Oh dear…..other bits of kit I want

Having looked at my gear cupboard (ahem….room!), I have now come to the conclusion that I want a few more items than I previously thought….

I currently have an Exped down mat which is incredibly warm for winter camping but is a bit overkill for summer and certainly one of the heaviest bits of kit I own. Come to think of it, the mat weighs more than the Laser Competition! Bearing this in mind, I have been toying for ages about whether to get the Neo Air mat even though reviews have been mixed (re. robustness)



Still, I have been looking around and there does seem to be an alternative that lies somewhere in between the exped and the neoair for weight/warmth. The Pacific Outdoor Equipment Ether Thermo 6. It weighs in at 623g which admitedly is way heavier than the Neoair but 300-400 grams lighter than the exped 7. Best of all is rather cheap coming in at around Β£40. I just wonder if anyone else has used one of these and can report back to me. Β I will still probably have a punt on it but am curious as to how it performs and for that matter how the Neoair performs as well by comparison.

ether thermo 6

ether thermo 6

Secondly, I currently have a pair of Integral Designs shortie gaiters which i have used and abused for over 2 years now and are quite brilliant for a simple bit of kit. What I am looking ahead to is the winter and being able to yomp up and down snow-covered hills in my approach shoes (+kahtoola lightweight crampons) but with a full length lightweight gaiter. Cant remember who posted about them in their blog but the Mountain Laurel Designs Event gaiter looks just the job. I have bought piles of kit from MLD in the past and what they supply is always first rate. I know its early in the year to be thinking of such things but there is a possibility of a trip to the Cairngorms in October and last year at that time, there was snow………

Lightsnow gaiters from MLD

Lightsnow gaiters from MLD

Ron Bell really does make some fabulous kit and the above gaiters are approx 50grammes a pair! Speaking of which I am trying desperately not to look at the Serenity Shelter made by Ron. It would fit very nicely under my tarp but I fear that once the wallet is opened on the MLD website it may be a slippery slide to ruin! Β Its a really nice website by the way πŸ™‚


About Saddlebags and Backpacks - a brewer's outdoor adventures

I am a keen hiker, camper, cyclist and general all round gear addict..... I also manage to be a professional brewer in my non-spare time :->
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28 Responses to Oh dear…..other bits of kit I want

  1. Dave Hanlon says:

    Dave, Dave here. Mac E over at Stayin Alive has used the Ether Thermo 6. Check out his review:


    In my mind it has to be a NeoAir. I may have been lucky and got one without flaws but so far I have no complaints. Used half inflated it’s the best night’s sleep you can get (better even than my bed since, when I use it, there are no screaming kids around πŸ™‚ )

    As for MLD gear. I tell myself it makes sense to buy in bulk. Paying only once for shipping costs has got to make sound financial sense right!

  2. backpackbrewer says:

    Hi Dave,

    thanks for the spot link. I’ll have a look tonight. I have also been looking around at other sites and the mob over on BPL really rate the thermo 6.

    I think if I were to go for the Neo Air it would have to be the short or standard size to maximise the weight saving and minimise the cost


    Oh and by the way, I managed to get a pair of Montrail Streaks today in my size for Β£32.50!!! Result!!!

  3. Richard says:

    I bought an Ether Thermo 6 earlier this year. It’s fine if you like Air Mats.

    I’ve found that I don’t like them, firstly they’re awkward to inflate in a solo tent, by the time you’ve laid them out flat (if they’re not flat they kink which makes them difficult to inflate) you need to lie with your head stuck at the end of the inner tent trying to inflate them. The other thing is that there’s a ‘sleeping on a log’ feel, I felt I was always about to roll off and they offer little or no support if you’re leaning on your elbow to cook or whatever.

    I’ve switched back to a closed cell mat which is comfortable enough if you’re lying on grass, is much lighter than any Air-Mat/Self Inflate and a fraction of the cost. For more comfort I’d use a self inflate although I find (haven’t tried Thermarest) that ulta-light self inflating mats don’t really self inflate as most of the foam has been cut away to reduce weight so they need a manual top-up before use.

    When all’s said and done the only disadvantage with a closed cell mat is comfort and in quite a few circumstances even that is debatable.

    IMO of course πŸ™‚

  4. backpackbrewer says:

    Hi Richard,

    I do like airmats but mainly not for the obvious reason. I like them because they fold up small whereas closed cell foam is a bit more volumous….

    Having said that in terms of sleep quality I havent noticed a massive difference although so far the exped is the most comfy for me

  5. Richard says:

    That’s very true, I had to resort to tying mine on the outside but it isn’t noticable as it’s so light, certainly doesn’t affect the balance. The Z-Rest might be a good compromise if it wasn’t so heavy.

    I can see the attraction of the Neoair, I imagine the way the baffles run would make it less ‘log-like’ but unfortunately now that I’m using the CCF mat I’d be spending a lot to increase the weight and that’s always a difficult one. I know that only too well as I’d gone from a DSLR to a compact and now back to a DSLR again albeit a lighter one than I had been using.

    Nobody ever said it was easy πŸ™‚

  6. Richard says:

    By the way, about the MLD gaiters, Marcus (The Dude Abides) mentioned them.


  7. backpackbrewer says:

    thanks again Richard.

    I’ll have a shufties at the review for the gaiters in a minute.


    PS I am sooooooo chuffed I got those Streaks for a bargain price….!

  8. Martin Rye says:

    I have the gaiters and they are OK. Have not used them much as I don’t carry them much. I have two pairs as Ron sent two orders for the price of one by mistake and said to keep them when I told him. Drop me a email and I will send you the spare pair. I don’t need them.

