OR - Therm-a-Rest NeoAir - L Pontious
- This has been sitting on the hard drive long enough!
THERM-A-REST NEOAIR MATTRESS
By Lori Pontious
November 9, 2011
NAME: Lori Pontious
EMAIL: lori.pontious (at) gmail.com
LOCATION: Fresno County, California, USA
HEIGHT: 5'7" (1.7 m)
WEIGHT: 165 lb (75 kg)
I backpacked, camped and fished all over the lower 48 states with my
family as a kid, and then life happened. I restarted these activities
about five years ago - I dayhike or backpack 2-6 times a month. I am
between light and ultralight. I have a hammock system and own a
Tarptent. I am a side sleeper and typically use a NeoAir on the
ground. My base weight depends upon season and where I go.
Manufacturer: Cascade Designs, Inc.
Manufacturer URL: cascadedesigns.com/therm-a-rest
Dimensions: 66 in (168 cm) long
20 in (51 cm) wide
2.5 in (6.35 cm) thick
Listed Weight: 13 oz (369 g)
Actual weight: 12.3 oz (349 g)
MSRP: US $139.95
The bottom of the NeoAir is silver, the top a light greenish-yellow
called "limon." The R value is listed as 2.5. The mattress is
constructed entirely of nylon, with a core of nylon/PU, and is made
in Seattle, Washington. It does not come with a stuff sack or repair
kit. The NeoAir is described as having a Triangular Core Matrix to
provide stability, and uses a reflective barrier for warmth instead
Image courtesy Cascade Designs
As someone who has used a variety of pads and mattresses in the past
with mixed results, I initially purchased the NeoAir with some
skepticism, but remember noting that it is indeed light and quite
thin when uninflated. Questions came to mind about warmth and
durability. How would this be any more comfortable to me than an
uninsulated pool mattress? Warmth is as important to me as cushion,
after all. As a lightweight backpacker I have struggled with comfort
versus weight, sleep versus long wakeful nights staring at the
underside of a tarp or tent fly, waiting for dawn to come. I bought a
NeoAir fully expecting another dismal experience with a sleeping pad.
My expectations were influenced by reviews I read online, but the
possibility of a light, compact sleeping pad that might keep my bony
parts off the hard, cold ground was too much for me to resist.
Inflating the mattress and trying it out on the floor, I quickly
found that it was quite comfortable, though less so when fully
inflated. The thickness gives it a notable drop if part of the body
happens to stray from the narrow mattress to the ground.
Since the initial purchase in fall of 2008, I have used the NeoAir,
or loaned it to others, for at least 1-5 nights per month.
Elevation range: Sea level to 11,000 ft (3353 m)
Terrain: Low elevation scrub, sand, granite, sub-alpine and alpine
regions on duff or sparse grassy fields.
Temperature Range: 20 - 60 F (7 - 16 C)
Locations: Henry Coe State Park, Morgan Hill, California
Ventana and Sespe Wildernesses in Los Padres National Forest, California
Point Reyes National Seashore, California
Yosemite National Park, California
Sequoia National Park, California
Ansel Adams Wilderness, California
Pinnacles National Monument, California
John Muir Wilderness, California
Dinkey Wilderness, California
Kaiser Wilderness, California
Sierra National Forest, California
Samuel P Taylor State Park, California
My use of the NeoAir has been more or less ongoing, and I have put it
inside my hammock as well as on the ground. I have always used at
least a ground sheet underneath, sometimes a thin torso length foam
pad, sometimes a tent floor. For additional length I have
successfully used my backpack under my feet. All my uses of the
NeoAir have been with a top quilt rather than a sleeping bag. At
first, I felt I needed to take extra care with the NeoAir, thinking
it would be less durable than other air mattresses or pads, but as it
became a regular part of my three season gear list I became less
concerned and used it in the same manner I would any other inflatable
at Pat Springs in Ventana Wilderness
Although after reading many bad reviews I expected to be annoyed by
noise, I have never noticed that problem with the NeoAir. I expect
any pad or mattress, when in use with a person moving around on it
while on a tent floor or ground sheet, to generate some sound. The
NeoAir made no more and no less noise than other air mattresses or
self inflating pads I have had. Once accustomed to the texture of the
mattress, I was not bothered by sleeping directly on the nylon,
either. (I typically wear a base layer while sleeping.) The texture
of the mattress surface is not smooth and does not tend to slip on
the floor of the tent. I have, however, awakened to find that my
tossing and turning while asleep has walked the mattress slightly
askew of where I started, but this has happened with other pads as
well so I accept this as a quirk of mine.
