Updated NeoAir XLite
Since our last test round with this Top Pick Award winner, Therm-a-Rest dropped a new pad with an updated valve and increased R-value. The R-value, which is the warmth rating of the pad, is up from 3.9 to 5.4, which should increase the warmth of the pad significantly. The new valve, called WingLock, allows you to toggle the valve open in such a way that air will go in, but not come out, allowing for a more streamlined inflation (read: not holding your tongue over the valve in between breaths). Check out the two models below — the updated pad is pictured first, and the model we tested, second.
Since we haven't tested this update for ourselves, the review to follow pertains only to the old pad. We are, however, linking to the updated model in this review.
Hands-On Review of the Women's NeoAir XLite
This high-performance sleeping pad has been our top choice for years when we want to go fast and light. It's falling behind in some of its features and is noisier than its competitors, but we still reach for it when we want the lightest pack possible.
McKenzie took the NeoAir XLite with her on a climbing trip to the Alaska Range. Here she tests its warmth at basecamp with Mt. Frances and Denali looming in the background. Pair this pad with a foam pad and it works great for cold weather, high altitude, and/or snow camping.
Although it is not the warmest sleeping pad we tested, the NeoAir XLite has a surprisingly high R-Value for the fact that it has no foam or synthetic insulation; just air and baffles. It utilizes Therm-A-Rest's "ThermaCapture" technology that 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 (3.9 versus 3.2), while the weight (12 oz) stayed the same. To learn more about R-values, check out our Buying Advice Article.
Pair the NeoAir XLite with a foam pad, and it's exceptional for cold weather, high altitude, and/or snow camping. The warmest pads in our review had R-values of 5.2 and could be a better choice if you'll be base-camping in cold places (they are also much heavier than the NeoAir).
The NeoAir XLite will keep you warm and cozy, especially when paired with a warm sleeping bag.
It takes a while to get used to sleeping on the NeoAir XLite, and we found that we were more prone to rolling off this sleeping pad than some of the others. The mattress also has a significant crinkling sound associated with the space blanket material used to insulate. The noise tends to reduce after a number of uses.
This could be because the crinkly material inside has been broken in like a good piece of Tyvek. The Sea to Summit Ether Light has eliminated both of these problems and is much more comfortable and quiet.
Taking a rest day in Alaska on the comfortable NeoAir pad. Once you get used to the noise and sleeping on a bouncy rolling cloud, this pad is quite comfortable. We like to fill the mattress up fully (it is not self inflating), and then lie on it and let a bit of air out until it feels comfortable for us.
Once you get used to the noise and sleeping on a bouncy rolling cloud, the NeoAir XLite is quite comfortable. We like to fill the mattress up fully (it is not self-inflating), and then lie on it and let a bit of air out until it feels comfortable for us.
The Sea to Summit Ether Light and the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite. The Ether has stolen the title of Editors' Choice from the NeoAir because it is quieter and more comfortable.
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 materials, such as the durable Therm-A-Rest Trail Lite - Women's. We are a bit concerned about the moisture that we can see 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. We've also read reports of the valve not holding air overnight and have experienced this ourselves. We prefer the one-way valves from Sea to Summit and Big Agnes and think Therm-a-Rest could do with updating their valve technology.
Maggie Smith on the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite sleeping pad during a break from biking from San Francisco to Los Angeles.
At 11.8 oz, this is the lightest sleeping pad by far in this review.
Nothing has come close to matching this pad's featherweight. Its closest competitor is the Sea to Summit UltraLight Insulated Women's, which weighs 14.6 oz and has an R-value of 3.3 (the NeoAir is 3.9). The women's XLite weighs the same as the men's version but has a higher R-value.
The NeoAir XLite is a great choice for long and strenuous backpacking trips like the Sierra High Route. Jessica Haist blows up hers in the Bear Lakes Basin.
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.
The Big Agnes Q Core SLX is close to the same packed size as the NeoAir but weighs almost five ounces more.
The Sea to Summit Ether Light (left) and NeoAir (right). The NeoAir definitely packs down much smaller.
We took the NeoAir XLite on all of our long-distance backpacking trips this summer; this pad has had many journeys on the PCT, John Muir Trail, and AT. Our testers have also taken this pad on many cold weather adventures, including up to Denali State Park in Alaska and ski touring in the High Sierra, California. Because it is so light and small, this pad is a no-brainer to throw in your pack on those trips you want to be going fast, light, and you still want to be warm and comfortable.
The NeoAir XLite Women's is the second most expensive sleeping pad in this review at $159.95; we think it is worth it. If you want to significantly lighten up your sleeping system while not sacrificing warmth or comfort, we think that 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'll have to replace it often. In that case, go for something more durable like the ProLite. 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.
This super light package is a good value for high performance, as long as you treat it with care.
If you are ready to invest in lightening up your sleeping system, the NeoAir is for you. We love how lightweight and versatile this sleeping pad is because we can take it anywhere from California to Alaska and not have to worry. 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. If you're looking for something that will help you get a high quality sleep without too much cost in weight, we love the Sea to Summit Ether and would reach for that 9 times out of 10 over the NeoAir.
Going fast and light with the NeoAir XLite Women's mattress, Mountain Hardwear Ultralaminina Women's seeping bag and Black Diamond's Mega Lite shelter.