For both the Appalachian Trail (AT) and the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), Sean and I used Thermarest sleeping pads without complaint. We both used the ProLite model on the AT and upgraded to the NeoAir XLite (NeoAir) for the PCT. Both are wonderful products and will suit you well for backpacking. (This is my unsolicited opinion. I love Thermarest products!)
ProLite – This sleeping pad has self inflating die cut foam. When the nozzle is left open, the mattress will partially self inflate and needs only a couple more breaths to be filled to the desired firmness. The foam creates a very comfortable pad for a great night’s sleep. I had no complaints sleeping on the mattress for nearly six months of hiking the AT. On a ground (1) to plush mattress (10) scale, I would give the ProLite a 6 in terms of comfort.
NeoAir – This pad does not have a foam center. Instead, it is 100% air filled. I found this design to be more comfortable as it puts more distance between your hips and the ground. The only downfall is that the inflated plastic makes quite a bit of noise when switching sides during sleeping. On the scale mentioned above, I would give the NeoAir an 8.
ProLite – Both the small and regular size are about 11″ long and 5″ in diameter when deflated and put inside the included stuff sacks. They are about the length of a football though half the width. The regular size weighs 16 oz and the small is 12 oz.
NeoAir – Once compacted, the regular length is 10″ long with a 3.5″ diameter. The small (3/4 length) is 7.5″ long and 4″ in diameter. It is slightly smaller than my 1 Liter Nalgene bottle for comparison. The regular weighs 12 oz and the small 8 oz.
I’m not certain if any product is made to take on 5+ months of daily use. Both models of sleeping pads encountered problems towards the ends of our hikes. Thankfully, the company stood by their warranty and replaced the items quickly when we contacted them about our issues. For average use, I wouldn’t expect either model to have any problems.
ProLite – Sean had a problem with his ProLite towards the end of our AT thru-hike. The glue that holds the foam and the plastic together was coming loose which created a pocket where all of the air inside the mattress gathered. It was like a beach ball at one end of the pad. This pad was replaced in store as quickly as possible once we were in town.
NeoAir – My NeoAir developed a small, undetectable leak towards the end of the PCT. Overnight, it would leak to about half capacity. The company mailed me a new one to the next trail town.
ProLite – This is a great sleeping pad that is still in the lightweight category and is an excellent value for the price. I would recommend this pad for shorter trips.
NeoAir – This is one of the lightest pads on the market as well as comfortable and warm. If you are an ultralight enthusiast and willing to invest some money, look no further than the NeoAir.
Thermarest updates their designs every year. These products are only getting lighter and more compact. I’ve spent almost a year sleeping on Thermarest sleeping pads, and I don’t envision myself switching brands. This is a brand I stick by and highly recommend.
Do you love your Thermarest pad? Have you had any problems with yours? I’d love to hear your feedback in the comments below!