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Review of the Sea to Summit Ultralight Insulated Sleeping Mat.
Apologies, but friends, it is super hard to take photos of an orange sleeping pad. It is what it is.
The Sea to Summit Ultralight Insulated sleeping pad (size Small) was a godsend on the CDT. I'm going to write this review in dot points, because I love this sleeping pad so much it risks becoming a rambling mess if I don't.
First up, it is designed by a company local to my hometown Perth, Western Australia (huzzah!) Which is pretty cool in my book.
Second. Let's talk about fabric. This stuff is great because it's durable. We only got one teensy hole between the four of us using these. Guys we hiked through the New Mexico bootheel, where they have the saying "If it isn't covered in thorns, it's probably a rock" to describe the local flora. It's a big deal we only got one puncture.
On the puncture front, anyone who has ever had an inflatable sleeping pad of any sort will run screaming at the mention of checking for and repairing punctures in sleeping pads. I know this because I worked in an outdoor store for 6 and a half years, and in that time 100% of people bringing their sleeping pads in would rather pay me $50 to find and repair the hole in their mat than look for it themselves. Most sleeping pads are repaired with a glue or glue and patch combination. Not these ones. They have a simple, easy peasy, 3M patch that just sticks right on there. Bourbons mat got a hole in it that night before Silver City (around mile 100) we got into town, cleaned the mat, found the hole, stuck a patch on, tested it over night.... And then never had to worry again about the patch. It covered another 2300miles and still looks fine, and the mat stays inflated so I can only assume it's doing its job.
The fabric is a little noisy at first, but our mats got quieter after about ~10nights of use, although that could also be because we got so tired nothing could wake us any longer anyway.
Hilariously, when we first bought our tent (a Tarptent Saddle 2 fyi, review coming soon) we forgot to factor in the silnylon floor. The first night we used the tent last year we pitched up at a campsite beside a beautiful lake overlooking Mt Rainier in Mt Rainier National Park. The campsite had beautiful views, great swimming, even axolotls! But the spot was on a bit of a slope. We had booked the site though, and all the others were full, so we figured it couldn't be that bad. At 5am the next morning we woke to find ourselves sleeping at the bottom of the tent, both huddled on one single mat whilst the other sat pushed right up the wall of the tent like some sort of inflatable wall shade. Needless to say, before our CDT hike we worked out that putting our sit pads under our mats helped stop them from sliding across the floor of our tent. We also tried dots of silicone glue, but it peeled off and didn't really stop the slip factor. Eh, you live and you learn. Now at the end of the trail we have become pretty ninja at finding good likely campsites on topographic maps, so we avoided too much slippage by getting better campsites too.
We used the size "small", which is just shorter than both my partner and I. It comes in at 5'6" or 168cm, and weighs 15.1 Oz or 430gms. I'm 5'9", and Bourbon is 6'1". Neither of us ever felt they were too short. We both slept with our packs under our feet for that last little bit of warmth, and our pillows were on top of our spare clothes off the head of the sleeping mat. Honestly I wonder if we could have used the XS and been more ultralight sometimes, but I slept pretty well for 5 months on this one, so I doubt I will bother switching.
In summary, because despite my best efforts, this has still become a massive ramble...
10/10 would definitely recommend.
One of our other favourite pieces of gear was our Enlightened Equipment Accomplice quilt. It's a double quilt, that is completely customisable. We got the tall, and had ours rated to 10degrees Fahrenheit/ -10degrees Celcius and we have zero regrets. It was warm enough, still under 1kg (2lbs) and it has only once got soggy because us, all our gear and the entirety of the mountain we were on were all soaking wet (it is filled with dry down, which definitely helped I think). It doesn't even smell bad (I have no idea how that is, but seriously, two stinky thru hikers in it every night and no odour). I ended up getting a thermal bag liner, because Bourbon sleeps much warmer than I do. That was a perfect compromise for us. I could be a little warmer, but we could both sleep any which way inside the quilt still.
I like sleeping with one leg bent, which you can actually do comfortably in a quilt, and Bourbon is a side sleeper and says he got way less twisted up in the quilt than he does in a typical sleeping bag. When we hike together, I doubt we will ever take anything other than this quilt now. Even when it got ice crystals on it, or lots of dew, 5 mins in the sun and poof, the down would fluff back up and the skin of the bag would dry out.
