Gear Review: ThermaRest NeoAir Xlite

Gear Review: Therm-A-Rest NeoAir Xlite

Disclosure: The following product was donated for the purpose of review.

image Specs:

Size: Medium

Weight: 12 oz

Material: Nylon

Price: $159.95

Best Feature: Well-cushioned, comfortable, and light

Worst Feature: Takes a long time to blow up, delicate (developed a leak after 9 days).

Circumstance of review:


I’m writing this from Idyllwild, at mile 151.9 on the PCT, where I am switching out for my old model of Therm-a-rest, the Zlite.  Ultimately, the NeoAir didn’t work out for me, but you don’t need me to tell you that it’s a popular model among thru-hikers.  It was these positive reviews that made me want to try the NeoAir in the first place.  I know that the best policy when it comes to gear is ‘don’t fix what isn’t broken,’ but I thought a NeoAir would give me some extra warmth on those cold desert nights and be more compatible with my new Katabatic quilt.


The Zlite tends to be the more popular option for the PCT, as you could probably guess from this picture.

Here’s the results of my gear experiment:

Durability:  The fragility of the NeoAir design is its major flaw.  All other concerns I have can be boiled down to personal preference, but the readiness of the NeoAir to blow a leak, even compared to other open-celled pads I’ve used in the past, is not ideal for back country living.

My NeoAir blew a leak after about 9 days on the trail.  I will say that I used the pad for the lower Pacific Crest Trail desert, or ‘cactus country,’ which means there was a greater chance for thorns to puncture my pad.  But on the other hand, I also didn’t use it outside of my tent, and I traveled with it inside my pack, so the leak was pretty surprising.  For the record, it was a very small leak so it took most of the night for the pad to deflate, and I still stayed warm even with it mostly deflated, which says something for the NeoAir technology.


Definitely recommended for ‘Glamping’.

Warmth:  If durability is the NeoAir’s main weak point, warmth is its strongest attribute.  I stayed warm and cozy on my NeoAir every night I used it, including one rough night on a high-desert ridge with a wind advisory and a handful of nights where the pad was mostly deflated. I tested it down to around freezing, and without any warmth issues.  I would probably feel comfortable winter camping with this pad and possibly an extra closed-cell just in case.


The Therm-a-Rest Zlite Sol, a closed-cell pad that doesn’t require inflation.

Comfort:  Cursory research of this pad shows its high comfort rating, an I can’t disagree.  While I love the stability and rigidity of my closed cell Zlite, I can admit that the NeoAir was pretty luxurious.  For people used to sleeping in a bed, especially light sleepers, the NeoAir really eases the transition to sleeping outdoors.

On the other hand, I didn’t like how tall it was (which I’m guessing is a big contributor to its r-value and heat savings) and how it moved around slightly.  It sometimes felt like I was too high off the bottom of the tent and my hands had to search for places to rest.  This could be easily solved by using the NeoAir in a one-person tent where it fits snugly, of course – and that’s usually what open-cell pad distributors seem to recommend for prime use.


The many sizes of NeoAir

Value:  I have to disagree with popular opinion when I say that, for me at least, this pad is not worth its selling price.  Is it accurately priced for the research, work, and materials that went into it?  Yes.  Would I suggest it for someone considering winter camping and seeking a pad with a high enough r-value to keep them warm in snow?  Yes.  In that case, I could see paying full price for the pad, especially considering how light it is compared to winter camping gear.  I can also admit that it’s more suited to the AT than the PCT.  But for most thru-hikes, a Zlite is easier to set-up, available as a sit pad at breaks, nearly indestructible, and a lot cheaper.  Therm-a-Rest is a great brand and the greatest testament to that is that, when their NeoAir didn’t work for me, I bought a new Zlite to replace my old Zlite, which I’ve had since 2011.


All the better for siestas…

Check out the NeoAir here and the Zlite here.

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