The Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite is by far the most important item I now take on any backpacking/camping trip. Arguably more important than my camera, backpack, or even water. If you’re anything like me, the worst part of camping is waking up sore in the morning, and that soreness has nothing to do with the previous days’ activities. I’m a side sleeper, so I’d wake up with a sore neck, shoulders, and back whenever I’d sleep on a foam pad, hybrid inflatable/foam pad, or other inflatables. Without exaggeration, I get an equally good sleep on this NeoAir XLite inflatable sleeping pad as I do in my bed at home. I’ve even brought this pad when I’ve had to sleep on friends’ apartment floors rather than sleep on an air mattress.
At $170, this is a pricey sleeping pad. Sleeping pads can range from a $5 yoga mat (which I’ve used), to the classic fold-up foam pads at $25, then up to the inflatable pads which can cost from $60-$200. After a long day of hiking, I can pretty much fall asleep on anything, but each of these come with varied levels of soreness in the morning, which will inevitably affect how your day’s activities will go. So you just have to ask yourself, how much do I value a good night’s sleep and how much would I spend to make sure that sleeping isn’t the most painful part of a 4-day backpacking trip? For me, I figured this pad will last me for years to come, and at 30 nights outside per year, the cost equates to less than $2/night over 3 years. Worth the investment.
Besides the comfort factor, the best thing about this sleeping pad is the size. And I’m not talking about the inflated size which is just fine (like all pads), but the packed down size. This thing is smaller than a Nalgene bottle when folded up and packed away. The packed dimensions are 9″ long by 4″ wide. This may not be a big deal if you only car camp, but its a huge deal when backpacking. Before this pad, I’d have to carry a bulky pad over the top of my bag or hanging off it somehow and it would always catch on branches or rocks. Now this pad folds away to something that is almost unnoticeable in the grand scheme of things.
When inflated, this pad is the perfect size for me. I’m 5’11” (71″) and 170 lbs, this pad is 72″ long x 20″ wide x 2.5″ thick. It’s long enough, but yes some times my feet slide off depending on how level my campsite is or how much I move. It’s wide enough for me to lay comfortably on my back and even has enough room to role over, and over, a few times in the night without falling off. And most importantly, its 2.5″ thick, which is great news for all those side sleepers out there. Now my shoulders and hips don’t dig into the ground when I lay on my side to sleep, usually forcing me to roll onto my back or stomach (which is still ridiculously comfortable on this pad too).
I’ve had this pad for over a year now and have only one complaint, and this affects most inflatables. In the cold (less than 36F), the air inside the pad reaches the ambient temperatures and can transfer that cold into your body. But like I said, unless you get a heavier, larger insulated sleeping pad; this will be an issue. The R-value for this pad is 3.2, and if I wanted a year round sleeping pad for colder conditions I would lean towards an R-Value >5. The insulated version of this pad is the Therm-A-Rest NeoAir Xtherm, which weighs 3oz more with the same dimensions. But I rarely try to spend nights outside when its that cold, so I’ll stick with my NeoAir Xlite.
Another aspect that people have complained about, but I haven’t found an issue yet, is the noise. Initial versions of this pad were made out of a very “crinkly” material similar to a potato chip bag. That meant whenever you moved, it sounded like you were digging your hands into a potato chip bag to get every last crumb. This would be super annoying, not only to you, but whoever you’re sharing your tent and campsite with. Luckily, with this new version it doesn’t seem to be nearly as loud, but I guess that’s for my girlfriend to decide since I can sleep through anything.
In short, this pad is an absolute great buy, and worth the money. The combination of its weight at 12oz, small of a pack size, and surprising amount of comfort even for a side sleeper, it cannot be beat. As a bonus, this pad is a great addition to any hammock campers out there. You can throw this pad, a hammock, and sleeping bag into a small day-pack and be set for the night. Talk about 5-Star accommodations in the backcountry.