setting up for a frosty, cold night in Poverty Flat campsite in Henry
Coe State Park
I did not mind that the NeoAir did not come with a stuff sack. It
fits perfectly in one that I already had. I have also used a plastic
bag, or stuffed it into a waterproof stuff sack with my quilt; my
concern has been only for pack wear on the mattress. Most of the
rolled mattress will fit in a quart size storage bag. To store the
mattress, I deflate it by rolling it up, then unroll it and fold it
in thirds, approximately, before tightly rolling the NeoAir to stuff
in whatever storage I am using. For a repair kit, I take a small tube
of silicon and some nylon patches, which will work on my tarp, tent
fly, or any other nylon gear that I have, including the NeoAir - so I
did not mind that the mattress didn't have a repair kit, either.
As to durability, I have yet to experience a leak. I've managed to
stain the foot end of the pad - there are a few red streaks, possibly
from decomposing tree/plant matter, as nothing in my gear is that
color nor prone to the colors rubbing off on anything else. I have
not babied the NeoAir and once did not bother with a ground sheet,
simply dropped the inflated mattress on the sand. The NeoAir has gone
into and out of my Search and Rescue pack on many occasions and has
seen use in some unusual places, such as a granite slab (with
groundsheet in place) in a day use area, or the living room of a friend.
When inflating the NeoAir, I rarely fill it to full - I find it most
comfortable with some give in the mattress surface. In daytime when
leaving the NeoAir in a tent, I let even more air out to avoid the
increase in air pressure that a heated mattress would experience; the
instructions warn that the NeoAir shouldn't be left in the sun while
full. While the NeoAir is in use at night, I have not noticed
increase or decrease in inflation due to temperature. It doesn't take
more than a few minutes for the heat of my body to warm the mattress
surface when I turn in for the night. When using it in the hammock I
inflate the NeoAir to about half full, and do not notice a dropoff in
performance even then. In the hammock I do use a foam pad across the
shoulders, but this is because the hammock encloses me and I need
some extra width to block air currents that pass through the uncoated
nylon of the hammock.
The usual temperature range at night for my outings tends to be 30 -
40 F (-1 - 4 C) when in the mountains, though there are can be a drop
in temperature at high elevation that wasn't anticipated. On three
occasions a trip started out with anticipated above-freezing
temperatures and the final night plunged below freezing. One morning
we woke to a dusting of snow on everything, and as I crawled out of
my quilt it registered for the first time just how cold it had
gotten. While I would not deliberately tempt fate by taking the
NeoAir out when it's expected to be colder than it is rated to
handle, I have yet to experience a chill while using the mattress
while using it in spring, summer or fall.
I have had no leaks, no issues being cold despite temperatures
plunging below freezing, and no excessive noise. The mattress
continues to hold air and has withstood many inflate/deflate/roll/
store cycles. I wish that a wider one were available, as I have never
liked narrow sleeping pads and the vast majority are only 20" (51 cm)
wide. The very largest model of NeoAir is 25" (64 cm) wide, but I do
not need such a long pad - the medium is just the right length for
me. In all other respects, the NeoAir has been a very pleasant
surprise, providing light, compact comfort in a mattress that seems
to defy physics. Were I to find the NeoAir beyond repair, I would
replace it with the same air mattress (or possibly upgrade to the
four season version) without reservation.
* rolls up small, as advertised
* warm under normal three season conditions
* provides good cushion
* still only 20" (51 cm) wide unless you get the largest size
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