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Reviews > Sleep Gear > Pads and Air Mattresses > Therm-a-Rest Neo Air Pad > Owner Review by Chad G Poindexter

THERM-A-REST NeoAir
By: Chad Poindexter
OWNER REVIEW

October 19, 2010

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Chad Poindexter
EMAIL: stick1377 (AT) gmail (DOT) com
AGE: 33
LOCATION: Corinth, Alcorn County, Mississippi, USA
GENDER: M
HEIGHT: 5' 10" (1.78 m)
WEIGHT: 200 lb (90.70 kg)

I love backpacking! However, with only 1 ½ years under my belt so far, I would still consider myself a little green to it all, so to say… Initially, I started out with heavy gear but since then I have gone lighter, although I still use a little of it all. I have gone from tent to tarp, canister stove to alcohol stove, sleeping bag to quilt and quite happily from synthetic to down. All of my hiking so far has been in the Southeast United States, and up to this point has been with friends or family.

PRODUCT INFO

IMAGE 1
Courtesy of Cascade Designs, Inc.

Manufacturer: Therm-A-Rest
Manufacturer's Website: www.cascadedesigns.com
Year of Manufacture: 2010
MSRP: (US) $149.95
Size Reviewed: Regular
Other Sizes Available: Small, Medium & Large
Listed Weight: 14 oz (410 g)
Measured Weight: 13.8 oz (391 g)
Dimensions Listed: 20 x 72 in (51 x 183 cm) ~ Verified Accurate
Thickness Listed: 2.5 in (6.3 cm) ~ Verified Accurate
R-Value: 2.5
Color: Limon
Top & Bottom Fabric: Nylon
Core: Nylon / PU


PRODUCT DETAILS

The Therm-A-Rest NeoAir (hereafter referred to as the "pad" or the "NeoAir") is the main attraction in the Therm-A-Rest Fast and Light Series and according to Therm-A-Rest, this pad is "revolutionary by design." The NeoAir is designed to be small and light; however when looking closer, the pad is found to be much more than just small and light.

The NeoAir is made of the same nylon material on both the top and the bottom. The only difference is that the top is a limon-color (yellow) and the bottom is the gray-color. Located on the front top corner is the single black air valve and a sticker with the Therm-A-Rest logo. Other than this, the only other noticeable thing about the pad are the 43 horizontal baffles.

On the inside of the pad, the NeoAir uses a patent pending "Triangular Core Matrix technology" which is actually the truss system that stabilizes the pad. These tiny chambers that make up the truss system actually slow down the movement of air inside the pad when moving around on the outside of the pad. Also, according to Therm-A-Rest, the reflective barrier inside the pad "returns warmth to your body and reduces heat loss to the ground, keeping you three times warmer than any other uninsulated air mattress." And to top it off, since the pad uses no internal "insulation" the pad remains unaffected by exhaled moisture when blowing the pad up.

In summation, this pad is small, light, warm, and very comfortable. Simply put, the NeoAir is practical.

FIELD USE

I have slept on the NeoAir a total of 7 nights in the field. Most of these nights were in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park (GSMNP), however, I have also used the pad recently on top of Max Patch in the Pisgah National Forest in North Carolina as well as car camping in the woods behind my dad's house. I have also used the pad about 20 times indoors "camping out" with the kids.

My first trip was an overnight trip to Mt. LeConte (6,593 ft ~ 2,010 m) in the GSMNP in August of this year. The temperatures were around 65 F (18 C) in the mornings and reached as high as 88 F (31 C) during the day. We had some rain, but just enough to make it feel more humid. My goal for this trip was to fit everything inside a 25 L (1,526 cu in) backpack (comfortably), so the small-size of the packed NeoAir certainly helped me achieve this. On this night we stayed in the shelter at the top of Mt. LeConte. Even though I was inside a shelter, I used a piece of painter's cloth under the pad to protect the pad as well as to keep it clean. I also used a GoLite quilt (which is rated at 40 F or 4 C) and a Jag Bag fine silk liner to sleep under.

IMAGE 2
The NeoAir at the Mt. LeConte Shelter


After this I used the pad on two separate occasions at a campsite that I have made in the woods behind my dads house. The temperatures were around 80 F (27 C) in the afternoon and dropped down to around 60 F (16 C) at night. The general elevation for this area is around 500 ft (152 m). Both of these trips were on days with clear skies that threatened no rain. (That's the beauty of car camping!) I slept inside a tent on the first trip and under my tarp the second trip. I also used my quilt and the silk liner on both of these nights to sleep under rather than a sleeping bag.

