UPDATED IMPRESSIONS – March 2016

Since writing this initial review 12 months ago, I’ve spent many nights on my Sea to Summit mattresses. In that time, I’ve learned more from using these mats & thought it might be worthwhile doing an update with some additional feedback. The original review (see below) focused mostly on the Comfort Light Insulated (green) mattress. I’ve since added the Ultralight Insulated (orange) to my kit, for variety of reasons. But initially so my partner Louise would stop stealing the green one & thus leaving without a worthy replacement!

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L: Louise warm & comfy on the Comfort Light insulated last winter at Lamington NP. R: Sunset at a bivvy below The Nuns Veill (2515m) in NZ.

One important test I had yet to undertake was sleeping on the Comfort Light Insulated directly on snow. Cold hard unforgiving snow. In July 2015 I was lucky enough to spend a few days in the Victorian Alps on Mount Bogong. The weather was wild with blizzard conditions. The snow-shoe walk to & from our campsite near the historic Cleve Cole hut was very cold & memorable! The overnight temps dropped somewhere south of -5°C and apart from the thin floor of the tent I was directly on the snow. Thankfully the night was passed comfortably, without a hint of cold creeping up through the mattress. From my experience however, if someone was looking to sleep directly on snow, with temps say below -10°C,  a Comfort Plus Insulted would definitely be on the cards. For example on a high altitude Nepal trip, which is exactly what I’m undertaking later in 2016.

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L: Cooking dinner from bed, before climbing Mt. Brewster in NZ. R: digging out our tent after a rather cold & snowy night on Mt. Bogong last winter.

Apart from using it when hiking/camping with Louise, I’ve been opting to take the orange  Ultralight Insulated on a lot of trips. Predominately when weight is a concern, such as when rock-climbing &  onsummer mountaineering trip. It’s been my savior when sleeping in sloping lumpy caves, open rock bivouacs & inside the hiking tent plenty of times. For me as a lanky broad shouldered side-sleeper, there is definitely a noticeable (but not significant) drop in comfort between the green & orange mats. Mostly this is due to the lack of the offset double-layer of Air Sprung Cells in the Ultralight Insulated version. Warmth is still quite good, I’ve slept on it just below 0°C several times, both in a tent & in open bivouacs. Durability has been great, however I did puncture my orange mat in NZ. To be fair, standing on the mat whilst wearing alpine boots, with a very sharp rock below will do that… luckily included patch kit worked a charm. In summary, I’m still very impressed.

Read on if you want to know more about the technology & specs of the Sea to Summit mattresses & hear my earlier feedback.

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L: Kai Setting up in the big cave on Mt. Tibrogargan last month. R: Sunrise from another, albiet far less level cave on the same mountain last year.

Original Review (Published March 2015)

Sleeping in the wilderness can be a rich and rewarding experience. Doing so in comfort… well that’s where things might get complicated.

The last thing you want when sleeping outdoors is to spend the night tossing and turning, longing for the eternal bliss of sleep to come. Only to finally lapse into an uncomfortable slumber, knowing you’ll wake with aches and pains the next morning. BUT dont worry, there is still hope! That’s where the Sea to Summit sleeping mattresses comes in. (If you’re not familiar with the Sea to Summit mats maybe have a quick look at THIS article, then read on below).

I’ve always been someone who found it difficult to get a comfortable nights sleep when out hiking and camping. Some niggling back problems, being a side sleeper and broad shoulders certainly compounded the issue. Ive tried various mats over the years, from the basic ‘roll of foam’ variety, to self inflating and full air inflatable varieties. All have been better than the cold hard ground for sure, but none have given me that deep contented sleep I’ve longed for. Until now…

Options

My first test of the new Sea to Summit mat range was last year when I took a pre-production Comfort Light out for some overnight hikes close to Brisbane. My first impressions, and those of my companions were very positive! Since then I’ve bought one of my own and given it a fair testing in some varied conditions. After carefully consulting the range I chose the Comfort Light Insulated for a variety of reasons. Firstly it sits in the middle of the weight vs comfort spectrum. Lighter than some, but thicker and more padded than others. I was also gearing up for a month of mountaineering and rock climbing on the South Island of New Zealand. With the likelihood of some cold nights, going for the insulated option was a logical choice. My climbing partner Jules also chose the same mattress for the NZ trip, so we were able to compare notes along the way.

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Kai testing the Comfort light on some rather uneven terrain, the Air Sprung Cells do a great job of distributing the weight evenly and comfortably – Mt. Barney, QLD

Tech Specs

Right from the get-go Sea to Summit have made it clear these mats are all about comfort. That said, they’re still very reasonably lightweight [580g for the regular] and quite compact. The materials all feel top notch, and each mat includes a stuff-sac and patch kit. The valve is easy to use and inflating the mat is quick and easy on the lungs. Sea to Summit also offer a range of accessories such as stuff-sac pumps, coupler kits, fitted sheets and an Air Chair. The insulated models, including my Comfort Light Insulated mat, all include two types of thermal insulation Thermolite & Exkin Platinum – these two techy sounding features definitely translated into a warm pad. External testing has also confirmed the pad has an  R-Value of 4.2 [insulation rating] which is excellent for a pad of this style. Size wise I went for a regular [184 x 55cm] which fits most of my 190cm frame, apart from my head which is usually supported by a  DIY stuff-sac-pillow filled with extra clothing. The rolled up dimensions of the mat are approximately 11cm in diameter by 23cm. What really makes this mat shine is the Air Sprung Cells – which are essentially a portable equivalent of your coil sprung mattress at home. So the specs sound good, but you’re probably wanting to know did all that translate into a good nights sleep?

