Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite Sleeping Pad w/ WingLock Valve Review

Thermarest NeoAir Xlite Sleeping Pad review-

The Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite Sleeping Pad (2020 edition) is an insulated air mattress designed for three-season camping with an R-value = 4.2, measured using the new Outdoor Industry Sleeping Pad R-value Standard. Weighing just 12 oz (see below), the XLite is also lightweight, durable, and rolls up small, which explains its popularity with backpackers and campers. This new 2020 version has a new WingLock valve that provides faster inflation and deflation than the previous stick value used by the company.

Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite Air Pad

Comfort
Ease of Inflation
Warmth
Weight
Durability
Packed Size

Even Better Than Before

The ultralight NeoAir XLite is a warm and comfortable air mattress with a durable cover fabric. The new WingLock valve makes inflation and deflation more efficient than ever.

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Specs at a Glance

  • Color: Yellow
  • R-Value: 4.2
  • Size tested: Regular
  • Weight: 13.0 oz (Therm-a-Rest claims 12 oz, but my test mattress weighs 13 oz)
  • Optional inflation sack: 2.0 oz
  • Optional stuff sack: 0.4 oz
  • Width: 20 in / 51 cm
  • Length: 72 in / 183 cm
  • Pad Thickness (Inflated): 2.5 in / 6.3 cm
  • Packed dimension: 9 x 4.0 / 23 cm x 10 cm
  • Top fabric type: 30d High Tenacity Nylon
  • Bottom fabric type: 30d High Tenacity Nylon
The NeoAir XLite is available in multiple shapes and sizes.
The NeoAir XLite is available in multiple shapes and sizes.

How Much Sleeping Pad Insulation Do You Need?

Many people underestimate the importance of their sleeping pad in their overall sleep system. If you find you’re still cold with enough insulation topside, your pad is probably insufficient. For three-season camping, I recommend that people use a sleeping pad with an R-value between 3 and 4 if they sleep cold. R-values are additive, so you can also stack multiple pads together for more insulation.

Standardized sleeping bag temperature ratings assume that a person is using a sleeping pad with an R-value of 4. If you’re cold with your existing sleeping bag, I’d recommend upgrading your sleeping pad first before replacing it. You can do this stacking your current pad on top of an inexpensive foam pad like a Therm-a-Rest Zlite Sol, which has an R-value = 2, to see if it helps you stay warmer at night.

The NeoAir Insulation System

The Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite is designed to trap your body heat and reflect it back at you when you sleep at night. It achieves this using a honeycombed construction of air baffles that are covered with a reflective metallic coating. The result is a very thin and lightweight air mattress that rolls up to the size of a Nalgene bottle, making it very easy to pack. The same honeycombed baffles are used in all of the NeoAir pads that Therm-a-Rest makes, although it gives NeoAir pads a crinkly potato-shape sound that some people find disturbing at night.

Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Insulation
Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Insulation Chambers

The NeoAir XLite has horizontal baffles that are comfortable for back and side sleepers and the new WingLock valve, which is common across the NeoAir product line, including the NeoAir XTherm, and NeoAir UberLite sleeping pads. While you can inflate the NeoAir XLite by blowing into its valve, Therm-a-Rest bundles a pump sack with the XLite and the other NeoAir pads that you can use instead.

New WingLock Valve

Therm-a-Rest redesigned and replaced the stick valve used to inflate and deflate the NeoAir XLite at the beginning of 2020 with a new valve called the WingLock, but did not make any other changes to the design or construction of the XLite in this new version. Older models of the XLite have been renamed “NeoAir XLite Sleeping Pad – Classic Valve” to differentiate it from the current WingLock-enhanced XLite and are still available for sale on the Therm-a-Rest website at a discount. Most other retailers have not adopted this new naming scheme as of yet.

The WingLock Valve has two parts: a twisty black one-way valve, so air can’t escape while you blow up the pad,  and a pair of colored side wings that you twist to bypass the one-way mechanism in order to rapidly deflate the pad. There’s a slight learning curve to using it if you’ve used the “classic valve” which opened and closed with a simpler screw action.

Therm-a-Rest claims that you can inflate the XLite three times faster with the WingLock Valve, but I can’t blow mine up any faster by mouth than the classic-valve XLite I own. While deflation is faster, you still have to roll up the XLite to force the air out, although it takes a little less elbow grease than before. I wish I could be more enthusiastic about the WingLock Valve, but it’s not an earth-shattering improvement over the classic valve in terms of inflation or deflation speed.

The NeoAir XLite Pump Sack

The 1-way WingLock Valve does make the pump sack included with the XLite more efficient to use, especially near the end of inflation, since the valve doesn’t permit air that you pump into the pad to escape. This was a problem with the old valve and old pump sack, where air would flow out of the pad when it got close to being fully inflated.

The pump sack (right) clicks onto a ring around the top of the valve
The pump sack (right) clicks onto a ring around the top of the valve

The new pump sack included with the XLite clicks onto a ring surrounding the top of the WingLock Valve, which is easier to mate than the pump-sack-to-valve-connection on the previous model. The two remain connected until the pad starts to noticeably inflate and it twists itself out of the valve-pump sack connection. This never happens with the competitor’s pump sacks I own and I find the limited functionality of the XLite pump sack disappointing as well.

Higher R-Value

The NeoAir XLite (2020) has also been tested using the new R-Value Sleeping Pad standard and is now rated at R=4.2, up from the R-value of 3.2 for the previous model. While it sounds like the new XLite is more insulating than the previous model, it isn’t really. The only thing that changed was the test methodology, which results in a higher reported value. The underlying construction and materials of the old and new pads remain identical, with the exception of the new valve, which has no effect on the measured R-Value.

