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Reviews > Sleep Gear > Pads and Air Mattresses > Therm-a-Rest Neo Air Pad > Test Report by Stephanie Martin

Test Report: Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Ultralight Sleeping Pad

Personal Biographical Info:
Name: Stephanie Martin
Age: 34
Gender: Female
Height: 5'5" (1.65 meters)
Weight: 165 lbs (75 kg)
Email Address: syoong "at" alum "dot" mit "dot" edu
Location: Phoenix, Arizona, USA
Date: March 27, 2009 - Initial Report
June 1, 2009 - Field Report
August 11, 2009 - Long Term Report
   
Background: Having always enjoyed spending time outdoors, I got serious about it in 1996.  Since then, I've been actively day hiking most weekends. In addition to day hikes, my husband and I generally take a couple of week long trips to the Grand Canyon annually, in addition to short weekend backpacking trips. Our backpacking philosophy has been rapidly moving towards ultra-light gear. My target base pack weight is 10 lbs (4.5 kg), and my typical shelter is a single wall tarp/tent. In general, we average 12 to 15 miles (19 to 24 km) per day.  See http://www.ToddsHikingGuide.com for trip reports and a better sense of our hiking style.

 

Other sleeping pads used: I've generally been a Therm-a-Rest loyalist.  I own the following: 3/4 length Z-Rest, 3/4 length and full length Ultralight, 3/4 length Prolite 3 and a full length Luxury LE.

 

Product Information:
Manufacturer: Therm-a-Rest [http://www.thermarest.com]

NeoAir, boxed
the NeoAir is the newest addition to the Therm-a-Rest Fast and Light series of sleeping pads.

Year of Manufacture: 2009
Size: Regular
Listed Weight: 14 oz (410 g)
Weight as Delivered: 14.3 oz (405 g)
Listed Dimensions: 20 x 72 x 2.5 inches (51 x 183 x 6.3 cm)
9 x 4 inches (23 x 10 cm), packed
Measured Dimensions: 20 x 72 x 2.5 inches (51 x 183 x 6.3 cm)
8.25 x 3.5 inches (21 x 8.9 cm), packed
Color: Yellow/Chartreuse and Silver
MSRP: US$149.95, stuff sack sold separately
Guarantee: Limited lifetime warranty for materials and workmanship.

 

 

 

Contents

- It's Here! The NeoAir Arrives!

- Words on the Web

- Product Features and Construction

- Initial Impressions

- Product Use and Performance (FIELD REPORT - June 1, 2009)

- Product Use and Performance (LONG TERM REPORT - August 11, 2009)

- Summary

INITIAL REPORT  March 27, 2009

Joyous day, it's here! The NeoAir has arrived!
The NeoAir arrived packed securely in its product box - the box clearly indicates which size NeoAir is inside, and has basic specifications and key product features listed on the outside.  Inside the box is the NeoAir, a Therm-a-Rest product sheet and a multi-lingual flyer with NeoAir Pro Tips on the care and use of the mattress.
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Words on the Web
The Therm-a-Rest website is nicely organized and easy to navigate.  The product received was as expected. 

The NeoAir is available in four sizes, I am testing the Regular size.
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Product Features and Construction:
As the newest addition to the Therm-a-Rest Fast and Light series of sleeping pads, the NeoAir likely has the best insulation to weight ratio of available inflatable sleeping pads.  The NeoAir achieves this through a patent-pending combination of a reflective barrier and a special triangular baffle construction.  Unlike many of the other pads in Therm-a-Rest's lineup, this pad is neither self-inflating, nor does it contain any insulation.

thin layers of fabric make up the NeoAir

The material used in the manufacture of the NeoAir feels, to me, like a coated fine-denier ripstop fabric.  The fabric is actually thin enough that I can feel the baffles inside the outer layers when the uninflated mattress is rubbed between my fingers.  This internal Triangular Core Matrix Technology forms a truss system inside the mattress when inflated - it is this system that lends stability to the pad once blown up.

