Cascade Designs- Therm-a-Rests parent company- know a thing or two about revolutionising outdoor sleeping having invented the self inflating mattress back in 1971. That original idea has been redesigned and refined over the ensuing years to a product range that to this day sets the standards for comfortable & lightweight camping mattresses. Not one to rest on their laurels, Therm-a-Rest continue to explore new and innovative ways to shed weight, reduce size and make sure that adventurers get to rest their weary bones on bed-like comfort while out in the wilds. Their NeoAir range is their most recent and advanced solution- dropping the foam in favour of a structured air filled interior combined with heat-reflective properties. New to this range for 2012 is the ultra-light, ultra-compact X-Lite and its safe to say that 40 years after the original these guys are in no mood to stop the revolution.
I had packed the NeoAir X-Lite a few hours earlier, its size is incredible- take a copy of Outside magazine, roll it up, now imagine something a little shorter and you get an idea of the X-Lite packed size. The weight is a barely-there 350 grams for the regular size mattress- there is literally nothing to it & it fits in most backpack side pockets or even bottle holders on a running pack. A few lung-full’s of air blown into the familiar valve and through the magic of synergy the X-Lite transforms from a tissue-thin roll of ripstop nylon to a full-length, 3 season, ultra-comfortable mattress. The interior is constructed in such a way that, once inflated, the feeling while lying on the X-Lite is one of having something a lot more substantial under you, the stability that is achieved from the triangular panels inside the construction means there is absolutely none of the ‘waterbed’ feel that air mattresses usually bring. The air simply feels like it doesn’t move around at all which is a big plus for comfort and, equally important, insulation- there is a real sense that there is an impenetrable barrier between your sleeping bag and the cold ground. Previous NeoAirs have received some criticism for being noisy or crinkly-sounding while sleeping on them and the materials used in the NeoAir X-Lite are not super-soft but, once inflated, there is virtually no sound while moving around during the night. The material, though extremely lightweight, is surprisingly durable too and the included stuff sack and patch repair kit are nice additions.
Something this small and this light should not be this comfortable- that’s the final thought that floats through my mind, like mist on a mountaintop, in that place where the body has set its course for sleep yet the waking world is still a tiny dot far behind on the horizon. I sleep soundly and that is the highest compliment I can give the NeoAir X-Lite. Cascade design have proved once again that they are willing to keep pushing forward, blazing trails in the pursuit of gear that tears up the rulebooks and sets new standards for outdoor adventure equipment.
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