Gear Review Thermarest NeoAir XLite

Discussion in 'Gear Reviews' started by Nick, May 14, 2012.

By Nick on May 14, 2012 at 6:41 PM
  1. Nick

    Nick Post 'em if you got 'em!

    Thermarest NeoAir XLite

    MSRP: $129.95-$179.95, depending on size
    Price Paid: $179.95 less 20% during an REI member sale
    Size Reviewed: Large 25"W x 77"L
    Where you bought it: REI
    My Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars


    Manufacturer's Specs:

    In all my years of backpacking, I've struggled with finding the ideal sleeping pad. With the Thermarest Neoair XLite, I'm as close as I've ever been.

    I've use a lot of backpacking pads over the years, here's a short list: Big Agnes Air Core, Thermarest Ridgerest, Thermarest Prolite, Thermarest Prolite 4 and Thermarest Z-Lite. I've used them all extensively and they all have their ups and downs.

    The closed cell foam pads are more versatile, can be used as a chair around a fire or on sharp rocks and keep you low to the ground for people who tend to sleep half off the pad like me. They're also great for keeping you warm from the cold ground. The downside of foam is that they are very bulky and pretty uncomfortable. I get sore fast on the closed cel and end up only being able to sleep on my stomach but even then it hurts my chest after a while.

    The Thermarest Prolite type of pad isn't much thicker but is much more comfortable than a foam pad. They also provide good thermal protection and self-inflate part of the way. The downside is that they aren't all that light, especially if you're getting one just big enough to get by. All of last season I used a Thermarest Prolite regular which weighed in at 1 pound. Unfortunately, it was just too small for me. I had to choose between having my head or feet on the pad and if I wanted to spread my arms up above my head, they would be on the ground.

    The uninsulated Big Agnes Air Core and similar pads are awesome when it comes to comfort. With 2.5 of thickness, you can really sleep any way you want. The Air Core was my first backpacking pad many years ago. And Big Agnes customer service is so awesome that they replaced that old pad when I couldn't fix the hole in it so now I have a newer model. The downside to the Air Core is the lack of insulation. If you're camping in warm weather, they're great. But if you have a really cold night, the uninsulated Air Core pad will make you miserable. You could step up to the insulated Air Core but now you're talking about 24 oz for a regular size pad and 36 oz for a large.

    Enter the NeoAir XLite... the XLite takes all the awesome comfort qualities of the Air Core and melds it with the high insulating qualities of the ProLite series. If that weren't good enough, they weight less than all of them and pack down smaller too. My NeoAir XLite large is advertised as 16 ounces (actually weighed in closer to 15) and boasts a width of 25" and length of 77". The regular version (20x72) weighs even less at 12 ounces.

    The magic in the NeoAir XLite comes in the form of air chambers and a reflective mylar layer that captures body warmth and reflects it back up from the ground. And at the same time, keeps cold air from the ground from going up. It's an amazing system they've come up with that almost makes standard sleeping pad insulation obsolete.

    At first look, the NeoAir XLite looks like it wouldn't hold up to much abuse. The material is extremely thin and is even somewhat translucent. You can actually see the air chambers and reflective mylar sheet on the inside when you look at the right light. I had more than one backpacking partner this spring tell me to be careful with it, that I would pop it as it is obviously so delicate. I told them if it pops then I'm glad I figured it out sooner than later and I proceeded to abuse it as I would any pad. I slept with it on top of gravel, dirt, sand and one night a bed of rather sharp rocks with nothing but my ultralight tarp in between. It was so bad that it was painful to stand bare foot on the tarp. But the pad held up fine, so holes, and no leaks yet. A repair kit is included with the pad which I store in my First Aid Kit.

    I'm really talking up the XLite in this review, but it really is that good. I was going to wait until later in the summer to write my review on it because I like to have used an item thoroughly first, but after spending 10 nights on it in a wide variety of conditions from well below freezing, to nice warm nights and from the desert to the mountains, I am sold. This coming from a guy who spent 51 nights in a sleeping bag last year. Hands down, the best backpacking sleeping pad I've ever used.

    Huge but still ultralight!
    Very comfortable at 2.5" thick
    Packs down to the size of a nalgene or smaller
    Semi-rectangular so I can still spread my arms out a bit.

    The ultralight material is a bit loud and 'crinkly' when you make big movements during the night
    Translucent material shows condensation and potential mold inside
    I think I would have preferred the old fully rectangular version, at least up top.
    It's inflatable, therefore inherently prone to getting a hole and becoming useless
    bloody expensive!

