ProView – Thermarest NeoAir XLite Sleeping Pad
I’ll admit it here first, I’m a sleeping pad addict. I save sad, punctured sleeping pads from lonely REI Garage Sale bins like some people save abandoned kittens they find on the street. That’s why when I found out that Therm-a-Rest was updating their legendary NeoAir Xlite I could not wait to get my hands on it for a test drive.
Thermarest NeoAir Xlite
Product Description: For a minimal pack size and maximum performance, our NeoAir XLite offers the gold standard in lightweight backpacking comfort. The unrivaled Triangular Core Matrix offers the best warmth-to-weight ratio of any air sleeping pad construction. The construction gives the 2.5 inch (6.4 cm) thick pad superior stability, boasting the most inches of weld for maximum camp comfort. The compact pad boasts a 4.2 value, allowing users to camp comfortably year-round. Available in several sizes, including a roomy regular wide, the XLite features the high-performance WingLock valve, allowing the pad to inflate three times faster thanks to a larger opening and one-way inflation. Like all Therm-a-Rest pads, the NeoAir XLite is made in market to ensure quality and minimize environmental impact. The pad includes a breath-saving pump sack, compact stuff sack and field repair kit.
Offer price: MSRP: $144.95 - $224.95
The Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite will be one of the top sleeping pads that I reach for in my gear closet when headed out on ultralight backpacking trips. It’s warmth to weight ratio is truly something that I value in a piece of gear when I am headed out on longer trips that require a keen attention to the weight I am carrying in my pack. The new wide/regular size that it comes in is truly the icing on the cake for me in terms of getting a really solid night sleep in the backcountry.
- Made in the USA
- Easy to Inflate/Deflate
- Crinkling Sound
- Pump Sack
This year is going to be a milestone year for me as an outdoorsman. Since I was a kid I dreamt about hiking a long trail as a thru-hiker. In 2020 that dream is becoming a reality as I attempt a 2650 mile thru-hike of the Pacific Crest Trail. As a bonafide gear geek picking critical ultralight gear for this trip has become an absolute obsession and testing this sleeping pad as a potential part of my sleep system was extremely exciting, especially with the updates I knew Therm-a-Rest had added to the already stellar offering.
Admittedly at the time, I received the new NeoAir XLite with WingLock Valve to test, the summer and fall camping seasons had wound down for the year which left a smaller window of opportunity to get out as much as I normally would like. I did, however, have the opportunity to test the pad on an eight-day trip camping and photographing the southwest desert in Arizona and Utah. Temperatures during this time ranged from the low 40’s Fahrenheit, all the way down to just about 10 degrees. So, there was a considerable amount of variation in the testing which I always find helpful to round out a review of any sleeping pad. My coldest nights during the test were at Grand Canyon National Park and my warmest nights were at Zion National Park.
One of the most awaited features of the new NeoAir XLite comes in the form of a long-awaited update to the sizing of the pad itself. I’m a bigger guy about six feet tall and 220lbs with broad shoulders. In the previous models of the NeoAir XLite, in order to get a pad wide enough to fit my shoulders comfortably, I would have to size up to the long/wide version. With that came additional weight that felt unnecessary because I don’t really need a long sleeping pad. For an ounce counting backpacker like myself, this just didn’t feel like an option so I continued to use the 20-inch version which, quite frankly was not the right choice for my body to get good sleep. Enter the updated version for this year, the long-awaited regular/wide version has finally become an option. Let the broader men and women of the world rejoice that Therm-a-Rest finally answered our pleas to create this model. In my mind, this is one of the most substantial updates to the product. I can now comfortably sleep on the NeoAir XLite without my shoulders falling off the sides, which makes for a huge upgrade in comfort and overall user experience.
The NeoAir Xlite is constructed with a 30D rip HT Nylon which has a next to skin feel that isn’t quite as soft and comfortable as other sleeping pads in my collection but by no means makes me uncomfortable although at times the combination of a slick sleeping bag material and the pad can feel slippery (this however I find to be a universal issue across all pads, therefore deducing it may just be how I sleep). At 2.5 inches and with horizontal baffling, the pad provides a stable sleeping surface adequate for side sleepers like myself. Not once while sleeping on my side did I feel my hip touch the ground with this pad making for a comfortable night’s sleep.
