The REI Co-op AirRail has been upgraded to the Plus model, and it continues to be a great product. It's super comfortable, right up there at the top of our scoring because of its hugging bumpers that cradle you while you sleep. REI has cut down the weight and bulk, making it more competitive in these metrics. With all of this in mind, we've given it our Best Buy Award. You'll find a quality, comfortable, and warm sleeping mat in the AirRail Plus. Unfortunately, the standards for R-value testing have changed, and the AirRail's R-value has been downgraded - this has bumped it down in our warmth metric. The AirRail is an excellent choice for car camping trips or short backpacks where you don't have to carry it too far.
Unisex Version Available
As of November 12, 2021, REI has no inventory for the women's version of the AirRail Plus and states they're not sure if or when it will be back. A red unisex version of this pad is still available for purchase on REI, although the company says there are differences between the two. The women's model has more hip room between the rails and added hip cushioning. Taller folks may prefer the unisex version for its extra length (72 inches vs. the 66-inch women's version).
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Air-Rail Plus is still the best bang for your buck. We like its one-way valve to help with self-inflation and deflation, and it comes in a more svelte package. It's still an excellent value for the price. However, its R-value has been downgraded.
Because of new ASTM R-value testing standards, the AirRail's R-value rating has dropped significantly from 5.1 to 3.7. Nothing has changed about the insulation, but the standards are different, and foam insulated pads have been the hardest hit. No physical changes have been made to this pad, so it's still as warm as it ever was, but relative to other pads, it's dropped a bit. To learn more about R-values, check out our Buying Advice Article.
We have not had the opportunity to test the AirRail in sub-freezing temperatures, so it's hard to gauge how well it would perform in those conditions. The rails themselves do not appear to be insulated, so these may conduct more cold air than other mats that are fully insulated from the ground. We would consider bringing a piece of foam along for shoulder season trips for more insulation from the ground.
REI claims that this model has more insulation than its unisex version, adding insulation to the torso and padding to the hip area because women sleep colder.
This product scores high in this metric. We love the cradling feeling of the "rails" and think it will add mental comfort as well since it could help people feel less worried about rolling off their mats in the night.
The AirRail's shape has changed slightly with the inception of the "Plus" model, but not significantly or noticeably. If anything, the shape is wider, with more room in the foot area. This time around the main pad area seemed thinner, and if not fully inflated, we could feel ourselves "bottoming out", or touching the ground when sitting up or on our side. The rails are great for back sleepers as they will cradle your arms; we often feel like our arms are falling off our pad when sleeping on our back on most models in this review, but this is not the case with the AirRail Plus. Instead, our arms rest comfortably on the rails. The rails are also helpful as a guide to where the edges of your mat are so you don't shift or roll off it in the middle of the night.
The AirRail is one of the most durable products in our fleet.
With its 75 Denier fabric, it has the most robust bottom materials of the bunch. Its former iteration had some complaints about the valve leaking overnight. Now, REI has gone to a one-way valve system with the option to remove the full cap for easy deflation. This new valve seems to be more durable and easy to use than the former screw and lockdown valve. We also think that this version's color is better as it doesn't show dirt as easily as the old teal color did.
On the heftier side, the AirRail loses points in this metric.
Weighing in at 25 ounces, the AirRail is one of the heavier products in this review, and we would hesitate to take this on long backpacking trips. The lightest models in this review are less than half the weight of the AirRail. All that being said, it's also not the heaviest pad in this review.
REI has made strides in this area with the AirRail Plus Women's; however, it's still not as small and packable as other models we tested.
We were pleasantly surprised that the AirRail seems to have a smaller packed size than the last version. It was not a struggle to get this mat into its stuff sack. This could be in part to the new valve that dumps air out, also possibly the mat's materials have had an upgrade to more compressible ones.
The AirRail is not the cheapest pad of the bunch; however, thanks to its great comfort, as well as its acceptable weight and bulk, it's the best value of the bunch, and thus the winner of our award for the best value. This pad seems to be on sale often, so keep an eye out for an even better deal! If you're looking for a more traditionally shaped sleeping pad (which in our opinion is not as comfortable), the Trail Lite is also warm, weighs the same, and retails for less.
When we once were dubious of this product's "rails", we've come to love them, as they're very comfortable. The REI Co-op Air Rail Plus has increased its value by decreasing its packed size. Unfortunately, its value has dropped a bit with its dropped R-value. With all that in mind, it still holds on to our Best Buy Award. This sleeping pad is an excellent choice for car camping and base camping in cool conditions, especially when paired with a warm sleeping bag; as a bonus, back sleepers will love it. If you're afraid of rolling off your pad at night, the AirRail will also give you peace of mind.
Looking to learn more about what a women's specific pad...
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