I've also sat in the Tethrd eberhart and the latitude method. Both would give the flex a run for the money on comfort, but they each have some trade offs.
Hard seated saddles are very comfortable to me. Because I slide them down pretty far on my butt when I get into the tree. It really takes all the pressure off the back of my thighs and creates an air ride seat experience. Plus it gives my privates plenty of room. I’m not scrunched up. And, it keeps my lower back from slumping.
My fear with a cushy seat it hip pinch. And, contortion of my lower spine. Creating pain after 4-5 hours. I don’t know that, as I’ve said I’ve never tried one. And, this is why.
By design, I have a big waist. Even when my body fat is in the low teens or single digits, my belt line measures 38 inches. So my fear is, any saddle design that doesn’t offer a ridged seat is likely going to create more hip pinch for me.
I contend I’m not the more normal proportion most are. So, this might not apply to you. I’m short and wide. And, if your waist is smaller, this might not apply to you. As they cuddling action may not affect you if the lineman’s loop wrap far enough around your belt line. It may not affect me either but, the hard phantom is so comfortable I’ll likely never know.
Just done food for thought. Good luck. I don’t think you can buy a bad saddle today. So, buy what you like. I think you’ll really enjoy what they offer.
Also, If the model you get isn’t for you, buying a new saddle is something much easier to do if you posses the linemans belt, tether, knee pads and accessories. Just sell the seat you don’t like the best.
Remember, Even the hard seat mantis would be comfortable if you fit it right. So, personally I’d start there. You can always buy another model later for a little more then a $100 if you want to stick with it.
Don’t confuse gut fat with what I’m saying. It’s irrelevant to saddle fit. And doesn’t affect the seats comfort.
Currently we (consumers) have mesh and "solid" panel design offerings. Each has a different web structure, but most follow the perimeter with the webbing. There are a variety of webbing widths currently being used across the various companies offerings. This detail is important with regards to saddle rigidity, weight distribution, and perceived pressure points.
Then there are saddles like like the JX3 or guidos web. I've been in a Guidos but not a JX3. Those designs I would consider to be more of a chair or what you're calling "hard". They are unmatched for comfort, no question, but have the disadvantage of bulk and complexity over mesh or solid panel saddle designs.
The Tethrd ESS is Just wide webbing arraigned in a split "panel" design. The Latitude Method has split mesh panels. Both allow weight to be distributed above and below the hips. To me the ESS was a little bit of a pain to not get tangled up initially, but speaks to me as being the most minimalist - yet supportive option. The Method was a little cleaner functionally in my opinion, and supper comfortable and supportive. Plus the pressure/ force vectoring of biasing the bridge, made possible by the prussics at each connection side, makes it more versatile than the ESS. The ESS balances the forces because the webbing free flows through those oversized rings. Of the 2 I'd pick the Method every time.
As for the flex. Its heavier than anything tethrd makes which doesn't bother me. I've never had a problem with 2 extra pounds attached to my body (insert eye roll to the ounce counters). Tethrd is so hell-bent on being minimalist they launched a saddle to end all saddles that still missed the mark on comfort. The Mantis was terrible. I owned one, hunted from one, and promptly sold it. The phantom was a step in the right direction, but still lacks in size for support... I mean really, a one size fits all approach? The fanboys will argue up and down on this one but they are simply wrong.
The flex has 2 rows of molle webbing which helps to secure pouches from being floppy. It also has a wider webbing around the perimeter if I'm not mistaken. The mantis sucked in this regard... soft narrow webbing cuts in bad. The flex does have some unnecessary buckles for legs. I'd prefer the tethrd j hooks for leg loops. I don't much care for using amsteel as a bridge. I sort of like the friction that the webbing bridge of the flex offers (especially after hunting from trophy lines for 11 years). Bridge design and material is largely preference though... well I guess all of this is. The flex pleat is a gimmick. It always stays open after a few uses. But what it does provide as a benefit, is more material for overall support, allowing you to run the saddle below your buttocks and up to your waistline - of course this will partially depend on your build. I cannot speak to the sizing of the Flex - whether or not they actually increase the panels in size laterally and vertically between size 1 & 2.
The good news is that if you're buying blind and you don't like it, saddle stuff can be resold at nearly original value if its in like new condition. Just join saddlehunter forum classifieds or the fb page classifieds. I'm 155lbs with a 31" waist. Size 1 works great for me.
Seriously its not even on the same planet in terms of comfort to ANY of the other models I just talked about.
If you're considering a Tethrd I'd take a good look at the Menace or Phantom. You'd probably be happy with either. The Menace is more attractive from what I'm seeing in terms of design/ construction, but I haven't had a chance to try one yet.
Different strokes for different folks. I am totally pleased with the comfort of the mantis. And, there are tons of options as you’ve pointed out.
Good luck to all who are trying this. It’s like hammock sleeping in cold weather. If you give saddle hunting an honest go, it works great. If not, you likely won’t be impressed.
Fair statement. Different strokes for different folk for sure. My strong opposition to the Mantis comes from what I've experienced and seen out there. There's a reason Mantis's often come up for sale... I'd rather save someone the hassle of finding out its not the best option - genuinely. The other Tethrd offerings are fantastic in comparison.
I’ve tried a modified rock climbing harness and true swing type homemade one. But, I have yet to try a spongy one. When I say spongy, I’m referring to seat being cushy. Maybe it’s my lack of experience with them that makes me feel the way I do. I just can’t see them being more comfortable.
I totally understand your intent and appreciate it. It’s what makes Bowsite a great place. I can guarantee someone on here has the experience we all need when trying new or different things.
FWIW, I was typing my last reply when you were typing yours. So, my recommendation wasn’t in opposition to hours. It was just my experience.
Take care and God Bless all.
That is coming straight from stands. Never sat in a saddle before this year. If you have saddle experience, that learning curve may be much shorter.
Regardless, the xc is very nice. You won't regret it. And, if you do, saddles hold their value amazingly right now. Can pretty much get your money back out of it.