Updated January 2021. The NeoAir XTherm boasts with specs that should put it on top of the highly competitive ultralight inflatable camping mattress market. Light, compact, durable and incredibly warm. I put a total of two pads to the test during a trying journey from the snowy Himalayas to the deserts of the Middle-East.
I purchased my first NeoAir XTherm pad in Kathmandu, Nepal, in spring 2018. It replaced a NeoAir XLite which was beyond repair after less than a year of heavy use. With a similar design but tougher fabrics and better insulation, I was hoping to have found a durable replacement.
I used it on treks and camping in Nepal, Pakistan and India. It saw continuous use camping in the Irani, Omani and Jordanian deserts, followed by camping in Turkey, and finally some trekking in Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. In Canada, it delaminated during the summer of 2019 (more on this later) after roughly 160 days of total use.
My replacement XTherm was used for a few bivouacs in the Egyptian desert, to supplement lousy hotel beds in Sudan, for camping in Saudi Arabia and currently a prolonged stay in Turkey. That amounts to around 120 days so far.
Unless I am trekking or climbing, I always place a yoga mat underneath to reduce wear. During the day, I take great care to deflate it partially to avoid any excessive pressure built-up due to heat.
After over a decade using a self-inflating Prolite mattresses, upgrading to my first modern inflatable pad, the XLite, felt totally decadent. The Term-a-Rest XTherm is equally comfortable, with 6.4 cm / 2.5 in of thickness. The adjustable firmness is something I really appreciate as a side sleeper.
Nevertheless, it’s also quite a narrow pad, which might be a hindrance for some. And it’s noisy, especially when new, due to the inner insulation materials. It’s like sleeping on a pile of empty snack wrappers. But frankly, this is a minor compromise for so much lightweight goodness.
This is by far the warmest sleeping pad that I have ever used. With an impressive R value of 6.9, camping on snow and ice was never an issue. I have only braved temperatures down to -15 °C / 5 °F, during which however the pad helped me go beyond my quilt‘s temperature rating. Basically, this is a great way to add a lot of warmth to your set-up where it really matters.
The NeoAir XTherm, like all inflatable mats, only reaches its nominal insulation rating when fully inflated. This reduces comfort somewhat. More importantly, an unwelcome leak will wake you up with freezing cold in the middle of the night. I always carry at least a small tube of instant glue for a quick field fix, although tiny slow punctures can be frustratingly difficult to find.
Bulk & Weight 5/5
The Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm is neither the smallest nor the lightest sleeping pad around. However, at 430 g / 15 oz (438 g / 15.45 oz on our scales), it’s unbeatable in terms of warmth-to-weight ratio. Packed it’s still smaller than a water bottle. And the extra grams / ounces and bulk compared to the minimalistic ultralight models are in my opinion well worth it because of the more durable bottom fabric.
Materials. The beefy bottom 70D nylon fabric is robust and waterproof. I have only poked a hole accidentally once with a big thorn in the Iranian desert, plus a single slow puncture. When I go light and fast with a tarp tent, I just rely on a thin plastic sheet to reduce abrasion. That was more than enough to avoid damage from sharp rocks, and feels much more trustworthy than the NeoAir XLite, where a disaster is never far away.
The 30D top is another story. The thin ripstop material is very similar to the one used for the XLite bottom. And frankly insufficient. I had to deal with about a dozen slow punctures on the top of my first mattress. Presumably they were caused by small grains of dirt rubbing (and the occasional zipper?) over time. Here, a more resistant fabric would really be worth a small increase in weight.
My second XTherm has not caused me any trouble, yet. Then again, I’m even more paranoid then before. Fingers crossed!
Whenever I can, I supplement the XTherm with my yoga mat or any other available foam pad. This raises an important issue. For mountaineers, climbers, high-altitude trekkers and ski tourers, where your life might depend on staying off the icy ground, a fancy high-tech product like the NeoAir mattress remains a liability. Nothing beats the humble foam in that aspect.
Delamination. If you are not careful, an elbow or a knee can easily damage the complex inners of the mat. This is especially true when fully inflated. This led to the delamination and eventual failure of my first XTherm. Yes, it’s that fragile. Forget about, erm… two adults moving vigorously on top.
Valve. I still have the tried-and-tested old Therm-a-Rest valve design. It works, and never let me down. I can’t comment on the new WingLock valve on the latest iteration of the XTherm.
Ease Of Use 4/5
Inflation. It takes a couple of minutes of hyperventilation to inflate the mat. A better option is to use the included yellow inflation bag, which gets the job done in less than half the time. It also keeps much of the moisture from your breath out, thus reducing the likelihood of mold developing inside. As a bonus, the inflation bag doubles as a seat if you pack your loosely inflated XTherm inside. It does add a little weight though.
Packing. Easy. I usually roll it flat once to get most of the air out, then fold it in 3 and proceed to the final roll. The stuff sack is not too tight.
Inflated Size. It’s compact and rounded shape saves a lot of space. A non-negligible feature for small hiking tents or narrow ledges.
The Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm costs 215 USD in regular size, and an exorbitant 250 USD in large. The warmest inflatable ultralight mattress on the market is also the most expensive. Understandably, quality materials and high-tech designs comes at a price. But it’s still a lot to pay for something that probably won’t withstand much more than half a year of daily heavy use.
Lifetime Warranty. A major redeeming feature is Therm-a-Rest’s excellent customer service. My delaminated XTherm was quickly replaced, I just had to send it in. Bona fide lifetime warranties are becoming increasingly rare these days. Sadly, it still doesn’t beat rock-solid reliability. After all, running after a repair or replacement is rarely an option when you are traveling.
NeoAir XTherm Sleeping Pad:
An excellent ultralight inflatable camping mattress that adds an incredible amount of warmth to your sleeping system. Forking over more than 200$ for a sleeping pad seems steep for budget-minded people, but if you are smart and patient, the XTherm is regularly on sale or flogged on second-hand markets.
It’s main drawback however remains durability, a problem shared with all ultralight air pads. To be fair, this is actually one of the better models available, but a lifespan of less than a year of regular use is still too little. You’re better off with more resilient (and cheaper) alternatives.