I recently reviewed the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm, an excellent pad for winter trips and mountaineering. It’s light, comfortable and exceptionally warm. On the surface, the NeoAir Trekker looks quite a bit similar – the same baffle design, just with a considerably lower R value. What’s really novel, though, is Therm-a-Rest’s newest innovation: the SpeedValve.
Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Trekker SpeedValve Features:
- Built with light/durable 75D nylon fabrics to maximize comfort and size
- SpeedValve™ amplifies your breath by pulling in surrounding air for shorter inflation times
- Patent-pending auto-reversing SpeedValve™ deflates almost instantly
- Triangular Core Matrix™ with ThermaCapture™ barrier for comfort and warmth
- R Value: 3.0
- Weight: 1lb 8 oz (claimed)
- Dimensinons: 20″ x 72″ x 2.5″
- Made in the USA
- MSRP: $149.95
Speed is good, right?
Some of the key traits that come to mind when you hear about the Therm-a-Rest band are durability and comfort. In fact, I’d say that those traits trump just about any others when it comes to sleeping pads. You can go a lot of ways with these: a foam pad is exceptionally durable, but many people don’t find them comfortable. Other companies make big cushy air pads, but they pop easily and just don’t last. I’ve tested quite a few Therm-a-Rest pads over the years and I’m happy to say that they usually hit the sweet spot.
The Trekker’s construction is very straight forward – uniform horizontal baffles run all the way down the pads. Nothing fancy, no fat outer baffles to keep you on the pad. But, to my back, the simple design eliminates any pressure points and gives me support. This is subjective, of course, but I always sleep the best on a good firm Therm-a-Rest pad. The underlying structure here is what Therm-a-Rest calls their ‘Triangular Core Matrix,’ which is essentially a double layer of triangular baffles within the pad that add a lot of support and trap warm air.
Trapping warm air is definitely an important trait. With an R value of 3.0, I’d be comfortable taking this pad up onto a glacier in the summer months. However, for shoulder season and winter use, I’d definitely add a foam pad for insulation. For more general use, though, the pad is absolutely warm enough for use for 7 months out of the year on its own. The pad’s warmth is bolstered by the ThermaCapture reflective coating within the pad that essentially radiates infrared energy back at you. The result is a nice, warm night’s sleep.
Obviously the most innovative feature of the pad is Therm-a-Rest’s new SpeedValve technology. The SpeedValve is a clever application of Bernoulli’s Principal, which says essentially that a fluid will move to areas of lower density; when you blow into the SpeedValve, the low pressure created by your breath draws in more fluid (ie, the atmosphere) effectively filling up your sleeping pad 3x faster than a normal breath. The actual design is pretty simple: the top of the bag is extended to a narrow rolltop closure, inside of which is a delicate(ish) plastic that essentially works like a membrane to capture progress as you blow into the bag and permit atmospheric air to flow into the pad. When you’re done, you roll it up seven times, say a short prayer and you should be good to go. It works, though I found that I needed to top off the bag with two or three breaths through the conventional valve since the SpeedValve tends to struggle when the pad is nearly full.
Before I begin, I think it’s worth noting that many people have had problems with these pads. Many people seem to have a hard time keeping the pad inflated, presumably from an issue with how the rolltop closure seals up. In my testing, I had absolutely no issue with the pad staying inflated. I even experimented with rolling the closure fewer times – sometimes five, sometimes seven – but the pad always sealed. Perhaps this is because I was always careful about tucking the inner plastic flap of the SpeedValve neatly back into the pad. I did get one puncture in the pad, which is probably because I abused the pad during testing by sleeping on lots of sharp rocks and branches throughout the summer. In fact, this pad received about 54 days of use and picked up just that one hole, which I patched easily with the included patch kit.
I have the vague feeling that I ought to say more about the SpeedValve, but there really isn’t much to it. The design works well – you blow into it and the pad inflates very quickly. Yes, you do have to top it up manually on the normal valve if you want a very firm pad like I do. I don’t find that troublesome, and it’s actually quite nice not to have to really puff into the valve like you do with a normal valve. The rapid deflation is nice, too, especially since you can just unclip the valve and it is magically ready to pack away. The last thing to note, I suppose, is the weight – the SpeedValve version of this pad adds 7oz, which is significant.
- SpeedValve worked well throughout my testing – fast, and never leaked when rolled well
- Durable fabric and excellent American construction withstood abuse
- Quite comfortable with good support, even when on your side
- Pleasantly warm for most conditions
- Many users report leakage from the valve, and that’s worth taking note of
- SpeedValve version adds a decent chunk of weight
The Bottom Line: NeoAir Trekker SpeedValve
I’m quite pleased with the pad, especially its durability and the overall ease-of-use with the valve. I’m not a weight weenie, personally, so the added weight doesn’t bother me. I think it’s a great innovation and I’m excited to see it improve over time.
Buy Now: Available from REI.com