The Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm Sleeping Pad is an insulated air mattress designed for cold weather camping with an R-value = 6.9, using the new Outdoor Industry sleeping pad R-value measurement standard. Weighing just 15 oz (see below), the XTherm is also lightweight, durable, and rolls up small, which explains its popularity with winter campers and backpackers.
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 winter camping below freezing, I recommend that people use a sleeping pad with an R-value of 5 or more to help ensure that they get a decent night’s sleep. R-values are additive, so you can also stack multiple pads together for more insulation.
Specs at a Glance
- Color: Gray
- R-Value: 6.9
- Size tested: Regular
- Weight: 15.0 oz (Therm-a-Rest claims 15 oz, but my test mattress weighs 16 oz)
- Optional inflation sack: 2.0 oz
- Optional stuff sack: 0.4 oz
- Width: 20 in / 51 cm
- Length: 72 in / 183 cm
- Thickness: 2.5 in / 6.3 cm
- Packed dimension: 9 x 4.0 / 23 x 10
- Top fabric type: 30d High Tenacity Nylon
- Bottom fabric type: 70d Nylon Soft Grip
The NeoAir Insulation System
The Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm 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 sound that some people find disturbing at night.
The XTherm has horizontal baffles that are comfortable for back and side sleepers and a stick-style valve, which is common across the NeoAir product line, including the NeoAir XLite, and NeoAir UberLite sleeping pads. While you can inflate the NeoAir XTherm by blowing into its valve, Therm-a-Rest bundles a pump sack with the XTherm 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 XTherm at the beginning of 2020 with a new valve called the WingLock, but has not made any other changes to the design or construction of the XTherm in this new version.
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 XTherm three times faster with the WingLock Valve, but I can’t blow mine up any faster by mouth than the classic-valve XTherm I own. While deflation is faster, you still have to roll up the XTherm 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 XTherm Pump Sack
The 1-way WingLock Valve does make the pump sack included with the XTherm 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 new pump sack included with the XTherm 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 XTherm pump sack disappointing as well.
The XTherm (2020) has also been tested using the new R-Value Sleeping Pad standard and is now rated at R-6.9, up from the R-value of 5.7 for the previous model. While it sounds like the new XTherm 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 Pad R-Values and Air Temperature in Degrees
What’s the correlation between air temperature and sleeping pad R-values? When do you need a pad with a higher R-value? This table is based on Exped’s recommendations in Fahrenheit and Celsius degrees.
|Air Temperature (F):
|Air Temperature (C):
- R-values are additive, so you can combine two pads to increase your warmth level.
- Women need higher R-values pads because they have lower body mass than men. An additional R-value of 1 is usually a good hedge for women and other cold sleepers
The Therm-a-Rest XTherm Sleeping Pad is still a reliable, durable, lightweight, and high-R-value sleeping pad even though the WingLock Valve and Pump Sack included with the new model isn’t a huge improvement over the previous model’s. If you decided not to use the new pump sack, you can still blow up the XTherm 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 or Exped 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, which I suspect was motivated by internal reasons rather than satisfying consumer-driven needs.
Regardless, I still recommend using the NeoAir XTherm for winter camping and backpacking. It’s still the lightest weight, easy-to-pack, and highest R-value air mattress available for winter camping and backpacking.
Disclosure: Therm-a-Rest provided the author with an XTherm pad for this review.
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