Getting out into the wilds and camping is one of life’s great joys. But, without the right gear it can turn into one of life’s great pains if the elements conspire against us. And having personally spent far too many nights struggling to sleep on ragged and rocky ground, I can testify that a sleeping pad can save a camping trip.
Today’s review will look at the Thermarest Neoair Xlite Sleeping pad. The good people at Thermarest churn out some fine and excellent camping gear and we are intrigued to see whether this pad keeps up the high standards.
By the end of this review, you will know all there is to know about this thermarest sleeping pad, its performance and its best uses. And of course, budget busting backpackers that we are we will also tell you whether it’s worth the money.
Why Use a Sleeping Pad?
Let’s look at why and when to use a sleeping pad. I know some of you hardened camping purists out there will sneer at the suggestion of using a sleeping pad and simply laugh in the face of jagged, rocky earth beds.
The rest of us though tend to take a more sensible approach and know that there is a time and a place to use a sleeping pad. To give one example, whilst a lot of campgrounds, forests and mountain tops are kind of moist, soft and perfectly nice to sleep on, others are not. And of course if you are ever camping out in icy conditions then hard frozen ground can ruin your night’s rest and your vertebrae in one go. Whilst you could pack an air mattress, they tend to be too heavy.
Have any of you out there ever been to a music festival and had to camp out for a week? If so, you will surely know all too well how much you come to value the little comforts after a weekend’s rock n rolling! Seasoned festival pros know too well the value of bringing a sleeping pad along with them for the ride alongside a good festival tent.
Finally, some campers simply have back problems (especially as we get older) and they need the extra support that a sleeping pad can offer.
Now, you could spend a fat chunk of $$$ on the WRONG present for someone. Wrong size hiking boots, wrong fit backpack, wrong shape sleeping bag… As any adventurer will tell you, gear is a personal choice.
So give the adventurer in your life the gift of convenience: buy them an REI Co-op gift card! REI is The Broke Backpacker’s retailer of choice for ALL things outdoors, and an REI gift card is the perfect present you can buy from them. And then you won’t have to keep the receipt. 😉Buy on REI!
Therm-a-rest Neoair Xlite Sleeping Pad Review
This therm-a-rest neoair xlite review will focus on the particular product specifications in order. We will examine the pads size & weight, its inflating function, its comfort, durability and price.
Packed Size and Weight
The thermarest is seriously, impressively light especially when considering its relative thickness and its R value of 4.2. The men’s regular weighs 12 ounces and packs up to 4 x 9 inches. That means that the pad rolls up small and neat enough to fit inside the side, water bottle pockets of even a standard 28 l backpack and does not add too much weight.
There are smaller and laughter sleeping pads out there for those who are manic about saving weight and space but not at this comfort rating – the lighter pads we tried are far less comfortable and as such, we found that the Neoair Xlite struck an ideal sweet spot between packability and comfort.
Most pads these days utlise some variation on a theme of ‘auto sealing valve’ but therm-a-rest so far have shirked this trend. Instead they have employed the brand new winglock valve on the Neoair Xlite which functions very well. There is no back flow and air cannot escape during inflation plus it feels well built and less prone to breaking than other valve systems.
We also found that the pad felt easier to inflate than other therm-a-rest pads we have tried, which we guessed was a result of the valve accepting more air with each pump of the inflation process.
The pump sack (that comes with the pad) is a bit wobbly to first time users and may ever so slightly slip from the valve but there is a knack to getting it to sit just right which will come to you after a bit of play around.
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Comfort & Warmth
The primary role of any sleeping pad is that it needs to be comfy right? Well, the good news is that the therm-a-rest neoair xlite really shines here.
The pad uses the horizontal baffles system, as opposed to the “quilted” or vertical baffle system. The various systems all have their merits and all have their fans and we are perfectly fine with the horizontal ones used here as they help to stop “bounce” in its tracks.
When inflated the pad is 2.5 thick and has an R-rating of 4.2. Ultimately comfort is largely subjective and your size, and sleep style are also factors – if you move around a lot then sleeping pads are never perfectly comfortable.
In terms of warmths, this is a 3 season sleeping pad. In real terms the padding insulation adds a nice underlayer of heat that keeps the sleeper nice and warm all night long. Combined with a sleeping bag, it will keep you toasty in most conditions except perhaps for extreme/alpine ones.
That said, in summer use (and especially when daysleepoing at festivals) I bet the Xlite can get a bit too warm.
Seeing as we only tested this pad one time, we don’t feel fully confident in selling up its durability. However, it feels robust and well built and we can testify that other therm-a-rest gear we have tested has survived long years of hard use.
Still, what we can say for certain is that The winglock valve system is going to fare much better than the flimsy alternatives used in other pads. Also, the good people at Therm-a-Rest aspire to make gear that is to field repair in case something does go awry. Additionally their valve style can easily be replaced and the XLite comes with a patch kit for.
Brand new, the therm-a-rest changes hands for between $180 – $220. That is not cheap by any stretch by any definition.
If we look at the Nemo Switchback Sleeping Pad, then it comes in at $50 BUT it is neither ultralight nor insulated so this is almost like comparing oranges and apples. Still, if you are not fussy about having a ultralight, insulated pad then the Switchback is a good option….
Moving on now, the Sea to Summit Ether Light is a more direct competitor (insulated and light) which costs $180 – $209.
Budget travellers ought to consider the well made, well priced Klymit Static V2.
Oh, and here is a pro-tip, if you sign up for REI Membership you can get a 10% discount on 1000’s of other products including this one!
- Well made and durable
- Pump sack included
- Gets warm in summer
Basically, the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite is amongst the best all-around 3-season sleeping pads on sale. It offers a perfect combination of comfort, support, warmth, and carry-weight, all of which come beautifully.
It’s an excellent sleeping pad for camping, trekking, backpacking or festival use and makes the roll of honour on our Best Backpacking Sleeping Pads list.
Thanks for reading – that was fun! 😀
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