More recently, I took the NeoAir with me on a four-day hike in the GSMNP. The temperatures were somewhat cooler than I had previously used the pad in, with highs around 75 F (24 C) and lows reaching 40 F (4 C) at night. We did experience some rain on the last night we were out, which made the morning air feel cooler. Our elevations began at 2,200 ft (671 m) and maxed out at 6,300 ft (1,920 m) while hiking, however, we typically slept at an average elevation of 5,000 ft (1,524 m). Again, on this trip we stayed in a shelter each night and used a Tyvek ground sheet under the pad to help protect it as well as keep it clean. These nights however, I used a Marmot Helium sleeping bag (which is rated at 15 F or -9 C) with the pad.

IMAGE 5
At Laurel Gap Shelter in the GSMNP


The last bag-night I have with the pad in the great outdoors was logged on top of Max Patch (4,629 ft ~ 1,411 m) just a few nights ago. Max Patch is a large bald on the top of a mountain which offers an unobstructed 360 degree view of the surrounding mountains! It is beautiful. However the temps were cooler this day because a recent rain brought a cold front in with it. Temperatures were around 60 F (15 C) in the afternoon when we hiked up, however at night they dropped down to about 34 F (1 C)! However, what really made the air cold were the sustained 25 mph (40 kph) winds with gusts up to 40 mph (64 kph). These winds lasted throughout the entire day and finally died down in the early hours of the next morning. During this trip we stayed in my tent and used a piece of Tyvek as a ground sheet under the tent. The bald had lots of soft grass, however, there were also patches of hard short stubs of grass and small roots. These stubs of grass were tough enough to nearly puncture a hole in my tent floor which is why I used the ground sheet under the tent.

SUMMARY

When I decided to go ahead and make the costly purchase, I did have a few concerns. Of course these were concerns that could only be answered after I made the purchase and tried out the pad for myself. Some of these concerns were: size (packed as well as when inflated), weight, comfort, durability, and ease of use, at least in terms of blowing up, letting air out and rolling the pad back up. So, now that I have used the pad, these are my thoughts on each.

SIZE: Since the NeoAir comes rolled up and inside a tiny little box, I immediately realized the smaller size of this pad when compared to my other pads. The promise of a small packed size certainly is true. Once I unpackaged the pad I immediately rolled the pad out and was pleased with the size of the pad lying on the floor, however it was deflated. After inflating the pad I noticed that the size did in fact shrink, however when inflated the pad was true to the stated size of 20 x 72 x 2.5 in (51 x 183 x 6.3 cm). I will say that I could have forced more air into the pad and by doing this it would make the pad slightly smaller, but it would take some effort to force the air in and keep it in while trying to screw the cap down.

WEIGHT: This one is simple. Before I unrolled the pad I weighed the pad on my scales. The pad was just under the stated weight. Yet again, another promise fulfilled!

COMFORT: Once I had the pad inflated I threw it down on the concrete floors that were in my apartment. I lay down on the pad and immediately felt a difference in the way that this pad felt as compared to my other pads. Especially my other air pad which has the baffles running vertically. When deciding to purchase this pad the direction of the baffles actually played a large part in my final verdict. I had anticipated the horizontal baffles feeling more flat than the vertical baffles, and upon my initial impression, I found that to be true.

However, this was in the comfort of my home (even though it was on a concrete floor...) After taking it out in the field and using it on shelter floors that were made of uneven planks of wood and then on patches of ground that had large patches of dried grass that actually formed lumps under me, I still found that this pad was completely comfortable. Up to this point, this pad has given me the best night of rest while in the back country, hands down.

DURABILITY: This is the biggest fear that I had when making this purchase. I was afraid that the pad would be paper-thin. So when I received the pad I rubbed it between my fingers. What I found was that yes the nylon material that the pad is made of is actually quite thin, however, the material felt as though it is rather strong. What I took from this is that this pad can be punctured just as any other air pad on the market, so it is my responsibility to take the proper precautions when using the pad to keep it from being punctured. Of course this is while in use as well as while being packed away inside my backpack or even stored away inside my home.

