Gear Reviews

Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite Large and ProLite Plus Regular

Mercer Canon (2)

NeoAir X-Lite Large

After spending approximately 7 months sleeping in a tent I have gained a new appreciation for beds, to quote Eef, ” I love beds and sheets and pillows”. Nonetheless, I must say that if I can’t sleep in a bed my second choice would definitely be the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite sleeping mattress.


  • weight: 460g
  • thickness: 6.3cm
  • Packed Size: 28 x 11cm
  • R-value: 3.2
  • size: 63×196 x 6.3cm

Usage Review


Weighing in at a mere 460g (Large) and packing down to the size of a 1L Nalgene bottle it is the perfect fit for any weight/size conscious hiker without sacrificing any comfort. The XLite is constructed by using two layers of triangular baffles, nylon-fibre fill and ThermaCapture reflective layers. In layman’s terms ThermaCapture means that the mattress’ inside has reflective layers which bounce the persons body heat back and it is through this function that the XLite achieves its 3,2 R – value – yet at a much lesser weight than its competition. The R – value is basically describing the materials ability to resist heat transfer/loss – ultimately, the higher the number, the warmer the sleeper will feel. I have used the XLite in any season ranging from high summer to early winter and it has done an excellent job. Of course, during the sub – zero temperatures I slept in a liner combined with the Cumulus sleeping bag, however, the mattress has performed superb even through the freezing nights.

One of the reasons I chose the NeoAir XLite was due to the baffles going horizontally. I’ve previously slept on several air mattresses with vertical baffles and have alwyas found the baffles rather uncomfortable and disturbing my sleep. With the XLite I never needed to worry about this problem, as an added bonus the baffles are so narrow that when lying on it they are not noticeable, and therefore not disturbing my sleep.

What might disturb the sleep of your tent companion is the rattling noise of the fabric. I had previously experienced this feature through hiking buddies using the XLite mattress, but seeing that Therm-a-Rest has actively worked on this issue the level of noise has been drastically reduced. In my opinion the noise level on the newer models is only noticeable when you have just laid down on the mattress and is moving about getting comfortable inside of your sleeping bag. However, Eef says that she was never bothered by any noise from the mattress.

If I were to point out one thing about the NeoAir XLite mattress that is bothersome it would be the fact that it easily bottoms out. Whenever I sit on it my butt hits the floor, same thing while resting on my elbow when reading a book. During these situations the mattress provides zero support or comfort. Nonetheless, when you lay on it flat out it provides you with all the support and comfort you could wish for.

Before heading out on Te Araroa I was told by Andreas on our blog that the XLite was not suitable for a thru – hike as it is too fragile and easily breaks. We actually met Andreas by coincidence while on the trail, but not until a while down the South Island, some 2700km from the start. I happily pulled out my mattress and told him that I had not come across any issues regarding its durability. In total I have slept on the same mattress while hiking almost 4500km in both New Zealand and Australia. This adds up to quite some nights and some rather changing surfaces, yet the mattress keeps on living and is as comfortable as the first time I used it.

ProLite Plus Regular

Mangaokewa River Walk Canon (1)


  • weight: 740g (this is an older model of the ProLite)
  • thickness: 3.8cm
  • Packed Size: 3.4L, 28 x 10cm
  • R-value: 3.4
  • size: 51 x 83 x 3.8cm

Usage Review

Well, the first thing I think about is how long I’ve had this mattress. It has been on so many hikes and travels with me that it almost feels like cheating if I would buy a new mattress now. I have had it since 2007, or 8,5 years now, and in that time it has survived traveling England, Mongolia, Argentina, Spain, hiking in Sweden and Norway, and now both long distance trails in New Zealand and Australia. I find this quite amazing for one mattress and as for durability I definitely think Therm-a-Rest is on top of its game.

Though I admit, when I saw PJ lying on his NeoAir in the evening I was a little bit jealous. The ProLite is not as thick as the NeoAir and has more of a feel of actually lying on the ground, without the extra air layer that the NeoAir offers to give that true mattress feel. It is still a comfortable air mattress to sleep on though as my sound back bears witness. And it comes without any noise issues: the material is utterly silent.

Its major down point is its packing size: it was the smallest mattress on the market at the time I bought it, but compared to the NeoAir X-Lite now it is a bit bulky when it is packed down. It’s an awkward size to pack as well: it is neither flat nor long, so it always ends up taking an odd corner in your pack and it is hard to fit anything next to it. This is my major reason for thinking about moving on to the NeoAir now, as everything in my pack is getting smaller and more compact which just makes everything easier and leaves more room for food.

As for the insulation: I have used this mattress in all seasons, and in winter I complemented it with a simple foam mattress underneath. It holds up well in all circumstances, it has no issues with humidity whatsoever thanks to an extra protective construction on the groundwards side. Only when it is hot it seems to lose some air, then again so do most mattresses, and it’s easy just to give it that extra blow of air right before going to bed.

I have been very happy with this mattress, and I think it’s a great investment if you don’t mind the awkward packing shape. You will have it with you for a long time to come!


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