Fare-The-Well, Original NeoAir…

Out with the old, and in with the new… This is what Therm-A-Rest has recently done with the popular NeoAir series of pads. A few years ago it started with the original NeoAir (as seen in the picture above) and since then Therm-A-Rest has introduced updated versions of this pad. Now it is to the point that there are so many versions of this pad, Therm-A-Rest obviously felt that it was time to start cutting some from the line, unfortunately starting with the original version…

This matters to me because ever since that first time I inflated my original NeoAir, threw it on the floor and plopped down on it, I have been a much happier camper! I was instantly impressed at how much more comfortable this pad was as compared to any other pad that I either own or have tried out in stores. Not only was it plush and very comfortable, but it was also a true full size, rectangular cut pad. When real comfort is a concern, I do not care for either shorter-than-me air pads, and especially for mummy-cut pads. (Score:1 & 2)

What immediately made this pad even better though is when I threw it on my scales. My regular size (20″ x 72″ rectangular cut) NeoAir came in at a paltry 13.8 oz (can we say “light-weight“)! So, not only was this pad full-size and super-comfy, but it was a full 10 oz lighter than the lightest of my other sleeping (air) pads. (Score: 3)

One thing I needed to find out, which I couldn’t do at that moment and in my home, was to find out if it will keep my back-side warm (which is actually the main purpose of a sleeping pad, yes, even over comfort). Long story short, in my neck of the woods, the NeoAir has proven (time after time) to keep my rump warm, on its own, to temps in the mid 20’s (F). As well, by simply adding a (1.7 oz, 20″ x 59″) 1/8″ thick Gossamer Gear ThinLight pad to the TOP of my NeoAir I can easily extend that warmth down to near the single digits (which is as cold as it will get where I live and hike at). (Score: 4)

The last thing of concern with an air-pad is durability. I will not try to pretend that the Original NeoAir is a super-durable pad, but the fact of the matter is, it is as durable as it needs to be, nothing more, nothing less. All I can say is that at this point (with about 80 nights of use, probably more) I have not experienced any issues with the pad, no leaking at all. I do take precautions before setting the pad down by clearing the area that I intend to use it on, as well as by using a ground sheet or something under the pad (as I do with any air pad) before using it. So, I cannot fault the NeoAir for being anything less than durable. (Score: 5)

So, as can be seen by my scores, what I have in my Original NeoAir is a 5 star sleeping pad.

  1. The original NeoAir is truly full size in width, length and none of this mummy-cut crap.
  2. The original NeoAir is more comfortable for me than any other air pad (I credit this to the horizontal chambers rather than the vertical chambers on other pads, which to me feel like a pool toy).
  3. The original NeoAir is very lightweight (rather than being weighted down with more insulation and super heavy materials, which I do not need).
  4. The original NeoAir has proven to keep me warm in my general stomping grounds. I do add in another sleeping pad to get me to the coldest of temperatures I may experience, bus this extra pad is actually the frame for my pack, so this actually benefits me by being able to use the pad frame as part of my sleep system (dual-use!). If I do not need the extra pad on top of the original NeoAir to increase the thermal efficiency of my sleeping system, I can use it beneath the original NeoAir as extra protection, so it is still a multi-use item.
  5. The original NeoAir has proven to be as durable as it needs to be and no less. Although, I do take the required precautions before actual use, which IMO, should be done with any air pad, despite how robust the materials may be…

Now, my original NeoAir is still holding out and I have no reason to believe that it is anywhere close to the end of its life, but the fact of the matter is, nothing last forever so one day I will have to face the fact that my NeoAir will give up the ghost. My problem then will be to find a replacement. This is where my problem lies as I have been living happily knowing that if anything were to happen, between REI (where I purchased mine) and/or Therm-A-Rest (Cascade Designs) that I would be able to have the pad repaired, or simply replaced. Now though, since the original is not being made anymore and REI has obviously cleared out their stock of this pad, a replacement is not an option. For this reason I really plan to embrace my “perfect” pad until its dying day, however, that did not keep me from wondering what will happen on that day. So, I emailed Therm-A-Rest about this. Here is the reply I received:

Chad,

We have discontinued the original NeoAir pad.  If you were to have a leak in the pad, we would first try to repair it, but if that were not an option, then we’d replace it with an XLite.  If you indicated in a note that you didn’t like the tapered shape of the XLite, then we could work with you to find a pad that worked, but those pads are all that we are working with.

