Thermarest Neo Air XLite
13th Jun 2013
Slowly over the years I’ve been accumulating a set of super-light-weight kit that we use when actually carrying loads as opposed to car-boot camping where space and weight are not a big issue. The trade-off has usually been a reduction in comfort and also a shorter product life-span for the light weight stuff.
This new mat from Thermarest probably takes the biscuit as far as I am concerned. I’ve had one Thermarest mat or another kicking around for as long as I can remember (one of my formative big trips was an expedition to Greenland when 19 when I distinctly remember many sleepless nights on a 10mm foam mat directly on the glacier ice; as soon as I returned home I investigated how to sleep warm in such conditions and discovered Thermarest!). But how things have changed. The Neo Air XLite features a new internal construction that Thermarest are awaiting a patent on, and which essentially cuts down on both material-volume and weight, but retains its size when inflated. I’ve slept on plenty of light weight mats in the past, and the main thing that keeps them light is their depth when inflated. Depth seems pretty much directly proportional to comfort in my experience, the thinner the mattress, the less comfortable (I prefer my mats to be underinflated and to mould to my body rather than rock solid). The XLite, despite weighing a mere 350g is 183cm long (tapered), 51cm wide, and, most importantly, is a whopping 6.3cm deep. It’s pretty obvious when you inflate the thing that the area they have saved on the weight is the material. It’s got a tissue-like feel to it and crackles quite satisfyingly. It’s obviously robust, but I suspect that it would not last well if used on a family camping trip and subjected to in-tent-wrestling or campsite sunbathing sessions. This is a mattress to use when weight and speed are paramount.
Because of the time of year I have been testing it it’s difficult to give a real assessment of its thermal qualities, but the internal construction features a mid-height reflective barrier sandwiched between a matrix of triangular cells which theoretically reflects body heat back into the body, and the cooler ground radiation back into the ground. Smart thinking. Other reviews online would suggest that the theory works...
Having said all of the above, I have saved its most important characteristic until last. Our car-boot-camping mattresses are monstrous things, about 10 inches in diameter and three foot long when rolled into their bags. This little baby packs away into a cylinder smaller than a standard toilet roll, which is less than 1 litre in volume. Combined with a lightweight sleeping bag that’s your essential sleeping kit barely even covering the base of your rucksack.
The mat recently won Editor’s Choice from Backpacker, and I can quite see why.
Includes a diddy little stuff sack and repair kit.
Retails at around £139 which is a chunk of money to spend on something so small, but I'd say that if you are wanting to save on space and weight, and also get a good night's sleep (how much is one of those worth?) it's money very well spent indeed.
Here's the official page on the Thermarest website.