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Hands-on Gear Review

Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite Review

   
Top Pick Award

Men's Sleeping Pad

  • Currently 4.4/5
Overall avg rating 4.4 of 5 based on 6 reviews. Most recent review: January 19, 2016
Price:   $130 List | Varies from $97 - $130 online
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Pros:  Lightweight, warm for the weight, packs small, comfortable, versatile
Cons:  Expensive, edges not as stable as other pad designs
Manufacturer:   Therm-a-Rest
Review by: Jeremy Bauman ⋅ Review Editor, OutdoorGearLab ⋅ August 13, 2015  
Overview
If your pack only has room for high performance products, then the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite is up to snuff. This pad wins our Top Pick Award for Ultralight because for 12 ounces you won't have to sacrifice a thing when it comes to comfort and packed size. Unless you do a lot of camping in the snow, this pad is warm enough for use in most summer, spring, and fall conditions. We've used this pad in a myriad of conditions and reach for it more than most others. In fact, one tester who has been backpacking and mountaineering for the past 40 years commented that this was by far the best pad he's ever used. Aside from our Editors' Choice winner, the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm (which is a bit heavier, but warmer and more durable), we think that the XLite is one of the most versatile three-season pads on the market. It's also worth noting that Therm-a-Rest redesigned the NeoAir XLite for 2015, giving it a new and softer fabric, as well as a quieter construction.

Perhaps the biggest downside to the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite is its $130 price tag. For the even less, you could buy the Sea to Summit UltraLight that weighs the same, is almost as comfortable, but packs even smaller. Keep in mind, however, that the UltraLight isn't nearly as warm. Below, we highlight more of the differences between these two amazing pads.

The women's version of the XLite won our Editors' Choice Award in the Best Sleeping Pads for Women review. The women's version weighs the same as the unisex model, but it is warmer and four inches shorter.

New Version - June 2016
A new version of this award-winning pad was made available in 2016! Scroll down for a more detailed comparison of the new Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Xlite Max SV vs. the 2015 Xlite version. We are in the process of testing this new product, and we will post a full update with our findings soon. In the meantime, the text and ratings still reflect the older 2015 version.

RELATED: Our complete review of men's sleeping pads

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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review

NeoAir Xlite Max SV vs. NeoAir Xlite


This Top Pick award winner has a new family member in the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Xlite Max SV. The two main feature-related differences are found in their respective shapes and inflation technologies. This new model fronts a rectangular shape and a new SpeedValve design intended to decrease inflation time to half that of conventional valves, according to the manufacturer. Therm-a-Rest also claims deflation time to be reduced to almost an instant with the patent-pending SpeedValve. This new version maintains the same dimensions, both inflated and in packed volume, as the version in this review. Also important to note, the new Xlite Max SV has significantly increased both its weight to one pound and list price to $180.

Check out a side-by-side comparison below, with the latest Xlite Max SV model from 2016 pictured on the left and the older Xlite model from 2015 shown on the right.
Click to enlargeClick to enlarge 

Hands-On Review of the 2015 NeoAir Xlite


The Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite is one of the most versatile three-season pads we've ever used. Few pads offer as much performance for such a scant weight, which is why we've awarded it our Top Pick for Ultralight. Although it's a bit of an investment, if you're a weight conscious backpacker or mountaineer, we're certain you'll be psyched on this pad's high performance.

Performance Comparison


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We used these pads side by side. Our tester's night began on the Klymit pad before he switched to the XLite in the early morning hours. Overall, he found the XLite more comfortable.
Credit: Jeremy Bauman

Comfort


We loved sleeping on this pad! It provides a smooth sleep surface save for slight ridges created by the internal baffling. This was more comfortable than pads with deep baffles like the Klymit Insulated Static V Lite or Sea to Summit UltraLight. The horizontal baffles of the XTherm feel more stable than vertical baffles on other sleeping pads. Past reviews of this pad complained of a significant "crackling" noises when you shift around. Therm-a-Rest apparently has updated the material used, because the version in this review was quieter than past iterations of this pad. Only a couple of reviewers noted the noise issue and all of our reviewers agreed that this was mostly a non-issue.

