Knowing that I needed more thickness to handle the reduced surface area of my side sleeping profile, I sprang for the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Xlite. Persuaded by the images of good looking smiling campers louging in supreme comfort on their NeoAir mattress in and out of their tents, I justified the cost to myself. This would be the last mattress I would ever need to buy, one mattress to rule them all. In many ways it was. In one very crucial way, it was absolutely not. This mattress is 2.5” thick with an R value of 3.2 (Therm-a-Rest also offer a warmer version of this, the NeoAir Xtherm with an R value of 5.7). In addition it is very light (just 340g) and packs up quite small. The thickness was perfect for me, and I could adjust the amount of air in it to keep me nicely suspended even while lying on my side. It does make a fair amount of noise when you move around on it due to the insulating layer inside the mattress, but as a heavy sleeper, this never bothered me.
The issue that I had, and it is a big one, is that I could not keep this mattress from springing a leak. The first night I took it out it got a 1mm cut in it from some kind of small sharp rock. Ok, my fault, I patched it and that hole has not been an issue since. The next time I took it out it worked fine the first night, then began leaking again on the second night. Took it home, found another hole, this one tiny and not looking like an actual cut. Patched that one and resolved to do my best not to let any kind of debris into my tent from now on. Took it out the next time and again it worked fine the first night, then deflated quite quickly the next night. Luckily none of these were long trips. Upon getting home, I could not find the leak this time. I tried submerging it in the bathtub, but didn’t see any bubbles anywhere. Now, you may know that Cascade Designs, the makers of Therm-a-Rest products are known to have excellent customer support. Stories abound of them replacing pads free of charge on a moment’s notice. Unfortunately for me in this case I live in Japan, so when I contacted Cascade Designs they directed me to the Japanese distributor. They were happy to fix the mattress, but I would need to pay to send it to them and pay a small fee ($20) for the repair. I did this and they returned the mattress to me. At this point though, I don’t really trust it anymore, and certainly wouldn’t take it on a longer trip. I took it out recently on a short bike trip (three days and two nights) and it worked fine. Maybe the problem is solved??? Who knows.
This mattress frustrated me because I know there are a ton of people out there who have this mattress, have been using it for a long time, and absolutely love it. I don’t know if I got a defective one or what, but if you can’t hold air reliably, you’re not much good to me. So I still have it, but it will only be used for short tours and in warmer weather where it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world if I end up in contact with the ground.
Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite
Packs up small
Thick, good cushioning
High R-value for it’s packed size and weight
Crinkly noises when you move around
Mine sprang leaks easily
Buy it if you need maximum thickness at minimum weight
Look elsewhere if you need more robust gear.