    The Photos

    The NeoAir XLite next to a few of my other pads. From left: Thermarest Z-Lite Regular, Big Agnes Air Core Regular, Thermarest XLite Large, Thermarest ProLite Regular, Thermarest Ridgerest. 1 liter Nalgene bottle in the background for scale.
    neoair-xlite-1 (1).jpg

    Me inflating my XLite in Horse Canyon, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, March 2012. It takes me a bit over 90 seconds and around 22 breaths to get it inflated.

    Deflated view of the pad near the mouth piece. See how there is moisture building up inside? I'm sure this is just as common in every other pad but it's odd to be able to see it inside this one.

    Fully inflated

    Side view of the 2.5" thickness

    You can see the translucence of the pad in this shot.



    To roll it back up, I start by folding it like this and laying on top to get most of the air out.

    I then fold it in thirds. This is how it came packaged from Thermarest.

    And proceed to roll. Sometimes it rolls up wider than others.

    It came with this stuff sack that is way too big. I don't use it, instead, I use a small piece of velcro to keep it cinched down tight or nothing at all. Since there is no standard insulation, it doesn't try to expand much.

    My NeoAir XLite weighs in a bit less than the advertised 16 ounces. About 15.3 with the stuff sack.

    And 14.6 ounces for the pad only.

    Please feel free to ask questions and share your experience with the XLite in the comments below.

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    barl0w, pixie1339, gloo and 6 others like this.


Discussion in 'Gear Reviews' started by Nick, May 14, 2012.

    1. HomerJ
      Glad you like it! I love mine!!! I have the first version (rectangular) and was a little envious of the new pad, so it's good to know that maybe I'm better off with the rectangular one.... Good to hear it can stand up to some rough ground. I've been extra careful with mine so I haven't really tested it's ruggedness.

      I love how small and light it is, but still blows up to 2.5"! I used to roll up my trail lite and strap it to the outside of my pack. With the neoair I store it inside the pack.

      My only complaints is that it is noisy and it takes FOREVER to blow up, but I'm sure a lot of that has to do with puffing away at high altitude.
      nick likes this.
    2. gloo
      I'll second everything you say about the xlite. Been loving mine over the past few months. huge upgrade from my prolite plus and zrest, etc of the past.
      Yvonne and nick like this.
    3. pixie1339
      I ended up buying one of these last month with my 20% off coupon at REI. I got to use it for the first time last weekend. The crinkly sound is annoying because I move a lot, but it was pretty comfortable for such a light pad. It's much faster to inflate than my bigger pad, too. My other pad is more comfortable and warmer, so I'll most likely still use that one for longer trips and trips with colder temps at nights, but the Neoair will be my go to pad for shorter, warm weather trips.
      Yvonne likes this.
    4. Nurrgle
      I have been looking for something for my squaw to use, she is super picky and sleeps pretty rough without one plus she needs some insulation because she sleeps cold. I think i'll hve her take a look at this.

      On another note, I noticed in the pic of you blowing your pad up your Dog is sitting on a foam pad. Does he/she pack that in? Also, does he seam to like it? I have noticed on some trips that my pooches will be up and moving about looking for a better palce to lay down if it gets cold. This might be a good route to go for them.
    5. audraiam
      Nurrgle, nick is on the trail at the moment; but I can tell you that we have found that our pups prefer having a pad. Whatever keeps them happy keeps us happy in the end. Lessens the dog laying on top of you effect. Our dogs all pack some of their gear or food in, but the pad Nikita is on in the photo is too large to fit in their packs. Nick straps it to the bottom of his pack. We actually cut down the pad into sections so depending on how many dogs we have going we have the right amount of pad.
    6. Nurrgle
      Sweet, thanks for the info Audraiam. My dogs are gonna be so happy when they see this!
    7. Nick
      Dan Ransom, Bill told me that you had a lot of problems with your NeoAir XLite and didn't care much for it. I'm curious what you encountered.
    8. Dan
      I don't have an xlite, I have the original neo air. I never had any problems with it, it MIGHT have a very small leak right now, but it's hard to say, takes 4 hours before i have to put two or three puffs back in it.

      I mainly worry about it's durability, but the biggest problem is that it is loud to sleep on, it's too high off the ground so your arms go off the side, and it slides around very easily if you roll at night.

