Therm-a-Rest revolutionized the sleeping pad category in the late-2000’s with the NeoAir XLite, which was lighter, warmer, and more comfortable than the prevailing self-inflating pads of the day. Use of the NeoAir technology was expanded, and other brands developed competing products, but the XLite has remained dominant among backpackers concerned with the weight of their gear.
Does the new Therm-a-Rest NeoAir UberLite ($180, 8.8 oz) change this dynamic? With an R-value of just 2.0 and with thin 15d fabrics, is it warm enough and durable enough for 3-season use?
Long-term review: Therm-a-Rest NeoAir UberLite
This summer I slept on the NeoAir UberLite for five weeks in West Virginia’s Appalachians, Alaska’s Brooks Range, and Yosemite National Park. It kept me warm in temperatures down to 30 degrees F, incurred no holes or blown seams, and is acceptably comfortable.
For backpacking solely in 3-season conditions, for which the UberLite provides sufficient insulation, it’s a very attractive option because of its weight and size. It’s telling that I used the UberLite for all of my trips this summer, even though I could have stopped using it after West Virginia.
The UberLite competes most directly with the Big Agnes Insulated AXL ($180, 10.6 oz), which I reviewed last year. Between the two, it’s a toss-up: the UberLite is marginally lighter and smaller; the AXL is slightly more comfortable; both cost the same, and both push the limits of fabric and construction technologies. Go to the store and test-sleep both; or order both, test them at home, and keep one.
If your pad needs to service you beyond 3-season conditions, or if you want extra reliability, your answer is still the NeoAir XLite (12 oz, $170), which is more durable, $10 less expensive, and 60 percent warmer than the UberLite and the Insulated AXL (probably, since its R-value is publicly unknown).
- 8.8 ounces (250 grams) in size Regular
- R-value of 2.0
- Top: 15d ripstop nylon; bottom: 15d nylon
- 2.5 inches thick (6.4 cm)
- Made in USA
- Three sizes: Small, Regular, and Large
- $180 MSRP for size Regular
- More information
If you have spent a night on the XLite or the warmer XTherm, the UberLite will feel very familiar. All of them:
- Are 2.5 inches thick, enough to hover over small rocks, roots, sticks, and cones;
- Feature horizontal baffles of uniform height; and,
- Taper slightly towards the foot end.
Without “guardrails” to help cradle the sleeper, wider bodies should consider the size Large, which is five inches wider and taller (and 3.2 ounces heavier and $30 more expensive) than the size Regular. For context, I wear slim or very slim Medium shirts, and find the Regular size suitable, but not with much margin.
Unlike the XLite, mylar film is not used in the construction of the UberLite. This compromises its warmth, but makes it less crinkly. Sleeping on the XLite has been rightfully compared to sleeping on a bag of potato chips.
The UberLite is quieter than the XLite, but it’s not absolutely quiet. The 15d fabrics are crispy, and can replicate the sound of balloons being rubbed together when laid atop some shelter floor fabrics.
My experience with the XLite, XTherm, AXL, and now UberLite is that these pads make less noise with age and when paired with older shelter floors. Repeated folding of the pad seems to soften the materials, and normal use seems to buff the fabric coatings.
The UberLite has an R-value of 2.0. Anecdotally and quantitatively, it’s not as warm as the XLite, which is rated to 3.2, or 60 percent warmer. Its optimal temperature range feels close to the Insulated AXL, for which the R-value is not publicly known.
The lowest temperature I experienced with the UberLite was exactly 30 degrees. I recall being extraordinarily comfortable, but context matters here: I was sleeping on a soft bed of Arctic tundra and on my backpack, which were complementing the UberLite’s warmth. More often, nighttime temperatures were in the 40’s; I slept on gravel bars, pine needles, mineral sand, granite slabs, and plain old dirt. In general, I’m very adept at finding campsites that are inherently warm — it’s rare that I sleep on cold, damp, hard-packed ground. So YMMV.
