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Hands-on Gear Review
REI AirRail 1.5 Review
Cons: Heavy, bulky, not as thick as air construction pads
Bottom line: This pad's best attributes are its wide and comfortable sleeping surface and self-inflating ease.
The REI AirRail 1.5 is the most comfortable self-inflating sleeping pad we've taken into the backcountry. The side rails kept us from rolling off the pad and are an innovative way to improve an older sleeping pad design. Many reviewers loved sleeping on the smooth, flat, and stable surface provided by the AirRail. The women's version won a Top Pick for Comfort and is 6 inches shorter and 2 oz lighter (it has the same 4.2 R-value). Though it is fairly comfortable, we think that this pad is too bulky and heavy for most backpacking trips. However, if weight and packed size aren't top priorities for you, you should definitely consider purchasing the AirRail 1.5. If you want one pad for everything, most of our testers prefer the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Venture that weighs 5 ounces less but is more comfortable and a little smaller when packed. Continue reading to see how the AirRail compared with other top pads.
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Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
The AirRail's greatest assets are its side rails, comfortable sleep surface, and ease of inflation. Back sleepers especially loved this pad because it is three inches wider than any other pad in this review giving your arms a place to sleep too.
We love that this pad is 3 inches wider than all the other 20-inch pads we tested. The width made a noticeable difference (especially for back sleepers) and the side rails act like kiddy bumpers at a bowling alley so that you can knock down a few Z's every time. The rails kept us center on the pad all night long. If you're new to backpacking, learning how to sleep on a 20 inch wide pad comfortably takes some time. The side rails and extra width help this pad feel much wider than competitors. While guiding backpacking trips, clients with limited backcountry experience often raved about the AirRail over other pads specifically for its extra width and side rails. The women's version of this pad (REI AirRail 1.5 Self-Inflating - Women's) earned a 10/10 in terms of comfort because it was the most comfortable pad in that review. Female reviewers similarly raved about the side rails and found this pad's 1.5 inches of loft super comfortable. We awarded the men's version of this pad a 8/10 because most of our reviews found the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Venture a little more comfortable because it is a little thicker.
This pad adds a hefty 26 ounces to your base weight. For comparison, the lightest pad in this review update (the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite) weighs less than half of the AirRail and is nearly as comfortable (several reviewers think the XLite is more comfortable because it is thicker). The AirRail is a great pad for base camping and traditional backpacking but it is a terrible choice for ultralight backpacking considering that many ultralight tents and ultralight sleeping bags weigh a fraction of what the AirRail does.
With a stated R-value of 4.2, this is among the warmest pads in this review and is an excellent choice for cold sleepers. None of our testers had cold nights when using this pad in the summer. For winter, we'd either want to use a very warm sleeping bag or supplement this pad with a closed cell foam pad like the Therm-a-Rest Z Lite SOL. This pad's warmth retention come from the 1.5 inches of open cell foam that's bonded to the inside layers of the polyester fabric. The foam reduces the flow of air within the pad thus adding warmth. The outer side rails are insulated with a layer of PrimaLoft. This is the warmest self-inflating pad in this review update.
This is another category that significantly hurt the AirRail. If it wasn't for the weight and packed size, the AirRail would have been a top contender. Alas, this was the bulkiest pad we tested next to closed cell foam pads. One and a half inches of foam isn't conducive to packing down to a small size.
Seventy-five denier polyester used on the top and bottom make this pad as durable as any inflatable pad we've seen. We had no issues with durability throughout our review. With care, you can expect this pad to last for years. We wouldn't hesitate to use it directly on the ground if need be.
If you primarily sleep on your back, you'll probably love this pad with its extra width and side rails. We like using it for short backpacking trips and for car camping. Because it is so heavy and bulky, it doesn't often win a place in our packs for longer backpacking trips to remote locations.
For the low price of $100, this product offers a great value. If you're an REI member, you can use your annual 20% off coupon to bring the price down to $72.
Aside from weight and packed size, this pad is high scoring and would be a great first pad if you're just getting into backpacking. The width, thickness, and side rails are comfortable and will help make the transition from a bed to a sleeping pad easier than some of the narrower pads we tested. Because it is so heavy and bulky, we don't think this pad is suited to long backpacking trips. Instead, short trips and car camping are great uses for the REI AirRail 1.5.
— Jeremy Bauman
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