Sleeping PadTypeSizeWeightASTM 3340 R-ValuePrice
Therm-a-Rest NeoAir UberLiteAir Pad20" x 72" x 2.58.8 ozR=2.3$195
Nemo Tensor Insulated Short MummyAir Pad20" x 48" x 3"9 ozR=3.5$130
Big Agnes Insulated AXL AirAir Pad20" x 72" x 3.75"11.6 ozR=3$180
Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XliteAir Pad20" x 72" x 2.5"12 ozR=4.2$185
Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Xlite Women'sAir Pad20" x 72" x 2.5"12 ozR=5.4$175
Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XThermAir Pad20" x 72" x 2.5"15 ozR=6.9$215
Big Agnes Q-Core SLXAir Pad20" x 72" x 4.25"16 ozR=3.2$150
NEMO Astro Lite InsulatedAir Pad20" x 72" x 3.5"18 ozR=2.6$130
NEMO Tensor Air PadAir Pad20" x 72" x 3.0"13 ozR-1.6$140
Sea-to-Summit Ether Light XT Insulated Air Pad21.5" x 72" x 4"17.3 ozR=3.2$190
Sea-to-Summit Ether Light XT Insulated Women'sAir Pad21.5" x 72" x 4"17.5 ozR=3.5$190

Recommendation

The Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite Sleeping Pad is a reliable, durable, lightweight and high-R-value sleeping pad even though the WingLock Valve and Pump Sack included with the new model aren’t by themselves a huge improvement over the previous version. If you decided not to use the new pump sack, you can still blow up the XLite by mouth and benefit from the reduced deflation effort provided by the WingLock valve.

What I find puzzling is why Therm-a-Rest went to all the trouble of developing a new valve when they could have used a pre-existing, 1-way, flush valve like those used by Sea-to-Summit, Exped, and NEMO without having to reinvent the wheel. I understand the desire to have a uniqueness factor in your products, but the honeycombed reflective insulation found in the NeoAir pads is still without parallel in terms of weight-to-performance and a key competitive differentiator. I would have prioritized other innovations rather than a new valve.

Regardless, I still recommend using the NeoAir XLite for three-season camping and backpacking. It’s still remarkably lightweight and packs up small, making it very desirable for three-season backpacking and camping.

If you don’t care about the new valve or the pump sack, this is a good time to pick up a classic valve NeoAir XLite Sleeping Pad at a discount while they’re still available.

Disclosure: Therm-a-Rest provided the author with an XLite pad for this review.

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Last updated: 2020-08-09 20:22:41
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13 comments

  1. I’m perplex by this new valve. The original has a reliable simplicity. I realize that it doesn’t s work well with the current fashion for pump sacks but personally I’ve never had a problem inflating or deflating the original even at 10000 feet.

    While the XLite is perhaps a bit crinkly, I have never noticed the “potato-shape” sound you mention.

    • Put it like this. The new valve didn’t make the pads any worse. I suspect they made the change (which was done across their entire product line) for manufacturing and cost reasons, not consumer demand.

      • I own three Thermarest pads. They are the lightest, and warmest comfortable pads out there. I don’t care what they sound like when you move. They only have ever had one weak point, the valve. Over the years they have replaced four of my pads with leaking valves. So I don’t understand when they are making such a big deal about this new valve and it is essentially the the same as the older models. I won’t be rushing out to buy one.

  2. This may be a bit off topic, wouldn’t there be a market for a 23”x 60” pad? I use a women’s neo air xlite, as an active side sleeper I find 20” pads a bit narrow. I have been pairing that pad with a Borah bivy to help keep me in place or have used a kids klymit pad which is 23” wide with 4 sections of z rest under it for added insulation. Is there a market for a short wide pad, or am I an exception here?

  3. I bought one of these pads in the fall, it was a 72 x 25. I also purchased, at the same time, a S2S Etherlight womens pad. The T Rest pad was not as noisy as I expected however, if I just put my hand on it and pushed down, it was more crinkly than if I actually layed down on it. The two reasons I sent the T Rest pad back and kept the S2S was that the pump bag kept falling off, making inflating the pad a chore and I didn’t think it was as comfortable as the S2S. I use the Exped Schnnozel on the S2S. The S2S, for me is like sleeping on my regular mattress at home, its simply more comfortable. I did not get a chance to use the T Rest pad in the cold. I did with the S2S pad and found it is not that warm, I’m sure the T Rest pad is much warmer. The S2S will not keep me warm past 32 degrees unless I lay on a GG thin light or on top of my fleece. If you are not an old person who needs comfort over warmth the T Rest pad will most likely work well for you.

    As a side note, I inflated the pads, stood them up on their sides and compared width and length. The T Rest pad was no more than a half inch wider at the shoulder, but only for about two inches, then they evened up, further down the pad, about hip length, the S2S was a bit wider, then they evened out. The difference was minimal, essentially , they were almost the same width from shoulder to hip. The T Rest pad was clearly one and a half inches longer.

    The S2S pad is over 19 ounces, so heavier than the T Rest.

    • Cheri, did you find the S2S Etherlight quieter than the Neo? I have been considering the S2S Ether for comfort and quiet, have a S2S Ultralight Insulated short which I like but find a bit noisy. Would only get the Ether if it’s quieter. It is heavier and bulkier though.

  4. I managed to purchase a new but “irregular” therm-a-rest neoair xlite sleeping pad that seems to be an older model than this because it lacks the winglock valve (it looks like the “classic” valve. It also did not come with a pump sack. Have been having a devil of a time trying to figure out what pump sack might be compatible with this valve. If you know or have any suggestions about how to make one compatible, that would be really appreciated. Thanks!

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