LTR: Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Mattress - Jamie L
- Hey Curt,
Here's my LTR for the NeoAir.
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3rd August 2009
Field Conditions & Locations
My testing continued over the 6 night walk of the Overland Track, a 80km (50 mi) walk through the Tasmanian central highlands. This walk features a full range of environments from sub-alpine lakes and grass lands to exposed ridgelines high above the snowline. During the walk our group experienced the full range of weather from sunshine and warm temps ranging from 10-12 C (50 - 54 F) to wind rain and snow with night time lows well below freezing We recorded a low of -7 C (19 F). The lowest point of the track is around 700 m (2,297 ft) with the highest point of 1,016 m (3,333 ft) excluding any summit trips.
Pelion Plateau - Overland Track
Performance in the field
I have continued to use the NeoAir as my main sleeping mat. During the 6 nights of the Overland Track walk, we utilised the various huts along the track as our nightly accommodation, which gave me a much different experience using the NeoAir compared to tent camping. Firstly all the huts feature large bunks which are usually shared. Secondly, although they are heated, it gets much colder during the night inside the huts compared to a tent as the heaters do not run all night. I found this was a very good test of the NeoAir's ability to retain heat.
Over the course of the Overland trip, I remained impressed by the comfort of the NeoAir. As my pack weight was well over 20 kgs (44 lbs), by the end of the days (each day was around 6-7 hours walking time) I was certainly ready for a decent sleep!! It was at this point I really noticed the extra thickness and increased comfort. At no point did I ever notice any pressure on my hips or shoulders due to the extra thickness. I continued to use the NeoAir with a little under full inflation to give a 'softer' feel. I found that if I fully inflated the NeoAir it was quite hard and somewhat unstable and I tended to roll off.
Inside Waterfall Valley Hut - Overland Track
I have not got any faster at inflating the NeoAir throughout the testing period. However I now use smaller breathes more frequently rather than several deep breathes of air to inflate the mattress to avoid feeling light headed. This does take a little longer, especially compared to my self inflating mattress, but I think it is worth the hassle. I have continued to find that my folding method of deflating and then rolling the mat is still the quickest way of packing the NeoAir ready for my pack.
When packed, the NeoAir is very small, this I really like. So much so that I would go so far as to say that the small size of the NeoAir when packed is the single biggest feature I have enjoyed the most during the testing. As the NeoAir is so small, I can stash it nearly anywhere in my pack. Given that it is one of the first things I am going to want to access when I camp at the end of the day, I have found that because it is so small I can simply stash it in the top of my pack and therefore pull it out quickly and have it set up before my walking partners have been able to unpack their mats and set them up.
Throughout the testing period the NeoAir has performed without fault. I have had to perform no field maintenance or repairs. In fact the NeoAir looks basically brand new still with no visible signs of wear or dirt from use in the field. This suggests to me that the nylon construction is of a very high quality and is durable. I therefore assume that the NeoAir would continue to perform without fault for many years with no regular maintenance.
I stated in my Initial Report that if I woke up in the morning and noticed nothing, than the NeoAir would have done its job. I now take this back. I spent one night sleeping on my self inflating mat during the testing period and woke up feeling a bit sore on my shoulder where I had been sleeping. After sleeping on the NeoAir, I did notice something, I noticed just how much more comfortable and warmer it was compared to my self inflating mat!!!
Overall, I really like the NeoAir. It certainly does meet the manufacturer's claim of being about the same size as a 1L water bottle when packed. At 420 g (14.8 oz), it is also light, very light. This combination of size and weight is a winner in my books. I have found that the Triangular Core Matrix is stable, comfortable and the reflective barriers appear to increase heat retention. Having said this, when the weather was really cold, I was sleeping on a wooden bunk indoors so I am not able to comment just how warm the NeoAir would be as a true 4 season mat. I suspect 3+ seasons is a better classification for the NeoAir.
There is not much I don't like about the NeoAir. I have found it a little annoying to have to inflate the NeoAir and wondered if a small pump was an option. Having said this, I am happy to make the inflation trade off for the other size weight benefits. The addition of a pump would obviously increase weight.
Credit to Therm-a-Rest for launching the NeoAir. During testing many people went 'wow, what kind of mat is that!' and all looked somewhat jealous when they saw how think the NeoAir is when inflated. Therm-a-Rest have converted me from a self inflating mat boy to a NeoAir boy.... no doubt! I love this mat and look forward to many comfy nights sleep for years to come!
This concludes my testing of the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir sleeping mat. My final thanks to Therm-a-Rest and backpackgeartest.org for the opportunity to test this product.