Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite - Women's Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Very light, super compact, comfortable, versatile, warmer than normal XLite
Cons: Noisy, expensive, delicate materials
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Our Analysis and Test Results
For years, this high-performance sleeping pad has been our top choice when we want to go fast and light.
In the last year, the outdoor industry in the US has adopted a standardized way to test the R-values of sleeping pads, called the ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) Standard. With this new testing criteria, the NeoAir's R-value has jumped from 3.9 up to a whopping 5.4; this doesn't mean that anything has changed with this pad's technology, but it is a lot warmer than we originally thought. It's now rated as the warmest pad of the bunch and has no foam or synthetic insulation; just air and baffles. The pad utilizes Therm-A-Rest's "ThermaCapture" technology, which is meant to trap radiant heat while the "Triangular Core Matrix" construction minimizes convective heat loss.
Basically, it has space-blanket-like material constructed into little triangles to trap and reflect your body heat back towards you while reflecting the cold ground air back to the ground. This technology allows Therm-a-Rest to do away with any insulating foam, significantly reducing the bulk and weight on this pad. We were also interested to see that the women's specific version has a higher R-value than the men's (5.4 versus 4.2), while the weight (12 ounces) stayed the same. Pair the NeoAir XLite with a foam pad, and it's exceptional for cold weather, high altitude, and/or snow camping.
It takes a while to get used to sleeping on the NeoAir XLite, and we found that we were prone to rolling off this sleeping pad.
The mattress also has a significant crinkling sound associated with the space blanket material used to insulate. The noise tends to reduce after several uses. This could be because the crinkly material inside has been broken in like a good piece of Tyvek.
Once you get used to the noise and sleeping on a bouncy rolling cloud, the NeoAir XLite is comfortable. We like to fill the pad up fully (it is not self-inflating), and then lie on it and let a bit of air out until it feels comfortable. An addition of a one-way valve system or the "WingLock" valve has a larger opening and one-way inflation. The NeoAir also comes with a pump sack, which makes inflation easier. The new one-way valve syste ism less intuitive than some, but it's relatively straightforward to figure out.
As with all lightweight gear, you need to be delicate with this product and treat it with respect. Some of our testers are going on year four of owning the same NeoAir XLite, and it hasn't had a single hole. The same cannot be said for other models.
The simple truth is that the material is much less durable than a traditional sleeping pad with burly woven materials. The included pump sack can eliminate moisture from your breath, that historically we've seen accumulating on the inside, but if you store it properly when not in use (by opening up the valve and spreading it out a bit), the moisture should dissipate.
This pad comes with a patch repair kit for those small holes you may encounter while in the field. Hopefully, this new valve system has fixed complaints of the old valve being leaky as well!
At 11.8 ounces, this is the lightest sleeping pad by far in this review.
The included pump sack now adds two ounces to that tally if you choose to carry it with you. We have yet to see a competitor that comes close to matching the NeoAir's weight.
This is another area where the XLite exceeds.
It packs down incredibly small, only 9x4 inches; smaller than a Nalgene bottle. If you are trying to go light, you are probably trying to go small too, and this is the tiniest of all the women's sleeping pads we've tested. Again, the included pump sack adds a little bit of bulk if you choose to carry it.
The NeoAir XLite Women's is near the top of the price range for women's sleeping pads in this review — we think it is worth it. If you want to significantly lighten up your sleeping system while not sacrificing warmth or comfort, the XLite is a good investment. If you are hard on your gear and don't have the patience or attention to treat it with care, this model may not be a good value for you because you may have to replace it often. In that case, go for something more durable. As a bonus, we think the Women's XLite is a better value than the men's because of its higher R-value and smaller packed size.
We're pleased with the NeoAir's upgraded valve system and increased R-Value, and have bumped it back up to win our Editors' Choice Award. If you are ready to invest in lightening your sleeping system, the NeoAir is for you. We love how lightweight and versatile it is because we can take to California or Alaska and not have to worry. We took the NeoAir XLite on all of our long-distance backpacking trips, and this pad has had many journeys on the PCT, John Muir Trail, and AT. It packs down smaller than any other women's pad we've tested and is an easy choice for all your fast and light or long-distance backpacking adventures.
— Jessica Haist