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Hands-on Gear Review

REI AirRail 1.5 Review

Price:   $109 List | $89.95 at REI
Pros:  Wide, comfortable, self-inflating does most of the work for you, side rails keep you in, smooth sleep surface
Cons:  Heavy, bulky, not as thick as air construction pads
Editors' Rating:     
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Manufacturer:   REI

Our Verdict

The REI AirRail 1.5 is the most comfortable self-inflating sleeping pad we've taken into the backcountry. The side rails kept us from rolling off the pad and are an innovative way to improve an older sleeping pad design. Many reviewers loved sleeping on the smooth, flat, and stable surface provided by the AirRail. The women's version won a Top Pick for Comfort and was a favorite among female testers. Though it is fairly comfortable, we think that this pad is too bulky and heavy for most backpacking trips. However, if weight and packed size aren't top priorities for you, you should definitely consider purchasing the AirRail 1.5. If you want one pad for everything, most of our testers prefer the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Venture that weighs 5 ounces less but is more comfortable and a little smaller when packed. Continue reading to see how the AirRail compared with other top pads.


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select up to 5 products
Score Product Price Type R Value Weight
75
$200
Editors' Choice Award
Air Construction/Baffled Insulation 5.7 15 oz.
70
$200
Top Pick Award
Air Construction/AirSprung Cells/Synthetic Insulation 5 25.5 oz.
68
$160
Top Pick Award
Air Construction/Baffled Insulation 3.2 12 oz.
67
$140
Air Construction/Synthetic Insulation 3 16 oz.
65
$169
Air Construction/Synthetic Insulation 3.3 12.3 oz.
65
$170
Air Construction/AirSprung Cells/Synthetic Insulation 4.2 20.5 oz.
65
$180
Air Construction/Baffled Insulation 3.2 16 oz.
64
$109
Self-inflating/Foam Insulation 4.2 26 oz.
64
$160
Air Construction/Baffled Insulation 4.9 24 oz.
62
$120
Self-inflating/Air Construction/Foam Insulation 2.1 17 oz.
61
$100
Air Construction/AirSprung Cells 0.7 12.5 oz.
60
$130
Air Construction/Synthetic Insulation 4.9 30 oz.
59
$95
Air Construction/Synthetic Insulation 4.4 19.6 oz.
59
$100
Air Construction 2.2 24 oz.
59
$70
Best Buy Award
Air Construction/baffled insulation 1.8 21 oz.
58
$90
Self-inflating/Foam Insulation 2.4 18 oz.
55
$45
Best Buy Award
Closed Cell Foam 2.6 14 oz.
55
$110
Air Construction/Synthetic Insulation 3 24 oz.
55
$30
Closed Cell Foam 2.8 14 oz.
49
$70
Air Construction 1 9.1 oz.
47
$70
Air Constuction 1 22 oz.

Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results

Review by:
Jeremy Bauman
Review Editor
OutdoorGearLab

Last Updated:
Thursday
August 13, 2015

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The AirRail's greatest assets are its side rails, comfortable sleep surface, and ease of inflation. Back sleepers especially loved this pad because it is three inches wider than any other pad in this review giving your arms a place to sleep too.

Performance Comparison



The chart above displays the overall score received by the AirRail (highlighted in blue) throughout the testing process. Below, we dissect this product's score in each individual review.

With a 75 denier top and bottom  you won't think twice about using the AirRail 1.5 to lounge around camp. We love it for base camping and relaxing the day away.
With a 75 denier top and bottom, you won't think twice about using the AirRail 1.5 to lounge around camp. We love it for base camping and relaxing the day away.

Comfort


We love that this pad is 3 inches wider than all the other 20-inch pads we tested. The width made a noticeable difference (especially for back sleepers) and the side rails act like kiddy bumpers at a bowling alley so that you can knock down a few Z's every time. The rails kept us center on the pad all night long. If you're new to backpacking, learning how to sleep on a 20 inch wide pad comfortably takes some time. The side rails and extra width help this pad feel much wider than competitors. While guiding backpacking trips, clients with limited backcountry experience often raved about the AirRail over other pads specifically for its extra width and side rails. The women's version of this pad (REI AirRail 1.5 Self-Inflating - Women's) earned a 10/10 in terms of comfort because it was the most comfortable pad in that review. Female reviewers similarly raved about the side rails and found this pad's 1.5 inches of loft super comfortable. We awarded the men's version of this pad a 8/10 because most of our reviews found the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Venture a little more comfortable because it is a little thicker.

