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 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. Itís 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 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: July 14, 2013
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