This Therm-a-Rest NeoAir UberLite review presents our performance assessment of the lightest full-sized air-filled sleeping pad on the market.
The Therm-a-Rest NeoAir UberLite is an 8.8-oz inflatable air mattress (i.e., size “regular” – 20 in wide x 72 in long). Users of the Therm-a-Rest XLite and XTherm will recognize the UberLite’s shape and basic design. The UberLite is a little over three ounces lighter than the XLite. It also packs down smaller and sleeps more quietly. The tradeoff? Warmth.
Here’s how the three mummy-shaped pads in the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir line compare:
|Weight||8.8 oz||12.0 oz||15.0 oz|
|Packed Size||6.0 in x 3.5 in||9.0 x 4.0 in||9.0 x 4.0 in|
|Top Fabric||15 denier ripstop nylon||30 denier ripstop HT nylon||30 denier ripstop HT nylon|
|Bottom Fabric||15 denier nylon||30 denier ripstop HT nylon||70 denier nylon|
All specs are for a regular-sized pad (20 in width x 72 in length x 2.5 in thickness). The UberLite is also available in short and long sizes.
In addition to the obvious differences in weight, warmth (R-value), and packed volume, you can see that the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir UberLite is made with lighter fabrics. Therm-a-Rest claims in particular that the UberLite’s top fabric is quieter than the fabrics used in the other two pads, a performance feature we’ll look at in this review.
Watch Ryan Jordan’s video about how he uses the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir UberLite for winter camping, as well as a summary of the findings presented in this review:
- Horizontal Baffles
- Triangular Core Matrix construction
- Quiet top fabric
- Compresses to the size of a beer can
- Stuff sack and repair kit included
- Standard Therm-a-Rest valve system
- MSRP: $179.95 (Pre-order/Purchase from REI)
- Weight (regular): 8.8 oz (249 g)
- Measured Weight (mattress only): 7.9 oz (224 g)
- Measured weight including stuff sack and repair kit: 8.3 oz (235 g)
- Width (regular): 20 in (50 cm)
- Length (regular): 72 in (183 cm)
- Thickness: 2.5 in (6.4 cm)
- R-Value: 2.0
- Packed Dimension: (out of the box): 6 in x 3.5 in (15.2 cm x 8.9 cm)
- Top fabric type: 15 denier ripstop nylon
- Bottom fabric type: 15 denier nylon
Why choose an inflatable air mattress in the first place?
Closed cell foam pads (generally) insulate better (higher R:thickness ratio), are tough, have multiple uses (e.g., stove windshield, lounge pad on abrasive ground, internal pack frame), are significantly cheaper, and weigh about the same.
For instance, check out the specs for the Therm-a-Rest RidgeRest SOLite. This pad gets you more utility at virtually the same weight as the current gold standard in inflatable mattresses, the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite – for a fraction of the cost.
|NeoAir XLite||RidgeRest SOLite|
|Weight||12.0 oz||14.0 oz|
|Packed Size||9.0 x 4.0 in||20.0 x 8.0 in|
|Top Fabric||30 denier ripstop HT nylon||cross-linked polyethylene closed cell foam|
|Bottom Fabric||30 denier ripstop HT nylon||cross-linked polyethylene closed cell foam|
The answer is one word: comfort.
Those who can sleep well on a textured and relatively thick closed cell foam pad are a special breed. Hikers that can wake up feeling rested after a night on a very thin foam pad are even rarer. If your dedication to ultralight backpacking means you are willing to suffer sleepless nights in the pursuit of ounce shaving, you are one tough cookie. But I would argue that sleep deprivation will eventually catch up with you and degrade your hiking performance regardless of how light your pack is. The longer your hike, the more this is likely to come into play.
It is true that most bodies and minds will adapt (somewhat) to sleeping on a thin closed cell foam pad. I thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail and Colorado Trail using a 5/8″ closed cell foam pad, and eventually got (sort of) used to sleeping on it. But I never got what I would consider an excellent night’s sleep, and suffered extensively from numb shoulders and achy hips.
So while R-Value, durability, and price are all important considerations for an inflatable mattress, comfort is king, especially if you are the type of person where comfort on a closed cell foam pad is elusive. Or, should I say, the comfort-to-weight-ratio is king. It is the chief factor that separates inflatable air mattresses from other types of pads.
