a design the boffins call “Air Sprung Cells” and bestow with the lofty claim of having far stronger lamination than other brands. Whether or not this is the truly case remains to be seen, but the innovative construction certainly lends itself to two things – enhanced comfort and speedy inflation.
The inflation valve is a work of genius, and yet so simple it makes you wonder why nobody came up with it sooner. Unlike the clumsy screw valves found on most mats, the Ultralight features a dual mode inflate/deflate tab-style valve. Long story short, when set to inflate, you can blow up the mat without the air escaping, and when set to deflate, the air is out faster than you can say “alpine start”. Pair this an antibacterial treatment which ensures your mat doesn’t get interior mould from all your manky mountain-breath, and you’ve got a winner.
I previously owned a Thermarest NeoAir, which at the time, I thought was the duck’s nuts. That said, it would tend to make my hips sore if I slept on my side. No such problem with the Sea to Summit Ultralight, which due to the aforementioned egg-carton construction, has just the right amount of give with just the right amount of support. Usually, I wouldn’t upgrade to a new product if the old one still worked (granted, it is moldy from manky mountain breath), but the Ultralight is truly light years ahead of the Thermarest in terms of comfort and… well, I really like sleeping.
Size and Weight
Perhaps the best feature of the Ultralight is the diminutive size and weight of the packed product (hence the name). The regular size weighs in at a shade under 400g and packs down to something about the size of a can of energy drink, or as Sea to Summit suggest, a burrito with double meat and guac. It’s pretty easy to pack too, far easier to pack than a burrito with double meat and guac.
This is where the Ultralight falls down a little. With a R rating of 0.7, it’s not designed for anything where warmth is a major concern. That said, I’ve used it at altitudes above 5500m in Bolivia’s Cordillera Real and Peru’s Cordillera Blanca, and I had no problems. If paired with a closed cell foam mat, it will do the job just fine, but if you’d rather have an all-in-one solution, there is an insulated version that offers an R rating of 3.3 and is only marginally heavier and bulkier. That said, before I commit to recommending the insulated version, I would like to see a peer-reviewed, double-blind, scientific review with a sample size of at least 100.
The Ultralight retails for around $135 AUD, which would be a pretty fair price if it didn’t have a lifetime guarantee, but it does.
The Sea to Summit Ultralight sleeping mat comes about as close to perfection as the Coen Brothers cult classic film, “The Big Lebowski”. Yep, it’s that good.
Ryan Siacci, Esq.