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Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Dream Review

Therm-a-rest NeoAir Dream Camping Mattress
Top Pick Award
Price:   $260 List | $176.00 at Amazon
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Ability to separate inflatable pad, small packed size, comfortable and warm.
Cons:  Expensive, foam tends to bunch up, no stuff sack for inflatable mattress.
Bottom line:  The most versatile option among the car camping mattresses while still performing excellently.
Editors' Rating:   
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Manufacturer:   Therm-a-rest

Our Verdict

The Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Dream is the second highest rated car camping mattress in this review and is our Top Pick for Convenience. As an adaptable mattress, you can remove the inflatable NeoAir mattress that comes inside the protective outer cover and use it separately as a lightweight backpacking air mattress. This air mattress pairs with a foam pad to live inside the plush protective cover while used in "basecamp" mode, as was intended. Besides its great versatility, this mattress packs down into one of the smallest packages and is relatively light, making versatility one of its strongest features. It is also really comfortable and plenty warm. As one of the best performing car camping mattresses we tested, and including attributes not found on our Editors' Choice Award-winning Exped Megamat 10, we are happy to recognize the NeoAir Dream as our Top Pick.


RELATED REVIEW: Best Camping Mattresses and Pads of 2017


Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results

Review by:
Andy Wellman
Senior Review Editor
OutdoorGearLab

Last Updated:
Monday
October 3, 2016

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Much like the Big Agnes Sleeping Giant, what sets the NeoAir Dream apart from the competition is its versatility. It was the top performer in this category, and this attribute, combined with the ease of using it and the tiny packed size, inspired us to name it the Top Pick for Convenience. Where it differs from the other adaptable mattress, the Sleeping Giant, is that the entire package is sold as one, rather than as separate component parts. Also, the sheet of foam that resides on top of the air mattress seems in the case of the NeoAir to be slightly lower quality and is prone to creasing, folding and moving about, but has the advantage of being removable so that the cover can be washed. It does not come with a separate stuff sack for the air mattress, should you want to take only that part on a backpacking trip, but is also quite a bit less expensive than the Sleeping Giant and Big Agnes QCore SLX combo. Compared to the rest of the car camping mattresses in our review, it is among the best we tried, providing great comfort, warmth, and versatility.

Performance Comparison


Sleeping like a dream on the NeoAir Dream. Worth noting is how much of this two-person backpacking tent one of these XL pads takes up. Not much room for other people!
Sleeping like a dream on the NeoAir Dream. Worth noting is how much of this two-person backpacking tent one of these XL pads takes up. Not much room for other people!

Comfort


We awarded the NeoAir Dream 8 out of a possible 10 points for comfort, roughly the same as its most similar competitor, the Sleeping Giant, but not quite as nice as the Exped Megamat 10. The component parts that make up this pad all contribute to its comfort. On the bottom is the NeoAir mattresss, an inflatable air mattress much like the Therm-a-Rest Luxury MAP, but composed of insulated, horizontal baffles. On top of that is a layer of simple foam that does a nice job of smoothing out the vagaries of compression points from a human body while sleeping. Finally, those two layers are encased in the outer cover, made up of soft plush material on the sleeping surface, and a tough, cordura-like material on the sides and underneath, where it is likely to experience abrasion. The plush top was the single most comfortable face material of any we tested, and certainly needs no sheet. Since the insides are removable, the outer cover is easily washed if it becomes dirty. The three layers of this system add up to four inches of padding and comfort, roughly the same as the Megamat 10.

The NeoAir Dream  size XL that we tested  is plenty wide enough for one sleeping on their side. It is also 77 inches long  or close to 6.5 feet.
The NeoAir Dream, size XL that we tested, is plenty wide enough for one sleeping on their side. It is also 77 inches long, or close to 6.5 feet.

