POE Ether Elite 2/3 (top), POE Peak Oyl Elite (bottom).
This mini-review is part of Part 2 of our survey of airmats. We have two POE mats here: the Ether Elite 2/3 and Peak Oyl Elite. The Ether Elite 2/3 has now been superseded by the Peak Elite AC - which looks pretty much the same to us. It's a three-season air core mat with a thin layer of insulation bonded to the central region of the top surface. The Peak Oyl Elite is a four-season foam core mat with side tubes to limit rolling off. They claim it is 'the warmest Si pad on the planet', but the web site does not explain what an 'Si pad' is. More marketing spin.
Ether Elite 2/3
|Length||123 cm / 48.4 in|
|Width||47 cm / 18.5 in|
|Thickness||8.0 cm / 3.1 in|
|Weight||312 g / 11.0 oz|
|R-Value||2.0 - 4.5|
|Drag Force||28/10 N *|
|Larger Side Tubes||Yes|
|Material||33d Diamond Ripstop Nylon fabric|
The very high drag force on the underside fabric is due entirely to added silicone sealant. Without that the drag force would have been the same as for the top surface - low.
The graph here is taken from our Review of the mat. It shows how the R-value decreases in the expected fashion as the mat gets thinner. It also shows that the layer of insulation on the inside does actually contribute significantly to the warmth of the mat. In the field the warmth would be reduced a bit by air circulation caused by your wriggles and breathing during the night, but, even so, it is a nice increase over the basic air core mat. In addition, the 'Inv' bar (as in inverted) shows how it does matter that you put the insulation layer on top - well, by a little bit anyhow. That the insulation is mainly underneath your torso is part of the idea: it gives the greatest value there.
With a short mat there remains some risk of losing the mat in the night despite the increased grip from the silicone, so my wife and I used our two tape loops around two of these mats to keep them together. I have to say that worked quite well for a few nights of field testing.
This is definitely one of those mats which can go flying in the night! The fabric is really slippery: just 13 Newtons (N) drag force. It seemed to just skate along - or out from under me. However, a stripe of silicone sealant down the underside of each tube made a world of difference, as you can see from the very asymmetric values for the drag force. The value of 28 N is for the underside with the added silicone stripe. It grips very well on plain silnylon. Why couldn't POE have added this silicone surface themselves? I don't know.
Comments by Will Rietveld
For me, the Ether Elite is in the middle of the pack. I was quite impressed by it a year ago because it is fairly lightweight, adequately warm for three-season use, comfortable, and durable. Its most comfortable when partially inflated. Condensation inside is an ongoing problem, but is alleviated fairly easily by inflating the pad at home, warming it up, then deflating it, sometimes several times. Now there are lighter pads available that provide the same benefits with less weight, so the Ether Elite drops down on the rankings.
Comments by Roger Caffin
The table above describes the mat as a Mummy shape. Well, it has the top corner cut off in the mummy style, but because it is so short the bottom end is left square. This makes it just that bit easier to tie two of them together, although at only 1.23 m (48 in) long you don't get a lot of your legs on the mat, unless you use a separate pillow off the top end. It's a bit narrower than the 'standard' 50 cm (19.7 in) width, but the larger side tubes help a bit. Of course, having two of them side by side helps (us) a huge amount too.
The mats are pretty tough and not too heavy, but as we reported in the Review, blowing them up really does leave you with condensation inside the mat. The condensation collects on the bottom surface, which is cold, and each night the insulation under the top surface should dry out fairly quickly from your body heat, so there is no real risk of freezing there. But it does mean you have the problem of draining the water out and drying the insides, either on the trail (difficult) or at home (not much easier).
One thing you hear about with these thick air core mats is the big drop-off at the end. Some people have reported having problems with their legs hanging over the edge and being uncomfortable due to this. I don't think we (Sue and I) noticed this effect provided we had not blown the mats up hard. The pressure from our legs seemed to taper the bottom end of the mat down sufficiently. Anyhow, a hard mat is not a comfortable mat, so I do not see a big problem here.
I was not able to find a price for this mat because POE did not list one, and the distributors they referred me to didn't list it either. A self-defeating situation, which can deter a possible customer from bothering to pursue the matter. Will tells me that he found a figure of US$60 a year ago.
Comparing this mat with something like the Therm-a-Rest Prolite S (very similar weights) shows the sort of trade-offs you have to make. The Ether Elite (or the replacement model) is softer and slightly warmer, but you have to pay for that by blowing it up and worrying about getting rid of all the condensation afterwards.
