Fourteen years ago, back in April of 2000, I moved from the Washington, DC-area to California. Because I was eager to start my new job I traveled to California in advance of my furniture, spending over a week "camping" on the floor of my bedroom. I had a good Eddie Bauer down sleeping bag (remember when Eddie Bauer made camping gear?), but needed a good sleeping pad, so I bought a Therm-a-Rest LE (Luxury Edition) self-inflating pad. It worked great that week, and I used it with great success on all my camping trips since then.
Now, in April of 2014, I've moved again--this time to Reno, Nevada. And, once again, there's been a week or so where I've been camping on the floor of my bedroom waiting for my furniture to arrive. However, unlike last time, that good ol' Therm-a-Rest LE just wasn't as comfortable any longer. Maybe it's a 14 year-older me, or maybe the Therm-a-Rest isn't as supportive as it once was, but my lower back would get very stiff while sleeping on the old pad, to the point where I couldn't sleep more than about five or six hours before waking up from the discomfort.
With a couple of days to go before my furniture was to arrive, I decided it was time to upgrade the old sleeping pad. In my casual browsing of the web over the years I'd become aware that the Big Agnes inflateable pads had become very popular, but in researching them I found that Therm-a-Rest had come out with a new line of NeoAir pads that folks were raving about even more.
I wanted to get the Camper version, as weight (and to some degree size) isn't as important to me since most of my camping is done while motorcycling or four wheeling. However, the Camper wasn't in stock at any of the local stores so I decided to get the XLite, which is the light-weight version intended for ultra-light backpacking. I figured that I'd likely start doing some hiking and camping around Lake Tahoe, so a lightweight pad would be useful--and also immediately available to relieve my aching back while I camped in my bedroom!
The sales guy at REI warned me that the pad would make "crinkly" noises as I shifted around on it, and suggested the Big Agnes pad instead, but I wanted to try the XLite and I'm glad I did. It was great! It's two or three times as thick as my old pad, so it can conform more to my body and support it better, yet it rolls up into a cylinder that's less than half as long as my old pad and it's much lighter, too. I noticed the crinkly noises when I first unrolled it, but once it was inflated those noises mostly went away and I slept great on it.
Yes, it doesn't "self inflate" like the old pads, but it took only 20 breaths to fully inflate and I probably ended up letting out five of those breaths while adjusting the firmness. (I deflated it to the point where I just started bottoming-out on the floor, and then added one more breath so I didn't touch the floor at all.) I slept on my back and my side in equal comfort, and the pad did a good job of staying in place throughout the night.
Material technology has come a long way in 14 years, and I'm quite impressed with the NeoAir XLite.