Ease of Use


All of the mattresses that we tested require at minimum a slight amount of wrangling to get inflated and deflated. So while none are truly perfect, this one is among the best. We gave it the highest score, 9 out of 10 points, along with the Lightspeed 2-person air bed and the ALPS Mountaineering Rechargeable Air Bed. The simplest way to inflate this mattress is to use your own breath — which takes a bit of work — because this mattress doesn't self-inflate like the REI Camp Bed 3.5. It also comes with the NeoAir Torrent Pump, which will get the job done for you in two minutes flat, the second fastest of all the automatic pumps we tested (although that may be because it is a small, single mattress). While having the option to use the Torrent Pump is nice, we have small complaints that it only plugs in with a car-lighter adapter, and doesn't have a standard wall plug for home use. It will also run off of four CR123A batteries, but those aren't exactly as household as your typical AAs. But using either option, this mattress is not too much of a hassle to get inflated.

Using the Torrent Pump to inflate this mattress means that you need to be standing next to a car  as the cord only plugs into a car outlet. The pump also takes batteries  but you need 4 CR123A batteries  something not always easy to find.
Using the Torrent Pump to inflate this mattress means that you need to be standing next to a car, as the cord only plugs into a car outlet. The pump also takes batteries, but you need 4 CR123A batteries, something not always easy to find.

Deflation is likewise relatively simple. While the air mattress only features one nozzle valve instead of two like the Luxury MAP or the Camp Bed 3.5, it is still quick and easy to squish the air out. To fit it into the stuff sack, fold the mattress in half lengthwise before rolling it up. Sewn in buckle cinch-straps keep the tight roll secure once it is rolled up, and ensure that you can transport it without the stuff sack if so desired. It doesn't do the work of inflating and deflating itself for you, but it is about as simple and easy as a XL sized car camping mattress gets.

The durable cordura bottom and side liner on this pad are much appreciated for the longevity of the product. Like most Thermarests  deflating means squishing all the air out before rolling it up.
The durable cordura bottom and side liner on this pad are much appreciated for the longevity of the product. Like most Thermarests, deflating means squishing all the air out before rolling it up.

Warmth


The triple layer of insulated air mattress, foam topper, and plush cover combine to give the NeoAir Dream has an R-value of 6.0. This is roughly the same as the REI Camp Bed 3.5, and only slightly lower than the Therm-a-Rest Luxury MAP. It does check in as slightly higher than the 5.0 value of the Sleeping Giant. Sleeping on it in the back of our van, which naturally radiates cold temperatures from the metal shell and frame, we never experienced discomfort due to cold, something that we could not say about the nights that we slept on the air beds in the same conditions. For warmth it earns 7 out of a possible 10.


Versatility


Because of the ability to adapt from a luxurious, XL-sized base camp mattress into a wide but very light backpacking mattress, the NeoAir Dream was the king of versatility. Our only wish was that it also came with the stuff sack for the interior air mattress included in the package. We loved how the outer cover has sewn- in straps that are designed for mating two of these single person pads together to form a double wide. The ability to take all of the pieces apart allows you to wash the plush cover in the laundry machine should it become dirty, a feature not included on any other mattress we tested. All of these great features inspired us to grant it a perfect 10 for versatility.

The insides of this mattress are accessed by a zipper that runs along the full length of the side. This allows easy removal of the air mattress should one want to use it separately  or both of these pads can be removed if you want to launder the cover.
The insides of this mattress are accessed by a zipper that runs along the full length of the side. This allows easy removal of the air mattress should one want to use it separately, or both of these pads can be removed if you want to launder the cover.

Packed Size


Further contributing to our assessment that this is the most convenient car camping mattress in our review is the fact that it has the second smallest packed size, next to only the Lightspeed 2-person. For that we granted it 8 out of 10 points. We didn't give any mattress a perfect score because, well, have you seen how small backpacking mattresses are these days?

