We give the REI AirRail 1.5 Women's sleeping pad our Best Buy award, as our testers think that it is the most comfortable backpacking sleeping pad they have used, and is also a great value. One of our testers called it her "princess bed" because she found it so comfortable. The AirRail is a great budget choice for someone who is planning short backpacking trips or other supported wilderness camping trips like rafting or horse packing. This pad is bulky and heavy for a backpacking sleeping pad, but very durable and warm. The rails provide a cradling effect that is extra comfortable for back sleepers. We like the unique, easy to use valve system.
REI released an updated version of their AirRail 1.5 pad. See the details below!
Our Analysis and Test Results
The AirRail 1.5 has been replaced in REI's lineup by the AirRail Plus, which retails for $10 more. Compare the two pads in the photos below, with the updated pad, the AirRail Plus, pictured first.
We are linking to the updated pad above.
Hands-On Review of the AirRail 1.5
With an R-value of 4.2, the AirRail will keep you warm and insulated from the ground on cool spring and fall days. It is 1.5 inches thick and insulated with closed-cell foam. The rails themselves do not have foam, but are lined with Primaloft insulation instead. The Women's version has solid foam in the torso area to add extra warmth and padding. Pair it with an additional foam pad and you will have a warm enough sleeping pad for all four seasons.
This is the category where the REI AirRail exceeds. We were skeptical of what appear to be "gimmicky" bumpers on the edges, but soon learned that they are the key to this pad's comfort. We think that these rails give the pad a cradling effect and the sleeper feels comforted and secure. This pad is extra wide at 23 inches; for those of us that are back sleepers this is especially great because our arms can lie at our sides instead of falling off the edges like can happen with the other 20" wide sleeping pads we reviewed. We don't think that these bumpers would necessarily stop us from rolling off of our sleeping pad, but with the air rails on either side it is easy to feel where the edges of the pad are and can help us stay on our mat instead of bumping into our neighbor.
The AirRail has a unique valve system, instead of a screw down valve, you first push the valve in to stop the air flow and then turn it once to close it. We found this valve system simple and easy to use once you get used to it.
The REI AirRail has sturdy 75 Denier bottom fabric, and we think it is one of the more durable sleeping pads we have tested. Our only concern is with the light blue color of the top of the sleeping pad. During testing we noticed that dirt shows easily, and we think that it will continue to get dirtier throughout its life. If it were a darker color like the Therm-A-Rest ProLite Plus - Women's it would be easier to hide the dirt.
This luxury pad is heavy and not for the fast and light crowd. It is the second heaviest in this review at 25 ounces — the Therm-A-Rest NeoAir XLite - Women's was the lightest at 12oz. We think that if you have a hard time sleeping when out under the stars, it may be worth it to carry some extra ounces to sleep better, especially for short backpacking trips or car camping.
With its cushy bumper rails comes a bulky sleeping pad. This pad's packed size is 10"x5.5", the second bulkiest pad in this review next to the Trail Lite. The AirRail comes with a compression strap to help pack up the pad and fit it back into its stuff sack, but that is a difficult task. The air rails themselves make packing this sleeping pad back up a bit of a challenge, and our testers find it awkward to tuck the rails in while rolling the pad up. It is difficult to roll it small enough to fit it back into the provided stuff sack and we ripped it trying got jam the pad back in. This was the pad's biggest downfall in our minds.
Back sleepers will love this sleeping pad. Its extra width allows your arms to stay on the pad while other pads are too narrow and let your arms fall off the sides. This is the most comfortable pad we tested and it may help you get a good night's sleep in the backcountry or at the campground. We would not recommend this pad for extended backpacking trips because it is quite heavy and bulky, instead we would recommend that Therm-A-Rest NeoAir because it is half the weight and bulk, and still quite comfortable. Otherwise, the REI AirRail is best suited for short backpacking trips and any other front country or supported camping trip like rafting or horse packing trips.
The AirRail is a great deal at $100. With REI's quality guarantees you can't go wrong purchasing this product.
This "princess bed" of a sleeping pad is the most comfortable backpacking sleeping pad we have tested. We love its comforting rails that are extra wide and great for back sleepers. We would only recommend it for short backpacking trips or other supported camping like car camping or paddling because it is one of the heaviest and bulkiest pads we have tested. It is a great value and seems quite durable.
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