The NeoAir XLite is Therm-a-Rest’s new ultralight inflatable sleeping pad, weighing 12 ounces in size regular and 8 ounces in a size small, with a R-value of 3.2. It replaces the “original” NeoAir inflatable sleeping pad which weighed 14 ounces and had a slightly lower R-Value of 3.1 and is being discontinued.
If you already own the original NeoAir, it’s not really worth upgrading to the new XLite. But if you are still sleeping on a much heavier sleeping pad for 3 season backpacking, switching to a lighter, more compressible pad can make a huge difference in packing for a trip. Sure, it’s lighter, but the big payoff is in the compressability of an inflatable pad over foam, self-inflating, or larger inflatable pads which can be difficult and cumbersome to carry on backpacking trips.
Pads like the XLite are easy to roll up and disappear inside your pack instead of having to be lashed to the outside with compression straps. I like their small footprint and don’t worry that much about puncturing one on a trip; they’re plenty tough as long as you don’t abuse them and remove rocks and sticks from your campsite before you put them on the ground.
For those of you who purchased the original NeoAir when it first came out, the weight savings in the new XLite come mainly from trimming the pad’s corners, resulting in a mummy shape instead of a rectangle. The exterior fabric has also changed and is now translucent so you can see through it into the interior baffles (see How does the NeoAir work?) inside the pad that trap warm air. The new fabric is even more crinkly and noisy than the original fabric, but you get used to the sound pretty quickly, especially if you are exhausted when you go to bed. I slept on an XLite for 10 nights recently and the sound never bothered me at all.
The thing that does kill me about the new XLite is how hard it is when it’s fully inflated. It’s like sleeping on a board. I remedy this by deflating it about 25% to get a softer feel, which works well. I sleep great on the XLite, just like I did on the original NeoAir.
A final note for you gram weanies: Therm-a-Rest pads often vary a bit in terms of weight from the manufacturers specs: sometime more and sometimes less based on the manufacturing batch. For example, my XLite weighs 12.6 oz and my original NeoAir weighs 13.8 ounces, not the 12 and 14 ounces cited by the manufacturer. If you want a pad that weighs less than the manufacturer spec, take your scale to your outfitter and weigh each pad in the store to find the lightest one. I realize this sounds crazy, but if you’re obsessed by weight, you should be aware of this variability. I’ve also seen the same weight variability on their foam pads including the RidgeRest Solar and RidgeRest SOLite.
Disclosure: Section Hiker (Philip Werner) received a complementary NeoAir XLite from Therma-a-Rest to review for this article.
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