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Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite Review

   
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Men's Sleeping Pads

  • Currently 3.7/5
Overall avg rating 3.7 of 5 based on 16 reviews. Most recent review: July 14, 2014
Street Price:   Varies from $117 - $180 | Compare prices at 9 resellers
Pros:  Very lightweight, warm, comfortable, compact, versatile.
Cons:  Edges collapse when weighted, noisy when camped on hard ground, expensive.
Best Uses:  All ultralight activities.
User Rating:     
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 (3.2 of 5) based on 15 reviews
Recommendations:  55% of reviewers (6/11) recommend this product
Manufacturer:   Therm-a-Rest
Review by: Chris McNamara ⋅ Founder and Editor-in-Chief, OutdoorGearLab ⋅ July 14, 2014  
Overview
The Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite is the most comfortable lightweight sleeping pad in existence. A Regular size weighs only 12 ounces and the Small a mere 8 ounces. Both pack down ludicrously tiny. The XLite has become the standard pad for ultralight trips of all types in all conditions. This is our testers' favorite sleeping pad for multi-day trips.

Check out our Backpacking Sleeping Pad Review to compare all of the models tested.

If you're 5' 6" or under, check out our Women's Sleeping Pad Review. If comfort is top priority get yourself a Car Camping Mattress, which are much more comfortable than the XLite and better for car camping.

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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review

Weight and Packed Size
The NeoAir Xlite is the lightest highly comfortable sleeping pad available. In the Regular size, the XLite weighs only 12 ounces. It also packs down smaller than a Nalgene bottle. This is our top-rated ultralight pad; it makes all others, in all construction types, look poor in comparison. Yes, some other pads are lighter, but none are as comfortable. The Kylmit Inertia X Frame, for example, is three ounces lighter but only comfortable for back-sleepers around 5'10" in height.

Click to enlarge
L to R: NeoAir AllSeason (19 oz.), Xtherm (15 oz.), XLite (12 oz.) XLite Women's (11 oz.), and Zlite Sol (14 oz.). The AllSeason and XTherm have a more durable bottom material and the AllSeason is square, not tapered, and thus rolls up more evenly.
Credit: Max Neale
Warmth
Like other pads in the Neo Air series, the XLite uses a series of internal baffles and reflective layers that trap air and bounce heat back to the user. Halting air circulation is the crux of making an air core sleeping pad warm. The more you move about on the pad, the more air moves about within the pad. Moving air is bad because it mixes the warm air you've worked so hard to heat up with the cold air closer to the snow below. This, in turn, reduces the pad's ability to insulate. The XLite's Triangular Core Matrix technology addresses this problem by dividing up the pad's interior space into over one hundred different cells that combat airflow and keep you warmer. At the same time, the pad's aluminized reflective barriers reduce convective heat loss by casting heat back to you.

Click to enlarge
Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite and XTherm pads on the Isolation ski Traverse, Cascades, Washington (33 miles with 24,000 ft of elevation gain).
Credit: Will Dean
Comfort
Although our testers found flat surfaces to be the most comfortable for laying your head on directly, the NeoAir has the best non-flat surface of all the pads we've tested. Its ridges are small and curve gently, unlike other pads with deep baffles (such as Nemo, Exped, and Big Agnes pads). The NeoAir's internal baffles also help make the pad more stable. You feel more like you're sleeping on a bed than on an inflatable pool toy. Two years of testing the XLite side-by-side with other top-tier inflatable pads shows that the NeoAir surface is the most comfortable. Trip after trip various testers report that the NeoAir was their top choice.

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" of width and 5" of length.

Click to enlarge
Maggie Smith on the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite sleeping pad during a break from biking from San Francisco to Los Angeles.
Credit: Max Neale
Click to enlarge
Zeb Engberg enjoying the luxury of the Katabatic Gear Sawatch quilt (the Palisade's warmer sibling), NeoAir XLite pad, Hilleberg Rogen tent, and a wide variety of energy bars. Camped on snow in Glacier National Park.
Credit: Max Neale
Durability
The NeoAir XLite's ultralight 30-denier bottom is not as durable as the XTherm or All-Season, but is still astonishingly durable (see the photo below). Next we describe two examples of how the our NeoAir XLites have failed. The inexpensive, easy, and effective way to increase the durability of any pad is to put a sheet of Tyvek underneath it.