Of course, comfort is subjective, particularly where sleep is involved. If it were easy to objectively quantify comfort we’d all be sleeping like kings every night in the backcountry. I don’t have to tell you this isn’t the case! So you’ll see words like feels and seems pop up from time to time in this review, particularly where comfort is concerned. I can only offer you my subjective opinion here, and provide you with anecdotal data that will allow you to extrapolate what your own experience might be. In all other performance metrics (weight, durability, etc.) I remain as objective as possible.
Description of Field Testing
Therm-a-Rest recommends the UberLite for summer use. Production samples of the mattress were not available until the late summer of 2018, so I was not able to test the UberLite in peak summer conditions. In some ways, that limitation works out nicely. I think that the average user of this mattress will not contain herself to summer conditions but will instead be sleeping on the UberLite across three seasons, depending on conditions. Rare is the backpacker that can afford to own a separate mattress purely for summer temperatures.
I tested the UberLite across the late summer and fall, in three mountain ranges, and at elevations ranging from 5,000 ft to 11,000 ft.
My first wilderness test was a two night trip in the Wind River Range in Wyoming in late summer. Both campsites were 10,000 ft to 11,000 ft. Conditions at night were windy with light-to-heavy rain and temperatures dropping just below freezing. Daytime hikes consisted of steep climbs and high elevation peak bagging, with correspondingly low mileage.
My second test was a six-night off-trail trek through Montana’s Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness in early fall (story about that trek here). Campsite elevations ranged from 6,000 ft to 10,000 ft. Evening temperatures ranged from the low 20s (deg F) to mid 30s (deg F) with occasional high winds and light rain. Daytime hiking consisted of steep ups and downs over high passes and through dense brush. Long hiking days (up to 12 hours a day) with up to several thousand feet of elevation gain, combined with inclement weather and chilly nights provided a good backdrop for testing an ultralight sleep system and evaluate its ability to help me recover each day.
Finally, I tested the UberLite on several late fall one and two-night excursions in California’s Eastern Sierra. Overnight temperatures fell to the 20s and 10s (deg F), with occasional light to moderate snow. Daytime hiking was characterized by high-mileage days through shallow snow.
I’m 5 ft 6 in (168 cm) tall, weigh 160 lb (73 kg), and used a regular sized mattress.
My performance assessment of the Thermarest UberLite addresses the following items:
- Weight and Compressibility
- Finish Quality
I’ve listed these items in order of what I judge to be greatest to least importance – for me.
Let’s start with warmth.
The UberLite has an R-Value of 2.0. Therm-a-Rest claims this makes the UberLite the warmest sub-10 oz (284 g) inflatable mattress on the market. To the best of my research ability, they are correct. This low R-Value is the reason Therma-A-Rest doesn’t rank the UberLite as a three-season mattress.
Longtime Therm-a-Rest users will know that the UberLite’s older brother, the XLite, carries an R-Value of 3.2, making the XLite more comfortable across a wider range of conditions. However, Therm-a-Rest designers achieve this extra warmth in the XLite through a secondary layer of material inside the pad they call ThermaCapture. ThermaCapture is somewhat famous for being loud. I once heard an Appalachian Trail thru-hiker describe her first few nights on the trail as “a symphony of crinkling, crackling, and crunching emanating from the shelter and every tent within five miles.” According to anecdotal reports in the Backpacking Light forums, some users find the ThermaCapture in their own pads to be quiet enough but are kept awake by the ThermaCapture on the pads of their tent/shelter mates.
The UberLite does not use ThermaCapture. Instead, it relies on the internal structure of the mattress (Therm-a-rest calls it a “triangular core matrix”) to fight heat transfer (the XLite also has the same internal structure). On the one hand, the UberLite is comfortable because it is a reasonably quiet pad. On the other, it may feel less warm in some environmental conditions than some other inflatable pads on the market.
As I mentioned in the description of field testing, I slept on the UberLite in below freezing temperatures at least six or seven times. Compensating for the 2.0 R-Value wasn’t all that difficult, particularly as I’m a quilt user and already accustomed to throwing on a few extra articles of clothing before falling asleep. I’d make sure to have a thin insulating pad to place under the UberLite if snow was in the forecast (e.g., the Gossamer Gear Thinlight Foam Pad).
