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Reviews > Sleep Gear > Accessories > Therm-A-Rest NeoAir Mini Pump > Owner Review by joe schaffer

NeoAir Mini Pump

Owner Review
by Joe Schaffer

October 28, 2014

NAME: Joe Schaffer
EMAIL: never2muchstuff(AT)yahoo(DOT)com
AGE: 66
HEIGHT: 5'9" (1.75 m)
WEIGHT: 175 lb (79.4 kg)
HOME:  Hayward, California USA

    I frequent Califorauthornia's central Sierras, camping every month; 85 nights so far this year; about a third of the time solo. As a comfort camper I lug tent, mattress, chair, etc. Summer trips last typically a week to 10 days; 40 lb (18 kg), about half food related; about 5 miles (8 km) per hiking day. I winter camp most often at 6,000' to 7,000' (1,800 to 2,000 m); 2 to 3 nights; 50 lb (23 kg); 1 to 4 miles (1.6 to 6.4 km) on snowshoes.

The Product:
        Manufacturer: Cascade Designs, Inc.
        Web site:
        Product: Therm-A-Rest NeoAir Mini Pump
        Purchased: 1/19/14NeoAir Pump

My measures:
        Weight w/batteries: 2.5 oz (71 g)  
        Weight no batteries: 1.75 oz (50 g)
        Width:  about 1.5" (38 mm)
        Height:  about 2.75" (70 mm)
        Thickness:  about 2" (51 mm)

Factory specs:
        Weight:  65 g (2.3 oz)
        Width:   1.7" (4 cm)
        Height:  2.75" (7.1 cm)
MSRP: $39.95 US

Product Description:   

    This pump is what you'd expect from a tiny hair dryer with no heat and no handle. The gray plastic case is close to cylindrical but for one side that makes it elliptical. The top of the case has a lid that flips up by applying a small amount of pressure to the front top edge of the case. Flipping the lid activates an electric motor to drive the fan. The rubbery neck of the output orifice can then be extracted. The neck extends about 1.5" (38 mm) to a nozzle about 0.7"(18 mm) inside diameter. The nozzle expands slightly to match the shape of a NeoAir mattress valve and will grip the valve so that the pump can be left unattended while it blows air into the mattress. Two AAA batteries nest inside the "fat edge" of the unit, with an access cover on the air intake end. The unit is turned off by pushing the neck/nozzle back inside the case and closing the lid.

   NeoAir Mini PumpField Conditions:
   I've had the product on 16 different outings, ranging in duration from 1 to 10 nights; using it for 87 inflations on one set of batteries, which are now showing signs of fatigue in colder temperatures. Fill temperatures ranged from slightly below freezing to above warm; at elevations from 5,000 to 10,200 feet (1,500-3,100 m.) I've used it 27 times for the NeoAir pictured above, 1 time for NeoAir XTherm XL, 3 times for REI Stratus and 56 inflations of an REI Flash mattress.

    When I first heard of the unit I scoffed it off to needless weight for someone who can't think of anything else to spend their money on because they've already bought carbon fiber tent pegs. On second thought it occurred to me that my mattress trove could perhaps last longer getting filled with ambient air instead of heavily humid snot breath. I don't know if that's at all true, but I feel better thinking it is. It's also brought to my attention that down-filled products must be filled with ambient air lest the down become damp and suffer loss of insulating ability. The stuff sack that comes with the NeoAir X-Therm can presumably be used to fill the mattress. However, like another product I've tried, I don't seem to know the trick of efficiently refilling the bag after squeezing the first charge into the mattress.

    I think calling the unit a pump suffers a bit of hyperbolic marketing. It is a teensie fan with just barely the power (almost) to fill a NeoAir. I've timed inflation at about 4 minutes from the time a NeoAir is rolled out fully flat and the nozzle's inserted until the fan can do no more. At that point, I find I can finish the job in less than a full breath. For me, that translates into blowing about 5-8% of the volume with snot air following the pump's work. If my hypothesis about the benefits of ambient air holds water, that's a lot less moisture to accumulate inside the mattress.

    I also find that when I'm with my tent mate--whose mattress I always fill--I actually do enjoy hearing that little machine do the work. One mattress I can do without much ado, but two mattresses loom as a breathy project when I might be already verging on lung weary from reaching camp. Alone or not, I confess to wanting this device for its labor saving even if I sit there watching it. The NeoAir and its XTherm cousin can be left unattended as the nozzle grips the fill valve perfectly. That conceivably makes a few minutes available to do something else--a benefit akin to that of a gravity water filter where I might sit and watch it anyway but have the option of being freed up to address another task. As a battery miser I seem to have trouble taking my eyes off it.

    I find it difficult to break the habit of squishing the mattress as a test of completion, a fatuous act with this product as squishing overpowers the fan and blows air back out through it. I've used the product enough times I can now begin to discern a difference in sound when the fan has done all it can.

    Clearly the product is marketed for the NeoAir mattress which has a skin about as thick as cellophane. If the material is not too cold, the fan has enough power to open the mattress up as it fills. The XTherm, which I only use in the cold, wants to be laid out. The REI Stratus mattress shell is too heavy for the fan to open, but it grips the valve and will fill the mattress. The REI Flash will fill in under a minute, though it also wants to be laid out first and the nozzle must be held to the deflate valve as the fan hasn't the juice to push through the valve flap on the inflate port. It is a bit clumsy to hold the nozzle exactly against the valve opening tight enough for an air seal but without collapsing the nozzle. It goes so fast I don't mind the fiddle factor. Of course it won't do anything to a self-inflatable.

    I don't carry spare batteries for my headlamp, which some night may cause me to be glad I can cannibalize two from the Mini Pump. I'll not be adventurous enough to run the Mini Pump off batteries from the headlamp.

    One of my gear hound buddies blew this pump idea past me and remains the only other person I've seen with one. His is beginning to make a funny noise; and I always question the durability of such products. However, my experience with the brand is terrific customer service and if the unit fails in an unseemly manner I believe they will not leave me sucking air.
My NeoAir Mini Pump quick shots:

    a) Small
    b) Works
    c) Pricey

Read more reviews of Cascade Designs gear
Read more gear reviews by joe schaffer

Reviews > Sleep Gear > Accessories > Therm-A-Rest NeoAir Mini Pump > Owner Review by joe schaffer

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