Outside of the new width of the pad itself and the addition of the WingLock Valve™ the NeoAir Xlite looks almost identical to previous models. It still has the very distinctive “lemon curry” or “marigold” color that has become synonymous with the NeoAir XLite model. This does still baffle me why a piece of gear that gets so incredibly dirty when used, would have such a light color. If you’ve ever seen a well-used version of a NeoAir XLite it looks pretty filthy (but then again, if you’re using gear hard everything including yourself is going to be filthy). The body of the pad itself still has a rounded and tapered design which helps the pad be lightweight and less bulky than traditional rectangular pads.
There have been some considerable feature upgrades in the newest model that I think that many might overlook when considering upgrading from the older model to the newer one. The more obvious as briefly mentioned above is that Therm-a-Rest has pioneered a new WingLock Valve™ locking system. Now you might think, “So what? A valve is just a valve,” but this valve has quite a bit of technology and engineering built into it that make it quite impressive.
According to the Therm-a-Rest website, the valve allows the pad to be inflated up to three times faster than the previous model due to the larger opening and one-way inflation. What this means is that unlike the previous model, while blowing up this XLite you can actually take a break without having to hold your tongue in the valve or twist it closed (come on, I know you have all done this) which makes the inflation process at the very least a bit more pleasant. Some people might argue that there is no way that the valve can be quicker because the volume of breath needed to inflate the pad is still the same. I would say that I found it to be slightly quicker than my previous model and found it much less strenuous to actually blow the air into the pad itself. If quicker airflow and less air loss is occurring as the pad is being inflated then I would argue that at least in theory it would inflate quicker from a time perspective, even if it is the same volume of air needed. By twisting and unlocking the one-way valve deflating the mattress I found to be considerably faster (although I do personally enjoy the slow deflate when it’s that time in the morning to get up). Another notable thought on this valve is the fact that because it is bigger I found it much easier to operate the valve with winter gloves on.
The pad also comes with a pump sack for quicker inflation and less exertion. I personally found the pump sack to be cumbersome and not really as functional as I would like it to have been. In my testing, it felt like air would escape through the seams where the bag was sewn together. It did not appear to me that they were seam taped to prevent air loss through the seems so that may be the issue. Overall, I personally would not bring the pump sack with me on a backpacking trip as I don’t feel like the added weight vs time saved would be worth it. This is totally a personal preference though and I understand how some people hate blowing up their pad at the end of the day.
The previous model NeoAir XLite has long been known for its incredible warmth to weight ratio. The original boasted an R-Value of 3.2 with a weight of only 12 ounces in a size regular. The updated model has gone a step further and increased the R-Value of the pad to an impressive 4.2 for a size regular while maintaining the 12-ounce weight. What this means is that for someone like myself who will most likely see a wide range of temperatures on the Pacific Crest Trail this pad would truly be a perfect fit. At a 4.2 R-Value, the new NeoAir XLite is teetering on the edge of almost being a viable four-season pad. Also, it should be noted that the female versions of this pad are generally even warmer. The R-Value of the female version is actually a whopping 5.4 up from the previous model which was 3.9 and weighs just 12 ounces.
Weight and Packability
As mentioned in with the features of this sleeping pad the NeoAir XLite updated model is extremely compact and lightweight. When rolled up, the regular wide pad that I tested is really not much larger than a Nalgene water bottle which is amazing considering its a wide/regular. It also comes in at 16 ounces, which for a wide pad is extremely impressive. You would be hard-pressed to find another pad more packable and lightweight unless you were looking at the Therm-a-Rest Uberlite Model which is insanely light but requires a little more care in terms of durability and has a much lower R-Value.
I would have to say that I was extremely impressed with the performance of this pad in the conditions that I was able to use it in. I saw some very cold nights while testing this product and I can honestly say that not once did I feel any chill coming up through the ground and creeping its way into my sleeping bag. I credit the new higher R-Value for this however I wonder if adversely this will make the NeoAir XLite sleep a little warmer in the warm months where that added reflective thermal heat isn’t necessarily a welcomed thing. I will have to report back on that one once the weather warms up.
