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Conor O’Keeffe – Thermarest Review

Where’s Your Bed At?

The Greek God of sleep is the kind and gentle God, Hypnos. Hypnos’ home is said to be a
dark and quiet cave located at the point where day and night meet. No sound or light can
penetrate his grotto of serenity and peace. At the entrance to his cave of tranquility grow
poppies and other soporific flowers that induce a drowsy, sleepy state. His bed is said to
be made of perfectly crafted ebony. And I’d bet that he had a Thermarest mattress laid
out on top of it to really ensure he got a great nights sleep.
Sleep isn’t just important to gods, it’s very important for us humans too. We often see
nutrition and hydration as the foundation of health when in fact they’re more like pillars
that sit atop the foundation that is good quality sleep. Good nutrition and hydration are
very important for recovery but sleep is the body’s healer. It shuts the body down and
allows for our natural healing processes to commence. We can only make proper use of
what we’ve eaten and drank that day by giving our body’s time to utilise them. That’s why
sleep has become the number one priority in my recovery routine.
When I head off on a two day trek or load up the car to driver off and go car camping I
don’t want to compromise on my sleep quality. Thats why I have been using the
Thermarest NeoAir Topo Luxe and NeoAir Uberlite. Of course it isn’t going to be as
comfortable as your nice warm bed but if you can even improve your sleep quality by
10% when out camping, then you’re going to be better equipped to take on what the day
has in store.

What do we Need From Our Mattress?

The main objective of your sleep mattress is to keep you warm. You might think that that’s
your sleeping bag’s job but in fact your sleeping bag is only going to be as warm as your
mattress allows it to be. Your mattress is what prevents you from losing heat through the
earth that is beneath you. It allows you to keep and maintain the heat your body has been
working hard to generate all day.
So how do you know how warm a sleeping mattress is? Simple – its ‘R’ Value.
A sleeping pad’s R-value measures its capacity to resist heat flow through it (hence the
“R”). The higher a pad’s R-value, the better it will insulate you from cold surfaces.
Sleeping pad R-values range from less than 2 (minimally insulated) to 5.5 or more
(very well insulated).
Let’s go through the two mats I have tested for Thermarest and see how they stack up
against each other (or how they lie down next to each other – little mattress joke there.)

NeoAir Topo Luxe

The NeoAir Topo Luxe (TL) is exactly what is says on the tin – Luxurious. It is one of the
most comfortable mattresses in the Thermarest arsenal. It has an ‘R’ rating of 3.7 and is 4
inches thick. Which is pretty high rating considering it weights 650 grams in size regular. If
you’re size large like me then you will have to carry 820 grams. Which is on the heavier
side of mattresses but it’s a trade off I’m willing to make for a better nights sleep. The four
inches of thickness makes it a very comfortable mattress especially if you’re like me and
tend to move around a lot as you sleep. Prior to using the TL, I used a thin roll out foam
mattress and I would rarely stay asleep for longer than 2-3 hours at a time. I used the TL
this spring, summer and autumn and although I don’t ever sleep the entire night through
while camping, I could easily get 5-6 hours of undisturbed sleep and fall back to sleep
easily once awake. That’s the main difference I found between the foam mattress and the
TL, I found it far easier to turn over and get another hour of sleep before getting up to
make my morning coffee. That extra hour of good rest could be the difference between
having a tough slog on the mountains or having a spring in your step.
Even though it is sold as a 3 season mattress I would feel comfortable using the TL all
year round. I don’t think it would leave me down in winter as long as I used a good
sleeping bag.

NeoAir Uberlite

Again, Thermarest didn’t leave much to the imagination when it named the Uberlite – it’s
super duper light. Even for someone like me who requires a size Large – it’s only 340
grams! It’s also 2.5 inches thick which is just astounding considering it’s weight! It’s
perfect for those who are carrying their packs for multi-day hikes such as may marked
trails like The Wicklow Way. You won’t even feel the weight and it packs down to the size
of a can of Coke! Which means you can pack in more food and snacks – you can never
have enough hiking snacks. As a trade off for being so light it does have a lower ‘R’ rating
of 2.3 so it wouldn’t be my first choice for camping in the heart of Winter.
I personally loved the Uberlite and used it in Summer and Autumn. I found that it gave a
great nights sleep and although it has a lower ‘R’ rating of 2.3 I wasn’t cold (I was also
using a great sleeping bag – the Thermarest Questar). For how small, light and packable it
was I was really surprised at how warm and comfortable I was. I would use the Uberlite
with confidence for all multi-day hikes during Spring, Summer and Autumn.

Head to Head

So, head to head – who wins? If I was pushed hard for an answer I’d have to say…both!
They both win for different reasons and for different uses.
If you’re more into car camping (driving to a camping spot and setting up close to your
car) or like me, you don’t mind carrying extra weight for a good night’s sleep, then you
would have to go with the Topo Luxe. It’s got a high ‘R’ rating and it’s 4 inches thick so it’s
going to give you a more comfortable, warmer night’s sleep. It’s the closest thing to
sleeping in my own bed I’ve experienced while camping!
If like many, you’re conscious of weight and space in your backpack and you like to get
out for multiple days on the hills then I’d go for the Uberlite. Yes, you’ll lose warmth and
comfort as opposed to the Topo Luxe but you just have to see the Uberlite to be
impressed. When it’s packed down you wouldn’t believe its big enough for a 6’2, 85kg
man to get a comfortable night’s sleep on but I can testify that it is! When you roll it out
and inflate it you’ll be even more impressed – it’s so thick for its weight.
My final thoughts are that these two mattresses are incredible pieces of engineering. They
both allow you to get good rest when you’re ready to settle down and stop playing. The
ethos of #restbetterplaybetter is stitched into the fabric of each and every Thermarest
mattress and these are no different.

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