Therm-a-rest Neoair XLite NXT Sleeping Pad Review: Did The Best Just Get Better?

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Thermarest’s most advanced backpacking pad is now nearly silent to sleep on: Did the Neoair Xlite NXT just become the best ultralight on the market?
Therm-a-rest Neoair XLite - Introduction
As far as backpacking pads go, the Therm-a-rest Neoair XLite NXT is tough to fault.



The Therm-a-rest Neoair XLite NXT

– Price: $230 – $250
– Weight: 1.2 lbs/.54kg (regular wide), 1.3 lbs/.57kg (large)
– R-Value: 4.5
– Dimensions: 72” x 25” x 3”/183cm x 64cm x 7.6cm (regular wide), 77” x 25” x 3”/196cm x 64cm x 7.6cm (large)
– Packed Size: 11” x 4.6”/ 28cm x 12cm (regular wide), 11” x 4.6”/ 28cm x 12cm (large)
– Pad Type: Air
– What we like: Packable, versatile, durable.
– What we don’t: Not the lightest ultralight, pump sack needs work




The Wise Adventurer’s Verdict

Therm-a-rest Neoair XLite - TWA Verdict
Thanks to its host of updates, the Thermarest Neoair XLite NXT feels like a serious upgrade over the previous iteration.

This is the Wise Adventurer’s review of the Thermarest Neoair XLite NXT, field-tested, reviewed, and approved for all our fellow campers, hikers, and backpackers. 

The Neoair XLite is a pad that likely needs no introduction: Outdoor lovers have been toting one form or another of Thermarest’s flagship pad in their packs for years now, but they’ve always shared one common complaint: Sleeping on the XLite is like sleeping on a giant bag of potato chips. 

As one of the most notoriously crinkly and noisy pads in the history of backpacking, previous versions of the Neoair were almost tragic in this regard: They were lighter, more comfortable, and warmer than 99% of the air pads out there, but you could also hear them from clear across the campground. 

Thermarest claims to have changed all that with their latest iteration, the Neoair XLite NXT. They say the new pad is just as light, compact, and cozy as ever, but also improved in nearly every way, particularly on the noise front. 

Is the latest Neoair as good as the brand says, or is it all just marketing hype to lure us back into a noisy night’s sleep? We took the new XLite NXT into the field to find out ourselves firsthand. 

(Want to learn more about how we test our pads? You can read our pad testing methodology post for more details.)




Detailed Evaluation Of The Thermarest Neoair XLite NXT

Our team spent the last few months living with the Thermarest Neoair XLite NXT, splitting their time between weekend camping trips, overnight backpacking, and even a little motorcycle camping to boot. Our aim is to put the pad through all its most common use cases to get as much first-hand feedback as possible from a wide range of opinions. During this testing we took detailed notes on all the most important factors we look for in a sleeping pad including big-ticket items like comfort and packability as well as more detailed points like ease of use and long-term durability. 

Comfort

While there’s no shortage of marketing material out there claiming one backpacking pad to be more comfortable than the competition, at the end of the day they’re all basically just flat bags of air. As such, the only factors we’ve found that really impact their comfort are thickness, sleeping surface area, and the shape of a pad’s baffles. 

With that being said, we found the Thermarest Neoair XLite NXT to be one of the more comfortable options we tested this year, thanks largely to its three inches of cushion. Three inches means there’s plenty of space between you and the ground to sleep comfortably on your side, and small bumps in the ground aren’t felt in the slightest when you’re lying down.

Therm-a-rest Neoair XLite - Comfort
As far as air pads go, the Neoair XLite remains one of the most comfortable out there, especially in the new “MAX” size we tested.

Size-wise, we opted for the “MAX” version of the XLite, which swaps out the typical mummy shape with a more generous rectangle for added comfort. This shape is ideal if you’re sharing a larger tent or you have a two-person backpacking tent to yourself as it allows you to stretch out and roll around as you wish.

Some folks may prefer the raised side baffles found on pads like the Big Agnes Rapide SL or the “quilted” layout of the Sea To Summit Etherlight we tested the XLite alongside, but our testers found they slept about the same on any airpad we tested so long as it was at least 3-inches thick. 

With that being said, we will note that the XLite was baffled well enough to allow our testers to fine-tune its firmness without filling it to the max. There’s enough “give” left over in the design to let a little air out of the butterfly valve when desired, which cuts down on the firm feeling and helps keep the pad from feeling like a water bed or overfilled balloon. 

