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Reviews > Sleep Gear > Pads and Air Mattresses > Therm-a-Rest Neo Air Pad > Owner Review by Cheryl McMurray

THERM-A-REST NEOAIR SLEEPING PAD
OWNER REVIEW BY CHERYL MCMURRAY
September 2009

Name:  Cheryl McMurray
Age:  50
Gender:  Female
Height:  5 ft 8 in (173 cm)
Weight:  145 lb (66.6 kg)
Email Address:  cherylswanATearthlinkDOTnet
City, State, Country:  Garden Grove, California, U.S.

BACKPACKING BACKGROUND

I've been backpacking and hiking for four years, mostly on weekends year around.  Overnight trips are usually 3 day, 2 night trips in the Eastern Sierras with 32-40 lb (15-18 kg) loads depending on the season.  One class 2 rock climb with a day pack is common.   Day hikes are 10-15 mi (16-24 km) in the San Bernardino and San Gabriel Mountains with loads of 15-20 lb (7-9 km).  I'm a tent style camper and have experienced snow, freezing temperatures, winds (once was gale force), light rain, but mostly fair weather so far.

PRODUCT INFORMATION

Manufacturer:  Cascade Designs
Manufacturer Website:  www.cascadedesigns.com
Year of Manufacture:  2009
Manufacturer's List weight:  14 oz (400 g)
Actual Weight:  14.5 oz (410 g)
Size Tested: 20 in x 72 in x 2.5 in (51 cm x 183 cm x 6 cm)
MSRP:  $149.95 US

PRODUCT DESCRIPTION

The NeoAir is a bright yellow (silver underneath) inflatable mattress pad from Therm-a-rest's "Fast & Light Series" that is inflated by blowing air into the chambers.  The material is nylon on both sides with a very thin grippy feel and a crinkly sound that is the size of a one liter bottle when rolled up.  The silver side of the mattress is a reflective barrier that returns warmth to the body and claims to keep one three times warmer than insulated mattresses.  The air chambers run horizontal across the pad thus providing a stable sleep surface.  It comes with a generic set of instructions that is for all Therm-a-rests but also includes a "NeoAir Mattress Pro Tips" sheet.  The valve is made of plastic that opens and closes by turning it.


                         NeoAir as packaged                                      Size comparison to a 1 liter bottle

                         Top view                              Silver bottom for heat reflection

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

I immediately noticed how light and delicate the material feels making me wonder about its durability.  The color is quite bright but in the dark with a sleeping bag on top of it, it is obviously not noticeable.  The size of the pad when folded into thirds and rolled up is indeed the size of a one liter bottle.  I like how the surface feel has a grip and hope that it will cure one of my problems with other pads which is to start out sleeping in one spot in the tent and waking up in another after sliding off the pad or having the pad slide around.  I have owned a few sleeping pads and all have come with stuff sacks and repair kit but this pad did not.  They are sold separately, increasing the price more.

FIELD TESTING

The field testing locations were Joshua Tree National Park, San Bernardino National Forest and the Eastern Sierra's all in California with a total of fourteen nights using the NeoAir.

Night time temperatures ranged from 28 F to 50s F (-2 C to 10 C)
Elevation camping locations ranged from 3700 ft. (1100 m) to 10500 ft (3200 m)
Conditions ranged from clear skies to very light rain
Sleeping bag rating-15 F (-9 C) used all nights

Nights Used:
Joshua Tree National Park-2
San Bernardino National Forest-2
Eastern Sierras in California-10

FIELD IMPRESSIONS

The first trip to Joshua Tree National Park had a camping elevation of 3700 ft (1100 m) and temperatures of 34 F to 85 F (1 C to 29 C).  It was a 2.5 mi (4 km) pack in but since we had to carry all of our water for the weekend I was glad for any weight savings I could get including the lighter weight of this new sleeping pad.   We set up camp and I got the NeoAir inflated all the way.  After a 2 1/2 hr day hike we returned and I remembered that Therm-a-rest recommended not inflating the pad all the way if the temperatures were warm.  I headed to the tent and promptly let some air out and although it sat there for a while fully inflated, the pad was fine.  I crawled in for a while before dinner and noticed that when I sat on it or moved around, it had a somewhat noisy crinkling sound.  I didn't think it would pose an issue for me since I camp solo but it might if I was to share a tent.  That night I left the pad inflated as it was after I had let some air out and it was perfectly comfortable.  The noise when I would toss and turn (which is normal for me) did not affect me at all but I do wear earplugs so that might have been a factor.  With other sleeping pads I have always had a problem with sliding on the pad when the surface was not level (which was most of the time).  I had no problems with this pad as the air chambers run side to side and not lengthwise and has a surface with some grip to it.  The temperature dropped to 34 F (1 C) and with a 15 F (-9 C) bag, I was very warm.   My experience this trip was a very comfortable, warm night sleep and I woke up in the same spot I fell asleep in.

