Hands-On-Review of the NeoAir Venture
The NeoAir Venture, which won our Best Buy Award, hits an interesting balance between weight, comfort, and durability. It was among the most comfortable pad we tested and doesn't break the bank or the back. We especially liked this pad for adventures where you spend multiple nights in the same location.
We used this pad side-by-side with the others in this review. Our testers consistently raved about the Venture's high level of comfort.
Photo: Jeremy Bauman
This contender is one of the most comfortable sleeping pads we've ever tested. First of all, its rectangular shape offers more sleeping space than tapered designs. We also loved the polyester fabric used all over this pad - it felt more natural and comfortable than the nylon fabric used for other pads. All of our testers preferred the Venture's relatively smooth surface over other pad designs. While this was a differentiator and welcome feature of the Venture, the Sea to Summit Comfort Plus Insulated gained a slight lead over the Venture in the comfort department thanks to the Comfort Plus' independently inflatable top and bottom air chambers.
With that said, a few testers preferred the thicker Venture that is among the thickest pads in this updated review but is an inch thinner than the Nemo Astro Insulated. However, we learned that increased thickness doesn't always translate into increased comfort. The Astro feels too bouncy and unstable unless inflated to the point of stiffness. Further, the sides on the Astro collapse much easier than the Venture, making it functionally narrower even though both pads are 20 inches wide. Nearly every tester who slept on the two pads back to back preferred the Venture over the Astro. The Venture strikes an amazing balance of weight and comfort at an affordable price.
Many people complain about the crinkly nature of other NeoAir series pads like the All-Season, XLite, and XTherm. The Venture is less noisy than these other models, making it slightly more pleasant for camping because you can move around a bit more without disturbing your tent mate.
This pad has a relatively smooth surface. As seen, the baffles are small and close together.
Photo: Jeremy Bauman
Weight and Packed Size
The regular size we tested weighed in at 21 oz on our scale earning it a score of 5/10 compared with the other pads in the review. It is lighter than pads like the Nemo Astro Insulated and REI AirRail 1.5 but is more comfortable. That said, the Venture is also far from the lightest pad we tested with pads like the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite weighing a full 9 ounces less. Although the lightest pads in this updated review weigh nearly half of what the Venture does, they cost twice as much.
All of the casual outdoor enthusiasts involved in our testing process felt that the extra weight was worth the added comfort and durability. This pad loves hiking seven or so miles to a lake, setting up a base camp, and spending the week relaxing, fishing, hiking, and napping in the shade. If that sounds like the trip you'd like to take, pick up this pad and invite us to come with you! If shaving your pack's base weight is one of your hobbies and you're dedicated to cutting every last gram off your kit, this pad is way too heavy for you; so you should check out the Therm-A-Rest NeoAir XLite that won our Top Pick Award for Ultralight use.
The Venture isn't the lightest pad we reviewed, but it's plenty light enough for most backpacking trips. If you value a good night's seep over weight, this pad rocks.
Photo: Jeremy Bauman
Below is a snapshot of the manufacturer's specs for the different sizes of this pad. While we often prefer the small version of sleeping pads for lightweight ventures, we don't see the merit of buying this pad in a size smaller than the 66-inch medium. The biggest reason to buy the small is to shave weight, but the small size weighs a heavy 16 ounces. In comparison, the small size of the XLite weighs just 8 oz and is almost twice as warm. Don't hit try to hammer a nail with a screwdriver - buy the Venture because the price is right and it's comfortable.
Specs for the Venture
Photo: Cascade Designs
This pad packs down to about two liters in size making it small enough to fit in any pack. Consider stuffing it along with your sleeping bag for ultimate compression.
As seen, this pad is a little bigger than the liter water bottle pictured. It doesn't pack down as small as many other air construction pads, but it's still much smaller than foam or self inflating pads.
Photo: Jeremy Bauman
With an R value of 1.8, this pad isn't meant for cold weather camping. If snow caves are what you're into, check out the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm that has an R value of 5.7 and is super warm. One tester who used the Venture on ice had a fairly frigid night while 10 feet away another tester was warm and happy using the XTherm.
For the weight, we expected this pad to be warmer. If you sleep cold, you may want to consider the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Camper, which is warmer but is a little less comfortable.
The night before this picture was taken, our tester slept directly on ice and was quite cold. This night, he migrated to a dry patch and was much warmer. We don't recommend the Venture for winter use.
Photo: Jeremy Bauman
Ease of Inflation
Like other Therm-a-Rest pads, the Venture has an easy to use twist valve on the corner. We neither love nor hate this design but prefer one way valves found on pads like the Sea to Summit UltraLight. The Venture takes about 30-40 breaths to inflate depending on the size of your lungs and how deeply you exhale into the valve. After a minute or so, you'll be set to enjoy a plush night's sleep. If you want a similarly designed pad that's easier to inflate, check out the new Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite Max SV with a similar construction to the Venture but an innovate speed valve that significantly decreases inflation time.
This pad uses durable 75 denier polyester, which makes it ideal for extended use in rough terrain. You won't have to worry too much when you see your buddy floating down the river on your sleeping pad. We know because we tried it! Be assured that this pad, though not designed for it, is an excellent lazy river companion.
While no inflatable pad is as durable as a foam pad, this one is durable enough for use directly on the ground if need be. When used in a tent, we expect this pad to last for years and years. As seen in the photo below, one tester used it directly on rocky ground while breaking from belaying.
Made with 75 denier polyester, this pad is durable. We didn't hesitate misusing it frequently as seen here.
Photo: Phil Gibson
The NeoAir Venture is a great choice if your time sleeping on a pad is split between car camping and luxurious summer backpacking. Alternatively, the Venture is a really great pad for base camping where you spend a week in a single location. Our lead tester spent the summer guiding backpacking trips in Rocky Mountain National Park and liked this pad for that purpose because it always gives a great night's sleep unless you're camping on ice. The added weight was a fair trade for increased comfort.
For just $75, this pad is a great do-it-all pad that doesn't break the bank. From car camping to summer backpacking, this pad can handle it without needing two pads to be comfortable. This pad does the work of a car camping pad and a backpacking pad at the expense of just a little added weight when backpacking and a small loss of comfort when car camping. Considering that the best backpacking pads cost upwards of $160 and the best car camping pads cost about the same, the Venture is about a third the cost of buying both but 70% of the awesomeness. This pad is a great value.
The Best Buy winning Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Venture is an excellent all-around pad and was a dream to sleep on. When it comes to the value for the price, this pad inflates our expectations for future pads. It isn't as high performing as many pads in the categories of weight and warmth, but if you're on a budget, this pad is tough to beat. Many of our casual testers felt that this its comfort was well worth the extra few ounces. Further, if you are a fair weather camper, you probably won't mind the lack of warmth. Buy the Venture if you're looking for a good pad at a great price.
The valve is intuitive and easy to use. Overall, we think this is a terrific pad. Also notice the rectangular shape. We found this more comfortable than mummy shaped pads.
Photo: John Clark