Hands-on Gear Review
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Street Price: Varies from $82 - $110 | Compare prices at 6 resellers
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 used to win our Top Pick Award for Comfort, but the new Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Camper has replaced it as our favorite all-purpose pad for car camping and backpacking. The NeoAir Camper is more comfortable due to its flatter surface and lack of a built-in pillow. The Camper is also slightly lighter than an equivalent sized Astro or Nemo's larger sized Cosmo pad.
Check out our Backpacking Sleeping Pad Review to compare all of the models tested.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
The Nemo Astro Insulated strikes a sweet spot between lightweight backpacking pads and ultra heavy car camping pads. It's warm, comfortable, durable, reasonably lightweight, and packs to a manageable size.
The pad is considerably more comfortable than thin pads like Nemo's Zor and it's slighter wider than the NeoAir XLite. However, its built-in pillow is unnecessary, uncomfortable for tall people, and adds extra weight. Our testers prefer pads that have uniform flat surfaces.
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 we've 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 doesn't pop upon the slightest encounter with abrasion. This pad is more durable than lighter sleeping pads such as the company's Zor and ultralight NeoAir pads (XLite and XTherm). Another plus: it's 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 pad's combination of comfort, durability, and value make it our favorite do-it-all pad where saving weight isn't the top priority.
The Astro Insulated is the only sleeping pad we've 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 didn't. It's useful when you want a pillow but don't 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 Astro's pillow: those who sleep on their side and back liked it, those who sleep on their stomach didn't. Taller people (>70") will find the pillow to be most inconvenient because their feet will hang farther off the pad. For example, this author is 74" 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 it's worth keeping in mind if you're 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 we've tested. How much is 24 ounces? Answer: it's 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 we've 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 isn't ideal for longer trips, but the pad guarantees a comfortable night's sleep and it won't pop easily. Though not weightless, some say a good night's 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. The Nemo Astro Insulated with Pillowtop, $90, is the best all-purpose sleeping pad we've tested.
The Nemo Astro Air Ultralight, $110, weighs 14 oz and has a small integrated pillow. The Nemo Cosmo 25L, $140, has a built-in foot pump, four inches of loft, and a raised baffle at the head end to supplement your pillow.
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 (it's 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.
— Chris McNamara and Max Neale
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Most recent review: July 14, 2013
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