Camping Gear Reviews

The Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite NXT air mattress.

Review: Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite NXT Air Mattress

Insulated Air Mattress
Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite NXT
$200, 11.5 oz./330g (size regular short, not including stuff sack or pump sack)
Sizes: four sizes from 20×66 inches/51x168cm to 25×77 inches/64x176cm
backcountry.com

Choosing the absolute lightest air mattress you find doesn’t always go well: The hours of sleep lost to discomfort may exceed the weight savings in ounces. Put another way, the personal energy lost through a poor night of sleep may eclipse what you gain from shaving a few ounces of pack weight. The latest iteration of Therm-a-Rest’s ultralight NeoAir XLite air mats, the NXT, will flip that equation to the positive side of the energy ledger for many backpackers, as it did for me on several spring and summer backpacking trips.

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The Mountain Hardwear Phantom 30 sleeping bag.

Review: Mountain Hardwear Phantom 30 Sleeping Bag

Ultralight Sleeping Bag
Mountain Hardwear Phantom 30
$450, 1 lb. 6 oz./624g (unisex regular, 72-inch)
Sizes: unisex short ($440), regular, long ($480)
backcountry.com

Look at specs when shopping for a high-quality, ultralight, three-season sleeping bag and you might quickly trim your short list to about five models, all at basically similar weights and price points. But having slept in most of those top bags—and after sleeping in Mountain Hardwear’s Phantom 30 on cool nights on backpacking trips from a section of the Arizona Trail in the first days of April and camping at Idaho’s City of Rocks in June to the Canadian Rockies and Wind River Range in August—I place the Phantom 30 among the two or (maybe) three very best ultralight mummy bags for its strategic balance between low weight and excellent warmth. Here’s why.

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The Sierra Designs Mobile Mummy 15° F/-9° C sleeping bag.

Review: Sierra Designs Mobile Mummy 15F/-9C Sleeping Bag

Ultralight Sleeping Bag
Sierra Designs Mobile Mummy
$319, 2 lbs. 8 oz. (men’s regular)
Sizes: men’s regular and long ($290) and women’s ($300)
sierradesigns.com

Stepping out of my tent on our first morning in Arizona’s Aravaipa Canyon in the first week of April, I was greeted by an air temperature barely above freezing and a steady wind sailing through our camp at about 20 to 30 miles per hour. So I reacted in the only way that made sense: I wore my sleeping bag in camp. And I could do that and walk around easily (while my friends assumed postures of cold discomfort wearing their down jackets outside—or simply stayed in their tent) because my bag was the Sierra Designs Mobile Mummy 15° F/-9° C.

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Nemo Tensor Insulated Air Mattress.

Review: Nemo Tensor Insulated Air Mattress

Insulated Air Mattress
Nemo Tensor Insulated Air Mattress
$200, 13 oz. (regular mummy, not including stuff sack or pump bag)
Sizes: four sizes from 20×72 inches to 25×76 inches
backcountry.com

The search for the right backpacking air mattress tends to boil down to two competing objectives: finding a mat with the lowest possible weight without compromising on comfort. And different people will define comfort differently—thus affecting the weight of their air mat choice. But many backpackers and other users may find Nemo’s Tensor Insulated hits a sweet balance between those competing objectives, as I did sleeping on it for eight nights on a nearly 130-mile, August hike through the High Sierra, much of it on the John Muir Trail, and for four nights in early September in the Wind River Range.

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The Sierra Designs Cloud 800 35-Degree sleeping bag.

Review: Sierra Designs Cloud 35 Sleeping Bag

Ultralight Sleeping Bag
Sierra Designs Cloud 35
$300, 1 lb. 7 oz. (men’s regular)
Sizes: men’s regular and long (35- and 20-degree), women’s 20-degree (one size)
moosejaw.com

Mummy-style sleeping bags deliver high warmth efficiency for their weight because they trap heat so well—but can sometimes feel like they’re trapping you inside, too. Backpacking quilts mimic the feeling of sleeping under a comforter at home, but may too easily let cold air underneath on chilly nights outdoors. With its zipperless design and integrated comforter in the bag’s upper half, the Sierra Designs Cloud 35 bag achieves the strengths of mummies and quilts without their weaknesses.

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