If you follow this blog you know that one of the key criteria I apply to gear quality is its portability. For example: I have a cast iron dutch oven, made by Lodge. It’s awesome and I would absolutely love to take it all over the country on camping trips. But in real terms, I’d be better off buying a new dutch oven and throwing it away when I’m done every time I go to Yellowstone. The baggage fees are just too high.
That to me is why the Thermarest NeoAir series is the single best camping innovation to come out in the last ten years. Essentially an inflatable mattress, just like you’d use for your swimming pool, these feature a heat-reflective surface on the lower interior panel to maximize what minimal R-value you can get out of an inflatable mat. It’s not much, and don’t kid yourself; if you’re going to be cold-weather camping in one of these, pack at least an 850+ 15 degree bag.
In terms of sleeping comfort, it’s pretty good. Being thicker than an average mattress, you have some room to turn over, but since the material is also less rigid, you’re going to have more of a waterbed effect (if that bothers you). The most comfortable tent sleeping I have ever done was on a two-deep stack of classic Thermarests with a blanket thrown over the top; this is maybe 60% as comfortable. Those classic Thermarests also self-inflate to a large degree thanks to the foam inside; with the NeoAir you have to blow it up on your own. In my experience it takes exactly 10 full breaths to inflate, so it’s not bad.
But no Thermarest in history has the NeoAir’s killer trick up its sleeve: this thing packs down to the size of a one liter bottle. In 2006 when I first flew out to Yellowstone I was forced to devote an entire suitcase just to two sleeping bags, two classic-style mattresses, and the tent. These days you can get poleless tents that pack down like origami, plus a high-grade fill bag and a NeoAir into a literal carry-on. It’s almost like you managed to break the laws of physics; 3D glamping at its finest.
And there’s more. Thermarest also makes the Trekker Chair (which can be had right now for as low as $18). You will never sit in more comfort in a campsite than you will in your Trekker Chair with a NeoAir insert. Put it on a cooler and prop your feet up; it’s better than your Barca-Lounger back home.
Purchase (NeoAir): On sale now from Campmor.
Rating (Neoair): 4 stars out of 5 (demerit for price and slight reduction in comfort).
Purchase (Trekker): Also on sale now from Campmor
Rating (Trekker Chair): 5 stars out of 5.