The trip to the San Bernardino National Forest was a two night backpacking trip.  The camping elevation was 9000 ft (2700 m) with temperature ranges of 50s F to 70s F (10 C to 21 C).  I used my solo tent and the pad fit inside very well with about 12 in (30 cm) of room to spare at the foot area.  After unrolling and unfolding the pad, I blew air into the valve stem and it was inflated in under a minute.  The location I camped in was prime real estate so there were no issues with an uneven surface and I was careful to remove any rocks and twigs.  

After playing "show and tell" with other light weight backpackers on the trip, I was pleased to find out that not only was my pad the lightest but I had a nice air mattress to cushion me at night.  Since the morning temperatures were in the low 50s F (10 C) I had no problems staying warm.  The pad was comfortable and I was able to toss and turn (normal for me) without falling off.  I never noticed any noise issue with the material used, but my earplugs were in.  

When I got up on the second morning (time to pack out) I loosened the valve to allow the pad to deflate before rolling it up.  When I was ready to pack up, I rolled it up unfolded, pushing most of the air out of the valve and then folded it in half, re rolling it again.  After I got done I closed up the valve and put it into my stuff sack.  I have found that deflating and rolling up the pad is very easy and quick.  Since the material of the pad is thin and there is no reinforced material around the stem area I am careful to pack the pad in such a way that the valve area is protected from possible damage in the pack.  The photo below shows the pad inside of my tent.



                                                                     
                                                                                  Neoair inside of my solo tent

The next trip was to the Eastern Sierras near Lone Pine, California camping at an elevation of 10200 ft (3100 m) and a temperature range of the high 40s F (8 C) in the morning to 70s F (21 C) during the day.  I have camped here a few times and somehow always seem to pick the same spot.  It is a camping spot with a noticeable slant downhill but thought it would be a good test for the pad to see if I stayed in the same spot all night.  I had my solo tent shown above and although it has limited room still has enough room for the pad to move around.  

I am a side sleeper with those female wide hips and have noticed that if I inflate the pad all the way up I do not feel any of the ground underneath but that also provides a firmer surface.  Letting a little air out will allow more of a contour for me but then I feel the ground slightly at my hip area sleeping on my side.  Either of these methods, however, are still comfortable for me.  The amount of slippage that I experienced, considering the slant of the tent surface, was very minimal.  I would wake up with a little more of my feet off the mat but nothing too noticeable.  The pad itself moved a little to the side but once again, not noticeable enough to require me to move it back during the night.  After fully inflating the pad, I have never had any air leak out from either the pad area or valve.  

So far, I have never had a cold nights sleep on this pad and this trip was no exception.  The crinkly sound of the pad when I sit on it has not been a problem and I really don't notice it anymore.

When I got home from the trip I unrolled it, opened the valve and let it set for a few days to air and dry out from my breath moisture inflating it.  It does inflate enough with just the valve open to separate the top from the bottom thus allowing the inside to dry out better.

The next trip was also in the Eastern Sierra's near Bishop, California.  The camping elevation was 10500 ft (3200 m) with a low temperature of 28 F (-2 C).  The weather was clear and sunny.  The best camping spot I could find had about four raised tufts of grass approximately 10 in (25 cm) in diameter on the dirt ground.  I knew that the nights sleep could be an interesting experience as there wasn't one flat spot under the tent where the pad would be.  I was very surprised to find that the pad compensated for the uneven surface and I never really noticed the raised tufts.  

During the day, the sun was causing the inside of the tent to heat up so I kept the pad slightly deflated per the instructions of the manufacturer.  I slept with the pad that way, as well, as I have found it conforms better for me when sleeping on my side.  I did notice that I woke up a bit cold as the temperature dropped to 28 F (-2 C).  I slept in the same micro weight wool long johns that I normally do so my body temperature might have improved if I had put on more clothes.  I have slept cold at that temperature using an insulated pad in the past so I'm not sure that this experience is a failure of the pad's heat conducting abilities.

Since then I have spent another five nights using the NeoAir pad with low temperatures of 28 F to 46 F (-2 C to 8 C).  The low temperature did not cause me to wake up cold this time but I would attribute this to the inconsistency of the human internal thermostat than to and inconsistency of the NeoAir.  It has remained comfortable, warm, durable and has provided a stable nights sleep.
                                                                  

SUMMARY

I have used this pad for fourteen nights and have found it to be very comfortable.  I have slept warm down to temperatures of 28 F (-2 C) and have enjoyed the fact that I wake up in the same spot that I fall asleep due to its surface grip and horizontal air chambers.  It has not developed any leaks yet and seems to be fairly durable even with the thinner material used.   The crinkly sound if makes when sitting or laying on it has not been an issue for me.  It is very easy and quick to inflate and deflate but I think for the price, the manufacturer could include a repair kit and stuff sack.  All things considered, I would recommend this product.

THINGS I LIKE

Lightweight
Comfortable on less than ideal camping surfaces
Small packed size
Easy to pack up

THINGS I DON'T LIKE

Expensive
No stuff sack or repair kit included
Bright yellow color


Read more reviews of Therm-A-Rest gear
Read more gear reviews by Cheryl McMurray

Reviews > Sleep Gear > Pads and Air Mattresses > Therm-a-Rest Neo Air Pad > Owner Review by Cheryl McMurray



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