Hands-on Gear Review
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Pros: Comfortable, warm, built-in pillow, quiet.
Cons: Heavy, built-in pillow.
Best Uses: Luxurious three-season backpacking, basecamping, car camping.
The Nemo Astro Insulated is the best all-purpose sleeping pad weíve tested. This 2.5 inch-thick pad has horizontal air baffles, which make it feel wider and smoother than pads with vertical baffles. A thin layer of open cell polyurethane foam is welded to the inside top surface and serves to reduce air circulation, thereby keeping you warmer when the temps drop. Most importantly, the Astro Insulated doesnít skimp on comfort. The pad is more restful and homely than 15 of the 16 other portable sleeping pads weíve tested. Drawbacks include the padís weight, a hefty 24 ounces, and a built-in pillow that might push tall people farther off the pad. On the whole, however, the Astro Insulated is a remarkably versatile sleeping pad. Its comfort and durability make it well suited to people who want one sleeping pad for everything from car camping to multi-day trips.
The Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm canít be beat for winter adventures. This ultrahigh performance, compact pad weighs a mere 15 ounces (thatís nine less than the Astro Insulated) and its internal reflective baffles keep you toasty on ice and snow. Sticking to three-season outings? Opt for the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite, which weighs a mere 12 ounces (half the Astro Insulatedís weight) and packs down to a liter. Although these pads are better for multi-day trips, the Astro Insulated is more comfortable, more durable, less noisy and better for car camping.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
The Nemo Astro Insulated strikes the ultimate middle ground among sleeping pads. Itís warm, comfortable, durable, reasonably lightweight, and packs to a manageable size.
Comfort is what sets this pad apart from the ultralight competition. Unlike ExPed pads, the Astro Insulated uses horizontal baffles, which makes the pad feel wider and more like a bed than an inflatable pool mattress. The Astro Insulated is slightly wider than pads in the Therm-a-Rest Neo Air series. (Although both manufacturers claim 20Ē widths, the NeoAir is roughly an inch narrower than the Asro Insulated when inflated. Furthermore, NeoAir pads collapse at the edges when loaded, which leaves them feeling about an inch narrower than they are. The Astro Insulated is, therefore, more comfortable than most Exped pads and all NeoAirs. Comfort is the main reason to get the Astro Insulated.
The Astro Insulated falls into the synthetic insulated air core construction category. Its baffles are 2.5 inches high and have a thin layer of open cell polyurethance foam welded to the top inner surface. This foam helps to reduce air circulation, which in turn keeps you warmer. This pad is warmer than all of the self-inflating foam pads weíve tested and is plenty capable of all three-season activities.
The Astro Insulated also scores highly for durability. Its 75-denier polyester fabric (top and bottom) ensures the pad doesnít pop upon the slightest encounter with abrasion. This pad is more durable than lighter sleeping pads such as the companyís Zor and ultralight NeoAir pads (XLite and XTherm). Another plus: itís nowhere near as noisy as the NeoAir series.
Price. Here, too, the Astro Insulated scores well. The pads retails for a modest $110. Overall, the padís combination of comfort, durability, and value make it our favorite do-it-all pad where saving weight isnít the top priority.
The Astro Insulated is the only sleeping pad weíve tested that has a built-in pillow. (The pillow is an oversized air baffle that sits about two inches above the rest of the pad.) Some of our testers loved this feature while others didnít. Itís useful when you want a pillow but donít have any material to make one (when traveling and sleeping in all of your layers), but it can be a nuisance if you want to lay your head directly on the mat without a pillow (you have to move down farther). We had five testers compare the comfort of seven of the newest we pads tested in this class. The consensus regarding the Astroís pillow: those who sleep on their side and back liked it, those who sleep on their stomach didnít. Taller people (>70Ē) will find the pillow to be most inconvenient because their feet will hang farther off the pad. For example, this author is 74Ē tall. Instead of making a pillow above the pad, on the ground, he has to make one on the pad, which forces his feet to dangle off the pad about three inches more than they normally would. Most people won't find the pillow to be problematic, but itís worth keeping in mind if youíre taller.
Though durable and comfortable, the Astro Insulated is no ultralight gem. The pad weighs 24 ounces, which makes it one of the heavier sleeping pads weíve tested. How much is 24 ounces? Answer: itís one ounce less than the fully featured Feathered Friends Hummingbird 20 sleeping bag and twice the weight of the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite, the lightest comfortable sleeping pad weíve reviewed. This drawback makes the pad best suited to people who want one pad to do everything from car camping to base camping, and multi-day trips in the back country. Its weight isnít ideal for longer trips, but the pad guarantees a comfortable nightís sleep and it wonít pop easily. Though not weightless, some say a good nightís sleep is priceless.
The Astro Insulated most directly competes with the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Trekker ($120). The Trekker is slightly less comfortable and slightly less warm, but it also packs smaller and weighs four ounces less. We believe the Astro Insulated is a better all-purpose pad for people who car camp or base camp more than they backpack.
The Astro Insulated can be paired with the Nemo Pillowtop, a thin foam cover that slips over the pad. Although the Astro Insulated is often sold with the Pillowtop, we recommend getting the pad by itself. If you want a pillowtop we suggest the more comfortable and more durable Therm-a-Rest DreamTime Comfort Cover.
For inflation consider the Nemo Disco Pad Pump, a 2.2 oz. foot pump or the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Pump Sack (3.8 oz.), which doubles as a camp stool, stuff sack, or backpack liner (itís compatible with the Astro Insulated). We highly recommend one of these for inflating the pad in the winter, when water vapor from your lungs condenses inside the pad. The Therm-a-Rest Compack Chair (6 oz.) turns almost any pad (from any manufacturer) into a comfortable camp chair with back support.
— Max Neale
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Most recent review: January 2, 2013
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