My coldest night on the UberLite was in West Virginia, when I was camping in a bridge hammock atop a windy ridge with temperatures in the low-30’s. By 2 AM I was too cold to sleep, so I dropped the hammock to the spruce needle-covered ground, which was a much warmer arrangement.
Overall, I would describe the UberLite as a true 3-season pad. In the Mountain West, that means June through mid-September. In the Eastern woodlands and desert Southwest, you can add one to two months on both sides. Undoubtedly, the UberLite is a less capable pad than the XLite, which I unhesitatingly pack for hunting trips in the Colorado Rockies in November and early-season backpacking trips in May (when I might have to sleep on snow).
My UberLite has not yet developed any holes or bulges. I wouldn’t expect the latter, since delamination of the internal tubes is a very long-term issue. To avoid the former, I’m careful with it — every night I protect the UberLite with a tent floor or bivy sack, a plastic pack liner, and my backpack.
But don’t be mistaken: the UberLite is a delicate pad. Keep it away from sharp rocks, thorns, and needles. Don’t use it as a sit pad during rest breaks or around the campfire. And keep it inside a stuff sack when it’s in your pack.
I also don’t store the UberLite (or any other pad) in the same way that it arrives from the factory. Instead of folding it in thirds and then rolling it, I roll up the pad, full width, and then fold it in half. This technique avoids sharp creases in the fabrics, which I think improves long-term durability, and it’s faster and less fussy.
If you read through reviews about the UberLite, you’ll see quite a few comments to the effect of, “It developed a hole on the second night, and I returned it.” I get the sense that there are (or were) lemons being produced, and I’d advise you to test out your UberLite before you rely on it, like by inflating it at home, weighting it with something, and ensuring that it holds air for a few days.
The UberLite retains the tried-and-true stick valve that Therm-a-Rest has been using since at least the early-2000’s, when I first encountered one. It restricts the rate of inflation and deflation, but I don’t mind: my respiratory system, not the valve, is the limitation during inflation; and deflation is acceptably quick if I release it while still laying on the pad. Recently, I timed this process — it took 60 seconds from opening the valve to putting it inside a stuff sack.
Versus the competition
How would I compare the UberLite to other popular sleeping pads?
Therm-a-Rest UberLite vs. Therm-a-Rest XLite
Versus the Therm-a-Rest XLite ($170, 12 oz), the UberLite is:
- 3.2 ounces lighter and $10 more expensive (in size Regular);
- Identically comfortable, but less noisy;
- A truer 3-season pad, not worthy of shoulder seasons; and,
- Less abrasion- and puncture-resistant, versus the XLite’s 30d fabrics.
Therm-a-Rest UberLite vs. Big Agnes Insulated AXL
Versus the Big Agnes Insulated AXL ($180, 10.6 oz), the UberLite is:
- 1.8 ounces lighter and equally expensive, in size Regular;
- Less comfortable: it’s thinner and lacks over-sized outer tubes;
- Similar in warmth; and,
- Comparable in durability, although Therm-a-Rest is generally thought to have a track record for construction quality.
Therm-a-Rest NeoAir vs. Klymmit Static V UL
Versus the Klymit Static V Ultralite SL ($100, 12 oz), the UberLite is:
- 3.1 ounces lighter, in size Regular;
- $80 (or 80 percent) more expensive;
- Warmer, with an R-value of 2.0 vs 1.3;
- Less suitable for rollers, since it lacks side rails;
Leave a comment!
- What questions do you have about the UberLite?
- Own the UberLite? What’s been your experience with it, and how would you compare it to other pads that you own or have used?
Disclosure. I strive to offer field-tested and trustworthy information, insights, and advice. I have no financial affiliations with or interests in any brands or products, and I do not publish sponsored content
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Therm-a-Rest sent me an UberLite for review, with no assurance of one being written or of a positive recommendation.