My personal thought would to go with the All Season, as it is the warmest and at 9oz heavier….it doesn’t exactly break the bank (or the back) in the weight department.

Thanks,

Chuck Kollin
Cascade Designs, Inc. | 800.531.9531
MSR | Therm-A-Rest | SealLine | Platypus | Hummingbird

To be honest, this was not really good news to my ears, but then again, it is what I expected. So, it looks like my alternative will be to sacrifice some comfort due to the shape (or actually size IMO) if I ever have to replace the original with the XLite. Or, despite Chuck’s comment on breaking the back, I will have to gain back a large amount of extra (unneeded) weight if the All-Season were to replace my original NeoAir. (But to be fair, Chuck’s math is not correct either, at least when comparing a regular size of each pad. In this case, there will only be a 5 oz difference between the regular size original NeoAir and the NeoAir All Season – 14 oz vs 19 oz.)

Both of these issues (shape and weight) are important to me, which is why I love the original design in the first place. I like the rectangular cut so that I can spread out if I want and I like the light-weight because, well, it is light-weight. I have spent a lot of money, time and planning to get my pack weight down to where it is, and IMO, by suggesting that adding in a full 9 more oz (more than half a pound) would not break my back is a bit of thoughtless projection. Adding in a full 9 more oz may be ok for a “traditional” style backpacker, but for me, well, 9 oz is more than the weight of my backpack alone… So, while the actual weight would definitely not break my back, in my case, it is not necessarily a sensible solution either. Not to mention that this pad (All-Season) is much too insulated for me in my typical hiking areas for all but about maybe 3 months of the year.

So, sad to say, it is right about here that my love affair begins to crumble with Therm-A-Rest. I know that they have to please the masses though, so I guess I cannot say that I blame them for continuing to move on, but it just really saddens me as to what Therm-A-Rest now offers for sleeping pads, at least when it comes to my needs as well as knowing what the DID offer. On the flip-side, I can probably imagine that somebody, somewhere else, is loving the fact that one of the new pads are out because they fit their needs perfectly too… So, I gotta be happy for them too…

So, in case you are not familiar with the other pads, here is a quick listing (with some of my thoughts on them ~ although keep in mind, I do not own, nor have I, any of these listed below):

