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Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite MAX SV Sleeping Pad Review

Update: Therm-a-Rest has killed off the SV valve concept and this product because consumers could not operate it correctly or reliably. Don’t buy it.

The Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Xlite MAX SV inflatable sleeping pad is a lightweight inflatable three-season sleeping pad that is super easy to inflate and deflate. The “SV” stands for a SpeedValve which lets you inflate and deflate it faster than other inflatable pads that have stick valves (including the regular NeoAir Xlite pad) or flat valves that are designed to be inflated with an external pump or pump sack, like many pads from Sea-to-Summit, Exped, and Klymit.

The Max SV Pad

The NeoAir Max SV is an inflatable pad that uses the standard honeycomb reflective insulation that Therm-a-Rest has been using across their NeoAir product line, which has been shipping for about 5 years now (See: How does a NeoAir Work?). It’s still noisy and crinkly like a bag of potato chips when deflated, but less so than the original NeoAir pads in its inflated state.

The Therm-a-rest Max SV sleeping pad is a no-frills three-season sleeping pad.
The Therm-a-rest Max SV sleeping pad is a no-frills three-season sleeping pad.

Other than the SpeedValve, the Max SV differs from a regular NeoAir Xlite only slightly, having a rectangular shape instead of a mummy shape, making is a bit more comfortable for people who have a larger torso or like a bigger pad. I tested a regular size Max SV which is 20″ x 72″ x 2.5″ and weighs 16 ounces. A large size Max SV is also available that is 25″ x 77″ x 2.5″ and weighs 21 ounces. Both sized pads have an R-value of 3.2 which is suitable for non-winter use (See Sleeping Pad R-Values). They’re covered with a 30d nylon fabric which is quite puncture-resistant. In fact, it’s thicker than most backpacking tent floors.

Feature-wise the NeoAir Max SV is fairly vanilla in terms of comfort and features compared to competitive pads. It’s thick enough for back and side sleepers, but the top surface is flat, without any side “rails” to keep you from rolling off the pad at night. The Max SV, like all NeoAir pads, has a side stick valve that can be used to inflate or adjust the level of inflation you prefer. While stick valves can jam up and break if abused, they’re fairly reliable these days.

The SpeedValve is lined with a black plastic sleeve that you pull out and blow into to inflate the pad.
The SpeedValve is lined with a black plastic sleeve that you push inside the roll-top and blow into to inflate the pad.


The SpeedValve is a roll-top style opening at the head end of the Max SV pad. The interior of the roll-top opening is lined with a black plastic sleeve. To inflate, you open the roll-top buckle, unroll it, and make sure the black plastic sleeve is pushed inside. When you blow into the roll-top opening, the surrounding air gets pulled in to inflate the bag faster. That’s the claim at least, although the results will vary depending on mattress size, construction, and lung capacity. I found that it decreased the number of breaths I need to inflate the Max SV using the stick valve alone by one-third, not the two-thirds that are advertised.  Hardly worth an upgrade.

To close the SpeedValve, roll it closed 7 times and secure it so the buckle is facing down.

To close the SpeedValve, roll it closed seven times (the black plastic sleeve should still be inside). Close the buckle, so it’s on the underside of the pad. Use the provided stick valve to top off the pad or release air for comfort.


Unrolling the SpeedValve opens a huge hole at the head end of the pad and all the air inside comes rushing out faster than if you used the stick valve alone, not that that takes that much time to begin with. I just wish the pad would fold and pack itself up too. That’d be an even bigger time saver.

The Closed SpeedValve
The Closed SpeedValve

Poor Usability and Documentation

While the SpeedValve technology is cool, people have experienced a lot of problems in the field with accidental deflation, where the air leaks out of the NeoAir Max SV overnight. I’ve experienced it myself. This pad almost always leaks air post inflation. That’s unacceptable for me. It has to be 100% reliable for backpacking.

The problem has to do with the user-friendliness of the SpeedValve construction and the black plastic sleeve. Unless you roll the SpeedValve closed “just so”, air leaks out overnight and you wake up in the cold ground.

Therm-a-Rest explained that the problem is with the black plastic sleeve. It can’t have any wrinkles or folds in it when you roll it up. Only you can’t tell if it does have wrinkles or folds because they’re hidden away inside the pad’s roll top.


Therm-a-Rest attributes the reliability issues that people are having with the NeoAir SpeedValve to a documentation and training issue since the SpeedValve is a new system that people aren’t familiar with.

