The Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite inflatable mattress is a marvel of warmth in a small package. I was still using the very first NeoAir model, which was revolutionary when it came out but only had an R-Value of 2. The NeoAir XLite has an R-Value of 3.2. It doesn’t sound like much but it was noticeably warmer and best of all, it’s significantly smaller and lighter than my classic NeoAir.
The first thing I noticed about the XLite was the small size. When deflated and rolled up, this pad is tiny. It really is the same size as a liter-sized Nalgene water bottle. At 12 ounces, it is quite a bit lighter than my old NeoAir that weighs in at 1 pound, 3 ounces. That’s nearly half a pound of weight savings.
I tested the pad on four different trips including two at Point Reyes National Seashore, one in Yosemite National Park and one at Lassen National Park. I paired the pad with a Sierra Designs Nitro 800/0 degree sleeping bag. We had everything from blustery, cold temps at the coast to typical Sierra chill in the high alpine and warmer than expected temperatures at Lassen. It didn’t get below freezing on any of the trips and probably ranged from the high 30s to low 40s at night. My husband still has the old NeoAir model so I could test the XLite side by side on the bare pad. The XLite felt markedly warmer.
The nylon fabric felt comfortable on bare skin. I’ve heard a lot about how some newer pads can be quite noisy due to the reflective materials inside the pad. The XLite sounds a bit crinkly to me but my husband, who is a light sleeper, was not bothered by it when sleeping. I didn’t notice it either but when I compare them, it does sound different from my old pad. I think it is more noticeable because the crinkling is higher pitched than the fabric on the old pad.
R-Values provide a standard measure of the ability of a sleeping pad to insulate you from the cold earth. Pads generally have R-Values of 1-10. For summer temperatures an R-Value of 3 or 4 should be adequate. With an R-Value of 3.2, the XLite is suited to summer temperatures in the Sierra.
I debated long and hard last year about how much to upgrade my pad. I occasionally go backpacking in snow but only in the spring, not the dead of winter. A higher R-value is appealing, but when I compared the weight of pads with higher ratings, I was disappointed in how heavy they were. Some were a pound or more. After a thorough investigation I decided to stick with a reasonable R-value of 3-4 that would be ideal for 80% of my trips or more. I purchased an inexpensive foam pad to pair with my inflatable pad for the small number of snow camping trips I take. The XLite fit my expectations perfectly. It is warmer than my old pad but is still lightweight and small.
The XLite has a Triangular Core Matrix that uses a design of two stacked layers of triangular baffles that creates hundreds of individual cells. In addition to minimizing heat loss, this also makes the pad more stable. ThermaCapture refers to a proprietary reflective coating that is applied to the surface of the pad. This allows heat to be reflected back at the body.
I tested the regular sized pad, which is 20 inches wide and 72 inches long with rounded edges. It was similar to the width of my old pad, which was an inch wider and a rectangular shape. I didn’t notice anything different with the width and it felt fine to me. I’m 5 feet, 8 inches tall and weigh 135 pounds for reference. The small version is 20 inches wide, 47 inches long (for the torso) and weighs 8 ounces. The large version is wider at 25 inches, 77 inches long and weighs 16 ounces. The large version is good for those desiring a wider pad. When inflated the pad is a full 2.5 inches thick.
The pad comes with a stuff sack and repair kit. However, I find that a rubber band works fine to secure the pad so I don’t use the stuff sack. I blew up my mattress the old fashioned way but Therm-A-Rest offers several devices to assist.
The Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite mattress is the perfect balance of warmth, size and weight for a light backpacking kit. The pad weighs just 12 ounces with an R-Value of 3.2 in a profile the size of a one-liter water bottle. This is an ideal 3-season pad for all but the coldest sleepers looking for good insulating power in a lightweight package.
Manufacturer Specs for regular size:
All photos by Inga Aksamit, unless otherwise credited.
Disclosure of material connection: I received a sample for testing purposes, but the opinions expressed are solely my own.