Cascade Designs’ Therm-a-Rest self-inflating sleeping mats are now de rigueur for any self-respecting backpacker. But not content with a huge range of mats, the company has created the NeoAir, which is more compact and lighter than self-inflating mats of similar size.
Within this mat is a barrier to reflect heat back, while a Triangular Core Matrix of baffles creates air pockets to improve insulation. This internal structure also creates a truss system for better stability when the user moves about on the mat . The internal workings sit within a shell of silicone-treated Cordura nylon that feels nice and durable.
There is a blow-up valve at one end, and a stuffsack to stash the mat away in. The NeoAir is the lightest mat tested here but it is a respectable 183x51x6.3cm when inflated. The packed size is very good too and comparable to a one litre water bottle, so it could easily be slipped into a rucksack side pocket. My first impressions of the mat were great.
On the hill
Blowing up the NeoAir is fast, but it’s harder work than a self-inflating Therm-a-Rest. Once filled, the NeoAir forms a robust structure that is easily moved into position with a comforting, low-pitched rustle. Instantly this mat felt comfortable when clambering about inside the tent. It seemed to provide more cushioning than the Big Agnes mat, but not as much as standard Therm-a-Rest self-inflating mats that benefits from a foam core, which also adds extra insulation.
Lying on the NeoAir is very comfortable as it is a more stable sleeping platform than simpler mats such as the Big Agnes Clear View, which have plain air tubes rather than a baffled construction. Also, when rolling over, this mat is not too noisy and the surface seems to provide good friction against sleeping bags so you don’t end up in a huddle at the foot of the mat when sleeping on a slope. The supplied stuffsack seems a bit small for this mat, though, and a slightly bigger version would be welcome.
Small = £75
Medium - £90
Materials silicone-treated nylon
Thermal resistance 2.5
Temperature rating unknown
Inflated size 183x51x6.3cm
Packed size 25x10x10cm
Weight with stuffsack 408g
Made in China
Stores in the UK 150
Stockist details – tel. (01629) 580484; www.firstascent .co.uk
Verdict: The Therm-a-Rest NeoAir boasts a very small packed size; lightest on test and relatively light compared to standard mats; very comfortable. But other Therm-a-Rest mats are warmer and still relatively light. Overall, ideal for backpacking with a little more comfort without sacrificing too much weight or packed size.
Review by Graham Thompson
First published in Trail magazine Spring 2009