      That said, it's super comfortable. It's just not perfect. I think I am going to go back to sleeping on a zlite because it is multiuse for me.
    9. Nick
      I agree, definitely not perfect. I wasn't a fan of my thick pads before for the same reason but this time I got the 25" wide version and I love it, by far the best sleep I've ever had backpacking and I'm sure the larger size is a big factor. I notice the crinkling noise when I'm changing sleeping positions but haven't really been bothered by it. As for the durability, I suppose only time will tell for me. Definitely not looking forward to the first night I end up sleeping on the hard ground because that thing sprung a link...
    10. pixie1339
      After a second trip with this pad, I actually decided to return it. When I first used it on the West Rim trip, I didn't sleep well. I just couldn't get comfortable. I didn't think it was the pads fault though. I figured I just had a rough night. It wasn't until after my Coyote Gulch trip a couple weeks later that I figured out that it wasn't meant to be. I didn't sleep well either night on that trip, despite being being tuckered out when I went to bed. I really wanted to like it because it was so light, but here's what I realized I didn't like. 1) The shape of the pad. The pad tapers down at the foot to save weight. This turned out to be a problem for me because even in my mummy bag where I'm already more constricted, I'd find one or both of my feet falling off the pad. I've had issues in the past with my arms falling off the standard size pads, so I chose the large size for extra elbow room. So I guess the lesson learned is that my whole body has to fit on the pad for me to sleep comfortably. 2) The smooth material on the outside of the pad. This is something that really didn't occur to me before I tried this pad, but if you put a sleeping bag with smooth material on top of a sleeping pad made of smooth material it's really hard to stay on your pad. Add to that a smooth backpacking pillow = no bueno. I like my sleeping bag, so I guess I need a pad with a fabric feel. 3) The crinkle sound. My God, the crinkle sound!!! This bothered me so much more than I initially thought it would. Since I couldn't get comfortable or stay on my pad properly I was tossing and turning, and making a hell of a lot of noise in the process. Sorry Yvonne! This pad would probably be great for people that don't move around a lot when they sleep. Sorry Neoair Xlite. It's not you, it's me. I ended up ordering a Neoair All Season Large pad to replace it. It's 9 ounces heavier, but if I sleep well it will be worth every ounce. Wish us luck!
    11. Nick
      I'm still loving mine, and was about to buy one for Audra. Perhaps I'll consider something else for her though... It's not like she gets out so much that she really needs to shave ounces to this level.
      pixie1339 likes this.
    12. pixie1339
      I'm glad yours is still working out well for you. I never realized until I started trying different sleeping pads how picky my body is about what I can and can't sleep on. Sheesh! When I car camp I use an inflatable mattress, so this has been new territory for me.
    13. Yvonne
      I had no problems with that, Lisa.
      And you know, my mattress also made a lot of noise. ;)
      Sorry to hear the XLite didn't work for you, so hopefully your new one will be better.
      pixie1339 likes this.
    14. Aldaron
      Nick, I saw where you talked about moisture and mold inside the sleeping pad, and I wondered if you had ever considered one of these:

      I use that with my Insulated Air Core, and it makes life much more pleasant when inflating that monster at elevation. Plus, it doesn't push in moisture from your breath that comes from blowing it up by mouth.

      It replaces your stuff sack, and it looks like it weighs about the same as your current stuff sack.

      Just a thought!
    15. Nick
      That looks very cool, Keith. Might have to give it a go. I was just looking at the NeoAir XTherm and it appears to include a sack like that. I currently don't use any sack at all with my XLite though. The one that they included is so big you could fit two XLites in it!
    16. pixie1339
      I just got my Neoair All Season pad in the mail last night. I blew it up and laid down on for for about 5 minutes. It felt pretty damn good. None of the problems I had with the Neoair Xlite are an issue with this pad. Plus it's pretty warm, so I'm looking forward to seeing how it does in Amethyst Basin next weekend.:)
      Yvonne likes this.
    17. IntrepidXJ
      I bought one of these last year for backpacking, but never got a chance to use it. I have a backpacking trip coming up in May, so I decided to try it out this weekend since I was worried about the noise it would make because I usually switch sides a few times each night. I was pleasantly surprised to find that this pad did not make very much noise when switching sides in the middle of the night. The only time it made any noise was when I would first get onto it. Once I was on it, I could move around at will and there was really no noticeable noise. I'm pretty happy with it so far and think it will work out well for me.
      Michael, Nick and Yvonne like this.
    18. Unimog
      The xtherm stuff sack extends to twice it's normal size and becomes an inflator bag, so I only use breath to put the last little bit of pressure in. Isn't the xlite that way also?
      Last edited: Mar 17, 2014
    19. Michael
      Which one did you bought, Randy?
      I had my hands on the All-Season, here at a local dealer.
      I (my wife) was scared about the noise.
      Now I'm pending between All-Season and XTherm.
      I'm surprised about the low weight of both.
      My old self inflate is around 2 pounds.
      Thx in advance.

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