Therm-a-Rest is introducing their new WingLock air valve for 2020 and we were fortunate enough to get to test a first run sample.
Therm-a-Rest sleeping pads have been at the top of our Best Sleeping Pads list for many years and we think their new valve only strengthens their position. The new valve will be included on Therm-a-Rest’s most popular pads, including our top picks for summer, spring/fall, and winter backcountry trips – the NeoAir UberLite, XLite, and XTherm.
NEOAIR PADS – Therm-a-Rest’s NeoAir line sets the industry standard for comfort and warmth in an incredibly lightweight and compact package. When you’re hiking deep into the backcountry, keeping weight and bulk to a minimum is a top priority, and that’s one of the reasons we love NeoAir pads so much.
THE RIGHT NEOAIR PAD FOR THE JOB – If you tend to do most of your backpacking in the summertime, Therm-a-Rest’s most ultralight model, the UberLite, is an excellent choice. For more warmth on chilly spring and fall trips, the XLite offers the most versatility and balance among the pads in the NeoAir line. If you’re a cold sleeper or you want the ability to use your pad for sub-freezing winter outings, the most insulated model, the XTherm, is the best choice.
NEOAIR MICRO PUMP – NeoAir sleeping pads with the new valve system are also compatible with Therm-a-Rest’s new NeoAir Micro Pump, which is designed to make inflating and deflating your pad much easier. The Micro Pump weighs only 2.5 oz. (without batteries), which is about the same weight as Clif Bar. Is it necessary? Nope. Especially not with the new included pump sack. But this is still an awesome luxury item that won’t weigh or cost much and will make inflating and deflating your pad SO much easier (especially for long/wide pad users.)
PUMP SACKS – All NeoAir pads now come with a 20 or 30 L pump sack for faster inflation. These sacks are made from polyester and include a drawstring, so they can double as a stuff sack for keeping gear organized in your backpack while you hike. Car camping mattresses, like the MondoKing 3D, also come with all new stuff sacks that have the pump built in.
TWINLOCK FOR CAMPING MATTRESSES – Therm-a-Rest’s larger car camping mattresses, like the Mondoking 3D and the LuxuryMap, also got a spiffy new valve system called the TwinLock. This system consists of two one-way valves – one for inflating and one for deflating. The TwinLock inflate valve is larger than the old classic valve and can inflate your pad up to three times faster. The deflate valve can be opened partially to bleed air out for the desired mattress support level or you can open it all the way to completely dump air up to five times faster than the classic valve.
So what’s the deal with the new WingLock valve? Is it really that much of an upgrade? In short, yes, it’s definitely a nice upgrade. But does that mean you should replace your old NeoAir pad immediately? Probably not, unless the old valve system is driving you nuts or it’s just time for a new pad.
ONE-WAY INFLATION/DEFLATION – As much fun as we had struggling to close the valve on our air pads as quickly as possible without letting any air escape, we have to say we won’t miss that game very much. The WingLock valve makes it so that air will only travel either in or out when it’s open. Twisting the wing counter-clockwise makes the open valve deflate, and twisting it clockwise makes the open valve ready to inflate.
LARGER VOLUME OF AIRFLOW – The new valves allow for three times the airflow rate, both in and out. This makes inflation and deflation much faster than previous NeoAir pads, which is a huge plus when you’re at higher elevations or exhausted from hiking all day. We also noticed that the self-inflating pads, like the luxurious Trail Pro, take in air on their own so much quicker with the new valve system.
EASY TO USE – Using the WingLock valve system is super simple – rotate the valve counter-clockwise to open it, then clockwise to close it. The valve only allows air to travel one direction at a time – in or out. To switch between inflating and deflating, you simply turn the wings under the valve counter-clockwise for deflate and clockwise for inflate. Watch this video to learn more and see how the WingLock works.
DURABLE AND DEPENDABLE – Not much is worse than a defective sleeping pad when you’re out in the backcountry. Therm-a-Rest knows this, which is why they put years worth of research, as well as lab and field testing, into this new valve design. We’ve trusted their products to keep us warm and comfortable on the trail for many years of adventuring, and we expect this new valve to hold up just as well as their previous products.
EXCELLENT WARRANTY – Therm-a-Rest stands behind every product they bring to the market and they’re dedicated to keeping their gear on the trail and out of landfills. They offer a great warranty under which they will repair or replace any of their products that are defective. They also work hard to repair any damage caused by use, like punctures or broken valves. Additionally, Therm-a-Rest pads have always been easy to repair yourself with the Permanent Home Repair Kit, the Instant Field Repair Kit, and the Valve Repair Kit (Therm-a-Rest is one of the only companies that makes pads with replaceable valves).
PRICE – The new UberLite, XLite, and XTherm come with a slight price increase (about $15). That’s probably due to the upgraded valve and the inclusion of a pump sack. These add-ons are a nice touch, but the bottom line is that some of the more expensive sleeping pads on the market just got a bit pricier. In our eyes, NeoAir pads are still absolutely worth the price for the adventurer that plans to get a lot of good use out of their purchase.
NO DUMP VALVE ON THE WINGLOCK SYSTEM – We love that the WingLock valve is wider for quicker inflation and deflation and that it only allows air to flow one way, but we do wish there was a way to dump all the air out at once. A lot of newer backpacking pads, like the NEMO Tensor, allow you to completely open up the valve and almost instantly deflate the pad. We tested the self-inflating Trail Pro and, despite the wider valve, we still had to roll air out a couple of times before it was completely deflated.
NOISE – Okay, so this has absolutely nothing to do with the new valve, but the chief complaint with NeoAir pads is the crinkly noise they make when you shift around on them. The truth is that all air pads make some noise, but NeoAir pads are among the noisiest. The reason they make that crinkly noise is because of their space-age insulation material, but that’s also one of the reasons they have industry-leading insulation (warmth) to weight ratios. In our experience the crinkly noise does die down a bit over time. So If you can stand a little more noise for a warmer and lighter pad, we think it’s totally worth it.
Therm-a-Rest WingLock Valve Photo Gallery
We‘ve always been big fans of Therm-a-Rest sleeping pads, and the new WingLock valves, TwinLock valves, and the included pump sacks are huge upgrades that add a ton of convenience for a small price increase. If you’re on the hunt for a new sleeping pad this year, the updated UberLite, XLite, and XTherm remain at the top of our Best Sleeping Pads list.
We hope this review helps you determine if one of the updated Therm-a-Rest sleeping pads is right for you. As always, please leave a comment below if you have any recommendations, questions, or suggestions.
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