Additionally, in terms of performance, I would report that on the coldest nights I did feel the pad slightly deflate on me a bit and I need to test this out further in warmer weather as well. This has happened to me before with other pads and I assume it is something similar to what happens to car tires that lose pressure in the freezing cold overnight. Also, I never rule out user error and could have not fully closed the valve properly. I don’t quite know, but I can’t imagine that the pad would possibly have a hole in it as it was treated with great care and none of the areas I was camping with had anything remotely prickly in them.
The one remark that I would mention about this pad and it is the same comment that many have had about the previous model of the NeoAir XLite is that there is still the rather abrasive sound that the pad makes when you move around on it. This isn’t something that has ever bothered me personally but I know that the pad I slept on has bothered other people as I moved around at night. It’s commonly described as the sound of a bag of potato chips being crushed and crinkled and honestly, it’s a pretty accurate description of the sound. I would say though that in the newer model, it does seem much less noticeable than the previous model. I was unable to get verification if that was something Therm-a-Rest addressed in this model but it did seem less substantial.
Durability and Construction
One of the things I love most about Therm-a-Rest is that their products are USA built. Under the umbrella of Cascade Designs, there is a limited lifetime warranty and in my experience with their customer service, it has always been top-notch.
As I was wrapping up my final thoughts on this review I decided to hold the pad up to the window as the sun backlit the pad to see what the insides of the pad looked like. What I found was slightly concerning to see. It appeared as though the reflective material inside the pad was crumbling off around the edges inside the pad itself. I will be reaching out to Therm-a-Rest about this and will and will update this review as soon as I get a response. This pad was only tested for a relatively short period of time so this kind of wear seems like it could be a bit irregular.
That being said I do believe that the NeoAir XLite is made to be as durable as an ultralight piece of gear can be. Like all ultralight gear, it needs to be handled with care especially in the case of a sleeping pad which can easily spring a small leak if the user isn’t aware of its placement and places it on an unfavorable surface. I believe that due to its excellent construction if handled with care this pad should last a very very long time.
**UPDATE** Since this review was written I have reached out to Therm-a-Rest explaining the issue. The customer service was amazing and they immediately sent out a replacement pad. So far with limited testing, the issue seems to be resolved. Therm-a-Rest took copious notes on this experience and collected all the things needed to investigate the issue. Although I have yet to hear a reason why this may have occurred they made it right immediately upon hearing of the issue. That is why companies like this are so incredible and maintain their customer loyalty for life.
Friendliness to the Earth
Therm-a-Rest, as you might imagine, believes that every individual should be “ socially responsible and environmentally active.” The company publishes a yearly sustainability report which encompasses what they are doing throughout their manufacturing processes internally to what their partners are doing and how they are both impacting the community and the environment. “We believe that the preservation of wild places and outdoor recreation areas are vital to the health of the planet and our way of life.”
Their most recent report can be found here.
The Final Word
The Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite will be one of the top sleeping pads that I reach for in my gear closet when headed out on ultralight backpacking trips. It’s warmth to weight ratio is truly something that I value in a piece of gear when I am headed out on longer trips that require keen attention to the weight I am carrying in my pack. The new wide/regular size that it comes in is truly the icing on the cake for me in terms of getting a really solid night’s sleep in the backcountry.
I would recommend this sleeping pad to anyone who is considering backpacking on multi-week trips or thru hikes when every ounce matters. I believe this pad is one of the best sleeping pads out there for an ultralight backpacker or thru hiker.
In conclusion, I would note that for the casual weekend warrior, or once or twice a summer backpacker, the cost of this piece of kit needs to be taken into consideration. At $184.95 USD for a regular size at the time of this review, it makes the pad a considerable cost to purchase. There are other very well made, albeit, slightly bulkier, not as warm and slightly heavier options that are considerably more affordable for the more casual user. Many of these options are made by Therm-a-Rest like their Prolite model which is just slightly heavier and can at times be found on sale for under $60 dollars. I would consider this a professional level piece of sleeping kit for anyone who spends extended time sleeping outdoors and I would recommend it as worth the cost of investment if this description matches your lifestyle. If you can afford it, you most definitely won’t regret it and the new NeoAir XLite should last you a very very long time.