At a glance
Plusses: Fast inflation and deflation, warm, comfortable
Minuses: Expensive, noisy
Features: The mat’s headline feature is its speed valve technology – a large opening that drastically cuts down inflation and deflation times to around half that usually taken to inflate a Therm-a-Rest. Once the mat is inflated, the valve rolls up and clips shut like a drybag. In addition, there’s an ordinary screw valve for fine tuning.
Weight: At 454g, it’s more than 100g heavier than Therm-a-Rest’s market-leading NeoAir Xlite, but it’s still respectable among lightweight mats. One reason for the extra weight: it has a rectangular cut instead of the narrow mummy cut found on lighter mats.
Comfort: While the mat is comfortable, it is quite noisy with some users comparing it to a potato chip bag. This overstates the issue, but if you are a light or restless sleeper, you may want to try before you buy. With 6.4cm of clearance and an R-value of 3.2, it is warm enough for most New Zealand conditions. The rolled-up speed valve creates a kind of inbuilt pillow, but my head kept rolling off and it gets in the way of a rolled clothes’ pillow. I ended up using the mattress upside down.
In use: Therm-A-Rest claims that the speed valve inflates twice as fast as a traditional mat. If anything, it’s even faster. Packing up is also a breeze, as the air rushes from the squeezed mat and it slides easily into a generously-sized stuff sack. Despite these advantages, I’m still a fan of using a ‘schnozzle’ pump to avoid building up moisture inside the sleeping pad. Well-used mouth-inflated mats eventually end up spotted with mould. The mat can deflate overnight if you do not roll the top up seven times. It also pays to make sure the internal sleeve is properly pushed in.
Value: The mat is a flagship addition to the top of the line NeoAir range and Therm-A-Rest is a premium brand, so it’s not surprising the mat has a high price.
Verdict: The speed valve technology drastically reduces the effort and time involved in inflating and deflating a sleeping mat. As well as its convenience, the Xlite SV is also comfortable, compact and warm. Very light sleepers may prefer a model with less squeak and gram shavers may prefer a lighter model.