The primary problem with the pad's comfort relates to width. The regular size isn't wide enough for your arms to rest by your sides when laying on your back. Thus, we often put our arms on our belly. You can also opt for a size large, which adds 5 inches of width and 5 inches of length. Several testers found this pad too narrow for their liking and didn't like its mummy-shaped construction. Indeed, we agree that rectangular sleeping pads are more comfortable. Further, a problem with horizontally baffled sleeping pads is that the edges are prone to collapsing. Because of this issue, we suspect that the usable width of this pad is more like 16-18 inches depending on the level of inflation.

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The horizontal baffles on this pad are smaller than many. When lying on the pad, you don't really notice them. This yields a comfortable sleep surface.
Credit: Jeremy Bauman

Weight


The Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite is the lightest comfortable sleeping pad available. In the regular size, the XLite weighs only 12 ounces and the small weighs just 8 ounces! This is our top-rated ultralight pad. In this review update, the Sea to Summit UltraLight was a close contender for our Top Pick for Ultralight award, but lost because it is slightly less comfortable and retains much less warmth.

Warmth


The NeoAir XLite is an air construction sleeping pad. As with any such design, heat is primarly lost through internal convection that occurs when you move air throughout the pad by tossing and turning and even breathing. Each time you move, you force a little bit of cold air (near the ground) to mix with warm air (near you). Even though the thermal conductivity value of air is quite low, when it moves across a surface, it can transport a lot of energy and zap your heat away. The XLite combats convective heat loss by using a "Triangle Core Matrix" that compartmentalizes the air and reduces its flow. Further, the internal structure is lined with a reflective surface that bounces radiative heat back to the sleeper. As with any inflatable sleeping pad, the maximum R-value occurs when the pad is fully inflated.

With a stated R-value of 3.2, Therm-a-Rest claims that the XLite should be comfortable down to about 20 degrees F. Feedback from our reviewers backs up this claim. If you want to camp around snow, just add a foam pad like the Therm-a-Rest Z Lite SOL and you'll be all set. We use this combo frequently and have even used it in Alaska with great success. If you want a pad that's even warmer, check out the Therm-a-Rest XTherm, which has an R-value of 5.7.

Want more warmth without the weight? The Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite Women's has an R-value of 3.9! Caveat: it's a bit smaller.
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Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm (left) and XLite (right) are both great options for light and fast adventures.
Credit: Max Neale

Packed Size


This pad packs down about the same size a one-liter Nalgene bottle. We thought this was super small for a full sized pad until the Sea to Summit UltraLight packed down to nearly half the size. Still, the XLite is a very compressible pad that earns a small place in our ultralight packs.

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The XLite's super small packed size ensures that you can always fit this pad in your pack. This is a really great pad for fast and light endeavors. Here's it's compared with a one-liter water bottle.
Credit: Jeremy Bauman

Durability


The NeoAir XLite's ultralight 30 denier nylon bottom is not as durable as the XTherm or Sea to Summit UltraLight, but we still didn't have any issues with durability when used side-by-side with the other pads in this updated review. However, we have been using this pad for years and have experience with it beyond the scope of this review. During this extended use, we have witnessed this pad taking loads abuse as well as failing. If you are concerned with durability, just be sure to use the pad inside your tent or on top of a foam pad. Below, we highlight some of the instances where this pad either shined or failed.

One tester used this pad for 40 days straight including a two night open bivy with the pad used directly on granite. Two years later, he still uses the same pad and cites that it is the best pad he has used in his 40 years of backpacking and mountaineering.

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The Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm (right) has a more durable bottom material than the XLite (left).
Credit: Max Neale

One tester neglected to put his XLite pad inside his bivy sack on the North Cascades' Torment-forbidden Traverse. Instead, he laid it directly on sharp gravel and rocks. After a night of sleeping successfully, the pad got a quarter sized hole in the bottom shortly after he woke up. Check out the photo below. (Note: we recommend a closed cell sleeping pad for use directly on sharp alpine bivy ground. Usually people put a sleeping pad inside a bivy sack, not underneath it.

