Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite Max SV Sleeping Pad Review + Corus HD Quilt
Thermarest’s Corus HD Quilt and NeoAir Xlite Max SV mattress promise lightweight, packable, luxurious comfort. For six months, we put them to the test…
Just a handful of items make the most difference with respect to the compactness of a bikepacking kit, including a warm insulating layer, shelter, and sleeping gear. If these are durable and functional but also pack small, it is that much easier to find room for days of food in bikepacking bags where space is at a premium.
Kudos to Thermarest. In the Corus HD Quilt and Xlite Max SV pad, they have made widely available a sleep combo that is comfortable, functional, packable. The quilt and mattress work perfectly well separately, and, together, they are a solid pair. I have tested them for months in New England and in the desert southwest and I am a fan of both.
Therm-a-rest Corus HD Quilt
Quilts realize the sophisticated technology of sleeping bags in the open rectangular shape of a common blanket. By now the main claim made in favor of quilts over sleeping bags is familiar: since the insulation on the bottom of a sleeping bag is compressed by your body, that part of the bag does little work keeping you warm. A quilt saves weight and volume simply by eliminating the bottom and by therefore not needing a zipper. The downside is that a quilt requires more vigilance to eliminate drafts, and quilts do not quite achieve the very refined shaping around your body to trap every BTU.
For me, the balance of compromises tips in favor of quilts, so I have used one on all of my trips for the last six or seven years. I’m probably a reasonably positive candidate for quilt use, since I can be a restless sleeper switching from side to back. Moreover, I sleep warm — relative to typical manufacturer ratings of bags and quilts, anyway – and I was already going to bed with a puff jacket and hat on, which are essential when pressing the temperature limits of a quilt. I’ve not missed the extra degrees of warmth from a close fitting bag, and I appreciate the room and flexibility of sleeping under a quilt.
Quilts used to be somewhat specialized equipment manufactured in small batches, and it’s only recently that they have gone mainstream. Thermarest’s Corus HD is a very nicely conceived instance of a mass market quilt, with quality materials, sensible details and reliable stitching. So far, its performance has rivaled that of the more expensive ones that I’ve used. (On the other hand, Thermarest manufactures the Corus in China to achieve the reasonable cost.)
The Corus HD is filled with 650 fill down coated with a Nikwax hydrophobic treatment that is claimed to result in 40% less moisture absorption that untreated down. The down itself bears the RDS—Responsible Down Standard—certification, which includes no live plucking and no force feeding, and the treatment is water based and PFOA free. The quilt lofts quickly after being taken out of its stuff sack and I found myself happily draping it around me before getting into the tent for the night.
Even though quilts are simpler than sleeping bags, sophisticated ones like the Corus HD have a distinct box to wrap around the end of the camp mattress or around your feet. And the Corus has a baffle around three sides of the quilt that help trap warmth and make tucking it under your body fairly straightforward. It has sewn-in snaps so that it can attach to loops on the mattress to create a sleep system. The loops are self-adhering add-ons to a mattress. Finally, there is even a small snap outside pocket up at the chest end of the quilt; it’s just the right size for a smartphone or headlamp.
Thermarest’s recommended comfortable temperature for the Corus is 45F/7C, while the lower limit is indicated as 35F/2C. On an autumn night up on Vermont’s Lincoln Gap, the digits fell well below that minimum with snow flurries early in the night and then a clear chill in the morning. I was happy and warm without a shiver or complaint. For me, Thermarest’s ratings are very conservative and I wouldn’t hesitate to pack the Corus even if I expected temperatures in the mid to high 20’s F (-3C).
The Therm-a-rest Corus HD comes with a stuff sack that yields a package about the size of an American football, and with a large sack for storing the quilt between trips.
- Weight: 1 lb 6 oz (0.64 kg)
- Model: Corus HD (Regular)
- Price: $199-249
- Place of Manufacture: China
- Contact: thermarest.com
Buy the Therm-a-Rest Corus HD Quilt at your local camp store, or you can check the prices online at Amazon here.
Therm-a-rest NeoAir Xlite Max SV
Thermarest’s NeoAir Xlite Max SV is a made-in-USA ultralight air mattress. It is part of the NeoAir series, and I’ve been using the small standard Xlite for many years. The “Max” part of the name makes clear that this one adds substantial size, while the “SV” refers to the remarkable speed valve. More on the latter in moment.
The size long Max SV that Thermarest sent us is expansive at 80 inches x 25 inches. As a person of, er, modest stature who typically uses a ¾ length pad, the additional length was outlandish. But I can imagine my beanpole friends being very happy. It packs down to a reasonable size. The weight for the standard length is reported at 460 grams, while the long is 600 grams. These are very respectable numbers. The stuff sack it comes with is easily packed and is roomy. In fact, it’s too roomy, which I turn into a feature by putting clean dry sleep socks in it in addition to the mattress.
