Sleeping mats are rarely considered to be very sexy pieces of kit – you want something that keeps you warm and comfortable but doesn’t take up any valuable space (or weight) in or on your pack. Of all the sleeping mats that I’ve ever used the Thermarest Neoair Uberlite comes the closest to achieving these somewhat incompatible aims. Currently it represents the state of the art in the ultralight mat world. My first inkling with regard to this assessment came when the review mat arrived and the box felt too light for its volume.
The Thermarest Neoair Uberlite is aimed squarely at the ‘ultralight’ market whether that be backpackers, alpinists or mountain marathon enthusiasts. For what is pretty much the weight of a closed cell foam mat you get the luxury of an air mat with the attendant comfort, warmth and yet reduced pack space. My first experiences of trying to minimise sleeping mat bulk/weight began in the mid 80s paring down mountain marathon kit. Back then a popular choice was the super thin insulating foam which I believe was used to insulate/reflect behind radiators. Whatever its original purpose it did serve to provide a super light layer of insulation (not much) and in realty little or no padding. This stood me in good stead for miserable alpine bivis on the aptly named ‘suffer mat’ in various iterations – all of them thinner/shorter and basically less use than the classic closed cell foam mat. I even had a brief flirt with the ‘ballon bed‘. For those of you who’ve missed out on this UK delight it consisted of a light nylon pocketed sheet into which you inserted modelling ‘clown’ balloons (which were single use) so it made for an interesting overnight ultra light solution at only 100g but really only suited to mountain marathon use and not the best sustainability wise. Back in the more sustainable and practical world the Neoair Uberlite is the lightest full length air pad I’ve come across, true the Klymit Inertia X frame matches it weight wise but this has a radical cut out design and is less deep and arguably less versatile.
With the Neoair Uberlite you get a full length 183cm X 51cm air mat that is 6.4cm deep. This is an air mat however so insulation is not as great as with a self inflating mat but comfort certainly is. The Uberlite uses a ‘Triangular Core Matrix’ which consists of two stacked triangular baffles (much like the baffles in a box wall down bag) that create a stable surface and go some way to limiting convectional heat loss. As with many air pads there is a certain ‘crinkle’ factor when sleeping on the Neoair Uberlite but it is toward the lower end of the spectrum in my subjective assessment and not really noticeable unless you are really sensitive to that sort of thing, though I do sleep like the proverbial log. I thought the surface might prove a bit slippery but I’d say it’s around good to average, I didn’t slip off though the high stack hight made the 51cm width feel subjectively narrower to begin with if that makes sense. Unsuprisingly the Neoair Uberlite partners perfectly with Thermarests own sleeping bags – I’ve used it mainly with the Hyperion that I reviewed last year. Initially I used the SynergyLink connectors that anchor the sleeping bag to the mat but laziness won through after a while and I found that it made minimal difference to me with or without. Again if you are a sleeper who tosses and turns a lot then they may prove far more usefull. Full ‘ready to sleep’ inflation takes around 70 seconds for me – I didn’t time packing away but it seems a lot quicker than my usual self inflating mat. This was with the old classic valve not the new WingLock™ valve which will shorten inflation and deflation times. Durability wise I have had no problems as yet but this is a very lightweight piece of kit and you’d be a fool not to bring the provided repair kit along on every outing. I have never placed the Neoair Uberlite down unprotected on anything but debris free grass – in most situations it has been placed inside a bivy-sac, tent or on a minimal Tyvek groundsheet. I hope to use it on some longer alpine routes but I’d probably supplement it with a closed cell mat or a cut down RidgeRest just for a bit of extra insulation and peace of mind in case of a catastrophic axe/crampon/sharp edge related failure beyond the capacity of the repair kit.
As you can see in the above photo you can create a very compact bivi kit using the Uberlite and Hyperion sleeping bag. This little lot easily fits with room to spare into my Ultimate Direction FKT running sac along with overnight food, waterproofs and a warm top to barely nudge the 3.5kg mark on the scales. The Neoair Uberlite tipped the scales at 241g with the repair kit and stuffsac adding a further 19g.
Ultimately the Neoair Uberlite is a state of the art ultra-lightweight sleeping pad that provides an almost sinful level of comfort for its weight and size. Being so lightweight it needs to be treated appropriately – perhaps not ‘kid-gloves’ but certainly be aware of debris, thorns and sharp rocks and don’t drag it around. Given that, this tiny package can bring car camping luxury on your next bivi or ultralight trip.
- Full length luxury and comfort
- Needs a certain level of care
- Not as warm as a self inflating foam pad
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