Fabric noise and R-Value are objective, but the question of “how does it sleep” is a little more difficult to nail down. My opinion is that the UberLite cradles the body and prevents pressure points just as much as the average 2 to 3 in thick (5.1 – 7.6 cm) inflatable mattress with horizontal baffles. I usually spend my nights rotating from side to back to side and back again, and I think the mattress performs equally well in side-sleeping and back-sleeping scenarios. My hips and shoulders felt well-supported without being too firm, even with the mattress inflated to max capacity.
Ryan Jordan, who has extensive experience with the NeoAir XLite and XTherm pads, has also tested the UberLite and his experience echoed mine. He felt that differences in support between the three pads was marginal, and all three offered similar latitudes of comfort adjustment by controlling air capacity using the valve.
The UberLite is a no-frills piece of gear. Don’t expect it to cradle you with thicker side baffles or support your neck with an integrated pillow. Most ounce-counting ultralight backpackers will likely appreciate the design simplicity and weight savings.
In short, the UberLite gave me as good a night’s sleep as I usually get on any other sub-15 oz inflatable mattress. For certain there are more comfortable inflatable mattresses on the market, but do they come close to matching the UberLite’s high level of comfort, small packed size, and light weight? Not by a long shot.
Weight and Compressibility
Weight and compressibility are the UberLite’s two biggest strengths. If you are going to purchase this piece of gear, you are going to do so because it weighs 8.8 oz (249 g) and compresses down to a tiny size.
Therm-a-Rest’s marketing materials claim you can fit the UberLite in your back pocket. They’re right, even if it wouldn’t be comfortable. You will certainly have no trouble finding a good spot in your pack for it. You could even compress it in with your sleeping bag for simplicity’s sake if you wanted to.
I can’t overemphasize the size and weight of this product: if you’ve maxed out the ounce savings in your current kit, the UberLite can take you another step forward.
Therm-a-Rest claims that the NeoAir UberLite has a packed size of 6.0 in x 3.5 in. If the pad could be perfectly folded, this is an accurate claim. Realistically, you can expect a packed size in the range of 7.5 in x 3.5 in during actual field use.
The UberLite is constructed of thin 15 denier ripstop nylon on the top and 15 denier nylon on the bottom. In other words, it’s so thin you can see through it in the right light. Exactly how this translates to long-term durability remains to be seen. I can tell you that after occasional and consecutive night use in two seasons, it has yet to spring a leak. That being said, I was cautious with this piece of gear – extremely cautious.
15 denier nylon is not a fabric with which you can be rough. Choosing to use the UberLite means you are committing to paying attention to where you are setting it down, where you are blowing it up, and precisely what type of detritus is littering the surface of your shelter. We were unable to puncture either side of the pad with both green and dry spruce needles, which was a huge relief! The real puncture enemies of this pad would include desert and prairie diaspores, burs, and sharp bits of rock underneath the pad while you sleep.
The UberLite comes with a repair kit that includes two patches and two glue dots to adhere the patches. The total weight of the repair kit, minus the instructions, is 0.2 oz (6 g).
The upcoming thru-hiking season should be a revealing test case for the long-term reliability of this mattress. My suspicion is that novice hikers will be punching holes in the UberLite left and right, while more experienced users will baby it accordingly. Still, accidents happen, and they will happen more often with a fabric of this thickness. I’ll say this: I wouldn’t use the UberLite if I were sharing my tent with a dog, and I wouldn’t use it without a ground sheet or shelter floor to protect it.
My wife and my cat both know it: I’m a notoriously fidgety sleeper. Despite constant rolling and re-adjusting, I had no trouble staying on the mattress, which is 20 in (51 cm) at its widest point and 72 in (183 cm) length from tip to tip (size regular). The UberLite utilizes horizontal baffles. Some back sleepers prefer vertical baffles, but I’ve always found horizontal baffles to work just fine for back sleeping. Some larger users may disagree.
The UberLite retains its structure well when under pressure. After letting out an estimated 5% to 10% of the air from the point of maximum pressure, I still had to exert effort to get the mattress to bottom out from my body weight.
The 15 denier nylon fabric is somewhat slick and may slide around on your shelter floor (depending on your floor material). The usual fixes apply: painting silicone strips on the bottom of your shelter floor or using a thin insulating pad underneath the mattress.
I was able to consistently inflate the UberLite to maximum pressure using 15-17 breaths in just over a minute at an average elevation of 6,500 ft. The nozzle is the standard Therm-a-Rest variety: unscrew to open and screw to lock closed. While inflating you can push the valve forward with your tongue to temporarily close it off, allowing you to inhale more deeply or to keep air from escaping as the air pressure increases inside the mattress during the inflation process.
