Everyone knows that a good sleeping bag is key to getting a good night’s rest in the backcountry, but not everyone acknowledges the role that a sleeping pad plays as well. Without a proper sleeping pad in your arsenal of gear, you end up camped on the rough ground, which can be extremely uncomfortable in the best of conditions but downright awful when it is wet and cold.
Thankfully, there are plenty of great options to choose from when it comes to selecting a sleeping pad to take with you on your adventures and recently I’ve had the chance to test out the NeoAir Camper SV from Therm-a-Rest, which is a comfortable option for use on the trail.
Now, before we delve too deeply into the Camper SV, lets get one thing out of the way immediately. This sleeping pad is not for the light and fast crowd. If you’re someone who counts every ounce, you’ll be better suited using one of Therm-a-Rest’s ultralight options instead. This model tips the scales at a beefy 2 pounds, 5 ounces, making it a hefty inclusion in your pack.
On the other hand, the Camper SV delivers plenty of comfort and durability, which makes it a great choice for anyone who favors a bit of luxury over going as light as possible. The pad doesn’t pack down as small as others that I’ve used, but it makes up for it in providing plenty of support and warmth. Therm-a-Rest says that it has an R-value of 2.2, which puts it squarely in the three-season camping area in terms of performance.
The NeoAir Camper has been in the Therm-a-Rest line-up for awhile, but the SV adds the company’s Speed Valve technology to the mix. This allows campers to inflate the pad much more efficiently and quickly using the Bernoulli effect. To do this, you simply blow air into a large opening located at the top end of the pad and it begins to inflate quickly and efficiently. At least in theory anyway.
It took me some practice to get the process ironed out, and I’d recommend inflating the Camper SV a few times using the standard air valves first. This seems to help iron out some of the stiffness in the pad when its new, making it easy to inflate using the Speed Valve.
That same valve also helps to deflate the pad very quickly too. This comes in handy in the morning when you’re ready to break camp and get on the trail as quickly as possible. Some pads you need to squeeze over and over to get all of the air out just so you can pack them away in their stuff sack, but that wasn’t the case with the Camper SV. Each time that I’ve used it, it was a quick, easy, painless process.
But, the most important thing is how does it perform as a sleeping pad when you’re ready to crawl into the tent after a long day of backpacking. In that area, the Camper SV really shines, providing a nice stable platform with which to catch some Z’s.
It is wide enough that side sleepers can move around a bit, and stable enough that you won’t wake up the next day resting on the ground because it lost all of its air over night. It is also just plain comfortable, making it one of the best pads I’ve used in a really long time. So much so, that for my money, it is worth the extra weight and size when heading out into the field.
Additionally, the Camper SV is extremely durable, which is something you don’t always find in ultralight sleeping pads. It is made of tough fabrics that can take a beating, and still come away unscathed. I’ve plopped down hard on it on more than one occasion, and dropped a heavy pack on it as well, it weathered the abuse like a champ. Therm-a-Rest includes a repair kit with the pad, but it’s probably only necessary if there is a direct puncture.
The one drawback these durable fabrics have however is that they are a bit on the noisy side. That could potentially be bothersome to light sleepers and tent mates. It wasn’t especially annoying for me, but it is worth noting just in case.
The NeoAir Camper SV is available two sizes – large and extra-large – and sells for $139.95 and $169.95 respectively. That puts them on the higher end of the three-season sleeping pad market, although not much pricier than competitors. Considering everything they bring to the table however, I feel they are worth the price of admission. The Speed Valve is fantastic once you get use to it, and the comfort and durability of the pad is fantastic too. If you’re in the market for a new sleeping pad for your backcountry camping outings, this one needs to be on your short list for consideration.
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