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Is a thermarest "Neo-Air" actually worth the price difference?
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Merritt D
(tmdraney) - MLife

Locale: No Mountains Close-by VA
Neoair Trekker on 04/10/2013 21:02:13 MDT Print View

One more vote for the Neoair family. I am a side sleeper and it has given me many good nights on hard ground. I have a short wide Neoair Trekker. I was worried about the crinkliness and durability of the Xlite. It is built out of sturdier materials and no mylar-ish material on the internals to make noise and 25" wide. All at 16 oz.

Dave -
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Up there
Re: Re: Re: neoair noise on 04/10/2013 21:06:03 MDT Print View

No, it is a very noisy pad. Compared to my Exped UL7 that is more comfortable, much more durable, and warmer, it is much noisier. Drove me nuts.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Re: Re: Re: neoair noise on 04/10/2013 21:40:46 MDT Print View

I am happy with mine. Can't comment on the noise though, because when I use it I am comfortably asleep.

Kent C.

Locale: High Sierra
"Neo-Air" actually worth the price difference?" on 04/10/2013 21:54:22 MDT Print View

I'm a side and back sleeper.

I haven't used any other air mat, but I'll never go back to CCF.

I hate the expense, but I would swallow hard and then buy w/o further hesitation; won't sleep on anything else.

Harald Hope

Locale: East Bay
out of curiousity on 04/10/2013 22:02:09 MDT Print View

I have to ask, given this is for me the worst pad I have ever slept on, how do you people who like it sleep? I've held off selling mine because I keep seeing people who insist they like it, and they are obviously not making that up, but I am just as obviously more uncomfortable on it than any other pad I have ever used.

My guess is this: given the edges of the rolls, the actual regular size pad width is about 17" or so inflated. So if you toss and turn, it's basically a formula for sea sickness if you have the pressure down far enough so you don't fall off the edges, which is almost impossible to not do when you roll over, since your body is that wide, at least, as you roll over, and if you have it hard, you are always falling off the edges as you turn. If you sleep on your back, or side, and don't move, and just pass out, in that position all night, this pad would in my opinion be close to heaven, and I could see why people like it if that's how they sleep.

So my guess is, people who like this pad do not toss and turn much, and are fairly heavy sleepers. Being a light or heavy sleeper would account for why some people find the noise maddening, and some don't. The noise is definitely there, it's this crinkling sound, but the clue is, if you don't move, it doesn't make noise, and even if you do, it's not that loud, but it is there. Hint, use ear plugs, it's not louder than they block, if this was my only issue with that pad I'd love it and swear by it, sadly that's not the case.

Re the noise, I would estimate it as probably 10x or so louder than a prolite or foam pad, in terms of actual decibels (correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe decibels are a logarithmic scale) , but of all the things I disliked about it, the noise was for me the least of the problems. Ie, if a prolite is 60 db, and a foam pad is 50, then a neoair is 70 db, just guessing, but that might be around the volumes, give or take 10 db in the range.

Re the original cause of concern, yes it's very thin, and feels very delicate. I was impressed by german tourist's experience of seam failure, that does not at all surprise me, I think thermarest is pushing the boundaries of what is practical with light materials and they are going to hit statistical failure rates far higher than say, their old green/tan series. It's the statistics that get you, if you have 2% failure, that means 98% don't, which is something the people who are in the 98% often fail to grasp. The x percent that fail sleep like cr@p the rest of their trip since the pad has zero value as a pad once flat, and then probably get something else for next time. The 98% are happy and swear it is great. This to me roughly accounts for the variance in user experiences, my guess is they are going just a bit too cheap/light in their production, and that's causing x percent to fail.

Edited by hhope on 04/10/2013 22:08:59 MDT.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: out of curiousity on 04/10/2013 22:10:29 MDT Print View

I'm a side sleeper and switch side several times a night. Here is my secret...

Lie down.

Close eyes.

Go to sleep.

; > )

Gregory Allen
(Gallen1119) - M

Locale: Golden, CO
Re: out of curiousity on 04/10/2013 22:11:43 MDT Print View

+1 for NeoAir XLite. Noise, yes, but it doesn't keep me awake. Ground cloth when warm, over a 1/4 in CCF when the ground is colder. Best sleeping outdoors ever since I bought it last spring. Would not go back to any CCF or regular Thermarest. I side-sleep and have tried many options, but my hip bones love the NeoAir. I think it's the firm inflation and extra thickness that does it for me.

just Justin Whitson
Re: "Neo-Air" actually worth the price difference?" on 04/10/2013 22:19:15 MDT Print View

So what about the NeoAir All season vs the Exped UL7 downmat? More specifically, what will be more durable? Also, while i'm a bit concerned about the noise factor of the Neo airs, seems a lot of people say the All season model isn't near as loud as some of the others.