To their credit, they’re working on creating better training videos and literature that explain how to close the SpeedValve so it won’t leak. They’re also looking into modifying the SpeedValve to make it work more reliably for everyone.

The author would like to thank Therm-a-Rest Marketing and Customer Service for being so forthcoming about the product issues that customers are experiencing with the new SpeedValve technology.

Disclosure: Therm-a-Rest provided Philip Werner with a sample NeoAir Max SV sleeping pad for this review.

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  1. Still the best combo I found for inflating/deflating was the Exped Schnozzle pump bag and sea to summit valve system. Deflates in a fraction of a second and no more than three bag fulls of air to inflate it.

    My GF and I switched to an Exped SynMat Hyperlite Duo. Works well with our EE Accomplice, much better than two mismatched pads, but the deflating system on the Exped needs to be like the Sea to Summit mats. Takes too long to deflate with their dorky stick in the valve deflating system.

  2. Philip, you are the consumer reports of the backpacking community. Can’t believe what a failure the Speed valve is. Your the only reviewer who’s called out such a widespread problem. Doesn’t take a genius to figure out who to trust. Keep it up! Read your site every day.

  3. Thanks, as always, for your candid review of this product and all the others.
    I, too, read your posts daily along with my morning cup-of-joe.
    Keep up the great work.
    Happy hiking.

  4. I am so glad that there is someone out there dispelling the baloney that manufactures claim!!!! You are doing a great service for all of us and you are the ONE blog that I read as much as I can.

    Thank you so much and keep up the good work!!!!

    • I think the outdoor media is as much to blame.

      Cascade Designs has a stellar product quality and customer service reputation and I’m know they’ll help customers through this.

      But I can’t believe that I’m the only gear reviewer to report on this product issue. Something’s broken out there…I went to great lengths to confirm this problem with Cascade designs so I know I’m not imagining it. Just look at the REI reviews for these products.

      I think many sites are a lot more interested in “news” than reviews.

      • Broken… but fixed at

      • I did a “review” of it a few months back on my little blog. The REI guy overstated some things we’ll say…and I bought it with dividend and 20% off. Had the same deflation issue.

        However the black plastic just has to be clear of the black strips at the opening. That’s it. Once I learned that, its worked perfectly all summer long. I have some pics of what I’m describing.

        But there shouldn’t have to be a “trick” to get it to work, they’ll have to fix that and make it more user friendly. That issue will be really off putting for anyone till then. So everyone thinks they’re broken and takes them back to REI. Then, I score one for $28 for a perfectly good pad at the garage sale :)

      • No that doesn’t work for me (that’s kind of obvious). Not sure what you’re doing.

      • Tried to leave a comment on your website under your review. (hate websites that make you register at wordpress to leave a comment…grrr…can you turn that off?)

        Anyway, I spoke at length with the head of Therm-a-Rest marketing yesterday. The videos you reference are the original product videos (and inadequate). They’re working on new videos that show how to inflate the SV pads. I have no idea what you’re doing. Maybe you can explain it to them. I suspect they’ve already fired the only person who knew…

  5. Bummer, I have the thing set to where anyone can comment without having to register, but obviously that’s working as well as the pad. Might have to pony up to wordpress to fix that.

    If making sure the black strip area is clear of plastic doesn’t work, there’s nothing else I do that’s different. which makes me think maybe there’s another seal issue with the valve that I’m not having but others are with their pads.

    I hope they fix it or explain how to do it better. I think the speed valve thing is rad aside from this and it has some real potential. When camping with others they’re impressed with it as they continue to blow up their mats

  6. This speedvalve is a solution looking for a problem. The existing thermarest valve works great; it’s lightweight, reliable and has an adequate flow rate. Waking up in the middle of the night with a deflated pad is not acceptable.

  7. This website was… how do I say it? Relevant!! Finally I’ve found something which helped me.

    Appreciate it!

  8. Wow. Glad i never read this review before buying my speedvalve. Love it. An incredible mat, so lightweight and quick to use. Used for 100’s of nights and a few multiday AR’s. Deflation time down to 1 second and never had any accidental deflation during the night. Guess I just know how to close a dry bag properly, lol!

    • Me too. I bought my SV Max in 2018. It is yellow on the base not grey, so maybe a different version from that reviewed . But used it over a hundred times never with problems leaking. I’d say TARs inflation speed claims are conservative if anything, I can blow it up in seconds. Just bought another for my partner in the sale (as being discontinued).

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