We carry out our tests ourselves and use all products as they are intended to be used in reality. A family of outdoor enthusiasts used the sleeping pad while hiking with medium-heavy packs in the wilderness, in varying weather and on different underlying surfaces. They inflated and deflated the sleeping pads several times, and removed and inserted them into their storage bags. After this they slept on the same sleeping pads outdoors. We also tested the tear strength and general durability of the sleeping pads by subjecting them to rough handling.
In our assessment we focused on the following areas:
Weight: How heavy is the sleeping pad?
Pack volume: How much space does it take up in a backpack?
Operation: Is it easy to inflate and deflate the sleeping pad? Is it easy to fold it up? How difficult is it to get into the storage bag?
Comfort: Is it comfortable to lie on? Does it rustle? Is it long and wide enough, or do you fall off it? Does the positioning of the air channels have an impact on comfort?
Warmth: Is it warm or does ground chill penetrate? What's the R-value of the sleeping pad? In other words, how well does it insulate against the cold?
Quality: Does the sleeping pad retain air throughout the night? Does it feel stable and substantial? Does it tolerate rough handling?
We gave each sleeping pad a score according to its value for money; in other words, how good it is in each area in relation to its price tag. We thus have higher expectations of an expensive product than a cheaper one, and vice versa.
Quiet, comfortable, light and includes a practical pump bag
Air channels: Longitudinal Inflation method: Pump bag Model: Mummy Price class: Premium Weight: 365 grams Length: *r183 cm Width: 52 cm Thickness: 7 cm Pack dimensions: 19x9 cm Lowest temp: -6 °C R-value: 3.3
Exped Synmat HL M is one of the market's best and lightest sleeping pads. It's also comfortable and quiet to lie on, with no annoying rustling, and the outer material is resistant to rough treatment. It's very light and takes up little room in your backpack. The longitudinal air channels are comfortable, the air stays in all night and the sleeping pad insulates you well from the ground. The model is a mummy-shaped one - in other words it gets narrower towards the feet. This saves space in the tent but the pad was felt to be unnecessarily narrow by our testers. The Exped Synmat HL M has a practical pump bag that enormously facilitates inflation while also preventing moist air from entering the sleeping pad. An additional plus point is that the valve is located on the bottom of the sleeping pad, where there's no risk of knocking it and letting out the air at night.
It's also easy to fill the Exped Synmat HL M, but more difficult to remove the air. It takes a long time to deflate the mattress as there's only a one-way valve, which you have to hold open the whole time. It takes a long time and is relatively difficult to deflate the mattress as there's only a one-way valve, which you have to hold open the whole time. Another negative is the difficulty of getting the sleeping pad and the pump bag back into the very small storage bag after use. Despite these criticisms, the Exped Synmat HL M is a good demonstration of "you get what you pay for". This is a very good, high quality sleeping pad, which was the test panel's favourite.
Self-inflating, very comfortable sleeping pad for family camping
Air channels: Horizontal Inflation method: Self-inflating Model: Classic rectangular Price class: Medium Weight: 2200 grams Length: 195 cm Width: 63 cm Thickness: 7.5 cm Package dimensions: 66 x 16 cm R-value: 6.6
Outwell's Dreamcatcher is a self-inflating sleeping pad made of foam plastic. The foam in the Dreamcatcher is corrugated, which makes for a very comfortable experience.
The corrugated form also makes the pad easy to pack, as all the pieces compress and fit into each other rather like a jigsaw. This makes the pad unexpectedly compact, but still too large to take with you on a backpacking trip. Instead, it’s something for a camping holiday with the whole family where you need a really comfortable night's rest.
Inflating the Dreamcatcher takes approximately 2.2 seconds. There’s still space to add a little more air, which is actually a good thing as that allows you to choose how much air you want in it. For those who like it a little softer, it’ll be fine as it is, but if you want it as hard as possible, just manually fill it up a bit more. The two built-in valves make the job easy.
Emptying the pad is also easy, and it takes around a minute.