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Katabatic Gear Sawatch bag and Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite pad on the Torment-Forbibben Traverse, Cascades, WA. The pad was used directly on the sharp rocks and popped shortly before sunrise ...it lasted all night on sharp rocks!!
Credit: Tommy Dutra

On a traverse of Washington State's Olympic Peninsula via foot and packraft, two testers put a two-year old XLite in the bottom of their packraft to insulate them and to cushion their butts from rocks. After running into and over many rocks, and scooting over others, the pad began to delaminate in one small area (6" x 6"). The baffle structure that holds the top to the bottom began to come undone… likely from the excessive pressure of two people's weight hitting rocks. See the photo below. Although no sleeping pad is intended to hold two people's weight and be used in the bottom of a packraft, we were very impressed that the ultralight XLite that had been abused for two years only began to delaminate after boating with it.

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A Regular size Therm-a-Rest Neo Air pad (Xlite shown here) fits perfectly inside an Alpacka Explorer 42 raft and insulates and elevates you from cold water. Hoh River, Olympic Peninsula, WA.
Credit: Max Neale

These examples suggest that the XLite and other NeoAir pads are highly durable. In the second example the author patched the pad with Tenacious Tape and Seam Grip. In the third example Therm-a-Rest replaced the delaminating pad free of charge.

Best Applications


This pad is meant for high output endeavors were the highest performing gear is needed. Long backpacking, climbing, mountaineering, and cycling trips are the perfect application for a pad like the XLite. We don't like using it for car camping because the other camping pads & mattresses are more comfortable, cheaper, and more durable.

Value


At $130, this is one of the most expensive pads we tested, but it's also the second highest performing. In the sense that this continues to be one of our favorite pads, we think $130 isn't a lot to pay for a good night's sleep in such a lightweight package. The Sea to Summit UltraLight is about the same weight but costs $30 less. If you primarily travel in the summer, the UltraLight is quite worthy of consideration. Overall, we think that the XLite presents a good but not great value.

Conclusion


If you want to lighten your load with one of the highest performing pads we've ever tested, then our Top Pick winner is for you. It is hard to believe that so much awesome is contained in a single 12 oz package. The Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite continues to be one of our favorite pads and is the one we'd choose if we had to have one pad for three-season adventures. We have used it with great success in the winter when coupled with a foam pad. For long distance backpacking, mountaineering, and climbing adventures, the XLite sets the bar.
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We've used the XLite directly on the ground and on rock on multiple occasions without any durability issues.
Credit: Jeremy Bauman

Other Versions


Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite - Women's
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  • Women's version
  • Retails for $160
  • Earned our Editors' Choice Award
  • A little warmer and a little shorter than the unisex version

Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Xtherm
Click to enlarge
  • Weighs 3 ounces more than the XLite
  • Costs $40 more than the XLite
  • Has an R-value of 5.7
  • More durable than the XLite
  • Editors' Choice Award Winner!

Jeremy Bauman


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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews


Most recent review: January 19, 2016
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:   
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 (5.0)
Average Customer Rating:   
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  • 5
 (4.0)

