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Sleep comfort: Neoair Alternative?
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Javan Dempsey

Locale: The-Stateless-Society
Sleep comfort: Neoair Alternative? on 10/03/2013 17:16:50 MDT Print View

Let me preface this by saying I only have the Neoair Xtherm (in large), and I've never been a huge fan of inflatables.

Just got back from a trip where I tried once again to like the Xtherm I bought last year. On paper I love it, on the ground, I hate it. Feels like sleeping on a concrete floor, regardless of how much I inflate or deflate it.

Unfortunately, the days of sleeping on single ridgerest through 3 seasons and adding a torso piece during the fourth are over for me. I wake up bruised and beaten feeling, but it's better than the zilch sleep I'm getting on the Xtherm.

Not bashing the Xtherm, if it works for you I'm envious. Sleep comfort has always been super important for me though, and I'm willing to add a few ounces to get good rest.

For the most part, last few years, the only comfortable sleep I'm getting is in a hammock. That's fine for solos or with my cousin who hangs also, but for trips with the dogs or others, not really an option.

So what alternatives are there? FWIW I'm fine on full-sized cheap-o "guest bed" type air mattresses. They're not the heights of luxury, but I can sleep on them no prob. I dunno if it's the lateral baffle tubes on the Neoairs, the height, what..

Caveat: I'm not and never will be a back sleeper, so a 23"+ wide pad is a must. I'm also still a little angry at the fact that the XTherm is no-where near the stated 25" wide inflated, but that's another story.

What about the Exped options? Anybody find these comfortable but not the Neoairs? How do the R-values the manufacturers give line up with each other?

So far none of the Klymit options look suitable for me, but I'm open to input. Anything I'm missing?

Richard R
(alaskaoneday) - MLife

Locale: Northern CA
Sleep comfort: Neoair Alternative on 10/03/2013 17:21:17 MDT Print View

PM sent

Max Dilthey
(mdilthey) - M

PM?! on 10/03/2013 17:48:08 MDT Print View

Aww :( share your wisdom with the rest of the class...

Javan Dempsey

Locale: The-Stateless-Society
Re: PM?! on 10/03/2013 17:54:33 MDT Print View

Richard kindly offered to let me borrow his Exped to try out. I asked him for some opinions, maybe he'll share them here.

I'm definitely considering the Exped Synmat UL 7 in LW (still wishing a manufacturer would make a regular length wide mat), and/or a Downmat.

I'm curious how the inflated specs line up, because the extra width of the stated specs could really mean a lot for me.

I'm also really curious to get some data on the R values and warmth. i.e. could I get by with a Synmat UL 7 in winter by adding a thin layer of CCF above or below?

Fred Eoff
(fredeoff) - F - M

Locale: Northwest
Synmat UL 7 on 10/03/2013 18:04:54 MDT Print View

I have comfortably used a Big Agnes Aircore pad with 1/4" CCF pad underneath (I think the consensus is that on top is even better) on snow several times. The Aircore is about R-1.5 and the Synmat UL 7 is R-3.1. Seems like it should work. And the Synmat UL7 is pretty highly thought of for summertime use.

Edited by fredeoff on 10/03/2013 18:05:36 MDT.

Richard R
(alaskaoneday) - MLife

Locale: Northern CA
Synmat UL7 on 10/03/2013 18:17:42 MDT Print View

The mat is 25" wide when inflated. Same with the Downmat UL. I have not used a Neoair but have used a Nemo Cosmo with horizontal baffles and I do prefer the vertical ones on the Exped. I do have my eye on the Synmat UL9 as it is thicker (3.5" vs 2.8") just to see if it is any more comfortable for side sleeping. The weight of the Synmat UL9 is pretty close to the DownMat UL and the R values are very close. I do have an Exped MegaMat 10 for car camping and love it but would have to hire someone to carry it for me if I wanted to use it in the back country.

Hiking Malto
(gg-man) - F
Wow on 10/03/2013 19:34:20 MDT Print View

Quite surprised with your experience. I have found the xtherm to be a little slice of heaven, comfortable and by far the warmest pad I have used. Please post what you end up using in the end. Very curious how it differs in design.

Javan Dempsey

Locale: The-Stateless-Society
Re: Wow on 10/03/2013 19:48:25 MDT Print View

I've got no complaints about the R-value of the Xtherm, except that maybe it's too warm for summer.

I think the issue I'm having is the narrower than advertised width, and the even narrower bottom. I'm mostly on my side, but I toss and turn. I keep feeling like I'm going to fall off the xtherm, but also, the lateral baffle tubes dont seem to let me find a low spot for my hip, even with it half-deflated, that combined with not being able to spread my legs at the bottom is killing my back.