The AirRail has a very smooth sleep surface that we really liked. This pad feels more firm than many other inflatable pads and is 3 inches wider. Back sleepers especially loved this pad.
The AirRail has a very smooth sleep surface that we really liked. This pad feels more firm than many other inflatable pads and is 3 inches wider. Back sleepers especially loved this pad.

Weight


This pad adds a hefty 26 ounces to your base weight. For comparison, the lightest pad in this review update (the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite) weighs less than half of the AirRail and is nearly as comfortable (several reviewers think the XLite is more comfortable because it is thicker). The AirRail is a great pad for base camping and traditional backpacking but it is a terrible choice for ultralight backpacking considering that many ultralight tents and ultralight sleeping bags weigh a fraction of what the AirRail does.

Warmth


With a stated R-value of 4.2, this is among the warmest pads in this review and is an excellent choice for cold sleepers. None of our testers had cold nights when using this pad in the summer. For winter, we'd either want to use a very warm sleeping bag or supplement this pad with a closed cell foam pad like the Therm-a-Rest Z Lite SOL. This pad's warmth retention come from the 1.5 inches of open cell foam that's bonded to the inside layers of the polyester fabric. The foam reduces the flow of air within the pad thus adding warmth. The outer side rails are insulated with a layer of PrimaLoft. This is the warmest self-inflating pad in this review update.

The AirRail has a tapered design to save a little weight  but it is still the heaviest pad we tested.
The AirRail has a tapered design to save a little weight, but it is still the heaviest pad we tested.

Packed Size


This is another category that significantly hurt the AirRail. If it wasn't for the weight and packed size, the AirRail would have been a top contender. Alas, this was the bulkiest pad we tested next to closed cell foam pads. One and a half inches of foam isn't conducive to packing down to a small size.

The AirRail is the bulkiest inflatable pad we reviewed. You could fit several other mats into the same space of this one. It is also the heaviest pad at 26 oz.
The AirRail is the bulkiest inflatable pad we reviewed. You could fit several other mats into the same space of this one. It is also the heaviest pad at 26 oz.

Durability


Seventy-five denier polyester used on the top and bottom make this pad as durable as any inflatable pad we've seen. We had no issues with durability throughout our review. With care, you can expect this pad to last for years. We wouldn't hesitate to use it directly on the ground if need be.

The durable hex fabric helps the pad feel less slippery than some. However  none of our testers complained about any of the pads slipping.
The durable hex fabric helps the pad feel less slippery than some. However, none of our testers complained about any of the pads slipping.

Best Applications


If you primarily sleep on your back, you'll probably love this pad with its extra width and side rails. We like using it for short backpacking trips and for car camping. Because it is so heavy and bulky, it doesn't often win a place in our packs for longer backpacking trips to remote locations.

Value


For the low price of $100, this product offers a great value. If you're an REI member, you can use your annual 20% off coupon to bring the price down to $72.

Conclusion


Aside from weight and packed size, this pad is high scoring and would be a great first pad if you're just getting into backpacking. The width, thickness, and side rails are comfortable and will help make the transition from a bed to a sleeping pad easier than some of the narrower pads we tested. Because it is so heavy and bulky, we don't think this pad is suited to long backpacking trips. Instead, short trips and car camping are great uses for the REI AirRail 1.5.

The side rails are thick and work as advertised. They help keep you centered on the pad all night long. Some of our guided clients who weren't used to sleeping on 23 inch wide mats really appreciated this feature.
The side rails are thick and work as advertised. They help keep you centered on the pad all night long. Some of our guided clients who weren't used to sleeping on 23 inch wide mats really appreciated this feature.

Other Versions


REI AirRail 1.5 Self-Inflating - Women's
REI AirRail 1.5 Self-Inflating - Women's
  • Cost - $90
  • Women's version of this pad

REI Camp Bed
REI Camp Bed 3.5
  • Cost - $130
  • Deluxe car camping pad
  • Soft top material
Jeremy Bauman

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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews


Most recent review: August 13, 2015
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:   
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 (3.0)
Average Customer Rating:     (0.0)
Rating Distribution
1 Total Ratings
5 star: 0%  (0)
4 star: 0%  (0)
3 star: 100%  (1)
2 star: 0%  (0)
1 star: 0%  (0)


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