Weight And Packed Size

Both weight and packed size were highlights of our time with the NeoAir XLite NXT. Even in our large/MAX tester, which is the biggest and heaviest of the XLite NXT offerings, the pad still packed down to a completely serviceable 11” x 4.6” package, which is more than suitable for backpacking duty and only adds a bit of bulk in exchange for lots of extra sleeping area. 

Weight was the same story, as our test pad weighed in only slightly above one pound. For the record, the regular-sized mummy-style XLite NXT weighs in at a spritely 13oz and packs down about two inches smaller, so if you want a more pack-friendly version, Therm-a-rest has you covered. 

Therm-a-rest Neoair XLite - Weight and Packed Size
Even in the largest available rectangular version seen here, the Neoair XLite is impressively light and compact.

With that being said, we will note that between the three other rectangular air pads we tested the NeoAir alongside, it was outclassed only by the Nemo Tensor Ultralight Insulated, and beating both the Sea to Summit Etherlight XT Insulated and Big Agnes Rapide SL Insulated by a healthy margin. Each has its own pros and cons, mind you, but our testers felt that the Thermarest delivered the best balance of comfort, weight, and durability out of all the insulated pads in our testing. 

Insulation

The Thermarest Neoair XLite NXT packs a healthy 4.6 R-value, which makes it suitable for all but the most bitter cold conditions. This is a pretty standard value for a modern insulated air pad, but what makes the Neoair XLite stand out in this category is the way Thermarest brings the heat. 

The technology is called “Thermacapture” and it works by using a reflective coating applied directly to the surface material rather than using a separate layer of reflective film. The benefit of this approach is that it makes for a significantly quieter pad than we’re used to, which also handily solves our biggest complaint with the notoriously noisy XLites of the past. 

Therm-a-rest Neoair XLite - Insulation
The Xlite NXT’s three inches of air delivers warmth without the noise thanks to Thermarest’s unique reflective coating.

Interestingly enough, Thermarest claims that the total noise reduction over the outgoing model is a whopping 83.4% improvement, and our testers all agreed that the problem is completely and utterly solved. The Neoair consistently ranked as one of the quietest pads in this year’s field testing of the best sleeping pads and camping mattresses, which makes the XLite NXT a nearly flawless performer as far as ultralights go. 

Ease Of Use

Our testers found the XLite to be plenty user-friendly, although they also noted that several of the air pads in our testing slightly outclassed it in this regard. The main culprit is Thermarest’s unique “butterfly valve” design, which replaces the typical lay-flat valves of the competition with a chunkier plastic twist valve. 

If you’ve used Thermarest pads in the past, you’ll be more or less familiar with the design, but we found it to be a bit more involved when deflating or packing down the XLite. Our testers agreed that packing up the Thermarest typically involved a two-step process of first rolling all the air out of the pad, then folding it up and rolling it again more tightly, whereas the lay-flat valves in our testing could simply be deflated and rolled in a single pass. 

Therm-a-rest Neoair XLite - Ease of Use
The XLite is plenty user-friendly, but requires a bit more finesse when deflating and packing than some.

We’ll also note that fine-tuning the pad requires the valve to be unlocked and then slowly twisted to let out small amounts of air, whereas the competition’s lay-flat valves use convenient “press to deflate” buttons on their one-way valves that are more convenient for dialing in firmness. Some campers may prefer the Thermarest approach, as it works as a better fail-safe against accidentally deflating the pad, but we found ourselves leaning more toward the lay-flat designs. 

Durability

Durability was another highlight of the Neoair XLite, at least as far as the pad itself was concerned. Thermarest specs both the top and bottom surfaces of the pad with the same 30D ripstop nylon material, which walks a smart line between outright strength and ultralight performance. 

Therm-a-rest Neoair XLite - Durability
Durable ripstop construction, welded seams, and a burly single valve design give the Thermarest XLite NXT an edge when it comes to durability.

We spent plenty of time with the Neoair bouncing around our packs, and even spent a full week with one stuffed down into the saddlebag of a dirt bike without any durability issues to report. It’s probably not the kind of pad you’d want to risk sharing with a pet, mind you, but we all agreed it was plenty tough for the rigors of long-distance backpacking duty. 

The only caveat we’ll note here comes in the form of Thermarest’s included pump sack. We’re big fans of pump sacks when they’re light and functional, and while Thermarest’s take is certainly both of those things, the material feels noticeably thinner than any of the competition. Our testers also commented that the pump sack relies on simple stitching rather than the welded seams of competitor’s sacks, which makes it feel both less durable and less air-tight than others we’ve tested. 

