Gear Review: Therm-a-rest NeoAir XLite

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Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite | SW Tasmania Traverse, 2016.

This gear review is six years and 20,000 plus hiking miles in the making.

What can I tell you; I don’t like to rush these things. 😉

Since 2010, I’ve used a Therm-a-Rest NeoAir on all of my backcountry trips. Sometimes on it’s own, other times in combination with a closed cell foam mat.

Suffice to say, I’ve had the opportunity to get to know this sleeping pad pretty well. Nonetheless, I’ll keep it short. Which is sort of appropriate, because I’ve only ever owned the small sized model.

Details

Weight:  

  • 8 oz (sm) / 12 oz (regular) / 16 oz (lge).
  • 227 g (sm), 340 g (regular), 554 g (lge).

Dimensions:

  • 47″ x 20″ x 2.5″ (sm) / 72″ x 20″ x 2.5″ (regular) / 77″ x 25″ x 2.5″ (lge).
  • 119.4 cm x 51 cm x 6.4 cm (sm) / 182.9 cm x 50.8 cm x 6.4 cm (regular) / 195.6 cm x 63.5 cm x 6.4 cm (lge).

R-Value:  

  • 3.2
  • Warm enough for most three season conditions. I double up with a closed cell foam mat when temps drop below 15° F (-9°C).
Katabatic Quilt : Peru

A bed of straw is a good way of upping the R-Value on chilly nights | Staying in a shepherd’s hut at 15,000 ft | Cordillera Blanca Traverse | Peru, 2014.

Packability:

  • Excellent. When rolled up, less bulk than a 1-litre water bottle. 
  • Tip: Frameless backpack users can employ the NeoAir as a makeshift frame sheet for their pack (i.e. Fold it twice and then put it flat against the back at the beginning of the loading process). If carrying a heavier load, leave in a tiny bit of air in order to increase the comfort factor. Only a smidgen, as you don’t want to run the risk of popping it.
  • Click here for more tips on “How to Load a Backpack.

Comfort:

  • Very good. Indeed, it’s hard to believe a mat this comfortable only weighs 8 oz.
  • What about the width? Personally, I don’t mind the small & regular models‘ width of 20 inches (50.8 cm). However, bigger folks, tossers & turners and/or people that just like to spread out in their sleep, may want to take a look at the large model which is 5 inches (12.7 cm) wider.
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The NeoAir, combined with a Katabatic Quilt and an MLD Bivy, has been my go-to sleeping system for most of the past six years | A very snowy Washington on the PCT | July, 2012.

Durablitiy:

  • This is the big question mark most hikers have in regards to the NeoAir (or any inflatable model for that matter). All I can tell you is that I have owned two of these mats since 2010 – the first one lasted 12,000 miles and the second one is still going strong after 9,000 miles.
  • Note: When hiking & camping for extended periods in rugged terrain, I’ll usually combine the NeoAir with a featherweight foamie such as the Gossamer Gear ThinLite 1/8 (2.4 oz / 68 g). For a negligible weight penalty, this provides an extra bit of insurance against punctures, and also gives some extra padding against my back when employed in frame sheet mode (see above).
  • Tip: For mat repairs I carry a small tube of super glue (crazy glue); which additionally comes in handy for small holes in shelters and at a pinch, even cuts and blisters.
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Why the less than happy face? After paddling across the Gilbin river on my NeoAir on day 13 of the SW Tasmania Traverse, I stopped for a lengthy lunch break. After eating my fill, I began the next section……….without my mat. I’d left it drying out in the sun. It took me 1.5 hours of bushwhacking to realize my folly. There was nothing for it but to suck it up, let out a stream of expletives that would have made a Russian sailor blush and return for the NeoAir. Thankfully it was still lying where I left it some three hours before.

Value:

  • As of June, 2016, the NeoAir retails for between US$129 (sml) and $189 (lge).
  • There’s no way around it, they aren’t cheap. No matter how hard you look, you’re never going to find one at the bottom of the REI bargain bin.
  • However, value is a relative concept. Whether on-trail or off, it’s hard to put a price on a good night’s sleep.

Should I buy one?

Whether or not you splash out for a Therm-a-Rest NeoAir really comes down to one question……..how much comfort do you need in order to obtain a full night’s slumber? 

If you are one of those people who can sleep on anything, anywhere at anytime, save your cash and stick with a closed cell foam mat.

If you happen to be at the other end of the “sleeping comfort” spectrum, then you will probably require an inflatable mat in order to obtain a good night’s rest. That being the case, the NeoAir represents an excellent choice.

Settlement Point Neoair

A very happy NeoAir owner | Day 15, SW Tassie Traverse.

Summary

No drum roll. No suspense. Obviously I’m a big fan of this mat.

I mean, really, I’d be a bit of a wally if I wasn’t after using it for so many miles.