80% of 5 reviewers recommend it
Rating Distribution
6 Total Ratings
5 star: 67%  (4)
4 star: 0%  (0)
3 star: 17%  (1)
2 star: 17%  (1)
1 star: 0%  (0)
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
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   Dec 27, 2015 - 01:07pm
lah · Backpacker · Miami, FL
I'm on my fourth year of regular use with this pad, not one hole or deficiency yet, just a dependable night's rest every time. I've never slept more comfortable and warm outdoors. When paired with the extraordinary design of Sierra Design's Backcountry bed, it's more desirable than my bed at home. I've used the pad in just about every environment and with multiple shelters, including bivy sacks, tents, tarps, and even hammocks. My only slightly negative observations are that I don't care for the feel of the pad material directly against my skin, the interior mylar material has broken down slightly over the years (yet still performs as normal) and the see-through properties allow you to see the moisture that builds up inside. That last property is probably a good one, since it's prompted me to always use my Exped Schnozzel pack liner (which I had to modify ever so slightly) to inflate the pad. Initially another gripe would have been the number of breaths it takes for full inflation, but the Schnozzel has negated that. It takes less than a minute and very minimal effort with this method. And since I use a pack liner anyways, I'm not carrying an extra piece of gear just for inflation. Followers of this method will need to cut a small piece of 700C (road bike) tubing to be able to attach the Schnozzel fill to the valve…it's works perfectly once you manage to stretch the tubing onto the Schnozzel and just leave it in place. I recommend this pad to everyone and am going to purchase another just as a back-up and for outfitting my friends. This time I think I will opt for the women's version, just for the improved R-value. This piece of gear earns a place in my top-5 picks of all time.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   Jan 19, 2016 - 05:22pm
Stitch · Backpacker · Kapaa, Kauai, Hawaii
The NeoAir XLite mattress is currently the best on the market as they claim in my opinion, for the weight, compressibility, and thermo efficiency you just can't beat it. That being said there are some simple adjustments that would make it so much more comfortable for its users, and after all a good night sleep is really what we as the consumers are after. The mattress is simply not wide enough. I am 6 foot and 170lbs and shoulder-to-shoulder 22 inches. Resting naturally your elbows stick out further forming the widest part of your body and mine measure right around 25inches. I own a Regular size (20/72/2.5in) mattress, when fully inflated your arms fall out to the side and bend your shoulders in the opposite direction they would naturally fall which is quite uncomfortable. I have tried many techniques in trying to work with this, one was interlocking my fingers across my belly and trying to keep my elbows as tight to my body as possible, but as soon as you get into deep sleep your fingers relax and your arms fall to your side waking you up. Currently I am only inflating the mattress half-way, this allows my body when laying perfectly flat on my back and all points of my body make contact with the mattress, gives me just enough cushion between me and the earth to be comfortable and allows my arms to rest more comfortably beside my body, but makes sleeping on my side impossible and extremely uncomfortable because the mattress is not inflated enough to provide cushion.
So making a Regular/Wide or a Small/Wide of at least 26 to 28 inches would win my dollars. I find the regular to be quite long, even for my size and although the large does step up to a 25in. wide format, the length would just be gigantic and unnecessary, adding weight that does not need to be there.
This product is pretty incredible overall, the thermal efficiency even when not fully inflated is superb besides the cold spots created on the sides from not being wide enough. The material is top notch, it feels nice to touch and is not so slick that you slide off easily. This product virtually disappears in your bag and weighs almost nothing. I have not once been concerned about punctures thus far. The concern that the product makes too much noise when moved around on has never been an issue for me, even when the product was new. I have over 40 night's sleep on this mattress in all types of environments. It is also the best pad I have used so far for hammock camping, except for the complaint listed above.
Hopefully thermo-a-rest will hear our cries and produce a wider version that is of average size in order to keep weight at a minimal, there is enough feedback out there to support this by now.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   Nov 17, 2015 - 11:24pm
JamieDee · Mountain Biker · Calais, VT
I've used this probably over 50 nights in a wide variety of circumstances. It's by far the most comfortable sleeping pad I've owned. You can easily adjust firmness with the air pressure. I always over inflate and then let little bits out until it's just right. I've used it at 35*F below Zero in Vermont and stayed nice and toasty with nothing else except a tent footprint between me and the snow pack. It rolls up so small it would practically fit in a coffee mug. Can't say enough great things about the pad. Though I've never punctured and patched, it feels like it would be flimsy and weak, though so far no trouble what so ever.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   Oct 20, 2015 - 05:49pm
Product failed in Arizona. Was excited for the upgrade, but leaked after 2nd night, failed on third. Look for a more durable product.

Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this product to a friend.
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   Sep 23, 2015 - 12:26am
Coloradeaux · Backpacker · Denver, CO
I've used the XLite for 20 nights with no failure issues though I generally camp in a tent with a footprint. The weight trade off by not getting a self inflating is worth it on long grueling trips but sucking in thin air at altitude here in Colorado to blow up a pad isn't fun at the end of a day of climbing. If sticker price scares you off, you can occasionally find one at an REI garage sale with easily repairable pinholes.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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