If you haven’t heard of Sea to Summit before, don’t worry–you’re not alone. Sea to Summit isn’t deeply ingrained in the world of mountain biking. Rather, this niche Australian company, which has its North American Headquarters in Boulder, CO, is renowned for their ultralight backpacking and camping gear. In fact, they’re so zealous about producing top-of-the-line ultralight gear that many of their products are the absolute lightest and strongest in-category and have received rewards for their design and quality.
The product reviewed here, Sea to Summit’s UltraLight sleeping mat, is one such product, having received a “Gear of the Year” award in 2014 from National Geographic.
The UltraLight Mat lives up to its name, at a feathery-light 13.9oz / 395g. Despite this ultralight weight, this is a full-size sleeping pad (not a half-pad as some ultralighters use), measuring 72in long, 21.5in wide, and rising 2in off the ground when fully-inflated. A 72-inch (6-foot) length is plenty long for my 5′ 7″ frame. Also note you can get the UltraLight in a variety of other sizes, from small to extra-large. Packed size is 3×6.5in.
I got on the phone with Sea to Summit to get some more background on their ultralight products. Specifically with the Mat, I was curious to know whether or not I could use it directly on the ground. The answer, in short, was “it depends.” Sea to Summit uses 40 denier nylon fabric in the UltraLight Mat, which offers reasonable durability while maintaining that UltraLight weight. Some other companies sell pads that are even lighter, with 30 and even 20 denier fabrics, but Sea to Summit refuses to use anything lighter than 40D, as durability is significantly compromised.
I inflated the UltraLight Mat using the Air Stream Dry Sack Pump. This stuff sack inflater is, by itself, an incredible little product! This 20-liter stuff sack can be used to store gear out on the trail but when you empty it out, it can be used to inflate the sleeping mat. One breath fills the 20-liter sack. Close the flap end, connect the valve to the valve on the mat, push the air out of the bag and into the pad, repeat once or twice more, and the mat is inflated. It’s really that simple and that quick! The Air Stream itself weighs just 1.7oz /48g and retails for $24.95 MSRP.
While this ease of inflation may seem like a small thing, inflating an air-based pad can be one of the most frustrating experiences when pitching camp, prompting many backpackers and bikepackers to instead opt for a solid pad. However, a solid pad will never be as light or as compact as an inflatable pad like the UltraLight. Coupling the extreme light weight and packability with an inflation process that takes less than 30 seconds is pretty incredible!
While the UltraLight Mat could safely be used directly on the ground in soft conditions, finding a soft place to pitch your shelter seems to be a fantasy here in Colorado: rocks and sharp objects are everywhere. So, I chose to either use the mat inside of a tent-like shelter, or to use a ground sheet beneath it when using a tarp shelter. I used the ground sheet from the Specialist Solo Shelter, which weighs just 3.3oz and retails for $40 MSRP.
Sleeping and Hanging Out
Despite looking tiny when it is in the bag, after pulling the pad out, inflating it, and lying down, the UltraLight is extremely comfortable in real life. With the pad firmly inflated I didn’t hit the ground at all, even when rolling onto my side–impressive. If I was a bit lax with inflation I could sometimes hit the ground when turned on my side, but even without a firm fill of air the Mat was quite comfy.
Inflated fully, I found the pad to hold air very well, staying well-inflated all the way through the night.
The TPU laminate coating on the pad proved to be a little slippery, and at times I found myself sliding off the pad, especially if camped on a little bit of a slope. This could be due more to my selection of campsite than the pad itself, however.
While the length of this pad fit me well, it can feel a bit narrow at times with my wide shoulders. However, this isn’t a posh car camping pad–it’s a minimalist pad made for going light and fast. Some sacrifices must be made in order to achieve the key metrics and in my experience, width is that sacrifice.
While I was leery of using the mat without a groundsheet under it, I did use it for relaxing and reading in a grassy meadow on a backpacking trip, and despite some small rocks and gritty sand, I’ve had no durability issues with this mat yet. It also comes with a patch kit and six patches included in the stuff sack, for easy repair out on the trail if needed.
I found Sea to Summit’s award-winning UltraLight Mat to be easy to inflate, extremely comfortable, and truly UltraLight. If you’re currently hauling a bulky or heavy mat in your bikepacking kit (and what mat isn’t compared to the UltraLight?), the UltraLight could be a massive upgrade, taking your kit to the next level.
Thanks to Sea to Summit for providing the UltraLight Mat, Ground Sheet, and Air Stream Dry Sack Pump for review.
Last updated by Greg Heil on May 19, 2017 at 1:58pm MDT.