  9. backpackbrewer says:


    that is extremely kind of you. I will drop you an email. That will save me the bother of “having to” buy other kit from him at the moment just to make the postage worthwhile!

    You are a star

    cheers, dave

  10. Dave Hanlon says:

    Richard: The “Log likeness”of inflatables has, in my opinion, to do with over inflation. With both the Neo Air and the Downmat 7, I find they lie best when they are only about half inflated. Not good if you want to rest on your elbow to cook because you will certainly be leaning on the ground, but much better that a drum tight mat when you’re lying down.

    I agree with Dave (the other Dave), the pack volume of foam mats is a negative you missed. Indeed you won’t notice the weight whether the thing is inside or outside of your pack but it will catch wind when outside of your pack and there are times, when things get a bit scrambly, when you don’t want stuff strapped to the outside of your pack (at least if you are me). I’ll choose an inflatable over any other mat right now.

  11. backpackbrewer says:

    this is true Dave,

    and the other thing is I feel such a plonker with a roll mat outside of my rucksack for some reason. Almost like I have failed a basic rucksack proficiency code or something!!!

    I must admit I am leaning towards the Thermo 6 mat because it is relatively cheap, medium weight and still compact enough to shove in the rucksack

  12. Richard says:

    Fair enough Dave H, I hadn’t considered the scrambling aspect. I’ll have to try the airmat with less air and see how it feels.

    Dave I almost like the idea that someone would point the finger at me for carrying a mat strapped to the outside of my pack πŸ™‚

  13. backpackbrewer says:


    I just feel so conscious if I do it. I guess it all goes back to the mental scarring of when I did the DofE scheme and carried everything strapped to my rucksack like a hobo


  14. Richard says:

    It’s funny though, how we feel about stuff like that, I try to avoid using the front stash pouches on my packs for stuff, I feel like I failed my packing procedure if I have to use them. No logical reason for it but there you go πŸ™‚

  15. backpackbrewer says:

    whereas I am the other way around and thats why I like OMM packs…..pockets everywhere!

    I do feel especially naked if I dont have hipbelt pockets!

  16. Richard says:

    You do realise that if this was an internet forum we’d have to ‘discuss’ until someone admitted that they were wrong. πŸ˜‰

    I didn’t think I’d like hipbelt pockets, my 1st pack with them was the Gregory Z55 and now that I’ve used them I’d be reluctant to lose them. I’d be prepared to swap one for an extra horizontal webbing strap/buckle on the hip belt that I could thread my camera pouch to.

  17. backpackbrewer says:

    Now you see I like the type of pouches that Ron Bell sells over at MLD, you know the ones that clip onto the front parts of the shoulder straps !

    Talking of cameras, I hate not having the camera ready to hand and so this is the first thing that gets stashed in the hip belt

    Anyway, I would never argue the rights and wrongs of personal preferences as the moment you do, some bit of your kit that is debatable will fail catastrophically in front of someone else !!!

  18. Richard says:

    I like my camera to hand too but it’s a very small DSLR and the hipbelt pockets still aren’t big enough.

    Totally agree about personal preferences, apart from anything else it would be mind numbingly boring if we all agreed on everything. I like to hear peoples views on kit as long as it amounts to more than ‘I’ve got a Blah, Blah and it’s great’

  19. backpackbrewer says:

    Blimey….how long have you got? I could do a dissertation on kit that I bought thinking was the mutts nutts only to find was worse than Lesley Ash’s botox injections….

    Its taken me around 5 years trial and error to get the kit I like and even now I am adding a few bits here and there. I must have single handedly kept Ebay afloat over the past couple of years, the amount of tried and “not for me” kit I’ve flogged on there!

  20. GeoffC says:

    On NeoAir robustness, I’ve added a post basically saying that the replacement I received from Bob at BackpackingLight was just fine – in fact it didn’t deflate at all. I’m convinced that it’s just a quality control problem with the first wave of samples and you just have to persevere until you get a good one.

    We only take our Downmats in winter when they are certainly needed for insulation – too heavy and overkill for any other time.

    Actually, while I’m here, it’s interesting that so many people talk about mattresses in terms of ‘warmth’. In the cold months that is obviously the main factor, but at other times it would never occur to me: I take a mattress for something soft to lie on!.

  21. backpackbrewer says:

    Hi Geoff

    this is true. I use the downmat as a must in winter but for 3 season camping I am guessing that an R value of 2.5 is fine for most circumstances and conditions

    I have managed to spot a short Neoair for Β£60 vs Β£40 for a Thermo 6

    Hmmmmm….. Decisions decisions

  22. Tomas says:

    Try new POE Ether Elite 400g/ 182cm/ 4.0R

  23. backpackbrewer says:

    Thanks Tomas, I’ll have a look at that….

  24. Hendrik M says:

    Dave, would you mind sharing where you spotted the NeoAir for Β£60? That’s quite a bargain and I might be tempted.

  25. backpackbrewer says:

    Hi Hendrik,

    its the short version to be fair but got it from the outdoorshop.

    cheers, dave

  26. Hendrik M says:

    Thank you Dave, contacted them and shipping costs a whopping Β£34! That would make the Small NeoAir cost me Β£94 – I guess I’ll go with http://www.ultralightoutdoorgear.co.uk as usual, cheaper shipping to Finland.

  27. backpackbrewer says:

    well at least you have got it sorted. I am still waiting for mine!


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