Therm-a-Rest NeoAir

By STEPHEN REGENOLD

For the past month, rumors have circulated among the outdoor-gear cognoscenti about a new minimalist air mattress that’d pack to the size of a one-liter Nalgene bottle while providing nearly as much warmth as a bulky pad stuffed with goose down.

Indeed, the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Mattress, announced officially on July 17, is now touted as the “world’s lightest, most advanced three-season air mattress.” Manufacturer Cascade Designs Inc. cites the inflatable pad as being approximately three times warmer than any other un-insulated air mattress on the market.

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While the pad isn’t yet available for testing — and it won’t ship to stores until April 2009 — the NeoAir is newsworthy for its big claims as well as the fact that this is Therm-a-Rest’s (www.thermarest.com) first foray into the un-insulated air mattress category.

NeoAir pads will come in four sizes, but the smallest iteration — which measures 20 × 47 inches unrolled and packs to the size of the aforementioned Nalgene bottle — will weigh a scant 9 ounces, or less than the average trail-running shoe.

Testing via ASTM International standards, Therm-a-Rest garnered an R-value thermal resistance measurement of 2.5. According to Doug Jacot, the Therm-a-Rest business director, comparable un-insulated inflatable air mattresses often register an R-value of less than 1.

So how does NeoAir work? Therm-a-Rest engineers developed an air-bladder technology — the “Triangular Core Matrix” — which is a welded-nylon grid of chambers that, according to Jacot, increases the number of individual air cells by 10 times when compared to a traditional air mattress. This minimizes air movement within the pad and the resulting convective cooling, Jacot said.

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