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Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Camper Review
Cons: Heavy for backpacking
Bottom line: Too heavy for regular backpacking, this model is very comfy and durable for many enjoyable nights of car camping.
The Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Camper is one of the most comfortable compact inflatable sleeping pads we tested. Its rectangular shape combined with three inches of cushion make it a fantastic choice for those that value comfort over weight savings. Conveniently, the pad is also among the most durable of the inflatable variety and it's priced relatively affordably. The NeoAir Camper sits squarely between a lightweight inflatable pad well-suited to backpacking and an ultra-luxurious car camping pad. We recommend the NeoAir Camper if you want one pad to do both activities and don't mind carrying some extra weight.
If you'd like to save three ounces, we'd recommend the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Venture, which is very comparable to the Camper. The Venture is $30 cheaper and nearly as warm. Our testers enjoyed sleeping on both of these pads. Also consider a size large Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite, which is lighter, more compact, and nearly as comfortable as the Camper in size large.
RELATED REVIEW: The Best Sleeping Pads of 2017
Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
This contender is a supremely comfortable pad, but weighs a bit more because of its extra comfort. It scored closer to the bottom of the pack because it is fairly heavy and isn't very warm.
One of the most comfortable products in our review, this pad's rectangular shape gives you more space for your pillow and feet, and the extra half inch of depth (compared to other NeoAir mattresses) provides extra cushion for hips and knees. Additionally, our testers have consistently reported that the NeoAir's smooth surface tends to be more comfortable than the competition. For example, the Big Agnes Q-Core SLX has a pothole-like surface and the Nemo Astro Insulated uses horizontal baffles that are a bit too deep. Thus, the Camper - with its large rectangular shape - is the way to go if comfort is your priority. With the said, many testers preferred spending the night on the Sea to Summit Comfort Plus Insulated that has a quilt like structure and allows for independent inflation of the top and bottom.
When compared with the NeoAir Venture, the Camper was ever so slightly more comfortable, but our testers did not feel that the difference was great enough to warrant giving the Camper a full one-point lead over the Venture. Both pads are similarly constructed, but the Camper has the advantage of being a tad thicker.
If you really want a comfortable sleeping pad for car camping, we urge you to consider one of the products compared in our Camping Mattress Review.
Weight and Packed Size
The NeoAir Camper is available in three sizes:
We tested the regular size. While this size was adequate for backpacking, if you really want luxury, splurge for the large size, which is wider and longer. This will noticeably increase comfort for a minor weight penalty. That said, we feel that any size of the NeoAir Camper is too heavy for longer backpacking trips. The pad weighs more than top-tier 15-degree down sleeping bags and it's heavier than most ultralight tents. If you want the most comfort for the lowest weight, consider a Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite.
Extra comfort and moderate price are the primary reasons to get the NeoAir Camper. However, remember that you can also opt for the NeoAir Venture (our Best Buy Award winner), which is a few ounces lighter and a bit less expensive.
Given its level of comfort, the Camper packs down pretty small. While it's much bulkier than lightweight pads like the Sea to Summit Ultralight, it will fit in your pack much easier than self-inflating pads like the REI AirRail 1.5. Given the high level of comfort, the Camper's packed size is pretty impressive.
This a three-season pad, so it's plenty comfortable for spring, summer, and fall. Add a closed cell pad like the Therm-a-Rest Z Lite SOL beneath for winter, or bump up to a warmer pad like the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm.
Ease of Inflation
The Camper has a traditional Therm-a-Rest valve that hasn't received many upgrades since its inception on old-school self-inflating pads. Though it isn't as nice to use as the innovate one-way valves founds on pads like the Sea to Summit Comfort Plus Insulated, the simplicity of the twist valve is intuitive, effective, and easy to use. When deflating, just be sure to open the valve all the way and lay on the pad a few seconds while it deflates.
The Camper uses thick, tough fabrics that make it well-suited to the everyday thrashing of base camping and car camping. It resists dogs, kids, pillow fights, card games, and stormy tent-bound days better than ultralight inflatable pads. We also bivied directly on the ground without incident. We expect this pad to last much longer than lightweight models.
The Camper could be a good choice if you want one single pad for car camping and occasional backpacking. Most of our testers have one luxurious camping mattress for car camping and a lightweight pad (like the NeoAir XLite, which weighs half as much as the NeoAir Camper) for backpacking. We believe the Camper's best application is remote base camping, where you hike in for a day or two and spend several days to a week or more in one location before hiking out.
While this pad is very comfortable for the relatively low price of $100, we can't wholeheartedly say that it is a great value. The Best Buy Award winning NeoAir Venture is very comparable to the Camper, but the Venture is 3 oz lighter, nearly as warm, is more packable, and retails for $30 less.
This contender is a good pad, especially if you find yourself camping next to the car more often than not. It is a very comfortable pad that will transform lumpy ground into a plush sleep surface. It isn't our favorite pad for lightweight backpacking, but if you don't mind carrying a couple extra ounces in the name of comfort, then it's a good pick. It is slightly warmer than the NeoAir Venture, but is more expensive and it's heavier. Overall, the Camper is a good pad to have if you want one pad for backpacking and car camping and if you value comfort over weight.
— Jeremy Bauman
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