Hands-on Gear Review
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Pros: Very warm, lightweight, comfortable, compact, highly versatile.
Cons: Edges collapse when weighted, noisy, expensive.
Best Uses: All-purpose four-season use.
The Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm is the most advanced high performance sleeping pad on the planet. The pad weighs a mere 15 ounces, packs to 1.4 liters, and its internal air baffles and reflective barriers keep you nearly as warm as a propane heater. The XTherm is small and light enough for any multi-day activity, regardless of the season. From summer backpacking to bike touring, fast and light Alpine climbing to trans-Antarctic expeditions, and even casual car camping, the XTherm is the most versatile inflatable sleeping pad available. It’s also comfortable: 2.5” thick baffles provide a stable and supportive surface that cushion hips, knees, and elbows better than most other pads. Besides its price tag, the XTherm’s only drawbacks are its edges, which collapse slightly when weighted, and the crinkle-crackle noise its internal baffles make when you move about. On the whole, however, the XTherm is the ultimate sleeping pad for multi-day mobile trips in any condition.
If you venture into the winter less frequently, or simply want the lightest comfortable sleeping pad, get the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite. The XLite weighs a mere 12 ounces in the full-length cut (20 x 72 in,) and a hyperlite eight ounces in the Short size (20 x 47 in,).
For those who spend less time backpacking and more time base and car camping opt for the Nemo Astro Insulated, a cheaper and slightly more comfortable alternative to the expensive and fancy above-mentioned NeoAirs.
Go for a closed cell pad if you need something really durable or are on a budget. We recommend the Therm-a-Rest Z Lite SOL if space is a concern and the Therm-a-Rest Ridge Rest SOLite if it’s not. Both pads weigh only 14 ounces.
If you are 5’ 6” or under check out our Women's Sleeping Pad. And finally, if comfort is top priority get yourself a Car Camping Mattress. These luxurious portable beds turn roots and rocks into plush, heavenly clouds.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
The XTherm is the lightest and most compact winter sleeping pad available; it blows the competition out of the water. This pad allows you to sleep on snow both better and for longer than any other lightweight pad we’ve tested. Carrying less and sleeping better is a win-win.
The XTherm 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 XTherm’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.
The Xtherm’s technology is as impressive in practice as it is on paper. The pad’s insulating properties were clearly visible to our testers. We paired the XTherm up with the company’s XLite and ProLite for side-by-side snow camping. In the morning the person sleeping on the ProLite (R-Value 2.2) melted the snow below and sunk down a few inches, the person on the XLite (R-Value 3.2) sunk slightly, and the person on the XTherm (R-Value 5.7) melted only a tiny bit of snow.
three-season down sleeping bags we’ve tested is 33.14 oz. and the average weight of the six cold-weather down sleeping bags we’ve tested is 43.94 oz.)
All NeoAir pads lift you 2.5” off the ground, which prevents your hips from jamming into the ground and makes the pad comfortable for sitting and kneeling. This is particularly good if you’re tent bound for several days waiting for weather to clear. Although our testers found flat surfaces to be 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. 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.
WEIGHT AND PACKED SIZE
The NeoAir XTherm weighs 15 ounces in regular size (20 x 72 in.) and packs down to about 1.4 liters. This is one ounce more and roughly a liter less than the lightest self-inflating foam pad we’ve tested. Thus, from size and weight perspective, the XTherm is better than any self-inflating foam pad we know of.
The NeoAir XTherm has a 70-denier nylon bottom that allows for extended use and abuse. This material is more durable than the NeoAir XLite’s ultralight 30-denier bottom. In sum, the XTherm is lightweight, warm, comfortable, packs to a small size, and is tough enough to be both long expeditions and casual car camping.
The XTherm includes a stuff/pump sack (which can be used to inflate the pad (though laboriously) and a repair kit.
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” XTherm 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 XTherm is still very comfortable. If you’re on the wider side consider a Large size.
Warning: everything you do on the XTherm can and will be heard by others. The crinkle-crackle of its internal baffles and foil-like reflective layers make this the loudest pad we’ve tested. Turning over is loud, sitting up is louder, and kneeling on the pad even louder. Romantic adventures sound like a symphony orchestra. A noisy pad is fine when you’re camping alone in a remote locale. When in a campground or at a base camp, however, everyone within 100 feet can hear you roll over. Note that the noise increases as the sleep surface gets harder. A lean-to floor or compacted soil makes the pad much louder than powdery snow or soft sand. Finally, and unlike what some people may fear, the pad's noise will not impact your sleep in any way. It's just something to be aware of.
Four-season multi-day trips.
The XTherm is the second most expensive sleeping pad we’ve tested (the Exped DownMat 9 is $10 more). If you travel fast and light in the winter, or just want the best sleeping pad ever, the XTherm is a great buy.
Other Versions and Accessories
The Xtherm is available in four sizes that let you get the best pad for your intended use. Small (20 x 47 in., 11 oz.) is ideal for Alpine climbing, ski touring, mountaineering, and all other applications where saving weight is a top priority. Medium (20 x 66 in., 14 oz.) is great for people 5’ 6” in height and under. Regular (20 x 72 in., 15 oz.) will be best for the greatest number of people. And, finally, Large (25 x 77 in., 22 oz.) is an option for wider people or those who want the most protection from the ground.
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.
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.
— Max Neale
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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews
Most recent review: May 1, 2013
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