For a long time I was not a big fan of inflatable sleeping pads, but when I finally broke down and got one, I went straight for the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite. Weighing 12 oz / 350 g with a 3.2 R-value (the measure of resistance to heat flow through a given thickness of material), it's not only the lightest inflatable sleeping pad on the market, but it offers more warmth per ounce than anything else available.
If you're ready to make headway into ultralight backpacking (not crazy ultralight – just regular ultralight), then the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite may be the next piece of gear that you need to add to your pack. Also, a note since this can be a tad confusing: Cascade Designs is the company that owns and manufacturers the brand Therm-a-Rest (also MSR, Platypus, and SealLine), and NeoAir XLite is the name of the model of the sleeping pad (like how Volkswagen owns Audi which makes the A4).
So when you tell people which sleeping pad you're looking at/buying/owning, don't say “Therm-a-Rest,” say “Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite” or “NeoAir XLite.” And don't just say “XLite” because there's also the “XLite MAX SV.” See? I told you it was confusing.
NOTE: I have this pad in a REGULAR. It also comes in small and large. The information below reflects a NeoAir Xlite (Regular).
- Color: Marigold
- R-Value: 3.2
- Shape: Mummy/Semirectangular
- Weight: 12 oz / 350 g
- Width: 20 in / 51 cm
- Length: 72 in / 183 cm
- Thickness: 2.5 in / 6.3 cm
- Packed dimension: 9 x 4.0 / 23 x 10
- Top fabric type: 30d Rip Nylon
- Bottom fabric type: 30d Rip Nylon
- Core: Nylon
- Country of Origin: USA*Built of the Finest U.S. and Global Materials
- MSRP: $159.95
- Ripstop nylon and polyester fabric
- ThermaCapture layers
- Triangular Core Matrix construction
- Stuff sack included
- Repair kit included
WHAT WE LIKE
THE WEIGHT | Like I said above, the NeoAir XLite is the has the best warmth to weight ratio on the market – it weighs just 12 oz / 350 g. Sure, you could always get yourself a 1/8″ foam pad that weighs 2.4 oz / 68 g, but that's not going to do much in terms of insulating you from the ground. If you're looking for a lightweight sleeping pad that's actually going to keep you warm, you need not look any further.
THE WARMTH | With an R-value of 3.2, the NeoAir XLite will does great insulating in three-season conditions. I would even trust it in winter with a warm enough sleeping bag (and I have in winter in Nepal), but that's personal preference. If you can manage to stay on the pad (I have difficulty with this sometimes), then you need not have any fear of the cold ground beneath you.
THE DURABILITY | For an ultralight inflatable pad, I've been very impressed with the durability of this pad. I have never had a puncture (it comes with a puncture repair kit) and have had no problems setting it up in a variety of environments. That being said, I always use a ground sheet or shelter when setting up my NeoAir XLite, and I am conscious of where I am placing it – although not bombproof, it will hold up well if taken care of.
THE WARRANTY | After over a year of heavily using my first NeoAir XLite its baffles gave and I ended up with a huge bulge on the top half of my pad. I contacted Cascade Designs and they promptly replaced the pad at no cost to me (minus my shipping it to them). Excellent customer service.
WHAT'S JUST OKAY
THE COMPACTNESS | The NeoAir XLite packs down to around the size of a one-liter Nalgene. Yes, this is small, but my Sea to Summit UltraLight packs up considerably smaller. That being said, the NeoAir XLite packs down to a respectable size and is a far cry from the bulk of a foam pad.
THE VALVE | The two-way valve (located at the top of the pad) screws up (open) and down (closed) for filling and deflating. It's not my favorite valve as it can be tricky to fill the pad to maximum volume when you begin using the pad (when it's getting full, close the valve, take a breath, then put your mouth on it and blow as you open).
THE NOISE | Therm-a-Rest has altered the material they use for the NeoAir XLite which is fortunate because I have memories from the Pacific Crest Trail of this pad sounding like a bag of chips being crinkled every time someone using one nearby made the slightest of movements. The new material is not as loud as the previous versions, but it still isn't as quiet as a foam pad.
THE VALUE | It's difficult to complain about paying top dollar for a top sleeping pad, but the $160 price tag might be a hurdle that some people are simply unable to justify (especially when the Z Lite Sol, Therm-a-Rest's most popular foam pad, is only $45). It's one of the most expensive pads on the market, but it's still a good value.
WHAT WE NO LIKE
THE BLOWING UP BIT | Blowing up the NeoAir XLite is my least favorite thing about this pad. Unlike the valves on something like the one-way valves on the Sea to Summit sleeping pads, you're battling escaping air when filling the NeoAir XLite to capacity – not the most fun thing to do at the end of a long day. I average around twenty full breaths to get this pad fully inflated (which can leave me lightheaded if I don't take my time).
THE WIDTH | This is certainly not the widest pad, and at 20 in / 51 cm wide, it can be difficult to lay with your arms down at your sides. The large version of the pad is 5 in / 12 cm wider than the regular but it also weighs 4 oz / 110 g more. I haven't found this to be too big an issue as I'm not a very good backcountry sleeper to begin with, but I do sometimes miss a wide-bodied foam pad.
The Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite is a fantastic sleeping pad and is definitely one of the best on the market in terms of weight to warmth ratio. It was the most used sleeping pad reported by Pacific Crest Trail hikers last year and is one that I personally recommend to friends looking to drop some cash on an awesome new three-season pad.
This is pretty much the standard when it comes to ultralight sleeping pads. Check out the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite.
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