  1. The NeoAir Trekker was first introduced after the original version. The Trekker in a size regular (20″ x 72″ x 2.5″) uses a heavier, more durable outer material than the original NeoAir offers (which some may see as a good thing, but not necessary IMO). However, the downfall of the Trekker is the much heavier weight of the pad, a whopping 20 oz (in a size regular) along with the fact that the Trekker even offers a lower R-Value** than the original. Despite what a few others may say, this IMO was a huge failure on Therm-A-Rests’ part… If they wanted to make such a heavier pad, it should have offered more thermal efficiency as well as extra durability.  Like I mentioned earlier, I find the durability on the original is what it needs to be and no more. In the case of durability, the Trekker offers more than what it needs, with absolutely no other benefits (in fact decreased benefits in terms of warmth) but a much heavier weight penalty. IMO, the Trekker should have been cut from the NeoAir line-up as it does not have as much to offer as the other pads, including my fave, the original. Just looking at the fact’s will prove this point.
  2. The NeoAir All-Season was the next version to be released, and despite my rants above, I do feel like they got this pad right! In a size regular, the All Season weighs in at 19 oz. (Hey, that’s lighter than the Trekker!) However, what separates the All Season from the Trekker is that it makes up for the weight increase (keep in mind though, the All Season weighs less than the Trekker) by increasing both the durability of the pad as well as almost doubling the warmth offered over the original NeoAir (and way more warmth the Trekker). Saying this, the All Season would be a true “winter” pad for me in the Southeastern US, and one day I plan to own one of these pads for this specific reason. However, I still stick to the fact that the All Season is way to much pad for the rest of the year, both in terms of weight and warmth. So, for this reason, it is not a well-rounded pad and is more geared towards certain conditions. (In the same respect, why would I want to carry a 0 F sleeping bag in the middle of summer when temperatures are 100+ F?) But, when I said above “If they wanted to make such a heavier pad, it should have offered more thermal efficiency as well as extra durability” the All Season is the pad that they should have started out with, not the Trekker.
  3. The NeoAir XLite is one of the more recent sleeping pads that Therm-A-Rest has made available. They quite literally cut some corners to get this sleeping pad lighter than the original NeoAir as well as went back to using lighter weight, less durable materials, however, they also managed to improve on the R-Value** slightly. The XLite in a size regular is listed to weigh in at a scant 12 oz (2 oz lighter than my original)! Simply due to these features, the XLite has definitely turned some heads. This is also the pad that Chuck stated would be the replacement pad for the original NeoAir from this point on (or I guess until the XLite gets phased out too…) I will admit though that my problem with this pad is a bit nit-picky since it is actually lighter than my original NeoAir and warmer, but like I said, they cut corners…and that is what I do not want. I find the rectangular-cut pads to be more comfortable than the rounded, mummy-cut pads. Since I know that these pads (or at least my original NeoAir) works for me in terms of warmth, I feel like I can now be nit-picky about the comfort issues. Saying this, the rounded corners are not ideal for me…
  4. The NeoAir XTherm is the most recently introduced version to the NeoAir line-up. It offers the highest R-Value** of any of the other pads in the NeoAir line-up, and is listed to weigh 4 oz lighter (both in a size regular) than that of the All Season! However, to create such a light-weight pad, here again they used less durable materials (which I am fine with) as well as cut more corners. So, as with the XLite, the actual shape (mummy-cut) of the pad is what turns me off. (Why can’t they offer these in a rectangular-cut?!) But, here again, same as the XLite, the XTherm is a very interesting pad. It is listed to have a 5.7 R-Value and weigh in at only 15 oz (only 1.2 oz more than my original). These pads are very much brand new to the market as far as I know though, so it will be interesting to watch out for reviews to see what people think of them…

So, 3 of the 4 pads now offered in the NeoAir line-up are quite interesting pads, although they just don’t suit my needs like the original NeoAir does. Honestly, in my opinion, the Trekker should be scrapped and put the original NeoAir back into production, or keep it if so desired. But, I just feel like it has nothing to really offer when compared to other pads. I feel like Therm-A-Rest has simply tried to make a more “affordable” pad by using heavier materials and nothing more in the Trekker. But then they forgot to make it affordable! I feel like the $120 asking price for a Trekker in a size regular is a rip off. I would say $60 for this uninsulated, heavy beast of a pad may be more in line…although I still would not pay that much for it.

So, as I said, for the time being I will cling tightly to my original NeoAir for it is truly the perfect pad in all respects for me and my needs. Because I cherish my sleep while on my backpacking trips as much as I do a lightweight pack the original NeoAir has easily become one of my most prized possessions inside my backpack while on a trip. So thanks to Therm-A-Rest for once upon a time making this perfect pad, and may you see the light and start making it again…

Until then, thanks for reading!

