P.O.E. Ether Elite 6. Just when you thought the NeoAir was the ultimate sleeping mat solution, up pops this baby. The main reason for buying one was Chris Townsend’s comments in TGOM and the fact that he’s using one on his next trek.
The Ether Elite was the star of the trip. It was very comfortable, even better than the NeoAir.The longitudinal air chambers are better than the horizontal ones in the NeoAir. Firstly, they help to keep you “centered” on the mat, helped by the outer tubes being slightly larger. Secondly, the deep valleys between the tubes meant that the sleeping bag has a small amount of loft under most of your body. There is also some wadding stuck to the inside of the upper surface of the tubes on the torso area to help insulation (shown above). I was a bit sceptical that it would make any difference, but it seemed to work and I never felt cold. Even my feet on the uninsulated part felt fine.
I didn’t count how many puffs it took to inflate, but it seemed quite easy to inflate. The valve is very positive and the mattress didn’t seem to lose air overnight, in contrast to the NeoAir which seems to deflate modestly. The surface is quite slippery but warm to the touch. Again, I prefer this to the NeoAir, where I find the grippy surface prevents me from turning in the night.
I really liked the mummy shape as well. It doesn’t dominate the tent in the way that a full rectangular mat does. I was concerned that my pillow (Exped inflatable) would slip off the mat. The simple solution was to use a bit of shock cord with a cord grip and tighten it around the pillow and mat (below). This worked perfectly. The mattress folds down neatly, taking up next to no room and weighs 390g. I’m really impressed by the Ether. It’s the best sleeping mat I’ve used. My only word of caution is that it may not be long enough for taller people. I’m 5’9″ and my feet were right at the end of the mat.
Evernew 640ml pot. There’s not much to say about this except that it worked. I liked the extended handles with silicone grips. Unlike my Snow Peak Solo pot, I didn’t need to use a cloth to pick up the pot. It was very useful to have volume markings. However, I did take a mug. I just prefer drinking tea from a proper mug. Joe is probably right, if you want just one pot, the pasta pot may be better as is has mug type handles.
Rocky Goretex socks. These were a real saviour on the second and third days. I really hate wet feet. Using these in conjunction with some Chocolate Fish merino and possum wool socks were an excellent way of keeping my feet more or less dry and warm. Yes there is some sweat when the shoe is soaked, but it was at a surprisingly low level. These have a more fitted shape than the Trekmates socks. A definite thumbs up.
Cumulus 350 Ultralight sleeping bag. Although the down quality is not as high as some others, this bag is the most comfortable I have. I think the rating of -3c is way too optimistic for me, more like +3c. I’m thinking of getting the Cumulus Quantum 350 as a slightly warmer bag as it has higher quality down.
Ibbo peg trowel. Just the best solution for a toilet trowel.
Bivvy boots. I took my fleece bivvy boots. Just great for lounging around the tent and keeping your feet warm. They also help to dry out damp socks.
Things I wished I’d taken. Waders/DryWalkers, it’s quite rare that stream crossings are a problem in the Lakes but they were on this trip. Fastpackers, you know the story. Paramo 3rd Element Jacket, enough said!