After opening the valve and letting the mattress deflate on its own for a few seconds, I was able to consistently roll it back up and put it in the stuff sack in about 2.5 minutes. The mattress reliably re-compresses to its stowed size and always fits back in the stuff sack with room to spare.
The nozzle resides on the upper right-hand corner of the UberLite. The nozzle placement makes it easy to reach up and let a little air out to dial in your favorite pressure. The best practice with the UberLite is to start at full pressure and let out a little air at a time while laying on the mattress. The nozzle placement technically allows you to bend it up towards your mouth to re-inflate while laying on the mattress, but I wasn’t ever able to make this work. On cold nights where the internal pressure of the mattress dropped, I had to remove my body from it entirely to re-inflate to my desired pressure. This is consistent with our experience using other inflatable sleeping pads.
The bonded seams on the UberLite appear to be reliable and sound, with no material differences in construction quality or methods when compared to the NeoAir XLite or XTherm.
The surface fabric is satiny, but bare skin pressed against it overnight would likely be uncomfortable. The UberLite and the included stuff sack both come in a dark greenish-bluish-grey. The shade is difficult to see around camp at twilight, so I placed a small square of bright orange tape on my stuff sack to avoid having to search for it.
Some users will appreciate the dark tone, especially those who disliked the bright yellow of the XLite. It’s purely an aesthetic choice and has no bearing on the performance of this particular product.
Therm-a-Rest sources its materials worldwide but assembles its products in America.
- Light weight, especially considering its size, thickness, and comfort level
- Small packed size
- Relatively quiet fabric, especially compared to mattresses that utilize ThermaCapture or other heat reflective materials
- Warm enough for use in temperatures near freezing when not sleeping directly on snow
- Low R-value (2.0) may limit warmth in sub-freezing temperatures and/or when sleeping on very cold, wet, or snowy surfaces
- Simple, no frills design (e.g., no integrated pillow, body cradling baffles, rapid-inflation/deflation options)
- Slick fabric may cause pad to slide around on tent floors
- Thin material (15 denier nylon) is not yet proven for long-term use
Scroll right to view all columns.
|Brand and Model||Weight||R-Value||R-Value:Weight (oz) Ratio||Thickness||Packed dimensions||Fabric Type||Baffle Orientation||MSRP|
|Therm-a-Rest NeoAir UberLite||8.8 oz||2||0.23||2.5 in||3.5 in x 6 in||15D Nylon||horizontal||$179.95|
|Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite||12.0 oz||3.2||0.27||2.5 in||4 in x 9 in||30D rip HT Nylon||horizontal||$169.95|
|Sea to Summit Ultralight Mat||13.9 oz||0.7||0.05||2 in||3 x 6.5||40D nylon||quilted||$99.95|
|Big Agnes Insulated AXL||10.6 oz||unavailable, Big Agnes rates to 32F||0.2 (approx)||Outer: 3.75 in; Inner: 3.25 in||3 in x 6.5 in||Rip-stop nylon||quilted||$179.95|
|REI Flash Insulated||15.0 oz||3.7||0.25||2 in||4 in x 9.5 in||Laminated 30D ripstop polyester||quilted||$99.95|
|NEMO Astro Lite Air Pad||13.9 oz||Unavailable, NEMO rates to 35F-45F||0.15 (approx)||3.5 in||3 in x 8 in||20D PU Polyester||horizontal||$109.95|
|Klymit Inertia X-Frame||8.5 oz||Unavailable||0.02 (approx)||1.5 in||3 in x 6 in||30D top / 75 D bottom polyester||vertical||$119.95|
|Exped Airmat HL||10.9 oz||1.9||0.17||2.8 in||2.8 in x 7.1 in||20D Polyester||vertical||$109.00|
I’ve chosen to compare the UberLite to a sampling of inflatable mattresses that weigh 15 oz (425 g) or less and represent the lightest air pads from Therm-a-Rest, Big Agnes, Nemo, REI, Sea to Summit, and Klymit. All data is for regular or standard size mattresses in the 20 in x 72 in size range.
