When I first saw the NeoAir XLite from Therm-A-Rest I was really impressed with by everything - the size, weight and the performance it claims to give. I thought to myself this has to be tested without a doubt, this mattress could be a game changer when it comes to backpacking and could be a very strong contender when it comes to wild camping.
I took a NeoAir XLite when I went to Wales recently to test it whilst camping as well as using it to do a bit of wild camping. The first thing thought was great was the size when deflated, it’s no bigger than a litre bottle! So packing my bag couldn’t have been any easier, the mattress just sat on the top part of my rucksack. I will admit it felt a bit weird it not being rolled up and at the bottom part of the rucksack but I soon got used to it. The weight was also great - it only weighs 350g meaning it didn't add massive weight to my overall kit like some of the other mattresses I have had over the years (mainly all self-inflating). Once I arrived at the campsite and pitched my tent and the NeoAir XLite came into play. I took it out of the stuff sack it comes in and start blowing into it. Although it didn’t take long to blow up, it does take your breath away. I had to lay down on once I had finished blowing it up just to catch my breath. You might thinking that this sounds bad (which it kind of is) but the benefits you get out of it are amazing.
The first nights sleep is always the worst when I camp out - I can never normally settle, but I must say - I slept like a log! The structure of the NeoAir XLite is great, their Thermacapture (which traps your body heat) technology is great at keeping your core body temperature regulated and this means I didn't have to layer up that much, even on the coldest of nights. This, working with Therm-A-Rests Triangular Core Matrix (which minimizes convective heat loss) gives you a great night’s sleep. As I said before, I had to blow it up in order to get it to the right thickness but they fact that you get 6cm worth of thickness is brilliant considering how compact this is, giving you great comfort and stability. You get all of this from a mattress that is the same size if not smaller than a 1 litre bottle so having to blow it up a little I can’t really complain about.
When I rocked up at the meeting place for the wild camp everyone had pretty much the same layout - ie. roll mat rolled up at the bottom of their rucksack, they looked at me and was like - Shaun where is your roll mat? I then opened up my rucksack and pulled out the stuff sack that my roll mat was in, everyone was pretty impressed! We carried on with our day and ended on a nice spot to camp for the night in the wilderness. Once I had popped up my tent, out came the NeoAir XLite and I started to blow into it, the others couldn't believe that such a small item could was a big roll mat and were dubious about it providing a really comfortable night sleep. That night, sleeping in the wild I had made up my mind that I will never go back to a traditional camping mattress, and by the looks of things I might have converted some other people to the range.
My overall thoughts are that it’s small, lightweight and very comfortable. If you can afford the price tag then once you have bought one you will never look back. You could even say that this “tech” roll mat could even enter into the ‘glamping’ zone just for the comfort that it gives. The only really down side is, if you are used to self-inflating roll mats you might find yourself out of breath but once you get used to it and also have slept on it, that isn’t too much of a concern. Yes it’s a lot of money for a roll mat but let me ask you this - can you put a price on your own warmth and comfort when camping, especially if you do it a lot. On another point the NeoAir XLite is covered in Ripstop and has a HH (hydrostatic head) of ten thousand so it can take a fair bit of abuse and will keep you dry.