Peak Oyl Elite
|Length||180 cm / 70.9 in|
|Width||50 cm / 19.7 in|
|Thickness||4.0 cm / 1.6 in|
|Weight||795 g / 28.0 oz|
|R-Value||4.0 - 6.0|
|Drag Force||18/18 N|
|Larger Side Tubes||Yes|
|Material||'50d DRS recycled P.E.T nylon fabric' *|
* DRS apparently means 'Diamond Rip Stop,' but we don't know what this really signifies. There is a strong suspicion that it is ordinary rectangular ripstop weave fabric rotated 45 degrees, as anything else would be impossible to weave. The 'diamond' pattern visible in the photograph has nothing to do with this, and is probably due to the foam core. Treat as pure marketing spin and ignore.
We have even less understanding of what 'P.E.T nylon' means, and suspect that the marketing person who dreamt this up didn't know either, or perhaps the word 'nylon' crept in out of sheer ignorance. For the record, PET (usually) means PolyEthylene Terephthalate, and is what they make rocket-based fizzy water bottles out of. It is often used to make recycled PET fleece fabric as well. The fabric used here seems to be made from recycled PET fibres. Nylon is an almost generic trade name for any of several forms of polyamide. The two are quite different.
Basically, it's a PET ripstop fabric with a lot of marketing spin.
The thermal insulation on this mat is fairly good, but it would need to be for the weight (795 g / 28.0 oz), which is pushing our upper limit for four-season mats. Whether it is enough for sleeping on the snow is another matter: it would probably be marginal, especially if it wasn't inflated hard. The web site claims it is suitable down to -18 C (0 F): let us just say we cannot recommend its use at those sorts of temperatures. Even the Big Agnes Insulated Aircore mat at 516 g (18.2 oz) has a comparable R-value, and is thicker and softer to boot.
The photo shows the word 'Aerogel' on the top of the mat. The POE web site says the following about this.
"Composed of over 90% air, aerogel is a highly effective insulator with the lowest thermal conductivity of any solid. Zero-Loft™ Aerogels has turned aerogel into an extremely strong, durable, and flexible material that is two to eight times more effective than traditional insulation. Zero-Loft™ Aerogels insulation is thin, compression-resistant, breathable and waterproof – the ideal choice for outdoor products."
- Highest thermal performance
- Minimum weight and thickness
- Loft not required to maintain R value
- Doesn’t compress or lose performance under load
- Waterproof yet allows vapor transmission
- Increased fashion and design elements
- Durable in normal wash/dry cycle
Other insulation materials require loft to achieve their insulation value. Pressure causes these materials to compress dramatically and lose their loft along with their insulating capacity. Zero-Loft™ Aerogels does not need loft to deliver its high insulation value and it barely compresses, even in a foot bed under adult weight. At 15 psi pressure, aerogel insulation retains over 85% of its original thickness and over 97% of its original thermal performance. No other insulation can match this performance. Zero-Loft™ Aerogels is high performance insulation used in place of lofted insulation.
We know aerogel is a very high-tech form of insulation, but it is usually very rigid. The idea that it could be made flexible is startling, so we quote here what Aspen Aerogel has to say about this.
Aspen Aerogels® has turned aerogel into an extremely strong, durable, and flexible material that provides up to five times better thermal performance than traditional insulation.
Strangely, it appears that no other mat manufacturer has leapt on this material, although the stuff is used in high altitude boots and clothing. We also note that the insulation rating for this mat is not really all that high: some of the lofted synthetics are up around there as well, albeit with a greater thickness. Mind you, the greater thickness does have some comfort advantages. Some of the other marketing claims listed above seem to be a bit of 'spin.'
Fortunately, the mat is not too slippery, and as it is full-length and has 'side berms' (to quote the web site), it is fairly stable.
Comments by Roger Caffin
For all of the benefits claimed for the aerogel fill, I have to say that I could still bump my hips on the ground unless I blew this mat up fairly hard. Not rock hard to the point of discomfort by any means, but I did have to blow into the mat to get there. Apart from that, the mat is reasonably comfortable, and the full length is nice for the feet. In fact, apart from the weight and the excessive marketing spin, it is a reasonable mat for cold but not snowy weather. It just isn't in the ultralight class.
I was not able to find a price for this mat either because POE did not list one, and the distributors they referred me to didn't list it either. The previous comments apply.
This is a mini-review in the 2011 Lightweight Airmats State of the Market Report. The articles in this series are as follows (mini-reviews can be found in Part 2), and a subscription to our site is needed to read them.
- Part 1 covers the basics, testing methods, and lists all the mats in the survey.
- Part 2 examines the actual mats and the performance of each mat tested.
Disclosure: The manufacturers provided these products to the author and/or Backpacking Light at no charge, and they are owned by the author/BPL. The author/Backpacking Light has no obligation to review these products under the terms of this agreement.