The Astro Insulated has been updated with NEMO's Laylow valve, which is a micro-adjustable, zero-profile valve offering personalized comfort and convenient inflation/deflation. The colors have also changed, and the price has dropped! The regular size version of this pad now retails for $100, and you can get the long/wide version for $20 more. See a comparison of the two pads below, with the latest model pictured on the left.
The following review refers to the older version we tested.
Hands-On Review of the Astro Insulated
The Nemo Astro Insulated is a good pad for people who car camp frequently and backpack infrequently. If you love sleeping on plush pads that keep you far off the ground, continue reading to see how this one stacks up against the competition.
The Astro (shown in the foreground) was the thickest and plushest pad we slept on during this review. Also, notice the the built in pillow.
If one thing is certain about this pad, it's that it is thick - a whopping 3 inches. Inflate this pad all the way and you could bed down on a pile of rocks, pine cones, or grass clumps without feeling a thing! Deflate this pad a just a tad and you'll feel like you're sinking into a soft cloud. While our relationship with this pad sounds like pure bliss, this pad does have a dark side other than the deep grey fabric used on the bottom.
Simply put, the Nemo Astro Insulated was too thick for our liking. When deflated enough to take advantage of all 3 inches of comfort, nearly every tester agreed that this pad felt too "bouncy" and many complained that the edges collapsed much more than other horizontally baffled pads. The built-in pillow was a hit with back sleepers, but wasn't thick enough for side sleepers who complained that the round pillow surface made it difficult to keep their pillow (aka a stuff-sack filled with a down jacket) in place. The thickness that seemed like it would be such an advantage at first ended up feeling wasted compared with other pads that were half as thick, but just as comfortable. The Best Buy winning Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Venture was nearly as thick but much more comfortable thanks to smaller baffles that gave more support.
Although it wasn't designed for this purpose, this was the most buoyant pad in the review and was great for floating down lazy snake rivers in the mountains.
The Astro has a built in pillow of sorts. Back sleepers liked it while side sleepers didn't because it isn't big enough and makes it more difficult to balance a stuff sack pillow on top.
It's difficult to defend the weight of the Nemo Astro Insulated if you're planning a long distance hike. But if you're looking for a super plush pad for "backpacking to camp" style endeavors, this pad's weight could be justified. This pad weighed in at 24 ounces on our scales making it one of the heaviest pads in the review. The only pad heavier in this review update was the REI AirRail 1.5. Many testers found the AirRail more comfortable and we ended up giving it a score of 8/10 while we gave the Astro a score of 7/10.
Nemo avoids stating the R-value of any of their pads and instead gives this pad a comfortable temperature rating of 15º - 25º F. From our use in the field, we think this is a pretty accurate assessment but would still like to supplement the Astro
with a foam pad when sleeping on ice, rock, or frozen ground when temperatures drop below 20º F. If you really want to push your camping into cold temperatures, you should consider the Editors' Choice-winning Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm
that has an R-value of 5.
Enjoying an open bivy on the Astro Insulated. This pad was plenty warm when temperatures dropped below freezing during the night.
If given the choice between sleeping on snow, rock, ice, or dirt, we will always choose to sleep on snow. Snow contains a lot of air, making it a poor conductor - which is a good thing. The dirt conducts heat at least twice as well as snow.
For how big this pad is when inflated, it packs down to a surprisingly small size. It packs just a little bit bigger than the Therm-a-Rest Venture and much smaller than the AirRail.
Considering that this pad is three inches thick when inflated, it packs down fairly small. If it didn't weigh 24 ounces, it would have scored much higher overall.
This pad seemed pretty durable. We didn't hesitate using it directly on rocks and grass. Made with 75 denier polyester, this pad is one of the most durable inflatable pads we used but much less durable than foam pads. The durability is comparable to the REI AirRail 1.5. We loved using both of these pads while lounging around camp. Overall, this pad is plenty durable for pretty much anything you'd be likely to throw at it.
The horizontal baffles on the Astro are a little deeper than the NeoAir series pads. However, the Astro was still flat enough to be comfortable. The biggest issue with this pad is that it feels unstable when slightly deflated and the edges collapse when weighted.
This pad is best used for base camp style backpacking or for car camping with the occasional backpacking trip. When the ground is super bumpy, you'll really appreciate the three inches of air between you and the grass lumps. The insulation makes this pad suitable for the majority of a three-season backpacker's needs.
For $100, this pad is a decent value but we think it is overpriced considering the high weight. If you want a lighter weight version of this pad, condor the "Lite" model that is eight ounces lighter and costs $30 more. The only downside is that it's much less durable.
At three inches, the Nemo Astro Insulated is the thickest pad we'd consider taking into the backcountry. It is insulated well enough for three-season use and was as comfortable as most of the other pads we reviewed. Although it was one of the heaviest pads, the plushness may be worth it for you. If you want one pad for car camping and backpacking this is a good pick. If you are considering buying the Therm-a-Rest Venture but are dissuaded by the lack of warmth, the Astro Insulated is much warmer and nearly as comfortable when fully inflated.
One thing we really like about the Astro is the rectangular shape. Rectangular pads are more comfortable than shaped pads of the same construction.