When the NeoAir came out, we were the first to give them a go. The thickness when blown up, and the small pack size when folded away were very appealing features over our old mattresses (we don’t have that much bag space on the tandem).
The NeoAir is supremely comfortable for a camping mat, certainly the best I’ve ever used. The XLite has also proven to be warm enough right down to about -5 degrees celcius; it’s heat reflector keeping our body heat near the surface. The downside to the metallic heat reflector is that it is quite noisy and does deter many for that reason… crunch, crunch, crunch.
The thing that would stop us using the mats again on a long trip is that they take a lot of effort to inflate! Although we can get them to full inflation in less than a minute, it feels like a marathon effort after a hard day in the saddle, and will most likely have you seeing stars if you don’t take your time. They also take a long time to roll back up, more so than any other mat I’ve used.
We have found that the NeoAir isn’t the longest lasting product. Although Kat’s has been fine for years, mine lasted about three years before needing replacement. The great thing about Thermarest is that their warranty is lifetime worldwide, and is genuinely one of the smoothest warranty programs I’ve had the pleasure of dealing with.
– Super lightweight (400g, medium).
– Super comfortable, in fact the most comfortable sleeping mat I’ve ever used.
– Very small when rolled, taking up minimal space in your pannier.
– We’ve found them to be quite durable (we haven’t punctured ours in 3-4 years use).
– Lifetime warranty against manufacturing defects – we had a Thermarest sent to us within a day when we needed it!
The Why Not
– They take a lot of effort to inflate, especially noticeable after a long day on the bike.
– They make a crunchy sound when you move (especially so with the Xlite).
– They’re susceptible to thorns: be careful where and what you’re camping on!
– It’s known to lose it’s shape if it is left in the sun (see picture below).
– Mould can find its way on to your mat if you fail to dry it out after it’s wet.
Difference between the Xlite and 1st Generation
– The most obvious one is the shape. To save weight, Thermarest tapered the bag. Sleeping solo, the mat is fine, but we zip together our sleeping bags, which means that we have a bit of a gap between our mats now. Thermarest still make rectangular mats, but just not in the Xlite model.
– The Xlite is lighter and packs smaller. My extra large Xlite mat is now smaller when packed that Kat’s mat.
– The Xlite is ‘crunchier’. Instead of using insulation material, the Xlite uses an aluminium heat reflector. This is noisier than the 1st gen mat, but isn’t too noticeable when your mat is blown up firm-ish and you’re laying down flat (your weight is spread over the mat more evenly).
Important care information
Given that the NeoAir is somewhat delicate, you should take note of the following:
– Do NOT leave it blown up during the day! We always deflate to 50% when we get up because the air expands inside the mat when the tent heats up. This is the no.1 reason why bubbles form in NeoAir mats like ours.
– Wash the mat down regularly (non-detergent soap), and make sure you air it out to dry after it’s been even a little bit moist. This moisture can be in the form of condensation, so even if it’s been a dry night, it should be aired. This will avoid mould build up.
– Use a tent groundsheet and take a careful look at where you are camping for sharp objects. It’s obvious why.
Would we buy it again?
For shorter trips – yes. For longer trips – maybe.
The NeoAir has proven to be both supremely comfortable and durable, but after two years of blowing them up and rolling them down, we were getting a bit sick of the effort required to inflate and pack them away. I’d definitely buy a NeoAir again for shorter trips, but I’m considering using a thinner pad for the next big trip to see if the reduced comfort and increased pack size is worth it for a pad that essentially blows itself up.