Therm-a-Rest Sleep System Review

10:34 a.m. on September 12, 2011 (EDT)
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This thread is for comments on the article "Therm-a-Rest Sleep System Review"

Combine Therm-a-Rest's NeoAir All Season pad, Alpine Down Blanket, and Fitted Sheet and you get a full sleep system. Find out how comfortable and versatile the pieces were for our tester.

Full article at http://www.trailspace.com/articles/2011/09/12/therm-a-rest-sleep-system-review.html

12:56 p.m. on September 12, 2011 (EDT)
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Seth,

Thanks for the review; very interesting. The timing is notable to me as I just had a bad night in the Smokies with a Therm-a-rest Synthetic tech blanket and standard Neo-Air pad. The temperature got down to 38 degrees Fahrenheit last Friday in an AT shelter and I could not get warm. The Synthetic blanket was rated to 35 (although I didn’t anticipate the low temps….my bad). I use that blanket for summer trips, but it’s done until next summer as far as I’m concerned…

Any movement led to exposure with that narrow blanket. In warmer temps it doesn’t matter but I was acutely aware of what body part was uncovered, lol.

11:00 p.m. on September 12, 2011 (EDT)
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I had a regular NeoAir and although rated to 32F, I found it chilly at 40F.  I have moved to a Synmat UL7 and although only rated to 3.1, the insulation has allowed me to push it to 25F without any cold spots (I think it will go lower while still staying very warm).

Although this All Season version is rated to 4.9F, the tester only had it to 36F.  I would have liked to have seen a real test of the pad in cooler temps.  Not sure how the pad can get a 4 star rating without doing this.

8:22 a.m. on September 13, 2011 (EDT)
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CWF said:

  I would have liked to have seen a real test of the pad in cooler temps.  

 

 I second that.

7:20 p.m. on September 13, 2011 (EDT)
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Patman - Thanks for sharing your experience.  There are a lot of variables with pad and bag testing, so sharing your experience is going to help lots of folks figure out what is likely to work with them. 

Patman and CWF - I am planning some long-distance winter bike trips and will consider testing this pad during those. Your point is a good one - how can one rate an "All Season" pad accurately without testing it in all seasons?  Publishing timely reviews sometimes means cramming more testing into shorter periods of time.  I'll take your comment as a suggestion to revisit this review this winter, after a few cold-weather tests.

8:14 p.m. on September 13, 2011 (EDT)
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Unless I missed it, I did not see dimensions of the Alpine Down Blanket.

Please provide.

                                                      ~r2~

9:27 p.m. on September 13, 2011 (EDT)
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It says regular is 76" long x 48" girth shoulder and hip x 25" girth footbox. Fits to 5'10" tall.

Large is 80 x 52 x 25. Fits 6'4".

12:40 p.m. on September 14, 2011 (EDT)
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Thanks Seth - looking forward to the results....

9:57 a.m. on September 15, 2011 (EDT)
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I used the NeoAir all season during the Winter Camping course for Boy Scout adult leaders I teach.  I used it sleeping on the snow on several nights in Feb and Mar when the temperatures were near 0F. It was plenty warm. I concur with Seth that blowing it up "manually" takes a while, though not as bad as he portrays it (maybe I have big lungs from all the high altitude expeditions and from 20 years as a university professor teaching classes of 200-300 students ;D). I had the standard stuff sack, and indeed that is much faster in inflating the pad. But I didn't find the deflation took any longer than a standard Thermarest. YMMV. I had a long discussion with the developer of the NeoAir this summer about using the pad during serious winter and high altitude trips. His strong advice was to use the usual pad setup for really cold trips, namely pair your inflatable with a closed cell full length pad. The reasoning is that if you do puncture the NeoAir, the closed cell backup provides some insulation from the snow and ice you are sleeping on. Having had the experience of trying to find the hole in a Thermarest of a tentmate at 14,000 ft on Denali, I thoroughly agree (it took 3 of us a couple hours to identify the slow-leaking hole - you can't dunk the pad in water when it is that cold, and even using a small amount of water to spot the bubbling just produces a patch of ice). It is surprising how many weary climbers returning from the summit just pile into the tent with their crampons on.

11:15 a.m. on September 15, 2011 (EDT)
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Thanks Bill!  I didn't include in the review an interesting tid-bit that might have some bearing on the use of the pad in deep winter.  I agree with you that a closed-cell foam accompaniment for an inflatable pad is the best choice for cold weather.  The designer I spoke to suggested that because the NeoAir's baffles are lined with aluminized material, the pad has a notable R-value, even when deflated.  In other words, the NeoAir might be a better insulator deflated, than the Therm-a-Rest.

And, jeez, I hope my lung capacity is as good as yours when I'm your age!

12:50 p.m. on September 15, 2011 (EDT)
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I like the idea of adding the closed cell pad. I'm trying to decide whether to go that route or possibly purchase the All Season model when available.

