GEAR REVIEW – Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm
By training I am an alpinist, meaning I am happiest when I am suffering to some degree. Recently, while enjoying some type 1.5 fun with a friend on Rainier, she blew my mind with a negligibly weighted, Nalgene sized inflatable mattress that expanded to a posh sized air mattress. I doubted every word she claimed with respect to this doohickey’s weight and swore sideways that my beat up foam mattress was just as good. But was it? After that trip, I returned home and opted to try the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm mattress pad.
After six months of testing, I have found myself in love with the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm mattress pad. When packed, it is no larger than a 1-liter Nalgene bottle and weighs a scant 1-ounce more than my trusty Therm-a-Rest Z-lite Sol foamie. While I am hesitant to replace the trusted foam mattress on technical alpine pushes or open bivvies, for fear of puncturing the air mattress and freezing to death, the NeoAir XTherm has wholeheartedly replaced the foam mattress on all other overnight exploits.
Insane packability for such a burly pad!
Bottom Line – The Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm is the best inflatable mattress on the market for it’s size, comfort and warmth rating.
- Warmth – Boasting a 5.7 R value, rated for temps lower than -40F/-40C, and 2.5″ of thickness between you and mother earth’s frosty skin make this a true 4-season mattress. Therm-a-Rest has incorporated patent-pending, reflective ThermaCapture™ technology to trap radiant heat as well as Triangular Core Matrix™ construction to minimize convective heat loss. In normal language, this means the user keeps their hard earned heat and doesn’t lose it to the ground, as with many other pads, thanks to internal baffling and reflective material used in its construction.
- Comfort – 2.5″ of plush inflatable thickness make this the most comfortable inflatable mattress I have EVER slept on in my decade plus of dirtbagging.
- Durability – So far, so good. The bottom is constructed of 70 denier nylon and the top with 30 denier ripstop nylon. Should anything go awry, the pad comes shipped with a repair kit – a bridge I have yet to cross with my six months of (ab)use.
- Weight – A scant 15 oz (430g) makes this a ridiculously light sleeping pad, especially when you consider its off the charts R-value of 5.7. For comparison, my lightweight foamy, the Therm-a-Rest Z-lite sol weighs only 1 oz less (14 oz), making me think thrice when it comes to packing for an overnight trip.
- Size – packs to the size of a 1-liter nalgene (4″x9″) and expands to a luxurious 20″x 72″.
- Collapsing Edges – Edges are prone to collapsing. For a female frame of 5’8″, this was not a problem; however, for a wide shouldered male user this could be a source of annoyance.
- Inflation Time – it takes approximately 30-35 breaths to inflate. The pad does include a sack that you can use to inflate the pad. It takes a little practice to get this technique down, but I now find it far more efficient to use the sack instead of my lungs especially at high elevations where O’s are limited.
- Risky in technical alpine terrain – Should this pad “pop” in the middle of the night, due to the inherent lightweight construction, it would provide zero insulation. Any inflatable mattress is risky to take on a technical alpine climb, as one puncture from a sharp rock or crampon misstep and your bivvy has just become a nightmare.