The NeoAir appears neatly constructed, with tidy welds/seams.  Unlike the other self-inflating Therm-a-Rest products, the twist valve for the NeoAir is actually mounted in the top fabric of the pad, rather than being integrated into a corner.
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Initial Impressions
The Therm-a-Rest NeoAir truly appears to be a dream come true.  The full length, regular sized NeoAir appears to offer me the luxurious comfort and thickness of a Luxury or Basecamp sleeping pad at just an ounce more than my current favored 3/4 length ultralight sleeping pad.

Inflating the NeoAir does require more effort than inflating a self-inflating mattress, but I didn't find the task terribly difficult, as long as I didn't get carried away and try to inflate the pad too quickly (resulting in slight light-headedness).  Deflating the mattress was as simple as opening the valve, laying on the mattress to try to squeeze out as much air as possible, folding the mattress in thirds lengthwise followed by rolling it up from the end opposite the valve.  When rolled up, the NeoAir is surprisingly compact - and is no larger than a 1L water bottle.

with nalgene, for size comparison

When testing out the NeoAir on my living room floor, I found it to be quite comfortable and stable.  While I didn't feel in danger of slipping or bouncing off of the mattress while rolling over, I did notice the NeoAir does make some crinkling noises during this activity.  I'm looking forward to getting this sleeping pad out into the field for testing.
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Product Use and Performance (FIELD REPORT - June 2009)

Field and Test Information:
Location(s) of test: Various locations in the deserts and mountains and canyons of Arizona, including the Grand Canyon and areas near Flagstaff.
Terrain: The majority of the terrain has been open desert environments with few shade trees present.  High elevations in Arizona include pine forests and open meadows.  Camp sites were typically open slickrock, sandy or covered in pine duff.
Weather Conditions: Mostly sunny with a few overcast days.  Outside daytime temperatures during the test period have ranged from nighttime lows near 40 F (5 C) to daytime highs in the low 90s F (low 30s C).  No precipitation was encountered and little to no wind was present.

I've used the NeoAir on several overnight backpacking trips and one multi-night trip in addition to a couple weekend escapes to the wilderness - all told, I've slept on the NeoAir six nights and also for a couple naps on lazy afternoons.  I've used the NeoAir inside a tent, outside under the stars on a Tyvek groundsheet and once on bare slickrock. 

So far, I've been pretty happy with the NeoAir, though it does have a quirk or two to be aware of.  With its coated fabric, I had initially thought the NeoAir would be a bit better at staying put on the floor of my tent or my groundsheet, but it seems to still slide around a bit.  It also seems like the coating traps just a wee bit of fine sand on the mattress surface - and on hot days/evenings, it feels a bit tacky or sticky against my bare skin.

As far as actual use and comfort goes, the NeoAir sets up quickly and easily enough - I would inflate it just before getting ready to go to sleep, inflating it until firm.  While the NeoAir does make some crinkly noises when I roll around on it, it wasn't loud enough to wake me (or anyone else).  The mattress itself was very comfortable to sleep on - I seemed to sleep more restfully on this sleeping pad than on the one that I would usually carry.  I especially noticed that I didn't have any trouble with my arm falling asleep overnight, nor did I feel the need to flip from side to side constantly to relive pressure points at my shoulder or hip (I'm a side sleeper).  I did notice, however, that the pad does seem to lose a lot of rigidity overnight.  At first I thought perhaps I had sprung a leak, but no amount of hunting has turned up any pinholes - I suspect this is simply an example of the Ideal Gas Law at work, where the air inside the pad contracts as it cools overnight.  So far, the pad has remained "full" enough to not find myself in direct contact with the ground while laying on it, but it's definitely a lot less firm in the morning - so much so that when kneeling on the pad to get dressed, my knees would usually squash the pad flat and contact the ground underneath.

