Sleeping pads can be a fickle part of your bikepacking sleep system. Finding a pad with the perfect weight-to-durability ratio that fits your sleeping bag is not always easy to find, especially if you go with two different manufactures for each item.
For the past few seasons, I have been pretty happy with my sleeping pad choice. I have exclusively used only two sleeping pads, one for colder weather bikepacking, and more recently the Sea To Summit UltraLight Mat for summer, fall, and this spring. With an R value of 0.7, this is indeed a fair-weather sleeping pad.
The UltraLight Mat is Sea to Summit’s lightest sleeping pad for when counting grams is your thing, which happens to be my thing, so I was pretty excited to put it to the test. When I first received the pad, I was certainly skeptical to it’s durability, but knew the overall weight may come at this cost. The pad comes in at a mere 395g. Sea to Summit has a handful of unique accessories that pair nicely with their sleeping pads, and I tested the product with the Jet Stream Pump Sac.
Your not-so-traditional inflation method
The pad comes with a dual valve plug that has two options, a deflate and inflate plug. By unplugging the first plug, you can inflate without losing any air, which is super convenient and saves energy overall. Inside this plug is also a small adjustability ball that allows you to release pressure at slow speeds, I never really used this feature.
Because of Sea to Summit’s thoughtful accessories, there is no real reason to actually put your lips on the sleeping pad, which is nice especially if you happen to use these pads for an outdoor program or among friends. It’s also nice to keep that area clean in general.
The Jet Stream plugs directly into the inflate plug port, and like an accordion you press down on the Jet Stream Sac, which slowly pushes air into the pad. It takes roughly 80 pumps for a nice firm pad. The accordion like pump sac also acts as a stuff sac, and weighs next to nothing (48g), not to mention it makes a great fire stoker.
The mostly ripstop nylon pad pumps to roughly 2 inches thick. The bag is designed around the trademarked Air Sprung Cells or what I refer to as waffle-like baffles. These welded ports divide the air chambers rather than baffle rows which are seen on many other sleeping pads. This design is said to “conform to the contours and movement of your body without affecting adjacent cells.”
After you pump the pad up, the Air Sprung Design causes it to take on a shape of its own and it doesn’t always lay flat naturally. This is not an issue however, because once you intentionally lay the pad flat it stays. I found moving it around was easier if I grabbed both ends as it did not have a rigid feel like most pads with baffles do.
The most noticeable feature was the cells. With other bags that have vertical or horizontal baffles, I tend to slip off the pad in my sleep. With the shape and design of the Air Sprung design, I found myself stationary on the bag throughout the night, which helped me have uninterrupted nights.
I used the pad with both a regular sleeping bag and a down quilt. With the down quilt, I slept directly on the pad, which I thought would be irritating, but the nylon is so soft, it was never an issue, maybe just a little loud. The regular pad come in at 72” in height and 21.5” wide with a taper towards the toes. For me being at 5’10”, I had no issues with the height, but the pad does come in 4 sizes to fit your needs. I also had ample room from side to side. The width seems on par with many other pads if not slightly wider near the top. I found the pad to work perfectly next to my partner, not to wide, and not to narrow.
The most crucial part of a pad is the ability to hold air. In the past, I have had battles with leaking pads, searching and patching for holes, especially after using them directly on the ground. So this time I made sure to take care of it and not sit on it, or even really lay it directly on dirt or grass. I always used it on a footprint or inside a tent. I have had zero leaks, and in the 40+ nights on this pad, it shows no real sign of significant wear.
What gets the most use is the Dual Plug. The only thing that shows wear is the discoloration from use. If you do have issues with holes, the included small stuff sack comes with a patch kit.
This pad has seen many high alpine nights and some lower desert trips. It has been thrown around but taken care of, and because of this, the pad has lasted me nearly a year with zero issues. Many of my nights include sitting on the pad drinking whisky and playing cards, and it has also worked well for that purpose. I’m confident to say, after putting this through rugged use, that the UltraLight Mat is one of the more durable and comfortable lightweight pads we have tested, but with little to no insulation. This is not for your sub freezing nights out, especially with a quilt system.