~Stick~

**R-Value is a measure of thermal resistance and is what is used to rate sleeping pads. A sleeping pad needs to keep your precious warm air close, and the cold air in the ground at bay. In theory, the higher the R-Value, the warmer it will keep a user. Using the R-Value is a great way to compare pads, especially foam pads. But when it comes to air pads, in my opinion, it seems to be a bit more involved. There are so many different factors at play (ambient temperatures vs actual ground temperatures, materials under the pad {leaves, dirt, rocks, snow, etc…}, the top sleeping system used with the pad, clothes worn and of course how each person sleeps), that any given pads actual warmth is too subjective. I find the best way to measure a pad’s warmth is by simply using it and finding out how it performs for you with your own gear and in the conditions you hike in. 

Disclaimer: There are a lot of different sleeping pads out there, and we all have our favorite for one reason or another (or in my case, for all reasons). I am not saying that the original NeoAir is the perfect sleeping pad for anyone but myself. It saddens me that they are no longer being made and now I fear the day I need to find its replacement. These feelings are what prompted me to write this entry. So please do not take this for anything more than what it is, how I feel about my original NeoAir.

About Stick

My blog is essentially a record of my hiking career. Through it, I, and others, can see how I have evolved from a heavy weight backpacker, to a smarter, more efficient, lightweight backpacker. Through the use of video, still photos, and of course writing, one can see my progression, as well as check out some of the places I hike, and not to mention some cool, lightweight gear options. For me, my blog is a journal, but for others, I hope that it is an interactive learning tool to aid them in their own progression towards lightweight backpacking.
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25 Responses to Fare-The-Well, Original NeoAir…

  1. Pingback: JMT Trip Planning: Sleep System’s | Stick's Blog

  2. Was handed down a lightly used one of these from my father, will be using this instead of the pool-toy REI flash pad I got at the garage sale so thanks for showing me the good points. I was about to sell it, maybe you can keep an eye out on eBay and snag a backup to keep in the closet. Happy Trails!

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  3. Pingback: Exped SynMat UL7 Sleeping Pad Review | Stick's Blog

  4. Luke says:

    Hi Stick, I’ve noticed it’s hard to find the xlite on a lot of online retailers at the moment… Do you know if they have been discontinued with something new on the way? Just like to know before I invest. Thanks, keep up the great work.

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    • Stick says:

      Luke,

      I think some new pads are coming out in the new year, can’t remember all the details. I think a rectangular shaped XLite, or an Therm or something another… there were some articles folks put up from the Outdoor shows this year. I don’t think the XLites are leaving just yet though… If anything, I would say everything is sold out everywhere at the moment because of the holidays and all the recent sales. Of course though, that’s just my guess…

      ~Stick~

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  5. Larry says:

    I am still grieving over the loss of the original NeoAir. My wife’s has gone 3,500 miles with hers and mine about 3,000 miles. My wife has tried the mummy shaped ones and absolutely hates it. We know ours will fail some time and will need to replace. The original was the best pad on the market for long distance backpacking. If they would remake the original, we would be glad to purchase it with a reduced warranty (probably had too many returns). Guess we will be looking elsewhere some day.

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  6. Dave Jenkins says:

    Yeah, I am a side sleeper, so I am not stoked on this. Hopefully my original NeoAir will last forever…

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    • Stick says:

      Dave,

      Maybe if enough people complain to them about missing the rectangular cut they will bring it back…I still think that they should ditch the Trekker and bring back the original…

      ~Stick~

      Like

  7. shoe says:

    Not happy at all to hear they are discontinuing the original. I love my original. I hate mummy shapes. I guess I will be hoping for some money so I can get me a backup.

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  8. Only 9oz heavier – That’s more than 60%! At least in reality it would only be a 5oz difference. I like the mummy cut idea and I’m sure it’s a perfect blend between weight and coverage for a lot of people. However, personally I lean more towards the greater amount of sleep space offered by a rectangular pad. Hopefully in the future both versions might be released.