The NeoAir Dream is our Top Pick because it packs down so much smaller than comparable single person  XL size air mattresses. It is also more comfortable than either of the ones shown here.
The NeoAir Dream is our Top Pick because it packs down so much smaller than comparable single person, XL size air mattresses. It is also more comfortable than either of the ones shown here.

Best Applications


The NeoAir Dream makes for a fantastic base camp mattress, and is also ideally suited for car camping excursions, tent camping near a car, or as a single person sleeping mattress in almost any situation. Due to its adaptable nature, it can also be taken apart and the inflatable air mattress can be used exclusively on its own while backpacking (provided you find or buy a stuff sack that fits). While this mattress is obviously not suited for two people, it has features that make it very simple to mate with another of its kind.

Value


The NeoAir dream retails for $260, which is not exactly cheap. It is about $40 more expensive than our absolute favorite car camping mattress, the Exped Megamat 10, so if you simply want the best mattress for the money, check that one out. That said, this mattress was our second highest performer, and comes with the added bonus of incredible versatility. It is still $80 less expensive than the combination of a Big Agnes Sleeping Giant with a QCore. Because it is one of the best single person mattresses you can buy and has its own unique uses not matched by any other product, this is a pretty darn good value.

Conclusion


The NeoAir Dream is our Top Pick for Convenience because it is easy to use compared to the competition, it packs down smaller than all but one other mattress, and it has unparalleled versatility. Did we mention that it is also very comfortable and plenty warm? In short, this great mattress is one of the highest scoring in our review, and one we would happily recommend to a friend any day.

Even if we had paired it with a 25 inch wide QCore mattress (we paired it with a narrow 20 inch wide)  the Sleeping Giant would still be about five inches narrower than the NeoAir Dream on the left.
Even if we had paired it with a 25 inch wide QCore mattress (we paired it with a narrow 20 inch wide), the Sleeping Giant would still be about five inches narrower than the NeoAir Dream on the left.

Other Versions and Accessories


Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Dream - Large
Therm-a-rest NeoAir Dream Camping Mattress
  • Cost - $230 ($30 less than the XL we tested)
  • Same mattress, different dimensions: 25 inches wide instead of 30

Therm-a-Rest DreamTime
Therm-a-Rest DreamTime
  • Cost - $200-$230
  • 2.5-inch mattress core with 1-inch foam padding
  • Available in Large or XL

Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Pump Sack
The Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Pump Sack is our favorite tool for inflating winter pads  which are susceptible to failing due to moisture vapor from your lungs.
  • Cost - $30
  • Stuff sack that doubles as a quick, powerless inflation device
Andy Wellman

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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews


Most recent review: October 12, 2016
Summary of All Ratings

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

100% of 1 reviewers recommend it
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2 Total Ratings
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3 star: 0%  (0)
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1 star: 0%  (0)
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   Oct 12, 2016 - 06:04pm
jfailing · Climber · Lone Pine
This puppy is COMFY. Received it as a gift from my girlfriend who was tired of listening to me complain about how bad I slept whenever we were camping.

One of the biggest pluses for me is that you can just take out the NeoAir pad and take it backpacking - it's extremely low profile when completely deflated and fits easily into a pack. When combined with the felt-like outer covering and internal foam pad, it really lives up to it's name. On climbing trips, I feel more refreshed in the morning and I'm able to send the gnar more confidently without being exhausted.

I have a few very minor gripes that don't really subtract from overall usage. The NeoAir pad material makes sort of a crinkled wrapper noise if you move around a lot in your sleep. If your partners don't mind then it's no problem, but I could see how a sensitive sleeper could find it too loud. It's also a bear to blow up without a pump, but c'mon that's just extra cross-training. I've also patched the pad four times in three years, since the NeoAir does seem to puncture more easily than beefier pads.

Overall, it has improved my sleep experience while car camping and backpacking significantly. Would definitely recommend if you're willing to shell out the dough for this dee-luxe sleeping pad.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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