Other than the morning squishiness, the NeoAir has been performing quite well.  It hasn't picked up any staining from being exposed to sand or dirt from the outdoors, and I've stayed plenty warm and comfortable while sleeping on it at night - especially while sleeping on hard sandstone slickrock. While the pad does accumulate a little bit of fine sand on its surface, the sand rinses off cleanly with a bit of water.  I'm looking forward to the remainder of the test period and continuing to evaluate the NeoAir's comfort and durability.
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Product Use and Performance (LONG TERM REPORT - August 2009)

Field and Test Information:
Location(s) of test: On top of, and inside the Grand Canyon.
Terrain: Sand and gravel near riparian areas.
Weather Conditions: Sunny and cloudless.  Outside daytime temperatures during the test period have ranged from nighttime lows near 70 F (20 C) to daytime highs in the low 100s F (low 40s C).  No precipitation was encountered and little to no wind was present.

Not long after my Field Report, I decided to contact Therm-a-Rest customer service to inquire after the possible slow leak in my NeoAir.  After a brief explanation by phone, I was provided an RMA number to reference on the returned product form.  Approximately two weeks after mailing in my NeoAir, a new mattress appeared at my home.  Service was simple and straight forward, I was glad to have my NeoAir back in time to take it on one more multi-day adventure into the Grand Canyon.

I'm pleased to report that based on the several additional nights out, this new replacement NeoAir is working out wonderfully - the mattress held up its firmness overnight.  The difference in performance was enough for me to consider inflating it a bit less at night to result in an even more restful sleep.  I did continue to notice the slight tackiness of the fabric when sleeping directly on the sleeping pad, but I feel it is likely that most things would stick given the high daytime temperatures and lack of ability to adequately clean off at the end of the day. 

Care should be taken with the NeoAir if it is being left at a basecamp during the day - we wound up getting to our designated campsite rather early on our first day into the Canyon, and opted to attempt to nap the afternoon away.  Unfortunately for me, the sun was beating down and I was unable to stay asleep with the abrasive-feeling rays bearing down on my skin.  I opted to shade hop and read while leaving my NeoAir in my napping location.  As the sun's rays continued to bear down, I noticed the NeoAir definitely seemed to get more rigid due to the air inside heating up and expanding (Ideal Gas Law at work again!).  After observing this, I became worried that the pad might rupture or otherwise get damaged, and partially deflated it. 

The only other observation I have regarding the NeoAir is that while it is an extremely comfortable pad to sleep on, its insulating and body-heat reflecting properties may not be best suited for "cool" sleeping in locales where the nighttime temperatures don't drop to a comfortable sleeping temperature until the early morning hours.  Regardless, I always managed to sleep quite soundly on the NeoAir and am very happy to have it!
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Summary: Woo Hoos and Boo Hoos  
The Therm-a-Rest NeoAir is an ultralight non-insulated air mattress that if, during testing, perfoms as expected, will likely supplant my currently favored ultralight sleeping pad.   With a reported R value of 2.5, this pad is just slightly better insulating than my current preferred backpacking mattress, and suits my backpacking style perfectly.

Here are some "Woo Hoos" (likes) and my "Boo Hoos" (some room for improvement), collected during my field investigations.

- Woo Hoo: Light as Air - thickness and cushiness of a Luxury or Basecamp mattress at the weight of an ultralight sleeping pad.  I'm in heaven!
- Woo Hoo: Very compact when packed.
- General Comment: This sleeping pad is made of ultralight materials, and should be treated with care.
- General Comment: The pad makes crinkling noises when I roll over - not enough to wake me during the test period, but something to perhaps be aware of.
- General Comment: The fabric of the NeoAir can feel a bit tacky or sticky against bare skin in warm weather.
- General Comment: The NeoAir can feel as if it deflates quite a bit overnight - this is due to the temperature differential between the air at time of inflation to the air temperature in the morning (the ideal gas law at work!).

My thanks to BackpackGearTest.org and Therm-a-Rest for the opportunity to participate in this test.



Read more reviews of Therm-A-Rest gear
Read more gear reviews by Stephanie Martin

Reviews > Sleep Gear > Pads and Air Mattresses > Therm-a-Rest Neo Air Pad > Test Report by Stephanie Martin



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