When I look back on all the backpacking gear I’ve purchased and used this year, my Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite sleeping pad is the item I’ve appreciated the most. Getting a good night’s sleep in the backcountry can make all the difference to enjoying a backpacking trip to the fullest, and this pad has made that possible. And not only is the NeoAir XLite comfortable, it’s also very light. Keeping my pack weight as low as possible has been key to an enjoyable hiking experience.
We had been using bulky and moderately comfortable Therm-a-Rest pads that we bought when we were car camping exclusively. After two of them sprung leaks, it gave us an excuse to look for something lighter and more suitable for backpacking. We first got my wife a NeoAir XLite to lighten up her pack. I was hesitant to spend the extra money on one for myself, but then was so impressed with hers that I had to have one too.
NeoAir XLite Features:
- Very comfortable at 2.5″ thick.
- Only 12 ounces (Regular Mattress, 72 inches long).
- Warm – reflective layer recycles body heat and creates dual air pockets that conserve warmth.
- Packs down small to fit safely inside a pack.
- Stuff sack and repair kit included.
- Made in Seattle, USA.
- Comes in 47″, 72″, and 77″ lengths. There is a women’s version too, but it only comes in a 66″ length.
Prior to this purchase, when I thought of lightweight sleeping pads, I thought of thin, closed-cell foam pads. Although these types of pads do have their merits when it comes to durability, they leave a lot to be desired when it comes to sleeping comfort. This is not the case with the NeoAir XLite though. At 2.5 inches thick, there is more than enough padding for a comfortable night’s sleep. I’m a side sleeper, and the extra thickness allows my shoulder to sink into the pad without hitting the ground. I keep my pad on the firm side, and it stays well inflated throughout the night. I’ve even gone a couple nights without having to adjust the pressure.
The pad I was carrying on my pack was 2.5 lbs (40 ounces). At only 12 ounces, the NeoAir XLite has saved 1.75 lbs of pack weight. Although not a huge number by itself, when you apply a weight loss strategy across all your gear, significant weight savings can be achieved. There is definitely a pack weight threshold, that when crossed, the pack becomes a burden on your shoulders, back, hips, knees, and feet. The NeoAir XLite has helped keep my pack in the comfortable zone.
Packs Small and Carries Safe
We were carrying our old pads on the bottom of our packs without any protective stuff sacks. Every time we sat the packs down or leaned up against something, the pads were taking abuse. Eventually, abrasions caused the two pads to go flat. What I like about the NeoAir XLite is that it comes with its own protective stuff sack, and it fits inside the sleeping bag compartment of my backpack where it’s safe from the outside elements. And should a problem arise out on the trail, a small patch kit is provided for fixing the pad in the field.
Also notable about the NeoAir XLite is its warmth. I wasn’t sure how an all-air pad would perform without the heat-trapping foam in it, but the inner reflective layer does a great job at recycling body heat and conserving warmth. In fact, I was surprised at how much warmer it was than my old pad. I have the Regular sized mattress, and at 72 inches long, it fits my 5’10” (70 inches) body perfectly, helping to keep me warm from head to toe.
Inflation, Using, and Deflation
Since the NeoAir XLite doesn’t have a self-inflating foam core, it takes a little more wind to inflate. The inflation time is only slightly longer than thinner pads though, and I don’t find it significant.
Some people have commented on the “crinkly” sound the pad makes when you climb onto it or move around. I think this is due to the reflective baffling inside. While it is a different sound than a self-inflatable, I don’t find it annoying, and it hasn’t cost me any sleep. I even think the crinkling has subsided some now that the pad is broken in.
Deflating the pad is easier than with a self-inflating pad, since there is no expanding foam to fight back. Simply open the air valve, squeeze the air out, fold in half, then roll up and stuff.
I highly recommend the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite sleeping pad for those looking to lighten up their pack weight and get a good night’s sleep in the process. The pad has proven to be quite durable for its weight, and has stood up to several backpacking and car camping trips this year. The small size of the pad when in the stuff sack allows it to be packed away safe inside a pack instead of lashed to the outside. This also keeps the pack’s profile smaller, better balanced, and more maneuverable in tight situations. The price for this pad is significantly higher than many other pads on the market, but I feel the performance gains are worth the extra money.
More info and specs on the Cascade Designs Website.
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