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

By Lori Pontious

November 9, 2011

Tester Information

NAME: Lori Pontious
EMAIL: lori.pontious (at)
AGE: 44
LOCATION: Fresno County, California, USA
HEIGHT: 5'7" (1.7 m)
WEIGHT: 165 lb (75 kg)

I backpacked, camped and fished all over the lower 48 states with my family as a kid, and then life happened. I restarted these activities about five years ago - I dayhike or backpack 2-6 times a month. I am between light and ultralight. I have a hammock system and own a Tarptent. I am a side sleeper and typically use a NeoAir on the ground. My base weight depends upon season and where I go.

Product information

Manufacturer: Cascade Designs, Inc.
Manufacturer URL:
Size: Medium
Dimensions, listed: 66 in (168 cm) long
20 in (51 cm) wide
2.5 in (6.35 cm) thick
Dimensions, measured, varies slightly depending on level of inflation: 66 in (168 cm) long
20 in (51 cm) wide
2.5 in (6.35 cm) thick
Listed Weight: 13 oz (369 g)
Actual weight: 12.3 oz (349 g)
MSRP: US $139.95

Product Description

The bottom of the NeoAir is silver, the top a light greenish-yellow called "limon." The R value is listed as 2.5. The mattress is constructed entirely of nylon, with a core of nylon/PU, and is made in Seattle, Washington. It does not come with a stuff sack or repair kit. The NeoAir is described as having a Triangular Core Matrix to provide stability, and uses a reflective barrier for warmth instead of insulation.


Image courtesy Cascade Designs


As someone who has used a variety of pads and mattresses in the past with mixed results, I initially purchased the NeoAir with some skepticism, but remember noting that it is indeed light and quite thin when uninflated. Questions came to mind about warmth and durability. How would this be any more comfortable to me than an uninsulated pool mattress? Warmth is as important to me as cushion, after all. As a lightweight backpacker I have struggled with comfort versus weight, sleep versus long wakeful nights staring at the underside of a tarp or tent fly, waiting for dawn to come. I bought a NeoAir fully expecting another dismal experience with a sleeping pad. My expectations were influenced by reviews I read online, but the possibility of a light, compact sleeping pad that might keep my bony parts off the hard, cold ground was too much for me to resist.

Inflating the mattress and trying it out on the floor, I quickly found that it was quite comfortable, though less so when fully inflated. The thickness gives it a notable drop if part of my body happens to stray from the narrow mattress to the ground.


Since the initial purchase in fall of 2008, I have used the NeoAir, or loaned it to others, for at least 1-5 nights per month.

Elevation range: Sea level to 11,000 ft (3353 m)

Terrain: Low elevation scrub, sand, granite, sub-alpine and alpine regions on duff or sparse grassy fields.

Temperature Range: 20 - 60 F (7 - 16 C)

Locations: Henry Coe State Park, Morgan Hill, California
Ventana and Sespe Wildernesses in Los Padres National Forest, California
Point Reyes National Seashore, California
Yosemite National Park, California
Sequoia National Park, California
Ansel Adams Wilderness, California
Pinnacles National Monument, California
John Muir Wilderness, California
Dinkey Wilderness, California
Kaiser Wilderness, California
Sierra National Forest, California
Samuel P Taylor State Park, California


My use of the NeoAir has been more or less ongoing, and I have put it inside my hammock as well as on the ground. I have always used at least a ground sheet underneath, sometimes a thin torso length foam pad, sometimes a tent floor. For additional length I have successfully used my backpack under my feet. All my uses of the NeoAir have been with a top quilt rather than a sleeping bag. At first, I felt I needed to take extra care with the NeoAir, thinking it would be less durable than other air mattresses or pads, but as it became a regular part of my three season gear list I became less concerned and used it in the same manner I would any other inflatable backpacking pad.