    – Aaron

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    • Stick says:

      Aaron,

      I know, I was kind of floored by that comment that he made! And I figure that he was comparing different sizes or something, I dunno… I feel like the mummy-cut is just fine with people, but I am like you, I like the space of a rectangular pad. In all honesty I know it is not much of a difference, but it sure does feel like a big difference to me…

      Thanks for stopping by!

      ~Stick~

      Like

  9. Brandon says:

    I agree, bring back the original neo air! I thought I would be able to pick up one for a good price now at my local outfitter, but they aren’t budging on their original price. They’ve been popping up on eBay, but I haven’t found any great deals on them.

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    • Stick says:

      Brandon,

      Glad to hear that I am not the only one that want’s them back! And I know what you are saying about finding a deal on them…I have come across a few places that still have some, but not really good deals. I mostly come across size smalls that are selling them for around $75 but I am not really interested in a small…maybe I should get one for my son though… Anyway, good luck in your search, and thanks for stopping by!

      ~Stick~

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  10. Echoes says:

    Hey, at least they finally include a stuff sack and repair kit!

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    • Stick says:

      That is true Echoes…although I don’t use the stuff sack I bought for my Neo (at least it was half off when I picked it up!). I found a rubber band works just as well, plus it is way lighter. Then more recently I have taken to folding the pad and using it as part of my pack frame/support.

      Now, IMO, the repair kit should have been included all along…

      Like

  11. mike says:

    No time like the present to stock up on a backup original neoair. You could probably get a couple of them for cheap since the cult of the new is out replacing their perfectly good neoairs with the new hotness.

    As for me, I have yet to move on from my super plush exped synmat 7 deluxe pump. Love the monster size.

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    • Stick says:

      Mike,

      Yeah, I figure picking them up used will be my best bet. I found some size regulars for sale at Campmor still but it is barely on sale…

      I have the SynMat 7 pump but not the deluxe. I actually found them on sale back before I had my NeoAir for $39 so I picked it up. I was ok with it until I got my NeoAir about 2 months later. Since then, the SynMat is now a loaner… Just something about the vertical chambers…

      Thanks for stopping by!

      ~Stick~

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  12. Al Bishop says:

    Stick,
    Nice review, and I would agree with you. I checked online and there are still some available, have you considered buying a spare?? Many times companyes do this sort of thing and then realize where their bread was buttered and bring back the original product, case in point Coke Classic. Have faith man and keep up the good work, I enjoy your Blog.
    4 Bears

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    • Stick says:

      Al,

      Yeah, I know a fella that has a medium he is wanting to sell that I will probably pick up eventually once I have some more $$ to spend… As far as them coming back to it, I can only hope so, but I have a feeling that the other pads will do well enough so that they won’t notice it missing… It just sucks because there are few items that actually fit a need so well, and now it’s gone…Oh well though, I have faith that mine will still be around for a while… 🙂

      Anyway, thanks for stopping by and commenting!

      ~Stick~

      Like

  13. Gizmo Joe says:

    Well maybe your original pad will last another 7 years or so and they might make a 10 year NeoAir Original anniversary edition………haha or maybe that’s just wishful thinking on my part……

    Like

  14. Peter says:

    Did you consider the large XLite? At 16oz and 25″ wide (and 5″ longer as well) you’d have room enough to spread out I’d think. Even though it has a tapered cut.

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    • Stick says:

      Peter,

      Yes, I have considered the large version, but when it comes down to it, it is more width than what I need, as well as length, so it would definitely be a compromise. I know I am being nit-picky at this point, but considering how well the original NeoAir suits all of my needs, it is hard to go back to making compromises… Not to mention, the extra width and length will also make a difference as far as how much floor space it being used up by needless, extra amount of pad inside my shelters. This can actually make a huge difference in not only solo tents, but some of the 2-person tents as well.

      But, at least my original NeoAir is still going strong…so hopefully I won’t have to actually worry about this for a very long time…

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting…

      ~Stick~

      Like

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