Saturday, July 11, 2015

Gear Review: Nemo Astro Air Lite 20R

Nemo Astro Air Lite in The Grand Canyon
The Dirt:

What is it? Ultralight sleeping pad.

Comes with: Pad, stuff sack, compression strap, repair kit.

Size: 20 x 72 inches. 3 inches thick. 3 x 8 inch pack size.

Weight: 14 ounces.

Insulation: Air (R-Value near zero).

Price: $109.95 at REI

The Nemo Astro Air Lite is one of the lightest options on the market for an inflatable sleeping pad. The 14 ounce weight puts it at just 2 ounces heavier than the current ultralight favorite, the Therm-a-rest NeoAir Xlite. What separates the Nemo Astro Air Lite from the competition however, is the shape. The Astro Air Lite is a true rectangle, unlike the NeoAir or Exped Synmat Hyperlight, which are both mummy shaped. The rectangular shape gives the backpacker ample room to roll over in the middle of the night without sliding off, and provides near unrivaled comfort for the weight. This could really come in handy if you don't use a mummy bag.

Indeed, it is this combination of weight and comfort that impresses me most about this pad. Most ultralight pads sacrifice comfort in order to achieve that absurd light weight. Not the case with the Astro Air Lite. Not only is there ample space, but the pad itself is 3 inches thick. Simply put, it's comfortable, and the horizontal baffles prevent that feeling of sleeping on a swimming pool floaty. The top baffle at the head is also larger than the rest, making for a decent pillow when combined with a balled up down jacket or fleece.

Horizontal baffles
Another impressive aspect of the Astro Air Lite is how small it stuffs into the sack. The 3 x 8 inch pack size is smaller than any comparable pad on the market that I know of. It's ultralight, but packs so small it will easily fit into my pack.

By far my favorite thing about this pad is that in over a year of owning it, I've never woke up to lost air. After suffering through two previous pads that developed micro leaks, that is a big deal to me. I love going to sleep with the confidence of knowing I wont wake up to a giant rock digging into my ribs in the middle of the night. It's one reason why I find myself going with this pad over foam more and more.

Nemo Astro Air Lite in stuff sack
Now, this pad might not be for everyone for the simple reason that the Astro Air Lite is non-insulated. I find it works for me year-round in Arizona in 90% of the conditions I use it in. I've never woken up cold on this pad, even cowboy camping in October, or tarp camping in December. But if you live up north and routinely backpack in freezing temps, this pad probably isn't for you.

Finally, I have but one complaint; the valve. Obviously, this pad inflates by lung power. Although it only takes a minute or two to completely inflate, the valve can be stiff and difficult to manipulate. On several occasions I've lost air after inflation due to complications with the valve. Sometimes, it just won't close properly.

The Nemo Astro Air Lite is a sweet pad with a reasonable price. If you're looking to shave some weight but not comfort, I would definitely give it a look. If you are a cold sleeper, or camp in colder conditions, then you may want to look elsewhere.

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