Michael Ray
(topshot) - MLife

Locale: Midwest
Re: out of curiousity on 04/10/2013 22:28:26 MDT Print View

I'm a very light sleeper that turns a lot even at home so, yes, I wake up each time I move and I can hear the pad while I'm moving (but it doesn't seem to be that much to me). Once I find my new "spot", it makes no noise at all and I don't feel like I'm falling off it at all but I'm not a big person either. I'm like a cat playing with the area before settling down, getting myself all situated, getting a drink, moving the "pillow", checking out the stars, adjusting quilt, etc.

The hardest part I have is getting the right inflation level each time since that varies with temp. I usually try to start a little high so I can vent off a little if needed. My ideal seems to be when I'd guess my hip is 3/4" off the ground. Sometimes, I vent too much (or it gets much colder during the night) and my hip will be nearly on the ground. That is only a problem if it's below freezing. In fact, I just did that last week while sleeping on concrete and it was freezing. I could tell there was a cool spot (just wearing my hiking pants and quilt on top) but it wasn't enough to make me bother to get off the pad to add a wee bit of air.

I do wish the pad was a few inches wider. The few times I lie on my back I can't comfortably rest my arms against my sides unless I tuck my hands into pockets or waistband.

Tad Englund
(bestbuilder) - F - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Re: out of curiousity on 04/10/2013 22:56:36 MDT Print View

Nick, I'm trying to really understand your method ("secret"). Could you repeat it for some of us slower guys.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Re: Re: out of curiousity on 04/10/2013 23:30:02 MDT Print View



Gosh sometimes we make simple things so difficult. Backpacking is just walking, sleeping outdoors and cooking an ocassional meal. We fret about how to walk (stride, cadence, foot strike, etc.); the perfect rain jacket; filter vs. drops vs. tablets; mesh shoes vs. GTX; foam pads vs. air; tarp vs. tent; trekking poles or not; liquid, gas, alcohol or Esbit; quilt vs. bag; what hat; what shirt; what pants; what shorts; what underwear; underwear or none; down vs. synthetic; GPS vs. compass; etc.; etc.

Just grab whatever gear you have and go backpacking. The gear just isn't that important.

Anyway -- lie down, close eyes, go to sleep.

Charles P
(mediauras) - F

Locale: Terra
Re: Re: Re: Re: out of curiousity on 04/10/2013 23:33:58 MDT Print View


just Justin Whitson
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: out of curiousity on 04/10/2013 23:38:41 MDT Print View

Well said Nick. Funny enough, i use to have that philosophy and practice much more and probably was happier or less stressed than now. Need to get back to that more. This site has a bit of a pathological pull of gravity in those areas, i find myself getting caught up in it more than i would like to at times.

Thank you for the much needed reminder to KISS.

Clayton Mauritzen
(GlacierRambler) - F

Locale: NW Montana
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: out of curiousity on 04/11/2013 00:12:51 MDT Print View

I love my NeoAir, so obviously the noise doesn't bother me. I haven't tried the Exped simply because I got such a good deal on the NeoAir, and I can't afford two inflatables at the same time. Besides, my XTherm was half the price of the current Exped and is much warmer.

I'm pretty heavy (225 lbs.), and I sleep mostly on my back, but I do toss a fair bit. The noise gets to me a bit as I'm adjusting everything before really settling down. After that, I never notice it, even when moving in the middle of the night. I prefer the narrower width (my guess is about 18", but I haven't measured in a while). I have very broad shoulders from powerlifting (and just naturally), so my arms hang off at the right spot on the regular size mattress. I tried the 25" width, but my shoulders still stick out over the sides of the pad pretty significantly, and they extra inches actually pushed my arms out. With the regular width, it's just right so that I can tuck my hands into my pants pockets, and my elbows hang just off the pad, letting me drift off to sleep nice and peacefully.

It works very well for me, so much that I'd buy another if something catastrophic happened. But that's because it fits my body and my style. I figure, try what you can at a reasonable price and weight, and once you find something that works, enjoy it. If I kept obsessing over my pad, then I'd enjoy my hiking and my sleeping less.

USA Duane Hall
(hikerduane) - F

Locale: Extreme northern Sierra Nevada
out of curiousity on 04/11/2013 06:47:18 MDT Print View

I toss and turn, wake up often, same as at home. No noise from the old NeoAir, what, going into 4th season now. I must USE it enough that it makes no noise. I bought a new XTherm, it has some noise, but have yet to use it as the snow is gone. I was letting some air out so I could sink in, now I leave it fully inflated and do fine. I noticed on the first group trip I was on and it was the first trip period using the small NeoAir four years ago, that one of the others with us had a BA, very noisy.
PS, mostly a side sleeper. My shoulders do better sleeping when I'm not cutting firewood, that does a number on my shoulders.

Edited by hikerduane on 04/11/2013 06:48:29 MDT.

