Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Topo Luxe Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Very packable, lightweight, warm enough for three season use
Cons: Bouncy, a little noisy, not warm enough for winter
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Our Analysis and Test Results
Finding the perfect camping mattress is about finding a balance between comfort and usability. Foam mattresses excel at comfort but tend to be heavy and space-hogging. Air mattresses don't insulate as well and can feel bouncy. Only you know what is most important for your night of sleep, but we are mightily impressed with the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Topo Luxe, which is packable, warm, and one of the most comfortable air mattresses we've tested. Nicely done.
It is hardly fair to compare an air mattress to a foam mattress, really, in terms of comfort. But not everyone wants to pack a giant roll of foam for camping, especially if they are heading out to the backcountry. However, having an air mattress that is four inches thick means that poking hip bones won't hit the ground, and your body will have greater protection from rocks and uneven ground. So, while the NeoAir Topo Luxe is by no stretch the most comfortable mattress we tested, it is the most comfortable mattress that we have ever taken backpacking.
Air mattresses at full inflation can be super bouncy, and with a thin air mattress, you need full inflation, or you will sink into the ground. Very thick air mattresses that aren't firm enough will swallow you like a whale and can be quite challenging for the lower back. We found the four inches of air in the NeoAir Topo Luxe to be enough that we could have a lower level of inflation that lessened bounce while keeping us off the sharper parts of the ground. Of course, air is bouncier than foam. If you move a lot in the night and are sensitive to bouncing, you may want to look at a different option.
The cover is soft nylon, with a cool-looking topo map design, making it comfortable next to your skin, and it won't become a sticky, sweaty plastic slide in warmer temps.
Ease of Use
The NeoAir Topo Luxe is fitted with dual one-way valves, clearly labeled "In" and "Out." Inflation is accomplished with breath or with the handy inflation sack that snaps onto the "in" valve. One-way valves only allow air in or out, meaning that you don't have to mess with the valve while you are inflating or deflating the mattress. The deflation valve can be twisted to release small amounts of air for the perfect amount of squish, and can also be fully opened for rapid deflation. Rolling up the mattress to fit in the stuff sack was quick and easy, as well.
While it took a second to get used to the inflation sack, we quickly became fans. Just a light breath into the sack fills it with air, and it takes less than two minutes to fully inflate this mattress using the sack method. Bonus: you won't be lightheaded from blowing up your mattress! It deflates in seconds and is easy to roll up into a tidy little package. The inflation sack can also be used as a stuff sack to save weight.
The NeoAir Topo Luxe is incredibly easy to use, and while it's a good idea to inflate it before heading out on your camping trip just to make sure there is nothing awry, it doesn't require initial inflation to make subsequent inflations faster, as a foam mattress does.
Therm-a-Rest rates the NeoAir Topo Luxe with an R-value of 3.7. The higher this number, the more insulating your mattress is against the ground temperature, as well as the air temperature. Air mattresses, in particular, have to find a way to insulate while remaining lightweight, and this one uses a patented "Triangular Core Matrix", which creates stability in the mattress while reflecting heat back up to your body. While 3.7 is not warm enough for winter camping, it should be enough to insulate in moderately cold temperatures. We tested this mattress in the low 40s (F) and felt perfectly comfortable.
The reflective insulation does make a little bit of a crinkling sound when you move around. This may irritate your tent mate more than it bothers you, but it is something to keep in mind.
This NeoAir Topo Luxe inflates to an indulgent 30 by 77 inches. This is not quite as large as some of the foam mattresses in our test, but it is giant for a backpacking mattress. Every ounce counts when you are carrying it on your back, and backpacking mattresses are often flat, short, and barely comfortable. This one weighs in at 2.34 pounds, giving it an excellent comfort to weight ratio. If you can't quite indulge in that much square footage, it is also available in smaller sizes.
The good news is that this mattress would also make an acceptable option for car camping, especially for those people that want one mattress that can do it all. While we haven't yet met the air mattress that we would choose for maximum warmth in winter, this model works well above 40 degrees. This places it solidly in the three-season category.
Rolled up, the NeoAir Topo Luxe is hardly bigger than an insulated water bottle! It's a tiny little package compared to the foam burritos we tested, and that includes the inflation sack.
This small size means you can stack a half a dozen of them in the same amount of space as many of our favorite foam mattresses. You will want to measure your tent to see how many will fit when they are inflated, as the large footprint of the mattress might be at odds with a smaller backpacking tent.
It is important to remember that every mattress is a balance of weight, comfort, and packed size. This mattress excels at packing up small, and it is quite comfortable for its size, but if comfort is a primary concern, you probably will have to accept a larger packed size.
Considering that this is not only small and lightweight but also warm and comfortable, we appreciate that a high level of technology is at use in the NeoAir Topo Luxe. It is on the more expensive end of the spectrum for mattresses, but for those who value space, packability, and versatility, we think it is a great value.
We have yet to meet an air mattress that can truly compete in the comfort category with four inches of plush foam. Foam, however, has its limitations for use beyond the campground. If you are looking for a very packable mattress that is also quite comfortable, the NeoAir Topo Luxe is one of the best we have seen.
— Laurel Hunter