Therm-A-Rest Neoair Xtherm NXT Sleeping Pad Review: PCT Tested & Approved

Written by

We took the Therm-A-Rest Neoair Xtherm NXT on a little 2,650-mile hike to see if it’s truly the best sleeping pad money can buy for backpacking.
Therm-A-Rest Neoair Xtherm NXT Sleeping Pad Review - Introduction
What better way to test an ultralight backpacking pad like the Therm-A-Rest Neoair Xtherm NXT than a six-month walk in the woods?



The Therm-A-Rest Neoair Xtherm NXT

– Price: $239
– Weight: Regular: 1.0 lbs (0.45kg), Large 1.25 lbs (0.57kg), Regular wide: 1.25 lbs (0.57kg)
– R-Value: 7.3
– Dimensions: Regular: 72” x 20” x 3” (183cm x51cm x 8cm), Large: 77” x 25” x 3” (196cm x 64cm x 8cm), Regular wide: 72” x 25” x 3” (183cm x 64cm x 8cm)
Packed size: Regular: 9” x 4.5” (23cm x 11cm), Large: 11” x 5” (28cm x 13cm), Regular wide: 11” x 5” (28cm x 13cm)
– Pad Type: Air
– What we like: Lightweight, packable, warm, and tough
– What we don’t: Expensive, some durability concerns




The Wise Adventurer’s Verdict

Therm-A-Rest Neoair Xtherm NXT Sleeping Pad Review - TWA Verdict
The Xtherm in its element in the mountains of northern California.

When it comes to outdoor exploits, few achievements carry as much weight as completing a thru-hike of the western United States via the Pacific Crest Trail. With over 2,500 miles of beautiful (and often treacherous) scenery ranging from the arid deserts of Southern California to the lush green forests of the Pacific Northwest, a PCT thru-hike is arguably the ultimate testing ground for any piece of outdoor kit. 

Well, we’re proud to announce that one of our most dedicated testers, Jean-Claude, has just wrapped up his first successful attempt at the PCT, and lucky for us, he was more than willing to do a little gear testing along the way. For three months and over 1,000 miles, he carried one of the most revered backpacking pads on the market, the Therm-A-Rest Neoair Xtherm NXT, and took no shortage of detailed notes on its performance in the backcountry. 

Therm-A-Rest Neoair Xtherm NXT Sleeping Pad Review - TWA Verdict 1
Our tester Jean Claude taking in the views from a PCT summit.

So what makes the Xtherm so desirable? Well, for starters we’re talking about a bonafide-ultralight sleeping pad that weighs in at just one pound but still manages to pack enough insulation for below-freezing temperatures. As if that’s not enough to pique anyone’s interest, the Xtherm also packs down to nearly identical dimensions as Therm-A-Rest’s ever-popular Neoair Xlite.

After spending over 100 nights straight sleeping on the Therma-A-Rest Xtherm NXT, we’re convinced we’ve left no stone unturned in thoroughly stress-testing this thru-hiking favorite. Here are our detailed notes on what to expect about the Therm-a-Rest Neoair XTherm, one of the best sleeping pads money can buy. 




Detailed Evaluation Of The Therm-A-Rest Neoair Xtherm NXT

Needless to say, our testing of the Xtherm NXT was about as extensive as it gets. This sleeping pad is intended for use at high elevations, extreme cold, and snow, so those are exactly the conditions we subjected it to during our testing. This hands-on approach allows us to carefully evaluate all the crucial elements campers depend on in the backcountry including comfort and warmth as well as overall user-friendliness and durability.

Comfort

We tested the Xtherm in both regular and wide varieties and found comfort on both pads to be an absolute highlight. The Xtherm benefits from the same three-inch thickness and super-stable horizontal baffles of the Therm-A-Rest Neoair Xlite we tested it alongside this year, and delivered reliably restful sleep anywhere and everywhere.

Therm-A-Rest Neoair Xtherm NXT Sleeping Pad Review - Comfort
Despite its impressively packable design, the Xtherm still manages to work a full three inches of stable cushion between you and the ground.

We were particularly impressed with the sleeping pad’s weight distribution throughout our long stint on the Pacific Crest Trail. Our testers noted that Therm-A-Rest’s baffles did a great job of cutting down on the usual bounciness associated with inflatable sleeping pads. We also noted that due to the Xtherm’s elevated insulation (more on that below), it was a perfectly comfortable solution when sleeping directly on top of snow, although an appropriately insulated sleeping bag was also a crucial part of the equation. 

