Therm-A-Rest NeoAir XLite Max SV

There’s a new way to inflate a sleeping pad, and it’s called the SpeedValve.  We all know of the traditional way to inflate a sleeping pad:  Unscrew the pad’s valve, wrap your lips around said valve, and start puffing.  Depending on the volume of the pad that you’re inflating, this may take just a minute, or it may take several minutes and leave you feeling slightly hypoxic by the time your pad is fully inflated.  However, if you have a Therm-a-Rest pad equipped with a SpeedValve, such as the NeoAir XLite Max SV, inflation and deflation happen a whole lot faster.

The SpeedValve uses science (Bernoulli’s principle of fluid dynamics) to inflate your sleeping pad much faster than a traditional sleeping pad valve would allow.  With a traditional valve, you are supplying 100% of the air going into the mattress from your lungs.  The SpeedValve uses all of the air from your lungs and it draws additional air from the atmosphere into the sleeping pad.  The end result is that much more air goes into the pad per breath, and your pad inflates faster.  Once you’ve got the pad almost full, you close the SpeedValve just like a drybag, and use the traditional valve on the corner of the pad to dial in your desired pad pressure.  Deflating a SpeedValve pad happens much more quickly than with a traditional pad valve too, and the days of slowly rolling a pad up as you bleed out air are over.  The SpeedValve is awesome, but it does have a learning curve.

Entertaining situation: Ask your friends to try inflating your NeoAir XLite Max SV without telling them how to use the SpeedValve.  Some people will try and blow as hard as they can into the pad, like they’re playing toot the bottle.  Others will just stick their face into the SpeedValve and blow.  When you’re ready to enlighten your friends, hold the SpeedValve a few inches away from your face and blow slowly, like you’re trying to blow out 100 candles on a birthday cake in one breath.  You’ll know when you’ve got your technique dialed because you will feel air moving past your face as you blow, and your pad will inflate surprisingly fast.  Closing the SpeedValve is the other thing that requires technique, as the dry bag style rolling process must be done right, or you’re going to be waking up on the ground.  As with any new piece of gear, the SpeedValve takes some learning, but once you get it figured out you’ll feel bad for folks who still have to work with traditional valves.

The NeoAir XLite Max SV is a terrific sleeping pad in terms of comfort, and with the L size pad weighing in at one pound five ounces, it’s become my go to pad every time weight is a consideration.  The L size allows for my 6’2” frame to stretch out with my entire body on the pad, and at 2.5” thick I can sleep on my side without contacting the ground.  With an R value of 3.2, the NeoAir XLite Max SV is a three season pad that will make a bit of noise when you move around on it, but it’s much more quiet than the ‘crunching bag of chips’ sound that other lightweight sleeping pads are known for.  Every night I’ve had on the NeoAir XLite Max SV has been a night of restful sleep.

Therm-A-Rest has applied science to give us a new and faster way to inflate and deflate a sleeping pad, and I have to say that I’m a fan of this new system.  Granted, there is a bit of a learning curve and the second valve is technically one more point of potential failure, but these points are overshadowed by the performance the SpeedValve offers.  Less time inflating a pad is a convenience feature, but the first time you nail the inflation technique you’ll find yourself saying “worth it!”  Likewise, deflation is a much more enjoyable experience too.  No longer will you spend time doing the slow knee-press roll-up of your old sleeping pad.  Comfort and support have been outstanding for me sleeping on my back and my side, and a good night’s rest in the backcountry is invaluable on multi-day missions.  I’ve routinely found myself opting for the NeoAir XLite Max SV over a thicker (3.5”) and much heavier sleeping pad that was previously my favorite.  With the NeoAir XLite Max SV, I sleep great and I’ve cut over a pound from my kit.  Therm-A-Rest offers the SpeedValve in a number of their field proven pads, so go check one out at your local gear shop, or at

OR Winter Market 2017

I’m not sure that my pedometer is accurate, but I am sure it’s accurate to say that it takes many steps to see all of the awesome products that congregate twice a year in Salt Lake City, UT; where the outdoor industry hosts Outdoor Retailer. This is the event where exhibitors come from all over the world to reveal their new products, and showcase their existing products for retailers and industry media. The Winter Market obviously caters to skiing, snowboarding, and other snowsports—but there are hundreds of products on display that can be used year round.

I walked the miles of red carpet looking for gear that would be of interest to the American adventurist, so please let me know in the comments if there are things that you want me to focus on for the summer show. Now, without further adieu, here are the products that will be lightening your wallet in the coming months.

