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Gear News | Therm-a-rest’s Mats Just Got Even Better

Small changes can often go a long way. Introducing Therm-a-rest's new TwinLock and WingLock valves

When you’re camped high above the tree-line or you’re into double figure days on the trail, the finer details of your kit become ultra-magnified. Details like whether you can turn on your head torch while wearing gloves, or if your stove’s burner can hold its performance when the mercury drops a couple of degrees, or how smoothly the zipper on your sleeping bag will glide open when nature calls in the middle of the night. It all starts to matter.

With dozens of prototypes, 500 field tests and even experiments with a pneumatic press, all just for the development of a couple of new sleeping mat valves, it’s safe to say Therm-a-rest are one of those brands that care about getting those finer details of their products right.

The small changes they’ve recently made have actually gone a long way too. Any sleeping mats that feature one of these two new valve designs are in fact up to 3x faster to inflate compared to those with the previous valve – that classic ‘lefty loosey, righty tighty’ option that’s been around for years now.

The WingLock Valve

Unlike that original valve, the new WingLock valve, involves a one-way check. You can blow into it or fix a pump bag or electronic pump and you won’t have to worry about rapidly twisting it shut to keep air from sneaking out. For deflation, the wings come into play: one full twist will fully unlock the valve to let air pour out in an instant, or you can partially twist it if you just want to bleed a bit of air out in the middle of the night.

So far this has been added onto Therm-a-rest’s NeoAir Uberlite and the NeoAir Xlite as well, enhancing the performance of both mats with virtually no extra weight added.

The Winglock (left) and the TwinLock’s ‘OUT’ valve. Photos: Jordan Tiernan

The TwinLock Valve

The other new valve system, called the TwinLock, is featured across Therm-a-rest’s larger and high-volume pads, including the NeoAir Topo Luxe, with the onus on faster deflation. Instead of utilising wings, the TwinLock has two dedicated valves: one “IN” one-way valve and one “OUT” dump valve. Partially opening the OUT valve allows you to bleed air while a full twist and pull will let you dump air from your pad immediately.

The OM team testing the NeoAir Uberlite in the Lake District. Photo: Jordan Tiernan
The Therm-a-rest NeoAir Topo Luxe, featuring the new TwinLock valve. Photo: Jordan Tiernan
The Therm-a-rest NeoAir Uberlite, featuring the WingLock. Photo: Jordan Tiernan

According to Therm-a-rest’s Design Engineer, Mack Huff, that previous classic valve design was created at a time when every mat was only a few centimetres thick and there wasn’t much volume to inflate or deflate.

“They’re incredibly simple to use, even when wearing thick gloves or with wet hands.”

“Mats are much thicker these days – for example, the new NeoAir Topo Luxe is 10cm thick,” explains Mack. “The volumes have changed dramatically, which meant that the original valve was no longer meeting the needs of the customer. 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.”

One of Therm-a-rest’s main objectives for the project was for the valves to be easy to use in the toughest of conditions or environments (like heavy rain or snow).

“We’re immensely proud that both the TwinLock and WingLock valves require only a natural, micro movement to use,” Mack explains. “In other words, the twist mechanism, whilst being incredibly robust, is also incredibly simple, even when wearing thick gloves or with wet hands.”

The NeoAir Topo Luxe with the TwinLock valve is the thickest sleeping pad across Therm-a-rest's line. Photo: Jordan Tiernan
The dump valve on the TwinLock valve system. Photo: Jordan Tiernan
The Topo Luxe packed away. Photo: Jordan Tiernan
The ultra packable NeoAir Uberlite. Photo: Jordan Tiernan

Both new valve systems are strategically placed so that they’re off the sleep surface and away from your back, ensuring you’re kept comfortable at night. Just like the classic valve, they’re also replaceable – whether that’s done by the user at home or by Therm-a-rest’s repair team. So if your dog gets hold of it, you don’t have to throw the mat out.

Therm-a-rest NeoAir Topo Luxe

We actually liked the NeoAir Topo Luxe enough to include it in this year’s Outdoor 100, our guide to the year’s best outdoor gear releases. Featuring the new TwinLock system, this mat offers 4 inches of cushioning and still comes in at the impressively light weight of just 650g. It also has an R-rating of 3.7 so it’ll keep you warm in all but freezing conditions.

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Therm-a-rest NeoAir Uberlite

The NeoAir Uberlite, which now features the new WingLock valve, is the lightest inflatable air mat that Therm-a-rest have ever made. This thing weighs just 250g and it’s no bigger than a beer can when it’s packed away With its 2.5-inch depth this thing’s still going to offer a very comfortable night’s sleep as well.

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