In short, if you’re looking for a lightweight, comfortable sleeping mat, I highly recommend the Therm-a-rest NeoAir XLite.

Disclaimer: I purchased both NeoAir mats referenced above with my own funds.

 

 


Comments

Gear Review: Therm-a-rest NeoAir XLite — 18 Comments

  1. I have to admit that I have not been a convert to blow up air mattresses. My thought is that anything mechanical or inflatable in the wilderness is bound to fail. I have been using an accordion-style mattress since 2001, and have slept well on them.

    Seeing that you’ve managed 12,000-miles on one, and 9,000 on another is impressive, and you have piqued my interest. As I replace and upgrade gear in the coming year, I think I will give one a shot. Thanks for posting Swami.

    • Hey Freefall,

      Thanks for the comment.

      I must admit, I was a bit wary at first when I made the change. I’d also been a long-time ZLite and Ridgerest user. However, the upgrade in both comfort and packability (without any weight penalty) soon made me a convert. The fact that they’ve also proven to be durable over the years has been a big bonus.

      Hope you had a great time on the CDT in New Mexico!

      Cheers,

      Swami

      • I agree. I use the women’s one, which has an even higher r-value. So, in addition to the comfort, I get away with a lighter sleeping bag. Worth it!

  2. Nice post – I liked my Neo Air until I got my Klymit Inertia X Frame. Packs smaller, goes in your sleeping bag and inflates really fast. Very comfy and nowhere near as noisy. And you can’t roll off it when it is in your bag or slide off it when sleeping on a slope. Plus you get insulation from the bottom of your bag. Great product.

    • Totally with you, tent man! I have had the short X- frame three seasons now, and love it! I am a side sleeper and a woman- the cuts outs are great to drop my shoulder and hip into while I’m on my side- so much more comfortable than a conventional pad.
      The 6oz weight can’t be beat, either.

  3. In my opinion, one of the keys to your success to the long life of your Neo Air is the use of it in conjunction of a good bivy, like your MLD Superlight Bivy. The peace of mind that I have when I use my bivy with a floorless shelter is well worth the minimal weight penalty, both in terms of keeping my quilt dry and in protecting my air mattress. Great review…thanks!

    • Hey Gerry,
      Thanks for the kind words. That’s a good point in regards to the bivy. Along with campsite selection and taking along a foamie when appropriate, I think they’ve all played a factor in the longevity of my NeoAirs.
      Cheers,
      Cam

  4. I HATED this sleeping mat and returned mine the day after I bought it! Only blew it up in the living room. It was WAYYY too noisy! My wife even threatened to not go an any trips with me if I used it in our tent! Went with the Big_Agnes Q‑CORE SLX for a nice quiet sleep. A little heavier, but WAYYY quieter!

    • Hey Peter,
      Don’t hold back, tell us how you and the wife really felt about the NeoAir! 😉
      Jokes aside, I can’t say I’ve personally found it to be noisy, but what the hey, it’s always good to have divergent opinions. Makes the comments section more interesting!
      Thanks for writing in.
      Cheers,
      Cam

  5. I’m waiting until you really get some miles in on the pad before I buy. You are still almost 8000 KM short of walking the circumference of the earth.

  6. Am I the only one whose NeoAir Small Xlite mattress size cringes so much that I feel I am waking up everyone at night when I move?? For that reason, I actually would not buy it again? Any other experience like this?

    • Hi Anne,

      Good to hear from you.

      Over the years I’ve heard a few people say this about the Neoair, including one of the earlier commenters. However, personally speaking while I recognise there is a bit of a crinkle sound, I can’t say I’ve ever found the mat to be overly noisy.

      Cheers,

      Cam

      • Hi Cam,

        Thanks for your reply. Always awesome to see more of your articles by the way! 🙂 It is interesting that yours doesn’t cringe too much. Maybe mine had a defect then! It is a really noisy cringing! I’ll try to investigate when I get some time to go in a shop and ask to try the same mattress than mine to compare!

  7. Hi Cam,

    I’m interested in purchasing some of the same equipment that you have, mainly the Katabatic quilt. Do you live in Tas or travel down with it (If you’re in the are I’d love to take a look at it)

  8. You can’t pull me off my Z-Rest!
    ~ Egg-crate design miraculously “swallows” lil’ pebbles under the mat
    ~ Shortened it by 2 sections to save weight w/ no problem
    ~ Its a comfy pad between pack & back; to absorb my sweat I sheath
    it w/ a 100% polypropylene pull-over
    ~ Folded its a great pillow to sit on or to pad awkward positions when composing photos among boulders & like
    ~ I’ve used it as a “parka” in heavy rains and hail!
    ~ Lay it out and organize gear on it in gravelly or rough terrain

    • I fully concur……the Z-Rest is a great mat. Before I switched to the NeoAir, I used to regularly use either a Z-Rest or a RidgeRest.

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