By Victoria Hatch
A detailed review of the Sea to Summit Women’s Flame FmIII Sleeping System, incorporating the Flame FmIII Down Sleeping Bag, Ether Light XT Insulated Mat and Aeros™ pillow.
On past adventures I’ve had to choose between taking a sleeping set up which is warm or one which is lightweight. The Sea to Summit Flame FmIII sleeping system changes everything - I no longer need to make any compromises.
Flame FmIII Women's Sleeping Bag
The first thing I noticed about the Flame FmIII was how lightweight it was, weighing just 665g for its three season rating. The next thing of note was the almost translucent 10D Nylon shell outer material, through which you can see the 850+ Loft premium goose down.
The bag has been specifically engineered to fit a women’s shape, both with strategic placing of the down and in the shape of the bag itself. The sleeping bag is wider at the hips and shorter in length than a male equivalent. I am 168cm height which is just under the max user height limit of 170cm for the regular length. I find that I have enough room for the hood to be pulled tight and I personally appreciate the weight saved by not having an excess of material in the bag, but if you like a bit more room, a longer length may be worth considering.
The Flame FmIII has vertical baffles around the torso, according to Sea to Summit, this is to reduce the down moving around and to focus it in key heat-loss zones. When I first used the sleeping bag I found that the down was clumping, but after a quick low heat spin in a tumble dryer, it was no longer an issue.
The bag has a three season rating with a comfort rate temperature of -4°C/25°F, however I have found that I am a cold sleeper and so for me personally, I have to add two or three degrees on to most comfort temperatures, including this one, or alternatively make sure I sleep in a down jacket and wear thermals.
Considering the Flame FmIII has a weight of just 665g and according to Sea to Summit will fit into one of their XS (2-6L) compression sacks, it’s by far one of the best weight to warmth ratio bags I have come across. When looking to use this bag in winter conditions, I would bulk it up with a rated sleeping bag liner and a three-four season insulated sleeping mat.
Ether Light XT Insulated Mat WMN
With the Ether Light XT, there is no need to compromise weight, warmth and comfort. With an R-Value of 4.2 it’s at the top end of the spectrum for warmth (three season) whilst still only weighing 420g. It’s recommended use is for ultralight backpacking and bike touring. The length of the regular mat is 168 cm. Personally, I am the exact height of the mat and would rather have it shorter and save weight, but if you are used to a unisex mat and the extra space it’s worth looking into the longer length version.
As a side-sleeper, I rarely have a great night’s sleep on a sleeping mat as my side normally rests on the ground. However, the Ether light has air sprung cells which create large air baffles in the mat, giving it a height of 10 cm - it feels luxurious for a lightweight sleeping mat! The interconnected cells are designed to conform around your body as opposed to horizontal or vertical baffles many mats use.
It’s refreshing carrying a women’s specific sleeping mat, it’s shaped wider at the hips and narrower at the shoulders. The Ether Light XT also had additional Thermolite insulation compared to the unisex version.
The valve lies flat on the mat, having used a similar sea to summit mat for a few years I have found no issues with this and find it better then a valve which sticks out at the side. The multi-function valve has a one-way inflation system and a rapid air deflation port. An airstream pump sack is integrated into the stuff sack and attaches onto the valve. On average it took 6 cycles of the pump-sack inflation system to get the mat to full inflation.
The sleeping mat comes with a Pillow Lock system which works with the Sea to Summit Aeros pillow. These adhesive pads attach onto the mat and keeps the pillow in place. This is the difference between a good nights sleep and waking up every half an hour to reposition the pillow.
The Aeros Premium Pillow itself is beautifully soft, lightweight and comfortable. It’s easy to adjust the inflation to personal preference and has a curved edge so that the pillow cradles your neck. If you can spare the extra weight (79g) it’s well worth it!