Contemplating which mattress you’re taking on holiday is a serious business. I’ve found in that past that more than a few nights on the trot with a thin self-inflating mattress can be a pain in the back-side (literally) and because I tend to sleep on my side, can lead to waking up with dead arms more than once per night.
On a recent 2-week motorbike tour of Europe I chose the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Xlite for its balance of light weight, warmth and packability, and am happy to report that it was absolutely spot-on for me.
It’s not a self-inflating mattress but rather an inflatable mattress much akin to the ones we grew up on (or a lilo, if that’s your thing). The advantage of this is that there’s no foam to have to compress when you want to pack it down – you just squeeze the air out and it rolls up tight in to a pack of just slightly bigger than a Pringles tin. Traditionally though it’s been the foam in self-inflators which has acted as the insulator and kept you warm on cold floors. This has limited airbeds to summer use and those of a more hardy nature. The NeoAir Xlite gets around this problem by incorporating a reflective foil layer inside the air chambers which bounces your body-heat back at you and it works very, very well indeed.
I packed wholly inadequately for the motorbike tour and ended up sleeping several nights fully-clothed where cold breezes from every direction stole my warmth with the exception of the NeoAir which always remained warm underneath me. I have no doubt that without it I would have been too uncomfortable to sleep.
On the subject of comfort, the NeoAir Xlite inflates to a thickness of 6.3cm which is plenty enough for us who lay on our sides. I swapped mattresses for one night with a friend who was suffering with a sore back from his thin Multimat and he slept much better on the NeoAir.
The NeoAir Xlite is aimed at ‘fast-and-light’ travellers – backpackers and those who need a balance of comfort and carrying capacity. The overall weight of the standard sized Xlite is 350g (sod all) and despite its tapered shape it still affords a space big enough for me to sleep on my back or side without feeling like I’m going to pitch off.
The material of the Xlite is a very fine nylon with a TPU (?) coating which is sort of tacky-feeling. I didn’t like it at first but in actual fact this helps you not roll off if you’re in a shiny sleeping bag.
The Xlite is going to set you back around £100, which will make some of you go Youch. But I think that, after 2 weeks of sleeping on it, it’s worth that without question.
SUMMARY: A very lightweight, very comfortable and very warm inflatable mattress which packs down small. Ideal for backpackers, tourers or frequent solo campers, it is well sized (we tested the standard size) and well finished.