The downsides are few but worth noting: in a quilt, if you don't sleep in thermals there is a high chance you will be sleeping straight on your sleeping mat. Which makes for a sweaty night's sleep if your mat is plastic. We actually have sleeping mat "sheets" at home that we usually use, but we left them behind on this trip for the sake of the extra 2oz. In warmer temps I will definitely sacrifice the extra weight for that little bit of comfort. Occasionally I would also wake up with the drawstring from the neck of my side of the bag wrapped around MY neck. Not a great feeling. Once I get home I will stitch that loose end down with my sewing machine so it can't happen any more.
If you have ever tried sleeping with a partner with your sleeping bags zipped together you'll know just how frustrating that can be. I happily report this is almost as comfy as the duvet on our queen size bed at home, and give it a solid 10/10 would recommend. #enlightenedequipment #eeaccomplice
I forgot to mention in our last post, the RV park in Ennis was excellent. If you're ever in the area it is awesome value, has super spacious clean showers, and is right in the centre of town.
We rejoined the trail in Butte, which was awesome. Even though it was still kind of sucky weather and there wasn't a huge amount of water around (15mile carries between sources, and a lot of sources not marked on guthooks) it was good to be back on trail. The trail north from MT hwy 90 was in great condition and the miles went by super fast. We easily did 22miles after lunch one day! I know a lot of people miss this section because they take the Anaconda cutoff, but we really enjoyed it.
Best in show on the CDT goes to this diminutive Icebreaker Chase Headband. I carried this instead of a beanie for the entire trail. I added a beanie in Northern New Mexico and the South San Juan, but then went straight back to using just this as soon as I started pushing the beanie off during the night.
Honestly, it was the most heavily used item I carried in my pack. It could pull down over my eyes to keep the sun out, kept my head warm, weighed almost nothing, took up almost no space and was cool enough I could wear it whilst I was hiking. That was really its biggest benefit. It helped keep the cold air out of my ears and off my forehead, but didn't make me over heat like a standard beanie. I will never hike again without one of these in my pack.
So, the last few weeks of the trail got on top of me. We hit longer and longer days, and I just didn't have the energy left to write. But I'm going to catch you up now, partly because I got some great photos in the last few weeks that I really want to share!
Honestly, the Wind River Range was spectacular. I enjoyed it far more than much of Colorado. The trail was generally in better condition, and the mountains were just totally beautiful. 10/10 would recommend. We hiked out to Pinedale for a resupply partway through, which was definitely a good reset in the middle (I had too much food and my partner had too little, which always happens with us. As soon as we get into the mountains my appetite goes way up and his goes way down!)
Well, as I'm sure you guessed, we made it to Canada. I still can't believe we did it. We walked 2300miles from Mexico to Canada. It was our first thru hike. We both wore out 5 pairs of shoes, Bourbon lost 22kgs and I lost 23kgs (45lbs or so I think?). We walked in snow, rain, hail, lightning, scorching heat and crazy high winds. I walked with blisters, we both walked with tendon issues, and we still made it. We took a lot of zeros (I have no regrets, thru hiking is hard!). We met lots of amazing hikers and spent time doing a thing we love. I don't know if we will be back for another long trail in the US, but we will see. Maybe Europe next, or South America, or even Australia. Who knows. In the meantime, here's to all the people we met along the way, and all the people who have hiked long trails. You guys are legends. Thank you!
Ptarmigan tunnel as the clouds rolled in. It snowed on us (round snow, it think it's called graupel?) And we hid in the tunnel for an hour hoping it would pass. We got a clear gap and made a dash for it, only to find ourselves hiking down in cloud even thicker than this, with lightning all around and snow falling again. As we got lower from the pass the graupel turned into rain and we trudged on in the wet.
We camped super early because we were worried about getting a hitch from the border after it closed, and managed to stay at a campsite that allowed fires and even had rangers at it who offered us dry kindling! It was the first time I felt warm the whole time we were in Glacier I think. And it felt fitting for the trail to make us suffer one more time before the end...