[L] For a mat of this warmth and comfort, it really isn't very bulky, seen here with some gear in NZ. [R] What's included with the mat.

[L] For a mat of this warmth and comfort, it really isn’t very bulky, seen here with some gear in NZ. [R] What’s included in the box.

Using it the field

So I knew this mat was comfortable in mild Queenslander temperatures, and the Comfort Light I tested last year had already given me some peaceful nights sleep. But how warm and versatile would it be in colder alpine conditions? Sleeping in an open bivvy up in the New Zealand  Southern Alps provided some cooler temperatures, with overnight lows just below freezing. One particularly rainy night left my down sleeping bag rather soggy and allowed the cold to seep in from the above, but luckily the mattress held it’s own and I remained toasty warm on the bottom. If I were to sleep out directly on some seriously chilly snow/ice, I’d probably double the Comfort Light Insulated up with a foam mat for extra warmth – but that’s an experiment for another adventure. The tapered shape was perfect for sliding into a minimalist alpine bivvy bag, with enough width at the torso to feel like you’re not going to roll off in the night. The comfort Light mats have two layers of offset Air Sprung Cells in the torso area, which helps with supporting the heavier part of your body and adds extra insulation. This design also swallowed some uneven rocks/terrain I was sleeping on when we spent a couple nights bivouacked under a boulder at a rock climbing area near Lake Wanaka.

STS Comfort Light Mat NZ-9

Early morning on the Annette Plateau, not a bad place to wake up! Especially after having a comfortable, albeit slightly damp nights sleep – Aoraki/Mount Cook NP, NZ.

In a compact hiking tent [we were using the MSR Hubba Hubba NX] two mats fit perfectly, and sleeping head to toe gave us more room due to the tapered shape of the mats. We didn’t encounter any really cold nights in the tent, maybe a couple around 0 degrees, but again I felt nothing but warmth from below. Packing up the mat in the mornings was a breeze, just pop the valve, fold into three length-ways and roll from the bottom. No forceful wrestling to get all the air out required, and once rolled up it slipped straight into the included storage sack every time. Likewise setting up the mattress was quick and easy, just inflate with either your breath [or one of the nifty accessory air pump sacks available] and you’re done. The clever one-way valve really made things easy in this department, and the large opening allowed for swift inflation. There’s also an anti-microbial TPU laminate on the inside of the mat, so no need to worry about the potential for mould growth inside your wilderness bed!

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Accessories

Anyone can tell you that accessories can make an outfit, and the same goes for a good night’s sleep. Sea to Summit has produced a line of excellent accessories to complete your sleeping wardrobe: the Jet Stream Pump Sack for easy inflation (also doubles as a stuff sack), the Air Stream Dry Sack for rapid inflation (doubles as a dry bag or pack liner), the Air Chair for campsite comfort, the Coupler Kit for ‘coupling’ couples and last but not least a Repair Kit.

Final Word

You’ve probably already guessed, but it’s safe to say I love this mattress. Time will tell on a few factors, such as long-term durability and I’m yet to discover it’s ‘warmth limit’. But after sleeping comfortably in some varied conditions I couldn’t be happier. Sea to Summit’s  claims about comfort aren’t all just tech talk and marketing either, these things really are plush. But don’t just take my word for it, pop into a store and try one out for yourself.

Jules enjoying some dinner before turning in for the night. Annette Plateau, Aoraki/Mount Cook NP, NZ

Jules enjoying some dinner before turning in for the night. Annette Plateau, Aoraki/Mount Cook NP, NZ

 

REVIEW: SEA TO SUMMIT MATTRESSES
Overall a great piece of kit, It's not cheap but worth the higher price, and weight/size are spot on for a mat of this warmth/comfort. Happy camper here!
COMFORT99%
PORTABILITY90%
WEIGHT90%
DURABILITY85%
VALUE FOR MONEY85%
VERSATILITY90%
Pros
  • Comfortable! Very very much so.
  • Warm and well Insulated, I'm yet to feel cold coming through from the ground.
  • Super easy to use - quick set-up and pack-down.
Cons
  • Bulkier than some mats or similar warmth - but way more comfortable!
  • Succeptable to punctures maybe, but I've experienced none so far.
  • Only comes in green?
90%Overall Score
Reader Rating: (175 Votes)
5%

About The Author

Lachlan Gardiner

Lachlan works as a freelance photographer, writer and videographer. His practice lies somewhere between storytelling and being a total gear nerd. Often found hiking, mountaineering, climbing, cycling, packrafting, or just hunting down the next story - Lachlan will take basically any excuse to get into the outdoors. In between all of the above, he also works in our Paddy Pallin store in Fortitude Valley, Brisbane.

2 Responses

  1. Liz

    Thanks for the review.
    One question I have is did you find the mattress noisy? I have an
    exped synmat UL m and find it very noisy and slippery to sleep on. I use a sea to summit sleeping bag. I would be interested in your comments.

    Regards,
    Liz

    Reply
    • Lachlan Gardiner
      Lachlan Gardiner

      Hi Liz,
      I dont find the mattress noisy at all. Previously I was using a Thermarest NeoAir Xlite pad, which great performer – but super noisy!
      Cheers, Lachlan.

      Reply

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