EASE OF USE: This is the first pad that I have purchased in which I have to physically blow up in order to use. My other pads are self-inflatables or have integrated pumps. My thoughts on this before I received the pad is "Well, I will already be huffing and puffing while hiking up the big mountains, so what's 20 more huffs and puffs if it will provide me with comfort?" My thoughts after receiving the pad and then actually huffing and puffing to blow it up has remained the same. The comfort that this pad has given me is well worth the few extra breaths (which for me is indeed 20 puffs).

IMAGE 3
Blowing up my NeoAir at Max Patch


After lying on the pad all afternoon I finally decided to deflate it and see how easy it was to remove all the air and roll it back up to the tiny size in which it came packaged. I simply opened the valve at the head of the pad and the air immediately began to flow out. However, I decided to speed up the process by lying back down on the pad. By doing this the pad was nearly completely deflated within about 25 seconds. After I felt most of the air was out I started rolling the pad up from the bottom and simply forced the rest of the air out of the pad as I went up. Next I unrolled the pad again, folded the pad in thirds and rolled it right back up. Bam! It was almost the same small size as when it was delivered (it just didn't look as pretty).

I have found that the pad is just as simple to deflate and roll back up in the back country, as long as there is adequate room in which to do so in. I must admit that it was a little more tedious while inside my tent than when I was under my tarp or in the shelters, however, it was nothing I had to fuss over.

A few other things about the pad...

This pad is not necessarily marketed as a winter pad, especially by itself. The lack of insulation proves this. Although, the pad does use a reflective barrier inside the pad which actually reflects the heat back towards me when I am lying on it, making it warmer than a typical uninsulated air pad. Also, since the NeoAir does not use any insulation inside the pad, the exhaled moisture from my breath does not cause any damage to the pads "insulative capabilities." My only concern with the exhaled moisture from my breath is how it will perform in freezing weather. I wonder if the moisture trapped inside would actually freeze and if so would it hurt the pad in any way?

Also, on the topic of inflating the pad... Therm-A-Rest actually recommends not leaving the pad fully inflated in warm weather. The heat would cause the pad to over-inflate and could potentially damage the internal truss system. So, to be sure not to let this happen, I usually only inflate the pad about half way until time to go to bed, then I simply add a few more breaths to plump it up.

As far as the pad's warmth, I have successfully used it with my 15 F (-9 C) sleeping bag in 34 F (1 C) weather. When we got up the next morning the outside of the tent was covered in frost, however, I was warm all night through. I did wear a pair of long thermal pants and a long sleeve light-weight shirt while in the sleeping bag. When I moved around or sat up I could feel cold spots. These cold spots would go away quickly once I settled down and stopped moving and then I was comfortable and warm again. As for when I would sit up, most of the weight would be under my bottom which would cause the pad to bottom out. When this happened I felt the cold from the ground beneath me. All in all, this uninsulated pad kept me warm in temperatures very near freezing, but if I were to expect temperatures well below freezing I would then bring a closed cell foam pad to layer under the NeoAir for additional warmth.

Another point to mention about the pad is that it is somewhat sticky feeling. The top limon-colored side is less sticky feeling than the bottom gray-colored side. The top side is not very sticky feeling actually, however, when compared to some of my other pads the NeoAir is a bit more sticky than the others. Although I have not found the sticky feeling to be uncomfortable, even while lying directly on the pad when I used my quilt. The bottom of the pad is a bit stickier than the top, which has been a good thing. This actually keeps me from sliding around inside of my tent, or on wooden shelter floors which are not level.

One last thing I feel worth mentioning here is that the NeoAir does not come with either a stuff sack or a repair kit. Not receiving the stuff sack was ok. I used a random stuff sack for a while until I finally broke down and bought the correct stuff sack for it on sale. However, I was a little nervous being out in the field without the repair kit. The recommended repair kit is the "Fast and Light Repair Kit" which took me a little time to track down. However, I recently acquired one and it will be with me on every trip in which I take the NeoAir. Not that I am worried about this pad specifically, but a puncture in any air pad in the field without a repair kit could be detrimental.

THINGS I LIKE

1. Very comfortable.
2. Very small when packed.
3. Very light-weight.
4. Rectangular cut.
5. Warm.

THINGS I DON'T LIKE

The cost of the pad is high, especially when compared to other sleeping pads on the market. However, after actually using the NeoAir I am much more comfortable with that price, but I do wish the pad came with a repair kit at least. And hey, it would be nice for the pad to include a stuff sack as well, but I could live without that...

SIGNATURE

IMAGE 4
Chad Poindexter
"Stick"

This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.5 Copyright 2010. All rights reserved.

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