Value

Pound for pound our testers felt the new Thermarest Neoair XLite XNT was a solid value overall. With prices for the mummy-style pads starting at $200 and topping out at $250 for the largest MAX model we tested ourselves, this pad is right in line with other premium ultralight options from other reputable brands. 

Where the Thermarest really distinguishes itself is as the “ultralight all-rounder” of the bunch. Typically the materials of other pads are either a bit too thin for peace of mind or a bit too beefy to pack down small, but the XLite NXT does a commendable job of splitting the difference while still being impressively compact and comfortable. 

Therm-a-rest Neoair XLite - Value
There are plenty of options out there for ultralight air pads, but we feel the Thermarest Neoair XLite NXT represents the best all-rounder with the fewest potential drawbacks.

The only place our testers felt the value of the Neoair really came into question was in comparison to some of the more budget-friendly alternatives out there like the dirt-cheap Klymit Static V or competitively priced REI Co-op Helix, both of which deliver similar warmth with only marginal drawbacks in terms of size, weight, or durability. 

What We Like

In short, pretty much everything that matters. The new Thermarest Neoair XLite NXT is thicker, warmer, and MUCH quieter than the outgoing model, and does it all without adding a single ounce or inch to the overall package. That will be enough to put the Neoair at the top of the list for all but the most weight-conscious backpackers, so if you’re carrying a full-sized pack, the XLite should be a serious contender. 

Therm-a-rest Neoair XLite - What We Like
This is a plus-sized pad that still delivers on outstanding weight and packability. Smaller sizes are available as well if space in your tent or pack is a major concern.

We found the Neoair’s three-inch thickness and unique insulation to be plenty comfortable on both warmer and cooler nights, regardless of whether we were on our backs, sides, or a little bit of both. Even in the largest “MAX large” rectangular size we tested the XLite in, this pad was still plenty small and compact enough to handle multi-day backpacking duty, and we felt the larger size’s minor concession in terms of weight and bulk would be a welcome compromise for solo hikers with a two-person tent to themselves. 

What We Don’t Like

Truth be told this was one of the most difficult pads we’ve tested in recent years to find fault with. Now that Thermarest has utterly solved their infamous crinkling, noisy insulation, the XLite NXT is hands down one of the best pads money can buy for just about anyone. 

Therm-a-rest Neoair XLite - What We Dont Like
Our only standout complaint with the Neoair XLite NXT is its pump sack, which many with forgo anyways.

We could complain that it’s a bit heavier than the Nemo Tensor insulated we tested it alongside, but we’d also point out that it feels a bit tougher as well. We could also point out that there are slightly more comfort-oriented “ultralights” on the market like the Big Agnes Rapide SL, but again, we’d be talking about both a heavier and bulkier pad. 

At the end of the day our only real complaint here is that Thermarest’s pump sacks leave something to be desired, both in terms of durability and overall build quality thanks to their leaky stitching. With that being said, we’ll also note that the sack still got the job done just fine every time we set up camp for the night, making the XLite NXT one of the best overall pads currently in production. 

Alternatives: 

  • Nemo Tensor Ultralight Insulated: Near identical comfort and warmth in a bit lighter and more compact package. Comes at the cost of some durability in the face fabric. 
  • Big Agnes Rapide SL Insulated: Extra thickness, comfort, and durability, in a slightly heavier and bulkier package. Typically a bit more budget-friendly as well. 
  • Klymit Insulated Static V: A dirt cheap pad delivering similar insulation for under $100. Lacks the Neoair’s tech and refinement, but gets the job done in the dirt just the same.  

The Bottom Line

It’s pretty high praise to have spent this much time with any piece of outdoor equipment and have zero real issues with it. Considering that we’re talking about a sleeping pad of all things, the Thermarest Neoair XLite NXT deserves some serious respect. 

Our testers all agreed that this was one of the most well-rounded pads we’ve had in the field, delivering equal parts comfort and packability without missing the mark on durability or ease of use. It’s a little expensive, and we’d sure love to see Thermarest upgrade their pump sacks to something more like the Nemo Vortex, but we believe the new Neoair XLite NXT absolutely knocks it out of the park as an ultralight sleeping pad. 

After having spent many nights either waking up our friends or being woken up by them rolling around on crinkly Thermarests in the past, we’re excited to see this pad has finally come into its own as a true flagship product. 

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