After thousands of miles and several months of rigorous daily use, we only have one complaint to share in terms of comfort: Noise. Our PCT tester noted that after his first 45 days on the trail with the Xtherm, he noticed the pad seemed to be growing noisier by the day. While the pad never lost any of its physical comfort, we believe this is due to one of the pad’s two layers of reflective insulation “loosening up” over time, which slowly added a crinkly/crunchy soundtrack to our nights with the Xtherm. 

Weight And Packed Size

The Neoair Xtherm NXT is both light and packable by even the most stringent standards. It weighs in at a pound even (in our regular-sized tester) and packs down to the same size as your typical three-season backpacking or camping pad. 

Keeping that in mind, our testers were absolutely blown away that a sleeping pad this packable also comes with enough insulation to sleep comfortably in the coldest climates. In fact, we’d be remiss if we didn’t point out that no other pad on the market actually manages the same feat as the Xtherm NXT. 

Therm-A-Rest Neoair Xtherm NXT Sleeping Pad Review - Weight and Packed Size
The Therm-A-Rest Neoair Xtherm NXT’s shocking small packed size makes it a one-size-fits-all pad for the full-spectrum of fast and light adventures.

There are a few close competitors out there like the Nemo Tensor Extreme and Exped Ultra 7R, but both alternatives exceed the 1-pound mark, and both rely on razor-thin 20D fabric construction to do so. As of this writing, no single pad on the market has yet to deliver the packability of the Xtherm without a major compromise either in weight, packability, or durability, and until that time comes, we have zero complaints with the Therm-A-Rest here. 

Insulation

As you’d probably guess from reading our impressions above, we’re huge fans of the Xtherm’s insulation. A pad this light, durable, and warm seemed utterly impossible just a few short years ago, and we can’t overstress just how impressive Therm-A-Rest’s accomplishment is here. 

In addition to our testing along the Pacific Crest Trail, we also had occasion to bring the Xtherm along on some snow-intensive backcountry ski trips, and the pad has yet to leave us wanting when it comes to warmth. The Xtherm’s whopping 7.3 R-value has now kept us warm on several feet of snow in excess of 10,000 feet of elevation: what more could we ask for?

Therm-A-Rest Neoair Xtherm NXT Sleeping Pad Review - Insulation
We’ve had the Xtherm in deep snow and at considerable elevation: Make no mistake, this pad delivers as advertised anywhere on the planet.

Therm-A-Rest accomplishes this feat using the same ThermaCapture reflective film technology found in the XLite pad, albeit with a double layer for added heat retention. As noted above, one of our two test pads did experience an issue with one of these reflective layers coming partially loose inside the pad. This didn’t seem to affect the pad’s comfort or insulating properties, but it did make the pad a bit noisier. We’ll also note that this was after about 45 nights of straight use, which will take most campers several years to rack up. 

Ease Of Use

Put simply, we had zero complaints with ease of use during our testing of the Xtherm. Despite its added cold-weather chops, the Xtherm is just as user-friendly as the Xlite three-season pad we tested it alongside this year, which makes it tied as one of the most user-friendly pads on the market. 

We had no issues when inflating or packing down the Xtherm. The pad folds and rolls up easily, thanks largely to its lack of any actual synthetic or down fill. Some of our testers prefer the lay-flat valves utilized by brands like Nemo and Sea To Summit, while others felt Therm-A-Rest’s unique butterfly valve system was the easier and more convenient of the two. Neither felt particularly strongly on the subject, so to each their own. 

Therm-A-Rest Neoair Xtherm NXT Sleeping Pad Review - Ease of Use
Despite its heavy-duty insulation, the Xtherm folds up and packs down as easily as any three-season ultralight.

The one place we’d mention the Xtherm could stand to improve would be its pump sack. While Therm-A-Rest’s pump sack is fully functional, it’s made from a relatively thin fabric held together with simple stitching rather than the welded seals used by brands like Big Agnes and Nemo. Granted, many backpackers don’t use pump sacks to begin with (our tester Jean-Claude counted quite a few left behind in free gear boxes along the PCT this year), but if there’s one thing spoiling this pad’s otherwise clean record, the pump sack is the culprit. 

Durability 

We found durability to be another highlight of our time with the Xtherm, due largely to its incredibly tough 70D nylon bottom fabric. Therm-A-Rest says they intentionally incorporated this fabric into the Xtherm for “extended expedition use” and our time spent sleeping along the PCT confirmed this. 

