When getting more serious about hiking, one of the first things I wanted to upgrade was my sleeping mat. Usually when I’m looking for a new product, there is no no-brainer option available as none of the candidates score well in all categories that are important for me. The NeoAir Xlite seemed to be an exception on that rule. I was looking for a lightweight mat that would not take up too much space in my backpack. With a packed weight of 340g and a size not much larger than my 1L water bottle, this seemed like the perfect buy.
The first trip I took with the NeoAir (about 1.5 years ago) already made clear the much difference this would make to my backpacking routine. I used to have a very strict layout as to where all the different items had to go in order to fit everything in. Now I had a lot more wiggle room which can be very liberating when trying to find your poncho when it’s pouring rain.
The NeoAir Xlite is a non self-inflating mat. There are a few different inflating options available, but currently, I simply use my own breath. I have to be completely honest in saying that this does take quite the effort. After a good day of hiking, setting up camp can be exhausting. More than once have I gotten a little light-headed after blowing up my mat. Thermarest offers the NeoAir Pump Sack, which can be used to simplify this task. The cool thing is that you can use it as a stuff sack as well to keep your pack organised. Might be a good investment!
The mat has an R-value of 3.2, which makes it perfect for three season backpacking, but nothing more than that. This means that the comfort will start degrading when temperatures drop below -7 °C. The coldest I have been in with this mat was probably around -6 °C and I did not notice any temperature decrease. A friend of mine who has the same mat, did say he was struck by the cold that night. We found out that the reason for this was his sleeping style. The NeoAir use a system that tries to reflect and trap heat from your body inside the many internal compartments. This means that if you sleep on your side, a lot less of the heath is reflected, resulting in a lower temperature. This can be a pretty big disadvantage so keep this in mind if you do not sleep on your back while camping.
With a width of 6.3 cm, my sleeping comfort really increased enormously. It’s really a pleasure to lie on. A small disadvantage might be that it makes a lot of noise when you move at night, which might be annoying your fellow campers. I had cases where I had to set up my tent under a small angle on a hill and I was sliding downwards continuously. The noise I made when crawling back up was quite annoying.
The biggest concern I had was that it might not be strong enough to last a long time. The good news here is that thermarest offers a lifetime warranty on these mats so you really should not be concerned. In the beginning I was really careful not to hit any branches or rocks while inflating, but I quickly learned that this thing was pretty solid and I should not worry about it that much. The biggest danger however, is blowing up your mat too hard! A few weeks a go I was on a camping trip and suddenly I heard noises like there was firecrackers going off under my tent they were followed by an enormous bang right under my head. What was going on?! I immediately grabbed my headlamp and my knife and started looking around. After confirming my tent was not on fire I realised it was my sleeping mat that was the problem. Some of the internal compartments had collapsed into each other.
This was a real bummer. Time to test the lifetime warranty! Once I got home (luckily it was the last night op camping), I contacted Thermarest and they sent me a new mat, for free! The service was really great so I would definitely recommend this company. It seems like I was blowing up my mat too hard, for which I blame my OCD. Once I started inflating my mat a little less, I also had less problems slipping away on it, which decreased the noise I made during the night. Win win!
So all in all this is a really great product and I would definitely recommend it. It has some flaws, which should be taken in consideration when buying, but for most people I think this is the best lightweight sleeping mat out there.