Thermarest Neoair All Season, Mini Pump and Auriga Blanket review/s
I have long been a fan of the Neoair mattresses. Russ first review one of these back in 2010 http://www.songofthepaddle.co.uk/for...-NeoAir-Review. Since then they have brought out an all season version which is a bit heavier but warmer and tougher. I have used one of these as my main mat for the last few years and am a big fan. Themarest sent me the current model to review along with the Auriga Blanket. Iíve been testing these out for a while now so here are my thoughts.
Swag, Neoair, Auriga Blanket and Crusader Mug
The Neoair All Season
The current All Season model is, as far as I can tell identical to my older model. The pack size insulation and weight are all the same. For the long model I have this means 710g, 4.9 R value and rolled up fits in the hand like this
What is new is you get a mini pump. And they are not kidding when they say mini.
Iíll come back to the pump. First a quick summary of the mattress itself. Fantastic. As I said I am a huge fan of the Neoair mats. They pack smaller than any other mat, are warm enough, big enough and robust enough to put up with the abuse I give mats. They are thick when inflated so soak up all the uneven ground and give you a comfortable nights rest.
I used to rave about my Exped Down mat and they were super warm and comfortable. The pack size was bigger and the weight considerably more but worse, in my experience they did not last. I had one delaminate and split and another separate so instead of being flat it was a big sausage shape. Neither of these issues lent themselves to a field repair. Basically all that can go wrong with a Neoair is a puncture and that, you can generally remain in the field.
One issue you could level at the Neoair was because it was not in any way self inflating you ended up light headed blowing the damn thing up, however, few people were inflating it by mouth. You got an adapter you fitted to a big bag and by scooping air into the bag and squeezing it out into the mat you inflated it. This was straight forward and quick and with no real downsides. The only thing it did need was a bit of room. However, this has not stopped Thermarest making an improvement.
Neoair Mini Pump
Enter the Neoair Mini Pump.
The pump is battery operated. Many people are concerned about tech in the field as it can break, batteries can run flat etc. These are critical issues for critical kit, however, the mini pump is an accessory. It makes your life easier but if it breaks, you blow the mat up with your lungs and no harm comes to anyone.
The pump has a door at the front that opens to reveal a rubber nozzle tucked inside.
As soon as you take the nozzle out the pump starts running.
This can actually be a bit annoying. I think I would prefer a simple on / off switch. You could of course take the batteries out till you wanted it to run but it is not that annoying. The batteries are two AAA size.
Use of the pump is as simple as can be. Open the valve on your mat. Open the front of the pump, pull out the nozzle and fit to the valve on the mat. Stand back for a couple of minutes while the mat inflates.
The mini pump inflates the mattress surprisingly quickly but not to a high pressure. I found it inflated it to a comfortable pressure with enough give for you to sink in and be comfortable without ďbottoming outĒ unless you sit up. If you want the mattress firmer then you may need to give one lungful of air to finish it off.
As I say the mini pump is not a critical piece of kit and using a big bag to inflate the mat was no great hardship but there are some advantages. Inflating the mat in a small one man tent is a lot easier with the pump. Also using my Swag or if you have a Bivi Bag that has the mat inside then you can simply unroll this as one fit the pump and have the mat inflated. Amazingly the pump packs as small and is really no heavier than the bag and adapter so there is no downside in that respect. I am not sure the benefits of the pump on its own would justify the cost of one but as part of the Neoair mat purchase it is definitely a benefit.
Now talking of bivy bags, swags or bedrolls this has long been something I have wanted for a sleep system. One rolled up package that you can unroll, get into and go to sleep. The Swag I have comes with a mattress but frankly it makes it stupidly huge and heavy. the Neoair fits perfectly and a sleeping bag finishes it off, or even better a blanket, better still a down blanket. I have down under blankets that have worked for this but was keen to try the thermals Auriga Blanket. In the hand and lightly compressed it looks like this. It could go a lot smaller.
The long one I was trying weighs in at 622g, is 132cm wide and 198cm long. It has 750+ Fill Goose Down and is rated for comfort to 2C.
As I often feel with down blankets or sleeping bags they feel like they will not be warm enough. But in use I have found this warm to lower than zero. Of course I had merino base layer on and was in a swag so there was extra insulation there as you would also find in a small tent.
The blanket comes with tabs you can stick to your mat for attaching it.
However, i did not use these. I attached cord to the tabs on the blanket to hold it to the mat. the top one of these I could unclip when I wanted to open the blanket up some. you can get a thin fitted sheet for the mat that the blanket clips to. This makes fitting the blanket super easy and stops the sweatiness you can get from the mat if you sleep naked.
You can see that the blanket has a foot section for the mat to go into and baffles at the side to cut down on draughts.
I found this made the blanket a little tighter at my feet than I would have liked. Also because I am freakishly tall (6foot 3inches) it mean the blanket only came up to my chin.
If I unhooked the blanket from the bottom of the mat then it gave me plenty of foot room and a few more inches of blanket to come up over my face a bit. I should also say there is plenty of room width wise to turn over and move about so in this way the blanket is a lot less restrictive than a mummy bag.
Now this is not really a fault with the blanket. I have similar issues with sleeping bags. Plus with a down bag or blanket you donít really want to be breathing into it as the condensation will damp down the down . Also when I am really sleeping in cold conditions I will have a merino hat on and maybe even a neck buff. If I need to I can curl up under the blanket but part of the appeal of the blanket is being able to open my eyes and see the stars above from my Swag when it is not raining. When it is raining I will have the swag pulled over anyway which will keep in heat. Iíll also have my dog deployed to stop draughts
When using the down blanket you need to give it a bit of a shake and airing every couple of days. There is a tendency for the down to migrate to the edges which can leave cold spots.
I realise I am not using the blanket in the way it is intended. it is aimed at the ultralight camper and I am not in that camp. So I lent it to a friend who does trail running on multi day trips. He was going to write a separate review and may still get round to it but in summary I can tell you he loved it. The weight saving and pack size where huge advantages for him. He found it more than warm enough for the spring runs he took it on. I had quite a hard time getting it back from him as he really did not want to give it back. I suspect he is ordering one as I type. Stuart is about 6 inches shorter than me and this may also have been a factor in his love of the blanket.
If I was 6 inches shorter or this blanket was 6 inches longer I think I would be raving about it. It has press studs that allow you to clip the top corners behind your neck to stop any draughts but I was just too tall for this to be comfortable. It is a shame as the long Thermarest mats are more than long enough for me. So I have a kind of split recommendation for you. Regardless of what height you are I would always get the long version of the blanket. If you are over 6 foot tall then I donít think I would recommend this, unless you are really watching the grammes. If you are doing three season camping and like a bedroll type solution or are fed up with the restrictive mummy bags then this could well be ideal for you. And if you are a trail runner shaving every gramme it is really worth your consideration.
If Thermarest are reading this then add six inches to the length of this, up the insulation to make it a four season blanket and i will be first in line for one of these. It would then do for ground dwelling and as a top blanket in my hammock set up.