We found the rest of the pad to be tough and well-made as well, from the elevated 30D top fabric to the rock-solid welding along the perimeter of the pad. The same goes for Therma-A-Rest’s trademark butterfly valve, which is a bit bulkier than the lay-flat designs of its competitors, but also a bit more robust. 

Therm-A-Rest Neoair Xtherm NXT Sleeping Pad Review - Durability
An extra tough 70D bottom means the Xtherm is right at home sleeping directly on the ground when called upon.

We did manage to pick up a slow leak out on the PCT after roughly 90 days of use, most likely due to a small puncture picked up somewhere near Lake Tahoe. The leak was manageable after some field repairs, but ultimately we ended up replacing the pad for the second half of the trek. 

It’s a bit of a bummer for such a premium (and premium-priced) pad, but at the end of the day, punctures and leaks are the risk you run anytime you hike with an air pad. We ended up opting for a Nemo Tensor for the second half of our journey to mix things up a bit, but we don’t really fault the Xtherm from a durability standpoint either. 

Value

The Therm-A-Rest Xtherm NXT is an expensive pad made for big adventures, and all things considered, we felt it delivered solid performance for the money. We found the Xtherm to be comfortable, exceptionally warm, and shockingly packable, which is a goldilocks description worth paying for. 

Therm-A-Rest Neoair Xtherm NXT Sleeping Pad Review - Value
The Xtherm is built for big adventures, but we did manage to spring a link with extended heavy use.

The only potential caveat to the Xtherm’s objective value for us is durability. We don’t love that the Xtherm picked up a leak mid-trek, especially considering its 70D bottom fabric is intended to prevent just that scenario. We’ll also note that the separation of the Xtherm’s reflective layers was a bit of a bummer, and although the pad continued to insulate as designed, we didn’t relish the added noise factor after 12+ hour days of hard work out on the trail. 

At the end of our field test, one of our pads had survived unscathed, while the other left us with a few lingering concerns. With a bit more cautious use, we believe the Therm-A-Rest may very well have survived all 2,600+ miles of the PCT, but it’ll be a while before we test that hypothesis again. 

What We Like

No other pad on the market delivers the Therm-A-Rest Xtherm’s combination of packability, comfort, and warmth without any weight penalty to speak of. Some pads come close, but they also compromise on material quality where the Xtherm doubles down with a beefy 70D nylon base.

Therm-A-Rest Neoair Xtherm NXT Sleeping Pad Review - What We Like
Comfortable nights in uncomfortable conditions: This is where the Therm-A-Rest Neoair Xtherm NXT thrives.

To have this much performance pack down to essentially the exact same size as a three-season pad is a major plus in our book. The Xtherm costs a pretty penny, but we felt that we were truly getting cutting-edge technology for our money, which made such a large investment feel justified.

What We Don’t Like

Durability is the main concern we have with the Xtherm after our extended field test. Granted, we subjected this pad to some pretty extreme use out on the trail, but at the end of the day, that’s what ultralight pads like this are meant for in the first place. 

Therm-A-Rest Neoair Xtherm NXT Sleeping Pad Review - What We Dont Like
Despite the extra thick underside of the Xtherm, we still managed to pick up a puncture along the PCT.

All air pads run the risk of punctures, tears, and leaks, but we had high hopes for the Xtherm as a flagship product that promised industry-leading durability for its weight class. Ultimately we’d still recommend the Xtherm to anyone going on serious backpacking missions in cold weather, but we’d also recommend you treat it like any other leak-prone air pad despite its extra thick bottom fabric.

Alternatives: 

  • Nemo Tensor Extreme Ultralight: A similarly compact pad that packs a thicker 3.5” width and an even warmer R-value of 8.5. Packs down to similar dimensions, but weighs a bit more. Check at REI…

The Bottom Line

The Therm-A-Rest Neoair Xtherm NXT is one of the most impressive sleeping pads money can buy. Its outstanding combination of low weight, high packability, extreme insulation, and comfort are tough to beat at any price, but during the testing, we were also reminded that all air pads are vulnerable to failure when subjected to extreme environments. 

While there are a handful of serviceable alternatives to the Xtherm, none of them are objectively “less vulnerable” to leaks and punctures, as all of them are made from considerably thinner materials. If you’re looking to travel light and sleep in the cold, the Xtherm is still arguably the king of the four-season ultralights, but you’d be wise to treat it with care both inside and out of your pack.

Leave a Comment