Click to enlarge
The Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm (right) has a more durable bottom material than the XLite (left).
Credit: Max Neale
XLite Failure #1 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 tore a quarter sized hole in the bottom shortly after he woke up. The pad lasted all night on sharp rocks!! 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
XLite Failure #2 The author and OGL Editor Chris Simrell teamed up for a traverse of Washington State's Olympic Peninsula via foot and packraft with OGL's oldest NeoAir XLite- the one that had been used a ton for two years. We put the pad in the bottom of an Alpacka Explorer 42 boat to insulate and elevate us, and to cushion our 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 first example the author patched the pad with Tenacious Tape and Seam Grip. In the second example Therm-a-Rest replaced the delaminating pad free of charge.

Warranty
Therm-a-Rest has a fantanstic warranty for their products.
"Your mattress is guaranteed without time limit against defects in materials and workmanship." NeoAir pads are super easy to patch, but if one happens to bust open or delaminate they will replace it for free.

Limitations
There are two drawbacks to the construction of all NeoAir sleeping pads: they're narrow and noisy. Although 20" is the standard width for portable sleeping pads, the NeoAir is narrower than most others (not all manufacturers measure pads the same way). For example, a 20" XLite is just over an inch slimmer than the 20" Nemo Astro insulated (see photo below). Furthermore, the NeoAir's internal baffle construction provides little support along the pad's edges; they collapse slightly when loaded. Specifically, the edges are supportive when lying on your back, but not when you're lying on your side close to the edge. The combination of a slimmer pad and the edge collapsing effect make the NeoAir series feel about 18" wide. None of our testers found this to be particularly problematic, however. The XLite is still very comfortable. If you're on the wider side consider a Large size.

The XLite's internal baffles can be noisy when you're camped on hard, compact ground. This is a very minor drawback when the pad's exceptional performance is considered. If saving weight isn't a priority we suggest considering the NeoAir Camper, which is more comfortable and silent.

Click to enlarge
Square tarp pitched as an A-frame (tight against ground) with Therm-a-Rest Neo Air XLite pads, ZPacks Twin Quilt sleeping bag, and the Alpacka Explorer 42 raft used as a ground sheet. A frame mode offers a lot of space for two people and gear.
Credit: Max Neale
Best Application
Any ultralight activity.

Value
Worth every penny.

Other Versions and Accessories
The XLite is available in four sizes that let you get the best pad for your intended use. Small (20 x 47 in., 8 oz.) is ideal for all applications where saving weight is a top priority. The XLite Women's (20 x 66 in., 11 oz.) is great for people 5' 6" in height and under or those who want a slightly warmer pad. Regular size (20 x 72 in., 12 oz.) will be best for the greatest number of people. And, finally, Large (25 x 77 in., 16 oz.) is an option for wider people or those who want a more surface area.

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. We recommend one of these for inflating the pad in the winter, when water vapor from your lungs condenses inside the pad. If you are near the car, consider using the Kwik Tek Airhead Hand Pump or the Kwik Tek Airhead 12V Air Pump.

For seating, check out the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Jembe Seat (3.8 oz.), which turns any NeoAir mattress into a comfortable camp stool. 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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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews


Most recent review: July 14, 2014
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:   
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 (5.0)
Average Customer Rating:   
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 (3.2)

55% of 11 reviewers recommend it
Rating Distribution
10 Total Ratings
5 star: 30%  (3)
4 star: 30%  (3)
3 star: 10%  (1)
2 star: 10%  (1)
1 star: 20%  (2)
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   Jun 4, 2014 - 04:06pm
Chudak · Climber
Two words: Da Bomb!
Two more words: life changeing!
OK, maybe not quite but you won't pry this baby outta my warm fingers.
The noisiness is overblown. I'm a fairly light sleeper and it doesn't
really bother me. Haven't had it long enough to address its longevity
BUT I DON'T CARE! Don't see how the longevity will be a problem unless
you sleep on bare rocks.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   Jun 4, 2014 - 12:43pm
Lucky Man · Hiker · WPB, FL
I'm 6'2" and a light sleeper, but I slept comfortably enough on the small (torso-length) NeoAir XLite in shelters and a tent during an 11-night backpack. I sleep on my side with knees bent and my pack or something else beneath my legs. I recommend borrowing one of these from someone and trying it before buying one; they're not for everyone. The light weight and small pack size is amazing, and the so-called crinkling that some people complain about with the NeoAir didn't bother me a bit. Plus, Therm-a-rest is an honorable company to deal with; it once replaced an ancient, damaged full-length pad I sent in, and shockingly enough still makes products in America instead of outsourcing everything to China.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   Apr 18, 2014 - 06:15pm
Fair-In-Height · Backpacker · Portland, Oregon
I bought the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Xlite Large with my REI dividend. Only 16 ounces with all the comfort in the world and radiant type insulation. Boy was I disappointed!
I've only slept on the mattress twice. Both times in my house on the floor. The first night I filled it up pretty full of air and when I layed in it I could feel the radiant heat but I seamed to have cold spots. And I couldn't get comfortable. I kept on letting out air as the night went on expecting the pad to become more comfortable but it didn't. It was a terrible nights sleep. Finally at about 5:00AM I got into my real bed. Finally, I could sleep. The pad was cold to luke warm and had lots of pressure points against my body.
Two nights later I made a second attempt. This time I filled the pad all the way up good and tight. It was a bit warmer but not enough for sleeping with a quilt. Once again it wasn't comfortable can't explain why exactly.
So after the second night I have decided to return the pad.

