Gear Review: Thermarest NeoAir XLite

Sleeping pads are by far one of the more debated pieces of gear in the hiking world, and most certainly in the ultralight community. When looking for the right sleeping pad for backpacking, I think most people tend to look for a few things. Comfort most definitely comes first, price point, weight, and ease of packing all are attributes that you consider when buying a pad, or any piece of gear for that matter. 

Over the last ~4,500 miles of thru hiking, I've tried out a number of pads, and it seems I keep coming back to the Thermarest Neo Air X Lite. Hands down the most common pad seen on the long trails, I think theres a fairly good reason for that.

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The regular length Neo Air X Lite comes in at a whopping 12oz, is bright yellow, and has an R-Value of 3.2 for the Mens version. It boasts 2.5" of thickness to get you off the ground and away from any rocks or sticks. The regular size is a comfortable 72x20x2.5 which is more than enough for someone of my stature coming in at around 5'10" and 150lbs. If you're someone who is okay with having your legs off of the pad, or if you're Neemor's size, you could probably roll with the small version which comes in at 47x20x2.5, definitely a bit small for me, but also only 8oz. Now if you're a bit taller, or a giant like Wankles is, you might wanna go with the large version. It clocks in at just about 16oz and is a hefty 77x25x2.5, perfect for the lanky person in your life. 

The price points for these crinkly chip bags that we call sleeping pads, you ask?

Small: 

Regular: 

Long: $199.99

They recently redesigned the pad giving it a bit softer of a feel, and the description mentions a patent pending reflective layer that returns heat back to the body which bodes well for cold sleepers. I used the older design last year, and the new material is definitely more comfortable. I mentioned a crinkly chip bag up above, and I will say one thing, these pads are extremely loud for the first week or so until the material breaks in. Either it gets quiter, or you and everyone you're sleeping around gets completely used to it. One way or another, it goes away in some fashion, so don't let the rumors scare you. 

This pad seems to be durable 98% of the time. Over the last 2 years of thru hiking and backpacking, I've probably spent around 6 total months worth of sleep on this pad, and I've went through two of them. Not too bad, especially when Cascade Designs customer service is pretty spot on. Each time I've needed a replacement, they've warrantied it and either sent me a new one, or gave me the ability to exchange them in store at a local outfitter. The customer service from these guys is worth the price in itself. 

Honestly, I love this pad. I sleep extremely well on it every night, and for the most part, I never have to worry about getting a leak from the valve or the pad itself. I don't place it directly on any rough surface, instead I use a groundsheet in most situations which I think drastically extends its lifetime. The material is comfortable without a doubt, and like I said, the crinkles go away with time. I fold the pad and use it as a flexible frame in the back of my simple pack, giving some rigidity to the pack itself. Its versatile in that sense and doesn't take up any space in the bottom of my pack. If you do roll it up and pack it away, its much smaller than a Nalgene and is truly hardly noticeable. 

Final thoughts:

Although the price point is a bit steep, especially compared to a foam pad of any sort, the durability, customer service, and most importantly, comfort, is worth the money in my opinion. Getting an honest good nights sleep after a 25 mile day is priceless in my book, hence why I use the pad on every trip. It's light, packs super well, and is reliable. For an inflatable pad, I'm not sure you could get any better. 

There are less expensive and lighter options out there, certainly if you look at closed cell foam, but I would buy this pad 100 times over after knowing what I know now. It pays for itself day after day and is more than worth the money.