ProView – Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite

“Is that the one that sounds like a potato chip bag?”  This seems to be the most common question when I mentioned that I was testing the newest version of the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite sleeping pad.  And to be fair, the first iteration of this pad couldn’t have been described any other way.

Thermarest-neo-air-xlite-pad-review-dirtbagdreams.com

Therm-a-Rest’s NeoAir XLite

Product Description: The NeoAir XLite mattress delivers more warmth and comfort per ounce than any other three-season air mattress available. Our patent-pending technologies deliver that performance with minimal weight and less bulk than a one-liter water bottle. Softer fabrics bring better next-to-skin comfort and a boost in durability, all with no added weight. For the discerning alpinist, thru-hiker or backcountry minimalist who's counting every ounce, there is simply no better choice to assure the kind of rest you need to enjoy tomorrow. Stuff sack and repair kit included.

Price: $129.95 - $199.95 MSRP

  • Quality
    (5)
  • Durability
    (4.8)
  • Warmth
    (4.8)
  • Packability
    (5)

Summary

All and all, the updated NeoAir Xlite is a solid option for anyone looking for a comfortable night’s sleep but doesn’t want to add too much weight to the pack.  The R-3.2 will keep you warm through the summer and even a full 3 seasons at lower elevations.  You could even pair this pad with a Z Lite foam pad from Therm-a-Rest for when the temps drop below freezing.  The newer fabrics will definitely improve your experience over the old ones.  And the tried and true design is one to be trusted with such an important task as getting a good night of sleep out in the backcountry.

Overall
4.9

Pros

  • Durable
  • Warm
  • Super lightweight

Cons

  • Crumples

First, some background: I was working in an outdoor retailer store when that pad first came out and I remember the recommendation from the sales rep vividly: “Just pick a good movie to watch by yourself and repeatedly crumple and uncrumple the pad until the sound dies down”  Well 300+ nights on a NeoAir pad later, it still sounded like a potato chip bag.  In addition to the noise, the fabric was like sleeping on a plastic bag.  If your bare skin ever touched it on a warm summer night, you’d wake up with a pool of sweat acting like a suction cup between your skin and the pad.  BUT it blew the competition out of the water for comfort to weight ratio at the time.  So for a side sleeper that likes to keep a minimal pack, all the drawbacks were totally worth it.

Thermarest-neo-air-xlite-pad-review-dirtbagdreams.com

Testing

With all of this in mind, I was elated to hear the Therm-a-Rest had updated the face fabrics to answer all of these problems, and without adding any weight!  A lightweight enthusiasts dream.  I could have my cake, and eat it too.  Needless to say, I jumped at the chance to test this latest version of the NeoAir Xlite during a summer season of guiding backpacking trips in the Sierra Nevada.

Thermarest-neo-air-xlite-pad-review-dirtbagdreams.com

The day that the pad arrived, I immediately opened it up, unrolled it, and started crumpling and uncrumpling.  It still sounded like a potato chip bag.  But I’m a patient man, and I had another 6 weeks to test it.  I inflated it.  Laid on it.  Rolled around on it.  Thrashed about like I normally would.  It still sounded like a potato chip bag.  The fabric was definitely a softer touch.  I was more confident that I would be less likely to just slip off the end on a less than level campsite.  So I packed it for my next trip.

Thermarest-neo-air-xlite-pad-review-dirtbagdreams.com

Admittedly, my first 4-day trip out didn’t seem to be much different.  But the pad still lived up to being comfy, lightweight, and super low volume when packed down.  All the reasons to love a NeoAir pad.  But by my second trip, I noticed that the pad had actually started to break in. Although the pad was loud and crinkly while inflating, once I laid down on the pad, the sounds went away.  There was still the creaking of any full inflatable pad, but the crinkle was totally gone while it was weighted.  I was elated.  Therm-a-Rest has seemingly solved the number one complaint of the NeoAir family!  And I had a spectacular night of sleep because of it.

Features

The new fabric feels better against the skin and seemed just a tad grippier than the old fabric.  And I continue to be happy with the warmth (R- 3.2), particularly at the scant weight of 12oz (for the Regular length) and the tiny size of the compressed pad (9”x4” for the Regular length).  If I have any complaint, it is with the classic Therm-a-Rest style twist valve that is used to inflate and deflate the pad.  This valve, although tried and true over decades of use, offers just too low of flow to work well with the modern higher volume sleeping pads.  It takes a little over 20 breaths to fill the pad, and what feels like an eternity to deflate it the next day.  There are definitely better systems out there in the market, that I prefer to use.  Therm-a-Rest has developed a new high volume valve system, called MAX SV.  However, I haven’t had the opportunity to test this in the field yet.

Thermarest-neo-air-xlite-pad-review-dirtbagdreams.com

The Final Word

All and all, the updated NeoAir Xlite is a solid option for anyone looking for a comfortable night’s sleep but doesn’t want to add too much weight to the pack.  The R-3.2 will keep you warm through the summer and even a full 3 seasons at lower elevations.  You could even pair this pad with a Z Lite foam pad from Therm-a-Rest for when the temps drop below freezing.  The newer fabrics will definitely improve your experience over the old ones.  And the tried and true design is one to be trusted with such an important task as getting a good night of sleep out in the backcountry.

Thermarest-neo-air-xlite-pad-review-dirtbagdreams.com

Thermarest-neo-air-xlite-pad-review-dirtbagdreams.com

Shop the Therm-a-rest NeoAir XLite on Outdoor Prolink. Not a member? Apply today!

Tyler Gates spent a decade in the outdoor retail world before escaping to work in the outdoors.  He has worked as a backpacking, hiking, and cycling guide and instructor for seven years, showing people the best of the outdoors from the deserts of the Southwest, to the High Sierra, and up to the forests of the Pacific Northwest.  He’s currently spending the winter in a 100-year-old residence in Yosemite Valley. 

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