The crackling sound as I stretched out on the silvery mattress atop the REI testing platform made me giggle. The sales guy grinned and said “We call it the potato chip mattress.” Apt nickname, really. But I no longer even notice the sounds…and if I did, I would definitely forgive them because this sleeping pad, with its 5.7 R-Value, does something none other ever has. It keeps me warm!
Though at 5′ 7″ I don’t actually need the extra length, I bought the Long size. At 77 x 25 inches, it’s five inches longer and wider than the Regular size and it keeps my knees off the ground when I’m sleeping in my favored semi-fetal position. Granted, that’s a teeny bit long for the mattress to lie parallel to the wall of my 2-person tent, but sleeping skejawed is a minor inconvenience well worth the comfort.
I am in my late 60’s and every passing year presents new camping challenges. This mattress isn’t the answer to how difficult it’s becoming to get my butt off the ground once it’s down, but it certainly keeps me much warmer than any other pad I’ve tried. Within minutes of laying down on it, I can feel it reflecting my body heat back to me. On other pads, I get too cold to sleep in temperatures below 50 degrees, even in a down bag rated for 15 degrees! But on this pad, I have slept through nights cold enough to put ice on my motorcycle.
While it’s perfect for me, there are some factors that might make it a little less so for others. First, there’s the matter of inflating it. I got light-headed trying to do it with my mouth, and found the “inflation bag” approach totally untenable. I finally settled on a lightweight bellows pump that came with an inflatable guest mattress. If I hadn’t had that, I would probably have opted to purchase the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Mini Pump. Then there’s the matter of comfort. This air mattress is 2.5″ thick, which in my younger years would have been luxurious. But these days the bones ache and I must supplement it by placing a second, smaller mattress under it. I use the Klymit Static V Lightweight Sleeping Pad, which is light and inflates with a few puffs. This brings me to perhaps the biggest drawback for some campers…the weight. In total, I’m packing about 3 1/2 pounds just to have a sufficient buffer between me and hard ground. If it were all traveling on my back, this might well be a deal-breaker. For me, it’s no problem at all because I travel on a motorcycle and there’s plenty of room in the duffel strapped to its pillion.
I have used the NeoAir mattress for two seasons of motorcycle camping, and unlike everything else I’ve tried, I heartily recommend it—especially to women who have trouble staying warm.