Gear stuff part 2

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!

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10 thoughts on “Gear stuff part 2”

  1. quick question, where did you get the rocky socks from? I cant seem to find them in this country for love nor money 😦

    The ether series of airmats have always interested me and now your write up of the elite has me wondering about trying it 🙂

    1. I got them some time ago, but I can’t remember where from.

      The Ether is fab and much cheaper than the NeoAir

  2. Robin, the NeoAir has had things it’s own way for quite a while. Now that the competition has caught up and overtaken it’s supremacy it will be interesting to see how Cascade Designs responds! We, the consumer, can only benefit.

    1. As Glynn comments, the Ether is not going to suit everyone, but for me it’s a clear winner over the NeoAir.

  3. I still prefer the Neoair meself. I purchased a POE and sent it back after one outing. Couldn’t stand the tapered shape, and I also prefer the Neoairs horizontal tubing. I wish my downmat was the same! Plus, I’ve never found the noise of the Neoair to be a problem. However, I agree that the competition is a good thing for both personal choice and price.

  4. Hi Robin,

    Can you make a warmth comparison between the neoair and the POE? I really liked the comfort of my neoair but got too cold sleeping on it, even in temperatures well above freezing.

    1. I don’t think there’s much difference. To increase the insulating ability of the NeoAir you could try putting a space blanket or a piece of thin tent underlay foam under it, or you could put it inside a silk sleeping bag liner. Failing that, you would have to go for something like an Exped Down Mat.

  5. I tried a POE mat but I just couldn’t get on with the mummy shape – it felt too small. I recently bought a NeoAir and so far I’m very happy with it – lighter then my Exped and ideal for milder conditions.

    I can highly recommend the Cumulus Quantum 350 bag. The Ultralight bags look heavy for the warmth – 765g for -3C? The Quantum 350 is genuinely warm down to freezing point and beyond and weighs 100g less than the Ultralight 350. I’ve tested mine to 0C and I was warm in a silk baselayer plus liner socks. I sleep as cold as a corpse BTW.

    1. POE Ether Elite: it’s all a matter of personal preference. I prefer the Ether over the NeoAir, but for others, like you, it’s not as good.

      The Ultralight has a lower quality of down (680 fill power vs. 870) but is quite a bit cheaper (£140 vs. £250). When I bought my Ultralight, the Quantum range wasn’t in production, otherwise I probably would have bought it. I might still buy it!

      Thanks for your comments.

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