(drown) - F - MLife

Locale: Shenandoah
Green & Tan comparison on 04/11/2013 07:12:34 MDT Print View

"I think thermarest is pushing the boundaries of what is practical with light materials and they are going to hit statistical failure rates far higher than say, their old green/tan series."

My experience is the exact opposites. I had one of those green and tan...actually I stil have it. Many patches, easily punctured IME. Original neoair bought in 2009 is doing very well no punctures or leaks after JMT thru-tip, a long trip thru Grand Gulch and many shorter overnight trips. I have not treated it more gently, in fact I sleep out on a very thin groundsheet regularly without problems and have found it to be quite robust.

Seriously considering upgrading to newer model for higher R rating.


Edited by drown on 04/11/2013 07:14:14 MDT.

spelt with a t
(spelt) - F

Locale: SW/C PA
Re: out of curiousity on 04/11/2013 07:38:58 MDT Print View

>>So my guess is, people who like this pad do not toss and turn much, and are fairly heavy sleepers.

Wrong on both counts. :) I roll around a lot, and the crinkling wakes me up a bit, but I can go right back to sleep.

Harald Hope

Locale: East Bay
well it was a guess on 04/11/2013 11:53:39 MDT Print View

Michael Ray, I think I see, you drop the inflation WAY down, at that point I'd rather be on a well inflated prolite, now I see. However, since hitting my hip bone never was an issue for me on any other thermarest foam core pad, I will assume there is some difference that isn't obvious and that we aren't actually aware of re our sleeping patterns.

Nick, your formula, complex as it is, if I grasp it correctly, is the essence of my problem with the neo air, that formula fails, and becomes: wake up every time I move, wake up to readjust the pressure, wake up missing a bad foam pad, curse the pad for sucking worse than anything I have ever used, all night, so clearly while your formula is correct, what lets you achieve that goal differs. For me, the neoair is an obstacle to achieving this simple goal, not a solution, so I really wonder what the differences are. there's no over thinking going on here, it's simply a basic wondering how experiences can very so widely, and reading others and just not getting it.

I'm just going to leave this a mystery, though I will try it on one more over nighter, letting it basically be almost flat, with very little r value, and see if that works better, but I doubt it will since I tried most possible levels of inflation on the 5 day trip just to be fair, but I may not have gotten close to it being essentially flat, with just enough to hold the side hip 3/4 inch over the ground.

What I find odd is that everything people say they like about the neoair is what I would say about the prolite, even the short version.

Re the durability, holes, punctures, are always user error, I don't blame any pad maker for a user putting it ontop of something sharp (did I tell you about the time I was using the old heavy thermarest strapped to the side of my pack and on a very hot day, climbing a very sun exposed hill, I stumbled into one of those beautiful dry climate plants that have a sharp needle point at the end of each of their long thin leaves? Went through I think 5 layers of the rolled pad...). The only thing I'm noting is the actual statistical failure rate of the seams themselves, and statistical does NOT mean, it's never happened to me, it's an average. For some reason this is a hard thing for people to get, not sure why, if it never happens to say, 98% of people, then you are very likely to never have it happen to you. What interests me is the cases where it does happen, and happen repeatedly, to people, such as german tourist, who seems to have that german analytical quality down well enough to be worth paying attention to in their reports on gear.

But thanks especially michael, given this was a test purchase, and it was off of gear swap, and it will go back on gear swap when I finally give up on it, I am interested to see if I can ever get something even close to a good night's sleep on it, but also given that the prolites already do that, and do it much more conveniently, maybe I shouldn't think about it anymore and just sell the neo air this spring...

I'll make one more guess: with proper extra inflation, the prolite isn't going to give you hip bone protection as a side sleeper if you weigh more than 160 pounds, give or take. I weigh a bit less than that it and does, without a doubt. So interesting views, maybe the world is separated into people who can sleep on a non filled core air mattress and those who can't, and there's really nothing more to it.

Dave -
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Up there
Re: well it was a guess on 04/11/2013 12:17:40 MDT Print View

I use an Exped UL Symat but when I had a Prolite 3, I had no issues with my hips as a dedicated side sleeper. I am 210 - 215 lbs.

Harald Hope

Locale: East Bay
more surface area on 04/11/2013 12:35:37 MDT Print View

at that weight, your hip bones probably are not poking out, I would guess, so the surface area of the hip area that contacts the pad is greater, which makes the thinner mattress able to hold the weight without depressing, good point. It's going to be pounds per square inch per inflation level on a prolite, which is actually kind of easy to figure out if you measure the contact areas of your body. Neoair may have a corresponding set of factors as well, my guess is it does, and when you happen to have that set, you can, as nick, achieve the simple formula of: lie down, go to sleep.

It's interesting though to realize how many variables are at play here, if one was inclined, I believe one could actually remove a lot of the subjective judgement part and actually determine somewhat objectively makes some people able to use one over the other.