Hands-on Gear Review
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Pros: Very warm, lightweight, comfortable, compact, highly versatile.
Cons: Edges collapse when weighted, noisy when camped on hard surfaces, expensive.
Best Uses: All-purpose four-season use.
The Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm is the best winter sleeping pad on the planet. It 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. From Alaska to Greenland to Patagonia, and all across the Lower 48, our testers have used the XTherm side-by-side, over the past two years, with top competing pads. Our tests consistently show the XTherm is the warmest, most comfortable, lightest, and most compact sleeping pad available. If we were to have one single pad for all activities it would be this one. The author believes this pad is Therm-a-Rest's best product.
Besides its price tag, the XTherm’s primary drawbacks are its edges, which collapse slightly when weighted, and the crinkly noise its internal baffles can make when you camp on hard surfaces (not on snow). On the whole, the XTherm is the ultimate sleeping pad for multi-day mobile trips in any condition. We highly recommend it.
If you are 5’ 6” or under check out our Women's Sleeping Pad. If comfort is top priority get yourself a super luxurious Car Camping Mattress.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
Warmth is the primary reason to get an Xtherm. If you don't need serious cold weather, camping on snow and ice warmth, we suggest considering the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite.
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. Therm-a-Rest addresses this problem with the XTherm’s Triangular Core Matrix technology, which divides the pad’s interior space into over a 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 bouncing heat back to you.
The pad is HOTTT. You can immediately feel its insulation when you lay on it. We tested it on Denali in Alaska, in Greenland, and all over the Lower 48, including cold places like northern Maine, Montana, and Wyoming. The pad's exceptional warmth to weight ratio has made it the new standard for winter pads. It has also pushed winter sports to a new level by allowing skiers and climbers to travel more comfortably while carrying less weight.
After two years of extensive testing we are confident that the NeoAir series is the most comfortable sub two-pound sleeping pad available anywhere. Dozens of people have helped OutdoorGearLab to compare top-tier pads side-by-side and they consistently find NeoAir pads to be the most comfortable. The reason is largely due to the thin horizontal baffles, which are as close to flat as baffles get. Other companies do various things to their baffles that reduce comfort. For example, Big Agnes's Q-Core series has "pot hole-like" dimples and "side rails" that provide a highly uneven surface. Exped pads have deep vertical baffles that lack structure and support; the pad can feel like a bouncy pool toy. Nemo's Astro and Cosmo pads have moderately comfortable horizontal baffles, but they are deeper than the NeoAir series and they are also plagued by a built-in pillow that adds directionality and forces tall people to slide down, and possibly off the end of the pad, in order to avoid the pillow. Thus, the NeoAir series is the most comfortable inflatable sleeping pad we've tested.
For basecamp style expeditions, where you fly in and spend a considerable amount of time camped in one location, our some of our testers reported back that they would prefer the extra 5" width of a size Large. If you do a lot of basecamping on snow or glaciers, or just want more space, consider a Large.
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. Many uninsulated and less insulated pads weigh less and compress smaller, but none match the XTherm's incredible warmth.
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. Over 2 years we've abused NeoAir pads extensively and have been shocked at how durable they are. We've never had a problem with either of our two XTherms. Our NeoAir All-Season (roughly as durable as the XTherm) has seen more than 200 nights of use, including a bike trip from Scottland to China, and has not had a single leak!! The two most significant NeoAir failures been with the XLite, the XTherm's lighter, less warm, and less durable sibling. Below we describe two examples of how the XLites failed. First, note in the photo below that the XTherm has a more durable bottom fabric than the XLite.
Torment-forbidden Traverse . After a night of sleeping on sharp gravel and rocks the pad tore a quarter sized hole in the bottom shortly after he woke up. The pad lasted all night on sharp rocks!! See the photo below. (Note: we only recommend a closed cell sleeping pad for use directly on sharp alpine bivy ground. Usually people put sleeping pads inside a bivy sack, not underneath it.)
Washington State's Olympic Peninsula via foot and packraft with OGL's oldest NeoAir XLite- the one that had been used for two years. We put the pad in the bottom of the Alpacka Explorer 42 boat to insulate and elevate us, and to cushion our butts from rocks. After running into and over a considerably number of rocks, and scooting over others (we are newbie novice whitewater boaters), 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. The XTherm is unlikely to have held up better than the XLite in this circumstance, BUT sleeping pads are not intended to hold two people's weight and be used in the bottom of packrafts.
These examples suggest that the XTherm and other NeoAir pads are extremely 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 with a new one free of charge.
Cascade Designs, which owns 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.
There are two drawbacks to the XTherm's construction: (1) the pad is relatively narrow and (2) it's noisy when sleeping on firm, compact ground.
(1) 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. 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. The width is most apparent when lying on your back because your hands can fall down beside you or need to be placed on your stomach. BUT, our testers report that this is a very minor drawback and they all still reach for the Regular size XTherm and XLites. If you’re on the wider side consider a Large size.
(2) The XTherm is the noisiest pad we've ever tested. It's reflective barriers can crinkle and crackly if you're sleeping on a hard surface, such as compacted soil in an established campsite. However, over two years of testing we've realized that this is but a minor nuisance for most people. It is often overplayed in reviews found elsewhere. Our testers have found that pad is not noisy when you're sleeping on snow. Sleeping in a warm down bag also muffles any slight noise the pad and, more significantly, the wind, makes. Consider the following report from these five gentlemen who used the Xtherm, NeoAir All-Season, and Big Agnes Q-Core on a month-long ski expedition in East Greenland: "One concern we had while packing for the trip was the crinkly sound of the Therm-a-Rest pads, and the Xtherm in particular. But once on snow with pads muffled by the thick down of our bags, our fears were mitigated entirely."
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. Though expensive, it is a fantastic value.
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 Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Pump Sack (3.8 oz.), which doubles as a camp stool, stuff sack, or backpack liner. We recommend this for inflating the pad in the winter, when water vapor from your lungs condenses inside the pad and can freeze, thus damaging the pad.
— Chris McNamara and Max Neale
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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews
Most recent review: July 13, 2014
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