The Dreamcatcher really does the job. It’s comfortable, conducts heat well and keeps the cold at bay. In addition to a tent, we also tried sleeping on it in a hammock. Hammocks are renowned for getting cold from below. If you use a sleeping bag in a hammock, the bag is compressed by your weight and the cold penetrates from underneath. So we took the Dreamcatcher and laid it in a hammock. It did the job very well. At 63 cms wide, there was no problem making it fit in the hammock. It stopped the cold and the wind, and kept us incredibly comfortable and warm all night.
The weight of the Dreamcatcher is around 2200 grams, which puts it a little on the heavy side. It’s also quite large. So this isn’t a mattress to take with you on a bike or motorcycle, and is much more suited to be packed in the car where you can afford to take up space.
Another small plus was that the straps that come with it were of good quality and made it very easy to roll the pad up.
Comfortable, but not noiseless
Air channels: Transverse Inflation method: Manual Model: Classic rectangular Price class: Medium Weight: 510 grams Length: 183 cm Width: 51 cm Thickness: 6.3 cm Pack dimensions: 23 x 11 cm Min. temp: -7 °C R-value: 3.0
Many of Therm-a-Rest's models have reflecting outsides which reflect body heat - what they call Therma-Capture technology. This makes their sleeping pads warm to sleep on, and that also applies to the NeoAir Trekker. The rectangular shape, with transverse air channels, also contributes to good sleeping comfort and the sleeping pad is stable both in terms of material and overall feel.
The NeoAir Trekker inflates manually without requiring great effort and retains the air throughout the night. The valve is robust and doesn't open very easily. The sleeping pad is easy to deflate, fold up and get into the storage bag. However, it takes up a good bit of space in a backpack, which is a disadvantage if you want to travel with baggage that's as compressed as possible. Another downside is the noise level. The sleeping pad rustles every time you change position, which can be irritating for light sleepers. In general, the NeoAir Trekker offers good levels of comfort and provides a solid overall impression.
Noisy but warm lightweight
Air channels: Transverse Inflation method: Manual Model: Mummy Weight: 340 grams Length: 183 cm Width: 51 cm Thickness: 6.3 cm Pack dimensions: 23 x 10 cm Min. temp: -5 °C R-value: 3.4
The major advantage with the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir X-lite is its low weight - 340 g is impressively low for a comfortable sleeping pad. The X-lite is comfortable and warm to lie on and insulates well against ground chill, thanks to Therm-a-Rest's Therma-Capture technology, which utilises body heat and reflects it towards the surface material. However, the sleeping pad rustles loudly at the slightest movement, which can easily waken light sleepers. But we have nothing negative to say about the durability. The NeoAir X-lite tolerates being handled roughly and the air stays in all night. The sleeping pad has transverse air channels that are easy to inflate manually and easy to deflate and fold up, but getting it into the storage bag after use requires a good deal of patience. It's also what's known as mummy-shaped, narrowing at the bottom, and we feel that it's unnecessarily narrow. However, if you value low weight and good insulation more than absolute silence, the NeoAir is a good buy.
Faithful budget buy for standard hiking trips
Air channels: Transverse Inflation method: Manual Model: Classic rectangular Price class: Budget Weight: 560 grams Length: 183 cm Width: 51 cm Thickness: 5 cm Pack dimensions: 23 x 11.5cm Min. temp: 0 °C R-value: 1.8
The Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Venture is Therm-a-Rest's appealing budget alternative for those who want to make their hiking trip a little more pleasant with a comfortable inflatable mattress but who don't want to or can't afford to spend a fortune on professional kit. For a relatively low price you get a perfectly good sleeping pad that doesn't rustle, is stable and substantial, retains the air throughout the night, insulates nicely via transverse air channels and is easy to inflate and deflate. The disadvantage is that it's very thin, and unnecessarily heavy given that there's no built-in pump. It's also pretty much impossible to get back into the bag after use. And finally, it takes up a lot of room in a backpack, so it's perhaps not suitable for the minimalist or someone counting the grams. But a night's sleep is guaranteed to be better on the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Venture than on an old-fashioned foam underlay, even though the price difference isn't enormous. A good buy for a weekend hiker with a limited budget.
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