Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite Sleeping Pad Reviews
The Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite Sleeping Pad is an insulated air mattress designed for three-season camping with an R-value = 4.2, measured using the new Outdoor Industry Sleeping Pad R-value Standard.
Weighing just 12 oz, the XLite is also lightweight, durable, and rolls up small, which explains its popularity with backpackers and campers. This new 2020 version has a new WingLock valve that provides faster inflation and deflation than the previous stick value used by the company.
Specs at a Glance
- Color: Yellow
- R-Value: 4.2
- Size tested: Regular
- Weight: 13.0 oz (Therm-a-Rest claims 12 oz, but my test mattress weighs 13 oz)
- Optional inflation sack: 2.0 oz
- Optional stuff sack: 0.4 oz
- Width: 20 in / 51 cm
- Length: 72 in / 183 cm
- Pad Thickness (Inflated): 2.5 in / 6.3 cm
- Packed dimension: 9 x 4.0 / 23 cm x 10 cm
- Top fabric type: 30d High Tenacity Nylon
- Bottom fabric type: 30d High Tenacity Nylon
How Much Sleeping Pad Insulation Do You Need?
Many people underestimate the importance of their sleeping pad in their overall sleep system. If you find you’re still cold with enough insulation topside, your pad is probably insufficient. For three-season camping, I recommend that people use a sleeping pad with an R-value between 3 and 4 if they sleep cold. R-values are additive, so you can also stack multiple pads together for more insulation.
Standardized sleeping bag temperature ratings assume that a person is using a sleeping pad with an R-value of 4. If you’re cold with your existing sleeping bag, I’d recommend upgrading your sleeping pad first before replacing it.
You can do this by stacking your current pad on top of an inexpensive foam pad like a Therm-a-Rest Zlite Sol, which has an R-value = 2, to see if it helps you stay warmer at night.
The NeoAir Insulation System
The Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite is designed to trap your body heat and reflect it at you when you sleep at night. It achieves this using a honeycombed construction of air baffles that are covered with a reflective metallic coating.
The result is a very thin and lightweight air mattress that rolls up to the size of a Nalgene bottle, making it very easy to pack. The same honeycombed baffles are used in all of the NeoAir pads that Therm-a-Rest makes, although it gives NeoAir pads a crinkly potato-shape sound that some people find disturbing at night.
The NeoAir XLite has horizontal baffles that are comfortable for back and side sleepers and the new WingLock valve, which is common across the NeoAir product line, including the NeoAir XTherm, and NeoAir UberLite sleeping pads.
While you can inflate the NeoAir XLite by blowing into its valve, Therm-a-Rest bundles a pump sack with the XLite and the other NeoAir pads that you can use instead.
New WingLock Valve
Therm-a-Rest redesigned and replaced the stuck valve used to inflate and deflate the NeoAir XLite at the beginning of 2020 with a new valve called the WingLock, but did not make any other changes to the design or construction of the XLite in this new version.
Older models of the XLite have been renamed “NeoAir XLite Sleeping Pad Classic Valve” to differentiate it from the current WingLock-enhanced XLite and are still available for sale on the Therm-a-Rest website at a discount. Most other retailers have not adopted this new naming scheme as of yet.
The WingLock Valve has two parts: a twisty black one-way valve, so air can’t escape while you blow up the pad and a pair of colored side wings that you twist to bypass the one-way mechanism to rapidly deflate the pad. There’s a slight learning curve to using it if you’ve used the “classic valve” which opened and closed with a simpler screw action.
Therm-a-Rest claims that you can inflate the XLite three times faster with the WingLock Valve, but I can’t blow mine up against any faster by mouth than the classic-valve XLite I own. While deflation is faster, you still have to roll up the XLite to force the air out, although it takes a little less elbow grease than before. I wish I could be more enthusiastic about the WingLock Valve, but it’s not an earth-shattering improvement over the classic valve in terms of inflation or deflation speed.
The NeoAir XLite Pump Sack
The 1-way WingLock Valve does make the pump sack included with the XLite more efficient to use, especially near the end of inflation, since the valve doesn’t permit air that you pump into the pad to escape. This was a problem with the old valve and old pump sack, where air would flow out of the pad when it got close to being fully inflated.
The new pump sack included with the XLite clicks onto a ring surrounding the top of the WingLock Valve, which is easier to mate than the pump-sack-to-valve-connection on the previous model.
The two remain connected until the pad starts to noticeably inflate and it twists itself out of the valve-pump sack connection. This never happens with the competitor’s pump sacks I own and I find the limited functionality of the XLite pump sack disappointing as well.
The NeoAir XLite has also been tested using the new R-Value Sleeping Pad standard and is now rated at R=4.2, up from the R-value of 3.2 for the previous model. While it sounds like the new XLite is more insulating than the previous model, it isn’t really.
The only thing that changed was the test methodology, which results in a higher reported value. The underlying construction and materials of the old and new pads remain identical, except the new valve, which does not affect the measured R-Value.
The Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite Sleeping Pad is a reliable, durable, lightweight, and high-R-value sleeping pad even though the WingLock Valve and Pump Sack included with the new model aren’t by themselves a huge improvement over the previous version.
If you decided not to use the new pump sack, you can still blow up the XLite by mouth and benefit from the reduced deflation effort provided by the WingLock valve.
What I find puzzling is why Therm-a-Rest went to all the trouble of developing a new valve when they could have used a pre-existing, 1-way, flush valve like those used by Sea-to-Summit, Exped, and NEMO without having to reinvent the wheel.
I understand the desire to have a uniqueness factor in your products, but the honeycombed reflective insulation found in the NeoAir pads is still without parallel in terms of weight-to-performance and a key competitive differentiator. I would have prioritized other innovations rather than a new valve.
Regardless, I still recommend using the NeoAir XLite for three-season camping and backpacking. It’s still remarkably lightweight and packs up small, making it very desirable for three-season backpacking and camping.
If you don’t care about the new valve or the pump sack, this is a good time to pick up a classic valve NeoAir XLite Sleeping Pad at a discount while they’re still available.
Disclosure: Therm-a-Rest provided the author with an XLite pad for this review.
May you also like: