Rating: 2 / 5
This rating reflects use below 40° F. For summer use it could go much higher.
I have wanted to try the Therm-A-Rest Neoair (72"), hoping it would be both light and warm.
I've been thrashing between sleeping pad comfort, warmth, and weight. I also wanted to find a lower limit to a lightweight quilt. My wife is travelling so I can test sleeping gear on the back porch, getting up multiple times to swap gear or clothes with impunity.
When ground temperatures are above 45°F it's easy. A piece of generic ¼" blue closed-cell-foam (CCF) on a Big Anges Clearview, and a Montbell #5 Long, converted to a quilt, works for me. For ground temperatures between 45° and 30° I have used a ¾ Thermarest LE (2.5" thick, 25 ounces) and, this year, a Golite Ultra 20 for the top. I use the CCF for pack padding, for sitting around camp, and as part of my sleep system.
The back porch is brick under a 9' high roof. The brick sees little sunlight and is now about 38°. The roof affords relief from radiant loss, but does nothing for wind. On the first night, even though I was 12' from the west edge and 6' from the north edge, I got snowed on.
On both nights I started out warm, rested, well fed, and hydrated. I tend to sleep on my right side, but go to the left on occasion, which makes me a tosser and turner. Being rested is not an advantage. Being exhausted from a long trail day makes my nights go faster, and if well fed, warmer. I am a cool sleeper with an erratic thermostat.
For the initial setup for the first night I placed the #5 quilt over the Neoair in a Titanium Goat Ptarmigan bivy, all on top of the generic ¼" CCF. I started in tall trail socks, Montbell UL down pants, a REI lightweight long sleeved zip top, a Cocoon Hoody, and a fleece hat.
The night went like this -
As recorded on a Brunton WindPro, air temperatures were 38° to 35°. On several occasions I cross-checked temperatures with our cheap outdoor digital thermometer and they were within a degree of each other. It was breezy at times.
10:00 – 10:30
The Ptarmigan was to constricting with the Rectangular 2.5" thick Neoair, so I went to a MYOG bivy.
10:00 – 10:30
I was too hot in the Montbell UL Down Pants, so I went to old Capilene1 long johns.
10:30 – 12:30
Slept soundly. Warm on top. OK on bottom, but aware of the cool bottom.
12:30 – 04:00
Cold from the bottom woke me. Changed to the LE and the RidgeRest at 4am.
04:00 – 07:00
Slept OK. I had a cool spot at small of my back, regardless of which side I was sleeping on. Plenty warm on the bottom. So I slept on my back.
Throughout the night, until 4am, I paid attention to what felt warm and what felt cool. And the Neoair definitely felt cool. And the "down hip" felt the coolest. I inflate my pads only enough to avoid contact, so the down hip was only ¼" and maybe 3 layers of fabric away from the CCF and cold brick. "Radiation Barrier" and "Small Cells" aside, the Neoair didn't provide much insulation. When I went to the LE/RidgeRest there was a noticeable sensation of warmth on the bottom.
From four to seven my thoughts shifted to how well the #5 quilt was doing. And it did OK. If not for the cool spot in the small of my bag (mystery) I would say it did great.
The second night, expected to be colder, went like this –
Temperatures ranged from 35° to 25°, averaging 28° from 2am to 7am, including a dip to 25°. It remained calm all night.
For the initial setup I placed the #5 quilt in the MYOG bivy over the Neoair, all on top of generic ¼" CCF. A change from the first night was to firmly inflate the Neoair, to "use it as designed". Prior posts by Mr. Nisley suggest that an "overinflated" pad is a warmer pad.
I started in tall trail socks, Capilene 1 long johns, Montbell UL down pants, a REI lightweight long sleeved zip top, a Cocoon Hoody, and a fleece hat, and wore everything throughout the night.
10:30 – 03:00
Slept soundly. Became aware of the cool bottom.
03:00 – 04:00
04:00 – 05:00
Very aware of the cool bottom. Slept little. Changed to the LE and RidgeRest at 5am.
05:00 – 07:00
Bottom felt warm. Attention shifted to the #5 quilt on top. Slept OK, with some cool spots on top.
The Neoair definitely got cooler as the night progressed. Again, the "down hip" felt the coolest, over a larger area due to the firm inflation. I bailed when my thighs also began to feel cool. Given that it was about 10° colder than the preceding night, I would say that over inflation does make a difference. When I went to the LE/RidgeRest there was a noticeable sensation of warmth on the bottom.
From five to seven my thoughts shifted to how well the #5 quilt was doing. Temps during this period were recorded as 27° and 25°. Sleeping on my side my butt was the cool spot, but not enough of an issue to keep me awake. I slept well, which is amazing given that I had gotten up, turned on lights, reassembled gear, and rearranged on the porch pile. The #5 quilt worked well for me, though with considerable help from supplemental clothing.
Neoair noise was not an issue for me, the sleeper. It will be if my wife is trying to sleep beside me. The Neoair Is crinkly. But wearing a Hoody, in a bivy , under a rustling quilt, the Neoair blends right in. Even on the first night wearing just a fleece hat it was a non-issue. (But that owl continuously whistling 3 times a second ALL night long got a little old.)
The Neoair was comfortable. The magic is in the latitudinal versus lengthwise arrangement of the smaller tubes. I was surprised that I preferred the firm inflation. If I approached an edge I could feel things tipping, but I typically stay centered. I found it more comfortable than a Clearview or POE Ether minimally inflated.
Conclusion: Comfort and weight don't trump warmth. I'm still looking for that perfect air mattress.