at Pat Springs in Ventana Wilderness

Although after reading many bad reviews I expected to be annoyed by noise, I have never noticed that problem with the NeoAir. I expect any pad or mattress, when in use with a person moving around on it while on a tent floor or ground sheet, to generate some sound. The NeoAir made no more and no less noise than other air mattresses or self-inflating pads I have had. Once accustomed to the texture of the mattress, I was not bothered by sleeping directly on the nylon, either. (I typically wear a base layer while sleeping.) The texture of the mattress surface is not smooth and does not tend to slip on the floor of the tent. I have, however, awakened to find that my tossing and turning while asleep has walked the mattress slightly askew of where I started, but this has happened with other pads as well so I accept this as a quirk of mine.


setting up for a frosty, cold night in Poverty Flat campsite in Henry Coe State Park

I did not mind that the NeoAir did not come with a stuff sack. It fits perfectly in one that I already had. I have also used a plastic bag, or stuffed it into a waterproof stuff sack with my quilt; my concern has been only for pack wear on the mattress. Most of the rolled mattress will fit in a quart-size storage bag. To store the mattress, I deflate it by rolling it up, then unroll it and fold it in thirds, approximately, before tightly rolling the NeoAir to stuff in whatever storage I am using. For a repair kit, I take a small tube of silicon and some nylon patches, which will work on my tarp, tent fly, or any other nylon gear that I have, including the NeoAir - so I did not mind that the mattress didn't have a repair kit, either.

As to durability, I have yet to experience a leak. I've managed to stain the foot end of the pad - there are a few red streaks, possibly from decomposing tree/plant matter, as nothing in my gear is that color nor prone to the colors rubbing off on anything else. I have not babied the NeoAir and once did not bother with a ground sheet, simply dropped the inflated mattress on the sand. The NeoAir has gone into and out of my Search and Rescue pack on many occasions and has seen use in some unusual places, such as a granite slab (with groundsheet in place) in a day use area, or the living room of a friend.

When inflating the NeoAir, I rarely fill it to full - I find it most comfortable with some give in the mattress surface. In daytime when leaving the NeoAir in a tent, I let even more air out to avoid the increase in air pressure that a heated mattress would experience; the instructions warn that the NeoAir shouldn't be left in the sun while full. While the NeoAir is in use at night, I have not noticed increase or decrease in inflation due to temperature. It doesn't take more than a few minutes for the heat of my body to warm the mattress surface when I turn in for the night. When using it in the hammock I inflate the NeoAir to about half full, and do not notice a drop off in performance even then. In the hammock I do use a foam pad across the shoulders, but this is because the hammock encloses me and I need some extra width to block air currents that pass through the uncoated nylon of the hammock.

The usual temperature range at night for my outings tends to be 30 - 40 F (-1 to 4 C) when in the mountains, though there can be a drop in temperature at high elevation that wasn't anticipated. On three occasions a trip started out with anticipated above-freezing temperatures and the final night plunged below freezing. One morning we woke to a dusting of snow on everything, and as I crawled out of my quilt it registered for the first time just how cold it had gotten. While I would not deliberately tempt fate by taking the NeoAir out when it's expected to be colder than it is rated to handle, I have yet to experience a chill while using the mattress while using it in spring, summer or fall.


I have had no leaks, no issues being cold despite temperatures plunging below freezing, and no excessive noise. The mattress continues to hold air and has withstood many inflate/deflate/roll/store cycles. I wish that a wider one were available, as I have never liked narrow sleeping pads and the vast majority are only 20" (51 cm) wide. The very largest model of NeoAir is 25" (64 cm) wide, but I do not need such a long pad - the medium is just the right length for me. In all other respects, the NeoAir has been a very pleasant surprise, providing light, compact comfort in a mattress that seems to defy physics. Were I to find the NeoAir beyond repair, I would replace it with the same air mattress (or possibly upgrade to the four season version) without reservation.

* rolls up small, as advertised
* warm under normal three season conditions
* provides good cushion
* still only 20" (51 cm) wide unless you get the longest (and heaviest) size

Read more reviews of Therm-A-Rest gear
Read more gear reviews by Lori Pontious

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

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