Adventure Medical Kits

Adventure Medical Kits (AMK) has reintroduced their Mountain Series of medical kits, which set the standard for backcountry medicine when they were originally introduced 20 years ago. Each kit is organized by type of injury, and AMK makes refill kits for each compartment, making the restocking process a snap.

Beyond Clothing

Beyond Clothing is the brainchild of some of the fine folks that played a key part in the development of the Protective Combat Uniform (PCU) program for the US Military. Utilizing top shelf American materials (yes, everything is USA made), Beyond offers a complete layering system that will keep you comfortable no matter what mother nature throws at you.

Big Agnes

How do you make an ultra-light sleeping bag even lighter without cutting down on insulation or compromising durability? Simple. You take the zipper out. Big Agnes has replaced the zipper with a clip system that allows you to close the bag up just like a zippered bag when you want it, and open it up when temps do not require full mummy mode. If you’ve ever caught or broken a lightweight zipper, you need to check out Big Agnes’ new zipper-less bags.

Black Diamond

Black Diamond’s latest update to their awesome LED headlamps packs even more lumens into many of their range of proven models.

Cascade Designs

MSR’s new four-season tents look great and I’m hoping that I’ll get to put one to the test this winter. The Advance Pro 2 is designed for aggressive alpine missions and can be easily setup be one person in technical terrain. The Access Series brings vestibules and other great features to the game and comes in a one, two, and three person version.

Darn Tough

Socks with a warranty—It’s a thing. If you manage to wear out a pair of Darn Toughs, simply send the worn out pair in and Darn Tough will send you a new pair. Their line covers everything from Ski socks to lightweight running socks.


Garmin recently acquired Delorme, and they’ve been busy updating the InReach series of satellite communicators and many of their native products. New to the Explorer+ is a TOPO map, making the navigation functionality of the device much more useful. Maps are also making an appearance on the new Fenix 5 series of watches which pack an insane amount of capability into a lightweight watch.

Goal Zero

I’m really excited to get my hands on Goal Zero’s new generation of Yeti Solar Generators. Lead batteries are out, and higher-capacity Lithium Ion batteries feeding much more powerful AC inverters are in. There’s also the Fuel, a 2000-watt gasoline generator that I’m told is Honda-quiet. Other new goodies include the Boulder 100 and Boulder 50 rigid panels.

Groove Ring

Silicone wedding bands are a great option for folks who find themselves scratching and wearing their metal wedding bands down during abrasive activities, and they provide several safety advantages. Groove Ring takes these benefits a step further by allowing the skin under the ring to breathe, which drastically increases comfort.


New from Helinox is the Chair Zero, a sub-one-pound collapsible chair that will hold folks up to 250 pounds.


Hydroflask now offers their proven double-wall insulation in a bottle and cup designed specifically for folks who want to bring wine into the field. The new products feature insulated, food-safe lids that won’t impact the flavor or characteristics of your wine.


Known for their awesome trekking poles, Leki now makes the XS Lite Table that will allow you to set a beverage anywhere on the table’s surface without gambling on whether or not said beverage will tip over as soon as you look away (because: it’s not fabric).

Mountain Smith

Mountain Smith partnered up with renown lensman Chris Burkard to develop the T.A.N. (Tough As Nails) series of camera bags. Three sizes of camera cubes are great for packing your kit into a larger pack that you already own, and there are two complete packs if you want an all-in-one solution for carrying your gear.


New from Osprey is a comprehensive line of products to help you organize your kit for travel, and a line of bomber luggage. According to the Osprey, the new luggage has passed the ‘bags keep their contents dry when placed on a roof rack and driven in the rain test.’

Sea to Summit

Sea to Summit makes everything from collapsible cookware to inflatable pillows, and about 5 million things in between. Their offerings are very well thought out and very innovative. They recently launched a hammock that weighs 4.9 ounces, yet holds 300 pounds. Their new luggage allows you to configure the carrying handles as a backpack, shoulder sling, or as traditional handles.


Not only does cork do a great job of keeping bottles closed, but it turns out it is also a great material to recycle and make footbeds and shoes out of. SOLE’s new cork-based products offer several advantages over their EVA predecessors. According to all of their professional athlete testers, the cork footbeds work better than EVA footbeds.


UST has created a lighter that doesn’t create a flame. Instead, the TekFire lighter arcs a current between two poles to set things on fire. The unit is powered by a Lithium-Ion battery and charges from a USB port. UST Survival offers a comprehensive line of survival products and kits.

Western Mountaineering

Western Mountaineering makes some of the most highly regarded down products on the market. Their offerings are known for their outstanding performance and very long lifespan. Western has started having the folks who build their products sign them—just like a hand built motor from AMG.