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The Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Mini Pump is an ultralight electronic pump for filling up backpacking air mattresses.
While it can work with heavier Therm-a-Rest air mattresses, it’s really aimed at backpackers looking for a lightweight pump.
I decided to buy one for two reasons. First, when I use higher-volume sleeping pads and air mattresses — usually the Large or Long versions — I’m starting to see the value in letting a pump do the work. Second, if you want your expensive backpacking air mattress to last, introducing a lot of moisture from your own breath to the insides of your mattress can result in microbial growth inside of your mattress. Mostly that just looks gross, but it can adversely affect some types of insulation.
The fit and finish of the NeoAir Mini Pump is fine, passable, but it simply doesn’t exude typical Therm-a-Rest quality and attention to detail. Because Therm-a-Rest produces such excellent gear, the build quality of the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Mini Pump is jarring.
Let me explain. The NeoAir Mini Pump is ultralight, and ultralight gear can sometimes seem weak or fragile. Manufacturing ultralight gear is definitely a challenge, and at 1.8 oz without batteries, the NeoAir Mini Pump is very light.
Unfortunately, the external plastic pieces do not fit well together. Nearly every seam is slightly off. One section will be tight together but will have one section that is too deep — which creates a tiny cliff between pieces. And then, on that same piece, the two plastic pieces will be perfectly aligned vertically but will have a small gap, which might not even be consistent along the entire seam.
The battery compartment cover, for instance, seems as if it’s going to fall off or pop off at any moment — but it hasn’t. You just have a nagging feeling that it might.
However, the NeoAir Mini Pump Works!
Despite the poorly constructed seams, the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Mini Pump works. Sure, it’s not fast, but it’s easy to connect the pump to a sleeping pad and air it up. The key to the speed is realizing that you don’t have to sit there and watch it pump air. You can unpack your sleeping bag or secure the rainfly to your backpacking tent.
As an example, the NeoAir Mini Pump took 2 minutes and 15 seconds to inflate a size Large Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite air mattress.
After it’s inflated, you’ll likely need to add a few puffs of air from your own lungs to get the right pressure inside of your pad. Not a big deal.
Will the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Mini Pump inflate any air mattress? The NeoAir Mini Pump is designed for Therm-a-Rest air mattresses; however, you can likely use it to partially inflate similar types of air mattresses if the valve fit is close or if you’re willing to hold the rubber nozzle to direct air into the mattress.
The Cover Is the On/Off Switch
Let’s talk about the switch mechanism. Basically, when you pop open the cover, the NeoAir Mini Pump turns on automatically. Close the cover and it stops.
While I can see why some people would want a specific switch to turn the NeoAir on and off, I can also see why the cover itself makes a reasonable switch: It’s unlikely that the NeoAir will accidentally turn on while deep inside your pack. A simple slider-style switch, on the other hand, could accidentally activate and drain your battery.
The takeaway is this: Don’t fear bad reviews because of the external assembly. The Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Mini Pump works reasonably well.
Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Mini Pump Review: Recommended?
If the NeoAir Mini Pump outright fails out in the wild, you can still blow up an air mattress with your lungs. So the risk is minor.
As for alternatives, the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Pump Sack can also reduce the effort and amount of moisture you get into your pad. It’s pretty easy to blow into an open bag then roll the end and force the air into the pad. I’ve grown to appreciate stuff-sack style pumps.
Still, at just 2.7 oz total with two AAA batteries installed, the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Mini Pump is a compelling electronic option.
All-in-all, the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Mini Pump is an almost great ultralight sleeping pad pump. Because it is super light and does what it’s supposed to do, it’s good. The cosmetic build issues appear to be surface problems, and I expect that the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir MiniPump will work well for quite some time. (If I run into problems in the future, I’ll update this review.)
In the meantime, do Irecommend the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Mini Pump? Yes, but with some reservations. The price-to-value ratio is a bit low — at about $39 I’m slightly irritated and I expect most of the people who are willing to pay for a high-quality Therm-a-Rest mattress will be too. Overall, I’m surprised at the build quality but happy with its performance so far. If you want to avoid blowing up air mattresses with your lungs, the NeoAir Mini Pump is a good addition to your backpack, well worth the nominal weight.