The Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite has long been a favorite among thru-hikers on the country’s Triple Crown trails. It packs small, weighs about 12 ounces—closer to 15 ounces when the stuff sack, inflation bag, and repair kit are included—and has proven to be durable. The 4.2 R-value ensures three-season warmth.
Therma-a-Rest NeoAir XLite At-a-Glance
MSRP: $184.95 (regular)
Tested Size: Regular
Weight: 12 ounces
R-value: 4.2 for the men’s XLite, 5.4 for the women’s XLite
LxWxH: 72″ x 20″ x 2.5″
Packed Size: 9″ x 4.1″
Color: Lemon curry
Circumstance of Use
I finally got on trail for multiday loop hikes in late September and early October this fall, after a COVID spring and summer of day hikes. I hiked alone and slept on the ground in a tent in Maine and Vermont. The XLite was comfortable, easy to inflate, and very packable.
NeoAir Xlite Features
Warmth: The 4.2 R-value is a sweet spot for a pad this weight. (The women’s pad has an R-value of 5.4, based on the assumption that women sleep colder than men.) Therm-a-Rest uses its ThermaCapture reflective technology to trap radiant heat inside the pad, while the Triangular Core Matrix construction minimizes convective heat loss.
In a nutshell, these technologies are designed to reflect your body heat back to you, rather than letting it flow to the cold ground. (Note: The 4.2 R-value is higher than the 3.2 of the old XLite because of new standards for R-value testing, not because of a redesign of the pad. See below for an explanation of the new R-value testing standards.)
Sizes / Weight: Pick the size that’s comfortable for you. All weights are for the pad only. Figure three more ounces for the stuff sack, inflation bag, and repair kit. All the pads are 2.5 inches thick.
- Small: 47 inches long, 20 inches wide, 8 ounces
- Regular: 72 inches long, 20 inches wide, 12 ounces
- Large: 77 inches long, 25 inches wide, 16 ounces
- Regular Wide: 72 inches long, 25 inches wide, 15 ounces
- Women’s: 66 inches long, 20 inches wide, 12 ounces
Comfort: 2.5 inches thick, with a baffled internal structure. I’m 5 feet, 10 inches, 170 pounds, and was comfortable with the 72-inch length and 20-inch width of a regular size pad.
Noise: For years the knock against the XLite has been that sleeping on it is as noisy as sleeping on a bag of potato chips. The pad is crinkly, but lying on it snug inside a mummy bag seemed to dampen the noise. I camped alone the nights I used the pad, so can’t address comments that the user doesn’t hear the noise but sheltermates or tentmates do.
Warmth: I’ve slept on pads that claimed to keep you warm in the 30s, but didn’t, even in a 20-degree bag. The XLite kept me warm in a 20-degree bag to temperatures in the 30s.
WingLock Valve: New on the XLite in 2020. Twist the wings for one-way inflation, then twist back in the morning to let out the air. The pad inflates quickly without losing air.
Pump Sack: Redesigned valve connection to fit the WingLock valve. But the sack inflates the pad just short of the firmness I like to sleep on, so I give it a few more breaths to get firm inflation.
Pump Sack or Blow into the Valve: I’m not fully sold on the pump sack because it’s just one more thing to carry and worry about losing. And I’m not sure it saves time or energy. Blowing into the valve-—even after a tiring hike—works just as well for me.
Horizontal Baffles: My previous pads have had vertical baffles that run the length of the pad, which seemed to keep me from rolling off. So I was apprehensive about the XLite’s horizontal baffles that run side to side. No problem. I stayed on the pad throughout the night.
What You Get: Pump sack, stuff sack, and repair kit included with pad.
Material: 30D rip HT Nylon, top and bottom. Durable as long as you use a ground cloth underneath or sleep in a tent.
Country of Origin: Manufactured in the United States using domestic and global materials.
Warranty: Limited lifetime warranty; defective products will be repaired or replaced. Normal wear or abuse are not covered.
Corporate Responsibility: Cascade Designs, the parent company of Therm-a-Rest, MSR, Platypus, SealLine, and PackTowl, has factories in Seattle, Washington, and Midleton, Ireland. The company says third-party auditors ensure that labor practices and working conditions are fair and reasonable when production elsewhere is necessary. In addition, Cascade Designs support conservation organizations.
Tell Me About R-Value
A new standard being used by sleeping pad manufacturers in 2020 ensures that everyone is on the same page when determining how well a pad protects you against heat loss.
The new testing for pads’ R-value is called SASTM F3340-18, and it measures how well a pad protects against heat transfer from a cold surface to your body. It’s important to note that R-value did not change, just the way that manufacturers are testing for it.
For instance, the old XLite’s R-value was 3.2; it’s 4.2 using the new testing.
R-value is a measure of thermal resistance, or how well a material insulates against heat transfer. With a sleeping pad, that means the higher the R-value, the less heat from your body gets sucked through the pad to the cold ground.
Before 2020, some manufacturers used temperature ratings for sleeping pads. Others used a variety of testing measures to come up with an R-value. The result? There wasn’t a standard measure of how warm a sleeping pad will keep you.
So now consumers can compare sleeping pads based on a standard measurement of R-value, without a dizzying array of temperature ratings and R-values arrived at through nonstandard testing.
Be aware that there’s no standard for R-value that will make you comfortable at a certain temperature. Some people sleep warm, others sleep cold.
But there are rough guidelines:
- Summer: 1 to 3
- Spring and fall: 3 to 5
- Winter: 5+
How are the ASTM R-values tested? R-value (resistance to heat flow) is measured by placing a hot plate on one side of a sleeping mat and a cold plate on the other. Electronic sensors then determine how much energy it takes to keep the hot plate at a consistent body heat.
If you camp in different seasons, it’s good to know that R-values are additive. So an R-value 2 closed cell pad under an R-value 3 pad would give you an R-value of 5.
And remember to factor in your sleeping bag when determining what R-value pad to use.
Therm-a-Rest says that a pad with an R of 4 is necessary to get the full warmth from your sleeping bag. So a pad with an R-value of 3 might not give you the full temperature comfort of a 20-degree bag. But an R-value of 6 might let you sleeping comfortably in a 20-degree bag if the temperature drops below that.
Warmth-to-weight: 4.2 R-value, 12 ounces. Few pads can match those numbers.
Comfort: Plenty of cushion.
Size: Packs small.
Pump Sack: Doesn’t fully inflate the pad. A few breaths blown into the pad are needed to give it a firm feel. Some users have reported that the pump sack disconnects from the valve, but I did not have that happen.
Noise: It’s a noisy pad, which I suspect is because of the insulation inside. The noise ranks with snoring for complaints by sheltermates.
Price: The XLite’s price is on the high end for pads in this category.
I like the weight and protection against cold ground offered by the XLite. It’s a comfortable pad to sleep on, and blowing it up doesn’t push me over the edge, even after a long day on trail. I slept on thin foam pads and three-quarter length pads for years, but after switching to a 72-inch pad there’s no going back for me. And the much-discussed noise of the XLite wasn’t an issue for me.
The XLite’s $184.95 price for a regular-size pad is a lot. Less-expensive pads are available in this category, but the XLite is hard to beat for warmth, weight, and durability.
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This product was donated for purpose of review.