To be fair, I favor a "soft" mattress too, or at least something soft on top of firm. If I could consistently sleep on my back that may change, but thus far, the hammock is the only place I can keep from rolling on my side or stomach.

I'm going to give the Exped Synmat UL 7 a try I think. I'll let you guys know how that works out.

Jennifer Mitol
(Jenmitol) - M

Locale: In my dreams....
Re: Synmat UL7 on 10/03/2013 19:53:03 MDT Print View

I've used both the synmat UL 7 and the downmat UL 7 and I love love love them. I like the vertical tubes, the fabric is comfy to sleep on, and the downmat is great for shoulder seasons with a quilt and a cold sleeper such as myself.

I like the slightly thicker side tubes that kind of cradle you in the middle of the pad...I am a very active, rotisserie sleeper and I never seem to fall off.

Steven Paris
(saparisor) - M

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Sleep comfort: Neoair Alternative? on 10/03/2013 20:58:23 MDT Print View


Two more pads with vertical baffles: the REI Stratus and the Big Agnes Air Core Insulated. I haven't used either, just pointing them out, as they may meet your needs as both are (I believer) cheaper than the Exped.

USA Duane Hall
(hikerduane) - F

Locale: Extreme northern Sierra Nevada
Sleep comfort: Neoair Alternative? on 10/03/2013 21:06:09 MDT Print View

I had the reverse comfort. A couple years ago before my WY Wind River trip, for giggles, I tried my GG Nightlight torso pad on a weekend bp trip. I was so sore because it was so hard and did not sleep well the one night out. I was trying to save weight since the Nightlight was my SMD packs support. I use a original NeoAir small and bought a XTherm last Spring for the coming snow camping season. I still don't sleep well, I'm a tosser, turner side sleeper. Good luck.

just Justin Whitson
Re: Sleep comfort: Neoair Alternative? on 10/03/2013 21:08:51 MDT Print View

Along those lines, i have a BAACI pad in great shape, that i would be willing to sell for 33 dollars. If interested, p.m. me. I can send pics etc. I find it pretty comfortable, but it is a somewhat heavier pad.

Sam Farrington
(scfhome) - M

Locale: Chocorua NH, USA
sleeping pads on 10/03/2013 21:12:58 MDT Print View

Javan, re: " I'm mostly on my side, but I toss and turn." + other info in your OP.

Me too, maybe moreso. I can't sleep on air mattresses because I feel like I'm lying on a bubble. All the bells and whistles, like on the NeoAirs, don't make any difference. And thin, closed cell foam pads don't cushion enough and leave me sore.

The alternative is the so-called 'self-inflating' pads, although they don't really self inflate anymore because the foam is perforated or partial in others ways to cut weight, and won't expand enough to inflate the mattress by itself in a short time. So I'll just call them hybrids - part inflatable & part foam.

Roger Caffin did an article here a year or two ago reviewing a number of the hybrids, including measurements of R value. As I recall, the Exped, Nemo Zor and the lightest Thermarest were the best rated, and the Exped had the best R value. Since I don't camp much in weather much below freezing, the Nemo Zor works best for me. The foam is less spongy and is much more comfortable for me than the Thermarest.
The Exped is heaviest, but the additional insulation would be needed for colder temps.

I just use a shorty, about 4 feet long, that covers me from shoulders to knees, a pillow made from a stuff bag and whatever I don't need to wear to keep warm in the bag, and light thinsulate booties that keep my feet warm. Because I'm constantly turning from one side to the other, I need a bag with a slick surface that will slide over the pad when I turn over, and so not require a pad much wider than 20". The MontBell spiral down bag is slick enough for this purpose, and the Nemo comes with silicone chevrons on the bottom to help keep it from sliding on the silnylon tent floor, so that has not been a problem.

I can have trouble sleeping due to all kinds of past injuries and arthritic pain (won't enumerate the parade of horribles), but the above arrangement works fine. Unlike trying to figure out how much to inflate the Thermarests, the Nemo works fine when inflated to its full shape without blowing in extra pressure. It only needs a few puffs.

At one time I had to use a hybrid Thermarest sandwiched in an outer cover with an open cell foam sheet just to get comfortable. Not only was it quite heavy to carry, but I don't need it now that I do stretching exercises learned in physical therapy, and refrain from inflammatory substances. In worst cases, I use an NSAID, Nabumetone because it has the least effect on the stomach, to keep inflammation at bay.

I understand that these types of pads can be miserable if the bond between the cover and the foam wears out. That hasn't happened with the Nemo so far.

Roger's article was excellent and I highly recommend it. If your membership doesn't cover access to articles, I think it would be worth the $20-25 annually. There are tons of articles in the archives that are just as valid today as the day they were written.

Hope this is helpful.

Edited by scfhome on 10/03/2013 21:22:46 MDT.

Stuart .

Locale: Mountains
Re: Sleep comfort: Neoair Alternative? on 10/03/2013 22:07:54 MDT Print View

My first inflatable pad was a Big Agnes Insulated Air Core. Compared with the current generation of pads, it's heavy and doesn't insulate well despite the name. Below 40F I was starting to feel chilled.

I swapped it out for the original NeoAir, which was a revelation as it was almost half the weight. But the horizontal baffles would collapse at the edges and I couldn't get comfortable.

Since, I've become a convert to Exped's UL line. I bought the SynMat UL 7 LW for myself, thinking I needed the extra width, and the Medium for my wife. After a few trips I left my pad at home and grabbed my wife's. The vertical baffles are much more comfortable, and the outer two are just that bit larger which help keep me on the pad. I'm a restless sleeper but I didn't feel the need for the LW pad and so I sold it and replaced it with a Downmat UL7 in Medium.

The SynMat UL is good on its own to mid 30s. Below that I add a GG 1/8" thinlight pad for an extra 10F insulation. But if I expect temps to go below 25F I reach for my Downmat UL.

Tom Clark
(TomClark) - MLife

Locale: East Coast
Re: Sleep comfort: Neoair Alternative? on 10/03/2013 22:12:52 MDT Print View

Goldilocks, ;)
Have you thought about combining an inflatable with a thin foam pad (e.g., 1/8" Gossamer Gear Thinlight)? It might provide a nice combination of warmth and cushion.

just Justin Whitson
Re: Re: Sleep comfort: Neoair Alternative? on 10/03/2013 22:23:45 MDT Print View

Below 40 degrees and you were getting chilled? The insulation in your pad must have degraded quite a bit by this time, because when mine was new, i took it out on some 20 degree nights and was fine with a sleeping bag and thermal clothes on (down jacket, warm pants). I am usually a warm sleeper though.

I do though, much prefer the Neo Air all season pad i primarily use now.

Stuart .

Locale: Mountains
Re: Re: Re: Sleep comfort: Neoair Alternative? on 10/03/2013 23:06:31 MDT Print View

That was a new BAIAC circa 2009. I was using an optimistically rated 15F bag that I've since switched out for a WM Alpinlite, and wearing Cap 2, which is my normal sleep wear and the standard I should have mentioned in my above post for context. Wearing a down jacket will clearly boost the temperature of any sleep system.

Stephen Komae
(skomae) - MLife

Locale: northeastern US
Q-Core on 10/04/2013 00:44:46 MDT Print View

Big Agnes Q-Core might be the ticket. If you are bothered by the horizontal baffles I'm not sure that vertical baffles would do you much better so the Q-Core has squarish baffles. It's a little on the heavy side (perhaps the Q-Core SL?) but super warm and inflates to 3" so you can get better depth and more comfort.

cody yochum

Locale: Nor Cal
REI Stratus? on 10/04/2013 01:10:04 MDT Print View

I really like mine, figured I would give it a shot since rei has a great warranty. 90 bux for the large pad, 1 lb 9 oz, vertical baffles, and a R value of 3. Probably a little heavy by bpl standards but I am like you I toss and turn and I sleep great on this pad.

Derek M.
(dmusashe) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Try out the BA Air Core SL on 10/04/2013 02:28:04 MDT Print View

I hear you with the comfortable sleeping thing being a big priority. It's the same for me. I too enjoy sleeping in a hammock, but rarely get to do it anymore since nearly all my current backpacking trips are with my wife (and I still haven't found a viable hammock camping solution for a couple).

Anyway, I recently purchased a Big Agnes Air Core SL and I really like it. For a super comfortable summer pad, it's hard to beat. It has a full 3.75 inch thickness and the fishbone baffling gives it a really nice ride (more like a bed). It's also not really crinkly like the neoairs.

It's only truly 19" wide when fully inflated (as compared to its stated width of 20"), but I actually find the width adequate for side sleeping. This is mainly because this pad has the largest usable width of any 20" wide pad I've ever tried out. You can actually get out right on the edge and it won't really collapse. Anyway, you could also try the long and wide version of the pad if you want extra width.

You might also try the Big Agnes Q-Core, as that's also a really comfortable pad that is more "bedlike" than neoairs due to the quilted baffling. I wouldn't recommend the Q-Core SL because it is much narrower than its stated width (by about 1.5 - 2 inches!). I just don't think that's gonna cut it for you as a side sleeper.

Good luck in your search for the right pad!

Edited by dmusashe on 10/04/2013 02:37:17 MDT.