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Long-term review: Therm-a-Rest UberLite || 3-season pad for 8.8 oz

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).

The UberLite retains the tried-and-true stick valve, and takes about 15 breaths (mine) to fill, although optimal firmness requires a little bit less. Deflation and storage takes about 60 seconds (I timed it), and works best if you deflate it while still laying on it.

UberLite specs

  • 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
My UberLite is very close to its spec weight of 8.8 ounces (250 grams).

Comfort

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.

Exactly like the XLite, the UberLite is 2.5 inches thick and has horizontal baffles of uniform height. For wider users, consider the size Large so you have a bigger sleeping surface.

Noise

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.

Warmth

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).

Durability

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 is more durable than it feels, but it requires careful use. Do not place it directly on sharp objects like pine needles or cones, and do not use it as a camp chair.

Inflation/deflation

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;
The UberLite is smaller than the XLite (left) and Big Agnes AXL (right), all size Regular. But the difference is small, and I’d say that other factors should drive your buying decision.

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

This website is supported by affiliate marketing, whereby for referral traffic I receive a small commission from select vendors like Amazon or REI, at no cost to the reader.

Therm-a-Rest sent me an UberLite for review, with no assurance of one being written or of a positive recommendation.

Posted in , on August 19, 2019
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16 Comments

  1. Doug Swam on August 19, 2019 at 12:18 pm

    Was lookin for a reason to store mine differently than the factory and you provided reasoning. Rock on Andy!

  2. Chad Lorenz on August 19, 2019 at 12:39 pm

    Mine was great, until about night 40. Two blown baffle seams, and another two on night 48. I’m much larger than you (6’2″ and 200lb) and maybe that was a contributing factor. I was pretty darn happy up until that point. I used my size small Uberlite inside a tent with a 20×50 inch cut-up Ridgerest Classic underneath. YMMV.

  3. Dennis van Dokkum on August 19, 2019 at 1:46 pm

    I have the xlite, uberlite and Xtherm.
    What I notice most is that I slide a bit more around on the uberlite. It has to do with the smooth surface I think.

    • Andrew Skurka on August 19, 2019 at 2:03 pm

      I’m curious if that will remain true with increased use. My XLite dates to 2014, and it’s been scuffed up over time, reducing its slickness. It seems unfair to compare the two given their respective ages.

  4. Lighthiker on August 19, 2019 at 2:30 pm

    The AXL Air Insulated will come in at 3.4 under the new R-Value test method next year which also means the Uberlight will be rated slightly higher as well in 2020. Also Thermarest will change their valves next year and they promise faster inflation/deflation. I expect you will find some good bargains for those with the „old“ valves next spring.

    • Andrew Skurka on August 19, 2019 at 2:45 pm

      Hmm, interesting. What does “slightly higher” mean for UberLite? I doubt it would be revised even 50 percent higher, to 3.0, which means that the Insulated AXL is coming in quite a bit higher. That surprises me. I’m happy to use either in 3-season conditions out here, but come mid-September I’m reaching for my XLite.

  5. Lighthiker on August 19, 2019 at 3:28 pm

    The 2020 Workbook from Cascade Designs lists the Uberlight with a 2.3 R-Value in 2020. X-Lite will be 4.2. From my own non-scientific experience I would rate the Insulated AXL Air surely lower than the X-Lite. I could definitely feel cold spots with the AXL when the ground temperature was around +5 Celsius. Didn‘t use the Uberlight in such temperatures though.

    • Michael on August 24, 2019 at 7:49 pm

      Where did you find the 2020 workbook? I’m interested to see that.

  6. John on September 17, 2019 at 12:40 am

    In your comparison you state the Klymit Static V Ultralite SL has an r-value of 1.3. Klymit says it is 4.4.

    • Andrew Skurka on September 17, 2019 at 5:16 pm

      That’s the insulated version, which weighs 16 oz and is somewhat competitive with the XLite but not the UberLite.

      The non-insulated is correctly spec’d in the post as 12 oz and 1.3 R-value.

    • Ellery on September 20, 2019 at 1:13 am

      I assure you the klymit SL non-insulated is like an R-1.3 like they claim. Ask me how I know it’s accurate… *shivers*

      The nice thing is it came in under spec at 11.3 oz IN the stuff sack.

      I like the Uberlite better though, from a comfort standpoint.

      • Ed on October 18, 2019 at 11:44 am

        Great article and review Andrew.
        I was curious about the 4th image down at the end of the ‘Durability’ section. I that the maximum you inflate the mat or is it under inflated?

        I had a long/wide xlite where the baffle seams popped after a week on the trail. I inflated it fully and I’m 90kg so was wondering if I over inflated it.

        I definitely inflated it more than is shown in your 4th photo.

        Thanks,
        Ed

        • Andrew Skurka on October 18, 2019 at 1:26 pm

          I don’t recall the circumstance when that photo was taken. Possibly I inflated the pad, and then let it sit for a while before taking the photo, and in the interim the air inside cooled. Alternatively, that may have been taken in the morning, after sleeping on all night. Either way, I do not inflate my pad fully when sleeping on it. Normally I blow it off all the way, lay on it, and then deflate it until it’s comfortable. It makes no sense to sleep on a fully inflated pad, because at that point you might as well sleep on the ground or on a closed cell pad with minimal cushioning.

  7. Graham on November 8, 2019 at 7:36 am

    I was just about to order one of these as part of my lightweight set up. However, an internet search brings up a very high failure rate. In two minds now whether to go for this or the Klymit Inertia X.

    • Andrew Skurka on November 8, 2019 at 9:01 am

      Therm-a-Rest probably knows what the actual failure rate is, but it’s difficult to determine it from the reviews — TAR sells these by the pallet, and I’m sure that those with bad experiences are more likely to speak up.

      The failures seem to be a manufacturing problem — or were, if they have fixed it by now. So the pads either held air or they didn’t. It’d be prudent to test it before you go, by blowing it up and putting some heavy distributed weight on it (e.g. sandbags, and protecting the pad with a heavy towel). If it holds air for a few days, you’re probably good to go.

      The Inertia X is a very different pad. Sleeps very different, different warmth rating, and very different price.

      Honestly, if you’re looking at spending $180 and worried about the UberLight’s durability, I’d recommend that you consider the XLite instead. It’s usable in more seasons, has proven durability, and weighs only 3 oz more.

  8. Rene on November 17, 2019 at 4:00 am

    Thanks for all your work mate!

    Just as additional info…
    I’ve been using the Neo Air XLite women ( I’m 5’8, 155lbs) for years ( slept on it most nights for over 3 years, from Asia to Iceland, Oz to Alaska, from 40°C to -15°C (then with the Z-Lite added), never had a problem with the noise and it does get a rougher texture with use.
    It is the same weight as the regular but with a higher R value of 3.9

    Cheers

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