If you must know, the R-value is 3.2. R-value is a measure of a material’s resistance to heat transfer. If you want to compare camp mattress R values, here are a few we compared a couple years ago. I don’t pay much attention to numbers like these, since there is so much variation in subjective sleep temperature and R-values are calculated in idealized conditions. I can report that my wife, who sleeps cold, found the Xlite Max SV both comfortable and a warm ground insulator when she borrowed it. Thermarest calls this a three season pad, and while I’m sure that’s a sound designation, I wouldn’t hesitate to put in on snow.
The Speed Valve
Far and away the most remarkable thing about the Xlite Max SV is the speed valve. If you’re coming from a background of blowing interminable lungfulls of air into a small mouth valve, the Thermarest valve will defy sense. It’s a massive maw that you blow into from afar—six to ten inches away—and yet it fills shockingly quickly. On average it took me 14 breaths to get the mattress within reach of comfortably filled. Once I closed the speed valve, I could top up the mattress with 4-5 breaths into the standard valve to reach a firm fill.
Thermarest has a fun demonstration of the scientific principles behind the speed valve. Essentially, blowing air into the mattress from six inches away creates a lower pressure stream because blown air has a higher velocity. Velocity and pressure are inversely related. This is the Bernoulli principle with respect to a moving fluid, of which air is one in this model, and is an important component to how wings work. As the pressure is equalized in the stream of air you create, more air is pushed by your blows than could be pushed from lungs alone. The lining to the speed valve helps make sure your hard work doesn’t escape back out.
The speed valve absolutely works, and it makes me smile every time I fill up the mattress so easily and quickly. I’ve reached a point where blowing up mattresses through a small mouth valve is frustrating and seems quaintly retrograde. Deflating the mattress is a revelation, too: unbuckle the valve, roll the air out in a quick whoosh, and fold it up.
Things are not completely rosy with the speed valve, however. There have been persistent complaints online about the mattress losing air without any discernible punctures, sometimes even right out of the package. Thermarest advises that this is likely due to a problem securing the large valve. I can confirm that sealing that valve properly is imperative and I don’t always get it right, which has resulted in waking up in the middle of the night with a deflated pad. That’s annoying, to say the least. The shiny black lining of the valve must be fully inside the neck of the mattress and should be laid out smoothly before beginning to roll the lip over itself seven times, and sure enough the times I experienced air loss I only folded it four or five times. I’ve had better success following their directions.
It’s a fair point that finicky gear isn’t the first choice for backcountry travel, so you’ll need to decide for yourself whether you want to go through the extra layer of concentration to get the valve right. This mattress works so well that, for me, learning its quirks was worth it for its plush performance.
Another source of complaint about the Xlite line of air mattresses is the “crinkly” sound made when one is moving around on one. The sound is a bit like crumpling a plastic bag, but not as piercing or loud. Honestly, I only notice it nowadays when someone points it out. Others claim that it’s a serious demerit against the mattress. For the record, I’ve done hundreds of nights out on my small Xlite and the sound has never been an issue.
I find the feel of the fabric to be perfectly comfortable, even with sweaty bare skin against it in warm temperatures. It has a dry hand, and enough friction that you won’t slide off if your tent is on a incline.
- Weight: 1 lb 5 oz (0.6 kg)
- Model: Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite MAX SV (Long)
- Price: $230
- Place of Manufacture: USA
- Contact: thermarest.com
The Quilt and Sleeping Pad as a System
These two pieces may be used as a system with the optional snap loops that allow the quilt to attach to the mattress. The loops have a strong adhesive to affix them to the mattress and doing so took about ten minutes. For most of my testing time described above, I did not bother to attach or use the loops. I’ve recently spent several nights sleeping in the integrated configuration. For me, there is a tradeoff between the slight increased warmth of the integrated pieces and the sense of freedom to move around that I appreciate in a quilt. I’ll likely not use the pieces attached most of the time, but it is reassuring that it is possible to do so and that there is a small increase in warmth as a result.
Thermarest has been making camp mattresses since the early 1970’s. They are newer to the sleeping bag and quilt market, but their history translates into effective attention to detail in both the NeoAir Xlite SV as well as the Corus HD quilt. Both are very nice: they’re packable and they’re light. The Corus is even relatively affordable, though there are at least a few USA made quilts that come in at around the same price for the same features. The speed valve on the Xlite SV is for me a game changer, but Thermarest’s execution falls short of perfection in that completely sealing the valve is finicky and even with a fair bit of practice I sometimes get it wrong. Still, on almost every night I used them, I slept better than at home. The trail itself probably has something to do with that, but Thermarest’s quilt and mattress were able contributors.
Thermarest sent both the quilt and the mattress to us for review. Additoinal photography by M Coady.
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