In my opinion, a sleeping pad is pretty much a necessity for increasing the chances of a good night’s sleep in the outdoors. Is it mandatory? No. But, why would you do that to yourself?
Sure, you can source certain materials from Mother Nature that will add some insulation between you and the ground. However, I like to plan out my level of comfort as best as possible ahead of time (when I can). This is where a sleeping pad comes into play.
I’ve tried quite a few brands and types of pads over the years. Everything from self-inflating and other air-construction pads to closed-cell foam. They all have their pros and cons and it’s a very subjective topic. Unfortunately, it can get a little expensive if you have to test everything on the market before you find what works for you.
With that in mind, I thought I would do a review of my current favorite sleeping pad in hopes you can benefit from it if you are in the sleeping pad research phase.
- All types of backpacking
- Car camping
In the Field
In April of this year, I kayaked and fished 48-miles of the Devils River near the Texas border with Mexico. In total, I spent 4 nights camping in some pretty harsh terrain.
Due to private property rights and the laws surrounding permissible camping sites, we were forced to make camp in some pretty rough spots. We didn’t have the opportunity to pick primo locations with smooth and level ground. However, this added an element to the trip that I really like.
Hey, if it was easy everyone would do it!
This situation forced us to sleep on top of rocks, roots, and everything in between. A quality sleeping pad was mandatory for a decent night’s sleep.
I ended up taking my Therm-A-Rest NeoAir XLite Sleeping Pad and it performed flawlessly. I initially had a slight concern about puncturing the pad since it’s inflatable, but I didn’t have any issues during the week.
The NeoAir did have “some” added protection because I slept in my tent, which was set up on top of a ground cloth. This added a couple of thin layers between the NeoAir and the ground.
All in all, I slept really comfortable during the entire trip and never experienced any discomfort due to the specific type of ground I was sleeping on.
As with most things, there are pros and cons to everything and I would like to go over a few of those.
The good and the bad
I opted for the “Large” despite the fact it added a few ounces of weight. To be honest, there are two areas where I don’t mind carrying a little extra weight (most of the time): my sleeping pad and my pillow (read about my favorite pillow HERE). These two pieces of gear can really set you up for some good rest.
So, I added a few ounces to my gear by going with the Large. I like the width at 25″ and really wanted the extra inches it offered in length. I find it worked really well for me and my size (6’2″ and 180lbs).
I know the arguments around why I should go with a shorter pad for my height, but it’s just one of the areas I don’t mind sacrificing.
The packed size of the NeoAir is a plus in my opinion. Packed up and in the stuff sack, my measurements come in at 12″x5″, which is just a little larger than the manufacturer specs. It seems I can never get things repacked as they come from the factory. This compact size makes it super easy to save some space when packing.
Therm-A-Rest did a great job of adding a lot of comfort in a packable, lightweight package. Like some of the other attributes I mention in this review, there may be options out there that can outperform the NeoAir in one particular area. Comfort may be one of those areas. But, overall, it really shines in what it has to offer in comfort related to its weight, dimensions, and packability.
I feel like one pound in total weight is a deal for the comfort it provides. Can you get lighter options? Absolutely. But, I’m not sure you can get as much comfort for the weight. If it is a little much for you, keep in mind, this is the largest size you can get and you can save some weight by buying one of the smaller versions.
I find this pad to inflate pretty fast compared to its overall size. It takes me about 30 full breaths to fully inflate. It seems like it has a larger valve opening than what I’ve previously experienced with other models (even from Therm-A-Rest). I’m not sure if this is true or not, but it does seem that way.
The material is slightly noisy, but it was never something that affected my sleep. But, I can see how this might bother some folks. I read a lot of reviews prior to purchasing this pad and a number of people complained about how noisy it was. I’m not sure if Therm-A-Rest made some changes or what since those initial reviews, but the noise level was nowhere near what people were describing in some of the early reviews.
The price of the NeoAir may be a deal-breaker for some people and I understand that. I find it a bit on the expensive end as well. If you shop around you can find discounts, coupons, etc., from time to time to help soften the blow. I would like to see the price come down a bit, but with the quality and performance of the NeoAir, I can see why they charge that price.
All in all, even factoring in the high retail price, I think this sleeping pad is a winner. It has worked well for me on numerous trips, sleeping on varied terrain, and at temperatures on both ends of the needle.
I was quite shocked at the amount of comfort it offered in relation to its weight and size. The NeoAir has definitely won a spot in my rotation, and more often than not, it’s my first choice. If you’re looking for comfort, lower weight, and packability, give the NeoAir a try. I bet you will be happy with your decision.
Have a NeoAir already? Let me know what you think!