Therm-a-rest NeoAir Topo Luxe | Review - Outdoors Magic

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Therm-a-rest NeoAir Topo Luxe | Review

A new backpacker’s mat from Therm-a-rest with a luxurious depth and interesting new valve system

Why We Chose The Therm-a-rest NeoAir Topo Luxe: Cushioned, comfortable, smart valve system, and surprisingly lightweight

Therm-a-rest’s NeoAir line of mats includes a bunch of options all designed to suit backpackers. In other words, they’re made for people who want something lightweight and packable.

It was the NeoAir Uberlite – which was and still is the lightest inflatable mat ever made – that managed to make it into our last Outdoor 100 product guide. This time, the new Therm-a-rest NeoAir Top Luxe is our choice; a mat that Therm-a-rest say is the thickest airpad in their collection.

The valve testing involved 100 prototypes and 500 nights of camping. Photo: Mike Brindley

Who Is The Therm-a-rest NeoAir Topo Luxe For?

This should suit a specific type of backpacker; one who doesn’t want a heavy weight to carry but then also likes a fairly luxurious amount of comfort. For instance, they might find the 250g NeoAir Uberlite too minimalist but then, at the other extreme, will find the car camping-oriented Therm-a-rest Basecamp too cumbersome at 1.14kg.

That said, this would also be an appealing option for any car or van campers that want a comfortable mat that won’t take up a load of room in the boot when it’s not in use.

Materials and Designs

Considering this offers a whopping four inches of elevation off the ground and the fact that it’s rectangularly-shaped rather than tapered, it’s actually surprising that this weighs as little as 650g. That’s by no means cumbersome. For perspective, OEX’s ‘ultra-lightweight’ Traverse mat weighs 400g more but only offers 2.5 inches of comfort (it does only cost £25, in fairness to OEX!).

“This offers a whopping four inches of elevation”

The secret is in its use of Therm-a-rest’s Triangular Core Matrix construction which involves two stacked layers of triangular baffles. No bulky and heavy foam here. To ensure it’s still able to block cold convection from the ground, there’s a Thermacapture Lining which, to put it simply, bounces your body heat back to you.

It’s not a winter-rated mat though. The R-rating is 3.7 which is three points short of the all-season pass mark. Still, it’s definitely capable of serving you in all but freezing conditions.

The shell fabric is a 50D (top and bottom) polyester knit. That’s pretty tough, you won’t have to worry too much about anything tearing into it. It’s also quiet as well so if you tend to move about in your sleep, you won’t drive your tent buddy mad.

Features Therm-a-rest's Triangular Core Matrix. Photo: Mike Brindley
The mat has Therm-a-rest's impressive new TwinLock Valve. Photo: Mike Brindley
Four inches of elevation without being heavy. Photo: Mike Brindley

Inflation and Deflation

This is one of the first mats to feature Therm-a-rest’s brand new valve design. Called the TwinLock, it involves two separate valves: one that lets air in and another that lets air out. For inflation you either twist the in-valve and blow through it or you can use the pump bag that comes with the mat (this can double as a stuff sack). Blowing through using just your breath is surprisingly quick and easy given how thick the mat is. It took us less than two minutes and wasn’t too much effort – mainly thanks to the one-way-only design of the valve. It’s obviously much, much faster with the pump sack.

Then there’s the out-valve which Therm-a-rest say lets air out up to 5x faster than traditional valves. Twist it fully open and the air will rush out, or if you just want to let a little air out in the middle of the night for a softer feel, you can just give it a couple of turns and let it ease out.

“This is one of the first mats to feature Therm-a-rests brand new valve design”

According to Therm-a-rest, the design process for these valve (along with their new Winglock one as well) involved over 100 prototypes, 500 nights of camping and experiments with extreme heat, extreme cold… and a gravel-filled cement mixer.

To pack the mat up, you just need to fold one half over to the middle and then fold over the remaining half before rolling up from the bottom. It’s quick and easy and the stuff sack gives a nice bit of room while still helping to minimise the overall packed volume.

Tester’s Verdict

Will Renwick, editor of Outdoors Magic

“I was able to test this out on a two-night bikepacking trip pretty much right before the UK went into lockdown in March. I’ve got a bunch of super light sleeping mats so I had felt a little reluctant to take this given it’s slightly heavier and larger. However, by the end of the trip I had no regrets taking it whatsoever.

Inflation can be done as pictured or with a pump bag
The quick-deflate valve/ Photo: Jordan Tiernan

“That’s because it was so, so comfortable. It’s been a while since I went out on anything other than a tapered mat and I forgot how nice a rectangular cut can be. OK it weighs a bit more and its packed size is bigger (it’s still only about the size of a Nalgene bottle) but for some trips the comfort will make up for this. So, for hikes with one or two nights of camping or any bikepacking trips, I’d be very happy to take this with me. On long-distance trails, I wouldn’t shun it that quickly, but to be as ultra light as possible, I’d probably end up choosing something less luxurious for the sake of my overall pack weight.

“As for the valves, these get a big thumbs up from me. They were simple to use the first time of trying and the one-way nature of the in-valve certainly sped things up.

Our tester using the mat during a wild camp in the Lake District. Photo: Jordan Tiernan

“It comes in three different sizes: Regular, Large and Regular Wide. I’m 5 foot 10 and found that the Regular version, which is 183cm long and 51cm wide, provided plenty of space to sleep on. A Regular Wide and Large version are also available.”

Trade Secrets

Mack Hauff, Therm-a-Rest Product Development Manager and Design Engineer

“The classic valve that you have been using on the Therm-a-Rest mats up until now was a great valve – easy to use and lightweight. However, it was created at a time when every mat was only a few centimetres thick and there wasn’t much volume to inflate or deflate. Now mats are much thicker – for example, the new NeoAir Topo Luxe is 10cm thick – and the volumes have changed dramatically, which meant that the original valve was no longer meeting the needs of the customer. Air escapes as soon as you take your mouth away from it! Both the TwinLock and WingLock valves are check valves – one-way – designed to prevent air from escaping during inflation, creating a faster flow rate, and delivering an all-round better experience.

“The new valves are user as well as factory replaceable. So if your dog gets hold of it, you don’t have to throw the mat out.”

“One of our main objectives for the project was that the new valves should be easy to use in the toughest of conditions or environments (like heavy rain or snow). And we’re immensely proud that both the TwinLock and WingLock valves require only a natural, micro movement to use. In other words, the twist mechanism, whilst being incredibly robust, is also incredibly simple, even when wearing thick gloves or with wet hands.

“Something we’ve always been proud of is our high standards on repair and replace-ability. Just like the classic valve, the new valves are user as well as factory replaceable. So if your dog gets hold of it, you don’t have to throw the mat out.

“We carried out a lot of prototyping, and an ongoing cycle of tests (both in the lab and the field), taking everything we learned to the next iteration. At a much later stage in the process, we worked with a group of customers in a local retailer in Seattle. We asked them to use a number of the valve prototypes with varying levels of instruction, all the while recording their responses and adapting the design. Alongside the testing, we also worked together with a number of our suppliers to figure out exactly how we could push the limits of design with the tooling we had, so that we created a sustainable manufacturing process for the future.”

Therm-a-rest NeoAir Topo Luxe

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