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Hands-on Gear Review
Therm-a-Rest EvoLite Review
Cons: Bulky when packed, not particularly lightweight, not warm
Bottom line: Backpackers looking for a comfortable, self-inflating pad will appreciate this model when packed size and low weight are not priorities.
Self-inflating and plush, the Therm-a-Rest EvoLite has it all when it comes to ease of inflation and comfort. This was the easiest 2 inch pad to inflate of any in the review. We loved its smooth surface and the internal foam made the pad feel stable in comparison to other pads of similar thickness. All around, our testers liked this model, but it didn't hit it out of the park in any one area. It is more bulky than most of its competitors, isn't super lightweight, and isn't very warm. Its greatest assets are ease of inflation and comfort. We think that most people looking for a self-inflating mat will find the EvoLite to be an improvement over older designs like the Therm-a-Rest ProLite.
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Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
The Therm-a-Rest EvoLite is a good pad for the majority of backpackers and is great if you want a pad that self-inflates. Continue reading to find out how it competes with other top scorers.
The EvoLite is one of the most comfortable self-inflating (or semi self-inflating) backpacking sleeping pads that we've ever had the pleasure of sleeping on. Although our testers generally find air construction pads more comfortable overall, many people love self-inflating mats and will purchase them them just for this feature even though they aren't as comfortable. The EvoLite is a fantastic pad because it gives you the best of both worlds. If you let this pad sit for half an hour or so, it only takes 8-11 breaths to fully inflate. Talk about a win/win!
To ensure that your pad self-inflates as well as possible, make sure you don't compress the internal foam during storage. Hang the pad vertically with the valve open so that the foam expands.
The EvoLite is constructed with horizontal strips of foam throughout the length of the pad. As seen in the photo below, the pad has a fairly smooth surface that proved to be a comfortable sleep surface. Many people also find the more stable surface of self-inflating pads to be more comfortable. The most frequent comfort related complaint that our testers cited is that the pad is quite narrow. While it wasn't any more narrow than most of the ultralight pads in the review, it certainly was much more trim and mummy shaped than pads we found to be super comfortable like the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Venture (our Best Buy Winner). In the end, we gave the EvoLite a comfort score of 7/10.
When used in the summer, this pad was warm enough for most of our testers. With a stated R-value of 2.1, it is warm enough for most three season use. For winter use, you should supplement it with a foam pad like the Therm-a-Rest Z Lite Sol or upgrade to a warmer model like the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm. One tester used the EvoLite in a dugout snow shelter in the spring and complained that it felt much colder than his personal sleeping pad that has a similar R-value.
R-value is a linear measurement, so adding a foam pad with an R-value of 2 underneath the EvoLite (R-value of 2.1) will equate to twice as much warmth.
At 17 oz, this is far from the lightest pad. However, it strikes a great balance between comfort, weight, ease of inflating, and packed size. If you are concerned about shaving every last ounce off your kit, we recommend you check out the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite, which won our Top Pick for Ultralight trips.
The EvoLite packs to a relatively small size considering that it self-inflates. It was much smaller than the REI AirRail 1.5, but bigger than the Therm-a-rest Prolite. Still, the EvoLite is double the size of many air construction pads when packed.
For durability, we gave this bag a score of 5/10. It was far from the least durable, but certainly doesn't feel as burly as the Nemo Astro Insulated. We didn't have any issues with leaks throughout the extent of our review; however, the pad we tested did have one issue with delimitation resulting in a lump the size of a watermelon. We learned that it's super uncomfortable to sleep on a pad that looks like it has a large tumor. Thankfully, Therm-a-Rest stands behind their products so this wasn't a long-term issue. Without testing large batches of this product, it is impossible to tell if we received a lemon or if this is part of a larger quality control issue.
We love using this pad for summer backpacking trips and as a "raft" on lazy river days in the mountains. If you want a pad that is easy to inflate and pretty comfortable, this one is tough to beat! Many backpackers will love the self-inflating design and won't mind the added bulk or weight. However, you may not like this pad if you want something that is ultralight or ultra-packable.
For $120, this pad is more expensive than other self-inflating models and more expensive than many higher scoring air construction pads. Considering that you can get pads that are either more comfortable or lighter weight or pack smaller for cheaper, we don't consider the EvoLite to be a great value unless you really want a thick, self-inflating pad.
The EvoLite is an excellent pad but it wasn't as high performing as others. This is a good pad if you highly value self-inflation over other metrics like weight, packed size, and warmth. If you don't really care about the self-inflating feature, you may be better off with a pad that is a little lighter, a little warmer, a little more comfortable, or a little smaller when packed. The EvoLite put up a good fight in each of our categories, but didn't hit it out of the park enough to win an award.
Therm-a-Rest ProLite Plus
Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite - Women's
Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Xtherm
Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Pump Sack
— Jeremy Bauman
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