Hands-on Gear Review
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Pros: Very light, super compact, comfortable, versatile, warmer than normal XLite.
Cons: Edges collapse when weighted, noisy, expensive.
Best Uses: All ultralight activities,
The Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite Women’s is a dream come true for women campers. This pad is 22 percent warmer than the standard XLite, weighs a mere 11 oz. and packs down to the size of a large cucumber. The XLite Women’s is warm enough for four-season use and plenty comfortable, too. The pad is 2.5” thick and cushions even the shapeliest women. Our testers with large hips loved the Xite!
Our next two favorite women’s sleeping pads are the Therm-a-Rest ProLite Women's, which excels at three-season backpacking, and the Therm-a-Rest ProLite Plus Women’s, which is slightly warmer and more comfortable. Both of these pads, however, weigh significantly more and pack many times larger than the XLite Women’s.
For winter camping we recommend the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm, an ultra warm and ultra compressible portable pad that comes in four sizes. The best value sleeping pad is the Therm-a-Rest Z Lite Sol, a closed cell pad that costs $45 and weighs only 14 oz.
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 NeoAir Xlite Women’s is the lightest women’s sleeping pad available. It weighs a mere 11 ounces and packs down to so small it can fit in a jacket pocket. This is our top rated ultralight women’s pad; it makes all others, in all construction types, look poor in comparison.
The XLite Women’s has more reflective barriers than the normal XLite, which boosts its R-Value from 3.2 to 3.9. (Women generally sleep colder than men.) The pad is designed to fit people 5’ 6” and under in height and has a tapered cut to save weight.
While the XLite Women’s is the highest performance women’s sleeping pad available, so, too, is it one of the best ultralight sleeping pads on the market. The Kylmit Inertia X Frame, for example, is two ounces lighter but only comfortable for backsleepers around 5’10” in height. The XLite is versatile, too. You can use it car camping, backpacking, mountaineering, and for any application where saving weight is a top priority.
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 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. 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.
The XLite’s shockingly low weight, small packed, size, and fine blend of comfort and warmth make it the best ultralight sleeping pad available. If saving weight is a top priority the XLite can’t be beaten.
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” NeoAir is just over an inch slimmer than a 20” Nemo Astro insulated (see photo below). Furthermore, the NeoAir’s internal baffle construction provides little support along the 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. The pads are still very comfortable. If you’re on the wider side consider a Large size.
Warning: everything you do on the NeoAir can and will be heard by others. The crinkle-crackle of its internal baffles and foil-like reflective layers make the NeoAir 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 basecamp, however, everyone within 100 feet can hear you roll over. Does this impact the pad’s performance? Answer: absolutely not. The noise is only a drawback when other people are nearby.
Although the XLite utilizes a top-of-the-line 30-denier nylon the pad isn’t the most durable. (The fabric is transparent.) Feathered Friends, a top sleeping bag maker, explains the pros and cons of ultralight materials in their warranty. Keep the following in mind when buying ultralight outdoor gear:
“While we strive to make durable products, it is important to realize that some of the materials we use sacrifice durability, abrasion resistance, and tear strength to achieve lighter weight. Customers purchasing products made from the lightest fabrics should be aware of the inherent limitations these fabrics have. Accordingly, customers should adapt their expectations of how products made with ultra light fabrics will perform over time to reflect their reduced durability.”
The same size Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm is three ounces heavier, warmer, and more durable. Consider the XTherm if you want a slightly more durable pad.
Any ultralight activity.
You’re paying top dollar for top quality.
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.
The Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Jembe Seat (3.8 oz.) 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.
— Lita Collins and Max Neale
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Most recent review: February 14, 2013
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by Chris McNamara and Max Neale
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