Therm-a-rest fiasco

It could have been grounds for divorce. Sleeping next to someone on a defunct camping mat…..the “f”ing and “b”ing…. The thrashing…. In bed, out of bed….tossing. More “f”ing….. tantrums…are you sure you are ok…’YES!’….thrashing…blowing air in….letting air out. No matter how comfortable your own bed….sleeping next to this……so we took it in turns sleeping upon a deteriorating mat in deteriorating camping conditions.
What I am writing about is our faulty Therm-a-rest NeoAir Trekker mattress. Li’s faulty “f”ing mattress.
For most campers or maybe festival goers, the delamination of a sleeping mat is no big deal. A couple of baffles may come apart, a wee hernia of sorts. In the average situation it will be a day or two sleeping upon a bubble, most likely comfortable summer evenings, maybe spring,…..maybe you are even too drunk to notice. After a few days you return home to your real….really comfy, bed…and at your leisure, arrange a replacement mattress under warranty.
I have had 2 mattresses delaminate in the past. Maybe I should have noticed the warning bells… one of the mattresses was a Therm-a-rest NeoAir Trekker which delaminated after a handful of uses. I sent it to the company and had a replacement sent out to me within a 2 week turn around. Therm-a-rest make quality products and do have a good limited lifetime warranty……but when you are on the road?
The Neo Air is incredibly lightweight in relation to the comfort. For a similar weight to mass ratio I have had self inflatable mattresses in the past but the comfort is incomparable. Self inflating mattresses are around 2-3 cm thick….the Neo Air…6.3 cm thick. Li and I both found this mattress more comfortable than many beds we have slept upon and decided it would suit us for 12 plus months on the road at only 480 grams and very compact.
Blowing up the mattress by mouth is not so much fun, and cycling for months has not appeared to make filling the mattresses with air any easier on our lungs. We opted out on several pump options due to weight and one more minute of huffing and puffing really doesn’t add much more to what we are doing from one hour to the next hour, cycling day to day.
Others reviewers of the NeoAir Trekker complain about noise when moving or turning over upon the mattress but I don’t find the noise significant. No louder than the rustling of the sleeping bags and a lot quieter than snorting wild pigs and cackling jackals. The mattress provides a blissful sleep.
The mattress fabric appears thin and we expected to have to patch some holes during our adventure. Again this was nothing to worry about with holes being no more difficult to repair than a bike tyre puncture. 10 months on the road and the fabric has proved robust and no patching has been necessary. It is also very easy to clean….and for the different seasons…carrying a space blanket for a ground sheet we were warm enough in well below zero degrees temperatures…..while the baffles were intact!
The NeoAir Trekker is a dreamy acquisition…..until the baffles “f”ing rupture. Aktau….the seam between two baffles burst….like a gun shot, loud explosion. We are surprised as the mattress had just been blown up with no weight upon it. Surprised by the “bang” and surprised about the malfunction. We were always careful not to overinflated it and in hot weather always let out some air, to avoid expansion.
Li emailed cascade designs (Therm-a- rest) enquiring about the lifetime warranty, explained our remote situation and asked if a photo would suffice? Even posting a letter from Kazakhstan, FedEx… endure a trouble free delivery…. would cost US$70.
As well as the cost we could not wait a months plus, turn around for Therm-a-rest to inspect the faulty mattress and forward on another. Also…..while the mattress was uncomfortable……and soon to become increasingly uncomfortable… was all we had…..We could not post it on and do without. The temperatures overnight were dropping drastically. Our water froze, our breath froze….our fruit…..we froze. There were no alternatives we could purchase and indeed carry in this part of the world and as the ground became like stone holding onto the mattress was our only option. Would Thermarest accept our photos and forward a replacement to await us in Almaty about a month’s ride from the time of the malfunction? No.
Would the mattress get worse….. Could it get worse….a great big….lots of “f”ing …YES. Every few nights in between the swearing, the cursing, cursing Therm-a-rest, the cold, cursing the frozen ground…..there was another explosion, and a following night, and another and another. This was meant to be stealth camping….instead drawing attention to some otherwise well hidden loonies appearing to be taking pot shots into the dark.
We both had alternative methods to try and find a peaceful nights sleep. Tying the ever increasing giant bubble in several places with rope to try and restrict its bulbous growth. Blowing it up firm so that the undamaged section did not deflate leaving hips, legs, feet upon the stone cold ground, the concrete of culverts, snow, mud…..each night some new experience of discomfort awaited. Another explosion. I tried tying the mattress together, folded in the middle….the baffles delaminating half the length of the mattress, in half….my upper body weighted the free flowing air like a water bed….and tossed me off continually. Li preferred to sleep with the mattress the other way around…..legs high in the air like a patient in traction…..and equally as bad tempered!
Would I purchase this mattress again….actually, Yes….but only if I can’t find a company with similar….even slightly less comfortable product, a company that will do everything they can to assist when you are on the road.
Is it reasonable for a company to send out a replacement….or try….maybe to the next reliable postal destination….without viewing the damaged item? Sea to Summit another great brand with great products will not.
Some companies do! We are very thank full to Topeak, Tout Terrain, and Portland Design Works. Even the best gear will break or malfunction when like us….they are tested to the limits.
In Hong Kong we bought a mediocre self inflating mattress just to tide us over….the faulty mattress has been returned to the manufacturer. A new replacement NeoAir Trekker awaits Li at her Mum’s home… London.

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