The Sea-to-Summit Ultralight Sleeping Pad is quick to inflate and deflate, folds flat and compactly, and is covered with dimpled air cells that adapt to a sleeper’s curves like the mattress of their bed at home. Weighing just 12.5 ounces in a size regular, the Sea-to-Summit Ultralight Sleeping Pad is also seriously lightweight. Not that you should skimp on sleeping comfort to reduce your gear weight, but every little bit helps.
Let’s take a closer look at this inflatable sleeping pad. I was quite surprised to discover how much of an improvement it is over a Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Xlite sleeping pad for warm-weather camping.
Air Sprung Cells
The first thing most people notice about the Sea-to-Summit Ultralight Sleeping Pad is its dimpled surface which has been designed to mimic the spring-like action of the mattress springs that you have in your bed at home. Called “air sprung cells”, the Ultralight Sleeping Pad has close to two hundred interconnected cells that conform to your body shape, regardless of whether you sleep on your back or on your side. This provides a more form-fitting sleeping experience than baffled inflatable pads which tend to have a much stiffer or harder feel.
The difference is immediately noticeable when you lie on the Sea-to-Summit Ultralight Sleeping Pad, which cradles your hips and shoulders. While the pad is thick enough, at 2.0 inches, to prevent you from feeling most irregularities on the ground, you’ll hit rock bottom if you put all your weight in one spot in the pad, like when you kneel on your knees or prop yourself up on an elbow. That part is not so comfortable.
The Sea-to-Summit Ultralight Sleeping Pad has a flat two-way valve for inflation and rapid deflation. Flat valves like this, that are flush with the surface of the pad, tend to be far more durable than valves that stick out from a pad and are welded on along a side seam.
The valve has two positions:
- When the outer cap is open you can blow air into the pad without it coming out. You can also press a small bladder in the middle of the valve to vent air and adjust pad firmness.
- When the inner cap is opened, the pad deflates almost instantaneously, without the need to roll it up multiple times to force the air out.
Those are both very desirable properties for an inflatable sleeping pad.
The Sea-to-Summit Ultralight sleeping pad rolls up really thin and tight when deflated, but then again it has no insulation inside, so you’d kind of expect that. Still, the pad is highly packable, which is a nice perk for a pad that adds so much comfort to your sleeping experience. When rolling up the pad, it’s best to fold it into thirds, long ways, before rolling the pad up. It’s plenty tough, so there’s no need to store it in a stuff sack in your backpack.
Sea-to-Summit sells the add-on Jet Stream Pump Sack, weighing 1.6 ounces, for inflating the Ultralight sleeping pad, which serves double duty as a small roll top stuff stack for your pad. But it’s so maddeningly slow to use, requiring 30-40 pumps to inflate the pad, that you’ll probably opt to inflate it by mouth in the end. You can get away with this because the inside of the sleeping pad is coated with an anti-microbial agent that prevents mold and bacteria growth that can develop over time when you blow most air into an inflatable sleeping pad.
Another option, which I discovered purely by chance, is to use an Exped Schnozzel Pumpbag, weighing 2.5 ounces, to inflate the Ultralight Sleeping pad because its valve adapter is perfectly compatible with the flat Sea-to-Summit inflation vale. The Schnozzel is a very lightweight 45 liter roll top pump sack that can double as a pack liner. It only takes one point five (1.5) bagfuls of air to completely inflate the Sea-to-Summit Ultralight sleeping pad with the Schnozzel, which can do also waterproof your gear and clothing.
Comparable Lightweight Sleeping Pads
|Sleeping Pad||Type||Size||Weight||ASTM 3340 R-Value||Price|
|Therm-a-Rest NeoAir UberLite||Air Pad||20" x 72" x 2.5||8.8 oz||R=2.3||$195|
|Nemo Tensor Insulated Short Mummy||Air Pad||20" x 48" x 3"||9 oz||R=3.5||$130|
|Big Agnes Insulated AXL Air||Air Pad||20" x 72" x 3.75"||11.6 oz||R=3||$180|
|Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Xlite||Air Pad||20" x 72" x 2.5"||12 oz||R=4.2||$185|
|Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Xlite Women's||Air Pad||20" x 72" x 2.5"||12 oz||R=5.4||$175|
|Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm||Air Pad||20" x 72" x 2.5"||15 oz||R=6.9||$215|
|Big Agnes Q-Core SLX||Air Pad||20" x 72" x 4.25"||16 oz||R=3.2||$150|
|NEMO Astro Lite Insulated||Air Pad||20" x 72" x 3.5"||18 oz||R=2.6||$130|
|NEMO Tensor Air Pad||Air Pad||20" x 72" x 3.0"||13 oz||R-1.6||$140|
|Sea-to-Summit Ether Light XT Insulated||Air Pad||21.5" x 72" x 4"||17.3 oz||R=3.2||$190|
|Sea-to-Summit Ether Light XT Insulated Women's||Air Pad||21.5" x 72" x 4"||17.5 oz||R=3.5||$190|
The Sea-to-Summit Ultralight Sleeping Pad is a real advance in inflatable sleeping pad comfort, providing fast deflation speed, compact storage size, and side sleeping comfort. My only concern with the Ultralight pad reviewed here is its R-value, which is quite low, at just 0.7. If you plan to use this pad in cooler spring or autumn temperatures, I’d recommend you get the Sea-to-Summit Ultralight Insulated Sleeping Pad, which has an R-value of 3.3 (See Sleeping Pad R-Values), and will have greater utility outside of hot summer weather. While it’s significantly heavier (15.5 ounces) than the Ultralight Sleeping Pad reviewed here, it uses the same flat valve and air sprung cell technology, providing durable comfort for backpackers and campers, alike.
- Packs small and very flat
- Very rapid deflation
- Air sprung cells provide excellent comfort for side and back sleepers
- Flat air valve is more durable than valves that stick out and are welded to a side seam
- Good value for the price.
- Very low R-value of 0.7.
- The Jet Stream Pump Sack ($29.95) is overpriced and takes to long to inflate this pad
- Sleeping Pad type: Inflatable
- Shape: Mummy
- Gender: Unisex
- R-Value: 0.7
- Small: 66 x 21.5 x 2 inches
- Regular: 72 x 21.5 x 2 inches
- Large: 78 x 25 x 2 inches
- Small: 11.5 ounces
- Regular: 12.5 ounces
- Large: 16 ounces
Disclosure: Philip Werner (SectionHiker.com) received a sample Ultralight Sleeping Pad and Jet Stream Pump Sack from Sea-to-Summit for this review.Editor's note: Help support this site by making your next gear purchase through one of the links above. Click a link, buy what you need, and the seller will contribute a portion of the purchase price to support SectionHiker's unsponsored gear reviews, articles, and hiking guides.
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