Let’s say you have decided that you want to reduce your pack weight for an upcoming multi-day backpacking trip, and you have made a commitment to an ultralight backpack. Now what? In order for an ultralight backpack to be comfortable, it requires skillful packing, and more importantly ultralight gear to go inside of it. An ultralight pack doesn’t work with bulky and heavy gear. So now you need to reconsider all of the items you will carry with you.
When reducing pack weight, the most important items to reevaluate for weight and function are known as the “big 3” items: backpack, sleeping bag, and shelter or tent. But let’s not forget the sleeping pad! A sleeping pad is also a crucial part of a camping kit, and pads come in the full spectrum from huge and heavy to small and light.
This year Therm-a-Rest released a new sleeping mat: the NeoAir Uberlite. In the past, the NeoAir XLite was a popular, consistently award-winning sleeping pad because of its unrivaled combination of low weight, small packed size, and high R-value. With the introduction of the UberLite, Therm-a-Rest has created something even smaller and lighter, almost mind-bendingly so.
Here are some stats for comparison: for the exact same size of 72-inches by 20-inches, the XLite weighs 12 ounces, the UberLite weighs 8.8 ounces. The XLite’s R-Value is 3.2, the UberLite’s is slightly less, at 2.0. The XLite rolls into a small 9-inch by 4-inch tube, while the UberLite folds into a minuscule 6-inch by 3.3-inch pouch.
When compared to the NeoAir XLite Women’s, which is shorter, lighter, and warmer than the standard XLite, the Uberlite still packs smaller and weighs less. (The women’s version is 66 inches long and weighs 11.8 ounces. The women’s model has a higher R-value than both of the other models, 3.9.) For those interested in lightening up their backpacking kit, the UberLite is an ideal solution. We have not seen another sleeping pad as lightweight and as packable. Plus, it maintains an impressive R-value while shedding weight.
So how does this shiny, oil-slick black, ultralight product work in practice? Well, if you are already used to sleeping on an XLite, you won’t even notice a difference. It offers the same plush 2.5 inches of cushion as the XLite, and it has the same drawbacks: a noisy surface that can feel like sleeping on a balloon if it is too inflated. And they both take what feels like an eternity to inflate.
Our preferred method of sleeping on any NeoAir is to inflate it all the way, lay on it, and then open the valve to release a squirt or two of air. This lets the body sink into the mat a tiny bit rather than remain bouncing on the surface. This method allows for spongier comfort and pleasant night’s sleep.
Like any delicate, ultra-light piece of gear, the UberLite needs to be treated with care. We used the UberLite for several nights in a row during bad weather, and we experienced no punctures or problems. Then one tester accidentally sat on his inflated UberLite while it was folded. One of the interior baffles popped, making the pad lumpy and uncomfortable. It never popped all the way, so it continued to function, but was less desirable to sleep on. The lesson here: treat with care. Someone who is typically rough on their gear will most likely want to choose a more durable product. For those interesting in carrying lighter loads, this sleeping pad is incredible.
The UberLite is not uber wallet-friendly. The XLite costs $170 for a size Regular, the Women’s version costs $160, and the UberLite costs a whopping $180. However, the high cost is typical for elite-level ultralight products. The technology and materials required to reduce weight and size while maintaining function and performance are pricey. But we think losing almost 4 ounces and 3 inches in length is worth an extra $10 over the XLite.
After testing the UberLite in the Wind River Range, the High Sierra Backcountry, and even on remote, rocky glaciers in Patagonia, we feel confident that we can recommend this product. Some activities demand the lowest weight gear possible: alpine climbing and mountaineering and thru-hiking and ultralight, long-distance backpacking. This is the sleeping pad for those experiences. Buy Now