Insulated Air Mattress
Therm-a-Rest NeoAir UberLite
$180, 9 oz. (regular, 20×72 inches, in its stuff sack)
Sizes: small (20×47 ins., $140), regular (20×72 ins.), large (25×77 ins., $210)
As I was loading my backpack at the start of a six-day, 74-mile backpacking trip in the Grand Canyon, I smiled as I held the stuffed Therm-a-Rest NeoAir UberLite air mattress in my hand; call me a gear geek, but unusually small ultralight backpacking gear just has that effect on me. One of my hiking mates glanced over and said, “Is that your air mattress?!” Yea, it’s that tiny. And if you’re serious about reducing your pack weight—as any backpacker should be—you should be taking a serious look at the NeoAir Uberlite. Here’s why.
I used the NeoAir UberLite on that Grand Canyon backpacking trip, when the coolest nights dropped to only around 50° F, and on nights that dipped into the high 30s both on a three-day hike on the Teton Crest Trail in August and while camping in Idaho’s City of Rocks National Reserve in May; on the latter two trips, I was warm enough pairing this air mat with a 32-degree bag (the Therm-a-Rest Hyperion 32).
With 2.5 inches of thickness, it delivers comfort comparable to many of the best backcountry air mats. I’ve found it comfortable either inflated to its maximum or to within one or two breaths of maximum inflation. In fact, on some nights when it lost a little inflation overnight—I suspect due to the air inside it cooling down, because there was no leak from the air mat—I didn’t notice it because my hipbones still didn’t hit hard ground when sleeping on my side.
At 8.8 oz. (without its included stuff sack), weighing 3.2 ounces less than the previous ultralight standard-bearer, Therm-a-Rest’s NeoAir XLite, it sets a new ultralight standard for air mattresses with enough insulation for camping in usual summer temperatures in the mountains (at mid-latitudes such as the U.S., most of Canada, and Europe), and it packs down smaller than a liter bottle at 6×3.5 ins./15x9cm.
With an R-value of 2.0, the UberLite won’t be quite as warm as the XLite (which has an R-value of 3.2), but it may be a little quieter.
One caveat: While all air mats are susceptible to suffering pinhole leaks that can be hard to find and patch in the field, the NeoAir Uberlite’s 15-denier nylon fabric is lighter than you’ll find in most air mats (including the 12-ounce Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite, which uses 30-denier fabric), so be careful with it. That said, over the course of five nights in the Grand Canyon—an environment notorious for needle-bearing vegetation and sharp rocks—the NeoAir Uberlite sprung no leaks.
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With the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Uberlite, you get the lightest insulated air mattress without compromising at all on comfort—although perhaps on durability.
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See all of my reviews of air mattresses and backpacking gear at The Big Outside, including the ultralight Therm-a-Rest Hyperion 32 sleeping bag and the Therm-a-Rest Air Head Lite inflatable pillow. See also my related articles “Pro Tips for Buying Sleeping Bags” and “10 Pro Tips: Staying Warm in a Sleeping Bag.”
Want to make your pack lighter and all of your backpacking trips more enjoyable? See my story “A Practical Guide to Lightweight and Ultralight Backpacking.” If you don’t have a paid subscription to The Big Outside, you can read part of that story for free, or click here to download that full story without having a paid membership.
NOTE: I tested gear for Backpacker Magazine for 20 years. At The Big Outside, I review only what I consider the best outdoor gear and apparel. See my Gear Reviews page at The Big Outside for categorized menus of all of my reviews and my expert buying tips.