God Damn it! I can never fit this god damn sleeping pad, son of b#tch, mother f#$%ing, @#$%, doesn’t even hold air, jacked up sciatic nerves, chiropractor visits, gaWD f*$#!….
Does this sound familiar? Cookware to tents. Drybags to food stashes. Cameras to beer storage. Packing light and efficient is important when you have a total storage space of roughly 75 oddly shaped gallons to work with. Even more important if you are carrying your campsite solely in your backpack. One of my favorite things to watch unfold from each individuals oddly packed river crafts are their sleeping arrangements, developed over years of personal suffering.
From the lo-pro classic sleeping bag in the dirt technique, to hammocks hanging from questionable foliage, old school ethofoam (more of a placebo than anything), to the most technical inflatable-mattresses on the market, just waiting to pop and leave you just as well off as the dude passed out in the sand; There are so many ways to show your spine how much you disrespect it, but nothing says “I hate my vertebrae” quite like sleeping outside.
It doesn’t have to be that way though. I have tried all of the above methods in pursuit of a good night of sleep, whether hiking through mountains or carrying everything I need for an 8-day expedition on class V sections of whitewater.
There is one product that I have put through the grinder over the past 4 years and it has yet to let me down.
For 4 years the Therma-Rest Neo-Air has been my go to sleeping pad. I traveled through Nepal and India with it. Splitting the cost of a shack in Chile for only $10 a month, left 6 river-bums sleeping on the floor. My mattress for those three months? The Neo-Air. Traveling through Southern Patagonia? The Neo-Air. Self support trip in the PNW? You get the point.
Number of repairs that I have made to it? ZERO!
It seems unreal even to me, but it’s true. The Key is GROUND TARP DILIGENCE.
Years of sleeping on holy thermarests that deflated around 1am, led me to a moment where I made a pact. The moment my new therma-rest arrived in the mail, I vowed to it that I would never, under any circumstance, let it touch the ground without having the equivalent of a groundtarp under it, I’ll even throw my rain jacket under it if I have nothing else on hand. It works. But, I always bring some Type A tape just incase.
The same weight and size as a 12oz beer can , I pack it in my carry-on baggage when heading abroad. It’s worth its weight in gold when you find yourself delayed in hong-kong for 9 hours during an escape from Calcutta.
Pros: Super lightweight! (12oz)
Thickness: 2.5 inches of glory provided by the power of air and empty space to keep your spinal column off the ground.
Width:20 inches (1’8″)
Length: 70 inches (5’10”)
If you treat it right, it won’t do you wrong.
Cons: The regular size, isn’t quite wide enough if you like to sprawl out. The mattress width tapers towards the feet, which is good and all if you are trying to shave weight, but not that awesome if you are looking for pure sprawling joy.
Noise: The material that Thermarest uses, although extremely light, sounds like a bag of chips when it’s fresh out of the package. It takes a little breaking in before the material softens up.
Inflating it: It takes me about 30 breaths to blow up the neo-air. I may pass out while blowing it up, but the mattress sure provides a comfy landing zone. Like a lot of Backcountry air-mattress producers, Thermarest realizes this and has a fancy attachment for an air bag that will blow the mattress up with little lung power needed…I myself am to lazy to pack this along and I would lose it anyway.