Gear Review: Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite MAX SV Air Mattress

Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite MAX SV air mattress.
Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite MAX SV air mattress.

Insulated Air Mattress
Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite MAX SV
$180, 1 lb. (regular, with stuff sack)
Sizes: regular (72x20x2.5 ins.) and large ($210, 77x25x2.5 ins.)

Who enjoys blowing up an air mattress? At the end of a full day of backpacking, it always seems to take more breaths than you have left in reserve. Therm-a-Rest solves this problem with its SpeedValve, a large, fabric tunnel that draws in surrounding air when you blow into it, making the inflation process significantly faster and easier. After using the lightweight and compact Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite MAX SV on family backpacking trips in Utah’s Dirty Devil River canyon and while car-camping in southern Utah in late March, backpacking in Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains in August, and on an 80-mile, five-day backpacking trip in the North Cascades National Park Complex in the last week of September, and my 15-year-old son sleeping on it for three nights on a mid-July rafting and kayaking trip through Lodore Canyon in Dinosaur National Monument, I give it high scores for comfort and convenience.

Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite MAX SV SpeedValve.
Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite MAX SV SpeedValve.

The distinctive feature is the SpeedValve, an innovation as uncomplicated and easy to use as technology gets: You simply blow into the open SpeedValve, and a simple law of physics causes more air to rush inside with your breaths. Therm-a-Rest claims the SpeedValve inflates a mattress in half the time of conventional valves; I found about a dozen (sometimes fewer) breaths would fill the mat, and I might add one blow through the standard screw valve to firm it up. But it’s unquestionably far easier than blowing up a traditional air mat, which often requires a dizzying couple dozen breaths for a regular-size air mat.

The roll-top, buckle closure on the SpeedValve requires sealing it tightly to avoid air leaking out, but I found that easy to do once you’ve inflated the mat, making it more rigid. The screw valve lets you release a little air to soften the mat to your preference. And the SpeedValve is reversible for deflating the air mat in seconds, greatly reducing the packing time.


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Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite MAX SV SpeedValve.
Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite MAX SV SpeedValve.

The Triangular Core Matrix construction and 2.5 inches of thickness make this rectangular mattress very comfortable and stable—no bouncing off the edges—and heat-reflective technology makes it warm for its weight. With an R-value of 3.2, it’s appropriate for three-season camping. The 30-denier, ripstop, no-slip nylon fabric is a bit tougher than the material used in some lighter air mats without adding much weight.

Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite MAX SV stuffed.
Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite MAX SV stuffed.

At one pound and measuring 9×4 inches, its stuffed size compares well with many of today’s air mats for backpacking. If you’re really counting ounces, the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite is four ounces lighter and more compact. But for convenience and comfort, the NeoAir XLite MAX SV excels.

BUY IT NOW You can support my work on this blog by clicking this link to purchase a Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite MAX SV air mattress at


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See my other reviews of backpacking air matresses that I like and all my reviews of backpacking gear. See also my related Pro Tips articles “How to Choose a Sleeping Bag” and “Staying Warm in a Sleeping Bag.”


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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 all of my gear reviews at The Big Outside.

—Michael Lanza


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