Therm-a-Rest shaves weight primarily by utilizing a 15 denier fabric. The Exped and NEMO mattresses both use a 20 denier fabric, while all the other mattresses in our table use 30 denier fabric. Klymit saves weight by using a skeleton design that doesn’t maintain full coverage under the body. The result is a sleeping pad that simply can’t compete with the others in an R-value or sleep comfort comparison. Now that the UberLite is as light as the Klymit Inertia X Frame pad, the advantage of the latter (weight savings) has disappeared in favor of the more comfortable UberLite.
In terms of estimated R-value-to-weight ratios, the UberLite is near the top of the pack, and easily the highest amongst all pads weighing less than 11 oz.
Is the introduction of the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir UberLite a game changer? It could be, depending on where you are in your ultralight journey, and what pad you are currently using.
Let’s review some highlights. The NeoAir UberLite:
- Provides more comfort than a closed cell foam pad, and comfort on par with other inflatable mattresses in this range of thickness (2.5 in).
- Uses a reasonably quiet fabric, which will be appreciated by both you and your tent/camp mates, especially if you are currently using a famously crinkly NeoAir XLite pad.
- Is the lightest standard-sized (20 in x 72 in) sleeping pad at this thickness, and compacts to a smaller size than any other 20 in x 72 in pad on the market.
Therm-a-Rest has chosen to prioritize weight and volume over features, added insulation, and fabric durability.
The long-term ramifications of these design decisions on durability are not yet evident. The upcoming thru-hiking season will tell us a lot about how the UberLite holds up to long-term daily use. Certainly many Therm-a-Rest users have found the quality of the XLite and XTherm to stand the test of time, and it’s unlikely that a brand with the reputation of Cascade Designs (the parent company of MSR, Therm-a-Rest, and Platypus) would introduce a new product without thorough field testing.
If you are looking for an all-around inflatable mattress to keep you extra-cozy and extra-toasty in all seasons, this is not the piece of gear you need. Likewise, if you can save two-to-four ounces somewhere else in your pack, you might want to consider a mattress with more features and more warmth. But if you have bottomed out in the ounce-counting game, the UberLite has the potential to shave your base weight even further while still keeping you reasonably comfortable.
If you are a warm sleeper who finds herself sweating through the night on something like the NeoAir XLite or REI Flash, then the UberLite can save you even more ounces. If you typically bundle up while sleeping on the XTherm when temperatures are above freezing, avoid the UberLite!
With careful planning, appropriate clothing choices, and a knowledge of what temperature ranges you can handle, the UberLite has three-season qualifications, but beware of winter and winter-like conditions. On a purely subjective note, I found it to be plenty warm in shoulder season conditions at just-below-freezing temperatures. For these scenarios I used a 20 deg F rated quilt and some extra layers on my body.
For crushing high miles in mild conditions, the UberLite is going to be very hard to beat. Nothing in its comfort class can match the packed size and weight of the NeoAir UberLite. For this reason it has earned a spot in my summer thru-hiking kit, and I see no reason not to bring it along in shoulder seasons as well.
The Therm-a-Rest NeoAir UberLite is currently the lightest and most packable air-filled sleeping pad on the market that provides at least 2.0 inches of thickness, and a standard 20×72 footprint. In addition, it features outstanding manufacturing quality and quiet fabrics.
The UberLite will allow serious ultralighters to shave some ounces while still getting a good night’s sleep. The UberLite will appeal to existing NeoAir XLite and XTherm users who are seeking a quieter sleep and a lighter pack, or Klymit Inertia X-Frame users who are tired of suffering cold nights just to carry a sleeping pad in this weight class. In addition, the UberLite makes sense for ultralight backpackers who have previously been committed to closed cell foam pads, and want to save more weight and increase their sleeping comfort. If long-term users report the kind of ruggedness found in other Therm-a-Rest inflatable mattresses, we may consider bumping this rating to a Highly Recommended.
Where to Buy
- Pre-order / purchase the Therma-a-Rest NeoAir UberLite at REI.
- Inventory will be limited when it is launched in February of 2019. REI is expected to receive the largest shipment of pads, with all pre-orders fulfilled by February 15.
- Excitement and speculation about the UberLite are building on our forum. Join the conversation.
- Read more review and other articles about sleeping pads at Backpacking Light.
- How we acquired these products: Product(s) discussed in this review were either acquired by the author from a retailer or otherwise provided by the manufacturer at a discount/donation with no obligation to provide media coverage or a product review to the manufacturer(s).
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