1:00 p.m. on September 15, 2011 (EDT)
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The aluminized coating is used by Cascade Designs (Thermarest, MSR, etc) on a version of their Zrest and/or Ridgerest as well (don't remember which). That is supposed to boost the R-rating. Personally, I haven't found the aluminized coatings to do much. I have tried wrapping one of the thin mylar "space blankets" around me at subzero temperatures with/without wind to see how many, if any, layers I could shed. The idea is that it takes care of radiated heat and convection/wind chill. It didn't really help noticeably more than just having a windproof layer. I was given a hat that has some kind of aluminized dots that is supposed to be warmer. Same thing - a regular fleece hat seems to work just as well. So, let's just say I am skeptical of claims for the heat reflector idea. Good in theory, but doesn't seem to be all that good in practice.

But I will note that when we installed the window coverings (current term - no such thing anymore as curtains, blinds, shades, etc), we put the Hunter Douglas "honeycomb" version that looks in cross-section exactly like the NeoAir All Season, including the aluminized multi-baffle. They work extremely well on those days when the midday and afternoon California sun is blasting directly on those windows. But note that the baffles hang expanded, so there is effectively a multi-layer air pocket as well as the reflection barrier. That dead air space is an important component in the insulation.

1:55 p.m. on September 15, 2011 (EDT)
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Thanks for the review Seth.  It is good to see that your review is constructively critical and discerning of needs.

8:42 p.m. on September 15, 2011 (EDT)
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Bill - I share your skepticism.  I'll put it to the test this winter.  I buy that metals reduce heat loss by radiation, but I've considered the possibility that they could INCREASE heat loss by conduction.  It's getting colder by the minute here in Maine, and this test might happen sooner than I'm ready!

11:42 p.m. on September 21, 2011 (EDT)
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CWF- just to clarify, the pad is rated with a 4.9 R-value- not temp rating. And to conduct heat, I believe the substrate would, I believe, require mass, off which a thin aluminized coating has precious little. Have fun with the winter testing! I look forward to the results. I like your idea of combining bags to boost warmth. Alpinists have essentially been doing this for a while, dressing in everything at bivies and then throwing on an ultralight bag for a little boost to get through the night. I bet your combo works great.

6:10 a.m. on September 22, 2011 (EDT)
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As 'upzmtn' notes, the conduction of heat via the aluminum foil is very insignificant, while its reflection of body heat would give a slight boost, but not much! We normally use two Chinese copies of Thermarest, on top of each other, and a normal sleeping bag (down bags, most of the time), per person. Works great in this climate (haven't tested it in really cold circumstances, yet), and is great for our old bodies!

The only problem is actually the sheer volume of two pads per person! We will experiment with a thick Chinese inflatable mattress next time :-), as it is more compact deflated than four pads!

When its warm we prefer a Hennessy's Hammock, with a single pad and a light sleeping bag (per person)!

4:09 p.m. on September 28, 2011 (EDT)
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The nice folks at Cascade Designs have informed me that their new fitted sheets attach via buckles, rather than rubberized straps.  This might address the difficulty I had fitting the pad into the sheet.  Also, in January 2012, Therm-a-Rest will introduce some lighter fitted sheets.  My personal opinion is that if you plan on using the NeoAir for basecamps and backyards as well as backpacking, these sheets are worth considering.

6:23 p.m. on October 7, 2011 (EDT)
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Thanks for the review Seth! Can I ask, what do you use to measure air temp with? Thank you, Ron

7:39 a.m. on October 8, 2011 (EDT)
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Hi ron. I use a cheap alchohol thermomiter. Nothing fancy!

11:43 a.m. on October 13, 2011 (EDT)
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I don't get the difficulty in inflating the NeoAir size regular pad.  It takes 15 breaths and under a minute for a relative geezer like me even at moderately high elevations (8000' is about as high as I have used it).

BTW, for deflating, it helps to open the valve when you are still lying on the pad in the morning.  It will be mostly deflated by the time you are ready to roll it.

1:14 p.m. on October 13, 2011 (EDT)
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Pete - perhaps my fondness for unfiltered cigarettes in college was greater than I remember?  I'm thinking that the prototype I got was a bit larger and had a different valve than the production model.  I'm certain that someone will correct my physics if I'm wrong, but a mat might be paradoxically easier to blow up at altitude?  I'm thinking that, while the percentage of O2 in air is lower at altitude, which would make you dizzy faster, the density of the air is lower - so you could move more gas with less effort up high.  I'm thinking that the difficulty in inflating the mat isn't just 02 deprivation, but the actual mechanical effort your diaphragm goes through?

1:58 p.m. on October 13, 2011 (EDT)
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Seth and Pete -

I think Pete is referring to the regular NeoAir pad and Seth tested the 4-season. The 4-season is a bit harder to blow up because of the multiple chamber setup, at least for the regular NeoAir retail version vs NeoAir 4-season prototype I tried out. Still, I didn't find the 4-season all that hard (as I commented above). But 15 puffs? You must have large capacity lungs, Pete!! OTOH, Seth, the lower air density, which gives lower partial pressure of O2 as well, does result in many people getting a bit light-headed at high altitudes when blowing up even a foam-filled Thermarest.

11:28 a.m. on November 3, 2011 (EDT)
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Folks - it's just come to my attention that MSR is offering their entire line of NeoAir mats as complete systems, including insulation and accessories.  It's an interesting concept that's worth checking out: http://cascadedesigns.com/therm-a-rest/sleep-systems/complete-systems/category

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