The NeoAir XTherm is a 4-season, inflatable sleeping pad made by Therm-a-Rest. It comes in two shapes: regular (which is mummy cut) and MAX (which is rectangular). It also comes in two sizes: regular and large.
The NeoAir XTherm is the warmest sleeping pad offered by Therm-a-Rest, with an r-value of 5.7 when fully inflated to 2.5”. Over the years, Therm-a-Rest has developed a great reputation for making sleeping pads that stand up to their claimed warmth and the XTherm is certainly no exception. I’ve used my XTherm on snow and frozen ground and have not felt any coldness seep through. When you sleep on warmer ground, you will actually feel some of your body heat reflected back at you.
The regular-sized NeoAir XTherm weighs 15oz and has one of the highest warmth-to-weight ratios of any sleeping pad on the market. For an additional 2oz, you can get the rectangular MAX version which gives you a little more footroom and length. And for only 3oz more than the NeoAir XLite (which has an r-value of 3.2), you get almost double the r-value with the XTherm.
The XTherm is constructed using a 30D nylon ripstop fabric on the top and a 70D nylon fabric on the bottom. The top fabric has a slightly softer feel to it which is nice if you sleep naked or sleep without a pillow, but otherwise it really doesn’t matter. The bottom fabric is more robust and feels about as slippery as a silnylon rainfly. I have no concerns about durability given the excellent build quality and ruggedness of the XTherm. If anything, my tent floor or groundsheet is more likely to get a puncture. In any event, Therm-a-Rest includes a patch kit with this product which you can bring along and use for other field repairs as well.
Also included in the package is a small 0.6oz stuff sack and a larger 1.8oz pump sack. The pump sack has a plastic gasket that fits over the valve so you can inflate the XTherm by pushing air into it instead of blowing into it. It only takes me 10-12 pumps to fully inflate the pad. By mouth, it takes me 20-22 breaths to fully inflate the pad.
The NeoAir XTherm has an MSRP of $200 for both the regular and MAX versions. It costs an additional $30 to upgrade to the large size. At this price point, the NeoAir XTherm is one of the most expensive pads that you can buy. However, you definitely get what you pay for. Inflatable pads are generally more expensive than their closed-cell or open-cell counterparts, but tend to be more comfortable and more compact.
Now let’s talk about what I personally like and dislike about the NeoAir XTherm. I’ll start off with the features that I like:
- Warmth – In my opinion, this is the first reason why you buy a sleeping pad — to stay warm. In extreme conditions, the insulating ability of the XTherm will help keep you out of hypothermic situations. For more general use, being sufficiently warm is a huge contributor towards feeling comfortable. While it’s possible to use a really warm sleeping bag with minimal ground insulation, I don’t sleep well in that setup because of the coldness I feel beneath me and the extra warmth I feel on top. One of the best nights of sleep I’ve had in the backcountry was at -5 degrees F with an XTherm, a quilt rated to 10 degrees F, and of course some clothing.
- Comfort – When I consider how uncomfortable some lightweight sleeping pads can be, the XTherm feels like a luxury item. At the expense of just a few more ounces of weight, I get a lot more insulation and 2.5” of pad thickness. With the high r-value, I also have some wiggle room to deflate the pad to my desired softness without worrying about feeling cold from the reduced loft. Also, deflating the pad a bit helps to even out some irregularities on the ground. I once packed up my tent and was shocked to find that I had slept on an empty beer bottle that was covered by leaves. All I felt that night was a little coldness where the pad was fully compressed by the bottle.
- Durability – I’ve put my XTherm through the wringer and it still looks pretty new. It’s been everywhere: on rock beaches, tree roots, forest duff, snow, ice. Some people use extra groundsheets or even a closed cell foam pad as a precaution for their inflatable pad. I don’t see the need to do this for the XTherm.
- Packability – This pad is only a tad larger than some inflatables with half the r-value, and smaller than many others. It takes up about as much space as a 10×10 ultralight tarp.
- Color – As you may have gathered from my other reviews, I prefer muted colors for gear that tend to get dirty. So I like the colors on the XTherm. But more importantly, Therm-a-rest actually chose to use a more opaque material so you wouldn’t see if there’s any mold growing in your pad. Gross right? Well, one reason I use the pump sack is to reduce the amount of moisture and bacteria that I put into my pad. I have no idea if there’s any mold in there, but out of sight is out of mind.
Okay now let’s talk about what could be improved:
- Sizing – The regular-sized XTherm works for me, but just barely. I don’t mind the width — at 20 inches wide, that’s about as much as you’ll get with a lightweight pad. However, the XTherm is only 6 feet long, which is really the minimum length that supports my 5’9” frame and a pillow. If I move around too much, my pillow can fall off the pad (or I’ll fall off the pad). I bet there are a lot of folks who are taller than me who find this frustrating. Of course there are workarounds. But I feel like if I’m going to get a pad that isn’t long enough, I might as well get the half-length version of the XTherm (which unfortunately is no longer being sold) and use my pack to supplement my bottom half.
- Noise – One common complaint about the NeoAir mattresses is the noise that they make when you move around on them. They seem to get quieter over time though. Fortunately, the XTherm isn’t as loud as the XLite, but it’s still loud enough that I can hear the crinkling through my ear plugs. I’ve gotten no complaints from anyone else about it though.
- Deflation – The XTherm requires a little bit of work to deflate and pack up. Okay, what can I say? I’m a picky guy. I like to push these companies to come up with better solutions to our problems. In the meantime, my tip is to unscrew the valve when you wake up, so that as the pad deflates, you’ll gradually get colder and decide that it’s time to get out of bed.
For me, the NeoAir XTherm was a great purchase because I use this one pad year-round and in environments where night-time temperatures can drop drastically. I don’t need to buy a second pad to boost my r-value in the winter, nor do I need to purchase a warmer, more expensive sleeping bag to compensate for inadequate ground insulation.
If you’re an ultralighter, don’t write off the XTherm just because it’s a little heavier than some other options like the XLite. Go out and try one for yourself and then determine whether it will fit into your sleep system for the conditions you’ll encounter.