The good: The large is very large. I'm 6'5" and it fit me just fine. It is also light. The material seams puncture resistant.
The Bad: A cold sleep even in my house. Very, very, very uncomfortable.

I you want one just go to the REI garage sale I'm sure mine will be sitting out there which is too bad 'cause I really wanted this pad to work.

Oh I forgot to mention. The potato chip sound didn't really bother me but it drove my wife crazy. she couldn't sleep because I kept tossing and turning which made all that potato chip noise.

Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this product to a friend.
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   Jan 9, 2014 - 10:10am
SCseagoat · Climber · Santa Cruz
Still stand by the review I wrote in August. I love this thing! Best investment I have ever made. It sounds crinkly when you are inflating and trying it out. Once bags are on it even with tossing and turning there is not a "potato chip bag" sound. Just the usual sound you might hear when turning over. Several packing partners have bought it since they saw mine. EVERYONE really happy.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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Jan 9, 2014 - 08:04am
 
headwerkn · Hunter · Tasmania, Australia
Just my opinion, but the crinkly noise from moving whilst on the pad is hardly a 'minor issue'. Plenty of people will find it unacceptably loud…. if not you, then the person trying to sleep next to you!

My better half and I walked into our local gear shop ready to spend up on a pair of NeoAirs to replace our not-comfy-enough Prolite pads… within 5 seconds of laying down on them we understood the fuss about the noise. It really is like rolling around on tinfoil.

Unless you stay perfectly still while sleeping (I certainly don't) then I'd seriously consider other options. It's a shame because the pads are super light, well made and warm, but hearing "crinkle-crinkle-crinkle" all night would most likely drive the sleep-ee nuts… and your tent partner to justifiable homicide…

Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this product to a friend.
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   Jan 6, 2014 - 01:42am
WhiteTomato · Hiker
Took this on a four-day trip to Saguaro National Park in January. Night temps hovered in the 20's.

The pad is definitely small and light, which I loved. I wasn't cold while I was sleeping--well, the parts of me that actually fit on the pad.

I really wanted this pad to work. I read the reviews on this site and went to REI to try one out. Immediately I noticed the noise and the size. I am 6'6", and weigh about 185 lbs, so I'm tall but not huge. Still, my shoulders and upper torso didn't fit on the large pad and my feet were off. The pictures in the article that show the reviewers lying on the pad with the arms folded is basically exactly how one has to sleep to stay on this thing!

I bought the Therm-a-Rest Stuff Sack that doubles as an inflation device for the pad. I won't say I'm the smartest guy in the world, but I'm also not an idiot. I could never quite figure out how to get the pad fully inflated with the sack and then get the valve closed--regardless of my best efforts, the pad was never quite fully inflated. That didn't matter by the way--because it didn't hold air well. I noticed this during my test run at home and made sure there were no leaks before leaving. Mine definitely didn't seem to hold air well, and my inability to fully inflate meant lying on my side was uncomfortable.

The pad is noisy if you move around a lot at night, which I do, although admittedly I got over that part. I'd have been fine with the sound if I fit on the pad and if it felt comfortable to me.

If weight and size are your main concerns, this is the pad for you. I am sure it will keep you warm, also. For me, I think I might sacrifice some space and weight for a pad on which I fit and sleep more comfortably. I might consider this pad if they at least made it wider, but I bought their biggest one.

Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this product to a friend.
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   Nov 28, 2013 - 06:30pm
J_B · Backpacker · British Columbia
This is an excellent sleeping pad where light weight and a compact size are desirable. It packs very small, and is easy to get it to roll up and back in to its bag. I think an inch or two extra width would be super nice for comfort, but for the weight savings the width is fine.

I have concerns about moisture getting in to this unit from multiple inflations when not using an inflation bag - as it does NOT come with this unit. Moisture will reduce insulation R values in cold conditions.

The "crinkly" sound is not an issue, I noticed when unpacking and setting up, but not when in use.

Comfort is good, not great like my much heavier 'car camping' thermarest, but it is quite decent. considering how light and compact this item is.

I bought this in the early summer of 2013, I have about 20 nights on it so far in variable conditions (from hot [+30C] to quite cold [-12C]) and it's holding up well.

I feel that for a bit of extra money (and a bit of extra weight and volume) that the NeoLight Xtherm might be a bit better option if winter camping is going to be involved since it DOES come with an inflation bag to eliminate the moisture issue.

Rating of 4 stars has a lot to do with price: really, honestly, these are pretty expensive for what you're getting. However, they work well and seem to last.. and warranties do cost money to honour.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   Aug 18, 2013 - 06:53pm
SCseagoat · Climber · Santa Cruz
I bought this late last year and absolutely love it! I bought it up in Montana so no sales tax because it is pricey! I've been pretty rough with it and so far no damage or tears but it does seem that given the right condition it will rip easily. I was concerned about he noisy crinkling sound but I found that when inflated and sleeping/rolling around on it that there is not that much crinkling sound. And comfort! Oh my….I really felt like I was on a bed.
I am very very happy with it. Used it in winter camping….and no problems with cold.

Susan

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Aug 18, 2013 - 05:22pm
 
bergbryce · Climber · South Lake Tahoe, CA
Based upon the reviews I had read, on several sites, I was sold on this pad. But… then I actually got my hands on one and tried it out. In side by side comparisons to all the pads at REI (yes, I shopped at REI) they had many from Thermarest, Big Agnes, REI and some other brands. I determined that the "crinkly" sound was going to be an issue for me or any tentmates. It's loud whenever you move and I tend to move a lot in my sleep. And it really does feel like it's kind of high off the ground. I couldn't help but think about durability issues as well and if you have to carry a repair kit, then what good does saving a few ounces do you?

I ended up purchasing the REI Flash, which isn't reviewed here but probably should be. It's got a R-value of 3.2, weighs 16 oz for the regular size, was $100 and has instantly improved the quality of my sleep in the backcountry. I suppose any of the new generation sleeping pads are going to be a significant improvement over my old sleeping system, but for weight, value and comfort, I find the Flash a good option.
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   Jul 15, 2013 - 04:23pm
hollyclimber · Climber · North Rim, AZ
I bought this to take on a climbing trip in Alaska. First time I tried it was at the TAT bunkhouse. It was so incredibly uncomfortable that I slept on the plywood bunk instead. The next day I borrowed a much older and heavier style to take on my three week expedition, so that I could actually sleep on my trip. The one I borrowed even had a suspected hole in it, which I had to patch my first night, but I was REALLY GLAD that I had been saved. This mattress is literally too high and I felt like I was having to balance myself on it. Returned it immediately and never looked back. And, yes I agree with narrow and noisy in the review as part of the underlying problem.

Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this product to a friend.
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Apr 9, 2013 - 11:35pm
 
spidey · Climber · Berkeley CA
Harpo - the new neoair pad has the valve on the end, while the old one had the valve on top. I had the old one and this was a design defect - the valve/pad interface was stressed enough after a few days of being jammed into a backpack that it ripped and caused a major leak. The new design fixes this flaw and is definitely an improvement. I got my old one replaced on warranty and promptly sold it and bought the new version. Much better!
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   Apr 4, 2013 - 02:13pm
FCAsheville · Mountain Biker · Asheville, NC
I'm happy with this purchase. The pad is incredibly small and light when wrapped up, and feels like a feather when inflated. Feels warm enough for me in Spring/Fall camping to the low 30s or high 20s.

I do worry about it's durability, and that's the reason for 4 stars. I am very careful with the pad and never put it down on bare ground. I'm probably a bit too cautious.

I bought a "blem" version of the women's pad from Campmor and it's perfectly fine for me at 5'11" being a side sleeper.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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Jul 29, 2012 - 11:23pm
 
Max Neale · Other · Maine
@ harpo: I updated the first paragraph of the review, which should answer your questions.
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Jul 28, 2012 - 10:04pm
 
harpo · Climber · South Lake Tahoe
How does the neoair xlite compare to the previous generation neoair? In the small size, the new generation is 1 oz lighter. The new generation also has rounded corners. What are the other differences between the two? Are they the same size? Are the materials it is made of the same? Is the new generation more durable?
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
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   Nov 14, 2013 - 10:57pm
The large is not even close to 25" wide. No wonder its the lightest 25" inch pad.

Click to enlarge
The 25" pad that wasn't.
Credit: Tony Willingham


Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this product to a friend.
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Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite
Credit: Therm-a-Rest
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